Portable Digital Audio MP3 Players - Are The New Technologies Better?

by Robert Bacal

There are now three different options available to buyers of portable MP3 and audio players. There are the newer hard drive based players, such as the Ipod. There are also memory based (flash or otherwise) players that store audio files in the memory in the players, like the Yepp, IRock, IRiver, and Iaudio. Finally, there's the older technology -- cd players that use regular cd disks for storage, and can play both MP3 and regular audio disks.

Is newer really better? Or are the memory and hard disk based systems simply taking advantage of the "cool" factor. There's no absolute answer, since it depends on how you want to use the players, but there are some decided advantages to going with the older CD based audio players. Here's a rundown of the reasons why you may want to purchase a CD based player, particularly now that manufacturers are cutting back on their production.

1) Price: Since CD based MP3 players have been around a while, the prices have dropped significantly even on high quality units. Instead of paying several hundred dollars for an Ipod, other hard drive based player, or a memory based on, a CD based player can be purchased for $40-$50.

2) Flexibility: CD based players play regular CD's, so store-bought music and audiobooks can simply be popped in, and ready to go. They also play MP3, and often the WMA format (particularly the Sony models). You can't play store-bought music on hard drive or memory based players.

3) Storage Issues: For people who listen to a lot of different music, there's a need to have some form of permanent storage. Memory based players can't provide that permanent storage, and hard drive systems like the Ipod are still a poor permanent repository for your music collection. Since CD based systems use permanent storage on CD (or erasable on CD-RW), there is no "temporary storage" involved. The same CD serves as permanent storage, and the listening source. In effect, storage capacity is infinite.

4) Simplicity: CD based players are far simpler to use. There's no software, or transferring files from one computer to your player. Simply pop in a CD and it's ready to go. They are a better, more familiar choice, particularly for older people, or those that don't want to have to learn new software and computer based procedures.

5) Standalone: Both hard drive and memory based players require some means of transferring music files to them. That usually involves using a computer to do so, via some form of interface and software (and a USB cable). CD based players don't require anything besides a playable CD. It's true that you CAN burn disks for portable use, but it's not required to listen. Again, for people who are technologically uncomfortable, the CD players are easier and simpler to use.

6) For Purists: Many audiophiles and music purists do not want to use MP3 and WMA formats, because they are lossy formats. That is, the sound quality is inferior to the format used on regular CD music disks. Players that cannot play the higher quality format, but are limited to MP3 or WMA, simply don't play the music as it was recorded. While many don't care about this, for some, it is a major issue.

On the flipside, the newer technologies are smaller (also easier to lose), less prone to skipping, do not require carrying around CD disks, and no doubt, their prices will drop in the future. Right now though, there's no question that the cheaper, simpler, and established CD portable audio players have some exceedingly convincing advantages. They can be used by anyone regardless of technological expertise. They are flexible, and do not require moving around files from one machine to another. The same disks can be used portably, at home on standard stereo systems, and DVD players, and are permanent. And, the bottom line: They are significantly cheaper.

One caveat though. With price drops on CD players, it's not worth buying a cheap version, or off brand to save a few dollars. They are less reliable, have poor battery life, and fewer features. We recommend portable CD players from Panasonic (our favorite), and Sony, for their robustness and quality.

(c) 2005, Robert Bacal, Bacal & Associates. You are welcome to "reprint" this article online as long as it remains complete and unaltered (including the "about the author" info at the end) all links are made live, and this copyright notice and indication of authorship are included.

Robert Bacal is a professional book author, and a daily user of portable audio equipment for both playing audiobooks and music, and also runs Buyingadvice411.com - Product Buying Advice For The Befuddled and Smart Consumer.

http://buyingadvice411.com offers impartial and unbiased information to product buyers to help them decide what product to buy. There's buying advice and product reviews on a wide range of items, including MP3 players, antiques, exercise equipment, automobiles, appliances, mattresses, digital cameras and more.

For more information on purchasing mp3 and portable audio equipment, go to: http://buyingadvice411.com/MP3_and_CD_Players.

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