So you’re in the gym and see nearly everyone with some device strapped his or her arm. It looks like the remote control to your kid’s TV. The guy in the cube next to you at work always has his headphones on, his fingers drumming to a raucous beat that only he can hear. You take the kids to visit your mom and even grandma has one.
What’s the world coming to? Are you the only person without one of these media player things? What’s it all about? Where did they come from? What are the differences between these media players?
History of the Digital Music Revolution
For a long time, everyone was happy with cassette tapes. The Walkman had it’s foothold on the world. Then, in a galaxy far away, well actually less than twenty years ago and in Munich, Germany, the Moving Picture Expert Group Layer III (MP3) file format was created. The folks at the Franunhofer Institute began researching this technology in the late 1980s. In 1989 they received a German patent for the MP3 followed by a United States patent in 1996. Within a couple years the whole world began to see and use MP3s, triggered timely by the popularity of ‘Napster’ (the first free one), and players to allow people to take their music with them began popping up everywhere, until the iPod came along and took a huge portion of the market – tying it to their online download service, iTunes.
Today, the choices are increasing in number and format. Prices start at under $10 for a sizable flash based player – so it’s a buyers market.
Which Media Player is for you?
With hundreds of media players on the market, finding the one that meets your needs can be a confusing and daunting experience. So we’re here to help you simplify the process. When choosing your player, there are several factors you must consider before you purchase, including features, compatibility with online music services, capacity, size, and type of player.
Lets start with which type of player fits your lifestyle and needs. You’ll find two primary types of media players on the market today — Flash (Memory) based and Hard Disk based. There is a distinctive difference between these two types of players and each has its respective benefits and drawbacks. Lets begin with the Flash based player.
Flash Based Players
If you like to workout, jog or you’re always on the move, a flash-based player is your best choice because it is always skip-free. A solid state device, it has no moving parts — so when you’re jogging or working out, you’ll hear your favorite tune without interruption or skipping. What is also great about flash players is that normally they are small – small enough to fit on your key ring or fit into the 5th pocket of your favorite pair of jeans. Storage capacity can range from 16 MB to over 10 GB. The larger the capacity, the more music you can store and the more pricey the player becomes.
Another feature that you should consider is the display. It’s great to be able to see the artist, title and battery power on your player. Having a color LCD makes it easier to be able to find that perfect song for the perfect moment. While shopping for your player, try looking for a player that also has an FM Tuner to give you even more listening variety. You can also find models with voice recording capabilities. Many manufacturers now include this feature. Also, don’t forget about the freebies. Some manufacturers include armbands, belt clips and high-quality headphones.
Hard Disk Drive (HDD) Based Players
If you have a huge music collection and you want to take it all with you wherever you go, then a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) based player would be ideal. Many HDD players have enough storage capacity (ranging from 2GB to more than 60GB) to allow you to listen to music for days without hearing the same song twice. Another great feature of the HDD player is that you usually get a larger display. When making your choice try to find a player with a color display, the hard disk drive players give you a more vibrant picture and are easier to view.
A good display is especially critical when you’re searching through your ever-expanding playlist or watching videos. An additional advantage of any player that is video capable is that you can also use your Media Player player as a photo viewer. Some HDD players also have features such as FM Tuner, “Tivo” like TV recording, video playback and voice recorder. Keep in mind that the larger the storage space, the more music you can store and the more expensive the player will be.
Where Do You Get Music For Your Media Player?
The days of the ‘free for all downloads’ on the internet are over. The first place to get music for your new player is often overlooked – it’s your own music collection.
There are hundreds of CD rippers / encoders on the Internet today that allow you to transfer your music from CD to PC then to your player. You probably already own one ripper / encoder — Windows Media Player. Windows Media Player will allow you to ‘rip’ (extract the audio) your CDs, save them on your PC and transfer them to you Media Player.
There are several online music stores available today. These stores offer thousands and some stores even millions of songs for purchase and download – LEGALLY. When choosing your online music store, there are many factors you need to consider. These factors are – price per download or monthly subscription, free trial periods, songs in music services and parental controls if you have children. Some online music online stores charge less than a dollar per song download and others offer a subscription per month for as many songs as you want to download.
What’s Here Today And What Will Be Here Tomorrow?
With technology evolving every day, a media player that’s cutting edge at the moment might seem like a relic tomorrow. So there are always new and better models on the horizon! One sophisticated Media Player player that is available today is the light (1.41 oz) and thin (.26 inch) iPod Nano. The Nano has a 1.5 inch liquid crystal display, 2GB, 4GB or 8GB Flash Memory and has plenty of outstanding extras such as multiple language settings, calendar, stopwatch, and it can display your photos, audiobooks and hold anywhere from 500 to 2,000 songs, depending on the size of Flash Memory.
In direct competition to Apple’s iPod, Microsoft has developed the Zune ™ digital media player. Features of the Zune include a 30 GB Hard Disk Drive, WiFi (802.11 b/g), 3 inch high-resolution LCD, FM Tuner and has the ability to playback WMA, Media Player, AAC, JPEG and MPEG-4 files.
What’s The Bottom Line?
The bottom line is that you have a huge choice of options. Depending on how active your lifestyle is, a flash based player may be the better option for you. If you want to carry your entire music collection, FM Tuner and view photos / video – look for a HDD based player.