The dooyoo guide to buying an MP3 player 2009 - If music be the food of love play on, at least until your batteries need recharging. The annoying hop, skip and jump of CDs scratched from being stashed in the bottom of your rucksack is a thing of the past. Thanks to MP3 Players you can carry your entire music collection in your pocket and possibly still find room to spare for photos, video clips and data files.
Here we present a guide to MP3 Players, explore some of the mysteries of file formats and show you the best MP3 players from Apple, Trekstor, Creative, Iriver, Samsung and Sony.
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Flash or hard disk? The storage types - MP3 Players come in two varieties, solid state (flash memory) devices or large capacity hard disk players which store files on a miniaturised version of the hard disk you find in your computer or laptop.
Flash memory players, are extremely compact and light (the smallest of them being around the size of a box of matches) and the absence of moving parts makes them immune to skipping no matter how vigorously you shake them. Another advantage enjoyed by flash memory devices is their relatively low power consumption makes for a longer battery life. On the down side, storage capacities are somewhat lower and smaller displays can be difficult to use and not great for video.With that qualification in mind the price of solid state memory is falling sharply and drive capacities are increasing. Solid state seems destined to win the argument in the long run.
Hard drive players have enormous storage capacities (currently up to ten times that of flash memory devices) and bigger screens, enabling you to carry not only your entire music collection with you at all times but also to view video files and use spare capacity for data storage. They are slightly larger and heavier than their flash based counterparts (though also more robust) and battery life is shorter (particularly when playing video). Because the data they access is from a disk they can skip but only when subjected to very vigorous and sudden movement.
Mini MP3 players, the budget option - Mini Players are inexpensive and extremely portable. Small enough to be worn round the neck or clipped to your clothing, their lack of moving parts (they are all flash memory devices) make them ideal companions for lonely long distance runners and those for whom the gym is a second home. With these users clearly in mind a number of dedicated sports MP3 Players (featuring calorie counters, pedometers and stopwatches) have appeared packed with features to help you calculate the burn.
More basic models, perhaps for those of us whose favoured sport is cheapskating, can be found from as little as £12 -16 but at this price don't expect much beyond the absolute basics and with storage capacities a miserly 256 -512 MB they will 'only' hold up to a maximum of 5-10 albums worth of songs (depending on how they are compressed or ripped).
Philips and Trekstor both produce excellent budget models with higher capacities. Particularly note worthy is the Creative Zen X-Fi 8 GB and the Philips GoGear SA3245 4 GB. Also worth a mention is the Creative Zen Stone Plus 2 GB and the Apple iPod shuffle (2G) 2 GB .
Mid range models: Flash memory with a little bit more - Midrange players sport a number of extra features not usually seen on the cheaper models and larger memory capacities (starting at around 4GB - that's enough to store between a thousand and two thousand songs).
As well as finding many models with radio, custom EQ and audio recording (including line in, which can be a big advantage if you want to digitize your old vinyl or CDs without using a computer), the biggest selling point of midrange MP3 Players are their colour displays.
The displays make navigating the menu systems far less frustrating but also allow you to display album artwork and watch video clips. Apple's coverflow feature (to be found on the latest Nano allows you to flip through covers, rolodex fashion - a more satisfying experience for many than the interminable lists and drop down menus of some of its less well designed rivals.
Also of distinction amongst the midrange MP3 Players and the Sandisk Sansa E260 4 GB which both feature micro SD flash memory card slot (i.e., removable media) allowing you to increase its capacity and share files easily with compatible mobiles and digital cameras.
Hard disk players, fat capacities in thin packages - Though a little more expensive than their flash memory based relatives the huge capacities of hard drive MP3 Players (ranging from around 20GB to an enormous 120GB which represents up to 80,000 songs, 25,000 photos or 200hrs of video) arguably offer better value for money for those with extensive music collections. The larger storage capacities of these models are also ideal for audiophiles who insist on higher quality than the standard MP3 and WMA options. Wireless connectivity is also a feature found in many of these models.
Apple's iPod touch 32 GB continues to dominate the market but the Archos AV 700 80 GB has won a few admirers, as has the Creative Zen Vision
If only the best will do and the latest gadgets are your thing then Apples's iPod touch introduces the touch screen controls developed for the newly released and much hyped Apple iPhone 8 GB . Despite its relatively modest capacity, it boasts a level of functionality approaching that of a PDA, with web surfing via wireless connection perhaps its most compelling feature.
As with all things digital new hybrid products are beginning to emerge, mobile phones that double up as Mp3 players have been around for a while now and wireless internet connectivity of some kind looks like a feature that will be embraced by many of the latest high end devices.
File formats, codecs decoded (and why this matters) - The audio files on a standard CD occupy about 1.3MB of memory per secondusually in Wav or Aiff format. In order to fit thousands of songs (not to mention video) on an MP3 Player it is necessary to compress this information using something called a codec. Luckily for us non-techies the process is a lot less painful than it sounds and the vast majority of MP3 players understand both MP3 and WMA files (the most common forms of this compression) so it not something you need to loose much sleep over. There is, however, one important exception that you need to know about when considering your purchase of an MP3 player and this concerns Digital Rights Management (DRM) - or copy-restricted material purchased online.
DRM limits the number of times a file can be copied and to what media, the terms vary but at the moment the majority of music bought legally online is subject to some restrictions on what you can do with it and what devices it can be played on. As a consequence of this (thank the ever enlightened and generous music industry) if you buy music online from the iTunes store (at least DRM protected MP3 and MP4 files) it will only work on an iPod and similarly WMA files from sites like Napster work only with the rather optimistically named PlaysForSure format which covers the majority of the other MP3 Player. To make matters even more complicated Microsoft's Zune will only accept files purchased from Zune MarketPlace and all of Sony's MP3 players only play ATRAC3 files (a format pretty much unique to Sony) so you will need to convert all files to using the SonicStage software that comes supplied with the player.
All this may sound a bit off-putting but hope is at hand. Realising the absurdity of all these competing formats, more and more music is available free of these restrictions which will work on any MP3 player. The online stores, eMusic, LiveDownloads, and Audio Lunchbox all sell music in DRM free formats and the bigger vendors are waking up to the problem by offering a growing range of music not subject to these restrictions. It is important to stress that issues of file format compatibility are generally only a problem in relation to music downloaded from the Internet. Converting your CDs is a very straightforward process using the software that comes with a MP3 Player and should not present a problem. If you have a lot of vinyl or cassettes consider a player equipped with Line in that can record directly from your existing equipment.
Accessories - The iPod and its non-Apple flavoured relatives have spawned an entire industry of exotic and not so exotic accessories for MP3 Players. External speakers, remote controls, widgets and gadgets that enable you to play tunes via your car stereo, microphones, add on radios and extra flash memory to name but a few.
Two accessories that you should certainly consider as essential purchases (if you are considering anything more pricy than the most basic flash player) should be a protective case or 'skin' to preserve the scratch and finger print prone surfaces of your shiny new friend and a pair of decent headphones.
Although there is a slight variation in the sound quality between different MP3 Players, a pair of noise canceling headphones will greatly enhance your listening experience - a word of warning however, these are so effective that they should not be worn while cycling or in any context where you need to be aware of your surroundings.
Another important tip, if considering a additional power adaptor (either for a car cigarette lighter or standard wall socket) is to stick with adaptors provided by the same manufacturer as your player as even small differences in polarity and voltage can fry the delicate electronics in a MP3 Player.
Summary - So to summarise our MP3 player buying advice, if you are looking for a player that will skip less beats than your heart when bungee jumping or a companion for that early morning run you keep finding excuses not to do, get yourself a flash memory based device. If, on the other hand, your carefully alphabetised collection of field recordings of birdsongs of the world is the envy of the British Library and you cannot bear to be apart from it, then a high capacity hard disk player is the one for you. If you want to watch video then a high capacity model is also the appropriate choice although if this is all you want to do you might find the larger screen of a portable DVD player a more rewarding cinematic experience.
The other consideration when buying an MP3 Player is to ask yourself whether you want to buy music online. If so then check the technical specifications of the player to make sure that it will accept files from your preferred vendor.
Last but not least consider battery life. This always tends to be better in the flash based models (another advantage of the lack of moving parts) and it is worth bearing in mind that video is considerably more power hungry than audio - check the manufacturer's technical specifications, there should be no need to settle for less than 20hrs of audio playback even in a hard drive MP3 Player.
Model Number: MD477QB / MP3 Player /A / MP4 Player / Display Type: Touchscreen / Display: 2.5 Inch / Display Size (cm): 6.23 cm / Display Resolution: 240 x 432 / Memory Capacity: 16 GB - Audio Playback / Image Viewer / Video Playback / Audio Formats: MP3, AAC, Protected AAC, Audible, Apple Lossless, AIF...
MP3 Player / Apple iPod touch - 4th Generation - Digital player - flash 32 GB - AAC, MP3 - video playback
MP3 Player / Apple iPod touch - Digital player - flash 8 GB - AAC, MP3 - video playback - display: 3.5" - polished aluminium - iPod touch features the same multi-touch screen technology as iPhone. Pinch to zoom in on a photo. Scroll through your songs and videos with a flick. Flip through your library ...
MP3 Player / Apple iPod classic - Digital player - HDD 120 GB - AAC, MP3 - video playback - display: 2.5" - silver - Decisions, decisions. Who needs 'em? Why should you have to choose what to put on your iPod? With large storage capacity, iPod classic lets you carry everything in your collection - up t...
MP3 Player / Apple iPod nano - Digital player - flash 8 GB - AAC, MP3 - video playback - display: 2" - silver - Say you're listening to a song you really like and want to hear other tracks that go great with it. The genius feature finds the songs in your music library that go great together and makes a...
MP3 Player / Apple iPod shuffle - Digital player - flash 1 GB - AAC, MP3 - silver - You know what they say about good things and small packages. But when something 1.62 inches long and about half an ounce holds up to 240 songs, "good" and "small" don't cut it. Especially when you can listen to your mus...
Apple iPod nano - Digital player / MP3 Player / radio - flash 16 GB - AAC, MP3 - video playback - display: 2.2" - camera : 0.3 Megapixel - black - Say you're listening to a song you really like and want to hear other tracks that go great with it. The genius feature finds the songs in your music library...
MP3 Player / Apple iPod touch - Digital player - flash 8 GB - AAC, MP3 - video playback - display: 3.5" - black - iPod touch features the same multi-touch screen technology as iPhone. Pinch to zoom in on a photo. Scroll through your songs and videos with a flick. Flip through your library by album artw...
MP3 Player / Apple iPod shuffle - Digital player - flash 2 GB - AAC, MP3 - silver - The popular iPod shuffle is just half a cubic inch in volume, weighs just half an ounce, features an aluminum design with a built-in clip. The 2GB model lets music lovers bring even more songs everywhere they go in the ...
MP3 Player / Apple iPod nano - Digital player - flash 4 GB - AAC, MP3 - video playback - display: 2" - silver - It's the small iPod with one very big idea: Video. Now the world's most popular music player lets you enjoy TV shows, movies, video podcasts, and more. The larger, brighter display means amaz...
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