2016-12-19

Review Philips GoGEAR Azure Bluetooth MP3/FLAC/MP4 player 8GB SA5AZU08KF (with FM)

Overall I'm happy with my Philips GoGEAR Azure. I can release the storage space occupied by music on my phone - that used to be my portable Bluetooth player. I can also save some battery on my phone and it's a bit more handy to have a dedicated device that really fit in a small pocket.

Even if the player don't support AptX (my headphones does support it), the sound is still pretty good for travel and work. If I want true sound quality I can use regular wired phones.

Pros:
  • Good wireless sound (Bluetooth/A2DP)
  • Very good wired sound
  • Plays FLAC along with MP3
  • Good battery life even with Bluetooth, it served me days without recharge, they say "up to 35h for music"
  • It charges over regular Micro-USB port, like my phone
  • I can also browse music in folders, I hate players that only provide music grouped by artist, album
  • It has FM radio receiver with RDS
Cons:
  • does not support the Apt-X Bluetooth codec
  • it is almost double the size of my previous player (Phillips GoGear 2GB)
  • the reminder about volume limit is a bit annoying, even after I increased the limit 
  • there are sound glitches when browsing folders while listening, especially when there are album pictures
  • does not play FLAC with high sampling rate (over 48KHz)
  • low write speed when copying files to player (1-2MB/s)
  • does not provide the best hand grip, it is a bit slippery
  • does not support additional SD card
Additional notes

  • It's a bit silly to listen FLAC over Bluetooth, as Bluetooth is slightly lower quality than good MP3. The FLAC feature is mainly for wired listening. It does not help much that you save one re-encoding by using FLAC. Bluetooth is for "good enough" quality while you don't want to focus 100% on each music detail (travel, work). In this situations you might not notice any  difference from the wired headphones quality.
  • Even AptX Bluetooth does not equal good MP3 quality over wires. From my tests with other sources, AptX sounds just slightly better than regular Bluetooth A2DP that this player supports. AptX sounds more like AAC to me (compared with MP3), it's more rich in high frequencies and sometimes just features more high frequency white noise. However, there are some passages that indeed sound slightly better with AptX over regular A2DP: AptX sound is less "blurry" (for example on drums).
  • It also supports to see movies if you re-encode it with a provided application for this player resolution. Personally I find it useless, the screen is too small to watch
  • It displays the album picture if available with the music. While this seems cool, it interferes a bit with browsing speed and produces glitches when browsing while listening. I would rather disable it but I didn't find an option to do this
  • After some time of not listening, the player goes into standby. While this saves battery, I need to push some buttons again to re-connect it with my headphones.
  • The Bluetooth range is good, I need to go in another room to hear the first glitches in sound
  • It has only 8GB of storage while there are way bigger cheap SD-cards on the market. The low write speed of 1-2MB/s is way slower than such cheap SD-cards. My guess is that they could have made it bigger without too much cost increase but they wanted to keep something for the next version

Why Phillips over Sony?

I wanted to upgrade my MP3/FLAC player with more storage space and Bluetooth. After some research I opted for Phillips SA5AZU08KF over the Bluetooth player from Sony. I didn't test the Sony player, I chose Phillips mainly because Sony has a non-standard charging port while Phillips uses the common Micro-USB port like my phone. Other than that, I was already content with the sound quality of my old 2GB Phillips player.

On the good side, Sony is available in bigger storage sizes (16GB) and advertises very high sound fidelity: audiophile grade - although one review say there is not much difference. Sony also has an SD-card option. Too bad that I cannot charge it without an additional cable, I wanted portability.

P.S. I don't receive any material compensation for this review, I just hope it helps. Actually useful stuff is only a side subject for this blog, please also check my speculation articles! ;)

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