Archos Jukebox Recorder 20GB MP3 Player

Archos Jukebox Recorder 20GB MP3 Player

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Archos wins ANY competition!

Apr 1, 2003 (Updated Jul 14, 2003)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Sound:
  • Ease of Use:
  • Durability:
  • Battery Life:
  • Portability:

Pros:Excellent Sound Quality, Simple Navigation, Rockbox-Enabled

Cons:NONE AT ALL. Best bang-for-buck I've seen in a LONG time.

The Bottom Line: Love it... gotta love it... *Grin*

Now that I got my FM Recorder, I see where the Recorder 20 was flawed. Though it was a great little machine, I do now realize there is something a bit better, a bit worse - the FM Recorder 20. I keep the latter. It's near the same price, and it has a marginally better design - so my rating is still 5 stars.


So you recently heard that I got a RioRiot, right? Well, a bit earlier I had just bought an Archos Jukebox Recorder 20GB. You might ask, “Why buy a 20GB Archos, and then a 20GB RioRiot?” Firstly, 20GB is WAY more than enough for me, let alone 40GB when you combine them. The reason I got the Recorder 20 was because it could record! I’m not talking, like, “Memo to self…” stuff. I mean like, it RECORDS. It’s got a microphone input and it can record at a VBR estimate of 175KBPS. That’s pretty good. I got this in lieu of a MiniDisc Player/Recorder because not only was it all-digital, it had a lot of storage AND could play all my tunes. I often record, be it just for fun (like recording someone freaking out on the subway) or for more formal things like a performance for instance (note that the above link isn’t anything of mine). Oh, and so you know, I got my Archos as an Open-Box item at Best Buy, and for the price of a new Archos I got the opened one and a three-year-warranty, that not only will have it replaced if it malfunctions, but if the recorder 20GB is obsolete, they give you the latest and greatest newest replacement.

The box looked just plain weird. Firstly, it looked sort of off-brandish. It had the features in bold going around the product itself hiding behind the front plastic casing. It just looked like something “Coby” or “Audiovox” would do, not a real brand such as “Sony” or “Logitech” (or “Archos” for that matter). Anyways, underneath the box is a real good product. According to the side panel, the box contains a carrying case, headphones, NiMH batteries and a charger, plus the Archos itself. I was wowed. You’d think that most people would just throw in the Archos plus the headphones, and that’s it. A bit generous, don’t you think?

The unit isn’t exactly pretty, with its four rubber “bumpers” that protrude from the unit on all four corners and are NOT removable. How these bumpers will protect it from a good, hard is beyond me, and they don’t exactly conserve space, but hey, I do see some potential. Other than the rubber bumpers, though, it looks pretty good. It’s amazingly small, though not quite as small as the Apple iPod. Mine is the Black/Dark Blue color, but it seems that there are even more of these ‘Light Blue/Lighter Blue’ types.

Essentials – HARD DRIVE
The hard drive in the Archos Jukebox Recorder 20 is of course 20GB. This is enough for all of your tunes, and then some. Good news is that you can use it also as a portable Hard Disk to transfer files, etc. On top of that, it’s got a USB2.0 connection for LIGHTNING FAST transferring of songs and files or whatever you want to throw at it. The hard drive is a laptop model, made by Hitachi which is a fairly popular name in electronics. The hard drive is pretty silent; you have to hold the Archos up to your ear before really being able to make out the noise except for the spin-up part. The hard drive *does* make a bit of a jolt at some times, but it’s not exactly a ‘jolt’ – think ‘tiny little bumpy feely thingy’. Also, beware of shaking the hard drive MP3 player while the hard drive is spinning; I tried it once and it let out a “SQEEK”. I can only imagine how bad doing that is for your Archos. And one last thing: never shut off the Archos while the hard drive is spinning. Something will happen known as the “Scream of Death” according to Hitachi – it’s a loud, “let the hard drive spin down before you shut off the hard drive which locks the R/W heads!!”. It’s an awful noise, and it makes you feel pretty bad as well.

Well, I daren’t say ‘essentials’ – that doesn’t go for a couple things included. For one, the headphones SUCK. This doesn’t matter at ALL to me, since the player is already the BEST DEAL on the market. I picked up a pair of Sennheisers at Circuit City a few weeks ago – the ‘over-the-head’ type. The included ones are the increasingly cooler ‘behind-the-neck’ style which supposedly stays on better and doesn’t mess with your hair. I had a pair of Sony’s like this and they worked well… for a while. You can’t lay down with them on. For all-purpose ones, it’s either earbuds or the traditional type. Next up is the Carrying Case. This one is actually okay, it’s very padded. It feels like those ‘gel’ palm rests for your keyboard or something. That, coupled with the Archos’s rubber bumpers, really makes for a safe hard drive MP3 player. The only gripe I have is that you can’t access the controls from the case; you have to unzip it, release the Archos, then press the buttons and replace the pouch. But hey, it works okay so that’s not a big deal. Anyways, the USB cable and the Power Cord are just normal items, nothing special, and nothing defective.

The Archos Jukebox Recorder 20 has an average navigation system. You simply create folders and put files in them in Windows Explorer, then you boot up the Archos and navigate through the folders and files by using the UP, DOWN, FORWARD (FF), BACKWARD (REW) and PLAY buttons. I find this to be a pretty simplistic way to do it, and to me that’s a good thing (exceptions: RioRiot LogiTrack method). There’s the aforementioned buttons in addition to an ON button, an OFF button, and three multifunction buttons along the top, directly under the screen (the screen says, on the bottom line, the current function of each button – such as ‘Back’ or ‘Menu’ or ‘Info’, etc). This is a good idea, eliminating the need for about 10 different buttons trying to perform the same action. The screen size is adequate (about the size of a digital camera’s LCD screen – 1.8” or so) and it’s got a green backlight. The rest of the unit is very bland and straightforward.

Be aware of the firm!! Naw, I’m just kidding. Firmware means basically the operating system of your portable device, be it an MP3 Player, an MP3-CD Player, or whatnot. There is a version hard-coded into the player, this is version 1.28. Every time on startup, the player checks for a file named ‘ajbrec.ajz’ on the hard drive. If it is not found it reverts to the permanent version on the player. If it does find it, however, it will proceed to load it. Archos’s Recorder 20GB has a lot of potential – you can think it, and it can run on the Archos. You can do basically anything because of the way the screen displays what pixels the firmware tells it to as opposed to the Player (all models – 20GB, 10GB, 6000), which can only display letters, i.e. you can have any dots on the Recorder screen, but you can’t do anything outside the character set on the Player screen. Since Archos hasn’t put out a firmware to this day since June 18, 2002, some people over at Rockbox ( – website) have made their own. No matter what you say, you MUST perform this upgrade!

The Archos has no games. It has nothing adjustable except Contrast, Backlight Time and Power Off Time. The Archos has not many sound settings. Rockbox has games. It has Tetris, Sokoban and Wormlet (sort of a multiplayer or single player remake of the popular cell-phone game Snake). Rockbox has about fifty settings to play with, from scroll step/speed to screensavers to which files are displayed. They listen to their fans. Want a feature? Just let them know. They’ll review it and decide the priority, etc. Rockbox has Mono, Mono Left, Mono Right, Stereo, Stereo Narrow, Stereo Wide, and Karaoke as the available channels. I mean really, this thing can be so fun to fiddle with. You just got to upgrade to Rockbox… You have to! (Beware of 'PsycoXul')

The sound quality of the Archos is EXCELLENT. It has a lot of power and it’s not afraid to use it either. And installing Rockbox to your Archos Jukebox will REALLY help you out with the sound. It’s fuller, louder and bigger with the Rockbox as opposed to the Archos firmware. It sounds excellent, even fuller than the RioRiot. I couldn’t believe! You are making a great decision in picking the Archos Jukebox Recorder (if that is what you are doing of course!). I love the sound quality of this thing. You have to hear it for yourself.

I think I covered what I intended to cover. I think that, with the Archos Jukebox Recorder 20GB you just can’t go wrong. It’s fast, it’s got the best sound quality out of all of my portable players, it’s simple and it’s cheap. It’s the smart thing to buy. I love this Archos. Yes, I’d buy it again if I could. Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.

Recommend this product? Yes

Amount Paid (US$): 299.99

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