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Rockbox Utility

CNET Editors' review

If you can't stand the native operating system on your portable MP3 player, you can make it rock out with Rockbox. Rockbox Utility is an installer program that simplifies the complicated installation process of the open-source MP3 player firmware. While the firmware itself can be seen as a first step toward returning control of the portable device to audiophiles, the Rockbox Utility is as large a leap as going from a typewriter to a computer.

Compatible with more than two dozen MP3 players, including most iPods, iRivers, and Archoses, Rockbox comes with a detailed and lengthy installation and usage guide. The old autoinstaller was rarely successful and more often a waste of time. The Utility turns the installation process into something that almost anybody can do. Although users can resort to the old manual install if they like, there's no reason to not use the Utility. Fire it up and you're greeted by an intentional error: you must choose the device that you're going to load Rockbox on to. From there, the interface guides you through a series of options, including a full install, a stripped-down version, and various customizations organized by tabs. There's even an autouninstaller, if you decide that Rockbox isn't for you.

Rockbox itself is impressive. Besides being skinnable, it comes with dozens of games and productivity plug-ins like a chess clock, a drawing program, and a feature called Voice for users who have vision difficulties. The sound settings are completely customizable, from bass, treble, and balance to dithering and more complicated equalizing. You can also create CFG files for different setups, so you can have one for your car and one for your headphones. MPEG videos are supported on players with native video capability, and fonts can be sized to your liking.

Rockbox still takes some getting used to, but we think it makes an excellent options for audiophiles who feel constrained by immutable defaults.

Publisher's Description

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All User Reviews
  • All versions:

    4.5 stars

    out of 11 votes

    • 5 star: 8
    • 4 star: 1
    • 3 star: 2
    • 2 star: 0
    • 1 star: 0
  • Current version:

    4.6 stars

    out of 7 votes

    • 5 star: 5
    • 4 star: 1
    • 3 star: 1
    • 2 star: 0
    • 1 star: 0
  • My rating:

    0 stars

    Write review

Results 1-7 of 7

  • 5.0 stars

    "Wow and thank you, Rockbox literally fixed my Clip +"

    March 5, 2014  |   By drewnashty

    Version: Rockbox Utility 1.0.7

    Pros

    Rockbox woke up the volume output on my Sansa Clip + after I thought I got a refurbished dud that was barely audible.

    It also plays studio quality flac files that I couldn't listen to with the stock firmware such as 24 bit 192 khz files. My Clip + is most likely downsampling the songs but at least it still plays them where the stock firmware wouldn't.

    Using the automatic installer was a breeze after thinking it was going to be a pain or that I may brick the device.

    Loads way faster everywhere from bootup to searching through your library to loading a song.

    Tons of adjustments to go through that I will eventually delve into learning how to finely tune.

    Cons

    None whatsoever.

    Summary

    So after searching for a reasonably priced portable media player that supported a removable Micro SD card up to 32 gb, I decided to go with the Sansa Clip + and found one refurbished for $20. After waiting 3 weeks I got it and the volume was just horrible. I literally thought I was delivered a lemon. But when I was researching on a portable media player I remembered reading about Rockbox, firmware that gave users a more intuitive interface, control, and much more in my case.

    I gave it a go and wow not only am I very satisfied with my Clip + but even more so that Rockbox saved me from returning it or buying a different one. Now it plays louder than necessary with headphones. I am partially deaf from a lifetime of being stupid and damaging my ears so when I say it's louder than necessary, take my word for it, unless of course you are stoned deaf and can't hear anything standing at the front of the stage of a live concert.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Amazing for Sansa Clip+"

    December 18, 2011  |   By ddferrari

    Version: Rockbox Utility 1.0.7

    Pros

    Tons of audio tweaks, major increase in volume over factory max, lots of games and apps. Easy to install. Does NOT delete original firmware, so you can run with either.

    Cons

    The clip+ has a tiny screen, and some of the themes show a lot of info on the screen, making fonts even smaller. You may be able to increase font size as stated above, but then everything won't fit on the screen, so I wouldn't

    Summary

    Rockbox turned my Clip+ from a fairly loud, not very bass-y player into a MONSTER. It goes louder (distortion free) than I can take, and I'm coaxing deep bass out of my headphones that I didn't know was possible- even at very low volumes.

    Thanks to all of the audiophile adjustments, like a 5-band parametric EQ (with adjustable freq.), compression, balance, preamp adjustments, dithering (which I had to look up), my Clip+ exceeds my wildest expectations. Combining Rockbox with Ogg Vorbis (as opposed to mp3) @ 160kbs sounds absolutely wicked.

    I can't speak for other players, but for the Sansa Clip+ this is a MUST HAVE.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Perfect for the Gigabeat F-40"

    August 18, 2010  |   By buck76182

    Version: Rockbox Utility 1.0.7

    Pros

    Extremely rich, user-controllable functionality.

    Cons

    Compared to Gigabeat Room, none. However, ensure that your player is out of warranty before installing, as Rockbox use will probably void it.

    Summary

    I have used Rockbox on my Toshiba Gigabeat F-40 for over 3 years, and haven't regretted it one bit. Toshiba' native firmware, Gigabeat Room, is abysmally lacking in virtually all user functions, and Rockbox is a welcome replacement for it. For example, Rockbox provides search acceleration, an extremely rich equalizer, drag-and-drop, on-device playlist creation, and the elimination of the horrible Toshiba-forced .sat DRM.

    After using the F-40 for 5 years, I am now planning to upgrade to a new player (leaning now toward the Cowon J3). Having used Rockbox, I only hope that I am not disappointed with my new device's firmware.

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  • 4.0 stars

    "GREAT for a Sansa e260!"

    January 24, 2010  |   By gidgiddonihah

    Version: Rockbox Utility 1.0.7

    Pros

    Works flawlessly, no ploblems, and alows for my little bro to use his Sansa e260 with a 4g micro sd card. Normally it wouldnt read the card but with rockbox, i was able to get it going for him!

    Cons

    Doesnt work with my Ipod Classic 6 Gen 80Gig. It just wont support it, and it looks like it will never support it. This is the only reason it gets 4 stars instead of 5!

    Summary

    The reveiwer who mentioned the text was small-its fixible. All you do is go to to Settings, then go to Theme Settings, then go to Font. Change it to your delight. Also you can download as many different themes and pick them even when not connected to a computer.

    ROCKBOX ROCKS THE BOX!!!!!!

    www.rockbox.org - go to their themes page and download what ones you want. Then unzip to your player's directry, ex if your player is in a Label J:\, unzip it to J:\. Then go to Settings, then go to Theme Settings and Theme select (or something like that).

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Rockbox pwns the ipod nano firmware!"

    December 26, 2008  |   By superaznman

    Version: Rockbox Utility 1.0.7

    Pros

    play video on all supported mp3 players(not just ones with native video support)
    play many games like tetris and doom
    customize your background and the screen that shows up when you play music
    no need to use itunes if you have an ipod.

    Cons

    currently, the themes in the rockbox utility are old and will not work with rockbox. you will have to download the themes manually from the rockbox website (the ones in the wps graveyard will not work)
    also, rockbox only works on older mp3 players.

    Summary

    to check if your mp3 player is supported, go the the rockbox website. www.rockbox.org I have been using rockbox on my ipod nano 1G for over a year and all i can say is that it is amazing. if you want a more functional mp3 player and don't want to spend the money to buy a new one, rockbox is for you.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Does everything I expected and hoped for."

    December 9, 2008  |   By rj.amdphreak

    Version: Rockbox Utility 1.0.7

    Pros

    It is very simple to use. It does the device preparation very well. Make sure you read the disclaimer.

    Cons

    Make sure you read the disclaimer.

    Summary

    Make sure you read the disclaimer.
    (get the idea?) the reason is that some devices may not work with it. I have an iPod video (5G or 5.5G, in other words). it worked with that.

    IT DOES NOT WORK WITH THE MICROSOFT ZUNE. But then, it never was supposed to.

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  • 3.0 stars

    "It's okay. Fonts need to be bigger."

    October 6, 2008  |   By dre8791

    Version: Rockbox Utility 1.0.7

    Pros

    Something different.

    Cons

    Need to be a little more responsive. Should have adjustable fronts.

    Summary

    Not bad considering it is one of a handful of programs for the iPod.

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Results 1-7 of 7

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Rockbox Utility