September 02, 2010
Apple Announces New iPods
Apple has announced a complete refresh of their iPod music player range, from the $49 iPod Shuffle to the $229 iPod Touch.
- MyRacer Lisse Q10 has 1970s Style - October 15, 2009
- Creative Announces X-Fi2 - October 07, 2009
- Apple Announces new iPods and iTunes - September 09, 2009
Top Lab Tested Media Players
Apple iPod Touch 2nd Gen 16GB
Music / Photo / Video
Archos 7 160GB
Music / Photo / Video
Apple iPod Nano 4th Gen 8GB
Music / Photo / Video
Apple iPod Classic 6th Gen 80GB
Music / Photo / Video
Archos 5 60GB
Music / Photo / Video
MP3Media players are often referred to as MP3 players, but MP3 is an audio codec, which means it's a technology used to compress and decompress music. Although MP3 (short for MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3) is the most popular and widely used audio codec it is by no means the only one; many players also support other codecs such as AAC (Advanced Audio Coding, used by Apple media players), WMA (Windows Media Audio, created by Microsoft) and FLAC (Free Losless Audio Codec, created by open source advocates).
Audio codecs come in two flavors: lossless and lossy. Lossless codecs (such as FLAC and Apple Lossless) preserve all of the information in a piece of music. Lossy codecs (such as MP3 and AAC) get rid of bits of the music to save space by removing information that the human ear and brain may not detect. They use various techniques to determine which parts of a piece of music your ears won’t miss, and remove them (a technique called psychoacoustic modeling). In theory, this means that you won’t notice the difference, and studies have shown that most people have trouble telling the difference between an uncompressed and well compressed file. However, many audiophiles claim they can tell the difference, but
The advantage of lossy codecs like MP3 is that you can fit a lot more music into a small space (such as the memory of a media player). For example a typical audio CD holds about 700MB of data, or about 74 minutes of music (Audio CDs are uncompressed). Using MP3, you can hold many, many hours of music in the same amount of space.
You should also be aware that MP3 files are not all made the same. Of particular importance is the bitrate of the music. Bitrate refers to how much data is used to store each second of music; the higher the bitrate, the higher the quality. A typical bitrate for lossy music is 128 kilobits per second (kbps), but some is sold at 64 kbps and higher quality 256 kbps music is becoming more popular. If you double the bitrate of a file you double the size, but the relationship between audio quality and bitrate is not linear, you get less of an increase in quality as the bitrate gets higher.
So what does this mean for you as a consumer of music? Remember that your media player has only so much storage, so the higher the bitrate (and thus the quality) music you put on it, the smaller the number of songs you can fit into it.
For the highest quality music you are best off buying CDs and ripping them to a lossless format. If you want to use your media player to listen to those songs you'll need to make sure it can play back WAV, FLAC or Apple Lossless. If you don't mind purchasing compressed music but want good quality you'll probably want to find music encoded at a level of at least 128 kbps and preferably 256 kbps. If you don't care about audio quality, use 64 kbps encoded music and save a lot of space.
iRiver E100 MP3 Player Review
The iRiver E100 is an entry-level media player that looks a bit like a slider-style cell phone. The E100 doesn't have many frills and it does have quite a few issues. The software looks downright dated, especially for a device sharing its market with iPods. The d-pad on the front is also very frustratingly unresponsive: the buttons' click doesn't correspond with the buttons actually registering a press.
Archos 7 160GB MP3 Player Review
The Archos 7 is currently the largest offering from Archos, with a screen that's nearly 7-inches wide (it's slightly smaller than a full 7). While this makes the Archos 7 a great device for watching videos, it makes it the least-portable media players we've seen so far.
Archos 5 MP3 Player Review
The Archos 5 is the latest offering from Archos, and has quite an impressive list of capabilities. Out of the box it's a music / video / photo playback device with wifi. One of the Archos 5's best assets, however, is the huge array of upgrade options. Unlike the Apple Store, which only provides software extensibility, if you decide you really want GPS on your Archos 5, you can go out and buy an add-on. The same goes for DVR and a lot of other options. It should be available soon for $350
Sony Walkman 16GB MP3 Player Review
Nostalgia freaks will remember the Walkman brand; Sony launched one of the first portable tape players under the brand in the 1980s. They pretty much owned the portable audio market for years, but that all changed when portable audio went digital a few years ago. The company has been struggling to catch up since, and the Sony Walkman NWZ-A729 represents their attempt to carve back some of the space taken by small players like the iPod Nano. It does a pretty decent job; the screen is big and bright, and the device is easy to use. But there are a number of quirks that give us pause in recommending it over the Nano, such as the low audio output power and appallingly bad syncing software.
Creative X-Fi WLAN 16GB MP3 Player Review
Like all manufacturers, Creative is living in the shadow of the iPod. The X-Fi represents their attempt to try and break new ground by creating a device that can play music and video in a small, portable package. But the result is mixed; we found problems in sound quality, and it wasn't easy to use.
Apple iPod Touch 16GB MP3 Player Review
Casting the rules of grammar aside, Apple describes the new 2nd generation iPod Touch as "the funnest iPod ever". But while copy editors everywhere are grunting in disgust, this upgrade to the 1st generation Touch does much to live up to its hype, with a number of improvements that round out an already attractive package. These include volume buttons and a sleek new design that makes it even smaller. And we were impressed by the audio quality, the screen and the overall usability of the device; it sounds great, looks great and is easy to use.
Apple iPod Shuffle 1GB MP3 Player Review
The iPod Shuffle is an interesting study in extremes. First of all, the device is extremely small: it's a shirt clip with a media control buttons and a wee Gigabyte for storage. Secondly, the Shuffle only has two settings: randomly play a song that was, before hand, randomly placed on the device, or repeat one song for all eternity. Really, the Shuffle sounds more like the grounds for a philosophical discussion than a media player. The Shuffle is not for the faint of heart. If you like your media player to give you information about what song is playing, or you like to be able to choose what you listen to, the Shuffle isn't for you. Also, since it doesn't have a screen, there isn't much option for the Shuffle to do anything but play your music. This is both limiting and utilitarian, which is refreshing in the age of modern media players.
Apple iPod Classic 80GB MP3 Player Review
The iPod Classic has the face that launched the MP3 Player industry. Years later and it has a bit of a different look, but still retains its old charm. This newest iteration comes in 80GB and 120GB models, and we've reviewed the 80GB in this very review for your reading pleasure. he Classic is still equipped with its old scroll wheel, which, unfortunately, hasn't improved much. The control it provides is a bit spotty. If this were a cell phone, we would laud the Classic for the ability to quickly scroll through menus. On a media player, where playlists can have thousands of songs, the scroll wheel feels a bit inadequate. The software for playing back music and videos is great, aside from the above issue of scrolling through huge lists. The Classic, in conjunction with iTunes, also manages podcasts well. The photo album, on the other hand, is a bit lackluster.
Apple iPod Nano 8GB MP3 Player Review
The iPod Nano has undergone quite a transformation since it was first released. The last iteration was short, squat, and obliterated the iPod Mini from existence. The new Nano is ridiculously small and thin, and somehow manages to fit an accelerometer in as well. If you're familiar with iPods, you're familiar with the Nano. The tiny device can play music well, has a screen that's a bit too small for frequent video watchers, and doesn't have that many fluorishes included out of box. But don't even bother plugging the packed-in headphones into this thing, because you'll just be wasting its nearly flawless output. Invest in some nice headphones and enjoy. The Nano is currently available in nine different colors, each of which are $150.