Philips GoGear Spark SA2925R/37 Review

philips spark Philips GoGear Spark SA2925R/37 Review

Philips is a brand that hasn’t gotten much attention on this site in the past, due to somewhat random product numbering, release schedules, retail outlets and generally a rather weird behavior for a MP3 manufacturer. They have some nice players however, especially some of the later models, so it’s time to take a closer look at a few of them. First off is the GoGear Spark, somewhat of a competitor to the Sansa Clip+.

  • Quick Look
  • Capacities: 2GB, 4GB
  • Screen: 1,5″ 128×128 Color OLED
  • Size: 43 x 43 x 14 mm
  • Weight: 35g
  • Supported Audio: MP3, WMA, WAV, Audible, Rhapsody
  • Battery Life: 27 hours
  • Transfer Modes: MTP
  • Connection Type: Mini USB B
  • User Interface: Tactile
  • Sound enhancements: FullSound, Equalizer
  • Other Features: FM Radio, sleep timer, personalization options, on-the-go playlists
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In the box

The Spark comes in a nice plastic box that contains the player, lanyard, a short mini-USB cable, headphones and a software CD.

Design

The GoGear Spark is a very small player. Compared to a Sansa Clip with the clip on (or a Clip+) it has about the same physical volume, just a different shape. It’s square with rounded corners, a flat back and a convex clear plastic front that essentially is a mirror when the screen is off. The concave front and the sloping sides that lead to a back that’s smaller than the front makes the device look sort of like an old CRT TV cut off in the back. The screen is a 1.5″ color OLED screen which really sets it apart from other small players. While it’s low resolution, OLED means it has a perfect viewing angle and since the pixels light up instead of the back of the screen it looks awesome when dimmed; half glowing instead of the normal dimmed colors you get with LCDs. The entire front plastic piece is a giant d-pad like the ones on some iriver players like the Clix and Clix 2. Pressing down, left/right and up/down on the screen makes it a 5-way d-pad which is the main method of controlling the player. On top you have the 3.5mm audio jack as well as the option button, which is used to bring up options menus and the likes. The right side has the dedicated volume buttons as well as the mic hole, and the left side houses the power on/hold switch as well as a USB port that is hidden underneath a flush rubber port cover. There is also a reset hole on the back and a lanyard hole in the upper left corner.

The device feels very solid and well built, the plastic parts fit well into one another and there is no squeaking or shifting of parts when you operate the player. On a device that uses the screen as a d-pad that is especially important since the thing is likely to be handled a bit rougher than a player where you have actual buttons to press. Most small players tend to target people that use them for exercise, meaning it either comes with a clip, armband etc or you can buy one anywhere. The Spark doesn’t do either of those, and it’s also such an irregular shape that it doesn’t fit in generic armbands such as those for generic stick players. If done correctly this could have been a very nice player for running because of the big d-pad, for example by having a few screw holes on the back that would screw into a plate on an armband to essentially attach the player directly to the armband itself. However, as it is now this player needs a pocket to rest in and that might make it a deal breaker for a lot of people who would otherwise considering this player for working out. The lanyard doesn’t help much either as it’s annoying to run with.

Software

The Spark is an MTP only device, which means it will work with Windows computers by default and other OSes if you find something that adds MTP support. You can drag and drop files in explorer- including making playlists if you have a newer version of WMP installed- and you can also use any sort of MTP capable music organization software. Included in the
box is also a CD containing “device manager”- software to restore or upgrade the player, user manual and Rhapsody software. The current firmware is 6.39, but the software was unable to update the firmware, complaining about various things from simply “failed” to “incompatible allocation table”. I then tried to “repair” the device as I was told to do at one point (where the device was still working after yet another failed update), and after making some annoying PA-like sounds it politely informed me it was unable to repair my device- at which point it had actually updated the firmware, just not according to itself. I doubt you’ll ever find more useless software than what came with the Spark, in other words, but at least the player was still working and updated after 4-5 firmware update attempts and one “repair” attempt that “failed”.

Menus

When you first turn on the player you get some random animations that seem somewhat redundant, but I’m guessing they’re there to hide the boot time – and you can also change this to be your own picture in the settings. Once in the main menu you get a vertical list of icons including music, pictures, FM radio, recordings, folder view, personalize, settings and last played/now playing. Up/down will scroll through lists, while left/right is back/select.

The music menu gives you the basic metatags to browse by; all songs, artist, album, genre and playlists. Browsing through big lists is not a problem and doesn’t affect speed at all, and it’s also rather speedy when scrolling lists. It also has a nice feature where if you hold down the button to scroll, it will pop up a small box in the middle of the screen showing the letter of the alphabet that you’re scrolling in currently, so if you have a lot of songs and browse by “all songs” you would see it go A-B-C etc as it scrolls down the list. Very useful to see where you are.

Folder view might seem like a weird item to have by itself in the main menu instead of the music section, but I guess that’s due to the fact it browses both photos and music through that option. Many people are religious about file/folder browsing and it’s nice to see this feature implemented without the company in question having to be told to do so. You can see any file through this mode however, not only photos and music, and what’s even more peculiar is that it refuses to open playlists if you browse them in this fashion- it claims the file format isn’t supported. There also is no text reader or anything else, not that you would use it anyways, but it’s kind of weird to display all the files you can’t access anyways- especially since you can’t even delete those files from the player.

As for settings, the Spark has two menus that handles this; “personalize” and “settings”. Basically, “personalize” is a dedicated menu for visual settings such as color theme, wallpaper, startup screen, shutdown screen and screensaver. A lot of settings that utilizes the photo support in other words, a lot more so than other MP3 players- even full PMPs. Most the features only have default or a specific picture as the option, but the screensaver has several different modes; slideshow, analog and digital clock, song title, album art, graphic EQ and demo mode. Demo mode is a simple slideshow of various features on the player and I doubt anyone is going to use that as a screensaver, but the rest of the options are nice. My favorite is the album art screensaver, as the OLED screen dimmed down makes the player look like it has an actual sticker on top with the album art because of the perfect viewing angle. You can also set the delay for the screensaver, after which the screen will dim and the selected screensaver (if any) comes on. It uses battery of course, but it’s a nice feature.

The normal settings menu have the common settings you’d expect to find, such as reset, player info, language, date/time, display settings (backlight timer etc) as well as music settings for EQ, play mode and sleep timer. Play mode and music settings can be access from the “now playing” screen, but for some reason that doesn’t include the sleep timer.

The music playback screen on the Spark has a feature I’m very fond of- it uses the album art as the wallpaper. On a 1.5″ 128×128 screen it’s limited what you can do to utilize the color screen and I think this is a very nice way to do it. It can be a problem if you have album art that’s the same color as the color theme as it makes it hard to see the text, but it shouldn’t be that much of a problem.

The d-pad controls on the “now playing” screen are a bit backwards in my opinion, using up/down to switch tracks, left to go back to music list and right for play/pause. I’m used to the logic of left/right switching tracks, so I find myself pausing the player all the time. The fifth d-pad button, which is pressing the screen straight down, doesn’t do anything at all on the “now playing” screen. To me it would be logical to use that button for play/pause, instead of it doing nothing- or maybe map it to activate the screensaver. Pressing the option button on top during playback brings up another menu which lets you access music settings as well as deleting the file or adding/removing it from one of the Spark’s three built in on-the-go playlists.

Features

Playlists

As mentioned above, the player has three built in on-the-go playlists as well as support for regular playlists. This is yet another feature many people want on their player but that few players have. You add and remove playlists from the “now playing” screen itself, but I can’t find a way to empty an entire list at once, which might be an issue. Normal playlists are added while connected to a computer and it has no problems accepting standard playlists from MTP compatible syncing software such as WMP.

Radio

It seems that the age of bad radios in MP3 players is mostly over and the Phillips adds itself to the list of players I’ve tested lately that offers both good sound quality and decent reception for the radio feature. It still could be better, especially inside, but at least it’s usable. You can choose between manual or automatic tuning and add presets both automatically and manually. Those settings are accessed with the option button on top. No radio recording, which isn’t all that surprising on a player this small and cheap.

Voice Recording

The voice recorder is a gimmick if you ever saw one as the quality is practically so bad you can’t use it for anything. Besides the fact the mic is small and located on the side instead of on the top (where it would in most likelihood point towards the sound source) it also picks up every single gust of air and every noise made by touching the player itself, amplified 50 times. The test recordings I made ended up sounding like talking on the phone with someone who’s driving in a tunnel with the window open.

Photos

Displaying photos is not normally something to get excited over, but on a player this small I think it is a nice feature. Of course the 128×128 screen is not detailed enough to really see much at all, but with all the visual features on the player utilizing photos it’s one of few players I’ve actually bothered to put photos on. The size of the player being about the same as those cheap keychain photo viewers also makes it a nice keychain player/photo viewer. I don’t really see anyone using this feature much if the Spark is their secondary player, however I do see the usefulness of photo support if the p
layer is given as a gift to parents or grandparents who aren’t all the tech savvy and still find it amazing that something that small can contain all the pics of their kids/grandkids- no matter if it’s in incredibly low resolutions.

Format support

The Spark is getting dangerously close to a certain well regarded tiny player and even surpasses it in many ways, but one massive drawback of the Spark is the limited format support. MP3, WMA, WAV music formats as well as Rhapsody and Audible support- that’s it. No Ogg Vorbis, no FLAC, and no AAC support (though the Clip doesn’t have that either). This might be a deal breaker for some, while others couldn’t care less. It all depends on what format your music collection is in.

UPDATE: A commenter pointed out the latest update adds support for FLAC and APE. I tested it and this is indeed true. No support for Ogg Vorbis or AAC and no gapless, but FLAC in itself is nice- though the limited capacity is a problem.

Sound Quality

After carefully testing the sound quality of the Spark up against other players I can’t for the life of me find anything bad to say about it. Comparing it to the Clip on flat EQ I wasn’t able to detect any differences in sound quality, at least not any worth mentioning. I’m sure that people with better trained ears than me would be able to find something to put their finger on, but I doubt anyone would have an issue with the sound quality of this thing.

As for additional sound enhancement features the Spark has an EQ as well as what Philips call “FullSound”. FullSound could easily be called SubSound as it’s essentially the same as strapping two supwoofers to your head and nothing else. It makes bass sound like airplanes passing over (or trying to land on) your house, and it makes drums sound like SWAT just blew out the wall behind you- that’s not a complement, if anyone was wondering.

Conclusion

A lot of people ignore Phillips because they have a very random way of releasing players; weird names, no real schedules, and different players operating not only in different parts of the world but also in different stores in the same country. Despite all this, the Spark is a very capable player- the only player of its class that I would ever consider recommending above the Sansa Clip+. The 2GB and 4GB capacities might be too little for some people, and poor format support might also scare off people, but all in all the Spark is a very good player. It gets extra points for allowing for both ID3 and file/folder browsing as well as having on-the-go playlists, as well as having awesome customization features including a way of using album art for wallpaper and screensaver that I must say I personally like, despite it not really being the most useful feature ever- the OLED screen really makes a difference eye candy wise. While the Clip+ will no doubt continue to be the player of choice for hardcore music fans and most of the active community on this site, the Spark is in many ways a much better choice. The Clip is often a secondary player for enthusiasts, while the Spark would be cheap primary player for mainstream users. It has more features, almost twice the battery life, but has less capacity and supports fewer audio formats. It also costs $15 more than the Clip+ and has no memory card slot, but that’s the price you pay for a color screen.

Pros:

  • Awesome color OLED screen and plenty of features to take advantage of it
  • Good sound quality
  • Good battery life
  • On-the-go playlists
  • ID3 and file/folder browsing
  • Decent radio

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • No real clip or armband for jogging
  • Randomly useless firmware update/restore software
  • No high capacity model or memory expansion
  • MTP only
  • FullSound is UseLess

Purchase

Philips sell different players through different retailers in different parts of the world and you might have to search for the model number (instead of the name) to find one, but if you’re in the US Amazon is the easiest place to get one as always.




36 Comments

Naher on November 19, 2009 2:31 PM

ther is no card slot so i wouldnt go for itunless it had some higher capacities

Dreamnine on November 19, 2009 2:31 PM

Nice review.

Shorty15c4 on November 19, 2009 6:47 PM

Phillip’s version of iriver’s S10 really. Although I must say the S10 is more sexier.

Kahn on November 19, 2009 10:14 PM

You forgot to mention that the battery is not user replaceable and that the docs give no estimate of the expected life of the battery or the number of recharges it can sustain. I see this as a significant con.

Jeff Maurer on November 19, 2009 10:35 PM

Convex.

hawkshot on November 19, 2009 11:25 PM

Sweet. Please do more Philips reviews.

Andreas Ødegård on November 20, 2009 2:14 AM

@Jeff Maurer: Thanks, wasn’t sure about that one. Google images tricked me :p@Kahn: I have to disagree with you on that one. Close to no player has a user replaceable battery these days, but that doesnt really matter since lithium ion batteries last long enough that 99% of people buy a new player long before the battery dies.

Scooter on November 20, 2009 4:17 AM

Andreas, I would have to agree with you. Replaceable battery was one reason I bought the then-cutting-edge 6GB Sansa e270 for US $240 way back in 2006. The Apple iPod was being criticised at the time for its terrible battery life. Consequently, I thought I’d replace the Sansa’s battery at least once before retiring it to the shelf, but the battery has lasted three years no problem and in the meantime the player itself has become completely outmoded by models 1/3 the cost (eg, the 8GB Fuze is better and only US$80).

Sebulr on November 20, 2009 6:29 AM

Nice review as always Andreas.I have a sansa clip for podcast and audiobook support. And I was wondering if the spark has auto resume for podcasts and audiobooks? I use this feature a lot.And also, if you leave the album art screen saver on, how much does the OLED screen suck the life out of the battery? Does it use about half like the ZVM? It would be nice if it doesn’t.

Andreas Ødegård on November 20, 2009 10:37 AM

@Sebulr: It resumes where you left off on all trracks if you shut it down, but the audiobook section is for audible only so it wont remember the position of any tracks if you play other tracks in between, like devices that has dedicated universal audiobook/podcast sections do.Not sure about battery, ill see if i can leave it playing for itself one day and see how long it takes to drain it with the screen on.

Bruce on November 20, 2009 3:54 PM

Add a removable clip on the back, expansion slot, 8gb version and i think yer onto a real winner here. I love the fact the album art is the background. I would say my only complaint in the clip+ would be lack of color display and battery life, philips have proven here u can do it with a model of similar size. Now if they can just merge to two together…

Triibik on November 24, 2009 12:58 PM

I bought 8 GB Philips Vibe for my sister. Because i’m a bit curious i played with it a little to compare Vibe with Sansa and Sony players i have. Something was wrong with that Philips, it produced horrible noise instead of music. The shop was already closed so i tried to update the firmware. And went through the same hell as Andreas – updates failed and failed and repair failed and everything else failed and i was getting pretty mad. Restoring to factory settings helped, eventually (and deleted bunch of songs that came with the player). I guess my sister is happy with Philips now (as long she doesn’t need to update it)

b on November 29, 2009 10:08 AM

I have a question, i red somwhere that this player has only 3mw headphone output power, and I also red that the small iriver s10 has 15mw…..that confuses me, is 3mw too little or what….

b on November 29, 2009 4:28 PM

oh and one more thing, it’s SNR is 80-isn’t that a bit low as well, is the background noise easy to hear?

Defaultluser on November 30, 2009 2:49 PM

How exactly can you recommend a player that is THIS overpriced?Your link to Amazon shows a 2GB player for $50. For that price, you can get a Clip+ 2GB ($37) and an 8GB MicroSDHC card ($11).Can you REALLY justify getting 1/5 the capacity for the price just to get that tiny full-color screen?

Andreas Ødegård on November 30, 2009 4:42 PM

@Defaultluser: If thats your way of thinking, I take it you have a 500GB Archos 5 IT? It comes out to $1/GB, which is 1/5 that of that horribly overpriced clip you mention! How exactly can you recommend the clip when it’s THIS overpriced?Seriousely though, theres more to DAPs than price/capacity. If you don’t need more than 2GB, it’s useless to pay for more. I have a clip+ and I use about 200MB as it’s my dedicated audio book player. I could buy a 16GB microsdhc and put in it and have 20GB, but i’d still only use 200MB. If you need 10GB storage, the Philips isn’t an option for you anyways, so it doesnt matter how cheap a clip is in comparison.

popo on December 1, 2009 7:38 AM

i bought it in Poland for 20 dollars brand new :) Im very happy with it – espiecially for price.

popo on December 1, 2009 7:46 AM

alsa it supports flac and ape since last FW update so you probably didnt succed with update :)

Andreas Ødegård on December 1, 2009 2:15 PM

@popo, thanks, I put that in there. It did update the FW, but I didnt test file support afterwards- didnt see any changelog

Defaultluser on December 1, 2009 3:34 PM

@Andreas ØdegårdIf you don’t need 10GB, then just buy the Clip+ 2GB for $37. It’s still $13 cheaper, MUCH lighter (the Clip is 24g versus 35g for the Spark), has a real clip, and if you ever get the itch to upgrade, the option is there.This Philips player is an unupgradable brick that costs more.

popo on December 2, 2009 5:57 AM

i need to point out that in europe (at least in Poland when i bought one – but i also seen that Czech ones have this) this player comes with plastic casing that have clip on it and place to put strap if needed.I dont use either – but its nice gadget if someone needs it.

devxtreme on December 12, 2009 2:38 PM

whats the point of having a colored screen for such a small device! Still prefer my original sansa clip. IMO the clip’s most important feature is the clip! Its really convenient, especially if you are at the gym.

Ray on December 14, 2009 11:14 AM

I see a lot of comments here stating that the player is way overpriced…But the full-sound alone makes it worth the price.. (and yes it sounds like crap with the stock earphones )But if you listen to it with a high quality headphones its like standing in the studio when the track was made!(so keep that in mind when you consider buying one)..(i use a AKG 321 HP)

Andreas Ødegård on December 14, 2009 3:49 PM

@Ray: I’ve tried every single sound enhancement out there, from samsungs DNSe, Cowons licensed BBE, FullSound, Sony’s ClearBass (and other randomly named enhancements), SRS used on several different brands etc. Philips’ fullsound is so close to useless that it’s ridiculous. I take it you haven’t actually tried any of the other enhancement technologies out there, but i’d strongly suggest you do so- you will be surprised. Upgrading to some real headphones might also be a good idea. AKG K321 are low level consumer headphones and if fullsound is an improvement on those it indicates a very wrong sound signature in the first place. Sometimes, one bad component in the setup can compensate for another.

Ray on December 14, 2009 7:29 PM

@ Andreas: I’ve had experience with the Clearbass from sony, I didnt like it all.Whats true is that the Fullsound tech makes it very bass-heavy, but I kinda like that.(maybe it just a matter of preference? )Youre right about the akg k321.. the thing broke yesterday (second time in 2 weeks, so I think i will never buy one again (at least not from their consumer range), I bought a Klipsch, seems to be really good.Could you please provide me with a link to a place where I can get FLAC support for the player?

Dionamuh on December 15, 2009 9:04 AM

Seems like an interesting music player. I especially like the battery life, and… that’s about it. Sure, the screen is a nifty piece of technology, but I don’t really need one on my music player.The thing that puts me off about it, is that is the amount of memory. The Clip(+) really stands out in that respect.I might even like the older Philips SA1942/02 (catchy name!) better than the GoGear Spark. It’s more straightforward, and still has that great battery life. I once sent ABI an e-mail asking if they could review the Philips SA1942/02, but it hasn’t happened. :(

skip252 on December 20, 2009 7:16 AM

I picked up a Spark SA2925A/37 from a Wootoff. Notice the “A”. Philips’ A version of the Spark is a MSC only player. The biggest drawback to this for me is that I haven’t found a way to make playlists except on the player except the 3 included Playlist On The Go. Not a deal breaker but a little inconvenient. For $30 I cant really complain.The other aspects of the player that I was interested in are every bit as Andreas described. Very clean sound ,long battery life and the tiny but gorgeous OLED screen have graduated this player to my first backup as I’m leaving the house. For $50 no, for $30, a definite keeper.I was wondering how the same sound labs that came up with this very nice sounding player could think that FullSound could be of any use. Andreas’ description of FullSound doesn’t start to let you know how bad it is. I found a hint in his reply to Ray. I believe it’s meant to help el cheapo earbuds.I tried FullSound in a noisy area with the stock earbuds and it gave them some color and fullness. Like a 2 year old coloring with a crayon but something. The same settings with just a pair of Senn CX300 was a very loud, boomy mess.Appreciate the solid review Andreas. It helped me pull the trigger on a nice little player. Looking forward to more :-)

Ray on December 22, 2009 2:00 PM

I would like to adjust my meaning about the FUllsound tech..It sounds like total crap over my new klipsch headphones. (way to much bass)IT DOES work however on cheaper headbuds as stated above.And the batterylife is just great!

Pin/Code on December 23, 2009 6:42 AM

Please tell me, does is support folder-by-folder playback like the Rockbox do I’m going to listen to audiobooks only (mp3, no tags), so it’s very important to me.Also, can I play a folder with a couple of subfolders inside

Kishan on January 16, 2010 8:05 AM

I got the version with no fm radio, will updating the firmware with the firmware of the radio version mean i can get the radio feature?

popo on January 20, 2010 9:12 AM

no its missing FM chip – anyway how you would update it with FM FW? update manager checks what version of gogear device is connected, downloads firmware and then you can update it. It doesnt let you update from file.

Felix on February 2, 2010 2:00 PM

The problem with Philips players (and a lot of other products, actually) is the software. As you mentioned in your review, the updating software sucks. I can assure you the device firmware sucks, too. I have a Philips SA6025 (ok, it’s a bit old, but it doesn’t matter) and the firmware is crap. For one, I hate how it looks — fonts are choppy and graphics look like they were made with Paint. Scrolling through large lists is an incredible headache. Also, its internal memory gets corrupted shortly after putting songs on it, making some songs unplayable or skip. It sometimes even confuses songs — it starts playing a song, skips to another song but still says that it’s playing the old one and after a while it goes back to the first song. Seriously, what the hell? As I said: the software sucks. Battery life is awesome, so is sound quality (too bad the phones that come with it blow)./rant

Mark on February 2, 2010 11:44 PM

So, can a Mac user use this?

Jaigoda on February 20, 2010 11:59 PM

What Defaultluser said.I’m sorry, I just don’t see why someone would pay more for this thing than a Clip+ of equal memory for nothing more than a tiny little thumbnail screen. Sure, it’s a little bit of eye candy, but it’s such a tiny piece of candy I would think it would get old pretty quick. Especially for players this cheap, I’d say the majority of people would just want a good player that plays music.

jen on April 1, 2010 2:14 AM

which is better andreas? sansa clip plus, philips gogear, sansa fuze or creative zen mozaic? disregard the video playback features…

jen on April 1, 2010 2:17 AM

which is better when as whole? disregard the video playback quality. sandisk sansa clip plus, sandisk sansa fuze, philips gogear spark or creative ez300 mozaic? i’m very confused on what to buy. Just want to have a good sounding mp3..

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