Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Music Player Update

Windows Media Player just about had me panicked last year. It defaults to writing music in the MP3 format, but I discovered that I could change that to Windows Lossless format. Since then I've copied just about my whole CD collection to the PC.

So, I got the brilliant idea to buy a portable music player to replace my bedside CD player. I'd have my big library available. Playlists on the fly! I bought a player with a big hard drive and started to copy. My disappointment was quick. The unit wouldn't play Windows Lossless files. I didn't know which questions to ask.

A few months later I've learned a lot.
The Archos AV500 media device will play WAV, MP3 and WMA files. Not lossless.
Windows Media Player will write MP3, WMA lossless and WMA (lossy compression).
Itunes 7 will write Apple Lossless, MP3, WAV and AAC (lossy compression).

Well, look. There is a way out: Use Itunes to write WAV files and copy those to the AV500. That means I have to copy every CD twice. Blecch.

I looked forward to the Microsoft Zune music player. I doubted it would be great, but being a Microsoft product it would have to play WMA lossless files, right? Wrong. Microsoft has come up with another dog with two and a half legs.

If I want to change everything, I can copy all of my CDs (again) with Itunes as Apple Lossless (ALAC) files. But then I lose my Teamspeak capability, and I don't know how it works with Shoutcast, and I have to re-copy every CD. Blecch, again.

Then the cavalry arrived. Somehow I stumbled upon a gadget called a Squeezebox "network music player." You connect an Ethernet cable between this device and your computer. It gives you remote control of your media library and sends the audio to the remote over the Ethernet. The server software plays WMA lossless files, too! It's about the price of a 30GB Ipod. They tell me it sounds good, too.

There are other network music players out there, designed for various variations on the service. Some handle video. The Squeezebox has a headphone output and it's small, so it will fit in with my bedside music needs quite well. I haven't bought it yet, but it's coming. I'll let you know.

When I did my research on MP3s a year ago I wanted to go with something other than the iPod. But...long story short, it seemed to stand out as the best one. I don't regret it. I carry around 3,000 of my fave songs wherever I go and can listen in the car, my house,my office or while walking.
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