This is one of the most useful and interesting audio devices I have ever tried. It will take almost any audio source and convert it quickly and easily to playable mp3 files. It also doubles as an all-purpose audio player with monitor speakers and the capability to link to external audio systems. However, it is important to remember what this device is and not to expect more from it than it is designed to do.
What it is not is a high end, upmarket stand-alone music player and nor does it pretend to be. For me the purpose of this unit to make the irksome task of digitising my old record and cassette collection faster, easier, and more fun. This is not an item to display proudly next to your Bang and Olufsen or Bose home audio system, but rather one to keep in your home office to playback your old records, CD’s and cassettes and convert them ready to upload to your home or online music library.
The DIGITNOW! M503-2 arrived very well protected in a robust cardboard shipping box with the branded but rather downmarket product box within. In the box was the main unit itself, a medium length 3.5mm audio cable, a credit card sized remote control, a 45 rpm single record adapter and a well written and easy to read User Guide. The unit comes with a fused UK three pin plug and hard-wired cable. Build quality could be better and the unit feels a bit cheap and cheerful but this is a functional device designed to perform a task rather than a prestige item to impress visitors with.
So what does it actually do?
This unit will playback from records, cassette tapes, built-in FM/AM radio, CD USB, SD, Bluetooth and an auxiliary 3.5mm jack. It will convert audio sources to MP3 using the remote control or front panel buttons with no external wiring or connections needed and save them to USB or SD cards. To record from a record, for example, first, insert the SD card USB drive you wish to record onto, then start the record playing and press the record button on the handset or front of the device and the Record icon starts flashing on the LCD screen, press Play to start recording and Stop to end recording. It will save the recorded audio as a 192kbps MP3 file. The procedure is the same to record from CD, Bluetooth, cassette, radio or auxiliary but with some minor changes to the screen display. The unit will, of course, function perfectly well just as a player but the audio quality although fine when used for monitoring purposes cannot really be considered good enough for serious listening. The unit does have an audio out socket to allow connection to external music systems. In fact DIGITNOW! themselves make an identical version of this device with external stereo speakers.
There are a few other compromises which have been made to keep the cost down to a remarkable £89.99. There are no tape transport controls on the remote. The cassette – which has to be inserted at a non-intuitive upwards angle – will start playing automatically when inserted with the end of the cassette protruding at all times, Pressing the adjacent mechanical button will fast forward the tape when half depressed and eject when pressed home. There are no rewind or pause options. Neither is are there any tone controls available on the remote or device itself. The record player works well enough but again feels rather lightweight but does have a damped raise/lower lever, three-speed settings and an auto stop on/off selector. The remote control is credit-card sized with soft-touch buttons and small enough to be easily mislaid, so take care.
The controls available on the main unit front panel are Play/Pause, CD Open/Close, Stop, Previous, Next, Mode, New Folder, Delete, Radio Tuning, Volume/Off/On. Also on the main unit are Aux in 3.5mm socket, Headphone 3.5mm socket, Infrared receiver, mono LCD display, CD slot, SD slot, USB port, stereo speakers. The remote has buttons for Power, Aux, Phono, Tape, Radio, USB/SD, Vol Up. Vol down, Program, Repeat, CD Open plus track controls for the CD player.
If you need a device to record and copy legacy media then I doubt you will find one as easy to use and as capable as this one. If you want a hifi music centre for your living room then this is probably not for you. For £89, it is a great buy. If they bring out a high-end premium feel model with a larger handset, Bluetooth Out, and remote cassette controls then I would happily pay twice the price for it.