Cosmetically, the Odyssey is quite striking, encased almost entirely in reflective-silver metal. But durability often counts more than looks in the long run, and luckily, the device seems almost bulletproof. All buttons are firm to the touch, and the jacks for USB and power have plastic covers to keep dirt and debris from damaging their connections.
The player is too large to fit into most pockets, so you'll probably choose to carry it in a bag or affix it to your hip using the carrying case's belt clip, which is sturdy but has weak stitching. Ideally, you'd stow the device and control it via a wired remote--if eDigital had included one. Most new MP3 players have voice-recording and FM features, so we're not overly impressed by their inclusion in the Odyssey. But this player has one ace up its sleeve that its competition lacks: voice-based navigation. So far, eDigital is the only manufacturer to attempt this feat. The feature works pretty well once you properly configure your folders before transferring MP3s (more on that later). To bring up the Voice Nav screen, pause the song, then hit the voice-navigation button. In our tests, the Odyssey understood our verbal commands--such as next, previous, back, open, close, play, and exit--although it stumbled over certain album and song titles. Voice navigation is a neat trick, but it's somewhat frivolous since the hardware controls are more practical.
Other important attributes include the player's USB 2.0 connection--which is backward-compatible with USB 1.1--and a huge array of sound settings. You can choose from five equalization presets, or you can dial in your own custom settings with the five-band manual-EQ function. SRS Labs' Wow DSP feature adds 3D simulation to varying degrees. You'll either love or hate the Wow effect, depending on whether you like to listen to music in the way that the recording engineers intended or you prefer to trick out the sound with speaker simulation and extra bass. The Odyssey gives you all the playback options that you need: play all, shuffle folder, repeat all, and many more. Finally, if the device is connected to your stereo system, you can select a line-out option to bypass the volume circuitry for a cleaner sound.
Unfortunately, eDigital's Music Explorer file-transfer software has not improved much since the Treo 15 shipped. The app is still too picky to deal with most people's music collections in their natural states. In order to move a group of MP3s onto the device's 20GB hard drive, all the files need to be in subfolders two levels down from the designated folder that will be transferred. If you haven't ripped or downloaded any music before, this is no big deal; just follow the instructions on how to configure the included MusicMatch software to rip files to Your_Music_Collection/Artist/Album. But most people looking for a player with this much capacity already have tons of music organized in multiple methods, and rearranging even 10GB of music to the desired directory structure takes hours--trust us. Compared to Apple's iTunes or even average file-transfer software, Music Explorer is a major pain. The upside: Once your music collection is re-sorted, tunes are easy to find on the player, whether you go with the hardware controls or voice navigation. The Odyssey performed admirably during testing, delivering clear sound with a 90dB signal-to-noise ratio through our test headphones. This guy also plays plenty loud, though the included, lightweight, folding headphones sound fairly average.
Our voice recordings sounded clean, and FM reception was better than average. But as with other portable players, radio signals depend on the headphones that you use; a longer headphone cord typically delivers better reception.
As for battery life, the Odyssey lasts 11 hours on a single charge--comparable to the iPod and other hard drive-based MP3 players. But some users of Apple's player have complained that the iPod's batteries permanently expire after a year, leaving them with a near-useless device unless they purchased an extended warranty. eDigital claims that the Odyssey's battery will last for about 1,000 charge/discharge cycles, which translates to about three years of heavy use at roughly one charge per day. When the battery becomes too fatigued, eDigital pledges to replace it for $35--a far better deal than the $50 discount on a new iPod that Apple reportedly offers users in the same situation.
You can transfer MP3s and other files onto the Odyssey via USB 1.1 or 2.0, meaning that this player works with older machines while also taking advantage of the much faster USB 2.0 ports available on newer computers. The speeds over both connections were decent: 5.2MB per second over USB 2.0 and 0.5MB per second over USB 1.1. We should note that the Odyssey warms up quite a bit when writing to its hard drive for long periods of time, so keep an eye on it while transferring files to avoid overheating.