Path: Music > Players


On this page you'll find a short description of the MP3 players I juggle around. I am sometimes asked which player is “the best”. That is a little like being asked who's the most beautiful woman in the world… whatever you say, you're in deep trouble (ask Paris). There are so many players out there and so many things they can do that it is impossible to give a one-stop answer. I used to prefer Creative players but their customer service is such a complete let-down that I have vowed to buy no other Creative product… ever. For big hard-disk-based players, Apple iPod classics are certainly not a bad choice; Archos is not bad either. In fact, if you can live without WMA support (see MP3 or WMA for a discussion) iPods may well be the easiest and most straightforward route, especially for people who are not so much into this computer thing.

Creative Nomad Jukebox 3: This was the first MP3 player I bought, in the spring of 2004, after returning to the UK from our Nepal/India trip (which meant more than five months without music!) and only after much deliberation. The main reason for the latter was simple: more than twenty years with all sorts of high-tech gadgets have taught me that the manufacturers normally promise much more than the actual gadget is able to do. If the bloody thing works at all, that is.

But I can say that in this case my fears were utterly unfounded. Indeed, buying this high-tech wonder and getting all my music onto it was a life-changing event. (If that sounds exaggerated, well, I can't help it: it really changed the way I listen to music.) Imagine a box the size of a CD player that can actually hold roundabout 400 CDs! The hype was fully justified. (And today's players are even smaller, more like a pack of cigarettes.)

The conversion from CD to MP3 was a hell of work (still is: that's an ongoing process). It took me many, many weeks to get all my CDs and a small selection of my ancient LPs converted into MP3 format (and being a perfectionist didn't really help) — but it was worth every single minute of it. For one thing, this player (like most players) has a shuffle mode in which it plays a random selection of the now roughly 7000 tracks on it: this is very much like having your own radio station, only that you've full control over the music!

The Jukebox 3 originally came with a 20 GB hard disk: enough room for about 385 albums or 5000 songs. When I had filled that disk, after a year or so, I bought a brand-new 60 GB Fujitsu hard disk, yanked the player open (it's just a computer in disguise, after all) and replaced the old disk with the new (these disks are all 2.5" form factor). Now I have quite some free memory to play with: on current trends the 60 GB disk will be filled in three to fours years and will then hold some 1200 albums. (Artists of the World, unite and make more music!)

The player, like almost all hard disk-based MP3 players, came with a rechargeable Li-Ion battery whichs lasts about 12 hours between charges: this makes it possible to listen to music almost everywhere. In the tent (we camp a lot) during the long evenings for example: that's definitely a dream come true.
Creative Muvo2: If there's one thing where the Jukebox 3 could've been made better, it's the size. It is okay in the home (the player is actually much smaller than the HiFi CD player it completely replaced — not to talk about the CD rack which is now in the attic) or if one travels with a car, but it's not so great for our long and rough backpacking stints. So I quickly bought a second player, the Muvo Squared or Muvo2: a much smaller and lighter device, though only with a 4 GB hard disk. This also comes with a Li-Ion battery which is good for a rather paltry ten hours.

Then I selected about 200 of our albums (the Best of the Best, as it were), told my PC to re-encode them as WMAs and with a much lower bitrate (that's another instance where all the work I had invested into MP3ifying my music collection paid off: doing this was almost a snap) and now I have them all on this player. Because of the high compression rate the sound's not as great as with the big player, but it is still better than FM radio and it means that I can hold the equivalent of 200 CDs in the palm of my hand.

Again, this is just an amazing piece of technology: we had this player with us during the four months in the Middle East, in the spring of 2005, as well as on Cyprus later the same year (that's why it looks already a bit battered). It is nothing short of wonderful to lie on the hard mattress of a perhaps not-so-good hotel, after a long, hard day of sight-seeing, with the earphones on and have Deep Purple pump their soothing sounds into one's head. (There are probably people around who wouldn't agree with the soothing bit, but that's a matter of taste.)

Sadly, however, the thing finally went to its maker during our second Middle East trip, in the first half of 2006. It just went dead one day, dead like a stone. This was in the Iranian city of Yazd, a nice, if dusty and very hot place. (The mullahs in Iran don't like music, among other things, so perhaps they somehow voodoo'd the player.)
Samsung Yepp YP-MT6Z: This is the third member of the family (MP3 can turn people into music addicts, though in my case there was not much turning left to be done). It's a tiny flash-memory player, not a hard-disk-based model, mainly because Vero needs something rock-solid for her (occcasional) jogging outings and her rope-skipping sessions: hard disk players are simply not built for this kind of rough treatment, though she used to take the Muvo2 for three months and it never once complained.

Anyway, the Yepp is a nifty little thing in its own right: it stores between 50 and 55 full CD albums (coded as WMA files) in its 1 GB of memory and yet it's smaller than a matchbox (if you can believe that). And it has phenomenal stamina: a single battery charge (it runs off a single AA battery; we use rechargeables) is enough for 40 hours of music. It has a very nice and sharp display, for a player in this class, and it's very solidly built indeed. It can store more than 1000 songs, so even with my extreme compression, I am rarely touching that limit. Recommended.
Archos XS202S: Our newest player and basically the replacement for the Creative Muvo2 that left us so ignominiously in Iran. This player (by a French company, not one of the big names) has a 20 GB hard disk (a 1.8" model by Hitachi) but it's actually smaller than the Muvo2 which used a 4 GB micro disk, also by Hitachi. One battery charge (Li-Ion: I would have preferred AA, but try to find a hard disk player which uses AA batteries) lasts for about 18 hours, so it was a worthwhile swap all round.

The best thing about this player is that we can put most of our music onto its 20 GB hard disk (albeit as heavily compressed WMAs)… this means 800+ CDs sitting in the palm of my hand. Even so, we still have something like 2 GB left, enough room for future expansion. And since the XS202S can also be used as an external USB hard disk we also use it sometimes to backup photos etc., while we're on the road. Let's just hope that this thing lasts a bit longer than the Muvo2 did.

And I sincerely hope I can stay away from buying MP3 players now for a while:-) though I am sorely tempted to lay my hands on this model.

$updated from: Players.htxt Sat 18 Jan 2014 13:14:24 thomasl (By Thomas Lauer)$