Nokia's E-series product lines has undergone much change since my first ever E-series phone (the E51). No longer are they just boring business phones with great built quality - they are now regularly equipped with the same multimedia features as found in the more savvy N-series and XpressMusic phones. Today I will be looking at the musical ability of the E55, Nokia's first half-QWERTY smartphone.
The music application on the Nokia E55 is a bog standard Series 60 Third Edition Feature Pack 2 player. It is a pretty decent program that works fine for what it does. It does lack some of the more advance features found in dedicated DAP. The FM radio is a seperate application, which does not make much sense. Also unlike some N-series devices, the E55 does not feature a FM transmitter with RDS support. Hardware wise, the E55 is rumoured to have a dedicated audio chipset, has a 3.5mm headphone socket with line-out and Bluetooth A2DP playback, which is useful if you hate cables.
The music player is a vast improvement over the one that came with my old Nokia E51. The mapping of d-pad makes so much more sense. With the E51's music player, pressing the left/right buttons on the d-pad will control the volume - which is just plain stupid. Here common sense prevail. Volume control is left alone to the side volume buttons, where as the left/right buttons is assigned to skipping/rewinding/forwarding tracks. There is no dedicated music keys.
Audio format supports includes MP3, AAC, HE-AAC and WMA (including DRM). Transferring files is as simple as dragging and dropping files onto the external card (2GB supplied - make sure you get a larger card) via MTP or UMS mode. In either case refreshing the music database is recommended as the player will then collect the ID3 tags of each track in order to build a usable library. Unfortunately the player will also collect tracks from different folders, which I find annoying. No one wants to listen to their music collection on shuffle only to be presented with a ring tone or a voice recording from an interview they did ages ago.
Album art is supported but must be embedded within each track. Once the library is (re)built, you can search tracks by filtering the tracks via artist, album, genre and composer (no year sadly). It also support gradual typing. Unfortunately you can't navigate via folder, though you can always use the standard Series 60 file manager to do so. It isn't the most feasable method of accessing music, so my suggestion - get your tags in order!
Sound enchacements comes in the form of an eight band equaliser, bass booster (in the N97 this is called 'loudness') and stereo widening. You can practically create any amount of equalisers presets. For example I created different equaliser settings for each of my headphones. I don't recommend using the bass booster and stereo widening feature as they do impact the frequency response. Stereo widening does indeed help with sound staging, but the distortion to the frequency response is just not worth it. Get the Sennheiser IE 8 instead.
The audio quality is brilliant for a music phone. It is a massive improvement over the E51 and even the Nokia E75, no doubt about that. Unfortunately it does not support gapless playback - not a huge issue to me, but it may be to others so do be aware of that. Music are crisp and clear throughout. There is absolutely no hiss to be heard via my IE 8, a pretty sensitive headphone. The only issue I had with it is a very faint click whenever the track changes, or whenever I skip to another track. It is only a minor issue as it only occurs for a fraction of a second every couple of minutes. Still, the lack of gapless and the crackling sound will put off classical music fans.
There are a couple of downsides to the music player itself. For one it is not as speedy as I hoped it would be. The rest of the E55 is quick, thanks to the 600Mhz processor found inside. Unfortunately the music player does not seem to take much advantage of the speed. Also, player does not support Last.fm scrobbling, which is a shame.
Fortunately there is a wonderful application out there that allows for Last.fm scrobbling. Mobbler is an open source Last.fm radio player and scrobbler designed for Symbian phones running on the Series 60v3 and Series 60v5 (Symbian^1) UI. It is designed to allow access to a user's Last.fm profile including Friends, Events and Shouts. It also allows the user to love/dislike a track being listened either from the standard music player or via Last.fm radio player. Tracks are scrobbed in real time if the program is connected, or will be uploaded the next time it goes online.
If you are a Last.fm and Series 60 user, Mobbler is an indisposable program. It is a highly polished application that is stable and works as advertised. Best of all? This is a freeware. If Nokia is serious in marketing their phones are music savvy phones, they should license Mobbler and bundle the program into every Series 60 phones out there.
All in all, the E55 is a very competent music phone. The sound quality is brilliant - almost equalling that of my old Walkman S739 but with the convinience of having a single convergence device and scrobbling support via Mobbler. Make no mistake about it, the S-Master powered X-Series is still the best external amp-less portable music player I have ever heard and there is no way the E55 can replace it audio quality wise. Despite that, the E55 (and E52) is a competent music phone with some shortcomings that is capable of being used as a secondary DAP or even a main DAP (for the majority of users).