SonicStage 3.0 Released…It’s better! It sucks!

Well, Sony finally rolled out the much anticipated SonicStage 3.0 software for use with it’s multitude of digital audio players. Most importantly, it supports the latest HDD, flash, and HiMD units being released from Sony.

After playing around with it for the last week I’m now at a loss for words. On the one hand, it introduces a slew of improvements and better performance. However, some of the annoying traits remain in addition to new quirks that are totally lame. If Sony was hoping to use this new software along with their new players to really re-establish themselves, they’d better go back to the drawing board really quick.

Here’s my list of issues with SonicStage 3.0 in no particular order.

1. There’s no multilingual support. This is purely shortsighted thinking on the part of the programmers. As a multilingual person who has a collection of Western and Asian language media, I cannot use SonicStage 3.0 at all because it does not have the ability to display double byte text. SonicStage 2.3 didn’t have this either but at least you could install the Japanese language version of the software that did support both languages. In version 3.0 of the Japanese version, it no longer displays Japanese text. Additionally, the interface text is mangled. FWIW, iTunes supports non-English text just fine although it will occasionally mangle some of the text (due to weird ID3 tags).

2. You cannot drag and drop music into the SonicStage interface. This is the most basic of Windows functionality. iTunes supports drag and drop in and out of it’s interface which is brilliant. Also, iTunes will either copy the files into your library or just link to your existing files depending on your preference.

3. The English version of SonicStage has check-in/out functionality activated by default whereas the Japanese version has it disabled. What’s up with that?

4. The interface is still cluttered. Sony actually cleaned it up a bit but it still wastes a lot of space and doesn’t allow you to fully see what’s on your audio device. It forces you to scroll horizontally to see all the info. Also, you cannot sort by the criteria on the media side which is extremely annoying since it makes it difficult to manage your library on the device especially if you’ve been using the drag and drop Music Move/VAIO Music applet. Poor UI design!

5. If you have a HDD based device, you must re-initialize it which means you must RELOAD all of your music back onto the device. If you manage all your music with SonicStage already then this isn’t too big of a problem. However, if you simply used the Music Move applet to drag and drop music over to your device then you’re out of luck and must re-transfer it all over.

For now, I’ll stick with the Japanese version of SonicStage 2.3 that works fine on my English version of Windows XP Professional and hope that Sony releases a SonicStage 3.x that fixes some or all of these problems. So, I don’t know if this is the complete rewrite we were all expecting. It may have been rewritten from scratch, but they certainly didn’t do any usability testing whatsoever.








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