Article by Kevin Savetz

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Copyright © by Kevin Savetz


Think of your poor music collection, trapped on those CDs. Sure, you can listen to those tunes on your home stereo. Maybe you have a CD player in your car, too, with a few discs rattling around in the back seat. For all those other times when a CD player isn't so handy (and when your CD collection isn't portable enough), you need a portable digital audio player.

With a portable digital audio player, you can take your entire CD collection-or at least a good chunk of it-wherever you go. Janice Joplin while jogging? Herbie Hancock on the hammock? No problem. There are countless choices in portable digital audio players; check the charts for our roundup.

To get your music collection into a portable player, you'll need to rip your CDs. Ripping is the process of transferring the music on a CD into a file format the player can read. Most players include PC software for ripping your CDs. If yours doesn't, you can use free software like Musicmatch Jukebox (www.musicmatch.com) to do it. The most popular digital music format (and the one supported by every portable player) is MP3. Other popular formats are WMA (Windows Media Audio), OGG (Ogg Vorbis), and Audible (which is used for spoken word content available from audible.com). After your music has been digitized, you can copy it from the PC to the player for music on the move.

The amount of music that you can tote along depends on the amount of storage space in your player. The largest players, with 20GB to 40GB of space, can hold hundreds of CDs worth of music. Players with the least amount of space, 64MB to 256MB, can hold at least a few hours of music. A MP3 file ripped at 128Kbps (a reasonable rate for great sounding music) takes up about 1MB for every minute of audio. At that rate, a 256MB player can hold about four hours of music, and a 128MB player about two hours.

Flash Players

These players store music on flash memory. With no moving parts, they're typically small and light but hold less music than players with hard drives.

Rhomba
Capacity: 128MB; 256MB
Features: FM tuner, record from FM, built-in microphone, charges from USB cable
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Creative Labs (www.creative.com)
List Price: $149.99; $199.99

Nomad MuVo2 X-Trainer
Capacity: 512MB; 1GB
Features: rubberized sports case with arm band, charges from USB cable, USB 2.0
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Creative Labs (www.creative.com)
List Price: $269.99; $499.99

Nomad MuVo
Capacity: 64MB
Features: removable memory doubles as USB flash drive
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Creative Labs (www.creative.com)
List Price: $79.99

Nomad MuVo NX
Capacity: 128MB; 256MB
Features: built-in voice recorder
Formats: MP3, WMA, WAV
Manufacturer: Creative Labs (www.creative.com)
List Price: $149.99; $199.99

Nomad IIc
Capacity: 64MB; 128MB
Features: built-in voice recorder, upgradeable to 128MB with SmartMedia card
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Creative Labs (www.creative.com)
List Price: $99.99; $129.99

iFP-140
Capacity: 64MB
Features: built-in voice recorder
Formats: MP3, WMA, ASF
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $79.99

iFP-180T
Capacity: 128MB
Features: FM tuner, record from FM or built-in voice recorder
Formats: MP3, WMA, ASF
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $119.99

iFP-190T
Capacity: 256MB
Features: FM tuner, record from FM or built-in voice recorder
Formats: MP3, WMA, ASF
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $179.99

iFP-195T
Capacity: 512MB
Features: FM tuner, record from FM or built-in voice recorder
Formats: MP3, WMA, ASF
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $299.99

iFP-340
Capacity: 64MB
Features: built-in voice recorder and line-in jack
Formats: MP3, WMA, ASF
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $99.99

iFP-380T
Capacity: 128MB
Features: FM tuner, record from FM, built-in voice recorder and line-in jack
Formats: MP3, WMA, ASF
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $139.99

iFP-390T
Capacity: 256MB
Features: FM tuner, record from FM, built-in voice recorder, line in jack, and armband
Formats: MP3, WMA, ASF
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $199.99

iFP-395T
Capacity: 512MB
Features: FM tuner, record from FM, built-in microphone, and line in jack, and armband
Formats: MP3, WMA, ASF
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $299.99

Mojo 128F
Capacity: 128MB
Features: add up to 512MB with optional SD/MMC (Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard), record from FM or built-in microphone
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: TDK (www.tdk.com/cdmp3)
List Price: $159.99

Mojo 256F
Capacity: 256MB
Features: add up to 512MB with optional SD/MMC card, record from FM or built-in microphone, text-to-speech software
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: TDK (www.tdk.com/cdmp3)
List Price: $209.99

Mojo X
Capacity: 128MB
Features: bare bones
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: TDK (www.tdk.com/cdmp3)
List Price: $109.99

Mojo 1
Capacity: 128MB
Features: integrated into neckband-style headphones, FM tuner, add up to 512MB with optional SD/MMC card
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: TDK (www.tdk.com/cdmp3)
List Price: $199.99

Rio Fuse
Capacity: 128MB
Features: plugs directly into USB port without cable
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Digital Networks (www.rioaudio.com)
List Price: $129.99

Rio Chiba 128
Capacity: 128MB
Features: FM tuner, add up to 512MB with optional SD/MMC card
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Digital Networks (www.rioaudio.com)
List Price: $169.99

Rio Chiba 256
Capacity: 256MB
Features: FM tuner, add up to 512MB with optional SD/MMC card
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Digital Networks (www.rioaudio.com)
List Price: $199.99

Rio Cali 128
Capacity: 128MB
Features: rubberized sports case with armband, stopwatch and lap timer, FM tuner, add up to 512MB with optional SD/MMC card
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Digital Networks (www.rioaudio.com)
List Price: $169.99

Rio Cali 256
Capacity: 256MB
Features: rubberized sports case with armband, stopwatch and lap timer, FM tuner, add up to 512MB with optional SD/MMC card
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Digital Networks (www.rioaudio.com)
List Price: $199.99

irock! 860
Capacity: 256MB
Features: FM tuner
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: First International Digital (www.myirock.com)
List Price: $199.99

irock! 830
Capacity: 128MB
Features: FM tuner
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: First International Digital (www.myirock.com)
List Price: $149.99

irock! 730i
Capacity: 128MB
Features: graphical screen for MP3i files, add up to 128MB with SmartMedia card, built-in voice recorder
Formats: MP3i, MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: First International Digital (www.myirock.com)
List Price: $179.99

irock! 530
Capacity: 128MB
Features: add up to 128MB with SmartMedia card
Formats: MP3
Manufacturer: First International Digital (www.myirock.com)
List Price: $179.99

irock! 520
Capacity: 64MB
Features: add up to 128MB with SmartMedia card
Formats: MP3
Manufacturer: First International Digital (www.myirock.com)
List Price: $129.99

DMP-110
Capacity: 64MB
Features: FM tuner, built-in voice recorder
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Gateway (www.gateway.com)
List Price: $79.99

DMP-210
Capacity: 128MB
Features: FM tuner, built-in voice recorder
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Gateway (www.gateway.com)
List Price: $99.99

DMP-310
Capacity: 256MB
Features: FM tuner, built-in voice recorder
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Gateway (www.gateway.com)
List Price: $149.99

Diva MP3 Player
Capacity: 224MB
Features: add up to 512MB with CompactFlash card slot, VOR (voice operated recording)
Formats: MP3
Manufacturer: Daisy Multimedia (www.daisymm.com); buy from Technipeal Digital Products (www.technipeal.com)
List Price: $149

Diva Gem
Capacity: 256MB
Features: Bluetooth, record from FM tuner or built-in microphone, SD/MMC card slot, charges via USB
Formats: MP3, AAC
Manufacturer: Daisy Multimedia (www.daisymm.com)
List Price: NA

Compact 280
Capacity: 128MB
Features: Speaker, record from FM tuner, line-in, or telephone conversation
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: FancyLogic (http://www.fancylogic.com)
List Price: $198

Compact 290
Capacity: 256MB
Features: Speaker, record from FM tuner, line-in, or telephone conversations
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: FancyLogic (www.fancylogic.com)
List Price: $249


Hard Drive Players


These players store music on a hard drive for massive storage, but tend to be larger and more prone to vibration than flash memory players.

Digital Jukebox
Capacity: 15GB; 20GB
Features: built-in voice recorder, USB 2.0, charges from USB cable
Formats: MP3, WMA, WAV
Manufacturer: Dell (www.dell.com)
List Price: $249; $299

Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra
Capacity: 30GB; 40GB; 60GB
Features: USB 2.0, environmental and spatialization effects, speed or slow audio without pitch distortion
Formats: MP3, WMA, WAV
Manufacturer: Creative Labs (www.creative.com)
List Price: $299; $349; $399

Nomad Jukebox Zen NX
Capacity: 20GB; 30GB
Features: USB 2.0, environmental and spatialization effects, speed or slow audio without pitch distortion
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Creative Labs (www.creative.com)
List Price: $249.99; $279.99

Nomad Jukebox 3
Capacity: 20GB; 40GB
Features: USB 1.1 and FireWire, environmental and spatialization effects, speed or slow audio without pitch distortion
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Creative Labs (www.creative.com)
List Price: $299.99, $399.99

iGP-100
Capacity: 1.5GB
Features: USB 2.0, FM tuner
Formats: OGG, MP3, WMA, ASF
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $249.99

iHP-100
Capacity: 10GB
Features: USB 2.0, FM tuner, built-in voice recorder
Formats: MP3, WMA, ASF, WAV
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $349.99

iHP-120
Capacity: 20GB
Features: USB 2.0, FM tuner, built-in voice recorder
Formats: OGG, MP3, WMA, ASF, WAV
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $399.99

Rio Nitrus
Capacity: 1.5GB
Features: USB 2.0
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Digital Networks (www.rioaudio.com)
List Price: $219.99
Image: 18jjt04.jpg

Rio Karma
Capacity: 20GB
Features: USB 2.0, docking station with RCA line out and Ethernet port
Formats: OGG, FLAC, MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Digital Networks (www.rioaudio.com)
List Price: $349.99

iPod
Capacity: 10GB; 20GB; 40GB
Features: USB 2.0 and FireWire. Also stores contacts, calendar, and games. Wired remote and dock (20 and 40 GB models).
Formats: MP3, WAV, Audible
Manufacturer: Apple (www.apple.com/ipod)
List Price: $299; $399; $499

iPod mini
Capacity: 4GB
Features: USB 2.0 and FireWire. Also stores contacts, calendar, and games. Armband and dock.
Formats: MP3, WAV, Audible
Manufacturer: Apple (www.apple.com/ipodmini)
List Price: $249

DMP-X20
Capacity: 20GB
Features: USB 2.0, FM tuner, built-in microphone, wired remote control
Formats: MP3, WMA, WAV, Audible
Manufacturer: Gateway (www.gateway.com)
List Price: $299.99

Napster YP-910GS
Capacity: 20GB
Features: USB 2.0, FM transmitter, encoding from built-in voice recorder, FM tuner, or line-in
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: Samsung (www.samsung.com)
List Price: $349.99

Odyssey 1000
Capacity: 15GB; 20GB; 40GB
Features: USB 2.0, voice control, FM tuner, spatialization effects
Formats: MP3, WMA
Manufacturer: eDigital (www.edig.com)
List Price: $299.99; $349.99; $399.99


Disc Players

Instead of using flash memory or a hard drive, these models play CDs that you've burned with audio files, as well as traditional audio CDs.

CD-MP3 M100
Capacity: up to 700 MB per CD
Features: 8-minute skip-free playback, wired remote
Formats: audio CD, MP3/WMA CD
Manufacturer: Creative Labs (www.creative.com)
List Price: $99.99

iMP-50
Capacity: up to 700 MB per CD
Features: 4-minute skip-free playback
Formats: audio CD, MP3/WMA/ASF CD
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $59.99

ChromeX 150
Capacity: up to 700 MB per CD
Features: 4-minute skip-free playback, wired remote
Formats: audio CD, MP3/WMA/ASF CD
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $79.99

SlimX 350
Capacity: up to 700 MB per CD
Features: 16-minute skip-free playback, wired remote, FM tuner
Formats: audio CD, MP3/WMA/ASF CD
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $129.99

SlimX 400
Capacity: up to 700 MB per CD
Features: 16-minute skip-free playback, wired remote, FM tuner, car kit
Formats: audio CD, MP3/WMA/ASF CD
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $159.99

SlimX 550
Capacity: up to 700 MB per CD
Features: 32-minute skip-free playback, wired remote, FM tuner, optical output, car kit
Formats: audio CD, MP3/WMA/ASF CD
Manufacturer: iRiver (www.iriveramerica.com)
List Price: $179.99

irock! BliNG
Capacity: up to 700 MB per CD
Features: 2-minute skip-free playback, wired remote control
Formats: audio CD, MP3 CD
Manufacturer: First International Digital (www.myirock.com)
List Price: $59.99     

Reprinted with permission from PC Today magazine.


Articles by Kevin Savetz