Skip to Content
Skip to Table of Contents

← Previous Article Next Article →

ATPM 5.12
December 1999


How To



Download ATPM 5.12

Choose a format:

Review: Rio Player 500

by Daniel Chvatik,


Company: Diamond Multimedia



Price: $269.95

Requirements: Macintosh with USB support, Mac OS 8.6 or later (might not work with all 3rd party USB cards, but works with iMac, B&W G3, and G4s); PC with Windows 98 and USB (for support)


The MP3 music format is very enticing to many computer users, but it might not be as enticing to those who don’t want to be chained to their computer or laptop in order to be able to listen to music. The solution: a hardware MP3 player. While there are a handful of these around, so far only two are compatible with the Mac. One is the MPlayer 3 from the German company Pontis; for more information take a look at MacNN’s review. The other (and better one in my opinion) is Diamond Multimedia’s Rio Player 500.

The advantages of hardware MP3 players compared to other alternatives are subtle but important. The first one is size. MP3 players are plain tiny compared to CD players or Walkmans. The Rio 500 is smaller than the palm of my (admittedly large) hand, a handy attribute for a portable device.

The second advantage of MP3 players is their shock-resistance. Unlike CD players and other sound reproduction devices, MP3 players have no moving parts. They operate entirely electronically. This means you can shake a Rio Player as much as you want and playback will not be disturbed a bit—but that doesn’t mean you can drop it on the floor!

Some will argue that MiniDisc players have better sound quality, and they do. However, I cannot hear a big difference. The simplicity of MP3 players and their tight integration with your computer heavily outweigh this small sound quality difference for me.

rioportgreyThe Rio has 64 MB of built-in memory, enough for about one hour of standard-quality music. You can expand its memory using its SmartMedia slot (using either 16 or 32 MB media). Be aware that once the SmartMedia card has been formatted for use in the Rio, it might be hard to convert it for use in a digital camera. The Rio 500 only uses a single AA battery as its power source, and Diamond claims it features 13 hours of continuous playback on 1 battery. While I have never used the Rio 500 for 13 hours in a row, I can tell you that the total usage time on a single battery is more than 13 hours. Note that battery performance depends on factors such as temperature and whether you are using a memory expansion card, so your mileage may vary.

The Rio 500 comes with pretty nice headphones and a ‘carry case,’ though I found it to be rather useless. I guess Diamond wants to be able to sell its leather case accessory. Other accessories—not all available at this point—include a remote headphone control (so you can access some functions without having to pull the player out of your pocket), a car stereo adapter (to hook up the player to your car stereo via the cassette input like some CD players do), and more. The included sample music is not very good, by my personal standards.

On the Wintel side the player comes with its own software for playback, encoding, ‘spoken audio’ support, and uploading songs to the player. For the Mac, a light version of SoundJam MP is included. If you already own the full version of SoundJam MP and have updated it to the recent version, it will work with the Rio 500 as well.

Once you install the Rio USB drivers on your computer, uploading music to the player is pretty easy. All you do is plug the player into an empty USB port with the included cable, start SoundJam MP, open the Rio 500 window, and drag MP3 files onto it. SoundJam MP will upload the files in the background, and you can add more files to the queue while it is uploading. The upload is pretty speedy too, taking just a few minutes to fill up the memory of the Rio 500. A nice feature about the Rio 500 is the ability to create ‘folders’ in the player’s memory. You could have a folder for your favorite Britney Spear’s songs and one for your favorite classical music. The Rio 500 lets you switch between folders using a simple hardware interface, giving you the choice to play a single song, all songs in a particular folder, or all songs in memory.

The player’s hardware interface is wonderfully designed. All functions can be accessed with very few controls. One button acts as both start and pause, one button is the stop button, two buttons take care of fast forward and backward if you keep them depressed. If you just quickly press them once, they jump back and forth between songs. On the left side is a bookmark button, that allows you to save a bookmark of the position in the current song for later recalling. On the top are the headphone out, the extra memory slot, and the power on/off/hold slider. In hold mode, the Rio doesn’t react to input, which is nice if you carry it around in a bag where you might press a key by accident. On the right are the USB port, the browse button, and the multi button.

riotealMost functions are controlled using the latter two buttons. With the browse button you can switch between song view, folder view, and bookmark view. You use the multi button to scroll up and down to the song/folder/bookmark/function that you want, and then press the multi button down to play the song, open the folder, jump to the bookmark, or execute the function. Pressing the multi button by itself brings up a menu that lets you chose between settings for repeat modes, shuffle play, the equalizer, and backlighting. The software that drives the player is in a flash ROM, so it can be updated for new functions.

The most prominent feature on the front of the player is the LCD display, which features two lines of text output and an extra line with status icons. The display shows the name of the current song being played (from the file name of the uploaded MP3 file), the song and folder numbers, and the playing time of the song. The status line indicates battery charge, repeat modes, and other functions.

Unlike the Mac version, the Windows version of the Rio’s software supports ‘spoken audio’ from These are basically audio files of text (books and magazines are available) that can be bought from the Web site and downloaded into the player. You can download a book and have it read to you through the player.

The only two things that keep me from giving the Rio 500 an Excellent rating are the high price and the lack of Mac support for spoken audio. It comes in three colors: metallic grey (sometimes referred to as silver), translucent purple, and translucent teal.


  • Weighs 2.75 ounces
  • Dimensions 3.59 x 2.46 x 0.74 inches
  • 64 MB built-in flash memory. firmware expandable to 96 MB (with future upgrade)
  • Plays 13 hours of continuous playback on 1 AA battery
  • Plays MP3 (16–320kbps and VBR), MPEG2.5, content
  • USB port connector for high-speed downloads
  • Customizable EQ (bass & treble)
  • Repeats one track, all tracks, A-B loop, or random
  • Select between Music/Audiobook/Playlist modes
  • Bookmark feature saves up to 16 individual positions
  • Includes earphones, USB cable, case, battery, software and sample music, and spoken audio content (requires PC)

• • •

This issue contains other MP3-related articles. For more information about the MP3 format and other ways to make it portable check out the art department. To find out how to get MP3 files, take a look at the N2MP3 review and the Web sites.

appleCopyright ©1999 Daniel Chvatik, Reviewing in ATPM is open to anyone. If you're interested, write to us at

Reader Comments (123)

Ross McKerchar · May 9, 2000 - 01:01 EST #1
Having got myself a Rio 500, I'm very impressed with the player. It's amazing! EXCEPT, the software that it uses is sooooooo awful. It almost would prevent me from buying one. It's unintuitive and nasty. A plain folder to drag into would've been easier! Anyone else think the same?
Daniel Chvatik (ATPM Staff) · May 9, 2000 - 01:01 EST #2
Well, the software could be easier to use, but it's pretty much drag and drop once you figure out how to handle the folders. It has the nice touch that you can add more files even while it is uploading. Ideally of course it would just appear as a mounted volume in the Finder onto which you drop the files and arrange in folders. Don't expect that to happen anytime soon.
Stuart Macdonald · April 13, 2001 - 14:41 EST #3
Having just bought a 64MB ssdfc for my Rio500, I find that it does not acknowledge the extra memory with the card in. I've heard there is a download to facilitate this somewhere. Can anyone help?
wj · April 14, 2001 - 00:49 EST #4
I saw the patch that makes the Rio 500 support 64MB smartmedia at Go to RIO 500 product page and click the 'SUPPORT' button. Good luck!
Scott · May 2, 2001 - 17:50 EST #5
How much and where can I find an expansion card? (for the Rio 500)
Daniel Chvatik (ATPM Staff) · May 6, 2001 - 19:20 EST #6
You want to get simple SmartMedia memory. It comes in 32 and 64 MB (you may need to update your Rio's firmware to support 64 MB, larger than 64 doesn't work in the Rio 500). To find the memory, you can just look on typical computer sites like or a price comparison site like MySimon and search for "SmartMedia".
James Brown · May 22, 2001 - 12:09 EST #7
Well, my Rio 500 just won't turn on when I turn it on sometimes. And other times it will. Sometimes, when i press the (fw) forward button or any button on the thing, it decides to turn off. Seeing that I did not get a waranty for this product what should I do? Send to future shop and see how much it costs to fix? What can I do? Can anyone help?
Daniel Chvatik (ATPM Staff) · May 22, 2001 - 12:36 EST #8
James, try looking through the customer support site. If I were you, I'd try to download and install the lastest version of the firmware. If that doesn't work, maybe you can call/email their customer support to see if they have seen the problem before and what they can do about it.
James Brown · May 22, 2001 - 13:10 EST #9
Thanks Daniel. Where can I download this firmware?
Daniel Chvatik (ATPM Staff) · May 22, 2001 - 13:27 EST #10
You can download the firmware on this page. Also, try to email their customer support.
Daniel Ting · October 7, 2001 - 04:41 EST #11
I bought a 64mb SmartMedia card. When I put it in, the In is 64mb but the Ex is still 0. I don't know why it won't give me extra memory. And I heard you have to download something. Are you suppose to download something into your Rio 500? My version for Rio 500 is 1.04. How do you upgrade it?
Houbeau · October 25, 2001 - 10:12 EST #12
Can anybody out there help me find the USB cable that connects the Rio 500 to my computer, or send me info on what type of cable it is? Thanks!
Wesley Mundt · October 27, 2001 - 03:41 EST #13
I need to find another USB port cable for my Rio 500. Can anyone help?
anonymous · October 30, 2001 - 08:00 EST #14
My Rio 500 keeps playing the same track over unless I hit the fast forward button. Is something wrong with the player or is it user fault?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · October 30, 2001 - 19:41 EST #15
Bob, check to make sure you don't have the repeat mode turned on. If you confirm that it's off, and this happens for any song, not just one, you're probably going to have to contact the manufacturer for support options.
Luke Pillans · October 31, 2001 - 09:51 EST #16
There is much better software available than the supplied stuff. There are several independently produced programs. They are easier to use than Rioport and they can also fix some problems that can occur with the Rio which the standard software cannot do anything about. I speak from experience. Check them out at RioWorld.
Kurt Binnig · January 10, 2002 - 14:19 EST #17
I bought a 64mb SmartMedia card. When I put it in, the internal is 64mb but the external is still 0. I don't know why it won't give me extra memory. I heard you have to download something. Are you suppose to download something into your Rio 500? My version for Rio 500 is 1.04. How do you upgrade it?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · January 11, 2002 - 17:18 EST #18
Kurt - Ellyn Ritterskamp, another ATPM staff member, offered this info: "Try this Sonic Blue page. I also added a chip to my Rio 500 and it made it much more fun! Now, of course, I've caved and bought an iPod, but the Rio lives on for my roommate."
Conrad · January 12, 2002 - 11:10 EST #19
I'm looking for a USB cable for my Rio 500 as the original one was lost. Any ideas where I might find one or am I doomed to listen to the same tunes over and over again? Thanks
Matt · January 13, 2002 - 12:15 EST #20
Conrad - I just purchased a Rio 500 on eBay. I also bought a carrying case from eBay from a user who also sells the USB cables for the Rio 500. Try searching for it there.
Marie · January 28, 2002 - 19:04 EST #21
I just purchased a Rio 500 USB cable for $19.95 plus shipping from Rio. Here is the Legacy Support phone number 1-800-661-4411. Rio's phone menu says that you have to pay for tech support, but you won't have to. I waited for half an hour on Rio's other customer support line to no avail. Sad that they don't publish the Legacy support number somewhere on their website.
Herb Reese · February 4, 2002 - 19:13 EST #22
I lost my USB cable for my Diamond Rio 500. Can anyone help me get one?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · February 5, 2002 - 01:53 EST #23
Herb - I'm making an assumption that the Rio uses standard USB cables that have the flat connector on one end and square-ish on the other end. If so, you can pick up these cables at almost any computer store, including Best Buy and CompUSA.
Marie · February 6, 2002 - 01:22 EST #24
Unfortunately, the standard USB cables won't work.
I bought one because I thought it might, but the square-ish side on the cable is too big to fit into the Rio 500.
Kate · February 14, 2002 - 07:58 EST #25
I just recieved a Rio 500. I downloaded a CD and it work great. Later, I formated the player and tried to download some new music. It looked like it worked but it started acting funny. The player dropped the first letter in Repeat, Random, Volume, etc. then the screen turned into a dark square box and would not respond. Then it just died. I tried turning it on and off, unplugging the cable and plugging it in again, and replaced the battery twice. What is up with it! I need help!
Rich · February 18, 2002 - 22:22 EST #26
My dependent granddaughter just received a Rio600 from her father. My only question to her was that since the recent developments with the Napster case and copyright laws, how is the Rio600 considered legal when the Napster is not? I have not been able to get a reliable source to answer this question. In the Rio manual under Copyright law it states: "This product is for personal use only. Copying CDs or downloading music for sale or other business purposes is a violation of copyright law. It is also a violation of copyright law to download files without permission of the copyright owner." In regards to the second sentence, how do you get permission of the copyright owner, and if you download without said permission, is it a violation of copyright law? Thanks.

Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · February 18, 2002 - 22:40 EST #27
Rich - you're not exactly comparing apples to apples. Yes, it is illegal to copy music from a CD and distribute it to other people either directly or indirectly. Unfortunately, many Rio (and similar product) owners do, in fact, get their music downloaded from the internet and they don't buy it.

However, if your granddaughter has a collection of her own CDs, converts her favorite songs to MP3s, downloads them into her Rio, and uses them for herself, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Daniel Sune Andreasen · February 22, 2002 - 17:57 EST #28
I tried to download the firmware update and transfer it into my Rio 500, but my computer stopped during the transfer and now the Rio won't start up. Where can I send it to get it fixed? P.S. I'm from Denmark.
Adriano Torres · March 31, 2002 - 22:35 EST #29
I have updated my Rio's firmware from 1.04 to 2.16 because tracks skipped every time. Then, I recorded some music into it and now, even after changing batteries, it is not booting. When I turn it on, it keeps showing the "Internal 64MB External 0MB" screen over and over again. I'm desperate and don't know what to do. Since I live in Brazil, it's really impossible to get it fixed by someone else.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · April 2, 2002 - 00:49 EST #30
Adriano - fellow ATPM staffer Ellyn Ritterskamp informed me of Rio's general support page where you should be able to get some help.

In addition, their firmware section implicitly states that you should not try to downgrade the firmware.
Nick Schafer · April 2, 2002 - 12:42 EST #31
I've had my Rio500 for a little over a year and it never gave me problems up until now. I turn it on and it comes up to that black screen and then stays there. If i try to turn it off it stays on and on that black screen. I have to take the battery out to turn it off. WHAT HAPPENED???

One other thing, do you have to have a Mac to upgrade the Firmware?
Nidz · April 10, 2002 - 11:24 EST #32
Having had my Clear Blue Rio 500 for a few years now, which I got dirt cheap from an auction site, I was wondering if there is any way to hook up the Rio to a normal computer and use the computer as a mass storage for all the MP3s and use the Rio just as a player/display. Does anybody know where I can get more info on this? I know the Rio might not recognize anymore than 128 megabytes of storage, but I thought there must be some kind of hack or something or a smart media converter so you can hook up a hard drive or something externally.

The Rio software really sucks, though--even the 3rd version that they released. It kept cutting out on MP3 uploads. While looking at the unit, I thought it would make a good car MP3 player since its display is backlit and its small etc. If only you could somehow get more room for MP3s.

E-mail me if you have had this thought and found some info in the internet about it.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · April 11, 2002 - 17:03 EST #33
Nidz - yes, I'm totally aware this is not the answer you're looking for, but I couldn't resist. ;-)

Just use a 10gb iPod instead! You'll have lots of room for songs that way.
Adam · April 13, 2002 - 22:46 EST #34
Can someone please tell me where to get a USB cord for my MP3 player? I am in desperate need and do not want to go through the e-store.

Thank you.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · April 14, 2002 - 10:57 EST #35
Adam - virtually any local computer store should have what you need. Best Buy, CompUSA, etc. Also, the plethora of other online vendors. USB Shop is a great place for USB items.
Jonathan · April 18, 2002 - 11:49 EST #36
I love my Rio500, but I need to make it hold more. Can it take 128mb media?

anonymous · April 18, 2002 - 22:38 EST #37
I just got a Rio500 from eBay. It works fine except when I hold down the FF or REW button expecting the player to navigate through a single track. What I get instead is a rapid navigation through all tracks in the folder. Any ideas? Thanks,
Rob · April 19, 2002 - 10:29 EST #38
I just bought a Rio 500 and need a USB cable for it. I have been trying to decipher the messages on the page and have not found a concrete answer. Can I buy one from a local Best Buy or do I have to purchase it through eBay or from Rio. What type of cable is it? USB 1 or 2? I appreciate any help and thanks again.

Daniel Chvatik (ATPM Staff) · May 2, 2002 - 17:33 EST #39
Mr. Schafer:

Regarding the strange turn-off behavior, your Rio is probably broken. A firmware update might fix it, but I doubt it. And no, you don't need a Mac to update the firmware. You should find the necessary software and instructions at

I hope you find this helpful.
Nick Schafer · May 3, 2002 - 13:57 EST #40
John · May 7, 2002 - 18:01 EST #41
One of the reasons I bought a Rio 500 was because the company boasted that it was "firmware upgradeable". I now see that the Rio 500 has ended up on the company's "legacy" product list and future upgrades are unlikely. This is very disappointing because I'll probably never be able to use a 128 media card with my Rio 500. It will also never be compatible with future operating systems. They have basically made the player obsolete and have made me very nervous about purchasing another MP3 player for fear that it will eventually experience the same demise. Is there any other third party, etc. that makes firmware for the Rio 500?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · May 7, 2002 - 23:19 EST #42
John - while I don't yet own one, probably one of the bigger reasons I think an iPod is worth it's cost is because, given Apple's history, it's likely to be an awful long time before even these original iPods are obsolete.
Faysal · June 4, 2002 - 03:59 EST #43
I have a Rio 500, but I need a USB cable. I see you can go to a USA store, but I live in Holland. Does anyone know where I can order the USB cable and what kind I need?
Machaon · June 6, 2002 - 01:00 EST #44
128MB Smartmedia cards work fine, but you do need to update the firmware to 2.16 (which you can download from their website) I don't know whether the 256MB cards work.

As for using the Rio as a storage device, Riositude works well to transfer both MP3s and data, but bear in mind that the Rio uses a proprietary format, so you'll be able read the card on another Rio, you won't be able to read it using a Smartmedia reader.

The cable is also proprietary, and only available from SonicBlue.
Darren Massey · June 10, 2002 - 02:21 EST #45
Machaon, are you sure about 128MB and firmware 2.16? The website only lists firmware 2.15 and support states the Rio 500 will not reliably recognize 128MB. Are you using 128MB reliably? If so, what brand of memory?

Brian · June 13, 2002 - 06:04 EST #46
Regarding the black screen, there's a simple way to fix it, amazingly enough.

Check out Rio's webpage, click on "support," then "Rio," then "legacy Rio products," then "Rio 500 PC." Under "firmware" there's a restoration programm "Rio 500 recover utility," that should fix the problem, which is a persistent gray screen (or black screen) or checkerboard.

This likely happened while trying to transfer MP3s when the battery went dead. Hope this helps.
anonymous · June 13, 2002 - 17:22 EST #47
First, I lost my USB cable for a Rio 500 player. Where can I buy one here in London?

Second, does anyone know the name or what kind of cable it is?

Third, does the transfer software work on an iBook? Where can I download this software?

Fourth, does the player have problems if I use it below 40 degrees C? I know, it's too cold. I think there aren't problems at high altitudes, right?

Thanks for the help.
Alan · June 18, 2002 - 11:33 EST #48
Can anyone else confirm being able to use 128MB or 256MB SmartMedia cards? Machaon, can you clarify if you're on 2.15 or 2.16?
John Fish · June 21, 2002 - 05:16 EST #49
I have that black screen on my Rio 500 which many people have talked about. I have tried the Rio recovery program and nothing happens. I have also tried several different computers including Macs and no computers are able to communicate with it. Does anyone have any ideas?

By the way, it's never been dropped and I can't send it back to Rio to get fixed because, amazingly, it stopped working about 2 days after the warranty ran out (built in obscelescence perhaps?)
Brian · June 21, 2002 - 16:56 EST #50
Re: black screen

Check to make sure you have the hardware showing up in device manager (and of course that the drivers are installed). After downloading the recovery program, it didn't initially work until I rebooted and I made sure the driver was installed.
Henri · June 24, 2002 - 07:28 EST #51
The Rio 500 gray screen recovery runs and says the Rio recovery was successful, but the screen is the same gray screen. What can I do about this problem?
Chuck · July 5, 2002 - 21:35 EST #52
I found the link for firmware version 2.16.
Chuck · July 5, 2002 - 21:39 EST #53
I'm using Music Match to download my MP3s to my Rio 500. If I don't erase all of the track tag data from the files, I get a 12:15 run time on all of the files and they do not play. Has anyone run into this?
Marley · July 5, 2002 - 21:52 EST #54
Do 128MB SmartMedia cards work on it?
Chuck · July 6, 2002 - 09:36 EST #55
I haven't tried the 128MB cards yet.
Marley · July 6, 2002 - 12:47 EST #56
I just tried the 128MB card. It worked.
Faysal · July 7, 2002 - 12:40 EST #57
I really need a USB cable. Does anyone know where I can buy one. Please!
Gin Wee · July 10, 2002 - 14:38 EST #58
Hey Marley, what brand of 128MB card did you use? Samsung? Mr. Flash? Thanks.
Bill Zen · July 13, 2002 - 20:10 EST #59
I have a RIO 500 with 2.15 firmware and it works fine with 128 MB Smart Media (SanDisk) external memory. You do not need the 2.16 firmware. The audiblemanger software (for aubiobooks) recognizes the extra memory but it needs to be formated first.
Matt · July 16, 2002 - 08:17 EST #60
I'm going to be buying one of these MP3 players soon. I need to know a few things.

How can I tell what firmware I have before updating it?

Should I update to 2.16 or 2.15? I want to purchase a flash card. I was looking at buying a smart media 64mb, but now I have seen people being able to use 128mb cards. I might change my mind.

How successful are you with using 128mb flash cards?

Any help would be much appreciated.

Quote: Bill Zen July 13, 2002 - 20:10 EST
I have a RIO 500 with 2.15 firmware and it works fine with 128 MB Smart Media (SanDisk) external memory. You do not need the 2.16 firmware. The audiblemanger software (for aubiobooks) recognizes the extra memory but it needs to be formated first.

What brand of flash card are you using? You say it needs to be formatted first. How do you do that? I would like some answers.

Mark Eldridge · July 18, 2002 - 14:59 EST #61
Matt, the guy said he was using the SanDisk brand of Smart Media. Check out their site.

You format the media using the software that you are using to transfer files to the player. The software that comes with the unit typically stinks, so check out some of the things available at RioWorld.

You can see what version of firmware you have by selecting "Status" from the menu on the player itself. Upgrading the firmware is easy (provided you have the right operating system available. See the RioWorld site again for firmware updates.

I'm going to try buying a 128mb card and try it in my player (which is currently at 2.15).
Dave · August 18, 2002 - 07:36 EST #62
This is my last resort before throwing out my Rio500. I've used it for a few years without problem. It is way past any warranty now.

The last time I tried to transfer songs, it showed the infamous grey screen and became completely inoperable.

I downloaded the firmware recovery program and made sure I had the latest USB drivers, but it didn't work. It came tantalizingly close, though. The recover software accesses the device, says it's updating the firmware, and then, when it reboots the device, it goes back to the grey screen. So close, yet so far.

I contacted customer support at SonicBlue and they were, well, to say the least, weren't very helpful.

So, I'm just about to give up and throw this thing out. But I saw there was this group here and thought I would volley one last attempt at seeking help. Has anyone else experienced similar trouble and found a way out of it? I realize this is a long, long shot, but any help would be appreciated.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Eugenio Pierazzoli · August 23, 2002 - 01:17 EST #63 says,
"Lost Internal Memory can happen when power is lost during file upload, part of the internal memory becomes 'lost' and even formatting does not recover it. The loss is accumulative over time. At this time there is no known way to recover lost internal memory."

Does this problem have a solution? I lost 20MB!!!
Micha · August 26, 2002 - 18:31 EST #64
Hi all. Does anybody know how to reformat the SM-Card used in a Rio 500 with a FAT file system that I can use either in the Rio or in a digital camera? The camera doesn't recognize the card. It says "card error." Thanks for your help.

Steve · September 10, 2002 - 11:33 EST #65
SmartMedia Cards - My Rio 500 player would not read the 64MB card until I had used the Rio Audio Manager software on my desktop to format the card and create a folder. Then my Rio recognized the external memory.

Be warned!!! My Rio 500 is dead. By mistake, I started to upload a file on a low battery. My Rio screen went blank, never to return again!!! I tried everything: phoned SonicBlue support, but they are not interested. I guess they are having enough problems keeping there company afloat (big cash burn!!). They need to fix the customer support side if they want to be around in the longer term. I am looking for a new MP3 player but will not touch the Rio 800 as the shops I have asked say that they have so many returns that they refuse to stock it now. Has anyone had the same or a different experience? Has anyone gotten ahold of the new Rio 900?
Pat · September 17, 2002 - 07:37 EST #66
Can anyone recomend good alternative to the supplied Rioport audio manager software?
Micha · September 17, 2002 - 10:19 EST #67
Hi Pat. I would prefer either the Riositude or RioRio software. You'll find them on the Rio 500 page. There are also some drivers and firmware links.

Jo · October 30, 2002 - 18:17 EST #68
I recently bought a Kingston 128mb Smart Media card for €65. It's working fine! Gee, if anyone knows about 256mb cards, tell us more. Thanks.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · October 30, 2002 - 18:50 EST #69
Jo - I believe the Smart Media technology has pretty much hit its upper limit with the 128mb cards. I've been unable to find any vender with anything higher than 128mb.
Michael S. · October 30, 2002 - 22:56 EST #70
Can someone please help me? I guess I'm like Steve. My Rioport seem sto be dead and I can't get it to work now. I spent almost 400 dollars for this player when it first came out. Now it looks like it's useless. Please, if anyone knows what I can do to fix it or get a new one, please e-mail me.
anonymous · November 1, 2002 - 16:54 EST #71
For those who posted asking about USB cables. The Rio 500 uses a proprietary USB cable. You cannot just buy one at a computer superstore. Cables can be purchased from the support mentioned above. 1-800-661-4411 or 254-299-2756. (No, I have not tried the 800 number yet). You will pay $19.99 for the cable, and $5 for shipping.

If anybody finds an aftermarket source for the cables for a more reasonable price, please let us know! $25 for a USB cable for an aging MP3 player is not an attractive price.
Machaon · November 2, 2002 - 00:21 EST #72
I've tried both SanDisk and unbranded 128mb Smartmedia and they work fine. I'm using 2.16 firmware. Micha, the Smartmedia needs to be reformatted in the Rio (using Riositude, Rio Audible Manager, or some other software) and it will be no longer compatible with digital cameras (unless you reformat it back again in the camera).

The specs for 256mb Smartmedia cards were released last year and some places do advertise the product, but I've never seen one and I don't know if it would work in the Rio. They mention a "minor change" in the specifications over the 128mb card, so I would be wary.

I should also reiterate Steve's warning about not uploading with a low battery. This happened to me, the firmware fix supplied by Sonicblue didn't work (same grey screen afterwards) and I ended up having to send the thing back for a replacement.
Rory Ston · November 4, 2002 - 01:24 EST #73
Is there a firmware update for 128mb SmartMedia? Please e-mail if possible.
David · November 13, 2002 - 16:56 EST #74
I've just tested my Rio500 with a 128MB SmartMedia card (brand is High Performance) and everything seems fine. CompUSA now has 256MB cards. Has anyone tried using one of these in their Rio?
Geoff · December 2, 2002 - 06:41 EST #75
Cons: I bought one of these when they first came out. Rioport software sucks. Don't bother with it. The easiest way to damage this player is to attempt to connect it to your computer for formatting, downloads, etc., without a full battery. Don't do it, or it will screw up your player.

Pros: No moving parts! It will take 128MB SmartMedia cards (max.) giving you a total of 192MB--more than three hours of music at 126kbps. It is powered by a single AA type battery. A pack of four rechargables and a charger should keep you going for about 5-7 days! Rio's software is adequate--a simple drag and drop file manager. Upgrade the software to version 2.15 and 128MB 3.3V cards will work, and you can still go up to 2.16 if something goes wrong (downgrading can screw up the unit).

Things to consider on your next purchase: I have checked and I think the only unit that is better than this (IMHO) is the MPIO DMG and DMB+, but they are expensive. Don't bother with units that use AAA batteries. They don't last long enough and most of the units have internal batteries and can't be used while they are charging. Maybe you should just stay close to a plug! Memory is expensive and real disks, micro disks, etc. or moving parts eat the power in your unit and have a skip factor. Any unit that doesn't come with 64MB or can't be upgraded to more than that can stay on the shelf with the other junk!

Check out RioWorld for updates. Sonic does not support the Rio 500 because it has different internal memory than the later versions. This means that any new updates will not work for the Rio 500.
Terry Madeira · December 7, 2002 - 19:43 EST #76
I'm looking to purchase an MP3 player for my son for Christmas and I found a site that is considerably cheaper than anywhere else I've looked. But I'm extremely confused. The site is a Canadian shopping site and the item description states: "SONICblue Rio 800 MP3 Player (Gray), 64MB, USB, Backlit LCD (EOL)"
Can someone please tell me, in the item description, what the (EOL) stands for? Thanks.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · December 7, 2002 - 22:56 EST #77
EOL usually stands for end-of-life, meaning the product has been discontinued.
Vin · December 30, 2002 - 15:49 EST #78
I just found this web site today and found some good information. My wife's Rio 500 died yesterday unexpectedly. We have tried many new batteries. I have e-mailed Rio Customer Support to see if these can be repaired. Does anyone have any information on this? Since this device cost some $$$$, I want to see if it can be fixed before tossing it. I do see that Rio refurbs these and sells them on eBay. If this unit is dead, would I buy another one?

Here's the eBay link.

anonymous · December 31, 2002 - 10:17 EST #79
My Rio 500 is dead. I do not know exactly what happend. I thought the battery was low. After replacing the battery, there are still no signs at all on the screen. Has anyone else had similar experiences?
Smitty · January 9, 2003 - 15:39 EST #80
I got this info from Sonic Blue. The USB cable for the Rio 500 is not proprietary but it is out of stock at Sonic Blue. Try purchasing one locally from Circuit City or Best Buy.
Curtis Ladwig · January 27, 2003 - 14:41 EST #81
I lost my CD and now I can't use my player. Help me! Tell me what I need to do.
Steve · January 28, 2003 - 16:49 EST #82
I've had my awesome Rio 500 for about three years now, but I've stumbled across a problem.

The multi button (the volume control, the button used to scroll through menus, etc.) doesn't function properly. I can only use it to scroll up (volume up, scrolling up in menus), but not scroll down. This is not a firmware issue. It's more or less an issue about the player itself (as it is quite old). I absolutely need to scroll down, seeing as I can't turn the volume down now.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. If I have to buy another player, I probably will, but I want to see if any alternative solutions are possible.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · January 30, 2003 - 00:27 EST #83
Steve - sounds like the contacts underneath the button have gotten dirty or corroded. Two or three buttons on my VCR remote no longer work, I think because some soda had gotten spilled on it, but button contacts can cease to make a good contact over time. If you're brave enough to disassemble your Rio, you might try accessing the area underneath the button and cleaning it.
Doug · February 8, 2003 - 10:37 EST #84
My Rio500 died. It was working, then I put it in storage for about a year, and now it doesn't work any more. I put a new battery in and that didn't help. It doesn't power up at all.

Is there an internal system battery that may have died? If so, can it be replaced and brought back to life?
Silvio · February 18, 2003 - 02:17 EST #85
The display of my Rio 500 lights, but doesn't show anything. Has anyone had the same problem? After flashing the firmware twice with no results, I've tried to unscrew the two screws, but couldn't proceed in unmounting the device.
Oliver Reiss · February 28, 2003 - 11:44 EST #86
I screwed up my Rio 500 while upgrading it to 2.15, experiencing a lot of the problems mentioned above (incl. grey screens etc).

The ULTIMATE SOLUTION (at least for me) was to take it all the way back to firmware 1.04 to be able to use it again and then subsequently bring it to 2.12, which works well on my machine.

Look at this FTP directory for a listing of old firmware releases.
anonymous · February 28, 2003 - 16:04 EST #87
I inserted a 128MB Apacer SmartMedia card. The Rio says "external 00MB" and no program recognizes it. Any ideas?
Grant · March 14, 2003 - 13:09 EST #88
Has anyone found an answer to Chuck's question about the 12:15 run time? Most of my files won't play! The Rio 500 is worthless!

I'm having the same problem! Please help!
Justin Yu · March 16, 2003 - 17:57 EST #89
I got my Rio 500 from my uncle, but he didn't give me the cables. Any suggestions on where I can get them?
Doug · March 16, 2003 - 18:25 EST #90
*IF* I don't get an answer to my previous question soon AND I can find it, I'll sell you mine cheap.
Edie · March 23, 2003 - 00:57 EST #91
I don't know what's going on, but my Rio 500 is all corrupted. I have firmware version 2.16. Whenever I copy MP3s, it won't play them, but I can browse through them. Also, my clock is stuck at 12:15. What can I do?
Mark · March 27, 2003 - 09:31 EST #92
Have a look at this GeoCities link. You can get it translated through

It has instructions on how to open your Rio500 and also modify it, if your really keen.

I used the instructions to help me open and fix my dead Rio500. The unit was full of grit and was humming, intermittently stopping and locking up. So, I opened it up and cleaned it with a toothbrush and spirits (alcohol). Now it is happy again :-)

Also try this RioWorld page for extra goodies.
Sammi · April 8, 2003 - 14:48 EST #93
I have had my Rio 500 for about a year and, just now, I had interest in it again, but I have lost my USB cord. I read everything above and I'll try the numbers because I know stores to NOT work. I tired. Thank you!
Leilani · April 27, 2003 - 22:49 EST #94
Please tell me how I can find a USB cable or tell me what kind of cable it is. I need a name!
Matt BW · May 9, 2003 - 10:19 EST #95
I tried that link that tells you how to fix the Rio.

Mine messed up the top button doesn't start up the player any more. I had the problem before and sent in the Rio for a new one, but now, since they're out of business, I'm gonna take the home-cooked method and I'd like to have a guide (preferrably in English, but pictures are even better). I've got the screws off but I have no clue where to go. Thanks.
Dave · May 10, 2003 - 10:49 EST #96
Regarding the problems mentioned by Chuck, Grant, and Edie: I had this problem until I removed the ID3v2 tags from my MP3 collection. I left the ID3v1 tags intact. After this, all my music would play on the Rio.
Donna · May 25, 2003 - 11:22 EST #97
In response to Dave, how do you remove the ID3v2 tags?
Colin · May 26, 2003 - 22:37 EST #98
Any problems I've had with my Rio 500 (and I've had it for the past 3.5 - 4 years) has been dealt with by either (1) taking out the battery and putting it back in, or (2) hitting it somewhat hard with my palm on the back, right between the two screws-like area. It seems to be a sensitive spot and I've found myself worried that it might be gone forever, but I hit it and, voila, it's back alive.

I try to take care of the thing, but I've had it long enough that when it does finally go the way of the dinos, I'll be very content with the vast usage and good times it brought me (awwww, I love the little freaky thing). I hope this might help someone else out there.
Davepies · June 2, 2003 - 06:15 EST #99
Is there any more info on the 256mb upgrade yet? Has anyone tried it? It would be cool if I could get this relic up to date with this kind of storage again. I am convinced, without even checking out the software for new players, that Riositude will be better.
Andrew Benson · June 11, 2003 - 00:26 EST #100
I've had this player for about 3 years and I don't have any of these problems, except that the battery dies too fast. But I love it more than any other player.
Lenny · August 5, 2003 - 06:53 EST #101
A really good alternative to the RioPort Audio Manager is a program called Riorio. It runs without the stupid gimmicks and hassles that the RAM has.

I've had my Rio500 for about 3 1/2 years and the only problems I've had are sound coming out lower on the left side (cured if I press down hard on a certain part), the screen not appearing when turned on (cured by re-inserting the battery, putting a new battery in, or just smacking the dang thing), and problems with the bit rate shown and time of the song (cured by re-encoding the MP3).

It's still a pleasure to use, especially during exercise. I am able to fit about 4 hours of music on the 64mb internal card and a 128mb SmartMedia card by re-encoding MP3s at the lowest possible VBR mode using the LAME MP3 Encoder (which is, without a doubt, the best MP3 encoder) ranging about 95kbps to 115kbps or so with little quality difference in comparison to 128kbps. (Possibly even higher quality than 128kbps if the source of encoding is high quality. I'm not sure.)
Tim · August 19, 2003 - 18:20 EST #102
I've had the 12:15 length corruption problem as well. It seems like it only happens with 128kbps files. As Lenny mentioned, just re-encoding them worked for me. I'm going to try what Dave said about removing ID3v2 tags and see if that helps as well.

There is lots of great stuff on this string of messages. Thanks a bunch!
Kevlar · November 16, 2003 - 09:37 EST #103
Are there any new drivers?
Bartintosh · December 10, 2003 - 08:11 EST #104
Hi all,

I also had the same problem as you Colin. I did not used my Rio500 for month and month.. and then I've puted a new battery in (sure the old was dead..) and then he worked, but the sound was really bad! So I hited a little the device on the back saying (w... f... grrr.. BLAM, I was sad lol)! And then he woked up again! :) I also tryed to see inside if some thing is moving or... but I can't open it with ease.. so I really take care of it now, but he it seems to be a sensible device even for a 100% flash device..
Bob · December 10, 2003 - 13:51 EST #105
I have a Rio500 2.16. Keen to upgrade memory to max. Do 256mb SmartMedia cards exist? If they do, why doesn't Amazon, Dabs etc sell them? Does anyone have a UK stockist? Can anyone confirm they will work with this player?
Izmari Malek · December 17, 2003 - 08:27 EST #106
I would like some information about the Rio 500 data cable.
Alexandre Parreiras · January 10, 2004 - 12:44 EST #107
When I turn on my Rio, appears on the screen "Internal 64MB - External 00MB" and it turn off automatically, rebooting several times. I can't listen my musics!!! I don't know what to do! I'm in Brazil and I can't find a support to my Rio here! Please, help me!
Ian · January 10, 2004 - 16:43 EST #108
Colin, ypu legend, i had a problem with my rio that it just went straight to a grey screen and wouldn't change. For months i couldn't fix it, until just now when i came to this site and read your advice. I hit my rio between the screws and it is up and running once again. Thank you colin
Justin You · March 12, 2004 - 19:54 EST #109
Hi everyone, everyone was asking questions about on how to get a USB Cable for the Rio 500 becuase they lost theirs. Well, I had the same question too and I looked around the web and found it. This site has the cable that you need. All you have to do is click the acessories and click cables. There will be pictures of different cables but the one you need says Rio 500. It costs about 10.50 plus two dollars shipping but thats better than the 19.95 I've been hearing about.
adam cola · April 6, 2004 - 16:21 EST #110
what type of USB does rio 500 take and if it matters what kind of disk for rio to put song into the device
Christian Gerritzen · February 1, 2005 - 19:08 EST #111
Hello out there, I'm from Germany and today received an oldish Rio500 from an eBay auction. I enjoy having this very understatement-like player! In some places I found the information that the 500 has an equalizer function - can anyone please tell me how or where to find it? Cheers - Christian
geno · September 15, 2005 - 20:26 EST #112
my cable for the rio 500 it not working right i think there is something wrong with the cord doen anyone no where i can get a new one or some 1 has one to donate?
Bob · October 29, 2005 - 21:12 EST #113
My question is about how to get a USB Cable for the Rio 500. I have looked around the web, but no luck, does anyone no where I can get one.

I pick-up one for free but no cable.
ATPM Staff · October 30, 2005 - 09:58 EST #114
Bob - try here.
michael · March 13, 2006 - 19:00 EST #115
I have a Rio sport MP3 player and I need a larger MM card for it but cannot find them anywhere. Anyone know where I can get one?
ATPM Staff · March 13, 2006 - 20:54 EST #116
Michael - try
James Randolph · October 26, 2006 - 23:31 EST #117
I was given a Rio 500 player, but no cord with it... and I am curious if there is a was to format the card to be used in a USB Card Reader/Writer, I have copied many MP3s to the the card, but the player doesn't read it, anyone have any ideas?

Dan B.Underhill · January 4, 2007 - 00:13 EST #118
I want to buy a rio 500 2.12 but am failing to find one for sale 

      Dan B.Underhill
        577 Paloma Ave.
        Pacifica, Ca. 94044
jon gordon · February 1, 2007 - 15:13 EST #119
How much are you willing to pay. I have one in excellent condition, never been used.
Richard Bloch · May 20, 2007 - 01:31 EST #120
My wheel on the Rio 500 has started not to make good contact evidently. Is it difficult to disassemble the player and clean the contacts? Thanks for any info.
toddboyle · April 17, 2009 - 17:42 EST #121
I just looked on eBay and found one, and bought it for $2.69 plus $4 postage
Mark · August 3, 2009 - 13:30 EST #122
I have had one for many years. Lost the USB cord but finally found it yesterday. Only problem is I need the software to upload songs onto it. Any suggestions? It appears all the websites that Rio used are now advertisement sites.
goer · August 4, 2009 - 04:57 EST #123
I always used to employ iTunes for that - does it not work any more?

Add A Comment

 E-mail me new comments on this article