A five year old modern portable audio player

Roughly five years ago, I bought an iRiver iHP-120 (today called H120). I bought it for three reasons:

  • Ogg Vorbis playback support (as one of the first players)
  • Optical in/out for best possible signal quality when at home
  • Good analog sound quality, something that only Cowon and iRiver seem to be able to produce in a portable digital audio player

The surprising thing is: The machine is still alive and well, and it’s getting new features every day, thanks to the Free Software firmware Rockbox. iRiver have probably long since stopped caring about firmware upgrades for this player, but the Free Software community keeps adding features the player was never meant to have. Being able to save your played tracks to your Last.fm profile, for example, or building an artist/metadata database on the fly. There’s also an EQ with billions of functions, but I’m a silly purist so I never use that.

It seems that other people are very happy with Rockbox on their H120 too, so yay Rockbox. If only iRiver and Cowon would publish specs for their newer devices so we could port Rockbox to them, that would be really nice. Since Rockbox outperforms most of these manufacturers’ stock firmware, it would be a win-win situation for them. We make them decent firmware, they don’t have to invest any work. If they still need some special features that aren’t yet available, they can write a Rockbox plugin.

Some people have claimed that SanDisk has actually helped the Rockbox project with docs and specs, but this is not true and based on a rumor. At least they donated some hardware. We would certainly need some more activity from the manufacturers on this front.

One thought on “A five year old modern portable audio player”

  1. We do need to see a little more consideration from some embedded companies with regards the benefits that Free Software gives for all parties. I think the message is spreading through the market slowly, but it’s taking time. It’s a shame opportunities are perhaps being missed or only partially realised because of this.


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