Mp3 Player of Yore
June 14, 2010 8:04 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a simple (and very cheap) mp3 player for a photo and oral history project exhibition. We will need about 15 mp3 players that can play a 5-10 minute extract from the interview on loop.

I'm part of an oral history collective doing an exhibition about the faces and voices of immigrants to the area where I live. We thought having mp3 players in front of each portrait would be more moving than boxes of text, but are worried about the cost of buying 15 mp3 players. We are hoping to buy them all for under $200.
I'm thinking mp3 player of yore, with only 256megs and absolutely no features except for loop. Any ideas?
posted by quelindo to Technology (11 answers total)
Here's one for $10 after rebate.
posted by lee at 8:30 AM on June 14, 2010

Does this work?

I'm not sure about the loop feature. Why not just loop the mp3 itself?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:30 AM on June 14, 2010

DealExtreme lists a number of inexpensive players, some with positive reviews. Otherwise, eBay is full of inexpensive low-end models. That loop feature is either archaic, or not mentioned on product descriptions.

If you are only playing an interview clip, you can encode the audio in mono with a pretty low bitrate and it'll still sound fine.

Other concern: do you have speakers for these? If not, you might want one of the little systems with built-in speakers.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:48 AM on June 14, 2010

Also .. if a looping or repeat play feature is not included, many players support playlists, so you will have the audio recorded once, then duplicated in the playlist.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:49 AM on June 14, 2010

Best answer: I just did something similar to this - you can definitely find what you're looking for as far as super cheap mp3 players; newegg has some in the 10 - 15$ range. However! Cheap mp3 players these days are generally of the 'flash memory stick w/ a AAA battery and some buttons' form factor and universally omit any way to power them externally. So, you'll need a bunch of 1.5V DC power supplies, or (what I did) a single higher voltage DC power supply, and a bunch of LM317 voltage regulators, which are cheap and easy to build. 4 components, I think. That is, if you even need external power at all.

Here's a brief write up of the project I worked on. Feel free to drop me a line with questions.
posted by Horizontally a Champion at 10:23 AM on June 14, 2010

Response by poster: This is great! We won't be using speakers. As there will be 15 units running simultaneously, we thought headphones would be a better idea.

And I hadn't even considered the power issue...

To someone who is a little more savvy: Does this mp3 player support external power?
posted by quelindo at 11:18 AM on June 14, 2010

I'd talk to somebody who produces promo MP3 players, those branded ones like you'd hand out to clients at a tradeshow. I was talking to a museum curator who was thinking about doing a unguided audio tour; the upside of ordering MP3 players with a screenprinted logo is that it'd be easy to identify it if one 'walks off'. The link above isn't the cheapest I've seen -- it seems to me I once saw small ones like these for the $10-$15 range in bulk with printing, but I can't remember where.

As for looping: what happens when a person walks up in the middle of a file? I'd suggest you have instructions that say, "press play to hear audio" so that each person starts up at the beginning, rather than waiting around for the loop to start over. It'd also save on battery power, too.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:09 PM on June 14, 2010

Does this mp3 player support external power?

Yes, in the sense that it charges via usb. You can run a usb rechargeable mp3 player off a wall socket with an adapter. Note that the player in question has no internal memory. You'll still need a bunch of TF cards. What would be simplest would be something more like these self-contained usb rechargeable units at around $12 each.

Great project Horizontally a Champion. The doorbells are a very creative way to interact with the electronics.
posted by irisclara at 9:35 PM on June 14, 2010

A lot of the ones at Deal Extreme will run for a good while on a single AA or AAA battery. The one you linked apparently needs to be charged via USB or something like that, and the charge doesn't last long (according to one reviewer).

Of course, if you have a player mounted to the display, and you have convenient outlets, this shouldn't be an issue. The next thing to think about is how much everything else will cost. You'll need some sort of SD card, and the little one you linked to uses MicroSD (previously known as TransFlash, listed as TF on that product page). The cheapest MicoSD I saw on DX was this no-name 1gb card for $3. I was looking for smaller capacity cards in packs, but didn't find any in a quick search. If you go up in size to standard SD cards, there are more bulk pack deals, and some smaller capacity cards, too.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:21 AM on June 15, 2010

Response by poster: Any tips if I won't have tons of outlets around? Its probably hard to find long usb cords and I'd still have to buy some kind of 12 volt adapter to plug into a powerstrip for example...
posted by quelindo at 10:44 AM on June 18, 2010

Maybe a powered usb hub like this? This AskMe had some ideas about powering usb devices and this guy has an idea if you're not afraid to solder.

Good luck!
posted by irisclara at 8:47 AM on June 19, 2010

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