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Buying an MP3 Player: What to Look For

Buying an MP3 Player: What to Look For

MP3 players are one too many these days. Music on the move is fine, but being bombarded with choices can be quite a pain when you are ready to buy one. Do you go with a well known name, such as Apple and their iPod or do you take a chance on a cheaper, not so well known maker? Well, to make your decision a little easier, here is a rough guide on what to look for when buying an MP3 player.


Memory is the key to an MP3 player. Therefore, the greater the memory, the better it is. You can store that many more songs and so on. There’s nothing like it!

Audio/Video Formats

If your player supports a number of audio and video formats, it’s a great value add, because you don’t have to bother looking for a software program that converts it to a compatible format. The audio formats include MP3, WMA, FLAC, Ogg Vorbis and WAV, while the video formats include MPEG-1, MPEG-4, DivX, XviD and WMV. Also, remember, if the player has many audio equalizers and bands, the better acoustics it can offer. If it has a manual dial, that’s even better as well.


Examine the number of features the MP3 player boasts of and then see if they match your needs. Often times, we end up buying something because it has everything we want, even though we tend not to use most of them. Some key functions that should help you make a decision are a text viewer, picture viewer, video player, FM radio and voice recorder.


Lithium ion batteries are better than AA Alkaline cells for a longer life. It’s always best to opt for a long battery life, because you don’t want your player to die down in the middle of an emotionally rousing number.

Value Adds

It’s the extra features that go a long way in helping you make your choice. Some of them include a systematic and user friendly playlist management feature that allows you to create a personalized playlist, as opposed to playing songs in a sequential or random order. The other important feature is the ability of the player to directly record from external sources using an audio or video line-in feature. Direct encoding allows you to record in MP3 format as well. And what’s more, some players allow you to read the saved lyrics on the display screen.

Listening Pleasure

Listen to fast and slow numbers and determine the sound quality. A bad experience here could mean a definite no! And while you’re at it, check the headphone quality as well. If you can hear all the musical instruments in the song, you are on to a good thing. But, if several musical elements sound muffled, it’s not only a bad headphone, but the MP3 player isn’t in good shape either.

Look and Feel

Every gadget is also a style statement. So, look for stylistic players that not only score on looks, but are also hardy and scratch resistant. The smaller and lighter they are, the better they will look.

Browsing Interface

Player interface is as important as the player itself. That means, jog dials and touch screens that facilitate easier browsing score over the others that are too cumbersome to handle. The best player for browsing is of course, Apple’s version.

Guaranteed Tenure

Some players carry a warranty of one year and some have three years. It’s better to go for a player that offers more security.

Get Your Money’s Worth

You have a certain budget and you want a few important things for your player. It could be stylish with a basic musical capability. It could be a great music player, even if you aren’t unduly concerned about the looks, etc. What you need to do is take a look at all the features offered by the player and combine those with its performance. Based on this, you should calculate whether or not the price justifies the features it offers.

Flash Drive vs. Hard Drive

Some players have flash based memory, while the others are hard drive based. The only difference is that while flash based players can only store a maximum of 8 GB worth of memory, the hard drive ones can store up to 80 GB. But, of course, they are a lot more bulkier than the flash based players. Importantly, look for a player that allows you to directly transfer files from USB devices, like digital cameras and flash drives. But, if you’re not the type to hook a player up to your computer very often, stay away from flash memory MP3 players. Otherwise, you’ll end up listening to the same tunes over and over again. MP3 CD players are the only portable audio players that don’t need to be connected to your computer in order to load songs to the memory.

And Finally…

Some of the good models available in the market include Cowon iAudio U3, Iriver E10, Iriver S10 M, Creative Zen Vision M, Cowon A2 and of course, the Apple iPod. Choose the player that makes you happy as you listen to your tunes. Fancy features, unknown buttons and dancing icons on the screen make for fun bells and whistles, but if the player is too complicated to figure out, you might not love it as much as you should. Choose for yourself. Your happiness is all that matters!

~ Zahid H. Javali