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personal stereos

Buying Guides - Personal Stereos

About Personal Stereos

Personal stereos allow you to listen to music, news and sports, anytime or anywhere. The term personal stereo refers to the many portable radios and cassette players available on the market. There are three basic types of personal stereos: personal radios (usually AM/FM), cassette players and AM/FM/cassette players. Most personal stereos are fairly basic, while some offer more advanced features like a record function or noise reduction technologies. Some manufacturers offer sports models that are encased in brightly coloured hard plastic or rubber and are often advertised as being water resistant.

Ask Yourself These Questions...

Where will you use this device?
If you expect to use the personal stereo while jogging, a sports model is a good choice. Also consider models boasting secure lid locks (some pop open easily when jostled and jarred). If you want to wear your personal stereo under a coat or jacket while commuting, then shop for an ultra-slim model. If you plan to use your personal stereo 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.

Who else will be using the device?

Be sure that the 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.

How much do you want to spend?

Personal stereos vary in price according to type of stereo (AM/FM receiver, cassette player or AM/FM/cassette player) and the number of features and benefits it offers. Most models are very affordable, and fall into an average range of approximately $20 to $100.

Consider These Important Features

Most personal stereos offer a number of features, including some from the following list. Look for those features that best suit your individual needs.

  • Sports model. Great for active individuals, these models offer features like water resistance and durable casings. More advanced sports units may offer exercise monitors and lap timers as well.
  • Lock. Prevents presets from shifting when you place the player into a bag or briefcase.
  •  Preset buttons. Offer you a convenient way to change stations.
  • Record function. Some cassette players offer this feature that allows you to record onto cassette tapes.
  • Auto reverse. Enables you to automatically play and record on both sides of a tape with only a short interruption at the end of one side.
  • Bass boost. Provides full sound and enhances lower frequencies.
  • Noise reduction. Because cassettes sometimes have an audible hiss, there are several technologies for noise reduction. The options include Dolby B®, Dolby C®, Dolby S® and Dolby HX Pro®.
  • Weatherproofing. A definite plus if you are planning to use your personal stereo outdoors.
  • Rechargeable batteries. Cut down on the cost of replacing alkaline batteries.