Saturday, October 20, 2012


The dream is a simple one: a Soundwave that plays music.

What I wouldn't have given to be a research scientist at a government funded lab working on a top secret energy project, because I know that on my way to work one day there will be a lonely portable tape deck, like a Walkman but some other brand, apparently abandoned in the middle of the dry dusty road, and the armed guard at the gate didn't see anyone drop it. So I'd be thrilled to score a free tape deck, finder's keepers, and I'd bring the thing past security and into my workspace to show my coworkers.

But THEN, without warning, a mix tape pops out from my new tape deck! And it turns into a jaguar! And the jaguar grabs the top secret data I was finalizing and gives it back to the tape deck, that has now become a that's nearly two stories high! How did that happen? And my data! My precious top secret data for energy!

I'm scared for my life, but...this is also the coolest thing EVER.

Well, the reality of Soundwave, one of the most memorable characters and prolific toys, was:

1. His figure turned in to a microcassette player. Instead of regular type tapes you'd use to tape songs off the radio (as us kids in the 80's had to do before Napster), Rumble, Frenzy, Ravage, and the rest were the size of cassettes one would use for an answering machine or if you were dictating notes before a big meeting. It obviously didn't play, but if it did, most pre-recorded music formats were in regular tape sized formats, and not microcassettes. So you couldn't buy that new Motley Crue album on tape and pop it in. You couldn't do that EITHER on a Blaster, who was modeled more as a boombox instead of a Walkman type that Soundwave was depicted as; and the Autobot cassettes were also micro.

2. There was a tape player that played regular sized tapes. He didn't transform, stuck in robot mode, and took C batteries (which, as a kid, was always the bane of your existence). I mentioned in a previous post seeing one. This would have been a great novelty to own NOW, but I'm on a budget with this hobby. I don't see a reason to pick it up, especially now that I have:


So this kid grabs Soundwave at the counter at the store
I work at and just starts manhandling it. I mean as roughly
as anyone who ever saw a TF, but never actually trans-
formed one before. Pulling at limbs that fold, loosening
nearly every joint, and when you tell him that maybe he
should STOP transforming it as it was for display purposes
only, he says "no, that's okay," and continues manhandling
it. Since I'm in my 30's, I figure it's rude to shout "GIVE IT
BACK, IT'S MINE!" I put it out there to show it off, I
deserve every grabby squeezy manhandler to ruin it.
Hence the sign.
Music Label Soundwave is an MP3 player that also serves as a toy robot. Takara Tomy's Soundwave turns into something that looks like his old microcassette player. His G1 presence was always larger than most regular size Autobots and Decepticons pre-movie. This figure fits the Classics Deluxe size almost perfectly (and I'll get to that ARGUMENT later) and is also reasonably posable/articulated as a Classics.

And it PLAYS MUSIC. The 8 year old is crying with joy.

The iPod, introduced over 10 years ago, changed the way we all listen to music (even if we all don't use an iPod or iTunes). I won't go into the business model that Napster was supposed to be a part of, and also ruined, for the music biz, that Apple managed to salvage and dominate. I will, however, wonder aloud not just why Takara Tomy waited so long (2007, 6 years after the introduction of the iPod) to license/manufacture a "working" (music playing) Soundwave, but why this thing hasn't been marketed by Hasbro (albeit with some adjusting) in the United States.

Because this thing is also a nightmare as far as ease of consumer use, but also the damn coolest thing any old school TF fan would love to use.

The iPod has, what?, 5 or six actual buttons (menu at the top, pause/play a the bottom, right and left, the scroll wheel itself that these options are on , and the select button in the center). Nearly any home CD player has more options. Yet it's having the screen, duh, that makes this usable. You can use it to find what you want to play, and it hooks up to your computer where you maintain the music and create set playlists. With a well stocked and organized iPod with the right playlist at your cheap friends' wedding, you'll never notice they didn't hire a DJ.

And iTunes, to the point where your hacker friends actually hate the iPod for this, recognizes and organizes almost all the music you upload nearly right off the bat. Put in a CD, it downloads it (not always with the .mp3 extension) and even offers the ease of burning that onto a blank CDr. I can't even REMEMBER how my friends would copy CDs, but it was a pretty long process.

Soundwave, however, presents a lot of problems. And by problems I mean "why even bother?" I think it's mostly because there's no screen. Since there's no screen, there's no way to really navigate between songs other than pressing the left and right button. Oh, here's the button breakdown: left and right (forward and backward), play/pause, and a button to turn down the volume, and a separate button to turn up the volume.

Soundwave uses miniSD cards. Not MICRO. And as I found out, not Micro in a minSD converter. It needs a miniSD card, and, according to someone else reporting on the instructions (because I don't read Japanese), one holding no more than 1 gb (though there are plenty of people who say that you can use cards that hold up to 2).

It turns out that this is a very fickle device. If you want an album to play as an album, you have to group the MP3s as a separate folder on the card. I'm not saying that otherwise it will play songs at random, even if you do your best to alphabetize and number the tracks so that it plays in some order, I'm saying that it seems to otherwise pick its OWN order and play that EVERY time until you add or remove songs.

And the songs have to be in the the .mp3 format (understandable) and the files have to be renamed to be no more (I think) than 10 or so letters/characters, otherwise it won't read the file. So I have a Nevermind folder with "nirvana01.mp3" (Smells Like Teen Spirit) and so on...and yet in that folder, it STILL plays songs out of order (with "Smells Like..." somewhere in the middle)!

I also thought that no song processed via iTunes, even ones saved as .mp3 instead of .m4a or whatever it uses, would be recognized. And this was the case until recently when I tried new albums I know I ripped via iTunes but renamed them on the card and they seemed to work. So I'm still trying to figure out why others I had tried when I first got the thing didn't work even though I followed all the rules.

So now your songs are uploaded onto the miniSD card you had to buy on eBay because no one seems to carry it anymore. You've renamed them and put each album in a file in hopes that the songs from that album will stay together (if you want to listen to an album in its entirety). I believe that the newer albums/songs you add are played first. If you add a bunch of albums, I'm not sure how it decides. I added a folder for "Torche" and then "Baroness" last night and it plays "Torche" first, even though alphabetically that shouldn't happen.

If there is a rhyme or reason, I haven't figured it out yet. I've done my best to explain adding music. The suckage happens when you have to skip from song to song, and, even though there it's a shuffle function nor does this thing operate like the iPod Shuffle, you don't know what song comes next until you're familiar with the pattern Soundwave has chosen. IF ONLY THERE WAS A SCREEN!

(The "tape" area that opens up holds the SD card: It would take away from the novelty of ejecting an SD card you renamed "Ravage," and would probably be way more expensive, but that's the most space for a readable screen, and if that were the case and you sacrificed the tape eject part, you could just have a slot somewhere else on his body to insert the SD card, especially if it were a microSD instead of a mini.)

The music also seems to come out excessively bass heavy. I'm not sure why that is. There is no preset that I am aware of; is there a bass boost within the permanent EQ of Soundwave? I can deal with it by turning the bass down on whatever device's auxilarly option he's plugged into (stereo, car stereo), but I have to watch it if I'm wearing ear bud headphones.

He takes a single AAA battery, and with that he's supposed to last 6 continual hours, which is pretty cool, but I imagine some of that juice soaks up when you skip and skip and skip until you get to the very first album you ever uploaded on the card if that's what you wanted to listen to. At 1 gig, that probably won't be TOO much time, but it's still frustrating.

How much of that sounds like a hassle to you? Well, I pointed this out to a fellow TF junkie, and he STILL thought it was way cool. And it is: it's an MP3 player that turns into Soundwave! A Soundwave that plays MUSIC!

And, this is where an argument comes in, he's a TOY! One that represents Soundwave at his G1 finest while fitting in with the Classics lines. Although Classics/Universe has had a Soundwave, it's been a reissue of his G1 figure, with either one or two or all the animal cassette figures. And the G1 turns into a tall but clunky figure that, despite being more articulated than most other G1s, has these damn knees that bend the wrong way. So the Music Label is far more posable.

But, at $70-90 (which I was fortunate to NOT pay, thanks Quake!), is it worth it just to have a figure that fits with the Classics line? This question was posed on a board I frequent. A lot of fans said yes. No one addressed the music playing ability, so I chimed in. I mentioned the difficulty I and many other online reviews had with adding music (it's a lot of work!). But I said that the novelty of having it play music made up for a figure that would cost 5 times more than most Deluxe-sized TFs.

The response from several people: "You actually use it play music? HA HA! Really? Are you crazy? Just buy it and put it on the shelf, dude."

Um, why else would I get this? Or spend that much on it? AM I crazy?

1 comment:

  1. I actually bought this figure mostly for the fact that it plays music, i already have a lot of Soundwaves in my collection, this one would be a bit useless if even one of his 2 cool points (being soundwave AND playing music) was taken away.
    I mean, IT'S A SOUNDWAVE THAT PLAYS MUSIC. IT'S AWESOME. And it's a bit of a waste to just buy him and leave him on a shelf.