From credit card–sized MP3 players and computerized car stereos to handheld computers and cell phones, digital music is now more portable than ever. You can carry your entire music collection in a player the size of a cigarette pack, and instead of swapping cassette tapes, you can use memory chips the size of postage stamps that hold hundreds of songs.
Beyond their capacity to store music, portable digital audio players offer advanced features that weren’t possible until recently, such as browsing by artist, genre, or album; automatic volume adjustment; graphic equalization; multiple playlists; and automatic synchronization with the music library managed by a jukebox program running on your computer.
In this chapter we’ll introduce you to the ins and outs of different types of portable digital audio players, along with MP3-capable car stereos. You’ll find advice on picking the right player and on which questions to ask before you purchase anything. We also cover how to get music into your player and how to troubleshoot problems when things go wrong.
The portable players covered in this chapter can play compressed audio formats such as MP3 and WMA. Many manufacturers (and users) refer to these as “MP3 players,” even though most can play multiple formats. Another common term is “portable digital audio players,” although strictly speaking, this includes portable MiniDisc and CD players. We’ll generally refer to them simply as “portable players.”