MP3 Mailbox Monday: Headphone adaptation and AM radiolessness
Get the answers to all of your questions about MP3 players, headphones, and more in this weekly feature.
Interoperability between stereo headphones and music cell phones is a popular concern, but how about using your cell phone headset with other, standard audio sources? At least one person wonders how to make this happen with no sound issues. Also on deck today: a sports fan wants an MP3 player with AM radio built in, and a discerning listener is curious about file quality and compatibility.
Q: I found your address on CNET and was hoping you can help me with a question that seems to be hard to get answered. I have thephone from Verizon. I also have the headset that comes with the music essentials kit. I like the headset that I have as it works with the phone in phone and music player modes; however, it is a 2.5mm plug that was made for the phone. My problem is that I would like an adapter that would allow me to use this headset with other equipment as well that has a 3.5mm jack (such as the equipment at the gym). I have found a few such adapters online, but have heard reviews that they will not work correctly and I would only get 1/2 of the sound coming through them. (I think it has to do with the mic feature on my headset.) Do you have any information that might help me with this?--Gayle, via e-mail
A: You know, this is actually a pretty rare request, as most users are looking for the opposite adapter. That is, one that allows them to use standard 3.5mm headphones with their 2.5mm jack-sporting cell phones. There are a lot of adapters for that. What you need, though, is a 2.5mm female to 3.5mm male adapter. These are somewhat hard to come by, especially taking into account the extra mic band on your headset, which can cause the problem you describe. However, I came across this one online. It notes: "With this adapter, you can listen to music from any audio source with a 3.5mm headphone jack via your cell phone's 2.5mm headset." This should work for you, but I have to stress that I've never tested this product, so I can't guarantee it.
Q: Is there a reason that MP3 players don't have an AM tuner? I live in Salt Lake City and all of the sports radio is on the AM dial. I'd like to be able to listen to a ball game without having to use my 15-year-old Walkman.--Mike, via e-mail
A: Well, the main reason that is given is that they use a large antenna, so it adds undesired bulk to the device. There is at least one MP3 player that I know of that has one, though: the PoGo Products Radio YourWay. I'm not sure if they still sell that one, but they do sell a "Mini".
Q: Which recording format (MP3, WAV, Windows Media Pro, AAC) do you recommend that folks rip music for the best quality and use across the most diverse of players? In addition, which application do you recommend?--Eric, via e-mail
For the very best quality file that works across the largest variety of players, I would go with WAV. Pretty much any jukebox/music management application will let you rip CDs to that format (I generally use Windows Media Player). However, they are going to be very large files--about 41MB for one, four minute song--so you'd only get about two albums per gigabyte of memory on the MP3 player. The next best option for compatibility is MP3, though it's a lossy format. Rip at the highest available bit rate (320kbps) to get the best quality. That same four minute song will be under 10MB, meaning you'd get closer to 10 albums per gigabyte.
MP3 Mailbox Monday is a recurring feature where I answer a selection of questions about MP3 players and accessories, such as headphones, speakers, and music services and software. Check back often to see if the advice presented here might be of some use to you, or send your questions directly to me. (Note: We never include last names, but if you prefer to remain completely anonymous, please state as much in your e-mail.)