My KSMP3220-2

My MP3 player is not what most people have nowadays. It has a small monochrome LCD dot-matrix screen with a 7-colour backlight, a replaceable AA “battery”, has the dimensions 2cm x 5cm x 7cm, and to top it off, 128MB of built-in flash memory! What is it? It’s a Koss MP3 player, model KSMP3220-2.

My KSMP3220-2

My KSMP3220-2

You might be wondering why I still use this thing. Well, apart from the fact that I tend to prefer older things, I didn’t have to pay for it; I found it lying around the house somewhere. As I recall, this wasn’t even mine: it probably belonged to one of my relatives. I figured that they would have forgotten about it and probably wouldn’t care to get it back (besides, what was it doing at my place?), so I claimed it. How do you like that? A free MP3 player! Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the manual or the USB cable. Also, since it runs on AA cells, I can carry around a few rechargeable batteries and replace the battery when needed; I don’t have to wait for it to charge! Since it doesn’t have a fancy screen and play videos or run apps, the player doesn’t use much power and the battery lasts longer.

Doing without the manual wasn’t too bad; being the problem-solver that I am, I figured out all of its functions fairly quickly. The USB port on the player was in the form of a jack, and I tried using an iPod Shuffle connector that I found on the ground, but that didn’t work; the player recognized that it was connected to a computer, but I couldn’t access the filesystem on any operating system. Oh well: the KSMP3220-2 has an expansion slot for a SD/MMC card, and I just loaded all my music there. Thankfully, the player didn’t use a proprietary format. By experimentation, I determined that the player can register a maximum of 512 audio files, the total files on both the internal and external memory, including voice and radio recordings. As expected, it can play MP3, WMA, and WAV files. Having only 512 songs forces me to carefully choose which songs I really want to listen to.

I ran into a little problem with the shuffle feature. At certain sections, it wasn’t shuffling, and I noticed that it was the songs whose artists’ names were in the middle half of the alphabet. Perhaps this was because the player wasn’t meant to handle this many songs. It took me a while to realize that when I copy files into the SD card, the files get copied into the filesystem in alphabetical order. So I figured that if I copied the files in a random order, I could create an illusion of shuffled songs. It worked! I used the command line to do this, but I won’t go into the commands here. I’ll save that for another post.

I keep the loose parts, namely the SD card and the battery cover, secured with a little yellow electrical tape. I use electrical tape because it won’t rip, and I use regular tape to stick the electrical tape on to the player because it’s easily replaceable. It’s much cheaper to replace regular tape when it doesn’t stick anymore than it is to replace the electrical tape.

Electrical tape

SD card and battery cover secured with electrical tape.

Wanting some official documentation, I asked my friend if he can try to get a manual or software or anything else for me. He asked /g/ with no success. Whatever, I got it working.

After a few months, the menu button snapped off the circuit board. The menu button allows me to access the menu and serves as a shortcut for changing the play mode. Normally, it wouldn’t have bothered me much because I would usually leave the play mode on “shuffle”, but the last time I turned the player off, I left it on “repeat 1” after listening to Peter Cetera. As much as I love his music, I do need a little variety once in a while. If the menu button merely snapped off the circuit board, that means the contacts would still be there and I could just solder it back together. Since it’s old enough to be able to open without much effort or damage, I decided to risk it and opened the case.

There was a small problem. Another circuit board was soldered on top of the main board. So much for soldering. But remember: the button only snapped off. That meant that if I found a way to permanently touch the contacts together, it would work. That also meant that I would had to find a way of preventing it from snapping off a second time. A solution immediately come to mind: tape.

Duct tape is a little too large and is a bit overkill for something like this. Electrical tape is too thick and too troublesome to work with as it leaves adhesive wherever it’s placed. That left the job for regular tape.

It worked, mostly. It kept the button in place, but pushing the button separated the contacts. I needed more support. I folded a piece of paper multiple times into a thick “cube” and wedged it in. I’m surprised it actually worked!

Paper wedge fix

The paper wedge fix. Notice the circuit board soldered on the main board, the wedged folded paper, and the tape.

I sealed the case with a little white school glue.

It hasn’t snapped off since (not yet). The display sometimes blanks and I have to open the case and push down the second circuit board; I suspect it’s because the paper expands and pushes it, but it happens often enough for me to have given up on sealing the case.

I hadn’t forgotten about finding the manual and the accompanying software. If you tried searching for ksmp3220-2 in a regular search engine, you won’t find much. Any links given in the forums are dead. This is where the Wayback Machine (the Internet Archive) comes in. Luckily for me, the product page was archived, and the manual and some software was attached! The manual told me nothing that I hadn’t already figured out. It also said that it was expandable to 640MB by SD card. Ha! I’m using a 2GB card! As for the software, I couldn’t get it to work. The ZIP file contained drivers, but I couldn’t do anything with them. Oh well.

Koss KSMP3220-2 product image

The KSMP3220-2 image from the product page.

As long as it still works, I’m not letting go of my KSMP3220-2. Even after it breaks, which I don’t project any time soon, I might still keep it around.

View the image gallery. Sorry about the image quality: I was focussed more on fixing the device than taking a good shot.

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