MP3 player vs Static Electricity
June 11, 2005 6:09 PM   Subscribe

How sensitive to static is the average MP3 player?

My job involves mostly mindless production work, so I like to listen to a CD mp3 player (audio books, documentaries and the like) to keep me sane.

Part of my job involves rewinding plastics, which generate quite a bit of static. Every now and again my Sony MP3 CD player gets a jolt and I have to pull the batteries to get it going again. Happily, it's incredibly robust.

I plan to buy a HD player some time this year, and I'm wondering if they are more sensitive to a jolt. Do I risk blowing up the unit or frying the hard disk?
posted by tomble to Technology (7 answers total)
You could always get an anti-static bracelet, and attach it to the mp3 player.
posted by Jairus at 9:37 PM on June 11, 2005

As manufacturing processes get smaller electronics are getting more sensitive, but also getting better internal protection. But your Sony MP3 CD player is pretty modern, so over time really doesn't apply here... Other than the hard drive itself the parts are very similar. Hard drives are magnetic so they shouldn't be more sensitive to ESD than anything else in the device.

On the other hand it will vary tremendously with each individual product (don't decide that Sony is okay just because the CD player worked, who knows which OEM designed/built which product!). You may have just been lucky all this time. The whole replacing the batteries thing sounds pretty scary!
posted by Chuckles at 9:54 PM on June 11, 2005

If you've bought computer parts OEM, they usually come with an "anti-static bag." Try stuffing the unit in such a bag and see if it makes a difference.

If you don't have such a bag lying around, maybe head down to a local mom&pop computer store, tell them your sob story, and ask if they have any anti-static bags lying around which they're going to throw away anyway.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:37 PM on June 11, 2005

I'm curious: Does it crash when you touch it to switch disc or so, or are you actually zapping it through your ears? To shock the player, you have to be touching a metallic part of it. If you just press plastic buttons, and have isolating headphones, it should be ok.

A hard drive should not be more of a problem than any other part of the circuitry. I'd expect the CD player to be in greater danger since laser diodes are very ESD sensitive. As Chuckles said though, there's protection for the parts that really need it.
posted by springload at 4:20 AM on June 12, 2005

Response by poster: I'm winding plastic onto a roll, the plastic builds up a static field. Once I get close enough the static cracks up through the headphone cable and takes out the CD player (which starts jittering and making odd sounds).

A power cycle tends to get it back to normal.

I've had bolts of static the length of my forearm shoot out and get me. Ouch!
posted by tomble at 5:20 AM on June 12, 2005

Perhaps get one of the hard drive MP3 players that have a built-in FM transmitter, that way, you can leave the player elsewhere (plugged into the wall instead of running on batteries) and just connect your earphones to a $10 radio the size of a keyring, and then who cares if the zapping harms it over time. (bonus - I think radios are pretty resiliant)
Some of the above players also have wireless remotes, if you wanted to change the playlist without going over to the wall.
(Actually, most $10 FM radios don't offer stereo, you're likely looking at at least $15 :-)

There is a noticable drop in audio quality using a transmitter, but whether it's noticable in a noisy production environment is the pertanent question. It's probably more than adequate.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:27 PM on June 12, 2005

Oh, I didn't think it was that severe. No commercial product is safe to voltages that cause forearm-sized bolts. I suggest you isolate the player as best you can, and experiment with that on your CD player first. Don't let this kind of lightning strike a new iPod - I think you're just very lucky that the CD player keeps up with it.
posted by springload at 12:32 AM on June 13, 2005

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