Music in 2003

by Mike Shea on 9 January 2003

Since my Everquest addiction had taken over my main machine, over the last year I have built and kept up a second box I like to refer to as my "multimedia" box. This machine handles all my music and dvd playback, web browsing, video playback, and anything else computers seem to do other than play EQ.

I have been very happy with Windows Media Player. I would put in a music CD, copy it to the hard drive using the easy "copy a cd" command and setting 192khz sample rate in the options (anything below sounds like my cat scratching in the litter box). This lets me play back any of my hot cds through my Turtle Beach soundcard and into my Headroom Little and Sennheiser 580 headphones. It is a great musical setup.

I would like to go portable with this, however. In it's current format I use the Windows proprietary format for recording cds but am seriously considering using mp3s just for compatibility with other systems and software. I don't have a burner so I have to get one of those. I also will need some kind of portable device that can play back .mp3s on the go. I am leaning towards a cd player with mp3 compatibility rather than a box of ram that costs 10x as much. I also have my eyes on a pair of Koss Portapro headphones, highly rated by a number of different groups.

My end goal is to have any music anywhere at any time with an easy to use, easy to transfer, and high quality sound system. I'm not sure if this is possible, but I think I can get into it without it getting too expensive.

Update: I stopped off at Best Buy on my way home from work and picked up a cheap $50 Audiophase CD/MP3 player. I picked this for the following reasons:

Cheapest way to get portable MP3 music Has 700 meg storage discs for $1 a disc It runs for 20 hours off of a pair of standard AA batteries Can play CDs directly, a smoother transition from a CD lifestyle.

While I like the idea of a box of ram that has no moving parts, a $200 RAM-based MP3 player costs four times as much for 1/5th the storage potential. Not to mention that the memory is fixed, not variable like switching out another CD of mp3s is. The mp3 on CD route also offers compatibility with any computer. I tested out the Audiophase with a 85 song CD of seven albums. Two Enya, three Loreena Mckennett, and the two soundtracks to the Lord of the Rings. I recorded these CDs to MP3 using Windows Media Player 9.0 with the Cyberlink MP3 plug-in ($10). They were recorded at 192kbs, the decoding method that sounds the best to me. I listened with a set of junky headphones and no amp at first. There was a bit of static to be heard and a typical lack of frequency, but this is to be expected with $20 headphones. Switching to my Sennheiser / Headroom Little setup performed much better. The audio was as good as CD as far as my ears could tell. Operation of the player was solid, though confusing at first. It is worth reading the manual. Since my headphone setup isn't exactly portable, I ordered a pair of Koss PortaPro headphones. My hope is that they do an acceptable job without an amp. This would be an excellent $100 portable music system, one I'd highly recommend to anyone with a CD burner on their XP box.