yet another mp3 player question
July 13, 2006 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Help me select an MP3 player.

My apologies for yet another mp3 player question! As far as I could tell, none of the other questions shared my priorities.

There are three things I really care about: storage space (4GB minimum, but 20GB would be better), file formats (ability to play ogg, aac, wma, and mp3 files), and battery life (the more, the merrier).

Some other details:
-- I want it to sound good. I'll use my own headphones, so I don't need a good pair to come with the player, but I want the machine to be able to play music well.
-- I have a PC running Windows.
-- I don't subscribe to any music services, so it doesn't have to be compatible with any of them.
-- I don't plan to watch video, look at pictures, or read text on it, so no need for a pretty screen.
-- If there's a program that converts the more obscure files types into mp3s (without losing significant sound quality) so that they can play on your favorite player, please let me know.
-- I had a Creative Jukebox mp3 player, and it was a piece of junk, so I'd prefer to stay away from Creative.
-- I don't care too much about the cost. If there's something fabulous that fits all of my needs and will last for a long time, I'm happy to spend more on it.
-- All else being equal, smaller and prettier design is better.

I've been looking at the Rio Carbon Pearl, the ipod nano, and the iriver 20 GB thing. None of those seem to have all of what I want, and I can't find any good online reviews/comparisons that will help me make a decision. Your advice would be much appreciated!
posted by equipoise to Shopping (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
file formats (ability to play ogg, aac, wma, and mp3 files)

Good luck. You can run Linux on an iPod but you'll have to give up WMA. You can buy an iRiver but you'll have to give up protected AAC.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:45 AM on July 13, 2006

Best answer: try DAPreview - it's one of the best sites I've seen for reviews. You didn't mention whether or not your music files were mostly MP3s or WMAs. Therefore am not sure whether you're concerned with DRM or if you're facing having to convert WMAs to Apple's format (IPOD plays MP3s natively but not WMAs) in the event you want to do the whole IPOD thing. For me a big thing is making sure it shows up as USB drive in windows which gives me the flexibility of having a portable HDD. In terms of specific recommendations that are meant to have great sound quality and fulfill this requirement:
1. iaudio X5L. This has 35hr battery life and doesn't require specific software to be recognized (shows up as USB Drive). BUT: doesn't support windows DRM.
2. Toshiba Gigabeat S. Supports DRM, but lower batter life (12hrs) and must have XP to show up.
3. Creative Zen Vision M But, you say you don't want creative again (which I can understand) - so meh...
4. Archos Gmini 402. I had the 400 when it first came out which I've been pretty pleased with. Some have had problems with Archos quality though. 402 has battery life rated at 10 hrs, shows up as usb drive, and does DRM.
5. Ipod of some variety - never used them since didn't want to have to convert all my WMA files to the apple format. Hopefully someone else can you help you with guidance on this.

For what it's worth I'd probably do the iaudio. But hey, that's just me. Hope this helps...
posted by Mave_80 at 10:58 AM on July 13, 2006

Well, if you're able to make a quick decision, has a blue iRiver 20GB for sale at $135 (shipping included) right now, until 1 AM EDT or they sell out, whichever comes first.

And even if you don't end up buying it, woot is still a great site to keep your eye on every now and again.
posted by jenovus at 11:10 AM on July 13, 2006

I forgot to mention that I bought one of them the last time they were on sale, and I am very happy with it. I saw that you said you'd already looked at it, but thought maybe the sale price would have an effect.
posted by jenovus at 11:13 AM on July 13, 2006

iRiver's current lines (the H10 and above) do not do ogg, flac, etc., and Rockbox does not currently have a firmware replacement available either. iRiver also has no future plans to bring back ogg support, at least in part because they've signed on to MS's Plays For Sure program.

I've heard good things about iAudio, but I haven't personally used any of their stuff.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:20 AM on July 13, 2006

iRiver just introduced the clix a few months ago. It plays MP3/WMA/ASF/OGG (no AAC) and comes in a pretty nice package but is only 2GB.

If Ogg is a must, then you're pretty much limited to the iAudio, iRiver clix, or iPod+Linux.
posted by junesix at 12:10 PM on July 13, 2006

I hear ipodlinux is working on ogg/etc. And I think rockbox is already ported.
posted by devilsbrigade at 12:16 PM on July 13, 2006

And to expand on Mave_80's note about USB mass-storage mode: some players, like the Creative, will let you mount (part of) their storage space as a USB drive on your PC -- but not the part with the music in it.

I consider these junk, as you likely should, too.
posted by baylink at 12:48 PM on July 13, 2006

I've got an iriver H140. It does everything you want and more, and better than that it just acts as a USB hard drive, so you can plug it into any computer without installing drivers or anything. The one catch? They don't make them any more. But if you can get your hands on one, I recommend it. I've yet to see a better mp3 player.
posted by Orange Goblin at 1:18 PM on July 13, 2006

Response by poster: Wow, thanks! I've posted almost 200 answers to AskMeFi, but this is my first question, and it's a little magical to see you kind folks take the time to help me.

I had failed to notice that iaudio and iriver were separate products. So thanks to the peeps recommending iaudio, I'm now strongly considering the iaudio XL5. It's bigger and pricier than I'd like, and it sucks that you can't sort by artist or album, but it sure seems like the best match for what I want. 35 hours of playback? That's gorgeous. And the recording feature sounds handy.

And DAPreview was quite helpful, so thanks for that too.

Today's woot was actually the reason that I finally gave up and asked this question. The price is nice, but it doesn't have the functionality I want.

Are there any other products I should be considering? Any other issues (e.g. availability and price of accessories, longevity, future technology, etc.) I should be considering?

(on preview, Orange Goblin, that thing looks great, as does a discontinued iaudio player. Why oh why do the good ones go away? It seems like manufactuers are focusing on adding the pretty screens, at the expense of the music functionality that I care about. Grrr.)
posted by equipoise at 2:12 PM on July 13, 2006

Have you looked at the Neuros 2? I don't know about the battery life, but it plays all of your formats except acc, shows up as a USB harddrive, and it is $250 for 80 gigs. It is a bit on the larger size but a friend of mine certainly seems to like it.

On the other hand, Rockbox for the iPod will also do what you want, though a bit more expensive, a bit more complicated, and a lot less polished (when I last tried it, it froze on me one too many times) than some interfaces; it does, however, pretty much play everything one could want (and Musepack files certainly sound damn nice for the file size).
posted by The Bishop of Turkey at 3:46 PM on July 13, 2006

iAudio X5L is what I have, it does everything you requested, and I love mine. I recharge the battery every 3 or 4 weeks.
posted by knave at 3:50 PM on July 13, 2006

I organize my music into folders by artist. Each artist folder has folders by album. Then each album folder has tracks named 01 through 99 (or whatever). So, the interface to the X5L was perfect for me, anyway. I don't need or want something to scan through all my ID3 tags and build some monstrous database out of it.
posted by knave at 3:52 PM on July 13, 2006

Hard to go wrong with $16 -- I got a couple of these and if you have any SD cards lying around, I can testify that it does produce sound at the world's cheapest price. (If you don't have any SD cards lying around, go to ZipZoomFly and get the for Ultra 1GB card for $13 after rebate.) The USB 1.1 is a downside but you probably have a card reader anyway that's faster. This one is actually cheaper but $3.50 more gets you a display, better navigation, more volume, and WMA DRM support...
posted by kindall at 9:34 PM on July 13, 2006

I have the MobiBlu B153, and it's pretty spiffy. It's a 2GB flash-based mp3 / wma player that also has a radio and voice recorder. It's small, the sound quality is good, and--best of all--has a 150-hour battery life between charges.

I don't want to sound like I'm shilling, but I've had mine about a month, and I'm glad I spent the $130.
posted by curtm at 9:35 PM on July 13, 2006

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