MP3 Buying Guide
All you need to know about MP3 players and which one is right for you.
Quite simply, an MP3 is a music file that's been compressed to store near-CD quality sound recordings digitally in a lot less space.
MP3 stands for Motion Picture Experts Group 1, Audio Layer 3. It's the standard for compressing and reproducing a sound sequence into a very small computer file.
A standard CD can hold 20 tracks (74 mins of music) whilst MP3 files can store up to 200 tracks. So you can carry round thousands of songs on one small and highly portable machine.
You can either download MP3 files from the web or convert “rip” your current CDs into MP3 files, using a PC and the software normally provided with your MP3 player.
You can also download this software from the internet. Then you can carry your CD collection around with you - for music on the move, wherever you go.
Current memory sizes mean you can store 1000's on songs on your MP3 player.
Memory sizes vary from 512Mb (approx. 250 MP3 files) to 160Gb (approx. 80,000 MP3 files). Please check our chart for details.
Even the smallest MP3 player can store several hundred songs - great if you change your music regularly and perfect for commuting.
To store your entire CD collection, choose an MP3 player with a minimum of 30Gb and a hard disk, rather than a chip. They'll be little larger but still pocket-sized.
The most common connection between your MP3 player and a PC, either via a USB port and a cable or direct to the PC.
80% smaller than the 30pin, connector, this is Apple's latest 9-pin iOS device connector. Plugging in either way, you can use it for charging and data transfer.
Stream music wirelessly over ashort distance to link your headphones to your MP3 player. Also great for connecting to Smartphones.
You can store your contacts and keep track of your appointments.
Backlit LCD screen
View your track listings even in low light.
Colour LCD screen
Great for viewing photos and videos (dependant on model).
Allows you to connect to the internet either at home or via WiFi hotspots on the go.
(Digital Rights Management) is a code embedded within music and other files which prevents illegal copying. You'll need a DRM compatible MP3 player to access DRM encoded music and files.
An ID3 tag is a data container within an MP3 music audio file which allows it to display information relating to the music, such as title, artist, album, year and music genre.
Just a few clicks for the Genius to find songs on your iPod Nano and Touch that go together and create your own Genius Playlist.
Shake and Shuffle
Shake your iPod Touch or Nano to shuffle up a random playlist.
Look out for “MP4” players if you want to play videos as well.
There's a huge range of accessories for your MP3 or portable video player - here are just a few.
Bring your digital music to life - dock your MP3 into a high quality portable set of speakers. Then hit play, that's all there is to it.
Connect your MP3 player to a computer with a CD or DVD drive, so you can transfer songs and convert your media to digital files.
Upgrade your sound with a great set of headphones, from lightweight ear buds to high-tech headsets that cancel out surrounding noise, there's a set to suit every listening lifestyle and every budget.
A spare charger is a great investment if you do a lot of listening or travelling. Most MP3 players are powered by rechargeable batteries and recharge when the player is plugged into your computer.
Here's our guide to the most common terms in digital audio.
(Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding) is Sony's audio compression format which can only be used to store information on Sony music players. Access on Sony's software and download site.
When you buy music over the Internet, the digital files may be copyright protected, which limits your ability to copy them again and again. CD-RIP means the player can only play songs copied or ripped by your computer.
Stands for Digital Audio Broadcast. A DAB radio receives its channels as a digital signal, which means much better audio quality than traditional radio. (ll main radio channels broadcast in digital). Some 85% of the UK is now covered by the DAB signal, and it's increasing all the time.
To copy a file from a remote location (normally Internet-based) to a computer or MP3 player.
Drag and drop
This lets you transfer files from your computer onto your MP3 or MP4 player. Just like copying files into another folder via Windows Explorer or similar programs.
(Digital Rights Management) handles copyright protection for other formats. If you see DRM9 on a player, it can handle media from most download sites where you pay per song (excluding iTunes).
An accessory for MP3 players that lets you listen to your MP3 music over your car stereo.
A Gigabyte (GB) is a unit of measurement relating to a specific amount of computer data - one billion bytes. 1GB is the approximate equivalent of 500 music tracks.
A digital radio that picks up its broadcasts from the Internet, using your home wireless Internet connection. Not to be confused with DAB radio - they're different technologies.
Apple's iconic MP3 and MP4 players, known for their beautiful designs and wide range of accessories.
iTunes or AAC
This is Apple's format for storing music and can only be used with iPod MP3 players.
A Megabyte (MB) is a unit of measurement relating to a specific amount of computer data - one million bytes. On average a standard MP3 track is about 4MB.
MP3 and MP4
Common 'formats' for storing music and video. A format is just an agreed standard, like 33 and 45rpm on old vinyl albums. When you 'rip' a CD into digital files, your computer converts it into one of these formats.
MP3 and MP4 players
Devices for playing audio and video files recorded in digital formats. Most MP3 players can play several formats besides MP3: for example, Apple's iPods play a format called AAC.
A list of songs created for your use on your MP3 player, which you can tailor to suit your taste, save for ever and randomise for less predictable playback.
Playback time is the amount of time you can use your MP3 player with batteries. Most MP3 players charge through a USB port on your computer, but there is the flexibility to use rechargeable or standard batteries, or charge it straight from the mains.
When you convert songs on a CD into files in a digital format like MP3, it’s called ripping. Today's software, like Apple's iTunes or Windows Media, makes ripping easy. Of course, you should only rip CDs and DVDs that you own already - copyright law allows you to make one copy of music you own for personal use. If you buy downloadable music on the Web, it'll be in MP3 or WMA format already.
Some DAB and Internet radios feature automatic power-down, so you can fall asleep to your favourite radio station.
An electronic device consisting of components with no moving parts. Advantages are increased reliability and smaller physical size.
A set of speakers into which you can plug your MP3 player to give sound that fills a room.
On a DAB or Internet radio, the number of stations you can programme in for instant access from one button - even easier than choosing the station name from a list!
A port used to connect devices together to transfer files, normally using a computer. There are two ways in which you can connect your player to your computer to transfer music: via a USB cable or directly into the USB port.
An audio compression format similar to MP3, but with Digital Rights Management (copy protection and usage restrictions) built by Microsoft.