Portable Mp3 players

I haven’t really kept up on this technological marvel and was wondering if anyone here could tell me who makes “the best” right now. I know that’s a really subjective request, but that’s fine, I’m just more curious about what features these devices boast nowadays and what I should be looking for.

First thing, you have to decide whether you want to play MP3s from memory cards, microdrives, or CDs.

CD’s hold 700Mb (several hours) worth of Mpegs, microdrives hold several GB (several days/weeks worth), and memory cards can hold up to 128MB (4 hours).

I’ve tested a couple of dozen, and by far the best overall is Apple’s iPOD. Amazing device. Top quality audio, up to 20GB of storage, and a good user interface. Firewire makes for fast file transfers, and you can even use it as a portable hard drive. (If you get one, use the free software from www.ephpod.com instead of MusicMatch.) It’s way more expensive than players from Archos and others, but you just have to try one to see why.

If you want a CD/MP3 player, the RioVolt is nice, as are the iRiver players.

For “solid state” players that use memory, one of my coworkers digs the tiny little Nomad MuVo. Haven’t tried it myself.

The new Nomad Zen looks pretty damn nice. I am really happy with my tiny,tiny Nomad II MG.

If you want to play your mp3 player through your home or car stereo, make sure there is a line out, not just a head phone out. Some of the smaller players sound like crap through anything but headphones. My Nomad sucks thru the stereo, the rio volt is great.


It depends on what you want. I am thinking of picking up the new Creative Labs Muvo for Christmas because I can also use it for storing data files. I already have a DiskOnKey, but the Muvo can come in handy - and plus, it will be my first portable MP3 player.

I have a Nomad 2c which, despite not having a Line-Out (re: Chet’s message) sounds really good through my car speakers… It also has 64MB onboard and can hold a 128MB Smartcard, which is a lot of music but naturally… I want more. I bought it because it has an onboard microphone and can hold an entire E3’s worth of interviews (even when it’s Garriott doing the talking :) ). For a little more you can get one of those gig or two models. Not exactly portable, but it’s nice, I imagine, having your entire MP3 collection with you.

You should also look into minidisc. its not nearly as convienient as a mp3 player using flash or a hardrive, but my main thing is that its smaller than a harddrive based player, somewhat cheaper, and you can carry many minidiscs with you. its sort of a halfway option between an flash based player and an ipod. if you get one, make you you have nerow/imagedrive and you get a netmd player. that will allow youto do faser than 1x transfers.

Smaller than most harddrive-based players, sure, but not the iPod…

I used to think the iPod’s price was crazy, till I tried one. Never before have I had such respect for an Apple product.

Does it have a microphone Denny?

The question I have about the minidisc players is do they skip? Naturally, I want to use this thing mainly for listening to music while I exercise, so if the thing’s going to skip everytime I joggle it, I’ll pass on the minidisc.

Also, considering some of these devices have hard drives in them, how stable are they? We all know how hard drives react to sudden jostles. I don’t want to buy the thing and immediately damage the hard drive. That would piss me off all to hell.

Man, that whole price point with the iPod has been my hesitation at looking at one. I was fine with the Archos as it’s much cheaper, but with all your praise for the iPod, I’m going to have to find somebody with one so I can check it out.

Does anyone own the Archos? It seems pretty nice. 20 GB and acts as a portable USB hard drive. It also comes with Musicmatch, which isn’t something I’m to keen on. You said that the iPod can use different software, can you do the same with the Archos?

No microphone on the iPod, alas.

The Archos isn’t terrible. We actually gave the Multimedia Jukebox version – which has an LCD screen and lets you view video files too – a B+ rating. The downside of most Archos models, though, is they only have USB 1.1 built in. So you’ll need to spend an extra $50 on a USB 2 or Firewire adapter for it, or plan to have the thing copy the files to the drive overnight while you sleep. I believe the Archos lets you copy files just using Windows explorer.

The iPod has a half-hour buffer, so no danger of it being jostled during exercise. It uses a PCMCIA hard drive that’s pretty rugged. I wouldn’t drop it on a cement floor, but I wouldn’t worry about damaging it during typical exercise use.

I was actually planning to get an Archos before I tried the iPod. The size alone was enough to push me to the iPod… It’s about the same size as my old Rio 500 flash player – fits in a pocket easily. The Archos uses a laptop hard drive, so it’s somewhat larger.

Thanks a lot for your input Denny. I am seriously considering the iPod now. I’ll have to buy a Firewire adapter for my PC (looking at an Adaptec one now) but I think it’s well worth it.


Happy to help. You should be able to get a hands-on look at an Apple dealer, and some Best Buys as well.

The thing’s so well engineered, it actually has earbud headphones that don’t suck. Never seen that before. :)

Note that the 10GB and 20GB units come with a wired remote and a belt case; the 5GB model doesn’t. Also, if the control disc spins, it’s an older, first-generation iPod. (Only available in the 5GB model). The newer ones have a touch-controlled disc, and should hold up better in the long run. I believe even the new 5GB models use this design.

If you look at the specs a netmd like the sony mzn1 is noticably, but not significantly smaller. it is significantly lighter however. you also get a much better remote than the ipod. I also would tend to think that skip protection is slightly better. i have an older model sharp sr-60 and it handled working out better than my friends old style 5gb ipod. If price is an issue, the minidisc has a slight edge there, around 300 w/ tax and shipping versus 500 for the ipod. i am not saying that you shoudl go minidisc all the time, but i just want to point out the ipod is not alway the best choice. Also, sharp miniscs are great for recording if thats your thing. they are the new device to make bootlegs.

yet another iPod deal from Dell: (from http://www.techbargains.com)

Does anybody have 20GB of mp3’s? Search for A0066806 to find the Apple iPod 20GB for PC priced at $499. Get to $500 with anything and apply code 3D7E14E03847 for $45 off $500.

Total is then $500 - 10% off - $45 coupon = $405 shipped

Search for “CDR” to make the total purchase $500.00

for the interested, this is the best price i have seen yet. i am seriously considering this…

Add my voice to the “Goddamn I fucking love my iPod” choir. Denny’s already sold the highlights. I just know two things:

It’s hella easy to use (use EphPod though, not MusicMatch), and breaking the 1000 song limit means I can’t go back to CDs or anything.

Yeah, I haven’t totally written off minidiscs yet and I’m going to do some more research on them. One of my friends said he’s going to buy one this weekend (I think he decided on some Sony model), so I’m going to check his out and see what it’s like.

Techbargains rules. Except for the stuff I’ve bought because it was such a great deal that I might otherwise have been able to resist. :-)

Does anybody have 20GB of mp3’s?

You bet. My MP3 directory sits at 22.3GB right now. Some of that is MP3-converted Audible.com audiobooks, though, which are pretty big. Add having finally gotten around to converting almost my entire CD collection at 160K bps…

Oh, one other cool thing about the iPod – if you like audiobooks for driving, etc, it plays content from Audible.com. The PC downloader isn’t available yet, just the Mac version, but you can use Ephpod to transfer Audible files now and they play just fine.

Note that if you don’t have 20GB of MP3s, you can get the 10GB model for $399. (The 5GB isn’t as good a deal, without the case or remote.)

I didn’t consider minidiscs because the transfer from computers is so slow. Having the entire MP3 collection right there on the iPod just rules, instead of having to make mix discs.

Yeah, transfers kinda suck. even with netmd and nero its just acceptable i.e. 4x SP 16x LP2 and 32x LP4. if you have a large collection ipod is the way to go. i just bring up the minidisc because when i travel, size is a definite concern. flash players are the smallest but i think they suck compared to both the ipod and the minidisc, losing out in storage and versatility in a big way to the other two.