I can remember the ‘good old days’ where CDs were basically the only way to listen or record music. Well, that was until the wonders of digital music have found their way into almost every pocket. With the rise in MP3 players and streaming services such as Spotify, music has become increasingly accessible. Now we …
I can remember the ‘good old days’ where CDs were basically the only way to listen or record music. Well, that was until the wonders of digital music have found their way into almost every pocket. With the rise in MP3 players and streaming services such as Spotify, music has become increasingly accessible. Now we can listen to hundreds of songs, any time and any place we want.
The word “iPod” has become iconic. With its Touch, Classic, Nano and Shuffle models Apple has created a self-contained digital entertainment system that has a tight grip on the MP3 player market. If you are looking for a new portable player or wondering what lies outside the orbit of the Apply dynasty, we’ve outlined the main trends to ensure you’ll never miss out on a tune.
Know your format
MP3 has become the standard format for online digital music files and works with virtually every brand of portable music player, hence the term ‘MP3 player’. This method of compressing and decompressing audio data takes up less space than a CD recording, so you can store hours and hours of music on a device considerable smaller than a portable CD player.
But, unfortunately, MP3 is not the same as MP3. To bind (or confuse) consumers, music services now use different file types, most of which are specially coded to ensure maximum protection. That means some file formats may only be supported by a limited number of devices. Apple’s AAC format may not work with any other MP3 player other than the iPod and, vice versa, AAC files created by third-party applications may not play in iTunes.
Other formats include Windows Media Audio (WMA), WAV, ATRAC, ASF and MIDI. So, before you venture out into the magic world of portable music players, make sure the player you are interested in is compatible with your preferred audio format.
MP3 players – as diverse as their users
Lightweight and stylish, MP3 players come in different shapes and sizes as well as an equally diverse set of features. To begin with, there are three different types of MP3 players: hard-drive MP3 players, flash-based MP3 players and MP3/CD players.
Hard-drive MP3 players: Hard-drive based players are the most popular type of MP3 players. Offering the highest storage capacity hard-drive MP3 players allow you to upload and access your entire music library. Impressive 120GB models can store over eleven weeks of music – you would never have to listen to a song twice. The only downside is that these type of players contain moveable parts that can wear out and cause failure. They also tend to consume more battery. Popular players include Apple’s iPod Classic, Microsoft’s Zune 120 GB and the iRiver H140 Mp3 player.
Flash-based MP3 players: Inexpensive, small, lightweight and a long playback time – if these are your priorities then a flash-based player makes up an ideal musical companion. Less bulky than their hard-drive counterparts, flash-based MP3 players are small enough to slip discreetly into a pocket without ruining the lines of your clothes. Unlike hard-drive MP3 players, flash-based models have no moveable parts, making them more shock resistant and durable. They lack the storage capacity of hard-drive based players but some offer built-in memory expansion slots. In addition to Apple’s iPod Nano, popular players include the iRiver Clix, Sony’s Walkman MP3 Player and the SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip.
MP3/CD players are capable of playing audio as well as MP3 CDs and are ideal for those who still enjoy burning their own music mix. Some models come with enhanced bass boost and a FM radio tuner so you can tune in to your favourite local station whenever the mood strikes you. The Sony D-NF340 and the Panasonic SL-SX 270 are some of the most popular MP3-CD players sold online.
It’s not just about music
Like smartphones, MP3 players can now do much more than what they were originally designed for. Some open up a whole new world of entertainment, all accessible with just a single touch gesture. Listen to music while browsing the web or running a word processor application.
Apple’s iPod Touch may offer the most extensive range of features, but other manufacturers are slowly gaining ground. Samsung’s Galaxy Player 5.8 is to rival the iPod and is essentially a Samsung Galaxy without all the mobile functions. Based on Android 4.0 the Galaxy Player comes with front-mounted stereo speakers and an impressive 5.8-inch display for web surfing. The player also packs a front-facing camera for video chats and 16 or 32 GB of storage which can be extended via the in-built micro SD slot to suit all your on-the-go media needs.
Another response to the iPod is Sony’s Walkman range. The Sony Walkman NWZ-S639Fs is on par with Apple’s iPod nano in terms of features, even though it may not win the price for the most stylish design. You can easily drag and drop music, listen to your favourite radio station and watch videos. And priced at £90 Sony’s S-Series is one of the cheapest players on the market.
If you are looking for remarkable audio quality and a vast array of features, the Creative Zen Touch 2 might be the right choice for you. View your pictures as a slideshow, read eBooks on the 3.2″ touchscreen display or stream your music wirelessly via Bluetooth.
Internet-enabled digital media players can be quite tempting, but before you drop everything and hit the next store for a high-end model, consider if you really need a pocket entertainment powerhouse. Going for an elegant player with a high-resolution display is probably not the brightest choice for an intensive workout in the gym. With the Samsung Muse, Samsung users can transfer music directly from their phone without connecting it to a computer. It is extremely lightweight and comes with a built-in clip – perfect for listening to music while running or exercising.