MP3 Player (what to buy)?

Chewy509

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Well, with Christmas upon us, I've finally decided to get myself an mp3 player as a present for myself.

I've looked around, but with the market now flooded with different models, not too sure what's good, what's crap and what will work with my setup... Most reviews don't focus on the nitty details, and emails to pre-sales support largely go answered or don't contain the info I'm after. (I did like the recent Ars review on the new iPod though).

Basic requirements:
Small and light (iPod Shuffle comes to mind - and I do like the arm-band for the iPod idea).
min 24-36hr play time.
Use either AAA batteries or recharge from USB, (no separate docking station).
1GB - 2GB space, 4GB would be ideal.
Supports VBR encoded mp3's. (I've read quite a few don't like VBR).

Now the catches:
Must be compatible with FreeBSD 6.1 (AMD64) and Windows XP x64. (I use XMMS, and WMP11 respectively).
Must be able to store non-music files (eg word docs, etc). eg I can mount the device as a removable USB drive.
Not require complete ID Tags in the mp3 files, (eg usable by filename alone).
Reasonable support here is Australia.

Cost - well reasonable, I am willing to spend some extra $$$ if it's worth it. (eg the player is indestructible, as I do some distance running and long hikes).

The good thing is, I have absolutely NO brand preference.

PS. Some of you may recognise me from SR... Like some others, I've recently become disillusioned with the current state of things over at SR.
 

ddrueding

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Chewy, yes I recognise you from way back in the day. Good to see you around. I like the iPods because of the great interface. Unfortunatly, the Shuffle doesn't have the interface; and I have no experience with other players.

Mainly just wanted to say hi, and wish you luck finding any info on *BSD compatability ;)
 

Chewy509

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Chewy, yes I recognise you from way back in the day. Good to see you around. I like the iPods because of the great interface. Unfortunatly, the Shuffle doesn't have the interface; and I have no experience with other players.

Mainly just wanted to say hi, and wish you luck finding any info on *BSD compatability ;)
Hi ddrueding,
It's good to see some familiar names here! Admittedly I've been pretty quiet recently (on all boards I'm a member of), more lurking than posting.

As for *BSD compatibility, I'm pretty sure if you can use Linux, then *BSD won't be a problem...
 

mangyDOG

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Check out the Legend Jazz here.

Small, cheap, usb interface with no special software required and add as many SD cards as you like to increase storage.

Cheers,
mangyDOG
 

Mercutio

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I have a Creative Zen Microphoto. Of the things I've used (I had an original 30GB iPod and several generics). I have all of maybe four MP3s on it since it doesn't support Ogg Vorbis or FLAC, but I use it as a flash drive all the time. I've never installed any software on ANYTHING to use it. I just plug it in and copy files to it. Very simple.

It recharges from USB. Lasts maybe 12 hours on a charge. I have no idea about ID3 tags or support in the land of beer and koalas, though.
 

Adcadet

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For my wife and 50-something year old mother I had them go with USB drive-based MP3 players that they can just plug into a USB port and drag and drop songs onto (in Windows, at least). In both cases I went with a Creative device, and both work reasonably well. But it sounds like you want something a little larger. My wife has this one: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16855102235
 

Chewy509

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Well, today has been a bit slow at work, so spent the last few hours reading reviews, etc...

I've come down to 3 models:
1. Apple iPod Nano (2nd Gen). Small and light, and v.popular. (AU$219 for 2GB, AU$299 for 4GB)
2. Creative Zen V Plus 2GB. FM Tuner, Video Playback, and voice recording. Only rated at 15hrs battery. (AU$269)
3. iRiver Clix 2GB. Same features as Creative and has 25hr battery life. Has mini games as well! Downside requires WMP10 or WMP11. (AU$259)

Prices are RRP.

Any other recommendations? I'll be heading down to Harvey's and a few of the other retailers this weekend to have a play with each...
 

Chewy509

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Just as a quick follow on. Both the Creative and iRiver products listed don't support UMS (USB Mass Storage aka you can't mount the devices as a drive), so are limited to using the MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) to sync music to/from the device. eg you need WMP10 or WMP11 to use those products.

Thankfully, libmtp (provides MTP connectivity) and Gnomad2, MTPDude and XNJB all provide MTP front-end support for these devices on *nix systems. :cheers:

So at least I'm covered software wise, just need to choose a unit that suites me.
 

Mercutio

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That's one of the reasons I specifically bought a Zen Microphoto, though it sounds like it might be bigger than you want.

I've even done wacky stuff like run a TrueImage restore from one.
 

Sol

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Last time I almost felt crazy enough to buy an MP3 player (crazy 'cause I don't listen to music) I looked at some gear from Cowon. They seem to have a really good reputation for audio quality and support flac and ogg out of the box as well as working with macOS and Linux (I'm guessing via mass storage driver, but I'm not 100%).

At any rate the 4GB iaudio6 seems like it would fit the bill for you. I've seen Cowon stuff in the good guys in Australia so I know they have some support but I don't know how good it is.
 

Chewy509

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Well, went out and had a look and play with a whole stack of different models, including those listed above.

End the end I bought the iRiver Clix, and managed to get the accessory kit thrown in for no cost (normally AU$30). The accessory includes protective screen silks, an arm band (for those of us that are pretty active), neck chain and a rubber protective cover...

Pros: Super easy interface (who reads the manual anyway), supports all the items I need, and integration with WMP11 is near perfect. Took about 15mins to get it working under FreeBSD as well, (using mtpdude and libmtp), however FreeBSD functionality is limited to transfering files to/from only, no playlist editing, etc. Ogg is supported with current firmware as well! :)

The unit has no problem with mp3's that don't have ID tag info, it just lists them under "Unknown Artist" folder, and sorts the files alphabetically. Playback of VBR mp3 files has been flawless.

Also the video playback (with the vid's that come with the unit) are *very* good. But the 2.2" screen isn't that big, so not really for watching vid's.

FM Tuner is very good as well, and (something I didn't know) you can record the FM station as well.

Music quality is pretty damn good for what the unit is. Audio quality was never a big thing, but this little unit is impressive in this department.

Cons: Haven't been able to work out exactly which MPEG4 format is supported (I know it's not divx, guessing wmv so will need to reinstall the wm9 encoder package), but admittedly haven't hit the iRiver forums yet... I also managed to crash it, while sync'ing music in WMP11, and then in Explorer decided to copy some files to the unit at the same time. Not a big one anyway, just have to remember only do one thing at a time.
 

Chewy509

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Cons: Haven't been able to work out exactly which MPEG4 format is supported (I know it's not divx, guessing wmv so will need to reinstall the wm9 encoder package), but admittedly haven't hit the iRiver forums yet...
Stupid me, stuffed up the FourCC signature. (Had it set to FMP4, and not DIVX)

It'll play just about any MPEG4 stream, provided that the FourCC is set to DIVX, and the res is 320x240, no more than 384Kbps (video), and audio is 44.1Khz @ 128Kbps (mp3).
I also managed to crash it, while sync'ing music in WMP11, and then in Explorer decided to copy some files to the unit at the same time. Not a big one anyway, just have to remember only do one thing at a time.
Another problem, and this one lays squarely with WMP11, is WMP11 doesn't recheck what's on the device on each connection, instead using it's own cache of *what* it thinks is on the device... So if you use multiple sync sources, then get used to deleting the WMP11 cache. :( (There is a M$ KB article on this).
 

Fushigi

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Honoring our fine tradition of thread resurrection..

I'm considering picking up an MP3 player now. Partly for the wife to use on our upcoming vacation but also for me to use. Still in the early stages so I haven't nailed down the feature set just yet. Not sure if I want one that'll do video or if I'd ditch that in favor of a smaller form factor. There's no way I'll load iTunes on any PC in my house so iPods are basically out. Besides, in the grand scheme of things Apple seems no less evil than Microsoft (Zune is out as well).

BTW I have a Treo that can play MP3s easily enough, but it's limited in capacity to an SD (not SDHC) card.

On the video-capable front I'm leaning towards the Archos 605 w/WiFi. Which size hard drive is TBD. Although the 80GB unit is more reasonable it's not that much of a price jump to the 160.

If I minimize video as a desired feature, it seems the Best Buy house brand Insignia Pilot w/8GB Flash is decently reviewed.

I have over 50GB of MP3s with some CDs not ripped yet. Probably another 7-10GB worth from my wife. So a drive-based player sounds nice as we could dump everything there and not worry about having to choose what to take with us. Also, $ per GB, drive based units are cheaper than flash-based. So I'm leaning towards the Archos but am not sure if I'll really like the form factor or if it'll feel too big.

As to where we'll use it, for starters it'll be at the pool and in a hotel room. Maybe in the future it'd connect to a car stereo but neither of our vehicles is so equipped right now. It would not be worn while running/jogging but may be while bike riding. In short it should see relatively gentle handling.

What are people currently doing in this space?
 

LunarMist

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I got a Zen Stone Plus (2GB) recently. It is quite small/lightweight for a unit with a display and works well. Battery life is only 8.5 hours, though it charges in about 90 minutes according to my tests.
 

Stereodude

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I ordered and then canceled an iPod Classic 160GB recently.

The 16GB Sansa View for $200 looks promising (not quite out yet).
 

time

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I doubt you can get these in America, but I recently bought a FunTwist D-Chord for one of my kids (model 328, I think). It's surprisingly good; other family members (including me) now covet one.

Sound quality, to my fading ears, is pretty damn good. It does a good job playing MP4 video as well. Battery life is about 15 hours for music (haven't managed to flatten it yet) and the lithium battery charges via USB.

Obviously, being non-Apple, no special software is required to transfer files to and from it.

At such a low price (probably <$US50 for 1GB, not much more for 2GB etc), I don't expect it to last, but in my experience, portable music players don't seem to have much of a useful life anyway. We've had several MP3 players, but this one is unbelievably tiny and very cool.
 

Mercutio

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That device looks and has capabilities that are awfully similar to my phone, including the touchscreen and microSD support. My phone retails for $500.

Makes me wonder how much of my phone's price is in the Windows mobile license; 64MB RAM, the radio transceivers and the CPU certainly don't add up to $450 extra.
 

Fushigi

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Played with a Sansa e280 over lunch today. Also briefly looked at the Creative Zen W. While I really want the tons-o-storage from a drive-based unit I'm thinking the overall form factor of the flash-based units fits better with how I'm envisioning using the device. The drive-based units pack a lot of features in but they are pretty big. Bigger than I was anticipating for some reason. Almost too big to stuff in a pocket.

I'll drag the wife out sometime this weekend and get some feedback from her. I'm guessing she'll concur and we'll end up with the Sansa or the Insignia. Maybe get 2 so we each have one.
 

timwhit

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I still don't think any of them can hold a candle to the interface of the iPods.
I think the new iPod nanos look pretty good. I just wish they had more memory. I don't really like iTunes, but I can tolerate it to put music on my iPod. I only use it maybe once a month to switch some stuff out. It's a bit slow, but it works fine otherwise.
 

ddrueding

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As has been stated in other threads here, you don't need iTunes to use an iPod. In fact, I think anyone would be a fool to install software written by Apple on their PC. Ephpod. Get it, use it, love it. ;)
 

Stereodude

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As has been stated in other threads here, you don't need iTunes to use an iPod. In fact, I think anyone would be a fool to install software written by Apple on their PC. Ephpod. Get it, use it, love it. ;)
Unfortunately, it doesn't work with the new iPods. The vast majority of them don't.
 

ddrueding

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I suppose my views on the interface are biased. I know the menus, and I know the control wheel. I can operate any iPod while it is in my pocket or while drivng without thinking about it. Although you may not be able to do that now, it is inherent in the interface that you could at some point soon.

Just make sure that the device you get has controls that can be differentiated/operated without looking.
 

Fushigi

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The View does look pretty cool. I can hold out a couple more weeks to see if the View makes it to the street but my vacation is in early November & I'd like time to get familiar with whatever I buy beforehand so I really will want to buy a player no later than 10/15 or so.
 

Fushigi

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Went to Circuit City & Best Buy last night with my wife and the intent to check out player interfaces to make sure they'd get the WAF. As the View isn't yet on the market we looked at the Sansa e200 series. She didn't have any issues with the controls and seemed to like the form factor. After me raising the idea I believe she's buying in to the idea of getting one (v. tolerating me buying another toy).

Of course we were approached by the sales dudes. At CC the guy had an iPod preference but I told him up front that they were out of contention since iTunes will never grace any system in my house. So we discussed Creative, Sandisk, and the others in passing. Quickly dismissing the non-mainstream brands ("98% lead, 2% non-deadly metals") he didn't have good things to say about Creative. Said they were more difficult to get music to them and they had a higher failure rate. My research would neither confirm nor refute his assertion so I chose to accept it for the moment. Nothing particularly bad to say about the Sansas. No demo headphones available to use on the players for some reason.

We went on to discuss headphones and he was helpful enough. My wife won't use buds as she can never get them comfortable. So for her I'm looking at $50+ for a set of over-the-ear headphones. Recommendations welcome.

After that we went across the street to BB and the guy was again helpful. Said I was interested in the Sansa and after he mentioned it was the #2 seller behind Apple he went on to say a new model was going to be coming out. I told him it was called the View (he hadn't known the name). He went off and checked for when they'd get it and said the 21st.

No hurry or pressure to get something now at either store. So overall I have to be reasonably impressed by the relative knowledge they displayed and they way they didn't try to steer us towards or away from anything in particular. Granted we're talking about sub-$200 gadgets but I was prepared to be BSed and wasn't.

So we're pretty sure we can hold off on buying until the 21st. Depending on price I may have to buy it retail to ensure we have enough time to get comfortable with it before our vacation. In the mean time we need to decide on decent headphones & get busy ripping the discs we want to take with us. And probably get a micro SDHC to expand the capacity even more.
 

Gilbo

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I spent quite a while looking around and researching; I ended up getting a Sansa Express. It's the size of a large USB thumb-drive and it can plug right into a USB port without a cord or a dock which I have found is much more useful than one might initially think. It also allowed me to get rid of the thumb-drive on my keychain which was nice. I have too much stuff in my pockets as it is.

It has a MicroSD slot too, which allows it to act as a card reader in PCs that lack one. If you use MicroSD cards in your digicam with an adapter you always have a reader with you that can plug into any PC with a USB port. I've gotten used to that and I'm shocked at how useful it is (it's remarkable how many people don't have card readers on their computers). Because of this I can keep a bunch of MicroSD cards around and not worry about having to read them wherever I go; I've always got my MP3 Player. It also has all the usual MP3 player features, acts as a voice recorder, has radio, etc., but it's turned out to be quite useful in a variety of ways that I didn't anticipate. I haven't used the Voice Recorder though.

What I really need these days is a tiny MicroSD card wallet... Can't find one anywhere. What would be ideal would be a thin, credit card form-factor holder that you just drop them into and can keep in your wallet. Anyone seen something like that?

On the Sansa e280, my brother got one to replace a Nano of his that died (previous generation to this one) and he's very pleased with it. I don't really know any details beyond that. I assume the UI is quite nice though, because he would be bothered by it otherwise --I can't speak from personal experience though. He got an 8GB model on some ridiculous sale at Future Shop (something like CAN$100 off). Cost was on par with a 2GB Nano...
 

Gilbo

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Oh ya, the Sansa Express also has physical controls for everything you regularly need. I like physical buttons & switches so that was important to me. A lot of compact players have problems in this respect IMO. With this one I didn't need to look at the screen to make it do what I wanted.
 

Fushigi

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I've seen the 8GB e280 as low as US $112 but it's hovering around $140 now. The 16GB View is supposed to retail @ $199.

The e-series and the upcoming View use the rotating dial thing but there are buttons for basic ops like play/pause, ff/rw, etc. so while playing a song you wouldn't have to look at the screen. Only when managing/selecting your media.

As to MicroSD, I'm going to pick this up today.
 

Mercutio

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Said they were more difficult to get music to them and they had a higher failure rate.
May I just say that the methods for adding music to Creative Players are exactly the same as methods for adding music to Sandisk?
You use Windows Media Player. That's it. It's the same for both. The bundled software with any MP3 player is going to be worthless if you're trying to use that.

My personal preference is to use players that just show up as mounted filesystems, which is what my phone and my Creative Zen do, but more or less every single thing that is not an iPod just magically works with WMP.
 

Gilbo

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The Sandisk players show up as mounted disks. I don't use Windows Media Player with them at all. Just dump your music in the music folder, drag your recordings out of the recordings folder.
 

time

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A few days ago, I needed to capture a Real Audio stream. The server used the PNA protocol. I tried 4 or 5 different software utilities but none worked successfully.

Then I remembered that the FunTwist D-Chord player I mentioned earlier has a Line-In socket (the unit helpfully comes with an audio cable to suit). Plugged it into the PC Line-Out, selected MP3 as the recording format, Line_In as the source, accepted the default bitrate etc, and pressed Record.

Three minutes later, job done. Why the hell can't software work this easily? What sort of god-forsaken netherworld are we in for with HDMI?
 

MaxBurn

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Guess I will chime in as I am very happy with a recent purchase but it all comes down to what you use the thing for, and I decided to combine the MP3 thing with a ebook reader and GPS so I went with a pocket PC and an 8gig SD card. I got an ASUS A696 and I am very happy with it, so glad I didn't go ipod.

Best part is all the third party apps out for pocket PC, many free too. For example total commander allows me to map directory's (sort of) so you can play music right off another computer without moving it first, so if you somehow find a 8 gig card restrictive I just do that.

Not a cheap route and there are smaller players but the flexibility is what gets me on this thing.
 
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