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A project log for Zoom F1 Field Recorder as MP3 Player

Unable to find a proper simple, durable portable music player, I've decided to use my Zoom F1

DustinDustin 01/16/2022 at 02:570 Comments

after spending two full ten hour days with the F1 at work, I have a few more things to report. First is that it does make an excellent basic audio player. The sound quality is far superior to my smartphone, and the physical buttons make skipping around far easier. I miss having the media control button on my headphones actually work, but I can live with the Zoom buttons. The belt clip is a huge pain to get clipped on, but it definitely isn't going anywhere.

I want to put a screen protector on it as I'm often grinding and welding, or just bumping into things. This thing wasn't cheap, and I still need it for audio production, so it's worthwhile to protect it. For now, I'll cover the screen in really nice clear packaging tape. I used the same tape to hold together my shattered smartphone screen, and it's been excellent so far, all things considered. I have magnetic charging cable adapter plugged into it at all times, which does a great job of protecting the micro USB port. The headphone jack is protected by the headphones plugged into it. The mic input jack is left exposed, but I keep the Zoom clipped to my belt and under my shirt at all times. I may just cut the end off a cheap old 3.5mm aux cable and leave it plugged in. I found a nice little adventuresome that has an mp3 player case I want. It's a waterproof tough box with a waterproof headphone jack passing through the case, padding inside, and a belt clip. This would be ideal when I go sit in the hot tub at the gym to do my thinking and recovery. I've also got a decent piece of nice bison leather left from my leather working business, and all my basic tools. I may actually make a custom protective case for it and offer it up for sale. It's such a niche device that I might end up being one of the only people making cases for it. I've also got experience using it and making various cases and sheaths for things. Could be fun. 

Battery life is pretty darn good. I've gotten a full day off a set of standard AAA alkaline batteries. More, if I remember correctly. I don't like disposable things in general, so I'll be buying professional rechargeable batteries for it soon. NiMH are old school, but are proven durable and reliable. The new lithium AAA batteries seem to be pretty good these days, but I've never seen a set from a reputable brand or used in a professional setting. This is a professional piece of audio gear, after all, and I need it to be as reliable as possible when it comes time to record audio. I can't have a weird battery fry it or cause other issues. 

There are two major issues I've found, but haven't had time to work on yet. I've not used it in a while due to lack of batteries and refusing to buy disposable. There are tracks that will not play and come up with "invalid file" and some that will play through the entire track, but have multiple minutes of silence at the end of the track. I suspect this has something to do with my batch conversion process. I need to make note of the offending tracks, and will do so now that I've added a pencil and water proof notebook to my every day carry. The Zoom will be another very lucky item to get added to my EDC once I have good batteries. In order to figure out which tracks are the problem, I have to get them off the SD card and take a look at the files. I'll compare them to known good files and just look for differences. In order to match the converted file to the source file, I'll need the original set of files, in the order they were processed. Luckily I kept every set of files in their own folder, in the same order through each step of processing. I'll write a Python script to grab all the file names in a certain order, then put them into a spreadsheet so I can compare and search for files. A database would be ideal for this, but I have no experience with database management and don't feel like learning it right now. Once I know what is wrong with the files, I'll look into possible solutions and update my process as needed. 

I contacted Zoom support to ask about the 500 file limitation. No surprises here, but they don't know anything about it on a technical level. Basically they're either lazy, uninformed, or hiding something. Useless, like most tech support. At first they basically just said that it can only recognize 500 files at a time, when I had asked them WHY it could only handle 500. Took me 2 responses to get their final answer of "we have no idea." To Zoom's credit, they did actually respond, which is better than many consumer companies ice worked with in the past. Still a massive disappointment. Ice gotten to the point where I feel the Zoom F1 hardware is about as good as can get for a basic media player, and it's just limited by the software at this point. If I ever get good at reverse engineering, I'd love to hack the firmware and write custom firmware for it. I'd add shuffle, standard track names, audiobook mode, podcast features, sleep timers, playlists, and all the basic features you'd expect from a portable media player. That's likely a far off dream unless I get some serious help. One can dream...

For the time being, I'll be adding some protection to the device, getting proper rechargeable batteries for it, and just using it as a no nonsense media player.

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