I dread to consider re-ripping to FLAC
August 20, 2013 11:10 AM   Subscribe

My third 500 GiB Archos 5 IT just died on me. I'm out of the loop and I need a new mp3 player. What's the best large-capacity mp3 player for me to get?

I have a rapidly-growing 750 GiB mp3 collection and like to be able to spontaneously pick and choose my music when I'm out and about. I can't survive by rotating music on a regular basis or whittling down my collection to fit on a device. I also semi-frequently take extended trips where it's nice to have a large selection of music.

Must haves:
Capacity >500 GiB but the more the better
ID3 tag based organisation/database
Works as a standard mass storage device or can be hacked to do so (i.e. no iTunes)

Nice to haves:
Reasonable price
Not massive
Decent battery life
External battery
Video playback (with a range of codecs/resolutions)
Ogg/FLAC playback
Sturdy

Any and all suggestion gratefully received. I'm bemused that the market isn't bigger for this and I'd rather not buy another Archos 5 IT but if they are the only company catering for those about 500 GiB of music I'll have to.
posted by turkeyphant to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do you regularly go on trips where you're out of cell phone range?

Because at this point most people have moved to the "keep some music on your phone + subscribe to spotify/rdio/gmusic" model where you have access to far, far more music than you could conceivably listen to in your lifetime.
posted by Oktober at 11:13 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"where you have access to far, far more music than you could conceivably listen to in your lifetime."

...but never quite what you want to listen to at the moment.
posted by Citrus at 11:32 AM on August 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


It looks like the Archos 5 is it in the large-capacity market. I'm really surprised by that; I would have expected someone to have a battery powered SATA enclosure with audio playback capabilities.

How did yours die, specifically? There are ways to replace the hard drive. You can even replace it with a larger drive. It takes a little work, but it's totally doable.

Also, see here
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 11:47 AM on August 20, 2013


At this point I'm legitimately shocked if Spotify doesn't have the exact version of the song I want at any given time. I'm unbelievably happy not to have to deal with syncing large amounts of music anymore or worry that i'm going to jostle a HD-based music player to death (RIP iPod Classic 2007-2010).
posted by Oktober at 11:48 AM on August 20, 2013


If you're hard drive died on your archos (or even regardless), you may want to try to hack a larger hard drive into it. Looks like people have gotten 750's into them.
posted by el io at 11:50 AM on August 20, 2013


Do you regularly go on trips where you're out of cell phone range?

Because at this point most people have moved to the "keep some music on your phone + subscribe to spotify/rdio/gmusic" model where you have access to far, far more music than you could conceivably listen to in your lifetime.


Don't want to thread-sit, but mobile access is not an option. I have already discounted it for good reason.

For a start, I very frequently can't find the music I'm after on Spotify - lots of it is too obscure or even has never been released. Plus audiobooks, podcasts that are no longer online, etc. Furthermore, I don't have spare mobile battery, bandwidth or money to waste on music streaming. My trips are usually international across many mobile providers. Etc., etc., etc.

How did yours die, specifically? There are ways to replace the hard drive. You can even replace it with a larger drive. It takes a little work, but it's totally doable.

I'm starting to hate the Archos 5 and Archos 5 IT firmware more and more so would prefer an alternative. The main problem is that the database starts to struggle when you reach more than about 200 GiB of music and the headphone port is very weak. If that's really my only option I guess I'm stuck :/

I already offloaded the old Archos 5IT but will pick up a broken one on eBay if it's the only way to get a decent-capacity player.
posted by turkeyphant at 11:58 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cowon has a 160 GB model (the X7). Depending on the size of the hard drive, you might (as people above said) be able to replace it with something bigger. Possibly even an SSD, though that wouldn't be kind to any budget.

I think I would look around for HD-replacement discussions on mp3 player forums to see what players people are modding.
posted by egg drop at 11:59 AM on August 20, 2013


Cowon has a 160 GB model.

AFAIK Cowon mp3 players fail the second "must have": ID3 tag based organisation/database.
posted by turkeyphant at 12:05 PM on August 20, 2013


"AFAIK Cowon mp3 players fail the second "must have": ID3 tag based organisation/database."

http://www.rockbox.org/ Use a different firmware, and you might get better results. Rockbox reads ID3, uses m3u for its playlist format, and runs on Cowon.

Yes, this is a lot of DIY for you. But, you might just end up with the perfect mp3 player for it.
posted by Citrus at 12:11 PM on August 20, 2013


http://www.rockbox.org/ Use a different firmware, and you might get better results. Rockbox reads ID3, uses m3u for its playlist format, and runs on Cowon.

This was a promising idea but no Rockbox target has (or can be upgraded to) a hard drive bigger than 160 GiB.

I'm still frankly amazed that nobody is making large-capacity players any more...
posted by turkeyphant at 12:17 PM on August 20, 2013


I'm a little baffled by the lack of large players too. I have a lot of music and frequently find myself beyond the range of cheap, copious net access, and I'm surely not the only one.

Anyway, to turn to the actual question -- USB On-The-Go might be one avenue worth exploring: get a large-capacity 2.5-inch external USB drive and use an OTG-capable phone or small tablet as the actual player. I've never tried it, though, and suspect that you couldn't power an external drive through OTG. Maybe there's such a thing as a self-powered external USB drive? It will end up being a bit of a hack, but better than nothing.
posted by pont at 12:30 PM on August 20, 2013


A little digging has turned up the Seagate GoFlex Satellite, a 500GB portable drive powered by a 7-hour rechargeable battery which can stream over Wi-Fi to iOS and Android devices. There's a 1 TB version too. Still a two-box solution, but you don't need cables or an OTG-capable device.
posted by pont at 12:45 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like pont suggests, could you use something like these wifi hard drives to stream music to your phone? You would have to carry both a playing device and the drive, but if you already have a smartphone, then it's only the extra drive.
posted by bluefly at 12:47 PM on August 20, 2013


This is about as ugly as every other solution, but you could haul around multiple SD cards and an expandable player. You would need 8x(!) 64GB cards or 4x 128GB cards... assuming there are any players that will take such high capacity cards.
posted by rocketpup at 1:02 PM on August 20, 2013


A netbook with a giant hard drive might be another possible ugly solution.
posted by box at 1:23 PM on August 20, 2013


I think the reason no one makes large capacity players is two-fold. A)Most people who like to have access to lots of music are using streaming services, and B) Even at 100gigs, you are talking about more music than most people will listen to in years. 100gigs will hold around 20,000 songs (or less at higher qualities), which is more music than 99.9% of people out there will ever have.
posted by markblasco at 1:41 PM on August 20, 2013


Not only that, but even the most shock-proof platter hard drive has a dramatically shorter lifespan than solid state memory, and solid state prices have gotten so cheap at the 32/64/128gb level that they've captured most of the market.
posted by Oktober at 1:47 PM on August 20, 2013


I appreciate all the contributions and don't want to clog up the thread, but do want to make some clarifications.

This is about as ugly as every other solution, but you could haul around multiple SD cards and an expandable player.

This would be okay (but expensive) if there was anything with multiple SD card slots. I'm not willing to turn it off and fiddle around switching SD cards to find the one with the track I want to hear on it. Nor every time I want to change track.

Also, it will probably not be possible to have an ID3 tag database with this method.

USB On-The-Go might be one avenue worth exploring: get a large-capacity 2.5-inch external USB drive and use an OTG-capable phone or small tablet as the actual player

A little digging has turned up the Seagate GoFlex Satellite, a 500GB portable drive powered by a 7-hour rechargeable battery which can stream over Wi-Fi to iOS and Android devices.

An interesting plan. I could tape a cheap Android tablet onto the front of the hard drive. But, especially with wifi, I fear that battery life issues for both devices would be the killer.

It would be nice to have 14+ hours of battery life on a single charge. About 8 would be doable. But much less than that is fairly terminal.

A netbook with a giant hard drive might be another possible ugly solution.

I should have been clearer that when I said that "not massive" would be "nice to have", it still has to fit in a pocket. Relative to mp3 player sizes, a netbook is so much beyond "massive" it's completely unacceptable to me.

Not only that, but even the most shock-proof platter hard drive has a dramatically shorter lifespan than solid state memory, and solid state prices have gotten so cheap at the 32/64/128gb level that they've captured most of the market.

I understand "most". Even 90%+. But all? Surely there's a niche to be exploited here? It seems that the last hard drive mp3 player was discontinued years ago :(

Even at 100gigs, you are talking about more music than most people will listen to in years.

But you are also talking about only ~1000 albums. That's only 3 records a day for a year. I listen to music for about 8-10 hours a day most days and there are certainly a lot more than 20 albums per year worth carrying around with you from the last 50 years of music...

posted by turkeyphant at 2:17 PM on August 20, 2013


Actually the iPod classic is still in production and hd based. Only 160g though.
posted by phearlez at 2:21 PM on August 20, 2013


I guess you could hire a Hacker/Maker to put together a custom MP3 player. It could be driven by a Raspberry PI (with XMBC), powered off a battery, and have a harddrive as big as you'd like. I could imagine the parts (Rasberry pi, battery, screen, keyboard, hard drive), individually, would not be more than $250, and the rest could be used to hire someone to put it together and deliver it in a custom enclosure. Not the cheapest option, but certainly the most flexible.
posted by hellojed at 7:11 PM on August 20, 2013


So, in conclusion, it appears that my best compromise between size, battery life, easy of use, stress, etc is to just suck it up and get another Archos 5 IT :(
posted by turkeyphant at 3:48 AM on August 22, 2013


Obviously, I don't have a solution for you, but if you want some hope, I read that, except for some current materials shortages, the prices for flash memory and SSDs should decrease, and affordable higher capacity storage is probably forthcoming.

Also, while researching a gift for a friend, I spent some time reading a niche music listening forum recently (and even those music nerds are content with 128Gb maximum, so I think this niche is way smaller than you think). If you search around, that forum is a good read to learn about all the other mp3 players out there or for more on the external drive hack. They mention a lot of devices I've never heard of, some of which have multiple SD card slots.
posted by bluefly at 8:21 AM on August 22, 2013


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