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Komando Kritic: Should I buy an iPod? October 9, 2006

Posted by oktyabr in Komando Kritic, opinions, personal.
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Recently as heard on the Kim Komando show a caller inquired about whether or not an iPod was a “good deal”.

1) Caller is a music teacher and on a “teacher’s budget”.

2) Caller would like to use mp3 player to record “talk radio shows”.

3) Caller would also like to be able to record material from class to playback, for instructional purposes.

Kim’s solution: Check out refurbished iPods from the Apple store, which, indeed, the teacher can have with an educational discount via apple. Some sort of additional purchase would buy an add-on (information given was obscure) that would allow recording… uh… stuff.
My solution: Be careful about what you REALLY want an MP3 player to do! There are many competing brands and most offer many different models with a range of different abilities and services. Case in point:

When caller says “talk radio” I assume the likelihood of wanting to record FROM an actual radio station! This alone narrows the field greatly as many popular models (especially Apple products) do NOT offer a built in FM/AM tuner and of those that do many do not allow direct recording of programs from the tuner.

A quick google shows that iRiver products seem to be very popular in satisfying both having a built in FM tuner AND the ability to record directly from it. I would probably recommend that the music teacher start by looking at iRiver’s products for this reason. Many products, both from iRiver as well as other manufacturers offer “line in” or “voice recording” or both. This is handy as you can record voice notes (if the unit has a built-in microphone) for later playback and it should be no great task for a music teacher to figure out how to connect the “line in” directly into a mixer board or similar for high quality audio recording directly from the hardware available to the class.

Now if you have to record both AM and FM the field is narrowed considerably. The best bet is Radio Your Way from PoGo Electronics. It’s a bit pricey at $199 for a 128MB version but as most “talk radio” can suffer low bitrates (lower quality) and still be listenable, unlike music, 128MB is probably plenty. Check out some of the other features!

> Automatically record radio broadcasts via a daily or weekly timer-function; totally unattended

> MP3 Recording- Easily transfer and archive your recordings to a PC or MAC with an available USB port

> Record from any audio source (CD, Cassette, or TV etc.) in MP3 format without the use of a PC!

> Playback MP3, WMA or RVF files

> Use Radio YourWay LX as a portable storage device for data files!

Sure wish other manufacturers would explore this niche market. Hopefully PoGo will include more storage with it’s future products. (How about removable SD memory chips????!? Anyone?!??!?)

Of course ANY mp3 player (even your computer!) can play “podcasts“… errr… now better known as “netcasts” so that isn’t a problem either.

But I’m sure many of you are wondering what MP3 player I would buy! 😉

I’ve had many different models by many different manufacturers but the ONE brand that always gets my attention when they have a new release is Cowon Audio. Cowon has long been my favorite for two key reasons:

1) No DRM (Digital Rights Management)!!!! Unlike the Apple iPod and the soon to be released Microsoft Zune Cowon’s products don’t have any DRM, don’t require you to install any proprietary software and most importantly, don’t tell me what I can do with my audio files! I could post many pages about why you don’t want DRM but this is neither the time nor the place. Google for DRM and learn my #1 reason why you DON’T want an iPod!

The lack of DRM and thus, proprietary software, also means that most of Cowon’s (and other non-DRM lacky manufacturer’s products) are cross-platform compatible… I can drag a song from one of my linux boxes to it and if I want to stuff it on my son’s Win2K box for him to listen to *I can*… without having to worry about whether or not iTunez or similar is uptodate and thinks my track is legal. On a tangent I make music of my own… iTunes puts a limit on how many times you can transfer/burn a piece of audio (thanks, DRM) but I’ve never used it… makes me wonder if it would have the same effect on music I MADE and OWN myself?!? Relevant to the caller at hand imagine being that music teacher and having some company telling you that a recording YOU made in YOUR music class was “illegal” to burn on a dozen discs to give to parents or something?!? Nah, forget the iPod… unless you are brave enough to swap out the firmware with something like Rockbox, that is 😉

2) Last but not least Cowon’s products are the only available portables that support high quality codecs like FLAC!

FLAC is a “lossless” codec meaning that it doesn’t loose *any* quality during compression. In layman’s terms this means your audio files will sound as good as the original source (and equipment) whether you rip them from CD or record them live in a studio. It is *the* audiophile format to die for. Custom mix CD’s burned from FLAC sound not just “as good” as the originals… they sound EXACTLY like the originals! Now call me naive but something inside me makes me wonder if a music teacher is perhaps more acutely sensitive to the quality of a recording than the average consumer (especially those that think it’s cute to have a lower case “i” in front of everything they own or a fruit logo) especially those made in the class they teach. Hmmm?

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