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Portable Mp3 Players


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Another topic on recording got me to thinking that maybe its time for me to join the 21st century and get a portable MP3 player. I'm not very technically savvy and want something simple to use, with good battery life, good sound and able to handle 20GB+ of music. I record sessions I play at on my little Sony IC recorder, then transfer it to my laptop and convert it to MP3. Sure would be nice to listen to this in the car too.

 

Any advice from the c.net techo-crowd?

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Well, at the risk of sounding like an Apple salesman, I'd buy an iPod, if I were you. If budget allows, I'd recommend going straight for a 60GB model. You can never have too much space. I've filled mine. :)

 

The great thing about Apple isn't that their products are great (though they are) or that they look pretty (which they do), but that their customer service is simply brilliant. My last iPod died just after Christmas and they replaced it without question as it was still in the 12 month guarantee period, which for an extra thirty quid you can extend to two years of cover. They also have call-centre staff who are capable of talking to you as if you are a real live human being, which counts for a lot in my book.

 

Any large-capacity MP3 player that has a hard-drive in it is by its nature a reasonably fragile thing, and the last thing you want is for something to go wrong with no chance of getting it sorted.

 

People seem to either love or hate iTunes as a means of managing a digital music collection. I've never had any problems with it.

 

One other suggestion I'd make is to buy an additional hard drive for your computer to act as a backup device. You never know when your main hard drive might fail, and you don't want the hassle of re-ripping a load of CDs.

 

One further thought - when you've had one of these things for a few weeks you'll wonder how you ever managed without it ;)

Edited by stuart estell
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People seem to either love or hate iTunes as a means of managing a digital music collection. I've never had any problems with it.

 

I don't have a portable MP3 player, but I've become a real fan of Itunes. I've imported my entire CD collection (and , as you suggested, backed up to an external hard drive)

 

The biggest advantage: the search function. Often I'll come back from a session or a dance with a list of tunes I want to learn. I used to laboriously look through all my CDs to find recorded versions of the tunes; now I just use Itunes to search. To practice for gigs, I put together playlists of the tunes I'll be performing and burn practice CDs.

 

I don't have any advice on players, except that I'd be sure to get one that's compatible with Itunes.

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Personally, I am not a huge fan of the ipod. It has alot of pluses, but I am not sure it is the best choice for anyone who might be taking it to sessions and might at some point look to use it to record. The units just seem too fragile to me. I have several friends who have had the screens on theirs break... one apparently just from leaving it in a cold car. As Stuart pointed out, hard drive based players are by nature fairly fragile things. My personal choices would be a solid state player or the Hi-MD version of the Minidisk. The Minidisk lacks the cool factor of the Ipod, but the latest versions can hold alot more music than the older versions, can record in completely uncompressed mode (along with noise supression).

 

--

Bill

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People seem to either love or hate iTunes as a means of managing a digital music collection. I've never had any problems with it.

 

I don't have a portable MP3 player, but I've become a real fan of Itunes. I've imported my entire CD collection (and , as you suggested, backed up to an external hard drive)

 

The biggest advantage: the search function. Often I'll come back from a session or a dance with a list of tunes I want to learn. I used to laboriously look through all my CDs to find recorded versions of the tunes; now I just use Itunes to search. To practice for gigs, I put together playlists of the tunes I'll be performing and burn practice CDs.

 

I don't have any advice on players, except that I'd be sure to get one that's compatible with Itunes.

 

You know Jim, perhaps you should invest in a voice recorder. If a tune pops up in a session, sometimes getting the name won't necessarily help. The tune might not have been recordeded professionally... or worse, it might be a different version than is played in your session. Another possibility is if you have anyone in your session that composes their own tunes, it would be nice to get recordings of them to work on them. Peter Fitzgerald, the banjo player who runs the Thursday Night Session at J. Patrick's in Baltimore has recently introduced several very nice tunes that he wrote to the session... My recordings are the only way I am going to be able to learn them for the near future :).

 

As soon as he gives me permission, I will post the first of them that I have learned which is a really nice concertina tune... Until then the only way to hear it will be to come to J. Patrick's... or come to think of it the Catskills since I will probably play it a bit up there as well :).

 

--

Bill

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I can't really help on the player question; I've never gotten around to shopping for one, but from an industrial-design standpoint, the iPods do look great. Of course there's a price premium for a product like that and it won't be worth it to everyone.

People seem to either love or hate iTunes as a means of managing a digital music collection. I've never had any problems with it.
The problem I have with iTunes is that you have to install their software just to browse the catalog.
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You know Jim, perhaps you should invest in a voice recorder. If a tune pops up in a session, sometimes getting the name won't necessarily help. The tune might not

 

I actually do that, as well...when I remember. I have both a Sony IC and a MD recorder.

 

But for me, an invaluable part of practice is playing along with good bands. And finding the right tunes in my sizeable CD collection is a problem without Itunes.

 

I used to use the MD for most recording, but find that the tiny Sony IC works almost as well, and is much more convenient.

 

I've heard very good things about an IRiver Mp3 player with record capability; several musicians around here are using them. But I've had no first-hand experience.

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All good info. I'm personally not looking for a device to record with. I've got a Sony ICD-ST10 with a good quality mic that does a great job.

 

What I am interested in is having those recorded sessions and my CD's in a portable device I can schlep around with me. I have started doing research and there are a number of vendors who make competing products to the iPod. I just don't know how well they may work.

 

-jeff

Edited by jlfinkels
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You know Jim, perhaps you should invest in a voice recorder. If a tune pops up in a session, sometimes getting the name won't necessarily help. The tune might not

 

I actually do that, as well...when I remember. I have both a Sony IC and a MD recorder.

 

But for me, an invaluable part of practice is playing along with good bands. And finding the right tunes in my sizeable CD collection is a problem without Itunes.

 

I used to use the MD for most recording, but find that the tiny Sony IC works almost as well, and is much more convenient.

 

I've heard very good things about an IRiver Mp3 player with record capability; several musicians around here are using them. But I've had no first-hand experience.

 

Ah ok.. Yeah I have no experience with the IRiver myself. After the experience of using an early hard drive based unit (Where you got to hear the hard drive on every recording you made) I decided to keep away from hard drive based units. I have an Olympus voice recorder that I like for tune sucking at sessions and its incredibly convenient; just pull it out of my gig bag, hit record. The minidisc is more involved, but it actually cuts the volume of back ground noise. Nothing like starting a recording right before we start playing and hearing everyone in the pub and then listening to the volume of chatter drop as soon as the musical instruments start playing. The latter makes it great for recording those special sessions or concerts where I just want to listen to it :).

 

As for good bands.. well, a good night in Baltimore matches that experience easily. Last Thursday we had Peter Fitzgerald, Donna Long and Laura Byrne all there. Alot of bands would be lucky to do so well. Now if I only played half as well as them I would be set :).

 

--

Bill

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the newer ipods don't work with most of the ipod microphone products. i have a new 60G ipod which is great for carrying all my albums around with no compression, but for making field recordings, i use a roland edirol r-1 with a handful of 2G flash cards. previously i used a marantz pmd-201 portable cassette deck. the roland field recorder makes great recordings, but the half speed playback feature doesn't work that well (it tries to shift the pitch back up an octave, which sounds terrible). since it records standard wav or mp3 files directly to the flash cards, transferring recordings to my computer is easy, no wierd drivers or software required, works on linux, mac, and anything else. a 2G flash card can hold at least 2 1/2 hours uncompressed, and several times that compressed. i bought the flash cards an newegg.com and the recorder at bhphotovideo.com. i'm not sure where the best place to get them outside the states is.

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I have a 40GB hard-drive iRiver, which I swear by. I've never had to swear *at* it yet, either :)

I use its record feature a lot for practicing. It makes a huge difference for me to hear what I've just played so I can adjust things straight away. Its own mike isn't up to the job, mind, so I've got a little Sony recording mike for it as well.

If I was buying now though, I think I probably would get an iPod. The weakest part of the iRiver is its database logging of new tracks you put on. iTunes does a better job.

The advice about an external hard drive for back up is gold dust. If you have any sort of significant collection you must do this. USB hard drives are pretty cheap, much more so than the time you'd need to replace all those tunes.

Finally, if you're getting an mp3 player I think emusic.com is worth a look. They're very cheap (in the 20 cents a track range) and they specialise in back catalogues so they've got a ton of old folk releases and archival recordings. I signed up for emusic and napster when I got broadband and mp3, and the only one of those I'm still in is emusic.

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I've been using one of the small red iRiver recorders for a while now. It's small and can record 8 hours before needing to be emptied onto my laptop. As was said before, the internal microphone is not great. The recording is almost always saturated, with lots of distortion and background noise, but I can hear the tune well enough to transcribe it the way it was played in the session. I use Transcribe for slowing down and altering pitch and the equalizer filters can do a reasonable job of removing the background noise and hiss. I doubt if I would bother putting the mp3 file onto my iPod though since the quality is not good enough to enjoy listening to.

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I have a 40GB hard-drive iRiver, which I swear by. I've never had to swear *at* it yet, either :)

I've got a little Sony recording mike for it as well.

 

Please could you post details - like what mike you use (I assume the iRiver is the H340?)? I've been on the brink of buying one a few times, but was never confident that an external mike would work without a seperate pre-amp, given that it is described as having a line input, not a mic input (and I emailed iRiver but they were non-commital about what would work). Thanks

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I'd recommend the iPod. I have one of the older 20GB ones and I'm still a long way from filling mine up. It's amazing how much music these little things can hold. It's great to have almost my entire CD collection in the palm of my hand! Also, iTunes is a great way to manage your music library. You can create playlists from anything in your library. You might want to create a playlist of every version of a given tune or of a bunch of CDs for a long road trip. Another thing to consider about the iPod - there a lot more accessories available for it than other MP3 players. I have one of the devices that allows you to play the iPod through your FM radio in your car which is pretty handy.

 

Ronnie

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I'm using am iRiver myself, the early H120 model, and it's definitely much better for session recording than the iPod. I recorded a LOT of sessions with it, in Catskills and Ireland, and the quality is very nice (I set it at 128kpbs, you can record up to 320kpbs I think). I'm using one of those Sony microphones.

 

But the ultimate recording tool, for me, is coming in june.

 

Edirol R-09

 

It's half the size of a Edirol R1, and to me size matters a lot because I really want to be discreet when recording sessions, I don't want to look like your typical american tourist who's going to install his big recording machine on the pub table. I've had friends in Ireland who've been told to remove their recording machines the heck out of there. So the fact that the Edirol R09 is small *and* has an internal microphone means you can be very subtle with it, could even have it in a pocket and simply press "record" and "stop".

 

But for now I'm really happy with the iRiver, here's a clip I recorded last november in Ireland, concertina Goddess Claire Keville (yep, I'm brainwashed) was playing at her sunday night session. It's a big clip, like 6.73MB.

 

Reels

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I'll run down what I've been using to record, edit, store and play my CDs and personal/class recordings.

 

I use iTunes to manage and listen to my collection of mp3 tunes, it provides a quick easy way to sort through the several thousand I have on my hard drive. I have a third generation 40Gig iPod that I use for portable listening, and having recently changed its internal battery (a fairly painless and inexpensive process) it's providing great service again.

 

I use Transcribe! and Nero 6 Ultra Edition to make custom versions of sound files. Transcribe alone permits one to speed up or slow down (and save at that speed) professional and personal recordings, position multiple reference markers in the recording and loop during play as desired (which I find very useful when learning tunes from recordings). One can slow a fast jig or reel down to a crawl. I've gone as low as 10% and found the output sufficiently clear to be quite useful, though I more often work at a setting somewhere between 40% to 70% and the sound quality is quite good.

 

Nero permits custom editing of recording content and volume levels (and other qualities), and I use it as my primary tool in handling self-made recordings from initial editing to saving them either on my hard drive or assembling custom CDs.

 

I back up all the mp3 files from my computer to a 120 Gig USB powered external drive I recently purchased specifically for that purpose. As others have noted, I didn't want to be in the position of having to reload the hundreds of CDs I currently have stored in mp3 format.

 

I have an iRiver hard drive recorder/mp3/wav player that I purchased a couple of years ago to use for concertina workshops and class recordings, but after the first few uses, I pretty much stopped using it. It worked just fine, but I found its lack of editing capabilities to be a pain.

 

I believe I'm familiar with the capabilities of the hard drive and digital chip-media voice and music recorders on the market, and while the latter especially offers impressive capabilities for making good quality recordings, I'm still sold on MiniDisc recorders for my purposes, at least certain models.

 

The Linear PCM recording mode available on the better Sony models (like the MZ-100) offers very good sound quality without compression technique issues, but of course decent sound quality (for learning tunes) can be had even in the most compressed recording mode. Further, the digital amplifiers used in the better units offers improved sound quality over the older and lower end units. But that's not what draws me to MiniDisk.

 

I find the in-unit editing capability to be it's greatest value for my purposes, and that's primarily why I continue to use MiniDisc even though the format is fading from public view. One can use the other media recorders mentioned in conjunction with computers and various software programs to transfer the files to the computer and then edit at a whim, but while I have a notebook computer I can and do use for that purpose, I prefer to travel lighter when going to classes, workshops and festivals.

 

A MiniDisc recorder allows one to loop any sub-segment, as well as to delete, move, redefine and name multiple 'tracks' quickly without the need for any external equipment. I find having those editing capabilities in a shirt-pocket sized unit to be invaluable when attending classes and workshops. The other digital media recorders I've seen and tried permitted looping and in some cases speed changes, but each recording made was stored as a separate file that couldn't be altered or combined without first transferring the files to a computer.

 

Some newer MiniDisk units permit moving certain format (Hi-MD, Linear PCM) recordings to a computer in digital format via USB and even extend that capability to connections with Mac computers. I'm using a Sony MZ-100 now, but as soon as the new Sony MZ-RH1 becomes available in the US and the price settles I'm going to buy one.

 

This new model will permit one to rapidly transfer older legacy format MiniDisk files (non Hi-MD) to computers in digital format, something that could only be done in 'real time' via analog transfer before. That, coupled with the ability to adjust playback speed from half of the original to double without pitch change makes this new one a real winner in my eyes.

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I'm using am iRiver myself, the early H120 model, and it's definitely much better for session recording than the iPod. I recorded a LOT of sessions with it, in Catskills and Ireland, and the quality is very nice (I set it at 128kpbs, you can record up to 320kpbs I think). I'm using one of those Sony microphones.

 

But the ultimate recording tool, for me, is coming in june.

 

Edirol R-09

 

It's half the size of a Edirol R1, and to me size matters a lot because I really want to be discreet when recording sessions, I don't want to look like your typical american tourist who's going to install his big recording machine on the pub table. I've had friends in Ireland who've been told to remove their recording machines the heck out of there. So the fact that the Edirol R09 is small *and* has an internal microphone means you can be very subtle with it, could even have it in a pocket and simply press "record" and "stop".

 

But for now I'm really happy with the iRiver, here's a clip I recorded last november in Ireland, concertina Goddess Claire Keville (yep, I'm brainwashed) was playing at her sunday night session. It's a big clip, like 6.73MB.

 

Reels

 

i'd agree that the r-9 is an improvement over the r-1 in many respects and is maybe worth waiting for. the r-1 is made in japan and of very high quality. i'm not sure where the r-9 will be manufactured, and would probably wait until it has been out for a while and hearing about the quality before buying one.

 

i haven't had a problem with the size of the r-1. it's fairly compact, and i wouldn't record a session without getting everyone's permission first. i don't think that secretly recording people is legal in most countries where irish music is played (even if you are the CIA and think you are authorized by the president...). but i suppose there are sessions where people don't mind being recorded but don't want to have to look at a big ugly machine while they're playing.

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I have a 40GB hard-drive iRiver, which I swear by. I've never had to swear *at* it yet, either :)

I've got a little Sony recording mike for it as well.

 

Please could you post details - like what mike you use (I assume the iRiver is the H340?)? I've been on the brink of buying one a few times, but was never confident that an external mike would work without a seperate pre-amp, given that it is described as having a line input, not a mic input (and I emailed iRiver but they were non-commital about what would work). Thanks

 

The iRiver is an iHP-140, which is the model that was succeeded by the H340. As far as I know the line-in is the same.

The mike is a Sony ECM-MS907, which is their bottom-of-the-range pro mike, which cost about £90 a couple of years ago. I was going to go for one of the little T shaped mikes that plug into the MD players, but this was only £30 more and I've never once regretted buying it. It's only 10cm long, has a stand and the lead is actually very useful (I can put the mike a little distance away and have the iRiver right at my feet when I record myself).

For these purposes, and recording session tunes, it suits me fine.

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