MP3 Players Buyer's Guide
MP3 stands for MPEG-1 Audio Layer III and is a music compression format that reduces the amount of space needed to store songs digitally.
MP3 files can either be downloaded from the internet at a fraction of the cost of purchasing a CD, or you can convert your current CD collection into MP3 files via a PC using the software supplied with the MP3 or by using Microsoft Media Player.
The music is compressed by removing frequencies that are beyond a humans hearing; also the frequency spectrum is sampled at 128kbps not 44,100 as used on a CD.
Although this leads to a slight loss in quality, the human ear is very forgiving and using a number of other mathematical tricks, the sound quality is more or less the same.
An average converted MP3 track is anywhere from 3Mb - 5Mb depending on the software and compression.
Below is an estimate of how many songs you can fit on to an MP3 player, based on songs that are 4 minutes long converted in Stereo at a standard 128Kbps, if you use lower sample rates you can fit more on to the MP3 player.
Choosing an MP3, iPod or Portable Player
• Size - look for something small and light, especially if you want to use it whilst running and doing sport.
• Video - there’s not much point paying for a player with a four-inch full-colour widescreen display if you’re only going to use it while pounding the treadmill down the gym. But if you want to surf the net, catch TV shows or watch movies on the move, an audio-only model isn’t going to scratch your itch.
• Battery life - make sure you look at how long the player will run for when showing video and for playing music. It's also worth noting how long it takes to charge it up fully.
• Headphones - the headphones that come with the player may not be that good, perhaps they fall off or out of your ears too easily or maybe the sound is not that great. So factor in the price of a good pair of headphones into the cost price.
MP3 Player Types
JukeBox / Hard Disk MP3 Players
With the jukebox and HDD type of MP3 players the music is stored on a small hard disk drive, just like a PC, an example of this type of player is very popular Apple iPod.
• Store massive amounts of Audio.
• Easy to use menu system.
• Navigation of music Genre, Artist, Album search.
Solid State Memory MP3 Players
With this type the audio runs off a chip so there are no moving parts.
• This type of MP3 player provides convenience as you don't need to carry around extra memory cards.
• No skipping.
• Extremely durable & robust and very compact.
Expansion Slot MP3 Players
Expand your MP3 player’s memory capacity as needed.
• Flexible storage for your music and you can use different memory cards for different Albums or different types of music like Classical, Rock, Dance etc.
OLED - Organic Light Emitting Diode allowing for multi coloured text displays.
DRM - DRM stands for Digital Rights Management Copyright protection.
ATRAC - Sony's ATRAC (Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding) codec.
AAC - AAC (Advanced Audio Codec), developed by the MPEG group (including Dolby, AT&T, Sony, and Nokia) codec
WMA - Microsoft's Window Media format codec.
WAV - WAV files store digital music data in a lossless format, meaning the file will be digitally identical to its source. However, the result is a very large, uncompressed file.
MP4 - Video version of MP3; compressed video, movie files to play back on your player.
iTunes is a proprietary digital media player application, developed by Apple Computer, for playing and organising
digital music and video files.
LCD Screen - This is for viewing of the MP3 information and is normally back lit and coloured.
FM - Built in radio tuner.
Voice Recorder - Built in voice recorder for dictation and note taking.
Downloading MP3s from the Internet
There are many websites that have legal downloadable MP3 and WMA tracks and albums. You can easily search for a song title or album through a search engine and pay for the download.
Once downloaded to your computer you can easily transfer the track to your MP3 player. Some MP3 players e.g. iPod are supplied with their own software and down load sites with a huge library of tracks and albums and music genres available, in this case iTunes. Other sites to checkout for MP3 downloads are Tesco, Napster and iTunes.
Connecting your MP3 Player to your PC or Mac
The most common way to connect your MP3 player to a computer is via a USB port. The speed of the MP3 transfer to your device will depend on whether you have a USB 2.0 port and that your MP3 player is also USB 2.0. Other MP3 players may use the Firewire connections or both USB & Firewire. The majority of MP3 players are supplied with a USB cable, or have a USB connector integrated into the body of the player. The MP3 player should appear on your computer like a removable hard drive.
Your MP3 player should be supplied with software for transferring tracks from your computer to the player. It is always recommended that you take a note of your computers system specification before purchasing your player.
PCs with Windows 2000 or XP should not have any issues with the supplied software.
For Mac users operating system OSX10.1.5 or above is recommended.
Burning MP3s to CDs and DVDs
There are many CD players both personal and in-car players along with a number of DVD players which will playback MP3 tracks. The benefits of this are being able to burn up to 10 hours of MP3 music to a CD and over a 1000 MP3 tracks to a DVD.
The Legal Side of MP3
DRM or Digital Rights Management Copyright protection has been put in place to prevent unauthorised users from freely distributing content.
Digital Rights Management is important to publishers of electronic media since it helps ensure they will receive the appropriate revenue for their products. By controlling the trading, protection, monitoring, and tracking of digital media, DRM helps publishers limit the illegal propagation of copyrighted works. This can be accomplished by using digital watermarks or proprietary file encryption on the media they distribute. Whatever method publishers choose to employ, DRM helps them to make sure that their digital content is only used by those who have paid for it. Do not forget you can not record music to a CD that has been encoded with DRM. i.e. those from iTunes or Napster etc unless they have been paid for.
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