Review: iRiver Spinn

Last time I travelled by train I was dumb enough to leave my portable music player behind. I tried calling the Lost + Found office, where much more expensive and fancy items had been collected, to no avail. So the search for a new player began.

My basic requirement was that it must play Ogg Vorbis, and ideally also Flac, apart from MP3. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time comparing and looking for the ideal player, and of course I didn’t want it to be very expensive, but I didn’t really have more requirements that the music formats.

Long story short, I ended up buying an iRiver Spinn. One of the reasons was that it was relatively cheap, and another reason was that I thought it was nice supporting iRiver, to my knowledge the first company that really cared about Ogg Vorbis as a format for portable music players, many years ago.

I have to say I’m disappointed with it. While I don’t have such strong feelings about music players and it’s not like I’m not going to use it, there are a number of things that were (negatively) surprising or didn’t meet my expectations:

  • It has trouble with UTF-8. I’m sorry, last time I checked it was 2010. iRiver guys, W T F ?

  • I have had a bunch of problems (many of them unresolved) with the song order. I have set the track order in the tags, but it still gets the order wrong. Typically it orders alphabetically by title in the tag (not filename). How the fuck is that useful?

  • It has a touchscreen, which most of the time you don’t really have to use… but it’s not exactly responsive, so when you have to use it it’s very annoying.

  • When I turned it on for the first time, it seemingly had a lot of songs already loaded. When you tried to play any of them, it would do nothing so it was quite confusing. Navigating through the menus (inside a menu called “SET” -> “Advanced”) I found a “Rebuild library” option. Using that option “refreshes” the idea the player has of what your library looks like, and of course it turned out empty (ie. no sample tracks included by default). Also, every time you copy or delete new music you are apparently expected to use that option again. While I don’t mind having to do it as I don’t copy/remove music very often, it’s just dumb and bad design.

  • The USB cable you need to charge/load songs is not a standard mini-USB. From what I can see it’s a proprietary USB cable, which is an amazingly moronic design decision to make. If I lose that cable I’ll probably not buy another one from them, I’ll just buy a new player and never again buy from iRiver.

In summary, I’m not going to throw it away or anything, but I’m disappointed with the iRiver Spinn. When I stop using it, I’m going to consider stop using those altogether and just start using my phone for listening to music. It might turn out to be cheaper, more practical and less disappointing.