Headphones & Mp3 Players forum

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Clueless about MP3 players, need help!

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / December 5, 2008 7:12 AM PST

Hello there. I hope your community of members can help this novice out. For the holidays, I'm planning to surprise both my grandkids (ages 11 and 14) with an MP3 player each, but the sad thing is I don't know a thing about them. I went to the local store and I was quite shocked to find how many of these players there are. For instance, I thought the iPod was just one type of player, but to my surprise there are a few different models just from the iPod name, which makes it even more confusing. I know it would be difficult for you to determine what is best for my grandkids, but I would like to get them something that they will enjoy for years to come. I don't want to buy them a cheap one, nor do I want to overspend (budget is $100 to $200), but I do want them to be happy with what I get them and be the coolest grandma who is hip with what's in. It's a big surprise for them and bigger challenge for me because right now I'm clueless. If you can help me out and explain with simple terms the overall differences between the varieties of MP3 players there are, what makes a good and bad MP3 player, what features are favorable or unfavorable, I would be forever grateful.

Submitted by: A lost grandma, Louise T.

Here are some featured member answers to get you started, but
please read up on all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this member's question.

The MP3 player rundown --Submitted by MehStrongBadMeh -

MP3 players... --Submitted by Watzman

MP3 purchase... --Submitted by forkboy

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by roppbec / December 5, 2008 9:57 AM PST

The most popular MP3 player would undoubtly be the iPod by apple. You can get a Ipos Nano for about $150. If you buy it from apple.com, they will offer free engraving on the back for personalization.

There are other good choices out there though. I have an iRiver and it is very nice. Main thing is memory. Get one that is at least 4 gigabytes. Don't get any smaller; it won't hold enough music.

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I agree.
by TreknologyNet / December 7, 2008 6:21 PM PST
In reply to: Mp3

If you really want the "coolness factor" with your grand-kids, then Apple is the way to go.

Is 4GB really enough? I have an "alternative" that only has 512MB (1/8 of what is being recommended) and that is plenty for me.

Because this technology dates really quickly, I would suggest you aim for the highest capacity you can reasonably afford. Computer memory is like a new garage--it's amazing how quickly it can be filled to the brim.

I also suggest you make discreet inquiries to find out which colors you should choose.

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Update Mp3 to Mp4
by grandmaks / January 20, 2009 6:05 AM PST
In reply to: I agree.


Can you tell me how to update my grandsons Mp3 as technology develops to newer MP's. Sure would appreciate some insight.

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re: update
by CRod67 / January 20, 2009 6:20 AM PST
In reply to: Update Mp3 to Mp4

Most newer MP3's already play mp3 & mp4 file formats. (along with a number of other popular files such as Wav, AAC, etc) It really depends on the player your grandson has when it comes to "updating" them. Your able to update the Creative Zen and a few other players by "firmware" updates. You just have to check the manufacturer's website such as Apple, Creative, etc. and you should be able to find that information online. There was an issue with the screen freezing on some of the Zen players, although I haven't had that problem with mine. But I did go onto their website and do a firmware update, that gave the player the latest updates for that particular model. Unless he's got an older model he should be ok with what is already on his player, but check the manufacturer's website to make sure. Hope this helps.
Good luck!

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Sony 8gig mp3/video/fm 700 series
by rbdunn5 / December 31, 2008 9:26 PM PST
In reply to: Mp3

I don't know if this is the right place to ask this question, but
I can't seem to locate the exact area. I have a new Sony 8gig
mp3/video/fm player and would like to be able to watch movies
on it but can't seem to find any information that is straight
forward enough for me to readily understand. I would like to be
able to take a dvd and put it on the player. Is this possible
or did I get dupped by thinking the video aspect of this device
does not relate to movies...
Please help a novice...

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you can, but
by ktreb / January 1, 2009 7:45 AM PST

Technically, it's illegal in the United States if your thinking of commercial DVDs. As such, can't really discuss specific programs that allow you to do this. Though there is an arguement about fair use, backing up your purchased DVDs by ripping them, etc. I believe the largely illegal part is the breaking of copy protection that would be needed in order to copy a commercial DVD. That doesn't mean that it isn't done. I might have given some hints on what needs to be done. Hopefully not too much that this gets locked or deleted.

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kinda true
by Marino013 / January 1, 2009 7:53 AM PST
In reply to: you can, but

You're correct only in the aspect of copying DVD's for distribution purposes. That is illegal. However, you are allowed to copy them for "personal use" only. ie: to put them on your pc, MP3 players, etc. Just do a search online, there are numerous programs out there that will help you do this.

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personal use should be okay
by ktreb / January 1, 2009 8:09 AM PST
In reply to: kinda true

It's fair use. But it is illegal to break the copy protection (which commercial DVDs have) according to the digital millenium copyright act of 1998. That's why it's a little dicey when we start discussing it on these forums. I've seen threads get shut down here when we start discussing specifics about how to do it. I've also seen others slide through. But it is against Terms of Use. I don't want to have this particular thread locked because of this.

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this is true
by Marino013 / January 1, 2009 8:52 AM PST

Good point ktreb

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reply to mp3 players
by rombus / December 5, 2008 10:05 AM PST

Well if you mean that your budget is between 100-200 for both of them, then get the older one an ipod nano, and the younger one something like a Samsung YP-U3

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iPods are your best bet
by tidymaze / December 5, 2008 10:11 AM PST

Since your grandkids are 11 and 14, and I happen to have siblings around those ages, I can tell you that if you want to be the cool, hip grandma, go with the iPod. Kids in that age range are all about name brands, and no other mp3 player has the name-recognition of the iPod. You didn't specify if your budget is for both, or if that's your price range for each. So, you can get an iPod Shuffle for around $50. It doesn't have a screen (which makes it more kid-friendly), but it's pretty small, therefore, easily lost. For $150, you can get the iPod Nano, which comes in about 9 different colors. This one has a screen, but they are fairly sturdy. iPod Nanos can also play videos and some games.

All in all, I think your best bet is to visit a couple of stores in your area that sell iPods (Wal-Mart, Target, and almost every electronics store carries them) and ask a sales associate what they think. Then you can see the product, hold it (maybe) and make the best decision for your money. Good luck!

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Ipod all the way
by varshneyprateek / December 5, 2008 10:18 AM PST

Hello Louise,
I would say just get an ipod. There are currently 2 models in your price range. The ipod nano 8 giga byte (GB or g) for $149 and the ipod nano 16 giga byte (GB or g) for $199. I would pick the ipod because: 1: Both come in lots of colors. 2: with iTunes Plus and an Amazon MP3 store that loads straight into iTunes, it has a very large DRM free library. 3: Their friends probably all have them. 4:It has a very large market share. Which means there are TONS of accessories and LOTS of software. By software, I mean video converters that are easy to use.

This is the best one I've found: http://www.koyotesoft.com/indexEn.html (select free ipod video converter on the side)
Also, format factory is a GREAT one. It has a convert to ipod under the mobile tab. Can be found at: http://www.formatoz.com/

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by CRod67 / December 12, 2008 2:48 PM PST
In reply to: Ipod all the way

You're telling Louise to get an Ipod because they come in different colors? Are you kidding me?? There are MP3 players out there that are less than half the cost and have twice as many features, like FM tuners and larger video screens on them AND longer battery life. You're paying for the name only when you buy and Ipod and to me, that's not a good enough reason. Especially when you can purchase a Creative Zen for about 60 bucks and has way more options and features than a purple or fuschia colored Ipod. All Apple products are a rip off IMO.
Louise, do yourself a favor and save some money at the same time. Get the Creative Zen. Their sold everywhere so go down to your local WalMart and pick one up.
Merry Christmas everyone!

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Windows XP randomly freezing
by jrcody34 / December 5, 2008 10:28 AM PST

I had a similar problem before, is the memory in your XP machine from Dell originally or an upgrade?..if you upgraded then you may want to try removing the upgraded stick(s) and try that for a while and see if the problem still exists, if it does try switching between the sticks that were replaced. I had the same issue and it ended up being a faulty memory stick. Hope this helps.

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Apple may be fashionable, but there's better stuff
by Crash2100 / December 5, 2008 10:34 AM PST

Apple products are a lot like expensive sports cars, it's fashionable to get one, but they don't do much more for most people that buy them.

For crying out loud, a 1GB Apple iPod Shuffle costs $50. You can get an MP3 player that has 4GB of storage, an FM Radio Tuner, and also plays MP4 video and picture files, for $10 LESS! Something like this:

Mach Speed Onyx 4GB MP3/MP4 Player w/ FM Tuner/ Voice Recorder 1.8" Display

Unless they specifically want the Apple iPod for its geeky style, I say, get them a cheaper, more feature soaked product.

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I like the ZUNE players
by kingskid50 / December 5, 2008 10:46 AM PST

We have purchased the ZUNE players. They have a larger screen and can do more in my opinion than the I pods. Our son has an 80 GB player and our daughter has a 30GB one. They are from Microsoft Corp.

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by jerrysbaby / December 13, 2008 4:40 AM PST

are these compatible with iTunes?

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Creative and zune players good places to get
by Father Time4 / December 13, 2008 7:49 AM PST

I always go to newegg.com for alot of my computer gadgets... I try and stay away from the IPODs.. to me they are a waste of money.. you cant have 2 IPODs on the same computer.. it will automatically add those songs of the oth persons favorites.. or delete his or hers play list and you will have to start all over,, excpecially if you buy them the same one.. it will recgonize it as the same one.. to me its a pain.. not worth the time..

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My 11 yr old daughter has a Zune
by gflash128 / December 15, 2008 3:23 AM PST

My 11 yr old daughter has a Zune. She loves it and so do I. It was affordable and has many features of the IPod, if not more. It looks cool and the battery charges through the USB cable that you connect to the computer to download your music, videos, etc...

There is no doubt that the cooooolest MP3 with the pre-teens and young teens is the IPod touch screen. It's the newest and as such, the coolest.

The IPod is gonna be $$$$!, and most, if not all, of the features will be outdated before a year is up. If you want them to enjoy it for years, I would suggest getting a Zune, or other that you have read about, that are less expensive yet have the most features for the buck. That way, if new features come out that are the latest,and by default the coolest, you'll have enough cash to upgrade to a newer model.

Technology changes too fast to try to keep the latest and greatest all the time. Keep in mind that your grandkids will soon be getting, if the don't already have, the notorious CELL PHONE!! Most kids are using there cell phones as MP3 players as the phones are incorporating more and more features, and, they usually get upgraded each year or so depending on your cell phone plan.

Like I said, a cool MP3 player, with lot's of features yet not as $$$ as IPOD is probably your best bet for this year.

Peace and Merry Christmas.
The best , coolest present they can get this year is their "way cool" Grandma who would go through all this trouble for them. You go with yourself Grandma!


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by His SHadow / December 23, 2008 6:18 AM PST

That's your advice? Buy a hopelessly outclassed MP3 player because the top of the line, which is actually similarly priced or more likely even cheaper, keeps evolving? So rather than have something that is the latest and greatest and deal with the fact that technology changes, buy a dumbed down MP3 player which won't be superseded by another model because the Zune evolution is glacial? We won't even get into how much more advanced the iPod Touch is...

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Clueless about Mp3 players
by mittens / December 5, 2008 10:49 AM PST

Not a solution, but a suggestion; considering the age of the kids involved, they probably know already what they like and don't like, and what is cool with the kids they hang out with--and at this stage you might be the coolest grandma going if you could go with them (the surprise will be when you get to the store) and said, "this is how much money I have to spend, get the Mp3 players you like that I can afford".

I dont know how practical that sounds, but if'n it were me, and I had two grandchildren at that age, I'd rather get them something they want rather than something you THINK they want.

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good idea
by jerrysbaby / December 13, 2008 4:41 AM PST

good idea...I cld be a grandma since I am in that age group...but I wld try this approach too...

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Best MP3 player for your Grandchildren
by rdturner127 / December 24, 2008 5:07 AM PST

I agree with you wholeheartedly. It's better to get them something they want than something some grown folk think they want. iPods offer the coolness factor a lot of kids crave. However, your grandchildren might not want iPods. Their friends might be into something else. For coolness alone, and for no other reason, you usually can't go wrong with any iPod. Creative Stone and Zunes do have many more features and generally better sound quality. However, it's best to either find out from their parents what your grandchildren have been talking about or take them to a store, tell them your budget and let them pick their own. Also, I suggest talking to their parents because they might already be planning on getting your grandchildren MP3 players.

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MP3 Players...Clueless
by BillyReeves / December 5, 2008 11:04 AM PST

Hello clueless, lost Grandma.
Using my cool factor and the top opinions of teens' tastes by just checking the sites, it appears that the "iPod Touch" is "awesome."
The 8MB model is great for your price range. Do a little googling for "top rated MP3 players" "best selling mp3 players"
Make sure you use quotes to limit your search to those words in a phrase.

Good Luck and Merry Christmas


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Get them something with replaceable batteries
by ethanw / December 5, 2008 11:05 AM PST

If your grandkids are teens, the one bit of advice is to get them a player where the batteries can be replaced easily. Though this will make MP3 and iPod snobs cringe, I rely on iRiver players when I can get them but, in lieu of that, Sansa. They're easy to use and your grandkids won't have any problem at all in filling them with their kind of music. The iPods (plural) that I have had have had to be sent in every nine months to have their batteries replaced (and that isn't cheap). However, iPods are the favorites of teens, overrated and expensive but favorites. You should get an MP3 player with 8 GB of storage (about 1100 songs) and you'll still be well within your budget.

EthanW (with 2 grandkids and 4 MP3 players)

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try the refurbished ones
by jerrysbaby / December 13, 2008 4:45 AM PST

OK...might not sound too cool. but I got my girls (16 and 18) refurbished 2GB and 8GB...they look like new and they cost less and they didn't think I was a miser...they were awed since they didn't not expect it! Work like a charm and they handle them on their own thru iTunes which is installed on all our laptops and desktops....plus they get extra stuff swapping with their friends using a small software gizmo called iPod transfer...
just my 2c.
gri up in cold alaska

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MachSpeed players are ok and Apple is just over priced
by tbowers8993 / December 5, 2008 11:17 AM PST

I like My MachSpeed Player, i have the Eclipse 2gb model, and it even looks close to that of a Silver Apple Nano. MachSpeed does not even list it on there website yet. I found it at FYE for $20. It does good with Mp3 files, as long as they are properly encoded, or funky random ID3 tags will show up. WMA does not seem to work so well. As with most of the lower end models, they are Z80 or eZ80 Zilog/Simtel based players. they use .AMV for the video codec which, is based on the motion Jpeg standard. It comes with the converter software for AMV. If they break it what the heck it's only $20 - $40 a player. Just make sure to throw out the cheap headphones it comes with, and get them some nicer onces like some over the ear Ifrogz or Koss. As for Apple to me it's JUNK. All there products are over priced and use Property formats, and not to mention ITUNES which is bad on Windows and $.99 and up for a song or video. I have a niece who works for the apple store in San Ann. TX, and told me not to buy Apple. If that does not say something about Apple, that some of it's own employies hate them, I don't know what will. Be smart don't buy into the Apple Hype.

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Not an easy answer, but maybe a sensible one
by grtgrfx / December 5, 2008 11:23 AM PST

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who like iPods...and everyone else. Now the folks who dislike Apple's MP3 player have lots of reasons for their opinion, ranging from a lack of interoperability with other music providers (true) to the gall of Apple to make something that's, ahem, "cool," instead of (insert your hyper-technical wishlist items here). Most complaints fall into these two categories.

Fact is, Apple did the world a lot of good by inventing iPods, by making older often cumbersome techie-only devices easy to use, attractive and fun. Unfortunately Apple does charge a premium for the pleasure of owning their products, and many feel the cachet just isn't worth the cash. But millions of iPod owners can't all be drinking the coolaid; iPods are indeed some of the nicest, simplest and, yes, coolest MP3 players you can buy. For the average citizen, an iPod is a great gift because there's almost no learning curve and the thing just works.

Since the iPod's debut, however, the other music player manufacturers have had to get in the game or lose whatever market share Apple's left for them. This means, Creative, Sansa, Archos, Microsoft and all the other companies have had to make their players better just to compete, which is great for everyone. So you will find players from the other makers that are cheaper, roomier, more flexible and have asked-for features like integral radios, recording capability, etc. And that's a good thing. Apple's making them produce nicer players just by being in the same room. However, no matter what their marketing departments promise, these other players do not provide the silky-smooth user experience of an iPod.

This is one case where following the herd can truly get you a great product instead of some compromised, lowest-common-denominator piece of mass-market junk (see GM cars). And yet you can still strike out on your own and find alternative players which can combine competitive pricing and better feature sets with a somewhat more challenging user experience, without settling for crud. It's your choice: premium product for the premier sensibility, or alternatives that deliver more value with a bit less bliss.

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Competition has forced iPod to improve not vice versa
by wdbintx / December 12, 2008 2:36 PM PST

If the kids are followers, iPod may be the only choice. But if they are more into function and features, or simply are able to think for themselves, they may prefer another brand. And as many have already commented, one can easily find better function and/or a broader feature set for less money with any number of other brands - in fact, it would be difficult to not do so.

I did see some mention of it in another post, but perhaps the most important thing for Grandma to consider is that going for cool for tweens simply does not fit with the desire to give them something they will get years of use from. Apple understands this very well. That's why new models appear every 6 to 8 weeks. Some good friends who live in another state have 2 teenage daughters. When they visited here 2 years ago, each of the girls was on their 4th or 5th iPod. When we visited there a few months ago, the older one who had just graduated from highschool had just gotten her 10th iPod. What happened to the old ones? Most broke/stopped working, but a few just became obsolete.

Are iPods less durable/reliable than other brands? Perhaps, but likely not - Apple probably knows. But they're all about what's cool this week, so if it lasts more than 90 days, their goal is that the customer will replace it whether or not it is working. And it seems the majority of the Apple faithful happily comply.

And for those iPod/Apple lovers who are fuming at this point - I'm not Apple-phobic. In fact, the first Apple computer that I bought was about the time Steve & company moved out of his parent's garage into their first home away from home. As I recall, that was nearly 30 years ago, and about 5 years before I bought my first PC.

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MP3 Player comments that you may find useful
by massimj / December 12, 2008 9:41 PM PST

1) Some players come with a service like Rhapsody, Don?t use it. While these services let you download songs, the songs are protected content and will expire. They also stop working if you cannot refresh them by connecting to the service. Once the free period ends, you must pay. I suggest that you either rip your own CD?s, or find a web service that sells you the song, so you can keep it forever.
2) Forget about devices that let you watch movies, or video. The process of putting the video on the device is lengthy. The video isn?t worth the time it takes to get in into the player.
3) A model that has an FM Tuner is great, and will come in handy when you are traveling, or in a gym, or other location that has wireless audio. Many gyms have TV panels that show whatever anybody wants to see, each would have the FM frequency that the audio is transmitted on. Tune to it and you have instant audio to go with the picture.
4) Forget about devices that have a hard drive. The moving parts are the first line of failure. The truth is that if they could build an 80 GB solid state drive that was cheap enough, you would never see another model made with a hard drive. Skip on models that have hard drives.
5) How big the memory is, is not as important once you don?t plan to take many hours to put a movie on them. Music, and pictures, do not take as much space as you would think. If you had 4 GB to work with, you would have plenty of space for 100?s of songs and pictures. Kick it to 8 GB and you would have trouble filling it with music that you truly liked. Many people think it?s a game to get 10,000 songs on their MP3 player. Think about it, who can honestly say they have 10,000 songs that they love to hear all the time? You can refresh the songs on a 4GB unit, and you will have a hard time replacing them all with 4GB of new songs that you would love to hear all the time.
6) The size of the screen may be important if you have a plan to look at photos on the device. For music, a single line with track title and other misc information is all that is needed. You don?t look at it very often when you are listening. I found that the smallest models not only hold a load of music, they run on a single battery for a very long time.
7) If it is a present and you want to be the greatest mom, dad, aunt, uncle or friend, of course you will buy the latest and greatest Ipod. The truth about Ipod is that there are much better devices out there that cost a lot less. There are thousands of happy Zune owners that would not trade their Zune for an Ipod. There are millions more that have any of the other numerous models that are not Ipod, and most of them are happy. If it?s a gift, try to get a clue about what they want and buy it. All this other info is only for people who are buying one for themselves.

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