What's the best mp3 player for listening to Podcasts?
August 27, 2006 9:26 AM   Subscribe

What's the best mp3 player for listening to Podcasts?

My father-in-law wants to listen to NPR podcasts while he's on the go (he travels a lot). He doesn't have any familiarity with mp3 players, iTunes, or Macs. He uses a PC with WinXP and Outlook. He says that he doesn't really care about other features like listening to music or viewing photos, movies, etc. I was thinking about going with the trusty iPod for simplicity's sake, but would any alternatives better suit his needs?
posted by B.O.R.T. to Technology (14 answers total)
I hate to toe the Apple party line, but iPod is as easy as it gets. A 2- or 4-gig Nano would be perfect (completely portable and indeed stylish), and iTunes (free) syncs seamlessly with NPR's podcasts. Now I need to go listen to this week's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me podcast...
posted by The Michael The at 9:52 AM on August 27, 2006

If he's just going to be listening to podcasts, I highly recommend an iPod shuffle. You play the podcasts in order, it maintains your position in each audio file without drawing power. The 1 GB version holds about 40 hours of podcasts. It integrates nicely with iTunes for organizing the podcasts.

And they're pretty cheap these days, especially used.
posted by fcain at 10:25 AM on August 27, 2006

fcain; for what it's worth, I've personally had trouble with the shuffle skipping around or looping back inside podcasts (specifically, CBC Radio 3). I've tried updating the software on the device, but that hasn't worked. It's otherwise been a great device, but the lack of a screen really hurts when I'm trying to figure out what the hell's going on.

For someone who wants absolute simplicity, having something with a screen is essential, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by odinsdream at 10:34 AM on August 27, 2006

I can't recommend a shuffle for Podcasts during travel; being able to...uh...choose what you want to listen to is kind of important. Yes, you can skip around in the playlist, but it's awkward.

If possible, I would take him to an Apple Store and check out both the nano and the regular iPod; many older folks have difficulty with the tinyness of the nano's controls and its screen, and the black/white decision is very personal. ;)

But, yes, iPod all the way. There's a reason it owns the market. It is *dead simple* to set up and listen to Podcasts (and everything else).
posted by trevyn at 10:45 AM on August 27, 2006

The MobiBlu downloads podcasts from any computer...

I bought one from Walmart or Target online for $100, then got $50 back on a rebate.

I haven't used it yet, but it is tiny and cute.
posted by k8t at 11:12 AM on August 27, 2006

Yes, I agree with the above - An iPod Nano is just brill and iTunes makes it SO easy to subscribe to a whole range of Podcasts.

Before we got the Ipod I was sceptical around the benefits of an Ipod over any other MP3 player - What we have found is that it is iTunes that really makes the difference - It just does everything we could want. Spot on!

The other benefit is in terms of accesories. If you are travelling then the iTrip add-on to broadcast to your car radio is key and works like a dream.
posted by pettins at 11:22 AM on August 27, 2006

Don't forget about audible.com -- although you have to pay, they've got a lot of great NPR content. The price-point is a touch high for my tastes, but my father swears by it. And iPod integration is apparently seamless.
posted by incessant at 11:56 AM on August 27, 2006

I chose the inexpensive SanDisk M230 for FM radio (NPR live!) in addition to podcasts. I'm still learning and will someday ask the hive mind how to better manage podcasts.

My only frustration so far with the M230 is that its fast forward isn't very fast. Fast-forwarding 40 minutes into a 45 minute podcast requires holding the button down for at least a couple of minutes. If you release the button and then give it a momentary press, the player advances to the next track, and curses ensue. This is less of a problem on my daughter's Dell DJ, because its fast forward accelerates after a few seconds. Maybe because it's disk-based instead of flash?

Normally if the player is turned off in mid-podcast, it will resume at the same spot when turned back on. But switch to a different podcast, or FM, and you've lost your place. A faster fast forward would at least help.
posted by Snerd at 12:43 PM on August 27, 2006

I've had two iPods (a Shuffle and a Nano), mostly listen to podcasts, and recommend the Nano. There is one tiny problem -- when you're listening to BBC podcasts on the Nano, it sometimes skips for a second, as if there were a glitch in the recording. (There's a way of working around this problem, but it doesn't bother me enough to overcome my laziness.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:17 PM on August 27, 2006

I like my Sony NW-E507 because of the ridiculous battery life (50 hours!) and easy navigation. My gripes are that it needs special software to upload, and some files encoded at low bitrates need to be re-encoded before they work. Grr.

I believe some of the Iriver players have bookmarking features, good fast forward / rewind modes and other nice things, but none of them match my current unit for battery life.
posted by tomble at 3:18 PM on August 27, 2006

As a non-iPod user, and a podcaster myself, I have to say that an iPod nano is probably the way to go. Seamless integration with iTunes makes it all so much easier... I got one for my girlfriend, and she was off an running (literally) in minutes.
posted by YoungAmerican at 3:34 PM on August 27, 2006

You can get a cheap mp3 player that has a memory card slot and functions as a mass storage device. They're cheaper than a ipod case. The sound from a mp3 player is mostly determined by the quality of the headphones, so unless he really needs the hipster cred, a cheap one works just as well. Additionally, the cheap ones work as usb mass storage devices, so you just plug it in and drag the files over. No itunes or anything else needed. I recommend these headphones, if you don't already have your own.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 8:17 AM on August 28, 2006

If you want to stay on his good side, go with an iPod. If you hate the guy, go with something really cheap, like the one mr. gunn pointed out.
posted by justgary at 1:29 PM on August 29, 2006

Bookmarking is absolutely essential for long podcasts and books on tape, unless you know you will listen to the whole thing before you move on to something else. I'm not sure what players support bookmarking; I put the Rockbox mod on my Iriver, and it works fine.
posted by surferboy at 11:35 AM on August 30, 2006

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