Which portable MP3 player should I get?

Brian Price

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Jun 30, 1997
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Just looking for opinions on which current portable MP3 players are the best. Not looking to spend an obscene amount of money. I heard that the new colored Samsung YEPP players are pretty good. Anybody have one? Any opinions would be appreciated. Thanks.
Brian Price
 

AndyVX

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IMO, I would get a minidisc player instead.
Andrew
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Kimmo Jaskari

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There are many versions out there. Apple just released a new one, but it unfortunately seems to require that you use an Apple computer to connect it to.
You also have to decide whether or not you want one with a harddrive or a smaller one with a memory card. The latter usually are smaller and lighter, whereas the former can store far more songs. A third alternative is a portable CD player that can play CD's with MP3's on them.
Personally I use my Pocket PC as an MP3 player as well and that works very well, with great sound quality. Unlike the minidisc players, sound quality is pretty much in the hands of the user. It depends directly on the quality of the files you play; for near-CD-quality you need to go to about 170-190kbit variable bit rate encoding of your files.
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/Kimmo
 

Donovan

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I have the Creative Labs Nomad MG Limited Edition. It's small, has 256 megs of built-in memory (with slot for 128 meg flash card) and is lightweight. Only downside is that it costs $350 plus tax and shipping from the Creativelabs website.
 
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A week ago, I would have recommended a RioVolt, which is a CD-based MP3 player (it can play MP3 and WMA files on CDs).
Now I am pretty much smitten by the Apple iPod (a hard-drive based MP3 player), which will be available in a Windows compatible version sometime early next year.
The RioVolt shoud run anywhere from $100 to $200, whereas the iPod is $399.
I tend to stay away from solid-state flash RAM based players, because the memory is simply too expensive. There's never enough space to put in all the music you want, especially if you plan to be away from your PC for more than a few hours.
 

Kimmo Jaskari

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Well, you can get 256MB compactflash cards now for relatively small amounts of money; at Newegg.com for example they have 256MB cards for $91 each. Pick up two of those and a card reader/writer and you can have quite a few hours of music with you without needing to support a powerhungry harddrive.
Of course, a harddrive based player will still be able to defeat that when it comes to amount of music you can carry easily, but probably you will have to sacrifice a little size and weight instead.
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/Kimmo
 

Mike Sogge

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Apple's new iPod is actually pretty much the same size as a Rio or Nomad. Plus it also has a claimed battery life of 10 hours. I believe a Windows version of the connectivity software (iTunes 2) for it is supposed to be out later this year. You will need a computer that has Firewire ports, however. They're standard on Macs, but not too common yet on budget PC's.
The one big problem I see with SmartMedia devices is the expense for storage. Buying additional SmartMedia cards at 100 dollars a pop for a $200-300 player will quickly cost more than the $399, 5 gb iPod.
 

Kimmo Jaskari

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Personally I would never pay $399 for an MP3 player. I would spend a bit more and buy a Pocket PC, like the new HP Jornada. I've read it can play MP3's for about 12 hours on one charge with the screen turned off, and you get an entire Pocket PC with all that entails - e-book reader software, calendar, databases etc etc. The Jornada has a CompactFlash slot, so you can put in one of those 256MB cards I mentioned and have quite a few MP3's with you at any given time.
Currently I have an older Casio that I use in that fashion and it works very well.
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Rob FM

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Approx. how many hours of music can a 256Mb Flash card hold of MP3s encoded at "128"/bps?
Thanks,
~Rob M.
 

Lloyd Mann

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Jun 30, 1997
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Apple has not said there would be windows software for the iPod. Jobs said they would think about it.
They claim 10 hrs of battery life, a reviewer tested this. After 11 hours it was still running, as he wrote his review. They run the HD only long enough to load a half hour's worth of flash ram (automatically) at a time. This saves battery life, provides a half hour of skip protection, and reduces the chance of a HD crash.
The iPod is expensive, but holds about 50 hours of highest quality MP3's, and sincs using firewire, which is more than 30 times as fast as USB. The more music you have, the more important this would be.
I have a Rio 500, it works well enough, but only being able to have an hour and a half of music available at a time limits it's usefulness. I will be upgrading to an iPod soon.
-Lloyd
 

Kimmo Jaskari

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I think that you can squeeze in about 4-5 CD's worth of songs on 256MB, depending on compression ratio. Assuming 10/1 compression, 640MB of data per fully loaded CD = 64MB per CD = 4 CD's. That is probably conservative though, and most audio cd's aren't fully used as far as I know.
As for transfer speed for songs, you can just get a firewire compactflash card reader/writer and copy at multiple megabytes per second.
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/Kimmo
 

Rob FM

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Thanks Kimmo, I didn't even think about calculating the amount that way.. pretty easy (and conservative, too)
Here's the link to the iPod, which has really interested me: iPod
Here's the Cnet reviews, which are great:
REVIEW
Here's Cnet's top 5 hard-drive based MP3 players:
Hard-drive MP3s
Interesting stuff!
~Rob M.
[Edited last by Rob FM on November 06, 2001 at 07:38 AM]
 

Vince Maskeeper

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I don't understand the appeal of memory based MP3 players- the clear solution and best way is CD-R! Holds waaaaay more info than memory sticks, makes it so the player can usually play both CD and MP3, and makes it really easy to switch songs without reloading the memory.
CD-Rs are pennies a piece, and most people already have a burner.
Speaking of which, I ahve RIO VOLT MP3 CD based player for sale in the Hardware area, if anyone is interested.
-Vince
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Rob FM

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The only real reason I'm interested in Memory based MP3-players is that you can't take your CD-R on a snowmobile trip, or even a Mountain bike ride (without heavy skipping), right?
Also, the size is approx. 2/3 (to 1/2, for smaller)of yours?
~But, for sitting at work all day... or even in the car, you're right-- CD-Rs are 19 cents/each in bulk and hold 650Mb+
Thanks,
~Rob M.
 

Steven K

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Vince, I agree with you to some degree. I have a CD-R based MP3 player (Classic: from CC for $99 about a year ago). Surprisingly, it has help up pretty well. It has its faults such as not playing VBR (this is a big one) but overall I cant complain for the price. I take it everywhere, listen to is on the subway and bus; I've dropped it several times (on hard surfaces, on accident) and it's still working fine. Other than the cosmetics, it's like brand new.
However, there skipping is a major issue. The HD-based players are really ideal. I agree: Memory Sticks are a waste of money for something such as MP3. In order I would list it like this (from best to worst)
1. HD based
2. CD-R based
3. Memory stick based
 

Vince Maskeeper

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The only real reason I'm interested in Memory based MP3-players is that you can't take your CD-R on a snowmobile trip, or even a Mountain bike ride (without heavy skipping), right?
No.
I could throw the Rio into a wall and it wouldn't skip. I've never had it skip, even while running. CD playback, that has skipped a bit-- but MP3 doesn't.
MP3 playback buffers the whole song into memory before it plays it- it is actually essentially memory based like the stick versions- it reads from the disc into RAM. It can reread as many time as it needs to in order to get a clean read. It then plays the song back from RAM, not from the disc.
So you get the best of both worlds: High storage capacity of HD and playback of physical media.
Plus the RIO VOLT version has a neat readout for all track info and navigation- something that no other CD based MP3 player I've seen does.
-Vince
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Steven K

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MP3 playback buffers the whole song into memory before it plays it
Not really... it does place part of the song into a buffer, but definitely not the whole thing. On most MP3 CD players, the buffer is about 512K which is about 30 seconds of audio as 128kbps
 

Vince Maskeeper

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Don't know what the buffer on the Rio is, but if the disc spins even once a minute I'd be suprised. Usually spins up 2 times during the course of a song.
-Vince
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Mike Sogge

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The problem with the current CD and HD based MP3 players is size. Granted they aren't really any bigger than a regular CD player, but then again, a regular CD player isn't the most convienent thing to carry around. They also have a limited battery life when compared to the flash based players.
The appeal of flash based MP3 players (to me anyway) is their incredibly compact size. However, their lack of any real storage capacity is a major put off. It's not very useful on long trips/vacations when you only have one 128/256 mb card and no computer to transfer new music from. It's also cost prohibitive to approach a storage capacity of something such as a CD or HD.
Thus, it seems the last choice that still fits the criteria of being able to hold a large amount of music while still being small and having excellent battery life is the iPod. Yes, the $399 price tag will give you sticker shock, but price out a flash based player plus the all the necessary cards to equal the iPod's storage capacity and the iPod won't look as bad. Now, is the little bit of extra price for the iPod over the other HD based players worth it? It's compact size and long battery life are things I'd certainly be willing to pay extra for. The fact that it uses FireWire as opposed to the USB the other systems use is icing on the cake, especially considering the large archive of MP3's I have (25+ GB).
Now the only real negative thing I can see in regards to the iPod is the current lack of Windows support. Don't let that stop you from considering it though. All you PC users need to do is show Apple that you guys are interested in the iPod and push for them to release iTunes 2 for Windows.
//edit: Fixed a few grammar typos.
[Edited last by Mike Sogge on November 08, 2001 at 12:44 AM]
 

Joseph S

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I received notice that my iPod has shipped. I'm currently ripping my music and awaiting its arrival.
Studying just became a little easier.
 

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