Face the Music; with a Mind-Boggling Range of MP3 Players on Sale, Michael Brook Selects the Best in Audio on the Move

By Brook, Michael | The Mail on Sunday (London, England), January 27, 2002 | Go to article overview

Face the Music; with a Mind-Boggling Range of MP3 Players on Sale, Michael Brook Selects the Best in Audio on the Move


Brook, Michael, The Mail on Sunday (London, England)


Byline: MICHAEL BROOK

The personal stereo has kept tapes alive for years now, when they should have gone the way of vinyl, but while cassette album releases are becoming rarer, blank cassettes are still selling by the skipload. But there are better mediums for your recorded music, such as the next generation of digital audio players, which offer you unprecedented storage capacity and sound quality.

Most of us will have heard of MP3, but current figures suggest that few of us actually own a portable MP3 player. This is thanks largely to the prices which, until fairly recently, were way above those of portable CD and tape players. Cassettes, however, age badly and it's impossible to preserve the quality of the recording, which will inevitably suffer over time.

The trend in digital audio is for MP3 players that contain hard drives, similar to those nestling inside your PC. Players such as the [pound]280 Creative DAP Jukebox, which houses a 6GB drive (enough capacity for around 150 albums' worth of music), the Thomson PDP2800 Personal Jukebox ([pound]300), with its 10GB drive, and the [pound]299 Archos Jukebox 6000, which crams in a 6GB hard drive and can record directly from any audio source, are taking over from first-generation players.

Early players stored MP3 files on memory cards and could typically hold only about six or seven tracks, so it's not difficult to see why they didn't set the high street alight. The latest players offer this huge capacity at the expense of size, although they're still no bigger than a portable CD player, while memory-card-based units are now as small as a packet of chewing gum.

Sony's NW-E10 Network Walkman is one such player and offers enough storage capacity for about 30 to 32 tracks. The problem is, if you want to listen to different songs, you have to erase the tracks on your PC and transfer some new ones to the player. There is software available from Sony that enables you to create a 'library' on your PC, from which you download the songs you want.

The Iomega HipZip takes a different approach and uses Pocket Zip discs, each of which has enough space to store about ten MP3 files.

If you don't want to carry around yet another gadget, you can always go for one of the convergence devices on the market. There are three mobile phones available that will play digital music files: the Sony MZ5, the Siemens SL45 and the Samsung SGH-M100. All three are fully functioning handsets and all have built-in MP3 players that stop the music when you receive a call, also allowing you to use the earphones as a hands-free kit when you're not listening to music. The SL45 and M100 come with 32MB of memory, whereas the MZ5 is equipped with 64MB, but it costs [pound]300 with a contract. The SGH-M100 can be bought for [pound]30 with a contract.

The modern equivalent of the Filofax, the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), also makes a useful MP3-playing device. …

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