Calum Tsang ([email protected])
I recently purchased a Sony MZ-E33, a low cost player currently being discounted and cleared from retail channels, it seems. The E33 features 10 seconds of memory and operates from gumpack or AA sized cells which fit into an integral slot on the back.
The E33 is relatively spartan in design, only sporting minimal controls, with a basic set of transport buttons in an odd triangular shape being the majority of control. A bass enhance selection and a volume limiter to avoid distortion round out the switches. The only indicator is a single small LED which goes on when playing or charging.
The E33 comes with a remote, a translucent white stick remote without backlight that is shaped similar to the R50/55 model, and a pair of MDR-A34 sport-style headphones that stick into the sides of your ears and have a rigid plastic band that folds. Also included is a grey felt bag, common to most Sony MD portables.
Unlike other versions, the US E33 does not come with a battery -specifically, the E33 uses a NH-MDAA (NiMH in AA package) which is sold separately. Depending on your situation, this may be good (you might already have other batteries and a charger) or bad (forcing you to pay extra).
I purchased the E33 to replace my MZ-R55 for daily use. I feared that my R55 might get stolen one day, a fate my R50 ended with. The player was cheap, at least 3:1 in price compared to the recorder. The E33 is similar in size to the R55 but a lot lighter.
Many people complain about the button arrangement on the R55-like a small console, it's not particularly easy to use. The E33's best design feature is its triangular shaped transport controls. While I thought it was a silly industrial design artifact, it's actually quite easy to use. No matter how you hold the E33, your index finger or thumb will land in the center of the pad, making it easy to operate.
As mentioned before, there are no indicators anywhere on the E33 body except a single red light. It glows solid when playing and flashes when charging. The LCD on the remote is used to give indicators to the user.
In terms of sound, the included headphones are typically poor. I replaced the entire headphone/remote assembly with the R55's and it sounds a lot better, though most people don't like the R55 headphones either. The backlight of the R55 remote functions properly, though missing features like current time display obviously won't work and that it seems to draw a considerable amount of power.
The E33 has a 10 second memory, which is less than most portables. Not doing any significant jogging or running, I found this to be more than adequate for sitting on the subway and walking to work. However, this might not be the case in more active lifestyles :)
Being able to use both gumpack and AA is a nice feature-with single AA NiMH cells going for around $3, it's cheap to add a long duration battery, while in a pinch one can grab half used AA's out of pagers, calculators and other assorted office devices. It's also nice to be able to use leftover gumpacks for those of us with older Japanese portables.
The US E33 does not come with a power supply, but the MZ-R55 supply works fine. I've charged the NH-WM14 gumpack from the R55 in the E33, using the R55 supply without trouble. Playback times are yielding out to be as expected, about twice the stamina of the R55 using the same battery.
In the US, most folks should be comparing the E33 to the Audiophase MDP-1 and the Casio XG-3, both about $100 USD. While I haven't seen the MDP-1, the Casio feels flimsy with its plastic shell compared to the E33's metal case. The E33 also boasts a slightly longer play time.
In Canada, few retailers carry MD, not to mention the E33. Most shops in Toronto would be specialized Asian stores which will retail the E33 at a high price (usually $300) or the Sony store. Some places may offer the MZ-EP11 or MZ-E20 leftover from MDBundle3/4, still at a high price in comparison.
The E33 is a no frills, basic MD player, with a little bit of style. It is ideal for users new to MD (ie, with the MDBundle6 package) or perhaps folks with more MD equipment but who want a simple player for trips. At discount it's a good pick.