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mp3 players

Buying Guides - MP3 Players

About MP3 Players

Portable MP3 players are relatively new devices that are quickly changing the way we listen to music. These players are lighter than the portable music players of the past, have no moving parts and store music on extremely compact media formats. MP3 players allow you to create your own music libraries by downloading digital audio files from the Internet or by converting your favourite CD tracks into one unique mix.

Most downloadable music on the Internet is currently available in the MP3 format. MP3 is a compression standard and file format that significantly reduces the size of audio files while maintaining good sound quality. MP3 files allow computer users to download and store music in a relatively small amount of hard drive space. MP3 files start out in a different format, usually uncompressed wav files that are large and difficult to store. A typical wav file with one minute of music is usually about 10 MB in size. When you convert wav files to MP3, an encoder gets rid of unnecessary audio information that is usually outside of the average person's hearing range. This creates much smaller files, usually about one-tenth the size of the original wav file. Once you have an encoded MP3 file, you need some type of player (either software or hardware) to convert the information into something you can hear.

Different Storage Formats

The storage format that you use will depend greatly on the type of MP3 player you choose. Currently, there are three types of memory cards that can be added to your player and a few other memory options.

SmartMedia cards

These are also referred to as Solid State Floppy Disk Cards (SSFDC) and use flash memory. SmartMedia cards require that the controller functions for compatibility and other tasks be on the MP3 player, instead of on the storage media.

CompactFlash cards

A small storage media about the size of a matchbook that provides high-capacity storage. The cards are available in capacities of 2 MB to 96 MB.

MultiMedia cards

About the size of a postal stamp, MultiMedia cards are compatible with a variety of files other than MP3 format.

Memory StickTM

A type of flash memory with a maximum capacity of 64 MB. Currently, only SONY offers this type of memory.

Hard drive

The casing of the MP3 player is built around a laptop hard drive. This method offers up to 20 GB capacity.

Internal flash memory

A couple of portable players on the market have internal flash memory (usually 64 MB capacity) with no additional memory slots.

Consider These Important Features...

Interface Portable

MP3 players generally interface with a computer in one of three ways: parallel, serial and USB. Parallel and serial interfaces are standard ways to connect an MP3 player to a computer. USB (Universal Serial Bus) transports information from your computer to your MP3 player. On some computers a FireWire or IEEE cable can be used which provides the fastest cable connection available today. Note: All computers have a USB port but not all computers can take the FireWire.

Internal memory

The amount of internal memory (also called onboard memory) that comes standard on the player varies, but the average is 16 or 32 MB. Most players have additional memory slots so removable memory cards can be added. How much memory is enough? 32 MB will store approximately six songs, so in general, the more memory that comes standard, the better.

Expandable memory

Most players allow you to add extra memory and have maximum capacities of 32 MB, 64 MB and over 75 MB.


Some MP3 players are compatible with Windows-based PCs, some are compatible with Macintosh computers and some are compatible with both. Make sure to choose a system that is compatible with your computer equipment.

Voice recording

Many players feature built-in microphones that enable you to record meetings, memos or any other oral communication.

FM stereo

Some players feature a standard FM stereo.


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