Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
This radio receiver and MP3 player/recorder (yes, it is also a recorder, recoding from the radio or via built-in microphone, then though onto .wav) which was recently launched by Freeplay is presently available only to the humanitarian and development aid sector but, in the future, it may become also available to the general public.
However, the Encore Digital radio (without the MP3 player/recorder) can be purchased and judging by the test results of the Encore Player it is the ideal radio for any off grid situation.
The Encore Player is a solar and dynamo powered multi-band radio, MP3 player and recorder designed for use in off-grid communities.
The 5 watt speaker which delivers clear, crisp sound makes the Encore™ Player ideal for use by both small and larger groups of people.
It also features a mobile phone charger which will fully charge a mobile phone and for reading or close work after dark, there is a bright task light.
The Encore Player’s high capacity rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery delivers over 24 hours of playtime from a full charge and is powered by a solar panel backed up by Freeplay’s patented fail-safe winding mechanism to ensure that even in times of extended bad weather power is always available.
The Encore Player has been designed for use in educational programs, by listening groups and in all other programs where training and information are crucial.
• LCD digital display for ease of use
SD Card Player
• Store 125 audiobooks on a single 32GB SD card
• Pre-set or locally recorded content can be used
• Store up to 32GB of pre-loaded content in any subject or language
• Record directly from radio
• Record voice directly to SD card
Intelligent Mobile Phone Charger
• Fully recharge a mobile phone
• No cranking needed – automatically recharges
4 Way Charging
• Integrated solar panel
• External Solar panel
• Hand crank
• DC (optional)
• Two super bright LED’s
The radio of the Encore Player works well on all bands, including shortwave reception. The quality of the latter is, however, dependent on time of day and frequency, but on the right times and frequencies and especially when used with the wire antenna supplied in the box can be quite good.
Anyone familiar with shortwave will know that, though having a great range, it can be a fickle medium as far as reception goes and is bound to a lot of fading and atmospheric and electrical interference. This problem is not found so much on medium wave and basically not at all on FM, which is, in fact, in the lower part of the UHF, the ultra-high frequency, spectrum. The latter two, however, do not have the range that shortwave has.
The sound quality of the Encore Player is very good indeed and, in fact, impressed me a great deal as I have found that many modern portable radios have rather a tinny sound from their speakers, especially on shortwave.
The play time from the simple sixty to eighty turns of the crank handle, which would equate to about one minute winding, is also very impressive and there is almost no loss of quality to the end.
Solar charging could not be tested as the sun level in February in Britain simply is not good enough to allow this.
Tuning stations is quite good on AM and FM but on shortwave the device could have benefited from having a more geared drive. The LCD display could also have done with a backlight that could be turned on and off to make reading the screen easier, as well as, maybe, a larger letters and numbers. However, seeing the amount of information being displayed when the MP3 player is in action larger letters and numbers would not have been possible.
The task light is very bright indeed and it is not advisable to look directly into the LEDs (Note to self!).
Recording with the MP3 player/recorder is also rather good, especially directly from the radio, and clear as a bell, while when using the built-in microphone there is some electronic background noise on the recording in playback. Recordings are not in MP3 though but in .wav format. Playback of MP3s is very good and the sound quality is excellent.
All in all, with the few given caveats, I am impressed with the Encore Player and its performance and can see its benefits in many fields and scenarios.
Rating: 4.9 out of 5