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MP3 Players buying guide

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 MP3 Players Guide - An Introduction

An MP3 player is a digital audio player that can store, organize, and play audio files. Some may also offer the ability to view images or videos. It is the latest entry in the digital audio market place, generally replacing the portable CD player. Although the earliest digital audio player was developed in 1979 by UK’s Kane Kramer, his model was never commercially produced. The first mass-produced MP3 player was created in 1997 and originally offered 32 MB of storage capacity.

Most MP3 players use rechargeable batteries, although some have an optional external power adaptor. All come with a 3.5mm stereo jack for connecting headphones, ear buds, or external amplifiers. Some may also have internal speakers, although these usually provide very poor sound quality.

In recent years, MP3 players have followed the trend of other consumer electronics, with features increasing and prices decreasing rapidly. It is now possible to get considerably more storage capacity, plus added features like video and pictures, for much less money than you would have spent for a small capacity device even a couple of years ago.

With technology, features, and prices changing rapidly, you may be concerned that you won’t make the best decision. Price Inspector has got you covered. We have done the research to help you find exactly the right MP3 player at the cheapest price. Our buying guide will answer your questions, and our Inspectors work hard to bring you the best prices in the UK for whatever MP3 player you choose.

 Understanding MP3 player features

There are two primary types of MP3 players. Flash-based players are non-mechanical devices that use either internal or removable flash media memory cards. They are available with storage capacity up to 64 GB. Because they do not have any moving parts, they don’t use as much battery power. They may also be more resistant to dropping or disk errors.

The other main type is a digital jukebox that uses a hard drive. The files are downloaded directly onto the devices internal hard drive. The storage capacities are much higher than a flash-based player, offering as much as 250 GB. With this capacity, you could store ten of thousands of songs on your player. Of course, video or photo storage, if offered, takes more storage room than music files.

MP3 players usually have software to let you convert your CD collection to a playback format compatible with your player. The software will also let you organise the files by album, artist, or genre, and you can create your own play lists. The software will let you move content between your computer and MP3 player using a USB connection.

Some players offer a built-in volume limiter which helps protect your ears from listening to music at unsafe volumes. This may be a preset limit or one you can custom-set. Some also have a pass code option, which lets parents set the maximum volume for their children’s MP3 players.

The display options for MP3 players include the song title, track number, remaining memory capacity, and battery-life indicator. Optional display features include a list of tracks to scroll through for easy song selection. Some displays are monochrome, while others are full-colour. Full-colour models frequently offer picture or video display as well.

Popular Brands

There are several popular brands, with Apple’s iPod becoming nearly synonymous with ‘MP3 player’ in recent years. The brand dominates the market with 70 per cent of the players. Part of their success is due to its successful iTunes store, which only works with an iPod or iPhone. Some of their top models include the iPod Classic, which is a hard-disk player; the iPod Nano, a flash player; and the iPod touch a flash player that offers a large touch screen, Web browser, and wireless download capability. The tiny iPod Shuffle is perfect for inexpensive and portable playing, and it does not include a display. Storage capacities for the different iPods, ranging from a 2GB Shuffle to as much a 120GB iTouch.

Although they dominate the market, there are other brands besides Apple. Other good choices include:

  •  Archos is one of the top names in the personal video recorder, or PVR, market. Their players can record video, as well as play music, display photos and video, and store data. Their MP3 players are available in either flash or hard-disk players. There are also MP3 players that offer Archos Wi-Fi capability, and some have GPS navigation. 
  •  Creative was one of the earliest companies to offer an MP3 player. Their high-end Zen players offer full controls for playing music, videos, or pictures. At the lower end, they offer the MuVo line, which are smaller and offer fewer features. 
  •  Sony MP3 players, creator of the famous Sony WalkMan, is one of the best-known consumer electronics brands in the world. Their players often include volume limiters to protect the user’s hearing.
  •  Samsung MP3 players are all flash-based players. Some offer additional features such as built-in speakers or Bluetooth technology for answering your cell phone.

MP3 Player Accessories

Many people choose to buy accessories for their MP3 players, such as a docking stations or MP3 speakers. Some popular items include:

  • Bose iPod docking station Bose is well-known for their high-quality speakers and headphones. They bring the same quality to the iPod dock. The SoundDock is portable enough to take with you, even outside, and has a convenient handle for carrying. It uses rechargeable batteries or can plug into the wall. The SoundDock is compatible with the iPhone and most iPod models.
  • An iPod alarm clock lets you wake up or fall asleep to your favourite songs. Simply connect your iPod to the alarm clock base. The clocks feature the standard alarm clock options such as snooze, dimmer, and sleep settings. Some come with a remote control, and most will recharge your iPod while you sleep.
  • iLuv makes a full range of iPod accessories, including alarm clocks, ear buds, iPod speakers, and more.
  • The Intempo Digital RDI iPod Speaker Dock is a high-end iPod speaker system that includes built-in DAB/FM radio. It has powerful 30-watt speakers and a 15 watt sub woofer. The dock is retractable for clean lines. The dock plays and recharges your iPhone, and it includes a remote control.
  • When it comes to headphones, you have two primary styles to choose from: ones that insert in your ear canal or ones that surround your ear. Test out different models, both for comfort and for how you will use them. Some people think ear buds are more comfortable, while others prefer a padded ear cup.

Tips to consider before buying an MP3 Player

  • Most MP3 players use rechargeable batteries; however, some are not user-replaceable. If the internal battery fails, such as through storing in an overly hot location or letting it sit uncharged for extended periods, your player will not be usable. You will either have to replace the player, and possibly lose your downloaded songs, or take it to the store to have them replace the battery.
  • While all MP3 player players can play music, many also can play video or display pictures. Some can access the Internet, play games, or check email. When choosing your MP3 player, decide first which features are most important. For example, if your mobile phone has Internet capabilities, you may not want to pay extra for this feature on your MP3 player.
  •  If you use a Macintosh computer, you may need to stick to the Apple line of MP3 players. All MP3 players are compatible with a Windows PC, but you are more limited if you’re a Mac user.
  • Consider how much storage capacity you need. A general rule is that an MP3 player with more storage will cost more. You don’t want to over-pay by buying capacity you’ll never use, but you also don’t want to buy too little. Depending on your budget, it’s better to err slightly on the side of caution by buying too much capacity.
  •  Many MP3 players offer the ability to upgrade the player’s built-in operating instructions. This is a good feature that keeps the player from becoming obsolete, as well as fixing bugs, enhancing or adding features, or adding support to your other operating systems. This feature is especially important for MP3 players that have video capabilities, as video formats are still evolving.

Jargon Explained

MP3 This is a compressed audio format used to download music on the Internet. Portable electronic devices that can play MP3 files are known as MP3 players. The music is compressed into a smaller file format, so you will not get CD-quality sound with an MP3 player. How much the file is compressed will determine whether the sound quality differences are noticeable or not.
MP4 This is similar to MP3, but it supports video files. You may see this term on MP3 players that offer video capabilities.
GB A measure of the storage capacity for your MP3 player. A gigabyte, or GB, is equal to 1,000 megabytes, or MB. The original MP3 players offered 32 MB of storage, while modern MP3 players can hold as much as 250 GB, which would be 250,000 MB. The higher the GB, the more it can store. The general guideline to the number of songs is that you can get about 250 songs per GB. A 2 GB player holds 500 songs, while 250 GB could hold 62,500. Of course, pictures and video would take more room.
RipWhen you store a song on CD, it’s called ‘burning’ it to CD. Along the same lines, you ‘rip’ a song by storing it on your MP3 player, whether you’re downloading from the Internet or transferring from CD.
USB A connector port that lets you connect your MP3 player and computer for file transfers. A USB2 is a newer, faster version.

Buying Guide to MP3 Players
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