iPod vs other mp3s

My teenage daughter needs a new mp3 player (OK, need is not maybe the definitive word here, but her current one is dying). Her current one is a Toshiba GigaBeat, 10gig. She is interested in an iPod as a replacement. However, we’ve heard a lot of bad things about iPods.

So tell me about your experience of iPods vs. other mp3 players. My husband and I both have SanDisk 1gigs, and they’re fine for us, but she’s now wanting an 80gig.

So give me your feedback.

I got a Sony 2 gig cylindrical one for an anniversary present from work, and I’m very happy with it - except that I wish it had more capacity. It is very light, the controls seem simpler than for my wife’s nano, and it has been very reliable. It also has a radio built in. It has a tiny little screen, and is of no use in viewing pictures or movies, but I don’t want to see movies on a tiny screen anyhow. For pure music, it has been fine.

It does use a format Sony is not going to support in the future, but they will offer converters, so that hasn’t bothered me.

I only use it on airplanes and when walking the dog, so 2 gig on shuffle is fine. The simple controls are the best thing for me, and the small convenient size.

iPods have far and away the biggest “environment” to live in. Meaning, iPod accessories outnumber accessories for all other devices by about 100 to 1. This fact alone should be carefully considered when making a purchase.
If you ever want to do something with your MP3 player other than just sticking earbuds in your head, then the iPod wins hands down.
They are also considered some of the best designed, best sounding and most reliable units.

That’s not true. Pretty much no one regards any of the ipods as great sounding units. They’re adequate for casual use (if you’re just going to stick with the stock earbuds then the quality of your source isn’t really a big factor) but people who are more into audio fidelity aren’t big fans of ipods. There’s actually a custom kit out there called an Imod designed to make the ipod sound good. Especially the software EQ they use - it’s not customizable and it amps music to distortion when you run it.

That said - trying not to sound snobby - people who get an ipod to listen on the ipod earbuds and listen to top 40 stuff will probably be satisfied with the sound quality of the ipod.

Generally, I dislike apple - but I recently got an Ipod touch because it’s an incredibly cool gadget (and I scored a great deal). Decent sound, great movie playback, and a cool wifi/internet device. They only come in up to 32gb and are pricey though.

I have an “ancient” 20G iPod (the first photo model) and never once regretted it, though I struggled over the decision for a while. I am so attached to it I’m afraid of it breaking because the new ones are too thin and delicate-looking. I love my scratched-up, bricklike teen cult machine!

That said, I’m no audiophile. I’m pretty much a “stick the earbuds in and walk around” user.

The earbuds are Bose, though. :wink:

I’ve had four MP3 players, none of which were ipods. Personally I have no interest in all the accessories that ipods have so that doesn’t bother me, and more importantly I don’t want to use itunes which is the other main reason for not having one.

I’d recommend Creative but they’re now phasing out their hard drive players for smaller flash drives (there would be no point in me getting anything less than 30g as it wouldn’t hold my library).

The major downside for me with the iPod was being yoked to iTunes, which is a tremendous pain in the ass.

An .mp3 player is a file storage device - every other .mp3 player can be plugged into your computer for direct access to the files on it. .mp3s have tagging standards built into to format, for simple navigation and library functions accessible through any application. Moving your .mp3s onto an iPod strips all of these attributes and modifies the files so that they are useless except to the iPod.

It’s ridiculous to require a huge application to move files onto the player, and to have that application tied to a single device.

I also found the touchy nav-wheel a “shiny-cool” but ultimately crap design feature. Most of the time, my mp3 player is in my pocket. When I had my iPod, any adjustment meant I had to take it out of my pocket, unlock it, look at the damned thing, make my adjustment, lock it again, and put it back in my pocket. The Sandisk Sansa that replaced it? If I want to skip a track, adjust the volume, pause, etc… I put my hand in my pocket and just do it.

I don’t miss the iPod at all, and would never buy another one. A similarly-priced unit from Creative or Sandisk will kick the pants off an iPod, as far as actual use is concerned.

I have a Zune that I love.

It’s essentially Microsoft’s version of the iPod. It also comes with it’s own software that you can use to find tunes, manage your podCasts, and purchase music with.

I think that Zunes with a similar screen size and memory tend to be cheaper than iPods.

It has a fair amount of accessories (carrying cases, docks, etc), but not nearly as much as the iPod.

If you’re a Microsoft fan, you might like it. I think the software is very good. Not excellent, but very good. I like Microsoft’s music compression format. I have everything at 192 kbps. They claim that their 128kbps is similar in quality to mp3 at 192kbps. I find that dubious, but I do listen to 192 stuff through my stereo system, and it sounds mostly good.

Thanks for all your input, guys, and keep it comin’!

My wife has an ipod and it’s OK as far as listening to music goes. The display is also very good but I’ve never liked the controls on it, I find the wheel to be bollox - Larry Mudd’s ‘shiny cool but ulitmately crap’ hits the nail on the head. iTunes is garbage, as already pointed out, so overall I wouldn’t rate the pod that highly.

I have a cowon 8Gb unit that is miles better, I’ve also owned previous larger units from cowon. ALthough very good, one area they fall down in and where I assume the ipod will be exceptional is warranty and after-sales support. mp3 players break - this is a fact of life. I think I’ve been through 4 thus far, and I didn’t get my first one until a couple of years back. Getting warranty claims sorted out has been very time consuming and hard work, due to small companies such as cowon having awful customer support.

All MP3 players are capable of playing music. The rest is a matter of preference. Do make sure, though, that the player accepts music from any source in a wide variety of formats.

The majority of the iPod criticisms seem to be based on misconceptions, and come from people that have never owned one.

Personally, I still have the first iPod I bought - back before the photos and all that stuff. Still works fine. I use it to demo music at my store. For personal use, I have a 60GB video. My wife, son, daughter, and son-in-law all have iPods and all love them. They’ve been reliable, and there are zillions of accessories (cases, skins, battery extenders, and so forth) available.

I’ve heard that there’s at least one player out there that works by subscription. You can put any music you want on it, but when you stop paying for the subscription, all of the music stops playing. That may be cool for some, because you can constantly replace songs, but it would never work for me. I want to buy my favorites ONCE and own them – not pay a monthly fee for them.

What matters is the headphones or earbuds, not the player. I would love to meet a person that could tell the difference in sound quality between any three randomly-chosen MP3 players when they all used exactly the same headphones.

Two points here:

First, the iPod is not “yoked to iTunes.” This is a common myth. I used my first iPod for over a year before I got iTunes. There are many third-party utilities available.

Second, iTunes is one of the things I like best about the iPod. They update regularly with new features. The list-building capabilities are fantastic (especially the smart playlists). My music collection came from many sources (Apple iTunes store, several dozen free MP3 download sites, band demos, commercial CDs…) in several formats (MP3, AAC, AIFF, WAV…) and I’ve never had a problem with tag imports. You can even convert and export other formats (I’ve converted to WAV for audio editing, for example). Most CDs auto-detect and iTunes fills in the artist, album title, track names, and even album artwork. I haven’t found a single feature I’ve liked in another music program that iTunes can’t do.

I can do all of these things on my iPod without removing it from my pocket or looking at it at all.

I don’t really see the appeal of any type of MP3 player that isn’t an iPod (unless the sound quality thing is true and you’re a big audiophile, I suppose).

I’ve never seen a non-iPod MP3 player that doesn’t use some arcane and counter-intuitive control scheme and isn’t ugly as sin. My iPod is simple, a delight to use, and stylish.

Nonsense. You’re contending that the analog output stage between various devices can’t be appreciably different? The quality and strength of the amplifier alone is a significant issue. There’s also the issue of the ipod’s software equalizer - it amps the music to the point where if your music has little dynamic range headroom it distorts very strongly. Other players have better software EQs - or better yet, hardware EQs - that don’t distort.

Look - I know there’s a lot of nonsense in the audio enthusiast world - the people who buy speaker cable at $2000 a foot and such. But to say that all sources are indistinguishable is silly. I could almost certainly distinguish between an ipod and one of the Cowan players on my HD280s - which aren’t particularly high end although they’re pretty accurate.

And I’m saying this as an ipod (touch) owner.

Are you also the sort of person who says that you can’t distinguish between, say, 128Kbps and 256Kbps mp3s?

Are you aware of any that work with the touch? I’d like to be free of itunes.

Approximately 3 months ago I bought my first mp3 player. I quickly narrowed my choices down to the 80gb Zune and the 80gb iPod Classic, and went back and forth for about a week (surfing reviews, playing w/ devices in stores, installing iTunes & Zune Marketplace software on my computer) before finally deciding on the Zune.

I absolutely adore my Zune.

The Zune has nice earbuds in the box - the iPod’s buds would clearly have required a swift replacement.

The Zune has more natural feeling controls, but that’s a matter of opinion. YMMV.

The Zune has a slightly larger screen.

The iPod classic controls were notoriously sluggish, with noticable lag between taking an action with the controls and having the iPod respond on the screen, leading to lots of frustrating over-scrolling and such. The general consensus on the 'net at the time was that this would be fixed in some future firmware update - I don’t know if that ever came to pass.

Neither software package wowed me, but at the time Zune software was a bit more frustrating. There were some glaring feature omissions in creating playlists and editing song data, as well as some pretty gross bugs. I banked on the software deficiencies being patched and focused on buying the better hardward, and I wasn’t disappointed - MS updated the Zune software and firmware shortly after I purchased the Zune, adding in missing features and clearing up most of the bugs.

iTunes has more content than Zune, but nothing that I care about (exclusive American Idol downloads - whoopdewoo). Any song I’ve looked for that I couldn’t find on Zune I also couldn’t find on iTunes (for example, the first few De La Soul albums), but I have had no problems getting content from other sources (Amazon and P2P) onto my Zune since the latest software update.

Zune has the subscription option - $15ish a month for unlimited music, all of which you lose when you cancel your subscription. I’ve not tried it, although I imagine if I could get over my need to own it would be a pretty nice way to check out a lot of music.

At the Zune marketplace, you buy songs with points instead of pennies, and you have to purchase points in specific amounts. It is a slightly annoying abstraction layer the seems unneccesary. On the upside, I’m better at budgeting my music spending in the Zune Marketplace, where I can buy a block of points to use for this week or this month, than I am on Amazon, where I can get caught up in the easy click-to-buy mode and easily run up a $30 bill before I realize how much I’m spending.

Zune has wireless sync, but I never use it. I have to plug in to something to recharge the batteries - it might as well be the computer. And by the time I go to my computer, activate the Zune software, then go to my Zune and tell it to sync, I might as well have just plugged it in.

Zune has the Zune Social feature, which is utterly pointless as far as I can tell. Maybe it’ll be cool someday.

I acknowledge that the amp strength matters, but with good headphones, I generally don’t need to use the top end of the amplification. I’ll also admit that I don’t use the far ranges of the EQ. I would still, however, be surprised if two MP3 players playing the same song “as recorded” (no EQ or other tweaking) through the same headphones would sound noticeably different.

I freely admit I’m not what you’d consider an “audiophile” and that my 50-year-old ears don’t have the same range as my 20-year-old ears did.

No, I’m not.

I’m not sure about the touch, but if you visit www.ilounge.com or Google “alternative ipod software” you should find plenty. I think Ephpod, the latest Real Player, and Anapod would support it, but I don’t know for sure. I’ve used pretty much all iTunes for the last four years so I can’t give first-person reports on any of them.

You might find this article interesting.

It’s the other way around. Crappy headphones benefit little from good amps and good ones can benefit much more.

It’s not “far ranges of the eq” - it’s using it at all. It’s essentially unusable now without distortion unless you have unusually quiet music. Plus it only has presets - no customizable EQ. When you’re talking about the sound quality it outputs this is certainly a big factor.

Do you think that it’s impossible for different audio sources to vary significantly, or just that in this case they don’t? Do you think a $1000 stereo receiver can sound better than a $50 one?

I have a Zune 8 and I think it’s an outstanding piece of hardware. When shopping I compared it pretty thoroughly to the iPod Nano 8GB and the Zune beat it in just about every aspect. The deal breaker for me was that the Zune had a glass screen and a built in FM tuner (being a $100 cheaper didn’t hurt). I also found the short, squared shape of the new Nano to be difficult to manage while navigating in with giant man mitts.

I loathe iTunes with every shred of my being, it’s a giant, bloated, slow piece of software that tries to impose itself as the only true gatekeeper of your music. I prefer to control my own library, thanks, and I still hold a seething grudge from the time iTunes wiped out my entire music collection as it “consolidated”. That said, the Zune software is still new and leaves a lot to be desired. It’s smaller and less intrusive which is good but the first iteration of it was just terrible. The update they released earlier this year was a huge improvement and it does a much better job of handling tagging and artwork, but it still could use some improvement. It suffers from the similar issue as iTunes in that it tried to restrict what you can and can’t do with your library. All these media managers seem to think everyone wants to use their library the same way which is annoying and it hides too much of the fundamental information about the tracks. Anyways, Zune’s software is still improving while iTunes is terrible and only gets worse with each added “feature” so there’s hope that Microsoft will get it right eventually. The Zune seems to really play nicely with XP and Vista, which it should, so that is a small point in it’s favor too.

All in all, MP3 players are becoming a commodity. There are dozens of them and I generally think that most people will end up buying and replacing them pretty quickly as technology marches on. For that reason it’s a little harder to justify spending top-dollar on the Apple versions since it will likely be outdated in 12 months.

I’m curious about this part. What bad things have you heard?

We’re speaking different languages here, Beef. I’m talking about a portable music player that I listen to in my truck, on an airplane, or in a cafe. There’s ambient noise everywhere. I just don’t see the need for the kind of audio quality I’d expect in a stereo receiver at home.

I simply do not understand what you’re saying here. Library consolidation is optional. If you want to manage the file structure yourself, you’re free to do so. You can set your default music player on a filetype-by-filetype basis. In my experience, your first sentence describes Microsoft’s music player to a tee. In all the time I had multiple music players on Windows, iTunes never did anything to “impose itself as the only true gatekeeper.” And you can get at all the information I’ve ever wanted to on the files.

I don’t understand this either. If your music player works, I can see only two reasons to replace it: it broke, or your music collection has grown too large for it. Who cares if it’s “outdated”?

Probably, I shouldn’t have said “a lot”. There are two bad things I’ve heard about iPod, but both of them are what we’d consider “major”:

  1. They are delicate and fragile. My daughter does aerobic walking, as well as dancing, and fragile is not a good thing.
  2. They are dependent on iTunes. This has already been de-bunked.