Samsung Muse Review

The Samsung Muse, previously known as the S Pebble, is a Galaxy device accessory more than an actual standalone item. It’s a music player with 4GB of memory, akin to the iPod Shuffle due to lacking a screen or any sort of music management on the device itself. The clip on the back also draws parallels. However, this device has a few more tricks up its sleeve.

Details
Samsung Muse
What is it: A music player accessory for Android devices
Price: $49.99 (Get it from Samsung’s site in blue or white)
Battery life: 6 hours
File type support: MP3, WMA, FLAC, OGG
In the box: Muse, earphones, phone connector, and PC connector

Design

The front is nice and simple. There are five touch buttons and an LED. The up and down buttons are volume, the left and right are track forward and back, and the middle is play and pause. Fairly standard stuff.

The LED has a few colors. It glows blue when you turn it on, red when it’s charging, and green when it’s playing. It also flashes various colors when you put it into SoundAlive mode.

The left side has a shuffle switch and a hold switch. I don’t understand why there is a hold switch, but more on that later. The switches stick out so it’s easy to move them without them being susceptible to accidental switching.

The right side only has one switch, but it has three positions. The first is off, the second is on, and the third is called SoundAlive. It’s a Samsung technology that “intelligently adjusts sound quality and clarity as you listen.”

The top has nothing but a 3.5mm jack, which is used for both headphones and data transfer (similarly to some iPod Shuffles).

The back houses a large clip. It’s well designed and is sure not to come loose easily. Below the clip is a small reset button hole. Put a paper clip into that in case your Muse freezes up (mine hasn’t so far. In fact I’ve had no problems, but it’s there just in case).

The white Muse is a nice pearl white with a beautiful finish. In the light, you can see a slight blue sparkle to it. It’s nearly invisible, so it adds a good hue to it. It’s all plastic and weighs almost nothing, which is a great thing. And the rounded, pebble feel in your hand is just fantastic. I love holding the thing.

Functionality

Here is where the Muse shines. With other music players, you have to connect them to a computer to put music on it. This is fine if it has plenty of memory, but for small players like the Muse and Shuffle, it’s annoying. With 4GB of memory and no screen, you will have to make playlists or only throw a few albums on. This means that you’ll be switching the music on it often. In that case, going to a computer so frequently is an annoyance.

The Muse does hook up to a computer with the included USB connector. You can put music on it like you would a flash drive (it is accessed like one, through Finder or Explorer), or do it through Kies. I was not looking forward to using Kies, but I had to install it to perform a firmware update on the Muse. Kies turned out to be a lightweight and decently designed program. I don’t love it, but it’s definitely not the horror that is iTunes on Windows.

But the magic of the Muse is that you can also transfer music from your phone. At first, you’d think, “Why not just use your phone?” There aren’t many cases where it’s better to take the Muse than your phone, but they exist. For example, runners wouldn’t want to keep a Galaxy Note II on their bodies when running. The nearly weightless Muse is perfect for that. And instead of going to your computer, making a playlist, then syncing it, you can just hook it up to your phone and do it on the go. It’s simple, fast, and a lot more convenient than going to a computer.

To sync with your Android phone, you’ll need the Muse Sync app. You can grab it from the Play Store. The app worked with both my Galaxy S II and RAZR M, so it is not limited to Galaxy devices. It may not work with all devices (many don’t support USB storage over micro USB), but it works great with Galaxy devices. In the app, you can select songs, artists, or albums to sync to your Muse. You can access both your phone’s entire music library and selectively manage the music on the Muse. It’s even styled with the Holo UI, which is great. It’s an overall well designed app.

The touch buttons are responsive but not overly sensitive. It’s fairly good design, but I would have preferred physical buttons just a little. It would have been easier to control in the car. However, one thing I don’t understand is why the buttons turn off after 3 seconds. To turn them back on, you have to hold one of the buttons down for about a second, and they all turn on. This is annoying, because I would prefer them to be on all the time. Did they do it to prevent accidental touches? Well if they did, that hold button doesn’t make much sense. I’d prefer either the buttons turning off or the hold switch, not both. If they made the buttons always on, it’d be a perfect control method.

Sound quality

This is what a music player is all about. Sound quality. If it doesn’t sound good, what use is it? But you have to take the tiny size and $50 price into consideration when judging it, too. So how does it sound?

To be honest, it sounds pretty damn good. It surprised me how this small of a player could sound so good. It does not produce a flat sound, it has some sort of sound modification to it. I noticed that it sounds a bit different from any other audio source I have (Galaxy S II, laptop), but it sounds good. The change isn’t heavy enough to drive most people away and might even sound better to some (just not to me). Also, the volume output is very high, so music being too quiet is never a problem. Either way, the sound is impressive for a device of this size.

Then there is the SoundAlive mode. It’s supposed to adjust the music to make it sound better. As soon as I turned it on, I regretted it. It muffles music, cranks up the bass to a muddy mess, and the highs are essentially gone. It’s also significantly quieter. In my personal opinion, as a person who appreciates the detail in music, SoundAlive should never be used. Fortunately, it is neither necessary nor hard to avoid. Thanks Samsung, for making it a purely optional feature.

The included earphones were a big disappointment. They have no bass, muffled highs (they aren’t shrill like some cheap headphones, which is good), and decent mids. Everything sounds boring without any sort of bass. The earphones that came with the Galaxy Tab 10.1 were very nice, so I expected a little more. Unfortunately, it was a little too much to expect from a $50 package. But that’s ok, people should very rarely rely on good packaged earphones.

Conclusion

Is the Muse a must have accessory? No, not exactly. Cases where it’s truly necessary are rare. There is running and various sports, but other than that, it’s hard to imagine leaving your phone behind. But is it fun and enjoyable? Very! I don’t really need it, but I did enjoy using it and happily carried it around. It was especially useful for the car, due to its small size. While it was playing music in the storage compartment, my phone was in a Spigen SGP Kuel S20 mobile stand with Google Navigation running. My car has a 3.5mm in but no Bluetooth, so stretching that cable is no fun. The Muse was very useful.

Overall, this is a great little music player. For the price, you get a lot of functionality in a fun package. It’s really cheap and sounds good. It also looks great, and everyone who has held it has been impressed. The question in this case is not “why?” but “why not?”

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