Is the Karma the ONLY MP3 hard drive player without gaps?

Discussion in 'Music' started by Michael St. Clair, Apr 13, 2004.

  1. Michael St. Clair

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    I'm getting closer and closer to buying an MP3 portable...in fact, I may buy one this week.

    One of my main criteria for a player is that it absolutely cannot have gaps between songs when playing back. I listen to lots of music that segues, from Pink Floyd to Zappa and Crimson, and lots of live stuff in between.

    I cannot tolerate this:

    [​IMG]

    All of the info on the web shows that all of the other MP3 players have gaps in the playback. If anybody here has other knowledge, I'd love to hear it.

    The Karma does have other nice features, like an ethernet port and parametric equalizer, but I'd sure like to know if I have a choice.
     
  2. RobBenton

    RobBenton Stunt Coordinator

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    MP3 as a format doesn't account for gaps.. it is one of its main drawbacks.. almost all mp3 players hardware or software will not deal with gaps.
     
  3. Michael St. Clair

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    Well, the Karma deals with gaps. Users have asked for this for years. The other manufacturers need to get with the program, ASAP.

    [​IMG]

    Not all of us listen to single-oriented pop.
     
  4. Michael St. Clair

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    Also, if the problem is the format, why do WAV files have gap issues on the iPod?
     
  5. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

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    I think it's a buffering issue and not a decoding issue.

    Near the end of the song, the player has finished loading the remainder of the song into the buffer and is now waiting for the buffer to empty before starting the next song. Indeed the buffer becoming empty is probably the condition the player uses as its cue to begin the next song. And it probably won't begin playing the next song until it has preloaded at least some of the buffer with the first big chunk of the song. This creates a gap between songs, the duration depends on how much the player prefers to preload into the buffer and how quickly it can do so.

    Instead the player should preload the next song into the buffer early, just as soon as the last of the previous song begins to drain from the buffer. Then the buffer would never really become empty. The data for the end of the first song would be followed immediately by the data at the start of the second song, and a continuous stream of data will flow seamlessly from the buffer into the decoder. No gaps whatsoever, the playback stream would be pretty much identical to what you would get if you had ripped the whole CD into a single MP3 file.

    It's that easy. I work with this exact sort of thing, coding record/playback software that is used by radio and TV broadcasters. I think it's sad that (apparently) only one consumer MP3 player can get it right after all these years, and lo and behold it isn't the beloved iPod.
     
  6. Michael St. Clair

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    Wayne,

    In addition to the playback buffering issue, there is also another issue with MP3 files themselves, but it could be an encoder issue. At least the ever popular LAME appears to add a tiny 'dead air' gap at the end of files it encodes. However, the Karma even removes this 'dead air' if you have gapless playback enabled, so it must be analyzing the files and removing end gaps in addition to buffering properly. The 'dead air' is only about a tenth of the length of the gaps that most MP3 players add, FYI.

    Not only does the iPod not pre-buffer the next track leader, if you have a very large file, it apparently buffers chunks. If a song is larger than 32MB, you get a gap during the song (every 32MB). This has at least been demonstrated with MP3, perhaps WAV buffers differently (uncompressed songs over 32MB would certainly be fairly common). Perhaps since lossless data requires a more constant stream, they keep the hard drive spinning and don't read chunks. I have heard that WAV playback really chews up the battery, so this would make sense.

    MP3 has been around for seven years, so this is pretty damned silly if you ask me.
     
  7. Brian L

    Brian L Cinematographer

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    I rip for my iPod with iTunes.

    When ripping, iTunes has an option called "Join Tracks". I use that for anything without gaps, like live stuff, Pink Floyd, etc.

    BGL
     
  8. Michael St. Clair

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    So you have to have one big track for each album or 'side'? Does this still allow you to navigate individual songs, and does it give you song title for each song?
     
  9. Brian L

    Brian L Cinematographer

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    It treats these as single, large tracks. When playing those tracks, it does scroll all the song titles across the display, but they can not be directly accessed, as far as I can tell.

    iTunes has another feature called Crossfade Playback that I have not tried, but it may also help. Here is the description from the on-line help:

    Fading between songs:

    You can choose to hear your music fade smoothly between songs, without any gaps of silence. By default, Crossfade Playback is turned on.

    What I don't know is if this applies to playback from iPod as well. I don't see it in the iPod manu, so I am not certain if it applies.

    BGL
     
  10. Michael St. Clair

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    Here's a page where an iTunes/iPod user is trying to get Fleetwood Mac's "The Dance" to sound like the actual CD.

    http://liquidsamba.com/marcelo/pen/apple/gap

    He does mention crossfade eventually, but he is very unhappy with the result.
     
  11. Brian L

    Brian L Cinematographer

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    Well, I guess its up to the user to decide how big a deal this is. The reviewer certainly has their panties all wadded up over this, as do some of the respondents.

    I tend to be an album oriented kind of guy, so when I rip something for playback on the iPod, if its live or has continuos tracks, I willingly sacrafice individual track access in favor of using "join tracks".

    But I certainly can accept that it would be better to NOT have to do that, and for certain types of music, you should be able to have it all; no gaps AND direct track access. Perhaps future versions of iPod software or iTunes will offer a better solution.

    BGL
     
  12. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    It does not apply, or at least I've never come across this feature in my use of the iPod Mini.

    Michael, since you're interested in the Karma and have no doubt researched it, have you come across any solution for replacing the battery other than a service contract from the retailer? I was under the impression that the battery was non-user replaceable.

    In other news, this is a useful site for researching these players: http://www.dapreview.com/news.php
     
  13. Michael St. Clair

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    Rio has a $40 authorized battery replacement program in Japan, but nothing here yet. Then again, Apple didn't have a plan at one point. I suspect they'll come up with something for North America.

    Frankly, at this point, any MP3 player I buy is going to have a service plan.

    There's supposed to be a new Karma coming out 'this spring' that is smaller, has a color screen, and an SD memory card slot. So at this point I think I'll wait a month and see what happens. At that point I'll re-evaluate the market. But gapless playback is essential to me. I might settle for joined tracks, but it's not optimal.

    With FLAC, Ogg, ethernet, and a parametric equalizer, Karma is probably going to have the highest geek factor for me anyway (that's a good thing).

    Angelo, thanks for the site. Looks like a good resource.
     
  14. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Agreed. My brother is on his 3rd iPod in less than 18 months; it was replaced each time at no cost under the Apple Care program.

    I've heard/read negative things about Rio's support (or lack thereof) for their other players, but have no personal experience. Having spent quite a bit of time with the Karma, I can tell you that it's an excellent machine, with very solid build quality. If there's a new iteration coming soon, it very well may be worth waiting for.

    For my money, it's a toss-up between the Karma and the iPod, in terms of superiority. The Karma seems to have a superior amplifier and its navigation is, in my opinion, better than Apple's. But, I own a Mini which I use for jogging/running, and it's great for that purpose.

    One of my partners uses a Dell DJ. For what she paid, it's actually a very nice machine, and the service plan she purchased was inexpensive and covers just about anything for 2 years.
     
  15. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Anyone other than me think we should have a section of HTF devoted to music compression software and hardware? I know that these threads wind up in Computers and in Music, but there might be enough interest to merit an independent section.

    Or maybe it would simply be place for me, myself and I to hang out...

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Brian L

    Brian L Cinematographer

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    [​IMG]

    Count me in.

    I have about a million questions about the various settings available to rip files.

    BGL
     
  17. Michael St. Clair

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    If it weren't for the gap thing, I'd be very tempted by the DJ.

    I do understand that not everybody has the same priorities. But the gap thing is very important to me, and is pretty much a deal-breaker.

    As far as the 'joined track' thing, sometimes I am burned out on a certain song and just want to skip ahead to the next song. So I don't think the joined track thing will satisfy me.
     
  18. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Brian: Here's hoping we'll see it soon.
     
  19. Brian L

    Brian L Cinematographer

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    Michael,

    Looks like you are headed for something other than an iPod, but I just noticed something that I can not explain, which may make iPod even less appropriate for your needs.

    It appears that, if you join tracks of an entire CD, it does not save the individual track titles, it simply lists the title of the CD.

    But, if you take only some of the tracks, then it lists the titles and will scroll them during playback. Weird.

    I had ripped a live Deep Purple CD to the iPod, and it had all the tracks, leading me to conclude that it always took the song titles when joining tracks. But in reality, I didn't join ALL the tracks, just the live ones (there were two bonus studio cuts, which I ripped seperately.

    I was looking at other live stuff where I did the whole disc, and no song titles.

    Tonight, I was ripping the remaster of Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus. Disc 1 I joined all tracks; thus no song titles. Disc 2, I joined only the songs from the Encore, and sure enough I got the song titles.

    I did spend some time scratching my head to try to understand what was going on, but it appears that, unless there is something else in the settings that I can change, ripping a whole disc as joined tracks looses the song title scroll. Bummer. Even without direct track access, it was nice to see the song titles.

    In any event, I didn't want to leave my comments uncorrected.

    BGL
     

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