What’s the lowest you’ve ever paid for a piece of tech? Our Japanese-language reporter Seiji might have you beat.

Isn’t it great to have all the technological wonders of the world at your fingertips? With the advances in audio technology, we are able to listen to the latest hit songs with just the press of a button! That button can even be on your phone! In fact, it most likely is! The world has come a long way since the clunky personal Walkman cassette and CD players everyone used to tote around, and because of the convenience of phones some people don’t even have a dedicated MP3 player anymore.

Whether you use a phone or dedicated device, the ease with which you can purchase songs in data format means they’re the number-one way to listen to music these days. You can peruse various sizes and shapes of portable music players online or in stores, but our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa decided to filter results on Amazon by price and investigate the cheapest possible model, priced at a meagre 100 yen (US$0.90).

Would a 100-yen player even work? Who even heard of an MP3 player costing less than a pair of discount underwear? Seiji’s suspicions only mounted further as he read the instructions, which were in a very unusual brand of Japanese.

▼ “By simply copy/pasting files from your computer to the MP3 device, your preparations are ready.”

Other confusing missives inform customers that the device “is bolstered by 8GB Micro SD / TF cards (memory not included)” in the listed features while boasting “can be used with Micro SD and TF cards” in other descriptive text, leading to a lot of confusion. It definitely seems like the specifics were written in someone’s second language.

But who’s complaining? It’s 100 yen!

Seiji quickly decided that the best way to understand the secrets of this MP3 player would be to purchase it, and that is exactly what he did.

▼ Ordered on October 9, with a tentative delivery date of October 21

Twelve day delivery, eh? Seiji figured it was the price you paid for a 100-yen MP3 player (in addition to shipping, which cost significantly more than the player itself). But of course it wasn’t that easy. Is it ever?

“We’re terribly sorry, but it will take a little longer for your item to be delivered.”

Finally, on the 25th, a special package arrived! It took so long to arrive that Seiji didn’t remember what he’d ordered. Whether the delay was due to a problem with the supplier or the mail, Seiji chalked it up to being a inevitability of discount tech.

▼ Something from Taiwan…?

After tearing off the wrappings, Seiji found an actual MP3 player inside. What a relief!

▼ A really tiny, actual MP3 player!

Seriously though, is this an MP3 player for dolls? It looks like a single sleeping bag in a huge conference room.

▼ It’s more thumb-sized than palm-sized.

Anyway, time to connect it to the computer… oh.

The package came with nothing but the tiny MP3 player itself: no cords, no cables, no cards (they warned us about that last one, sort of). To test it out Seiji would need to use a Mini-B USB cable, which he did not own. Off to the electrical goods store!

▼ 518 yen.

Upon returning home, Seiji noted that the MP3 player didn’t have any internal memory (what with it being a 100-yen product and all). Sigh. Time to rush back to the store to buy a memory card, too.

▼ 1,058 yen.

This 100-yen MP3 player was getting expensive.

Finally, he could load music onto this contraption! Seiji slotted the card inside the player and hooked it up to his PC.

▼ A folder appeared!

As he copied music files into the MP3 player’s home folder, Seiji reminisced about his old personal Walkman CD player from his junior high school days. That thing sure did skip and glitch out whenever you took a step, haha! Sweet memories. Oh, the data all transferred.

“Considering it was an MP3 player I bought for 100 yen, I was impressed the data transferred at all.” – Seiji

The moment of truth…

▼ Time to face the music.

The interface on the device is pretty simple, with just two functions – music and settings. The buttons to skip forward and back on the left and right of the click-wheel serve as navigation buttons, and the ‘M’ button at the top is used to confirm.

▼ Seiji promptly set the language to English, because the only other option was Chinese

Settings lets you adjust the contrast of the screen, how long the screen is backlit for, and also the language. Moving on to the music itself…

With a simple click of his thumb, music began to play! It didn’t have any kind of list to select from, and skipping just took you to the next song in the folder. Basically what you would expect from a 100-yen MP3 player.

The VOL button at the bottom of the click wheel allows for a rudimentary way to change the volume, and the sound quality from the device itself wasn’t bad. A perfectly adequate way to listen to music, so long as you don’t need bells and whistles like “a playlist” or “the ability to select a song”.

▼ Seiji gives himself over to the beat

But guess what? This little MP3 player has another hidden feature! Tap the “M” button while playing music and you can cycle through a list of equalizers to better customize your listening experience. The four options are “POP”, “ROC”, “JAZ” and “CLA”, and Seiji thoughtfully reviewed the sound quality of each of them for us here. Expecting a graphic equalizer would be a bit much for a discount device, don’t you think?

  • POP: Makes you feel like your entire body is vibrating
  • ROC: Imbues music with the muddy mid-tones you hear when speaking with your nose pinched
  • JAZ: Like listening to something filtered through a radio speaker
  • CLA: Boosts the bass a bunch

…So kind of pointless, then. Seiji just set it back to “NOR”, which is the setting for no equalizer effects.

Seiji’s verdict was absolute:

“This MP3 player is so useless it kind of loops back to being adorable. Not only is it super basic in form and function, but it has this completely useless equalizing function that no one would ever use. If you had to add a function, why not use something useful like a song list?”

It was decided that the little mp3 player would live out its days on Seiji’s desk, gathering dust. He left us with a word of caution: while this adorable little player might seem tempting, you should remember that it comes without any accessories. In total Seiji spent 1,975 yen, what with shipping and various add-ons. If you’re seeking a no-frills cheap mp3 player it might be more worthwhile to track down an 8GB player with the memory card already included.

Still though, if you already had the accessories lying around, that’s essentially just 100 yen for an MP3 player! Amazing, right? That’s a way better purchase than some similarly cheap investments we could name.

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