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Thursday, 12 April 2007

Music To Go - Which Machine To Buy?

There are many different machines on the market for playing audio files. So, which one do you buy? Which is the best deal? Which will play what you want it to play, when you want it to play them. Which is most versatile?

I'm not going to tell you which specific make and model to buy, but I will tell you a few things to beware and be on the lookout for.

The media and the big advertising campaigns would make you think that Apple's iPod is the thing to get. Or, maybe a Sony machine. But there are major drawbacks here.

The most common music format is MP3 followed by WMA. Some machines will allow you to drag and drop these files onto your music player, or back. However, iPods and some others, make it so you have to convert the files to a format that can only be played on that machine - you can't copy this file back to your computer or to another computer or different music player. You want to look for a machine that you don't have to convert files for. If you have a machine that doesn't use any conversion, you have more freedom with what you can do with your music.

Batteries - iPods have the battery built into them, so when it goes (when it can no longer recharge), your iPod is gone. In other machines, you can use use regular or rechargeable batteries, so the battery life doesn't limit the life of your machine.

DRM - some machines, like iPods and Sony's, for example, don't allow you to copy certain music to them due to licensing issues (DRM) even if you own the CD you are getting the music from. But there are machines that don't have this problem.

Price: The biggest advertised and most talked about devices are also the most expensive. But why pay more for a device that
- you have to convert the music file format and then you can't use this file on anything else
- you are limited to what files you can convert to it
- is useless if the battery no longer charges

There are devices that cost less, give you total freedom regarding what files you can transfer, and what format, let you control the battery situation, and come with a lot more features (added FM radio and recording from FM radio, voice recording, direct MP3 encoding recording from a live audio source, display ...)

So, when you are shopping for a music player, keep these things in mind. Look for something that
- is reasonably priced
- requires no file conversion
- is not limited by DRM
- supports a variety of file formats
- allows replacing the battery easily and inexpensively
- has additional features you want (display, FM Radio, voice recording, direct live audio MP3 encoding, can be used for file storage, etc)
- works with your computer/operating system

Did I miss something? Add a comment.

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