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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

MP3 Player Buying Guide

By: The Editors at TigerDirect

Thanks to the wonders of digital technology, music and entertainment has never been more portable. It seems like everyone has an MP3 player, and it’s now your turn to get in on all the fun. MP3 is an audio technology that was developed to compress CD-quality sound, and its development has ignited a revolution in the way we listen to music. With a portable MP3 player you can play music you’ve downloaded from the Web or from your own CD collection. If you’re looking to join the growing of people seeking the incredible convenience of a digital audio player, you face a daunting number of choices. Do you go for the fancy features or the basics? What do you need and what can you do without? To help you decide, we’ve listed 8 features and characteristics you ought to consider in order to make an informed choice. (continued...)

1. Storage - Most MP3 players use one of two storage formats - hard drive and, flash memory. Some units utilize recordable CDs, though these are becoming increasingly rare. The more storage capacity your player has the more music it can accommodate. To determine which type of storage you should select, you need to evaluate how you’re going to use your player. Are you going to use it while exercising? Or will you keep the player in a stationary spot, such as your work cubicle?

Hard Drive Players
Hard-drive based players - commonly called Jukebox Players - hold the most storage - literally thousands of files. They are the most versatile digital audio players on the market, offering the latest digital audio software to play and arrange your music. Unfortunately, hard drive models generally have moveable parts, which can cause skips when you’re active. Also, hard drive players are larger than flash players. However, if you are likely to keep your player in one place all the time, then hard drive players are a reasonable choice.

Flash Drive Players
Flash memory players are solid-state devices. They are the most popular among digital audio players, because they’re small enough to fit in your pocket and since they contain no moveable parts, your music does not skip while you’re pounding the pavement when you are jogging. The downside to flash storage is the fact that they can’t carry more than several hours of music unless you add a memory card. Most players have expansion slots that allow you to add more memory. Regardless of which type of storage you choose, always try to select the largest-capacity device you can afford. The general rule is one megabyte of space equals one minute of high-quality playback. For example, a player with 64MB of memory offers about an hour of music.

2. Computer Compatibility and Connections - This governs how your digital audio player communicates with your PC. Your primary connectivity options are USB and FireWire, which require special cabling that goes from the player to your computer. These cables sometimes are included with your MP3 player’s packaging. When you purchase an MP3 player make sure your computer has the minimum system requirements necessary to work with the player.

3. File Types - Make sure you know what types of music files your player support. When music is copied onto your PC from a PC or downloaded from a web site, the type of file it’s saved at can vary and end up as any number of formats, such as .wav, which may or may not be supported by your player. If possible, look for a player that supports a variety of formats such as MP3, WMA , AAC and OCG, which will give you more listening options.

4. Display - Make sure you can see your screen clearly. Because displays on MP3 players are usually quite small, this can be a problem. You’ll want to be able to see what music is playing and how to navigate through your control options.

5. Software - Most digital audio players come with software that allows you to create play lists and copy files. Look for software that’s simple to use, with clear instructions and easy-to-use interfaces.

6. Power options - Many digital audio players feature a built-in rechargeable battery. While this option is great for extended play, the rechargeable batteries can be difficult to remove. This can be a problem if you’re not near a power outlet or a computer that has a USB port. Other players use replaceable alkaline batteries. The downside about batteries, is the fact that MP3 players use a lot of power and can run through batteries quickly.

7. FM Tuner - This is a nice option to have, especially in many modern gyms that feature television monitors tuned in to specific FM formats. It’s also a nice change of pace from your customized music selections.

8. Carrying Case - If your MP3 player is small and fragile it’s a good idea to have a good case to protect it.

Simple Downloading and Copying Tips!
There are two ways to find music for your MP3 players - from your CD and on the Internet. As you probably know, it is illegal to share copyrighted music. Fortunately, there are numerous free online sites you can locate through your search engine. However, you usually will have to pay a fee in order to download popular music. Your computer has the capability to play MP3 players using Windows Media Player or QuickTime for Macintosh. There are other media player programs available, many of which you can download for free from the Internet. Converting CD tracks to MP3 files is called ripping. This is a process that your Windows Media Player can perform; it uses Microsoft’s WMA format, which is similar to MP3 and will work with most digital audio players.

Downloading Audio Files from the Internet to your PC
Downloading MP3 and other audio files from the Internet is as simple as downloading any other digital data file. Once you have identified the link, right-click on it, then choose "Download Link To Disk," "Save Target As," or "Save Link As" (depending on your browser). If your mouse only has one button, click and hold down until the necessary menu pops up. If you're using a Mac, you can also hold down the Control key and click to bring up the menu. Finally, select a location on your computer and save the file. Note that the MP3 files are quite large and may take a long time to download, especially with a slow connection.

Ripping Tracks from CD
(Note: the information in this section is based on the Rio Music Manager. Procedures will vary according to the music manager software that accompanies your digital audio player. We provide this information to offer a general description of how to convert your CD selections to audio files that are compatible with your digital audio player.)

In order to convert your music to MP3 files you rip them off your CD and then encode them onto the new format. Various software programs exist to perform this function, and many digital audio players include these applications. The following instructions are based on Rio Music Manager for the Rio Forge MP3 player. Rio Music Manager is an all-in-one solution that can rip, encode and manage entire collections of digital audio tracks. To copy tracks using Rio Music Manager, launch the music manager, insert an audio CD into your CD-ROM drive, click the CD-ROM icon on the Rio Music Manager Device List, select the track you want to enter, then click the appropriate icon to begin copying the tracks to your computer. It’s as simple as that! Of course, instructions will vary from software program to software program, but we wanted to give you a general idea how easy it is to rip music from your CD and convert them into MP3 files.

Transferring Tracks
Transferring tracks from the PC to the MP3 player using Rio Music Manager involves selecting tracks, then transferring them to the player. Launch the music manager, click My Music in the left frame to access tracks. The music manager then scans your computer’s hard drives for digital audio files that are compatible with your player. Files are automatically categorized by album title and displayed in the Track List. Then you can select tracks within a category of tracks including Albums, Artists, Genres, Songs and Playlists.

Transferring Tracks using Windows Explorer
This procedure is as simple as Copy and Paste! Connect your player to a PC using a USB cable. Double-click My Computer on the Windows Desktop or in the Start Menu, locate MP3 or WMA audio files on the computer, highlight files and/or folders to transfer to the player, click Edit, click Copy. Double-click My Computer to open another window. In the new window located the Rio Forge icon that is associated with the Rio Forge. Double-click Rio Forge or Removable Disk. Click Edit. Click Taste.

Article Source: TigerDirect

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