SanDisk Sansa slotMusic Player Review

sandisk slotmusic main SanDisk Sansa slotMusic Player Review

Earlier this year SanDisk introduced a new format to deliver music called slotMusic. This is simply a 1GB microSD card with DRM-free digital files on it. This format is backed by some of the major record labels such as EMI, Sony BMG, Universal, and Warner.

To go along with this new format SanDisk has introduced the slotMusic player. This memory-less and screen-less player relies solely on microSD for music playback. The idea is that non-tech savvy users will be able to swap out their purchased slot music albums.

I don’t believe that slotMusic will revolutionize the music industry, but may do well in certain niche markets. Aside from the new music format, the player itself is an interesting story.

slotMusic Format

In the basic form the slotMusic cards will contain DRM-Free MP3 at 320kbps. Artists and record lables may opt to add liner notes, other digital formats, music videos, or even master copies for other to remix. When released these cards will sell for $15 and many of you will say, “Why don’t they just buy the CD and have an archival and lossless copy?” To be honest, I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure out who will be purchasing this format. I understand that it gives people who don’t want to mess with ripping and computers an option, but I’m skeptical that there is a sustainable market in its current state.

I do think there is a bigger opportunity for slotMusic to accompany a CD. $15-20 would be a great price if the CD included the slotMusic card. Additionally, there is the possibly of a collectability play by adding art to the actual microSD card or by packaging it in something nicer than a cardboard sleeve.

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Artist slotPlayers

The slotPlayer does have a collectability factor with artist branding and preloaded music selling around $35. These players may vary including perhaps just the artist’s picks or perhaps even an entire discography. It’s a pretty neat option for the fan.

The Hardware

If you are not interested in an artist branded player the slotPlayer will sell for $20 and include only headphones and an AAA battery; you will need to supply your own memory. It’s about the size of two lighters and feels very robust. Aside from the sleeve and some of the internals, the player is solid metal. While it is not close to premium player it is more than what you would expect from a $20 player.

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I did test an 8GB card and it played without any problems so it may even play 16GB cards, though without a screen I’m not sure you want to. I pulled this card out directly from my Nokia e71 and popped it in the slotPlayer. On this card was about 2GB of music and another 2GB or so of application and data files- yet the music started within a second or two.

What I also found to be impressive is that the player will resume down to the second even if you take the card out. I actually took the card out, put it in my phone for the day, and it resumed a day later when I put it back in the slotPlayer.

The player will also stop if headphones are removed, a really nice feature to conserve battery life. The only indicator of the player being on is a small LED and this might be missed if you were to leave it on.

There is not much else to say about playback since it doesn’t get much easier than: the play/pause buttons, play and pause; and the skip buttons… well, you get the point.

Sound Quality

The slotMusic player isn’t go
ing t win any awards, but I was surprised to find decent sound quality from this $20 music player. It is not as open as the Sansa Clip and lacks the dynamics, but I could see myself using this while running or at the gym provided I didn’t have a Sansa Clip (my gym player of choice).


I’m not sure how the slotMusic format will play out since I don’t yet understand that niche market so I will be anxiously watching. On the other hand I do find a $20 micorSD player to be rather interesting. To the readers of this site, it may only serve as a backup player for mowing the lawn or going for a run (though for $15 more you can buy a Sansa Clip that has a screen and has better sound quality). But also, this may be a good way to introduce the non-tech savvy to digital music.


Zoodar on October 15, 2008 12:34 PM

*sigh* To me this seems kinda pointless. I mean, if I’m going on a trip for two days, do I have to bring ten (maybe more) of these cards instead of having all music in one unit? I will probably loose one or two of these on the trip. And why does it lack a screen? What if I have 16 GB of music? It will take forever to find that one song i want to hear. I’m clueless…

Hackability on October 15, 2008 12:39 PM

I’m interested, too. $20 is the right price point for the player, because it encourages some degree of hackability.Right now, I’m wondering about the filesystem layout on the MicroSD cards: What determines which song gets played first? (Alphabetic/alphanumeric filename order? Some sort of playlist that’s stored on the SD card along with the MP3s?) When 1GB microSD cards get down into the $5 range, we might even see the rebirth of the mixtape. (Well, mixchip :)

booboo on October 15, 2008 12:51 PM

I wish SanDisk would release an updated Clip with a color screen instead of this.

Grahm on October 15, 2008 2:34 PM

@HackabilityYeah thats what i was thinking too. Its a really nice platform to hack your own player.The files play in abc order by file folder then abc order in the folder. Unfortunately, there is no playlist support.I love the idea of a mixchip… 1GB microSD cards are selling for $7 shipped on amazon. Here

MFG on October 15, 2008 4:51 PM

Well, lacking of a screen may be a pain in the @$$ if you have a 2+GB MicroSD Card considering that there is no Random option.However, it’s currently the cheapest OGG + FLAC player in the market.Great option for the Gym or jogging. Also a nice present idea for an older person or kids who aren’t much into the hi-tech world.

RedRooster on October 15, 2008 4:58 PM

I didn’t read all of what was said about the Sana SM Cards and player but in my opinion I think it will fail horribly.The reasons are that I can buy an artist album for less or download it digitally,it uses batteries and many players don’t know these days, the price for every SM card and they are small which mean if I lose it I will need to buy another,the extra you will have to buy like batteries and mirco SD slot for expansion,and turning off the player by taking out your headphones suppose I don’t take it out or forget i gotta get a newbattery.*SM card vs Digital SM Card would win if you are buying the whole album singly*Also the cost will add up over time if you probably get non rechargeable batteries and SM card just get a Sana Fuze,Clip or something else that worth your money

Triko on October 15, 2008 5:03 PM

Sandisk has a good idea on its hands here now that the music industry is dying this is that new media that we have been waiting for good quality mp3′s on a small card seems awesome but sandisk has a tough job convincing people to buy this because i don’t know how many people would buy music to begin with most steal it what i’m trying to say is this could either be a huge success or a colossal failure.

screw on October 15, 2008 6:02 PM

redRoosterthe player uses batteries probably becouse the person that will buy this kind of player probably does not have a computer for it to charge via usb

Ferd Burfel on October 15, 2008 7:29 PM

I think “screw” may have defined the niche, at least partially. I didn’t notice the lack of USB until I read his/her comment. There’s no way to sync the player, it’s apparently aimed that those that can’t or don’t want to do the CD ripping. If you buy the albums on microSD, you don’t need a CD or PC at all.It could be aimed at those that still use portable CD players and carry a “CD Wallet” in their cars.BTW, does anyone make a car stereo that accepts memory cards of any type for MP3 capability?The USB adapter is interesting looking, it’s smaller than the one SanDisk sells with the Mobile microSD cards, but I suppose it doesn’t support the Memory Stick Micro so it could be smaller (and cheaper).

Brad L. Wooldridge on October 15, 2008 8:43 PM

Useless? Perhaps. But, I want one! Any idea when they’ll be out?

Dr Nightmare on October 15, 2008 8:45 PM

By the way, 1GB SD mini cards are like a buck at Fry’s Electronics, and I don’t see any “mixed-chips” flying around, lol.

keith on October 16, 2008 4:51 AM

For some reason, this came to mind when I read this review. Wanna bet this has the same fate?

PACE on October 16, 2008 7:32 AM

I think this could bee a good idea if they leave the traditional idea of an album on a chip. I can imagine a chip with lets say Patti Smiths collected works, or everything by Mendelsohn performed by top orchestras from around the world.

JDGAFFLIN on October 16, 2008 2:11 PM

As always, terrific insight and great review Grahm. Hope all is well.JD

Chefgon on October 16, 2008 11:44 PM

This would actually be pretty neat if you could order custom stickers for the labels. Would be a neat way to distribute demo tapes.

Geoff on October 17, 2008 9:14 AM

slotMusic – this is a colossal waste of time. How many official MiniDisc albums do you own..? Some part of me likes the idea of little cards with album art on them, but not enough to prefer one to a proper CD.However, the idea of the inexpensive memory card player is a very promising one. This kind of thing is well overdue. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants more control over their DAP’s memory capacity.SanDisk is on the right track here, but this player is really pleading for a small OLED screen and a regular size SD slot. People could then re-use their old (seemingly outdated in their capacity) SD cards to put various collections of music on. Hey, you can get old SD cards for next to nothing on eBay. Keep the AAA battery, and rechargeable ones can be used. Appeal to the recycling community…

Keith on October 18, 2008 11:32 AM

removable battery versus internal non-removable = brilliant. Rechargeables are so cheap and almost everyone has an AA/AAA charger now. Embedded non-removable batteries fail to hold enough charge after 300-500 charge cycles, necessitating surgery to get them replaced. Long trips also favour removable batteries.removable media = brilliant.removable media at only 1GB offering only MP3, not FLAC or Ogg Vorbis or whatever we want = stone-ageno display = stone-ageprice = fair considering the limitationsmetal-cased player = nice surprise

Drive-In-Freak on October 18, 2008 3:23 PM

Sniff, sniff…hmmm..smells like DCC, Playtape, Elcassette, and Pocketrockers. What are they? That’s exactly my point.

Keith on October 18, 2008 9:31 PM

Drive-In-Freak, you have a point, except I don’t see MicroSD fading away anytime soon, whatever the ‘brand name’ of the format.Removable batteries and media are certainly better than non-removable batteries and embedded flash, at least far better to me. You can upgrade the storage very easily and cheaply as prices continue to fall and long trips are great with one or two extra removable rechargeable batts.No display and the SlotMusic pre-recorded stuff itself is a waste of time, but as a player with your own supplied MicroSD and those brilliant removable batteries, I would rank it highly useful and different enough from the rest of the market to be worthy of consideration.

Drive-In-Freak on October 19, 2008 7:42 PM

I couldn’t agree with you more about the user replaceable battery. IMHO it’s nothing short of absurd for ANY type of portable electronics to have a battery that the user can’t get to easily.I also like the idea of having some form of swappable media, so you’re not limited to what’s stored in the device..and yes I think MicroSD will stick around….however…Designing and trying to introduce a new physical format at a point in time where the market for hard copy music recordings is dwindling rapidly is suicidal. I think it’s fairly safe to say that any new hard copy pre-recorded format is destined for obscurity no matter what form it’s in.As far as the player itself goes: If you want to have/ make an inexpensive removable chip biased portable, why would it be for the MicroSD format? Why not SDHC or SD so you could play not only SD, but, MicroSD and even MiniSD with the simple easy to find adapters that sell for practically pennies?My guess is that this little player it’s going to be tomorrow’s “Playtape” obscure that few people will even know what it is.

Gyi on October 20, 2008 6:11 PM

I would by it if it had a display. I might do it anyways…

Marko on October 21, 2008 7:47 AM

I am not an oracle and I can’t foreseen the future of this device/initiative but, I can see that most of you missed the point (market) here. Any visitor of this web site is NOT target group. Target group are our moms & dads, grannies & grandpas, and all other peoples who don’t want to bother with zillion choices, who are not specially interested in audio quality of device – who just really want to plug and play.Or better to say, majority of people.After all, I think this is just a start of something else.Visualization of near future:Enter a big shopping mall. Get bored while you’re waiting your girlfriend or sister to buy 100th pair of shoes. While you are standing in a long boring hall, you suddenly notice a kiosk. Same as photo kiosk, but it is marked with word “music”.What is that? That is browser of infinite choice of music to download on your memory card.The rest is history and money spending…

jkj1962 on October 23, 2008 10:18 PM

Got one today, just the player, no bundle. The only one I’d get is Jimmy Buffet, but Best Buy didn’t have it.It’s a lot heavier than I had anticipated. Not too heavy, maybe they just wanted to make it feel substantial.Picked up the 2-pack of shells, one has a built-in card case that holds 3 cards.DLO already has a armband case for it as well.

AutobahnSHO on October 23, 2008 10:46 PM

This is too expensive to buy!!It probly costs way too much compared to cd’s to manufacture, too…I saw them at Best Buy the other day. I wanted one, but didn’t buy it (I have 3 working e200s in my house, LOL) but I doubt anyone else will want it…….

MP3 Player Lvr. on October 27, 2008 12:17 AM

These were almost sold out at Best Buy Sunday, when they had several during the week. Someone likes them!

jkj1962 on October 28, 2008 11:45 AM

I bought one if for nothing other than the novelty.They should consider audiobooks as well. With the resume feature, it would be great for that.

Larry on November 2, 2008 2:20 PM

Stumbled across reviews this past week and ran to BestBuy to get one. Good clean sound and I don’t have to re-charge it. As a senior citizen who hasn’t lost all his hearing yet, I wish it would default to minimum volume at start-up or “remember” where it was at shut-down. A shuffle option would be a welcome addition, too. Hey SanDisk … how about one for my SD cards?

Remedial on November 5, 2008 12:23 PM

@jkj1962:So, it doesn’t come with a shell? So, that grey bag in the pictures that was holding the microSD card is considered a shell?How much is it?Thanks.

Remedial on November 5, 2008 12:29 PM

Also, in image 9 and 11, is that the microSD USB adapter?Thank you.

Whiskey on November 9, 2008 8:37 PM

Worthless device.So limited in functionality — they’re better off giving it away with slotMusic purchases (of which I would never make.)Don’t even bother.

jkj1962 on November 13, 2008 11:43 AM

@@Remedial & GolaYing:All of the players come with a shell of some sort. The player sold by itself comes with either the white shell as show in the pictures above, or a black shell, the one I got initially: players in the bundles come with a shell similar to the “album cover” for the card. The “gray bag” in the pictures above is a “SlotMusic Wallet” and is available separately: purchased a 2-pack of additional shells, one that is simply a colorful shell that supposedly “shows you rock”, the other shell has pockets for 3 microSD cards built-in. I can’t find any links for these, but they are/were at Best Buy.You can go to Best Buy’s site and search for “slotmusic” and see all of this.

gukid on November 15, 2008 8:29 PM

The obvious problems, microsd cards are too loose-able. If you have to store them in a bigger case, just to make sure you don’t misplace them, and so that they have cover art, why not make the cards larger. Make them big enough to contain some cover art, and so that they are not as easily lost, and that they can be carried around loose and being quite durable, and then maybe they will also be collectable.The player itself, why couldn’t it have more than one *slot* to put music in. Rather than carrying them around, you could plug in 3 or 4 cards, and have all that music at once. The format, SHOULD also take advantage of the fact, that 2 or 4 gigabytes of music could be stored on there… have the format be SUPERIOR sound quality to CD audio, and it could really take off. Nothing like 5.1 or anything, but just a higher fidelity, closer to analog for those audiophiles. MP3 has been a big step down from CD, and this is a very obvious problem with it. Flac is getting better, but still not up to CD, or Vinyl.

NoDaddy on December 9, 2008 2:47 PM

support FLAC or NO sale

chromableed on January 19, 2009 6:24 PM

shuffle problems not really that big a deal, i’ve got a kind of basic program to shuffle it (that could be improved upon if someone who knows a little more than I is interested)check it out here if your interested, i love my slotmusic player!

vēer on April 15, 2009 5:35 AM

Look how small it is, i mean, add few mm to clip and wed have microSD slot+longer battery life, argh :/

Joe Jing on June 6, 2009 8:48 AM

It is not so obvious to many of us.Quality of people is different,there is something called bell curve;so, there are a lot of people,who are on the left sideor slope of that figure.They are the target of Appleand its i-pods/i-phones,but Apple – out of greed,put the barier:- i-tunes!I-tunes are not for people from the left side of the bell curve,too confusing.For many people – things like downloading,mp3,CD ripping isimpossible to grasp and to use.So,they need things more simple,just like putting casette or CDinto player!physically!For themnew format – slotMusic is OK.mikroSD are already quite popular – they are used wildlyin mobile phones,about same size as SIM cards,there are adapters making them big SDs,and…listen!listen!:Sony has justditched its mikro stick in favour of mikroSD!I hope slotMusic and slotRadio will succeed.I would buy them,as gifts,I give mp3 players as gifts -filled with my choice of music,I can buy it as well,if its possible.

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