Now that we've all had a chance to settle down from the holidays and CES 2009, I think it's high time MP3 Mailbox Monday rings in the new year. (Am I the only one who's insanely happy to have finally made it to the end of January?) If you picked up a new device in these past several weeks, it's the perfect time to think post-purchase.
For MP3 players, music services and accessories are just where to start. But which music service should you to use? And do you really need a computer on hand every time you want to recharge your player? Find out below.
Q: I bought myself a Sansa Fuze MP3 Player for under 90 dollars. I finally want to get into this MP3 thing more. I figure this would be a good one to start out with according to CNET and consumers. However, I'm kind of at a loss on how to load it. No, I haven't read the manual. (Do techies--even unemployed ones--ever read manuals?) What music service is best for this player? My cousin gave me his first-gen Nano once. It was OK except the battery kept dying. So I have an account on ITunes. May I use iTunes to download CDs to put on my Fuze? Should I try Napster? Rhapsody? WinAmp?
Being unemployed for the time being, I want to use a service where I don't have to pay a monthly fee, if I can. Can I use Amazon or Walmart with out having to use a monthly fee? Pay by the download is OK with me. What do you suggest? --Carol, via e-mail
A: Well, I try not to read manuals unless absolutely necessary, so I feel you there. As far as music services go, you have a few options if you are looking to purchase individual MP3s or albums. Unfortunately, iTunes is not one of them, so the account there isn't going to do you much good with the Fuze.
My two top choices for you would be either Napster or Rhapsody--maybe download both, play around with them, and see which interface you like better. Both offer similar catalogs and 99-cent downloads in MP3 format. The reason I might choose those over Amazon is because they both offer one interface within which you purchase music and sync the player. Although I'm a fan of Amazon, it requires a bit more effort on your part from service to MP3 player. First, you have to access the Web site to purchase music, then use the Amazon downloader app to download music into Windows Media Player. Finally, you open WMP in order to actually sync the player and transfer the music. On the plus side, Amazon sells tracks for as little as 79-cents and often has great deals on full album downloads, so it's a good idea to check it out from time to time.
Any of those jukeboxes--Napster, Rhapsody, or WMP--will automatically recognize the player when you plug it in. An icon for the Fuze will pop up in the interface of each app. You can then simply drag and drop to the icon (Rhapsody) or to the player/sync window (WMP, Napster) implemented by the software.
Q: I've found your reviews and others on CNET very helpful as I am trying to figure out which MP3 player is right for me. I think I have narrowed it down but am concerned about charging. Are there any options for recharging the Sony Walkmans NWZ-S638 and NWZ-S738 aside from through your computer? What are you supposed to do if you are traveling and don't want to lug around a laptop?--Anita, via e-mail
A: That's a great question, and the answer is: absolutely. The only thing is that you have to purchase a USB wall adapter as an optional accessory. Amazon has several. Any of the chargers that are designated for the iPod will also work fine with a Walkman.
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.)