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This is the text version of the review that appears in the NTE Magazine.
I would like to thank Kings Access Technology for the loan of their two USB players to review.
If you are on the hunt for an affordable, tactile and user-friendly device on which to play MP3 or WAV files, then either the Sovereign 2 or Sonic 2 USB players from Kings Access Technology might be worth considering. Both devices will allow you to listen to your favourite books with automatic bookmarking capability, talking newspapers and magazines, and even music, simply by inserting your USB stick into the machine. Listen through built-in stereo speakers, or through headphones using the 3.5mm socket. And if you want to connect either device to your phone via Bluetooth, this is straightforward, and allows your screen reader of choice to come through the speakers or headphones, depending on how you like to listen.
Essentially, one is larger in size than the other, but both offer the same features, and both are priced the same. Your only real considerations are size and sound.
Taking the Sovereign 2 first, it measures 32, by 14, by 14cm, and has a boxed product weight of 1.2kg. It has a large dial on the front with a fabric-coated speaker grille on either side. Turn the dial clockwise to turn on the device and adjust its volume. The unit will play a short tune to acknowledge it has been powered. Similar tunes are emitted when the battery is low, and when a Bluetooth connection is made to your Smart device. Below and to the left of the on/off volume control is a 3.5mm socket into which you can plug a set of headphones (not supplied). On top of the device, with its large dial facing you, are three tactile buttons. From left to right, these are rewind, play/pause, and forward. Behind these buttons is a standard USB socket where you insert your USB stick. To the right of this is another button which allows you to jump between folders if you have more than one book or talking newspaper on your memory stick. On the back of the player is a USB C port for inserting the charger, and a battery compartment which houses the rechargeable cell. The USB C charger can be connected to the device either way round to avoid potential damage.
This is a sturdy, colour co-ordinated device with a black background and yellow contrasting controls that would be particularly suitable for those with dexterity problems because the dial and buttons are very easy to distinguish. Bluetooth is automatically turned on, you have no concerns about pressing pairing buttons and hoping for the best. Simply go into the Bluetooth option on your Smart device, and connect to the Sovereign 2 when this appears in the list. You will then be able to hear your phone through the player.
When you insert a USB memory stick, playing commences immediately, and the machine remembers where you were when you swap USB sticks. Press the back or forward buttons to jump between audio files, or hold down the same buttons to move through your material quickly, known to many as cue and review.
The Sonic 2, meanwhile, is much smaller, measuring 16, by 5.2, by 6.1cm, with a boxed product weight of 481g. It has the same black background and yellow contrasting controls. And it also has a rotary on/off volume control on the front separating two speaker grilles. On top of the device are three buttons at the front which, like the Sovereign 2, are rewind, play/pause, and forward. Behind these is a standard USB port for inserting a memory stick, and a button to skip between folders. On the rear of the Sonic 2 is a 3.5mm headphone socket, and a USB C port to charge the battery. The battery compartment can also be found here.
The Sonic 2 can be operated in exactly the same way as the Sovereign 2 player. Replacement batteries can be found in High Street outlets and from Kings Access Technology for both devices. Approximate battery usage for both is between four to six hours.
My personal preference is the smaller Sonic 2. I feel the sound is clearer than the Sovereign 2, and it is more compact to fit in a bag if you want to listen to it on the move. Both offer exactly the same functionality, the same brightly coloured look, and both have user-friendly tactile buttons. Given they are both priced the same at £49, it really comes down to size and sound, and Sonic 2 wins in both categories for me.
These players can be ordered directly from Kings Access Technology on 01935 411 322, or by visiting www.kingsaccesstechnology.com.
National Talking Express, (NTE), offers monthly magazines on CD and USB memory stick with a blend of news and interviews of interest to blind and partially sighted people. If you become an associate or full member of NTE for £5 or £10, respectively, you may receive one of the above machines as part of your membership. Please note, however, that this is subject to whether you already have a player of your own on which to listen to USB audio. If you are already using your own device, you will not be provided with one of the Kings Access Technology players. If, however, you wish to become a member of NTE, and you require a player on which to listen to USB audio, then you will receive a Kings Access Technology machine.
For further information about how to become a member of National Talking Express, please contact NTE on 0203 609 7255.
Receiving RNIB Talking Books is also now very popular on USB sticks. Both these players are ideal for playing your books, so if you would prefer to receive them in this format rather than on CD, you can contact RNIB Helpline on 0300 123 9999, or sending an Email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we are registered with the Fundraising Regulator, NTE agrees to raise funds in accordance with the Fundraising Code of Practice. We are also committed to managing complaints using the procedure outlined below.
We hope that nobody will ever feel the need to complain about the way in which we raise funds to produce audio magazines for the blind. However, if a complaint is received, we will follow a clear procedure.
A complaint can be made to us by website contact form, post, audio media, or telephone (details here). We will acknowledge it within 14 days. We will try to resolve the complaint as promptly and amicably as possible. The Complaints Coordinator (Development Officer), will investigate the complaint, in consultation with the Chairman. We will advise the complainant of the outcome of this investigation within 30 days. It the complainant is still dissatisfied, s/he will have two months from the date of our response to refer the complaint to the Fundraising Regulator, and we will tell her/him how to do that.
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