I'm a Rio Carbon mp3 player addict
Rio Carbon - love at first listen
My name is Chaval and I'm a Rio Carbon mp3 player addict. There, I've said it. With the permission of the group, I'd like to share.
First up, a word to you cynics. This is not a commercial endorsement. Rio got out of the mp3 player business in 2005, and as far as I know, the brand is defunct. I have nothing to gain for my devotion.
I got my first Rio Carbon mp3 player sometime in 2004. It just felt right from the moment I slid it out of the box and felt that smooth teardrop-shaped case in the palm of my hand. Sensuous, I guess you might call it, if you were the sort of iLoser who attached human emotions to inanimate objects.
I liked the Rio Music manager software. Didn't love it, it was more a mature appreciation, an understanding, a friendly rapport. The device itself though, that was a long-term relationship, I knew. I was ready for commitment and wasn't interested in any of the blandishments the Apple people were throwing my way.
All that Mac stuff seemed designed for style-conscious egotists with a puerile weakness for pastel colours. And it was surely no coincidence that all their products have to begin with that lower-case i, the symbol of a pretentious solipsist.
Rio, whoever they were, had no such pseudo-ideology. Their mp3 players looked and felt superb, but that would have been futile if they hadn't sounded so richly satisfying.
I was an mp3 sceptic, I admit it. Not a Luddite as such, just someone who wondered why the future of music listening seemed to have reached a point where millions were slavering to compress their favourite songs into a format with the audio quality of a poorly-dubbed cassette.
Rio reassured me. Their player could offer excellent detail and bass response even in a modestly-ripped 192 kbs track. Go for the full 320 kbs, and the reproduction was seriously impressive.
When they went out of business, I panicked a little. Even as memory became cheaper, I knew there would never be a mighty Rio offering the 20GB memories of the Apples and Creatives. Their product was trapped in the amber of the digital mid-2000s, to be outstripped by all the easy consumer technology hitting the market-place.
I turned to ebay, where fickle lovers, but not many of them, were ditching their Rios. They were rarely cheap. Anyone who had owned a Rio valued them, and there were numerous other addicts out there ready to push the prices up for the auctions. Gradually I assembled a team though. I'm glad I did it in time. These days a Rio Carbon on ebay might fetch around double its original retail price.
Love is never perfect
Sure there were downsides. The first of them was, did I mention that Rio went out of business in 2005? They left their beautiful product as an orphaned child of its time, powerless to fend for itself in a market dominated by those brash bullies from the Apple machine.
The company's disappearance might have had something to do with the peculiar generosity of furnishing their players with a 5GB drive that, at the time, was more valuable than the cost of the mp3 player. I'm not a business whizz, but that's a sum that doesn't add up.
That 5GB (or 6GB for later models) storage looks quaint and inadequate now, but actually it's perfectly fine. I travelled around the world on numerous business trips in the mid 2000s and never had the sensation of listening to the same music over and over again.
The problem is that, well, hate to break it to you like this, but things die. A lithium battery and a constantly-used hard drive are not supposed to last for seven years in the feverish world of consumer not-so-durables. I have two Rios left that work perfectly, and a handful with a collection of failings and defects that are loveable but troubling.
Despite being an incompetent repairman, I am considering the notion of replacing the hard drives with SD cards and adapters, heading back to ebay for replacement batteries, in short, fitting prosthetics to my Rio family to keep them functioning.
It's a thought, although there is also the dream . . . the dream of unearthing a rare prototype of the fabled Rio Avalon, an 8GB model that was scrapped when Rio disappeared. Like Avalon itself it's a mythical idyll that will never be found in this life, but it is every Rio addict's nirvana.