MP3 players resources
MP3 Players
Buying Tips

Catching the new wave in portable music

Anyone with a computer, an Internet connection and time can find and play MP3 sound files. It just takes a lot patience.

There's a symphony of sound on the Internet, and much of it is stored in MP3 file format. MP3 files -- MP3 stands for MPEG 1 layer 3 -- are compressed, allowing for reasonably quick downloading compared to other types of audio files, while preserving quality sound.

Companies marketing MP3 technology use terms such as "CD quality" or "near-CD quality" to describe what the music sounds like. It's more accurate to say that the quality differs depending on how the file was created, and the highest quality MP3 file is near CD-quality. iPod Forum

MP3s are abundant on commercial music Web sites, and there are stockpiles of illegal files stashed on pirate sites or traded via newsgroups. MP3s can be played over the Internet or downloaded to a computer and then played. The streaming audio technique lets Internet listeners hear music as it's sent from the site, eliminating the wait while files download.

Downloading MP3 files is the most time-consuming part of the process. Theoretically, it should take about 21/2 minutes to save a 1-megabyte file using a 56 kbps modem. So a five-minute song should take about 12 minutes. But modems often don't connect at the maximum speed because of line quality or modem configuration, and that can drag out the process. Using a high-speed Internet connection, such as a digital subscriber line, speeds up downloading considerably, with songs taking only a few minutes.

Download speeds also depend on the speed of the server and the amount of network traffic. High-end commercial sites, such as, usually have optimum download times, while pirate sites usually are substantially slower. A 1-megabyte MP3 file holds about one minute of high quality music or several minutes of spoken words.

Saving TLC's song "I Need That" in MP3 format from at 28.8 kbps took about 21 minutes, while downloading the song at 56 kbps took about 15 minutes. The song, which is a previously unreleased track from the R&B group's latest album, "FanMail," is 3.7 megabytes, or 31/2 minutes long.

MP3 players come in two forms: the software kind that run on computers, and the hardware kind that can connect to computers, download music from the machine and then play the files independently.

Several free MP3 players can be downloaded from the Web, installed and then used to open and play files, just like any other computer program. Some solid MP3 players for computers with Windows 95, Windows 98 or Windows NT include Nullsoft's WinAmp, MusicMatch's Jukebox and RealNetwork's RealJukebox.

All three can be downloaded for free, and MusicMatch Jukebox and RealJukebox can also create MP3 files from audio CDs. MusicMatch and RealJukebox also have enhanced versions with more features.

MacAmp is popular with the Apple computer crowd, and there's a Macintosh version of RealJukebox, too.

Most MP3 players have a virtual boombox interface -- with basic commands such as play, fast forward, rewind and pause -- and some models also include a graphic equalizer and a playlist that acts as a cue for songs.

© Copyright All rights reserved.
Unauthorized duplication in part or whole strictly prohibited by international copyright law.