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MP3 Player Buyer’s Guide

Manufacturers are unleashing new models of MP3 Players every month. Each model has multitude of features, sizes, formats catering to the needs of different sections of users.

MP3 is an acronym for MPEG (Motion Pictures Experts Group) Audio layer 3. This is just one of the many formats utilized by audio players. It is a data compression technique that drastically reduces the size of the original CD music files. The other formats widely used by the online music retailers are: WMA (WindowsMedia Audio), WAV, AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format), ATRAC, OGG, AAC (Advanced Audio Coding).

Main Features

Types of Storage

The two major classifications are: Hard drive models and Flash based models. There are other not so popular models like portable CD players and built in memory players.

Flash memory players are the smallest and the lightest. They come with long lasting batteries hence longer audio playback time than hard disk based players. They are solid state meaning no moving parts so no skipping of tracks even while jogging on hardest of terrains. Storage capacity ranges from 32MB to 8GB i.e. they can store around 120 to 2000 songs. Well, if you compress further you will be able to fit in more songs but with a compromise on audio quality. Possible extra features like voice and line-in recording.

There are flash memory models that have expansion slots. Adding memory via card slots is thus easy. The memory formats used for expansion are:

Compact Flash,

MultiMedia cards,

Secure Digital cards,

Hard drive based players can store huge number of songs when compared to the flash memory types. The portable hard drive audio players can handle160GB worth of material. Let us have a look at the various capabilities of this breed:

store play lists and information tags attached to the audio files from computer

organize the files according to the identifying tags like artists, genres etc.

accommodate tens of thousands of songs, yet the choice songs traceable with least hassle

additional features like displaying calendars, notes, contacts

ability to handle documents, pictures, files and digital music

can be a substitute of portable storage drives, read and transfer files from computer

And all good things come with a price! The complex technology involved in the making of miniature hard drives with large storage capacity has pushed the prices of these models up. Per megabyte cost is however much lower than flash based memory types. Another negative factor is the delicate frame, excessive rough use and jerks due to drops can damage the unit.

Micro hard drive based players offer the best of both hard drive based player and flash based players. These models are smaller and lighter than hard drive ones and store more music than the flash based ones.

Portable CD players play digital music saved on discs. These models are larger (large enough to accommodate 5.2 inch CD) in size and least expensive when compared with other players. These units can play the standard audio and MP3 formats; however the copyright protected formats from online music stores are not supported by these players. These can store up to 150 MP3 songs in one 650MB disc. Power consumption is more due to the spinning of CD drives.

Built in memory players– The data is collected from your PC through the PC’s USB, serial or parallel port connection and is stored in unit’s memory. Not more than 3000 songs can be stored.

Storage Capacity

Obviously, greater the storage capacity, more the number of songs you can store. Hard drive based player score the maximum with storage capacity of 40,000 songs, flash based players come next in list followed by CD players. Depending on how you intend to use the MP3 player and the storage type, you can find various models in the different ranges of storage capacity at the links below:

0.125 to 2 GB,

2 to 8 GB,

8 to 31 GB,

31 to 100 GB,

100 to 160 GB.

File management

Each MP3 file includes ID3 tags. The metadata of each file provides information regarding the songs i.e. the artist, title, album etc. The players can organize the files based on this information.

File type support

Audio Formats

The file format support is an important feature. It will decide what music file format you will be able to play. All digital audio players can play MP3 files , but can’t say the same with other file formats like WMA, ATRAC, OGG. So check out the specifications and if the player doesn’t have the preferred format you can download the same from the manufacturer’s site. The most common audio file formats are the following; you can check few models at the corresponding links:








Oqq Vorbis,


and WMA .

Video Formats

If your player comes with a screen, i.e. video capability, you will have to check out the video format support too. The most common ones are AVI,

DivX ,







MP3 ,


Ogg Vorbis,




MP3 ,


Ogg Vorbis ,




MP3 player have morphed into various shapes and sizes. Hard drive based player weighs 1.2 ounce to over 22 ounce. Flash based player weighs around 2 ounces. For models at various ranges of weight, check the following links:

0.1to 1.06 oz,

1.06 to 3.26 oz,

3.26 to 5.51 oz,

5.51 to 396.83 oz,

Display Size

The tiny display screen helps you to navigate through options like volume control and choice of songs. Make sure you are able to see the display even while outdoors under glare. Check for various models in the screen size range given:

1 to 1.7 inch,

1.7 to 2 inch,

2 to 3.5 inch,

3.5 to 7 inch.

Battery life

Hard drive based players last with one battery for about 14 hrs with only the audio on; with video on the battery will drain even faster. The hard drive based players with non removable lithium-ion batteries last for two to four years. You get 20 to 50 hours with flash based devices as there are no moving parts. Go for the ones with rechargeable batteries. If you are making a selection based on battery life check the following two ranges:

0.58 to 6.4 hrs,

6.4 to 150 hrs.

Other interesting features music and voice recording features, onboard tuners, photo viewers, video viewers, slideshow functions

MP3 players types

Musicoholics-Music all day long

For those of you who listen to music all day long a hard drive based player would be an ideal choice. It can store a huge number of songs and has long battery life. They are unsuitable when it comes to listening while exercising. The movable parts of the player are prone to damage on high impact movement.

On Workouts

You want to go jogging out in the world, flash based players would be ideal as they don’t have movable parts. Check out the models with accessories like arm band, head phones and may be a sweat-resistant model.

Budget models

MP3 CD players and flash based players are inexpensive when compared to the hard drive based players. If you are comfortable with burning CDs frequently you can consider buying these models. Those with FM radio tuner enable you to hook on to the local radio stations.

Watching Video

MP3 players come with a screen, very small one but can be entertaining enough. These are very much akin to the portable video players and if you intend having this feature in your player go for the ones that have 2-inches or more diagonal screens.


MP3 players can be purchased for as low as 100$ to 1500$. The features will vary.

Low range models from 0.01 to 237.49$ are available with many manufacturers. You get above average audio and video, good battery life and limited storage capacity.

Mid-range MP3 players from 237.49 to 599.84$ have excellent features, good battery life and good screen resolution.

High range models from 599.84 to 1437.12$ have excellent and fast photo viewer. The LCD display is ideal for organizing play lists and navigating media.


Today there are a number of brands competing for your attention. Once you have decided on the price you can check the various brands for features like how many songs you can store, the size and weight, the battery life etc. Some of the big names in this field are:

Apple, Archos, Iriver, SanDisk, Samsung, RCA, Sony etc

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