(article first published on
I think it's fair to say that Nokia didn't envisage the
target market for their Eseries communicators (E50/E60/E61 and E70) listening
to a lot of music. Certainly the budget for quality audio output must have been
fairly small, judging from the quality gap between their multimedia Nseries and
devices like the E61 and E70. All of which is not to say that you can't listen
to your favourite albums on the E61 and E70 - you can - but bear in mind that
if you're in any way an audiophile then you may be a little disappointed. In my
experience though, it's perfectly good enough for most pop and rock music.
Out of the box
There's not a lot of help from Nokia, out of the box. S60
3rd Edition includes a decent 'Music player' application, but on the Eseries
this only supports MP3 and AAC (so no WMA - Windows Media Audio). Even more
tellingly, there's only a cheap 'hands-free' mono headset, no use at all for
On the desktop side, PC Suite includes a 'Music Manager'
application that can encode files in the fairly efficient AAC format, but which
for the Eseries (and some of the Nseries) devices has crippled integration with
the Internet-based CD lookup services*, meaning that it's impractical to
convert any of your CDs into music for your communicator.
* though bizarrely, the same
commercial database that Nokia restricts access to (Gracenote) is also used by
the completely free version of the popular WinAmp.
With no help from the desktop suite, no stereo headset and
with, for most people, only support for ready-encoded and relatively
inefficient MP3 files, music playback on the E61 and E70 is in theory going to
be fairly minimal.
Formats and conversion
Now, faced with the situation just described, and with the
help of a couple of hints from others, I put together for AllAboutSymbian a
tutorial describing the use of the free version of WinAmp to identify, rip and
convert to AAC+ format any CDs you choose, ready for copying onto your
expansion card and playing back on the move.
I'm going to assume that you've now read this and have
converted a dozen or so of your favourite CDs into folders of .aac files at
64kbps, twice as efficient as the same music in MP3 format with the same
quality. You're all set and ready to rock. But read on, for some real world
tips and notes.
Music player on the Eseries
- Go stereo
Firstly and most
obviously, you need a stereo headset. Currently, no S60 3rd Edition device
supports wireless music playback (a.k.a. A2DP), so head instead for a headset
like Nokia's HS-23. This is the one with the loopy bit that goes round your
neck and means the earbuds don't keep dropping out under the weight of their
own leads. It also has a volume control rocker switch on the 'remote',
integrating with Music player, and you can also answer incoming calls using the
remote by pressing the main button. Highly recommended.
- Stay clean
If your E61 or E70 is anything
like the one I've been using, the Pop-port tends to accumulate tiny specks of
finger grease and general dirt. So when you plug in your wired headset, the
sound cuts out in one or both channels and lots of wiggling is needed to
restore the music. Very frustrating. The solution is to run a cotton bug soaked
in tape head cleaning solution (or similar, e.g. meths or IPA) over the
contacts once a week, to keep them pristine and ready for connection.
- Update your library
When you first start up
Music player, you won't see any music. This is because it's all driven from the
built-in 'Music library' - go to this in the menu and then use 'Update Music
library' on the library menu. Your card will be scanned and all compatible
tracks added, with their complete 'tag' info, e.g. artist, album, track name.
You can then, for example, select an album and start playback at its first
- No bass? Add some!
One of the err....
characteristics of audio output on the Eseries is a relative absence of bass
response, making music seem tinny and 'middle-heavy'. On the main Music player
menu, go into the built-in 'Equialiser' and select 'Bass boost' and then
'Activate'. The result isn't perfect, but it makes a lot of difference and is
well worth turning on.
- Control from outside Music player
to optionally controlling playback volume from your stereo headset (depending
on which accessory you bought), you can also control volume easily from the
active standby screen. Music player will appear, as if by magic, when a track
is playing, showing the title and status. By moving the highlight down to this
line (or pressing 'up' once if the highlight is on the top icon strip), you'll
see the date at the top of the screen change to a volume control and you can
then use left and right to alter playback volume.
- Forgive the crackles
As I write this, there's
a bug in WinAmp's 'aacPlus (HE-AAC) Encoder v1.2' encoder, meaning that any
track that starts with significant volume gets a tiny bit of crackling added to
the first couple of seconds of playback. This is something we'll have to live
with for the time being.
- Upside down
Of course, with the Pop-port
headset sticking out the bottom of your E61 or E70, how are you going to
holster or store the device while music is playing? My solution is to put the
device into the case or pocket upside down. This sounds strange, but it's just
as accessible for reaching in and extracting it and the cable's poking out the
- Listening while you work
Decoding AAC+ files
doesn't seem to overload the processor in the E61 or E70, so it's quite
practical to carry out other jobs at the same time, even in landscape mode (on
the E70). Simply switch away from Music player and start or switch to another
application. Thus you might be typing an article or replying to email while
listening to your favourite CD!
Why am I making such a big deal of playing music on the
Nokia Eseries? Why not simply switch to an Nseries smartphone, with its extra
music capabilities (Windows Media Audio support, Media Player integration, CD
recognition in Music Manager, etc.)?
Simply put, the E61 and E70 are the only Symbian OS 9
devices with a keyboard. And as I remarked a few weeks ago, sometimes you just
have qwerty'. It changes the way you use your mobile device. So, with the
keyboard determining the choice of communicator, next stop is sorting out tunes
to listen to while typing!
All text (C) Steve Litchfield, 2006