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ATPM 6.09
September 2000


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Review: Nomad II 32 MB

by Eric Blair,


Developer: Creative


Price: $219.99

Requirements: G3-based Mac or higher, USB port, Internet connection

It’s long been said that a technology is not truly useful until its third generation sees the light of day. If that adage is to be believed, now is the time to jump on the portable MP3 player bandwagon. For a more in-depth description of these devices, take a look at Daniel Chvatik’s review of the Diamond Rio 500.

The first generation of portable MP3 players was the original Diamond Rio. The second generation included devices like the Rio 500 and the Creative Nomad. Now, we’re seeing the third generation in the form of the Rio 600, the Samsung Yepp, and the Nomad II. As the market for these devices has matured, more and more have become available for the Mac. One of the companies that has come to the Mac with a whole slew of products is the aforementioned Creative.


The Nomad II 32 MB includes the player, a pair of “behind-the-neck” headphones, a remote headphone control, one AA battery, a 32 MB SmartMedia card, a USB cable, and a carrying case. Personally, I prefer the behind-the-neck headphones to standard headphones or ear buds. You know you’re not going to get top-of-the-line headphones with an MP3 player, and I find the behind-the-neck headphones more comfortable than the other two types.

I also like the remote control that attaches to the headphone cord. This lets you play, pause, stop, skip songs, and adjust the volume without unclipping the Nomad II from your belt.

Like the Rio 500, the Nomad II’s carrying case is essentially useless. When I take the Nomad with me, I usually clip it to my belt. The Nomad is small enough so that it’s not obtrusive—certainly nowhere near as obtrusive as the cell phone that I carry. I don’t even know what I’ve done with the case.

According to Creative, the single AA battery will power the Nomad in MP3 or Voice mode for 8-10 hours. In using the Nomad off and on, I haven’t had any difficulty with the battery.

The Display

The Nomad II uses a decent-sized LCD to provide access to most of its options. The main menu has six icons: one for each of the three sound modes, one to get info on the player, one to change the settings, and one to display the time and date. You use the large four-way pad on the center of the Nomad II to navigate the menus. Right, left, and down change the active icons, while up selects the active icon.

A battery meter is present on the LCD whenever the unit is in use. If there is a SmartMedia card installed, there is an icon for that. If the unit is locked, a lock is displayed on the screen. Finally, when listening to music, there is a volume icon on screen.

When initially selecting the music mode, you see a list of songs loaded on the memory card. Unfortunately, the Nomad II only displays the first eight characters of the file names along with the file type. If you’re like me and put the name of the group at the front of the file name, you could end up with a bunch of files named “BLINK182MP3.” The Nomad II is able to interpret ID3 tags, so I don’t understand why it cannot display the song or band name from this information.

Music to Your Ears

As I said earlier, the Nomad II 32 MB comes (obviously) with 32 MB of RAM. In terms of MP3s, that works out to about 35 minutes of audio at 128 KBps. For anybody who wants to use the Nomad II for anything more than short term listening, this really isn’t acceptable. In my opinion, 64 MB is the minimum for listening to MP3s.

When you’re listening to MP3s, the Nomad II features the standard set of controls. The four-way pad that controls menu access also controls music playing. Pressing Up plays or pauses payback. Pressing Down stops playback and returns you to the list of songs. Left and Right are the song/time advance buttons. Pressing and holding the buttons adjusts the time in the song. Pressing and releasing moves to the next song. You can also repeat a portion of a song, an entire song, or all the songs.

The Nomad II includes several preset DSP modes that are supposed to simulate listening environments like Jazz, Rock, or Classical. There is also a User setting where you can specify the bass and treble that you want.

Along with being able to play MP3s, the Nomad II also comes with a built-in microphone that can record voice memos. In terms of size, voice memos are a bit easier to deal with—a one MB voice file can hold about 3 minutes 45 seconds of audio, as opposed to the nearly 1:1 ratio of music to MB with MP3s.

Another feature of the Nomad II is a built-in FM tuner, complete with 32 preset channels. When the Nomad is first used, all of these channels are preset to channel 87.5. The presets can only be changed when the Nomad is connected to a computer. Like many Walkman-type devices, the headphone cord acts as an antenna. If you are listening to the Nomad II at a desk, you may be able to prop the cord up against something to improve reception. If you are moving around, however, it can be difficult to keep the signal for a radio station.

With an upgrade to the latest firmware, version 2.00.19, the Nomad II is supposed to be able to play files in the Windows Media Format. Unfortunately, Creative’s software for updating firmware is Windows-only. If the firmware update only added the ability to play WMA files, it wouldn’t be that big a loss. However, it also adds niceties like the ability to scan the FM frequency for a channel. Using the original firmware, I had to step through each individual frequency—87.5, 87.6, 87.7, etc.

It’s quite likely that Creative will release future firmware updates that provide support for additional features—things like larger SmartMedia cards and audio formats like LiquidAudio. The Rio supports firmware updates on the Mac using SoundJam MP. I see no reason why the Nomad II should not support this.

Oh yes, back to Windows Media Files—I managed to track down some of these files at MusicMatch after updating my firmware on a PC. I tried loading the same file from both a PC and a Mac and received the following message: “WMA License Does Not Match.” I assume this is a copy-protection thing. Maybe if I had an unprotected WMA file, it would work, but I haven’t got the slightest idea where to find such a file.

One final note about the new firmware: whenever I load songs from my Mac to my Nomad II, they initially show up in the playlist without a file name. At first, I could not figure out what was causing the problem. The Nomad II obviously knows the name of the file—if I try to delete the file or play a file without an ID3 tag, the player displays the proper name. After mentioning the problem to a friend, I was informed that the solution to this was to delete the .aux file that SoundJam MP creates when uploading songs. This file appears to contain ID3 tag information, although the Nomad II recognizes the ID3 tags in the individual songs without this file present.

The Software

The Nomad II that I received did not include the Mac drivers, although it is possible that this could have changed by the time you read this. I needed to download both the Nomad II drivers and SoundJam MP from the Nomad II download page.

In the end, you end up with three separate applications with functions that overlap. SoundJam MP is easily the best-known of the three applications. This version is a slightly modified copy of SoundJam MP Free. Aside from including the ability to recognize a Nomad II, the software’s MP3 encoding ability does not disappear after 14 days. SoundJam MP provides the following for use with the Nomad: uploading and deleting music files; uploading, downloading, and deleting voice files; setting the presets for FM stations; naming your Nomad; showing how much memory is available; and playing MP3 and voice files.


SoundJam MP’s interface for the Nomad II.

The second application is Nomad Manager. It shows you information about the player like the firmware version. It lets you upload and delete music or voice files, download all voice files, and search for MP3s to upload. At first glance, it may sound like Nomad Manager is the perfect application for you, especially if you use an MP3 player other than SoundJam MP. It’s not that simple, though: when you upload a song using Nomad Manager, it doesn’t retain its ID3 tag. When you play the song, all you see are the first eight characters of the file name and the 3 character DOS file name extension.


Nomad Manager’s info screen for the Nomad II.

The last application is Nomad Voice File Player. Like the name suggests, this application plays voice files downloaded from the Nomad. Once again, at first glance, it seems as though the functionality of this application is completely replicated by SoundJam MP. Not so fast: along with playing the voice files, Nomad Voice File Player can convert these files to AIFF or WAV.

To get the full functionality of the Nomad II, you need all three pieces of software. It would seem like certain features could be consolidated into one or two application, especially given that the Nomad II features in SoundJam MP were added to after the initial release of the program. Personally, if SoundJam MP added an “Info” button to the Nomad II window, I would get rid of Nomad Manager in a minute.


The Nomad II has several features that the Rio 500 lacks—namely, an FM tuner and a voice recorder. However, the hodgepodge of software and the lack of firmware updates for the Mac, along with the small bundled memory card, make it difficult to recommend the Nomad II 32 MB. If you want an FM tuner or a voice recorder, you would be better off looking at the Nomad II 64 MB. Until Creative fixes some of the Nomad’s issues with the Mac, you might want to consider a model from the Rio line of players.

Reader Comments (38)

Hesham Fuad · July 2, 2001 - 11:28 EST #1
i really enjoying reading it but i have something to tell you did not mention anything about wma format creative site say"it have the double capasity of mp3 format but i did not find and diffrence specially i use encode 128 per second that is the best sound i can get from wma.
Eric Blair (ATPM Staff) · July 2, 2001 - 17:00 EST #2
At the time of this review, Creative did not support the WMA format on the Mac. I loaded the firmware update using a PC and received the "WMA License Does Not Match" error I mentioned in the reivew. Since this review, Creative released a Mac-compatible firmware update, which brought WMA support, among other things. I haven't tried WMA files since that time and I am by no means an expert on WMA, but I believe the theory is that a 64 kbps WMA file would have the same quality as a 128 kbps MP3 file -- similar to the new MP3 Pro format versus the old MP3 format. I don't know how correct this is - I don't use WMA files for much of anything. This could explain the double capacity bit, though. --Eric
Roberto · September 8, 2001 - 07:10 EST #3
I just bought a Nomad II and I have two questions: is this model only available for Mac? Can't I use it with Windows? Thank you very much. Regards
Eric Blair (ATPM Staff) · September 8, 2001 - 13:21 EST #4
As far as I know, all Nomad II's are cross platform. When I bought the unit used in the review, it came with the Windows drivers and software -- I needed to download the Mac software separately. I believe that all the necessary software is now included in the box. Of course, you can always use iTunes instead of the bundled SoundJam. --Eric
Roberto · September 10, 2001 - 17:02 EST #5
First of all thank you for your help. The box only included an MP3 samples CD and the drivers for the Mac. I was trying to find the drivers for the Nomad on the Nomad web page, but they don't have it in the web. I don't know where I can find the drivers for Windows. If you know where I can find it, I will pray you to tell me. Thank you very much. Eric
Gilly Bates · November 17, 2001 - 16:26 EST #6
I was given a Nomad II with 64 megabytes of memory as a present recently. Trying to get it to work (just with Windows so far) has proven to be a challenge. Files will not transfer from my Win2K machine to the Nomad for a variety of confusing reasons. First it appeared that the firmware needed to be upgraded - try finding that on! Their site takes you round and round in circles, but always tries to download the firmware for the IIc, no matter which download you choose. I finally found the firmware upgrade on a Chinese site and then followed Creative's advice and reset the Nomad back to factory specs first. Still no go. I downloaded the latest version of Playcenter (2.5) at their support person's suggestion, still no go. Firmware 1.03 seems to be the only version available, but Playcenter says my Nomad is at the wrong version. Typical lousy support for a lousy product, if you ask me. I'm just glad I didn't spend MY money on the crappy thing!
Alex · November 18, 2001 - 10:50 EST #7
I just got the Nomad II 64 meg from a friend and I can't get it to work at all! I installed using the CD and it says it can't find all the files necessary, please reinstall. And I've tried reinstalling 6 times!! I have a smart card reader for my digital camera that lets me transfer MP3s to my memory card for the Nomad and that works fine, but only for MP3s. Without that actual Creative software, is there any way to make the Nomad support WMA format? Is it just like a hidden or system file on the memory?
Steve · November 23, 2001 - 10:15 EST #8
Hey. Is there a way that I can flash the original drivers and firmware for the Nomad IIc? I downloaded the Chinese text driver and now the font is all screwed up and I don't how to fix it. E-mail me if you know how to help. Thanks a lot.
Eric Blair (ATPM Staff) · December 3, 2001 - 23:15 EST #9
Steve, Sorry for just getting back to you. I don't know if this will work for certain, but I believe I used SoundJam to overwrite a newer version of the firmware with an older one. Aside from this, I don't know if there's any way to get a Nomad back to factory-original state. Also, I don't know if this would have changed from the II to the IIc.
Wayne M. · April 27, 2002 - 17:06 EST #10
I got my Nomad II MP3 player with 32MB on board. When I put batteries in it, it pops up with a message about a firmware upgrade. So, I downloaded the firmware and tried to upgrade it, but it said an error occurred in the player. I've tried everything and can't get it to work. Can someone help me out, please?
Xxerxes · May 1, 2002 - 00:13 EST #11
Problems with firmware upgrade, particularly on the Nomad II 0MB on board, seem to be common. I suggest looking at for a number of posts on how to resolve this. In short, one must carefully follow the arcane creative reset steps and then install the original version of the firmware (available on and then perform each upgrade. Word is that the newest version of firmware (3.0) is less stable than older version (2.0). However, only the newest version allows use of 128MB Smart Media cards. Good luck to all.
Kostas Pie Sarabalos · May 7, 2002 - 01:11 EST #12

My Nomad IIc with 32 megs on board, which I just received from a friend as a gift, will not do anything. It is basically useless because he did not give me the original Manager application software and says that he has lost it. Do you know where I could get one of these software disks or can I download it from the internet? I pray you do e-mail me back, please, if you know. Thanks.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · May 7, 2002 - 23:07 EST #13
Kostas - try, click the Nomad II / IIc link, then click ahead to the third page of that list. You should be able to download the Manager software there.
Nathan Chettle · July 12, 2002 - 04:51 EST #14
I was updating my firmware on my Nomad II and nothing happened. It just sat there saying "firmware update" on the screen. It's now stuck like that and there's nothing I can do to fix it. The update broke it. What am I to do?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · July 12, 2002 - 11:58 EST #15
Nathan - see the comment above by Xxerxes where it is described how to reset the Nomad back to the original firmware.
Danny · July 19, 2002 - 02:28 EST #16
I wanted to get a new Nomad IIc with 128MB on board. But I believe the IIc doesn't have an FM tuner. The FM tuner is an important feature for me. Why is CL taking away a function in a revised product? Is there a way I can add an FM tuner through a firmware upgrade on the new IIc?

I read from another review where the tuner only allows you to tune in increments of .5, ie: 87.0..87.5..88.0.. and no way can you do 87.3, but that doesn't seem to be the case according to Eric. Can you confirm?
Damon · September 24, 2002 - 21:19 EST #17
I saw a belt clip mentioned in this review. If I buy this, I would be using it on long distance runs and was wondering whether it would fall off while I am running. Thanks for any response.

Justin · October 15, 2002 - 08:01 EST #18
I have been using my Nomad II MP3 player for about a half a year now and I think it is awesome. I listen to it on my way home and in my car so I don't have to lug around 100 CDs. Now I am trying to find a memory card and I can't seem to find one at any local stores (Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, etc.) So, I tried to find one on the internet. I am having trouble doing that, too. I can't seem to find a sizeable memory card so I can put most, if not all, of my music on there. If you could help me, I would deeply appreciate it.
Eric Blair (ATPM Staff) · October 15, 2002 - 09:18 EST #19

As you've probably figured out, the Nomad II uses SmartMedia cards to store MP3s. One of the problems with SmartMedia cards is that we've pretty much hit the limit of how much memory we can pack into one of them. As a result, I believe 128 MB is that largest card you can get.

Any store that sells supplies for digital cameras should have these cards. Another resource would be the DealRAM Smartmedia page.
Justin · October 17, 2002 - 20:12 EST #20
Sigh. A horrible thing happened today. Walking to class, my backpack broke, my MP3 player fell, and the display screen was shattered. It now has the black ink in it. I don't know what to do. This has happened before, but the first one worked even without the screen. This one just doesn't work at all now. I still have a warranty on it, but I don't know where to send the thing. Please help me! I would be VERY grateful!
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · October 17, 2002 - 23:15 EST #21
Justin - you're probably out of luck. Here is the Nomad support page where you should be able to find out how and where to send it, but most electronics warranties are only going to cover manufacturer defects—not negligence.
anonymous · October 19, 2002 - 21:10 EST #22
If you broke it, then they'll charge you to repair it. You might have to go buy a refurbished Nomad II they have on sale for $49 since I doubt the repair costs would be much less than that.
anonymous · January 10, 2003 - 03:24 EST #23
I recommend Nomadness for software, firmware, etc.
Erin · May 8, 2003 - 09:03 EST #24
I have a rabbit that got loose and chewed through my USB cable. Is it just a regular USB cable? The port looks a little different. Will I be able to go to a store and buy one? This is a Nomad II. Thanks for any help you can give me.
Eric Blair (ATPM Staff) · May 8, 2003 - 10:31 EST #25
Erin - it's been a while since I used my Nomad II but, if I remember, correctly, the USB port on the Nomad is the normal square-shaped USB port (as opposed to the normal, rectangular port on your Mac).

Unless Creative changed the design of the Nomad II, you should be able to go to a store and buy a replacement cable. The type of cable you're looking for is an USB A/B cable--the A/B signifies that one end of the cable is square and one is rectangular.
Erin · May 9, 2003 - 19:25 EST #26
I'm having problem with the manager software. I downloaded all the updated drivers and firmware for it, I can change my presets, look at the stats, and delete music, but every time I try to put music back onto the Nomad, the program shuts down. I've tried rebooting and even shutting down my virus scanner and firewall. Any suggestions?
Ray Russell · July 24, 2003 - 10:28 EST #27
I have the same problem. It just shut down on me one day and said I have to update, and I do it every three days.
Karen · August 29, 2003 - 01:10 EST #28
Thank you, Xxerxes, for the link to The Nomad newsgroup didn't have the information I was looking for, but a post on by DaveH fixed the "firmware upgrade"/"backup code" message on the display of my Nomad II 0MB/DAP-0001 player.

I was convinced my player was damaged. Installing version 3 (without doing the prior steps) resulted in the message, "Error occured in player."

After 8 months, it's finally working. :-)
Tony · September 15, 2003 - 19:50 EST #29
Karen, what did DaveH's post say?! I'm stuck with the same problem and I can't find his post.
Wrist · September 15, 2003 - 22:13 EST #30
Hi everyone. It's great to have such a helpful Nomad II community going on here. I hope I will get some help on my problem, too. =)

I own a Nomad IIc with 128MB onboard and firmware version 1.07 since February.

Last week, something weird began to happen and it's really annoying me. Here are the symptoms:

1. When playing songs, and the lock switch is in locked position, the player will suddenly adjust the volume or pause or restart or stop or go to the next song by itself.

2. Sometimes, when off, and the lock switch is in the locked position, the player suddenly turns itself on and my teacher thinks I'm listening to music during the lecture! =(

3. Those first two things happen unexpectedly. I tried shaking it and applying pressure to it, but that doesn't cause the problems to happen. It just happens randomly, while I'm standing still or sitting down or while I'm biking. I don't think it's because of a loose lock switch or components and I have not dropped it or let it hit water. The effect of the problem is as if someone has turned off the lock switch, pressed a button, and put the lock switch back on. It's almost haunted!

Someone please help me. I'm pulling my hair out because of this.

Also, I do not understand why are there no firmware upgrades for this model, i.e. 1.08. In fact, the Nomad I'm using says version 1.07, but the latest version on is only 1.06. Why?

Thanks for your time and help, everyone!
Xavier Sanchez · April 7, 2004 - 21:52 EST #31
Hi My brother just got a nomad2 from his girlfriend's dad as a gift.I have already installed the drives but i was wondering where i can find the SoundJam MP’s interface for the Nomad II. Does it come with the drives? I really need your help.....
raju · February 17, 2005 - 09:06 EST #32
i am having a (creative nomad IIC 32mb mp3 player)but iam unable to play files i also have smart media card but it is not woring please help me out
Tony P · May 17, 2005 - 14:16 EST #33
my Nomad IIc has just started to turn off suddenly. It also will not turn on very easily and then will act erratically by going to other features when hitting the play button. Oh it goes off even when locked. Right now I cannot get it to go on even though yesterday it easily when on and off several times when I was trying to figure out what was happening. At first I thought it was related to weak recharchable batteries but I bought new ones and the problem remains the same.
jon westlin · July 18, 2005 - 22:11 EST #34
Do you have a shipping address for repairs? Or a website that I can go too?
ATPM Staff · July 18, 2005 - 22:36 EST #35
Jon - our site,, has no affiliation with Nomad. This page simply carried our review of the Nomad II 32MB. There is a developer link at the top.
Fernando Lopez · November 7, 2007 - 08:56 EST #36
I couldn't find the driver for Nomad II.
Eric Blair (ATPM Staff) · November 9, 2007 - 17:06 EST #37

You might have some luck at the Nomadness download page, but I'm guessing they never released a version for OS X.

Other options might include iTunes (at one time, it supported the Nomad II) - try plugging in the Nomad while iTunes is running. Another option would be to use a SmartMedia reader with your computer. Just load up the memory card this way and then insert the memory card into the Nomad. These adapters might be hard to find, though, since SmartMedia usage has been on the downswing for about the last five years.

I can't guarantee that any of these approaches will work - they're just suppositions/suggestions on my part.
Joshua H. · January 15, 2014 - 02:36 EST #38
Hi Eric & Fernando,

I found this article via Google. I got the NOMAD II in 1999 or 2000 and had it until I got my iPod mini in 2005. I got an iBook G3 in 2003. When I connected the player to the Mac, iTunes 3 recognized it. I was able to move songs back and forth (you could move songs from the player as well). I could set radio presets in iTunes as well. As this article states, I had to use a PC to update the firmware. Besides adding WMA to the player the firmware update added support for 128 MB SmartMedia cards, which I could never find. This was the reason I upgraded to the mini. As this was all a dozen or so years ago, I'm unsure if the NOMAD II works with today's Macs and iTunes.

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