MP3 players

I just got DSL and discovered napster and so I was thinking how cool it would be to have an mp3 player with all my favorite songs downloaded on it and set it on random play and just kick back. Who would need a tuner? It should sound at least as good if not better and no commercials just my favorite music all the time and free. I just downloaded some brittany spears, googoo dolls and, queen stuff in just a couple of minutes.( Hey I just realised I could have done it all simultaneously and it would have been faster). So does anybody know of a good player and do they have a digital output? Does anyone even make a rack mount type player or just cheap portable ones? And where can I buy it? Thanks.
MP3 sucks, period. A tuner would be much, much better. Have you ever heard MP3s over a decent audio system, even a good car stereo? They're only bareable as background music, if you don't pay any attention to it. However, I have not seen anything but the cheapie little portables so far. Just as well; it's not music anyways, just a resemblance. The lack of response to this question may indicate that I'm not alone with my prejudices. Go for a decent tuner!
no the original mp3's suck but napster runs on a better code and I can download songs with a bitrate of 200k. And they sound really good so far on just my pc (as good as CD's). I've decided to get a digital output card and just run a digital wire to my D to A (I think that should work). Then I'll find out if the sound quality suffices on a good system (thiel, classe, MIT). And by the way SHAYNER I think the reason there are no other comments on this chat is probably because there are to many old geesers here that have never tried napster or even know what it is. Anyways I'll post my results for all to see whatever I decide on doing and whenever I get around to it (for good or bad).
Well, you may be right, but they sounded like crap from my friends computer into my system(JmLabs, Aragon, MIT, Classe). Let me know what you think... And don't be too hard on the old folks. Many of them probably know more than we do. Won't your card have to output the digital signal at the same rate as CD? I've only used the analog outs on the computer. I don't think a direct connection will work. Let me know what you get going. Maybe I'll play around some more...
Yeah I actually look up to allot of the old guys wisdom but I think they are reluctent to explore this area so we might be a little wiser here. Hmmm. I can understand how it could sound bad on a full blown stereo system using the analog outs. I would imagine that it would be hard for a little sound card to push a big system and it probably has to little power to have any dynamics. Also think of how weak of a front end a sound card really is. Now if I can get my dac to decode the signal then we may have something. Well my cambridge soundworks speakers came with a digital input and also a digital output piece that fits in a slot in the back of my pc. The problem is I can't plug it into the soundcard I have now so I have to go buy a new one. Thats a good point. I'll have to ask around and see if it is in fact the same type of digital signal that could be decoded by any standard dac. I would imagine that they didn't change anything since allot of what would run through the digital out would come through the cd rom drive be it cd or cd rom. I believe mp3's and computers are moving fast so even if it doesn't cut it now I think It won't be long untill we have a very good contender against at least our tuners. I know all the magazines trash MP3 but they need to keep testing all the new formats that come out and do fair tests like compare a $100 sound card to a $100 tuner or cd player. It's just like our main systems, we only get out of it what we put in so why should it be any different with MP3's? When they get true quality gear out then we'll really be able to test the format. I'll check in to all this before next weekend and put a post on my results by sunday if a digital output sound card will work. Untill then bye.
If you are looking for a card to output a digital signal for your computer I would recommend looking at the ZA2 by Zefiro Acoustics or the Sonicport or Datport models by Opcode. The ZA2 has coaxial, Toslink and AES/EBU balanced inputs AND ouputs. It has a sampling rate convertor built in and can be used as a patch bay all on the fly. In other-words you can input on one format and output on all three at the same time. It also enables you to defeat the SCMS copy code. It runs about $400. The Opcode products are cheaper, between $150 and $250 but do not have as many features, but they are plug and play USB verus the PCI slot that the Zefiro board uses. My computer is a Sony VAIO and it has a sound card from the factory that has a TOSLINK fiber-optic output. I feed this into either my DAT deck or my mini-disc recorders to perform the D-A conversion. I am a big user of Napster and have been using this set-up without any problems for quite a while. Be sure to shut down as much as you can in your start-up menu to keep the proceesor noise in the computer to a minimum. This makes a big improvement in sound quality and background noise. I also recommend downloading the Winamp player and using it for your playback of the MP3 files. It is also better than the internal player built into the Napster software. I have quite a bit of music that I have downloaded that sounds VERY, VERY good. Much better than any tuner could possibly sound. In some cases it is un-distinguishable from the cd. My system is not awesome but is very respectable. I have a NAD 1600 pre-amp/tuner, Parasound HCA-1200 II amp, Toshiba SD-3109 dvd, Sony DTC-670 DAT recorder, Sony MDS JE-500 and MDS JE-510 mini-disc recorders, PSB 500 speakers which are being used for the present because I do not have any room to set up my Carver Amazings. Not ultra high-end, but not crap by any means. When downloading be sure to pick the highest bit rate possible! The difference between 128k and 192 or higher is night and day. This is the key to getting good sounding MP3's. You should not be disappointed if you do this. Please post back or write me if you have any more thoughts or questions.
Here is the deal with MP3. It is lossy compression getting its original data from CD. Most every MP3 out there was ripped from a CD and then had a lot of data thrown out. You lose info. You might argue that the data lost is not important, but I think most audiophiles agree that data loss is never really OK. MP3 primarily loses data about the high frequencies and low freqencies. As for the bitrate thing, that has nothing to do with Napster. The idea is that when someone creates an MP3 off of a CD, they can choose the fidelity level. 128 bit is normal but it can be higher. I think that you might be able to do MP3's that are nearly lossless, but so few people make such high quality copies that you will really only encounter those if you make them yourselves. Here are my two suggestions. One is that there is a new piece of hardware coming out that is detailed on Stereophiles website that takes the data off of a CD and stores it on a hard drive with variable compression. You can use that system set to lossless or near-lossless compression and achieve an effect close to that of an MP3 player. Otherwise you can buy the home audio MP3 player that Dell is going to release and just deal with the problems.
I agree with Nhorton that mp3 is a lossy scheme, but so is AC-3(dolby 5.1),DTS, and all other forms of mpeg including the dvd format. What I meant by downloading the highest bitrate, was that it should sound better because it uses less compression(higher bitrate) to make the file. As far as my ears can tell, I have heard some pretty damn good audio coming from dvd. Sure mp3 is not on par with SACD or a 96/24 audio dvd, but it isn't supposed to be. A cd has a bitrate of somewhere around 705 kbits per second(44100hz * 16 bits). A mp3 encoded at 320 kbits is just under half that , and 128 kbits would be about one-fifth. If I am not mistaken, DTS and AC-3 can compress audio up to around one- eighth and are usually in the one-fourth to one fifth compression most of the time. So just to say that because it compresses the file is not a valid enough reason to say that it sounds bad. It has to do with the quality of the encoding and decoding process. If someone has a inferior codec in their computer, yes the reult will not be good, but if it is a good encoder(most people use the Fraunhofer(the main member of the mpeg consortium)codec. If that is the case most mp3's should be of fairly high quality as I'm sure Fraunhofer wouldn't the mpeg format to have a bad reputation for quality. Anyways, there is a new player on the market that claims to be better than mp3 so it might not matter for to much longer. The new format is called Vorbis and it creates .ogg files. It can use either variable or fixed bitrates. It is also a lossy scheme, but they say that uses better acoustic models to reduce the damage to the sound. It is also able to support multiple channels and can use bitrates from 8 kbits to 512 kbits. For more info go to The only way you will find out if the mp3's you download will sound good or not is to just play around with it and see what your ears tell you. I think that if you download the higher bitrate files you will find that they sound pretty good.
WOW. It sounds like you have allot of expierience here GRUMPY. Thanks for all the great info it definately has got me more interested and hopefull. I'll look into it some more. Also I've seen some MP3's on napster as high as 300kbps so I think things are really starting to move. Hey one day they may be able to go straight off the masters or be able to download from a high quality digital master and beat out everyother format with some super high bitrate and sampeling frequency. Who knows. Then we can say we were on the boat before any audiophiles would give it a chance.
You must not be aware of all the lawsuits against Napster and There is simply no way you'll have a higher than (or equal to) CD quality recording you can download off the internet for FREE. "From the original master tapes"...Just isn't going to happen. It may be that people stop buying aluminum CD's, and instead pay for downloading their own (in the next 10 years), but I wouldn't bet on that either. CD as it exists now will be around for quite a while longer, and if you shop hard enough, you can find many for cheap. If you like classical, many of the Naxos titles sound excellent, and they are only $5 a piece.
Actually Carl, I am aware of the lawsuits against Napster because I was banned from using it for supposedly having Metallica in my computer. I already own all of their discs including the DCC golds so I had no reason to put in my computer, but I was banned anyway. Thanks to some other users, many web-sites posted ways to get around it, and thats what I did. Actually, you're statemanet about not being able to have "from the master quality" is incorrect. The main reason that peolpe use mp3 format is because it takes up less file space and shortens the download time. You could just as easily transfer .wav files, that are true uncompressed digital files, but it take much longer to download and a lot more file space. A lot of music is actually recorded, mixed, edited, and stored in computers without ever using any tape, digital or analog. Alan Parsons is one of the main persons doing this. His album Try Anything Once was completely recorded using his computer.
I'm fully aware of how many "modern" pop recordings are made, the varying fidelity notwithstanding. I also know that all the big time mastering engineers still archive on 2 inch analog tape. My assertion was that you'll not see it appear for free on the internet en masse. What you have is taken from a CD (sometimes an SACD perhaps), and not any sort of "master" that was used upstream of the process to make the the PCM redbook CD, or the SACD. That's what I meant. Don't get so defensive already...
Carl, sorry if I sounded defensive, I didn't mean to be. Most people just don't realize how much music is actually recorded and mixed on computers and optical drives. The price of 96/24 equipment for computer is incredible anymore. You can get a killer home studio for the fraction of the cost of a "real" studio. Obviously most audiophile recordins aren't done this way, but more and more popular music is being done this way all the time. Hell, even most of the big studios do quite a bit of mixing and editing on computers because it is easier and more flexible than tape could ever be. They can pick and choose which take they want and mix it how they want over and over until they have it right without having to time-sync tape machines and swap tracks back and forth between them. I agree that you won't see master quality en masse for a long time, but it could happen sooner than we think. I read an article some time back in Sound and Vision about Joe Gastwirt(mastering genius) and in it he said that almost all of the master tapes were 1/2 inch at eithter 15 or 30ips, not 2" tape.
That's Joe Gastwirt. What about Bob Ludwig and all the rest of the big timers? I distinctly remember him and several others mentioning the 2 inch tape in an article in Mix. I'll look for it sometime............I know it's better to edit on a DAW, that has nothing to do with what's available on the internet in MP3. I also know that pop music is big on compressor/limiters and panning a flat 2 dimensional stereo "image"...and short on concerns of "fidelity to the original", especially if there was no original to begin with. They like to make it "translatable" to car audio with the top down at 80 mph!................The DAW world is great for musicians that want to get their music composed and into the market place. But nearly all audiophiles like minimalist recordings done in a real acoustic space with no compression/limiting, no digital sound space processing, etc. IMHO, the best recordings ever made were done in the golden age of stereo, with 3 omni mics spaced only a little bit apart, and direct to tape (more or less). Once you've heard one of these, you'll know what I mean. Not that I don't like modern music, but it certainly is fatigueing to listen to, even on the best/most musical systems.
Carl, I think you need to re-check your information about 2" tapes. If you would like, go to As I am sure you are aware, this is Bob Ludwig's Company. The master of mastering. I will quote word for word what it says on the site. "Reel to reel tape is the most popular format for sending audio to Gateway Mastering Studios. It has a different sound quality than digital formats and is preferred by many engineers. 1/2" and 1/4" sizes are used for mastering. Mastering facilities only use stereo (2 track)machines, NOT multi-track tape(i.e. 24, 16, 8 or 4 track)." I was positive I was right becuase there is no possible way for a tape head to accurately reproduce a signal over such a wide gap(1 inch). Imagine the voltage and bias that would have to be used, they have enough problems with 1/4" gaps. The voltage required would probably blow the magnetic particle right off of the acetate. You might as well try using a MIG welder. When I said "popular music" in my last post I really meant to say "modern music" because obviously more than just the "pop stuff" is being done. I have an incredibly wide taste of music styles, so please don't think that is all that I listen to. I am 29 years old and have been listening to Sheffield Labs and other great dirct to disc stuff since before I can remember. But that's not the only stuff in the world to listen to. Have you ever listened to Dead Can Dance? I guess they could be considered popular music, although they still are a bit underground still. Most of their last recordings involved computers, and Stereophile has had a coulpe of their recordings listed in the R2D4 list. Another good mention would have to be Planet Drum, Mystery Box, and Superlingua, all by Mickey Hart. These are perfect examples of what can be acoomplished.
I have both "Into the Labyrinth" and "Planet Drum". They're good percussion discs, but sound "processed/mixed", and are. Look, I know full well that 2 inch reel tape is not 2 channel tape, but I guess I need to look that article up. They were likely referring to archiving pre "mixed down" 16 or 24 channel master tapes, obviously. The point was that they didn't feel that any digital format was sufficient for archiving. That will probably change in the next year or two, though; who knows? Anyway, I'm not as uninformed as you might think. And Gateway does a few things wrong, I didn't mean to pronounce them as "almighty".
Carl_eber, I got a neat e-mail today from Bob Ludwig. I wrote him the other day and asked a couple of questions and he got back to me. He says he is doing a lot more digital now, mostly at 88.2/24. He said he owns a 1" 2 track using Tim da Paravinci tube set-up on a Mike Spitz ATR services 1" deck. He has deck #3, and Pink Floyd own machines #1 and #2. Tim created a special curve for 15ips that measures as flat as any machine he has ever seen from 8hz to 28000hz. He calls it his analog-digital machine because it sounds so analog but has bass that goes to DC like digital can. I thought you might find this interesting. He says if he gets a chance he will e-mail me a pic of the machine.
Yes, that is interesting. Also interesting that you might know Mr. Ludwig personally. I've not found the article yet, but if I remember correctly, it was a mastering engineer on the west coast (I forget who, but I'll certainly post this word for word when I find it) who said something to the effect of: "when we can get a digital machine to do 24 bit/400 kHz, it'll be more likely that we'll archive to a digital format". I think that idea has an underlying meaning, concerning analog-to-digital converters that could perform such conversion in a linear PCM (or similar) format. It might be a while before that occurs, from what I can tell. I could be wrong.
I have a huge collection of mp3's. Lots of really great stuff, ex. (Atomic Rooster. in hearing of) that I couldn't stand not listning to on something more than computer speakers. I started thinking all music has some sort of compression on it, mp3's included of course. So what I came up with was this. I purchased a dbx 3bx off ebay (the unit was like new $202.00) I hooked it to my soundcard line out (non-amplified). Then ran that into my Mcintosh 754 power amp. From there strait to a pair of Paradigm 7 se's. I used MIT termanator2 cables throughout. This really produces a good sound for me. You're right some mp3's are encoded better than others, but people are starting to make them pretty good now for the most part. There is so many software players win-amp being one, that have lots of controls I find no need for a pre-amp at all. The thing is , the dbx really improves the high and low end of mp3's and makes them much better to listen to.
If you think it sounds the same, Great. That's what it's all about what you think. Take some time and listen to a respectable tuner for a while, your ears will thank you. Radio is free and legal to record.
An mp3 song is one tenth the size of its 16 bit cd quality version. The answer: MP3 and Martin Logan don't mix!!
one-tenth? Try about 50% for a high quality 320 kbit/sec mp3. By the way, they work just great with my NAD/Parasound/Carver Amazing system.
Grumpybb -- You seem to be the MP-3 guru. As mentioned in other posts, do you have any idea what portables might sound better than others? Thank you.
Sorry, I've never played with the portable mp3 players at all. Too much money for what seems to be too little memory. I use either my portable md or dat players when I'm on the go. I just run a fiber-optic cable from the computer into my home md or dat decks. I usually only download very high bitrate mp3 files so even 128mb would only store a few songs at most. At least with the md I have 74mins of playback time and with the dat I get 2 hours.