Ask Yourself These Questions...
Where will you use this device?
If you expect to wear it while jogging, a high anti-shock buffer figure and a low unit weight are best. Also, consider models boasting secure lid locks (some pop open easily when jostled and jarred).
Perhaps you want to wear your player under a coat or jacket while commuting. Then shop for an ultra-slim model, measuring one inch or less thick.
If you plan to use your player primarily in low-light conditions, such as planes, trains or cars, check out models with large backlit displays, so your can see which track is being played, the minutes played or remaining, the volume, the radio station setting and more.
If you want to use the player while driving, consider one with a car adapter kit. If your vehicle has a cassette deck, a personal device can double as a car CD player. Just plug the unit into the cigarette lighter socket for power and connect the adapter to the car's cassette player to send sound through its speakers.
Who else will be using the device?
Be sure that the player's buttons match the user's hands. Some models sport pea-size switches that are difficult for someone with large hands to operate.
What style of headphones do you prefer?
Your listening comfort is linked to the player's headphones, which generally fall into the over-the-ear or earbud style. Over-the-ear headphones are most common and use an adjustable headband to hold two soft foam pads against your ears, though they sometimes allow outside noise to creep in. Earbud headphones are more compact, fitting inside each ear without interfering with glasses, hats or hairstyles (though they sometimes fall out if you accidentally tug on the cord). Some headphones boast special noise-cancellation circuitry for muffling outside sounds; others offer bass boost, which improves low-end sound frequencies and creates a bigger sound. Others have in-line volume controls, letting you conveniently adjust the sound from a small dial mounted on the headphone wires.
What features are essential to you?
If you like to catch the news or certain radio DJs, shop for a model featuring an AM/FM tuner with preset buttons, letting you listen to pre-programmed stations with one-touch access. If you don't have a CD player at home, check out units offering stereo outputs (for playing CDs through the receiver and speakers in your house). If you want to record CDs onto MiniDiscs, consider a player with digital outputs compatible with a MiniDisc recorder.
How much do you want to spend?
The personal CD player is one of the least expensive audio sources you can buy. In the cheaper price range of $50 to $80, you will get a basic player with standard headphones. But, as you move up the price ladder, your personal CD player will improve and offer enhanced features such as more stylish headphones, remote control devices and rechargeable batteries, to name a few. A personal CD player ranges in price from $50 to $300.
Consider These Important Features...
- Anti-shock. Helps reduce skipping by storing the audio signal in memory 10 to 45 seconds in advance of what you're actually hearing.
- Auto shut-off. Automatically shuts the player off to save battery power when not in use.
- Battery-low indicator light. Lights up when it is time to replace your disposable alkaline batteries or refill your rechargeable ones.
- Battery strength meter. Lights or symbols that indicate when the batteries are full, half full or nearly empty.
- Car kit. You don't have a car CD player? No problem. This adapter kit lets you plug and play by drawing power from the cigarette lighter and sending sound through the car's speakers. · Jog kit. A fanny pack, often brightly coloured, for safely stashing your player.
- Intro play. Plays the first few seconds of each song on the CD to give you a sneak preview. When you find the one you like, hit play.
- Lockout. Temporarily disables the function keys to prevent you from unintentionally fiddling with the settings.
- Resume. Lets you return to the same place on the disc where you last pressed stop.
- Track programming. Programs a sequence of songs for playback in a certain order. Personal CD players typically allow 15 to 24 tracks to be programmed.
Battery life should play a major role in your buying decision. Most players require two to four disposable (alkaline) AA batteries, often not included. Battery life varies wildly from model to model. Several players come with rechargeable nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal hydride batteries, which ultimately saves you money since they can last close to a year (though their run time is roughly half that of disposables). Some units have built-in recharging capabilities, allowing you to replenish the rechargeables by plugging the supplied AC adapter into any wall outlet. A few high-end players throw in spare battery packs for extended playback time, ideal for long road trips.