Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Make the Right Move to Stay in the Groove; MP3, MiniDisc, CDs - What's Next for the Portable Music Scene?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Make the Right Move to Stay in the Groove; MP3, MiniDisc, CDs - What's Next for the Portable Music Scene?

Article excerpt


IN the beginning was the word, and the word was Walkman. How we survived a Tube journey before Sony s 1979 epiphany, God only knows. But now portable music heaven has turned into a living hell. So many formats to choose from MP3, MiniDisc, CD. Which will be your saviour? Choose the wrong format and you ll end up with the personal stereo equivalent of a Betamax video recorder. Choose the right one and you could still get burned because technology is changing every two minutes. What will happen to your MP3 player if MP3 goes out of fashion? Here s our guide to find a portable flexible enough to move with the times.

MP3 players store music as computer files you can use a PC to copy songs from a CD or download them from the internet. The players are small and they don t skip. Each megabyte of memory is enough for a minute of music at near-CD quality (in theory, it s not as good as a CD, though in practice you can t tell). You can squeeze 1.5 minutes into each megabyte more compression than that sounds dire.

The problem with MP3 is that new file formats are coming along all the time: more compressible and copy-proof formats supported by record companies. To protect yourself against change, buy an agnostic MP3 portable that can be updated. The Rio 800 (around [pound]299, on sale this month) i tiny, agnostic and has 128Mb memory, giving you at least two hours of tunes.

Memory is getting cheaper, so only buy a player that lets you add more later. The Rio does this effortlessly you swap the back cover to add memory. Later this year, a Data-Play Rio backpack (around [pound]250) will revolutionise this. DataPlay discs, barely bigger than a [pound]2 coin, hold 500Mb (more than eight hours) and cost around [pound]10 each.

MP3 jukeboxes store even more music but they re bigger, around the size of a portable CD player. The current best seller is the Creative Jukebox ([pound]379), which is agnostic and holds 6Gb (more than 100 hours). New accessories make it easy to use in the car and to turn into a ghetto blaster.

But you re better off waiting until the autumn for its successor, which will be two thirds the size and will be able to store at least twice as much music for about the same price. Even better, you can plug it into a CD player and copy music directly.

A jukebox is the best in-car MP3 choice for the foreseeable future dashboard players can cost thousands of pounds. A jukebox can be plugged into an existing car stereo via a cassette adaptor or a line-in socket, if you have one. You can also buy a Rome MP3 ([pound]149.95 from, a bizarre portable player shaped like a cassette. You can plug in headphones to use it while you re on the move, or stick it in a cassette player. It s very cute but only has 32Mb of memory (upgradeable to 64Mb) and is not agnostic. …

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