November 27, 2001
7:14 AM   Subscribe

Since the gift season is right around the corner, what are all the audiophiles looking for? Is it a minidisc? Or mp3? Or some kind of combination? Maybe something to integrate into your stereo system?

Which side of the tradeoff is worth it? Cheap capacity with real-time recording limitations or ease of use and multi-format support with high priced memory?
posted by rich (36 comments total)
Personal minidisc players seem to be more trouble than they're worth. You have to rerecord everything in a new format onto the disc which can be pretty tedious and with some of them it's hard to jump between tracks. I'd rather have a (considerably cheaper) personal CD player. But I think Sony has started doing combination MP3 and minidisc players, where you record MP3s onto the disk not onto Flash cards or whatever. That's more like it.
posted by Summer at 7:26 AM on November 27, 2001

I've had nothing but good experiences with using my Rio Volt to play CD's full of 200 songs. A blank 700Mb CD is so much cheaper than any flash memory or minidisk, so it's MP3's for me.
posted by Poagao at 7:47 AM on November 27, 2001

I just got one of these things. Works like a charm.
posted by Optamystic at 7:48 AM on November 27, 2001

I just poked around through some of the links mentioned above, and I don't think many portable players get it yet.

Flash cards are annoying, usb is slow, and every player I've seen is big and clunky (and ugly).

MP3 discs sound great, but I've never seen good navigation for such a large library of songs. I'd rather not shuffle through 200 songs.
posted by jragon at 7:53 AM on November 27, 2001

MP3's aren't likely to satisfy an audiophile. I read over at Slashdot today that Linn have made their own hard-disk based digital music seperate, but it stores the data in a raw format. They stream the data off the disk into a high-quality Linn DAC, so it sounds pretty much as good as a CD player.

Personally I'm very fond of my Minidisc player. I find the little discs to be sexy and tactile in the way that vinyl records were, and CDs never have been. Plus the sound quality on home decks is becoming seriously good now.

MP3's should stick to personal audio, in-car entertainment, jukeboxes and computers, where sound quality is less important than convenience of access.
posted by dlewis at 7:55 AM on November 27, 2001

minidisc is good. recording is done in real time (requires patience), but soon sony is releasing netmd which will let you record 2x-16x off of your computer. i always hated lugging around a discman - a minidisc player and five minidiscs is smaller than a pack of cigarettes. Plus you can plug a microphone into most and record the outside world - how many mp3 players can do that?
posted by panopticon at 8:03 AM on November 27, 2001

what are [...] audiophiles looking for?

A laptop with wi-fi, that I can plug into the stereo in the bedroom when I want to listen to my mp3s in bed. Already got my 128Mb Rio 500. Minidiscs? You mean I'd have to find them? Ick ...

MP3's aren't likely to satisfy an audiophile.

Mp3s are fine if you keep the bit-rate at 300k+ btw. You can go lower on a good mp3 player, because it should be pretty well optimised for playing them.
posted by walrus at 8:03 AM on November 27, 2001

Plus you can plug a microphone into most and record the outside world - how many mp3 players can do that?

This one has a microphone, at least. I'm sure there's one somewhere with an external mic socket, even if that one doesn't have one. I'll stop now.
posted by walrus at 8:12 AM on November 27, 2001

Flash cards are annoying, usb is slow, and every player I've seen is big and clunky (and ugly).

Ladies and gentlemen... the iPod.
posted by spilon at 8:14 AM on November 27, 2001

I just ordered the Nomad II MG. It comes onboard with 64MB and takes a 128MB Smart Media. (it ships with a 64MB Smart Media card from while supplies last). FM radio and audio recording, too.

Among MP3 players, I was looking for small size - I don't want to lug a cd-sized player around. Sure, capacity is great for them, but it's a bit bulky.

So, on the mini-disk end, the recording time versus MP3 "drag, drop and run" ease was the main issue. Sure, 5 CD's on one minidisk is great (MDLP4), but I think I'll be more likely to want to throw a playlist together on the fly and run out the door with it instead of planning ahead and leaving my PC running for 5 hours while it copies songs to the minidisk and I go off and do something else.

And then that Iomega HipZip was looking sweet, if they had just released the 100MB pocketzip disk by now, I may have gone for that.

Who knows, maybe I'll pick up a minidisk player on Ebay.
posted by rich at 8:14 AM on November 27, 2001

This one has a microphone, at least.
The Yepp's mic is internal though. What MP3 players let you plug in any microphone you want to record?
posted by panopticon at 8:24 AM on November 27, 2001

Audiophiles are to music what homeopaths are to medicine: they claim something is there when it isn't. If I want a silent dog whistle, I'll go to PetSmart.

[Insert "These go to eleven!" reference here.]

posted by gimonca at 8:26 AM on November 27, 2001

I'm rather conservative concerning music (I'm still a vinyl junkie and still conceive music as something worth hearing on a decent, high-end system) and I'm not used to the idea of hanging around with a kazoo-like sounding Walkman-kind of thingie, but since I'm a confess Machead, I'd definitely want an iPod.

Plus it doubles as a 5 gigs hard disk and a friend at work has already his... green with envy :)
posted by betobeto at 8:32 AM on November 27, 2001

I want Mp3 appliances that will catch the (wireless) stream off my PC and play it on my stereo in the living room, or kitchen. And, I want a remote control that will control the stream from any room in my house. Anybody know how I do this? I'm thinking of Sonic Box IRythm Remote, but I'm open to suggestions...
posted by daver at 8:34 AM on November 27, 2001


thanks for offering! ;)
posted by andrewraff at 8:35 AM on November 27, 2001

I'm thinking of getting a 300 CD changer for my apt. My current CD changer has been broken for ages, so I'm stuck with looking at the pretty CD cases... can't listen to a damn thing.
posted by Witold at 8:36 AM on November 27, 2001

What MP3 players let you plug in any microphone you want to record?

Grr, you're a hard person to please, panopticon.

Lucky there's a google, then ...
posted by walrus at 8:36 AM on November 27, 2001

I just want to raise my voice as another satisfied RioVolt customer. There's no feeling quite like walking around knowing you have every Pixies album in your pocket. My one complaint is that it takes forever for that thing to boot up when I play an mp3 cd in it... but for long walks and such, it's great. Even navigation's a breeze, if you have the foresight to set yourself up a nice directory structure.
posted by MonkeyMeat at 8:41 AM on November 27, 2001

Filling an MP3 jukebox over a USB connection is like filling a swimming pool through a soda straw. I'm waiting for a PC-compatible jukebox with at least Firewire capacity. ID3 tag parsing for Artist/Album/Song/Genre sorting and display are a must, too.

The iPod would be perfect, unless you're in the 93% (or so)of the desktop market using Windows. Fortunately, some dedicated folks are working on making the iPod cross-platform right now.
posted by waxpancake at 8:45 AM on November 27, 2001

I need a UA-1d to get my recorded stuff from DAT to disk drive. I hope it works well, because I can't afford a 300 dollar soundcard. Anybody used one yet, or have a better option? The UA-100 is two hundred dollars and serves as its own storage space, but I don't really need all that guitar wankfest stuff.
posted by zangpo at 8:45 AM on November 27, 2001

I'm thinking of getting a 300 CD changer for my apt.

I bought my first 100+ disc changer in 1998. I bought a 200+ one in 1999. The problem with this and most other consumer electronics equipment is that the shuffling is stupid. "Random" assumes I like all the tracks the same, which is far from the case.

The future is about customized radio services. Ubiquity isn't there yet, but I haven't found anything better than listening to a stream of music mixed just for me based on my tastes, with controls to increase or decrease the frequency of play for each song as it comes up. It's certainly better than fumbling around with a mega CD changer or wasting a lot of time trying to assemble playlists manually.

You can start your own station here. It's free too.
posted by hitsman at 8:46 AM on November 27, 2001

CDRs are still fine by me. But I get my jammy tunes from etree in lossless .shn format -- mp3 is only for pop music. For Xmas, a few more CD wallets would please me.
posted by muckster at 8:48 AM on November 27, 2001

thank you walrus - now for a harder question - are any of them any good?
posted by panopticon at 8:50 AM on November 27, 2001

It's not cheap by any means -- entry is $700 for a 10Gb model -- but the RioCar (formerly Empeg) has been my favorite travelling companion over the past 14mos.

I've since added a second 2.5" HD to bring it to 48Gb and it's about the most amazing appliance I've ever owned: *All* my music -- sortable, searchable, luggable, with Serial/USB/Ethernet for transferring audio. Available in the car or at my desk, with a great UI and quite capable software for managing playlists.

And its fans have produced perhaps the best product-oriented user community I've known.

Sadly, SonicBlue couldn't sell enough of these esoteric (read: ahead-of-its-time) devices, so it's recently been discontinued. Even still, I reckon there are at least a few MeFi readers who ought to check it out.
posted by skyboy at 9:17 AM on November 27, 2001

Personal minidisc players seem to be more trouble than they're worth. You have to rerecord everything in a new format onto the disc which can be pretty tedious and with some of them it's hard to jump between tracks.

Nope. Not true. I have been using a MD for 4 years now, and all I do is plug it into my CD's digital out (not all have this, but even the headphone output can be used for an analog signal in a pinch) and hit the record synch and there I have the whole CD (or a mix made from programming my 5-disk CD player).

I can erase and re-record onto the same minidisc up to one meeelion times with no loss.

I don't listen to music portably though. Call me a curmudgeon, but I am sick of people who tune out everyone around them with their headphones always on. I find it sad when I see people who are obviously together, with different pairs of headphones on, not talking to each other.
posted by terrapin at 9:18 AM on November 27, 2001

I am also another RioVolt user, and quite happy with it. I can carry a good deal of my music collection around on a couple of discs, which is absolutely great.
posted by benjh at 9:37 AM on November 27, 2001

I'm still looking for a PRV Hard Drive video recorder/MP3 home stereo component. I just can't believe somebody hasn't come out with this yet. It seems like the perfect convergence.
posted by willnot at 9:38 AM on November 27, 2001

I didn't want to make it a Mac/PC thing by mentioning that I absolutely love my iPod when I posted above.

Fortunately, firewire on windows along with Xpod and forthcoming knockoffs will soon make this a usb/firewire or big&clunky/small&slick thing.

Small, firewire, and playlists will beat "just make a good directory structure" and "plan ahead for the usb download" anyday.
posted by jragon at 9:44 AM on November 27, 2001

That's odd, Skallas, my brother just picked up an Archos Jukebox Recorder. Note the word "Recorder." He upgraded it to 30gb himself - upgradeable to more as notebook hard drives increase in capacity. It even has digital i/o, I think.
posted by whatnotever at 9:47 AM on November 27, 2001

I'm not much of an audiophile but as a musician I've found the minidisc to be a godsend - the portable recorders have gotten very small, and with a decent stereo mic they make terrific recordings of live performances. Great for taping rehearsals to hear what needs to be tweaked. Plus they're reasonably cheap for archiving, and they don't degrade like cassettes.
posted by ChuqD at 10:01 AM on November 27, 2001

I've had a JVC portable MiniDisc player/recorder for about 2 years now, and while it is a pain to record the songs at 1x speed (you have to play the songs on the source and actually record onto the discs) I still love it. A 80 minute MD is about $1.25 I just record my current playlist onto one or two MDs, which is more than enough music to listen to in the subway.

I've also got a Philips eXpanium MP3-CD player, a 700MB CD costs less than $0.50, and stores 100+ songs.

If you've got a CD Burner, I would suggest getting the MP3-CD player. If you've got a killer music system, with optical out I would suggest getting the MD player.
posted by riffola at 11:24 AM on November 27, 2001

as usual, it all depends on what you plan to use the thing for... i dont really care about listening to my entire collection all over creation so minidisc is great... i record tons of concerts around town with a simple setup that fits in my pocket and have a huge collection of high quality live shows... minidisc rocks for this type of thing, as well as rehearsals and all mentioned by chuqD...

gimonca - as for audiophiles, go listen to a nice old tube amp and let me know if your opinion changes...
posted by adamholz at 11:57 AM on November 27, 2001

posted by mmarcos at 12:33 PM on November 27, 2001

I like listening to my entire MP3 collection all over creation. I find something deeply satisfying about sitting there in rush hour traffic and realizing that any song that might happen to pop into my head - Rhapsody in Blue! The Smurfs theme song! Eight six seven five three oh niiiine! - I can be warbling along with in a matter of moments. Consequently, the Archos Jukebox Studio 20 has been meeting my needs quite nicely.
posted by youhas at 1:22 PM on November 27, 2001

I've been a fan of MD for a while now and currently have one of the tiny Sony MD player/recorders. The sound quality is great, especially on digital dubs, but does require planning ahead (recording MD's).

I've also got a Creative Nomad Jukebox which sounded pretty good. Problem with it was the HORRIBLE software that you have to use to load songs on the device and the slow USB transfer. My Nomad experienced Sever G-Force Trauma (I smacked the hell out of it) once when it's associated software crashed after I had queued up about 1500 songs from a collection of 30,000 that I had painfully searched through. I hasn't been the same since.

I also picked up an Archos. It's sound quality is not nearly as good as the Nomad. I guess I should believe some of the marketing drivel that Creative spouts off about their fancy audio processing in the Nomad. The Archos sounds lame, BUT it is recognized simply as a drive on my computer, freeing me from the dreaded Creative Jukebox Vomit Center.

My latest gadget is a Sony XM Radio receiver that I use in my truck. The sound quality is pretty decent (be a lot better if I didn't have to use a Cassette Adapter), but the big bonus here is crystal clear reception nationwide and 100 channels. I used to live in Kansas City, where all of the radio stations (save the Fox) have converted to pukepop and I now live in a small town in Mississippi. Not even a chance of a decent radio station here. Now on my next 11 hour trek to KC I can listen to the same station the entire way, and (god forbid) even pick up talk radio that is not God-centric!
posted by campy at 3:31 PM on November 27, 2001

MD, baby.
posted by Foosnark at 10:20 AM on November 29, 2001

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