MP3 player for audiobooks, podcasts, and lectures with variable playback speed?
May 8, 2010 6:16 PM   Subscribe

What's a good MP3 player for audiobooks, podcasts, and lectures? It has to support variable playback speed, and it would be nice if it's small and cheap.

I’ve gotten used to listening to audio lectures by lugging my laptop around in my backpack. I’ve been spoiled by the ability to adjust the speed on the fly (up to 4x), depending on how fast the lecturer is speaking and how hard the material is.

I have an ipod nano; it’s not terrible, but it only supports playback speeds of 1.0 and 1.5x, doesn’t support manual bookmarks, and doesn’t resume to the right file after I plug it in to charge or sync.

Unfortunately, most reviews don’t say whether or not an mp3 player has variable playback speed, and iff they do mention it, they don’t mention the range of possible speeds.

I know rockbox supports up to 2x speed, which is alright, but not ideal. This ancient Samsung player supports up to 3x speed, but it’s been discontinued. As far as I can tell, their website doesn’t list that information for most current models. They say that the U3 and U4 support variable speeds up to 1.3x, and they don’t give a range for other models. A lot of reviews say the Sansa Clip is good for audio books because it has nice bookmarking features, and variable playback speed, but none of the reviews that I could find actually list the range of speeds.

I found this thread, but the suggestions are three years old, and the suggestions that mention variable playback speed don’t mention the possible range of speeds.
posted by suncoursing to Technology (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There is a list on CNet, which dates from July 2009. Looking at the Samsung mp3 player website for the USA, it seems that most Samsung mp3 players have variable speed playback.
posted by Susurration at 7:53 PM on May 8, 2010

This thread on the Amazon forums should offer some helpful suggestions.
posted by Ryogen at 9:27 PM on May 8, 2010

Best answer: The iPod Touch (and iPhone) support .5, 1.0, and 2.0 but nothing else. There is no bookmarking that I know of. It does support a nifty variable-speed scrub. I think there is a way to get it to correctly resume a book after syncing but I can't recall what the magic voodoo is to make it happen.

I would not be surprised if there is an audiobook playback app that does everything you want but I have not looked for one.

I'm not recommending an iPod Touch, just filling you in on the details to help you make your decision.
posted by chairface at 3:11 PM on May 12, 2010

Best answer: I had the very same question a while back, unfortunately I couldn't find any MP3 that does that. I have an iPod Touch, but the speed up is very limited. As alternative I transcode the MP3 files using foobar 2K with soundtouch plug-in (to speed it up). You can also use Audacity or any other decent audio editing software. Processing costs time though.

My question to you is... what app do you use for playback? Depending on the content, I can only comprehend audio and video sped up to about 3x. More than that... I couldn't understand a thing, the sound is just too degraded.
posted by bbxx at 4:43 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I forgot to mention... don't limit your search to mp3 players. There are digital voice recorders that support MP3 playback with tempo control. I heard Sony's recorders are good for this... but whether they support 4x playback I don't know. You will have to do a bit of research.
posted by bbxx at 5:00 PM on May 22, 2010

Oddly, I just purchased a Sony Voice Recorder (ICD-UX200). It's 2G, records stereo to MP3s, and is overall pretty nice. The variable speed playback will go up to 100% (so 2X) and down to -50% with increments of 10% or 5% in between (It's a little weird that way). I think it also will remember your playback position on MP3s and supports folders. It's pretty sweet overall but at $99 it might not meet your low-cost requirement and does not have manual bookmarking that I can see. I have not tried to listen to a book with it yet.

Memail me if you have any questions about it but I suspect you'd want something else.
posted by chairface at 12:21 PM on May 26, 2010

I've got the Sansa Clip (original model, not the Clip+ which I've also used and would recommend). It has three settings: slow, normal and fast. At a guess, fast is 2X normal speed. It will also run Rockbox, FWIW, but to me it's one of the rare MP3 players whose firmware doesn't need much improvement. You can get it for around $40 shipped and it comes with a built-in FM radio.
posted by whir at 3:26 PM on August 25, 2010

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