Buying Guide to MP3 Players

And Thomas Edison said “Let there be records.”âÂ?¦And it wasn’t good enough. Neither were eight tracks, cassette tapes, CDs, Mini Discs…

Until – finally – there was born a music system that let you take your entire music collection in your shirt pocket. And it was good. Really good.

MP3 technology has been the cause of outright revolution in the music industry. And whichever side of the digital divide you’re on, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of people are excited, for one reason or another, about file compression. But what if you haven’t yet joined the digital music age? If you’re just diving in to the whole portable MP3 mess, you’ll likely find your head soon after you start your search. But knowing what you want out of your MP3 player can help you make sense of it all. So before you flock to the nearest iPod or cheapo music player, take a few minutes to ask yourself these questions.

What kind of user am I? Or more specifically, “where am I going to use this thing?” You don’t have to be a specific kind of person to enjoy a digital music player, but your user habits can help point you in the right direction when you’re trying to pick one.

If you know you’re going to be using your player mostly in the car, you may want to consider a hard drive-based player, since size won’t be much of an issue. Hard drive players are also the best choice if you’re looking for volume or long battery life, especially if size doesn’t bother you much. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something small to take to the gym or that will be constantly on the go, you might want to consider the smaller capacity (but considerably space-saving) flash drive models. While they may not give you the longest battery life or the biggest memory size, they’ll go anywhere, and you’ll barely know they’re with you.

Where do I get my music? It may not seem so, but this can be a determining factor in your digital music decision. Why? Well, if you’re an iTunes junkie, you’re probably going to have to go with an iPod, since iTunes currently syncs only with Apple products. Not that iPods are bad players by any stretch. But if you were hoping to devote your almighty dollars to another player, you may end up sacrificing either your music files or your choice of players based on your iTunes dependence.

iTunes (and a lot of other developers) have created their own types of compressed files that allow only software licensed by them to play that file type. Luckily, not everyone’s doing this, but it’s an important thing to look at when considering whether or not you’re going to buy a specific player or brand of player.

What extra features do I want/need? With few exceptions (iPod being foremost among them) most MP3 players have a bevy of features. Long past are the days when players simply played music. Nowadays, many of them have recording features and onboard tuners, photo viewers, video viewers, slideshow functions, and a ton more. In some cases (perhaps “increasingly” is the word), today’s MP3 players seem as much like PDAs as they do mini jukeboxes.

What does my budget look like? Once you’ve compiled your list of wants and needs in the form of a few players, this is where the knife has to hit the block. This method of putting the budget last isn’t meant to crush any dreams, but it allows you to explore what you really want and need without worrying too much about budget. Plus, if there comes a time you’re ready or able to upgrade, you’ll already have an idea of both what you want and what you’ll likely have to spend to get it.

Remember to never spend more than you reasonably can in this venture. There are digital music players at almost every price point now, and while they vary somewhat in quality and usability, there are a lot of solid players for not all that much money (in comparison to the industry standard iPod, in any case).

While a good MP3 won’t shake your world, it can surely make it a lot more fun. Especially when you’ve found just the right player to bob your head to, everything you do will seem to have a soundtrack that fits your taste perfectly.

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