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02 May 2006 @ 05:47 pm
MP3! MP3! No escaping that for me!  
I've resisted getting an MP3 player; I wanted technologies and prices to stabilize, and most didn't seem to have the feature set I wanted.

It's getting to the point that I'm going to have to jump soon, though. I've tried to use my laptop instead, but that's quickly becoming unfeasible.

So I'm seeking recommendations. My requirements:

High capacity is probably my primary requirement. I have 40+ GB of MP3s on my home PC, I think; I use fairly high-quality settings when ripping, and I don't want to change that. I'm not (necessarily) looking to put my entire collection on my MP3 player, but at the same time, I have so no interest in futzing with libraries and playlists all the livelong day. I can probably manage with less capacity than 10GB, but at a guess, 3GB is a minimum.

Durability is a problem if I need high capacity, I know. Flash players are probably more shock-tolerant, but they seem to max out at 6GB or so. I like to think I'd take care of a player, but the bare fact is that I'm clumsy. Any player of mine is going to suffer impacts and cord-pulls.

Sound quality
I'm not the best judge in the world, but I won't listen to a scratchy or tinny player. (I'm not talking "included headphones/earbuds" here; I mean native device output.) I'm also the sort to want to know I have the best, even if I would never be able to judge the difference myself. (That bit of my personality will be a whole 'nother post someday.)

I want something with a decent battery life. I don't love the idea of a player with a non-replaceable battery (ahem, Apple.) Mains recharging is fine.

Look, I respect Apple's products, generally speaking. But I don't have an Apple machine. (Mouse-primary OSs give me hives.) My job requires Windows, and I don't feel like keeping up with multiple OSs, so I run Windows on my own devices as well. I use MusicMatch to manage my existing MP3 library; I can live with Windows Media or other Windows-compatible software if necessary. I could probably survive using iTunes if there's a Windows-compatible version.

I still buy and rip from CDs, rather than downloading digital music, because the various implementations of DRM all have in common the element of really annoying me, one way or another. So download integration is not a big deal.

... Meh. It matters, of course; I won't be spending a thousand dollars on this. But it isn't as significant a factor as it probably should be.

Additional Features
- Some way to randomize music files is essential.
- I'd like a decent FM tuner; this isn't essential.
- Apparently this is a pipe dream, but: a dedicated volume control sure would be nice.
- An intelligent user interface would be spiffy.
- I have no need for video support.
- Voice recording would be useless to me.
- I won't be subscribing to anything, so subscription-service compatibility is irrelevant.

Initial impressions
The Creative Zen Micro sounds promising, but the known headphone jack weakness worries me.

I feel as if I've heard good things about iRiver, but I don't know where that comes from.

iPod is the archetypal player. I'm not particularly opposed to it; is there any good reason for me to prefer it?

Now we come to you, dear reader. I'm looking for recommendations, for and against. If you've had a good or bad personal experience, or if you've heard specific advice for or against a particular player, I'd appreciate it if you'd leave me a comment.
Current Mood: hopefulhopeful
introverteintroverte on May 3rd, 2006 01:31 pm (UTC)
You already know more than I do
All I can tell you is, when I researched this last year I liked the iRiver on features. Then I went and tried a bunch in the store and I thought the controls on everything but the iPod sucked. That's why I have an iPod. I like it fine.
Andrew Greene530nm330hz on May 3rd, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC)
Almost echoing my wife here -- you must go to a store (or, alas, probably more than one) and find out how the spiffy UI features actually feel in your particular hand. I loved the Zen Micro on paper (well, on cnet.com) but I could not get the controls to behave. (My fingers apparently radiate a lot of heat, I also can't use laptop touchpads.)

The Rio is what I went with (great audio, good hand feel, real bookmarks, intuitive UI with real rocker switches and a hardware volume control knob), but alas they've exited the MP3 player business (they were a division of Harmon Kardon, the high-end speaker company).

I actually found that Music Match's plugin for the Rio, at least, would peg my CPU when I disconnected the player. No biggie, I'm perfectly happy to manually copy MP3 files from my hard disk to my MP3 player. (It shows up as a USB-connected removable hard disk to Windows.) Windows Media won't rip MP3s -- I'd certainly recommend continuing to use Music Match as your ripper.

Creative is now the owner of Cambridge Soundworks, so any CSW store will have plenty of Zens for you to try.
sings and wandersvioletcheetah on May 3rd, 2006 03:21 pm (UTC)
from a friend of mine's email
i can ask for more specifics if you want but he said, "I also got an ipod, which I love. Ironically, I had been holding off on that because I was worried about the compatibility with my PC and had gotten an iRiver which didn't want to communicate with my PC. No problems with the ipod at all."
Amy- ninja extraordinaire, bad monkeyninjamonkey73 on May 4th, 2006 01:35 pm (UTC)
2 more cents
I personally went with the Creative MuVo N200, but I had different requirements. I wanted a Gig, not very expensive, and FM radio. It's exactly what I was looking for, but I agree that you should try them in stores if you have any questions. I bought mine sort of sight unseen from Amazon (I had their 128MB model back in the day).

As far as iTunes and all that, I have it loaded on my work PC. It requires Windows XP and you can't get anything off of it without specifically an iPod or a CD burner, so caveat emptor. I loaded it here to purchase a song for a home video I was editing, only to find out I had no way of getting the song home. We don't have burners here and I had thought my MP3 player would suffice, but no. So I had my sister burn the songs for me (I don't have XP at home) since she already uses it. Problem mostly solved. The proprietary file type doesn't burn titles or anything that other players can read, so in Windows Media Player, the discs my sister burned were all Track 1, Track 2, etc.

Things to consider: FM was a deal-breaker for me. I wasn't going to buy a new one without it. Our gym has TVs that broadcast the sound on 3 different FM stations, so that's good have. Also, sometimes the radio is a nice change of pace from worn out albums. Second, I got one with an armband and belt clip. The last one I had only came with a dorky neckstrap that left it dangling on the mower when I did yard work, and it would swing around when I tried to exercise (since my sweats and gym shorts have no pockets). Also, user reviews are only so helpful (again why you should try one out). Mine was allegedly ocassionally glitchy, but a software patch was available to correct it.