How they workMP3 is short for Motion Picture Experts Group 1, Audio Layer 3 - the standard technology and format for compressing a sound sequence into a very small computer file (about a twelfth of the original size), while still sounding like a faithful reproduction of the original to most listeners.
Transferring music from your PC to the player is not a complicated process. Software is provided with most MP3 players (or downloaded from the manufacturer’s website), which enables music to be transferred via a cable. This same software will also convert music on a CD played in your computer into MP3 format, subject to copyright, in a process known as ‘ripping’. You will need an internet connection to download music from online stores such as iTunes.
As the law currently stands, it’s illegal to circumvent the copy protection on DVD or Blu-ray discs, even for fair use purposes. This means even if you own the latest blockbuster DVD, there is no option with the supplied software to ‘rip’ the movie to your player.
The iTunes store sells movies as well as individual episodes of popular TV shows. Some MP3 players also offer compatibility with BBC iPlayer, so you can download that episode of EastEnders you missed for playback when and where you want.
Owners of Blu-ray players might be interested to know an increasing number of Blu-ray movie titles are being released with a ‘digital copy’ included on a seperate DVD disc. This ‘iPod-friendly’ version of the film can be imported directly into iTunes via your computer’s DVD drive for transfer to your player.
MP3 players typically connect using USB, USB 2.0 or FireWire ports. Transferring a song via USB 2.0 or FireWire is twice as fast as USB and takes a matter of seconds. Top of the range players have built-in WiFi, enabling you to purchase music from online music retailers through your wireless broadband router, or while out and about through public WiFi ‘hotpots’.
What to look forMemory
The amount of memory will determine how much music you will be able to store on your MP3 player. Models range from 1GB (enough room for up to 240 songs) right up to 120GB (enough room for up to 30,000 songs or 150 hours of video). If you choose a lower capacity you’ll be able to change the songs on your player but you’ll have to swap them around on your computer first. With a higher capacity model you’ll be able to access your entire collection at any time. A higher capacity is also useful if the player is capable of storing other types of media e.g. photos and videos.
An MP3 file is one of a number of different music files that are available. You’ll need to check the compatibility of your player before purchasing music online. Other similar formats include:
WMA: Windows Media Audio
WAV: Windows Audio-Video-Format
AAC: Advanced Audio Codec (Used by iTunes)
ATRAC: Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding (Used by Sony products)
AIFF: Audio Interchange File Format
There are several video file formats available. You’ll need to check the compatibility of your player before purchasing movies online. Formats include:
MP4: MPEG-4 Part 14
M4V: MPEG-4 Part 14 (Used by iTunes)
WMV: Windows Media Video
MPEG-2: Moving Pictures Expert Group 2 file
Additional featuresMany MP3 players offer far more than just playing music. Look out for additional features such as:
Integrated FM tuner
Store and view digital photos
Store and watch video
Store data files (including documents, contacts, calendars and to-do lists)
Other points to considerAccessories
As MP3 players have increased in popularity, the range of additional accessories has grown ever wider. We offer an extensive selection of useful add-ons from protective cases to stereo speakers.
Most MP3 files can be downloaded legally. However, it is a breach of copyright to download songs that have been copied illegally and put on the internet. It is best to download music from official sites.