Author Topic: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?  (Read 2476 times)

Offline Macphisto80

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Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« on: January 17, 2011, 10:45:31 PM »
Sure, they look nice. They are trendy. And that's the thing about them - they are a trend. Apple can basically charge extortionate prices for the things, and when all you want them to do is play your albums and playlists, paying 130 quid for something that looks like it could get lost in your pocket change, nevermind down the back of a sofa, seems like a bit of a kick in the teeth to hand over that kind of cash. Of course, I'm talking about the new Nano here. Don't get me wrong, they are a nice piece of tech, but at the end of the day, I couldn't care less if it has a camera or plays video.

So, what are the alternatives out there? I'm not looking to spend over 50 quid on something that just plays my music as I go running.

I've done some digging about and found a few possible solutions. Any good?

The Creative ZEN V.



Sony E Series 4GB



http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Sony-E-Series-4GB-MP3-Player-Black-NWZ-E443-/330480293656?pt=UK_AudioTVElectronics_PortableAudio_MP3Players&hash=item4cf2291718

San Disk Sansa Clip



All of these can be gotten for 50 quid or less, with the San Disk coming in as low as 20 quid on eBay. Decisions.

Offline Rafadagaffer

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2011, 11:37:23 PM »
I have a Sandisk Fuze (the model above the clip). Its got more features than a similar range ipod model and it was cheaper too. I would reccomend the Sansa purely on the basis of my experience with the Fuze. A few friends of mine have had sony mp3 over the years, they always seemed to be pretty decent too, at least the smaller sized ones.
I think we have some posibilities, no?

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2011, 11:44:09 PM »
Can't go wrong with Sony, had the A808 4GB for 4 years now... still holds a 20+ hour charge and the sound quality is immense

:D

Offline Sprouts

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2011, 11:49:07 PM »
I use this for the gym mate: http://direct.tesco.com/q/R.208-4402.aspx

40 quid, lasts almost forever, charges off a USB connection, 4GB, excellent sound quality, tiny. Result.



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Offline Macphisto80

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2011, 12:17:52 AM »
I think I'm leaning towards the Sony and the SanDisc Fuse that Rafadagaffer has . The Sony looks the part, and with Sony you know you're going to get amazing sound and build quality. The Fuze, however, has the ability to add a micro SD card to it, so if I wanted more memory, it's as simple as buying another card, which is a massive selling point.

Offline Sprouts

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2011, 12:21:13 AM »
I think I'm leaning towards the Sony and the SanDisc Fuse that Rafadagaffer has . The Sony looks the part, and with Sony you know you're going to get amazing sound and build quality. The Fuze, however, has the ability to add a micro SD card to it, so if I wanted more memory, it's as simple as buying another card, which is a massive selling point.

They're selling the Sony cheap in Tesco Stores at the moment mate - the big one.
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Offline Macphisto80

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2011, 12:22:34 AM »
They're selling the Sony cheap in Tesco Stores at the moment mate - the big one.
Any idea how much for? Oh, and which model?

Offline Macphisto80

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2011, 12:26:39 AM »
http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/2GB-SanDisk-Sansa-Fuze-MP3-MP4-Video-Player-FM-Tuner-/300483368282?pt=UK_AudioTVElectronics_PortableAudio_MP3Players&hash=item45f634555a

Just found this little nipper on ebay. 20 quid? Fuckin hell, that's practically being given away. The 16gb card is 20 quid too. One thing about most of those MP3's on there is that they are refurbished by the manufacturer. Surely that's nothing to worry about, is it?

Offline Sprouts

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2011, 12:27:07 AM »
Any idea how much for? Oh, and which model?

Guessing slightly, but roughly the same as the eBay price. Noticed it in the superstore the other day.
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Offline Macphisto80

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2011, 12:32:00 AM »
Guessing slightly, but roughly the same as the eBay price. Noticed it in the superstore the other day.
Will check Tesco in town tomorrow. Cheers.

Offline Andy @ Allerton

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2011, 12:33:02 AM »
I use Sony HD-3's

They are 20GB - but Atrac3 is much better quality and much smaller sizes than MP3.

You can get them for around £60-£90 off amazon second hand. They come with Sonicstage software which has always been fine for me. You can use crappy MP3 if you don't mind shit quality and wasting loads of drive space.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2011, 12:34:39 AM by Andy @ Allerton »
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Offline Macphisto80

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2011, 12:53:54 AM »
I use Sony HD-3's

They are 20GB - but Atrac3 is much better quality and much smaller sizes than MP3.

You can get them for around £60-£90 off amazon second hand. They come with Sonicstage software which has always been fine for me. You can use crappy MP3 if you don't mind shit quality and wasting loads of drive space.
There's a few of those on ebay. There doesn't seem to be that many available, though. I remember at one stage MP3 was supposed to be the ultimate in sound quality. How much better is the format it uses over MP3? Some people say that vinyl still offers the best quality playback. I downloaded a couple of songs in the digital format of vinyl (can't remember what it's called) and the sound was slightly better, but nothing major. Files were massive too.

Offline Andy @ Allerton

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2011, 01:35:22 AM »
There's a few of those on ebay. There doesn't seem to be that many available, though. I remember at one stage MP3 was supposed to be the ultimate in sound quality. How much better is the format it uses over MP3? Some people say that vinyl still offers the best quality playback. I downloaded a couple of songs in the digital format of vinyl (can't remember what it's called) and the sound was slightly better, but nothing major. Files were massive too.

Atrac3 is much better than MP3 - a 96k sample in Atrac3 is better than a 128k MP3 for instance.

Only problem is Sony have decided to bin it - so new players don't use Atrac3 (Similar to the Betamax/VHS thing - Betamax was way better but VHS was 'popular' so shite technology won) - so if you want to use Atrac3 you'll have to use the HD-3 or HD-5.

I've got three HD-3s - each with different kinds of stuff on. Had the original for ages and bought the other two for £60 and £90. Bought my missus one too..

Atrac3 files are smaller than comparable MP3.
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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2011, 06:03:44 AM »
I use Sony HD-3's

They are 20GB - but Atrac3 is much better quality and much smaller sizes than MP3.

You can get them for around £60-£90 off amazon second hand. They come with Sonicstage software which has always been fine for me. You can use crappy MP3 if you don't mind shit quality and wasting loads of drive space.

Hi mate, been after a retro looking MP3 player and I completely forgot about Sony's first 'iPod beaters'..!! Always wanted one back in college but they were £250 back then! Do you use any remotes with yours?

I actually like the physical appearance of the Sony NW HD-1 more although it's not a big deal, I don't suppose by any chance you know the main differences between the two? I've searched a bit on the net to no avail, I know the HD-1 doesn't have native MP3 support but that's not an issue any way.

By the way you can use VAIO® Music Transfer Utility to drag and drop files into the NW HD-3 from what I've read, I use that for my current Sony and it's a breeze.
:D

Offline Lusty

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2011, 10:03:14 AM »


The iRiver h140 - 8 years on and still the best mp3 player ever.  None of your fancy touch screens and colour menus, just a pleasing blue glow.

Mine got nicked a while back and I had to give in and get an iPod.  Just not the same...

Offline Andy @ Allerton

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2011, 11:33:15 AM »
Hi mate, been after a retro looking MP3 player and I completely forgot about Sony's first 'iPod beaters'..!! Always wanted one back in college but they were £250 back then! Do you use any remotes with yours?

I actually like the physical appearance of the Sony NW HD-1 more although it's not a big deal, I don't suppose by any chance you know the main differences between the two? I've searched a bit on the net to no avail, I know the HD-1 doesn't have native MP3 support but that's not an issue any way.

By the way you can use VAIO® Music Transfer Utility to drag and drop files into the NW HD-3 from what I've read, I use that for my current Sony and it's a breeze.

I'd go for the HD-3 you can get them at the mo for £90 - Sonicstage CP is great - just download the latest version off the Sony site - and it's unrestricted now - nice library and the stuff is far more compact - plus you can create playlists and the like - got my entire library in it and it's (IMO) much better than the likes of Media Player etc.

I've got the little remote that plugs in - handy for changing tunes/searches etc. when it's in your pocket. I've also got a head unit and a Sony Stereo in the car, so I can listen to my tunes in the car :)
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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #16 on: January 18, 2011, 12:48:40 PM »


The iRiver h140 - 8 years on and still the best mp3 player ever.  None of your fancy touch screens and colour menus, just a pleasing blue glow.

Mine got nicked a while back and I had to give in and get an iPod.  Just not the same...

I had one of them. Great piece of kit - high quality finish and much more flexible than an Apple product as you dont get locked into iTunes.

Have also had a HD340 (a bit bulky but top quality and VERY sturdy and absolutely packed with features):



And another iRiver - the CLIX2:



If you're looking for a high quality sound then the best piece of advice is to invest in a good pair of headphones/ear buds to replace the pair that come with the product. Sennheiser, Sony or Ultimate Ears are all good.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2011, 12:53:56 PM by Gareth »

Online Kashinoda

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #17 on: January 18, 2011, 01:00:02 PM »
I'd go for the HD-3 you can get them at the mo for £90 - Sonicstage CP is great - just download the latest version off the Sony site - and it's unrestricted now - nice library and the stuff is far more compact - plus you can create playlists and the like - got my entire library in it and it's (IMO) much better than the likes of Media Player etc.

I've got the little remote that plugs in - handy for changing tunes/searches etc. when it's in your pocket. I've also got a head unit and a Sony Stereo in the car, so I can listen to my tunes in the car :)

Actually the HD-3's have been going for £20-30 on eBay! I've just bidded on a couple so should have one soon :)

Can you actually create proper playlists though? I've searched about on avforums.com etc. and I seem to get the impression that all it does is duplicate your song into another playlist or 'group', taking up more space... is that the case or not?
:D

Offline Andy @ Allerton

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #18 on: January 18, 2011, 01:43:03 PM »
Actually the HD-3's have been going for £20-30 on eBay! I've just bidded on a couple so should have one soon :)

Can you actually create proper playlists though? I've searched about on avforums.com etc. and I seem to get the impression that all it does is duplicate your song into another playlist or 'group', taking up more space... is that the case or not?

I think it does take up more space - but you can group them when you add them individually - which is what I would recommend.

Make sure you download Sonicstage CP then you can import a load of guff - and the majority can be populated from the internet using the automatic tool.
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Offline J-beth

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #19 on: January 18, 2011, 02:20:48 PM »
I have the Sansa clip+ 8Gb and it´s really great value for the money.
http://anythingbutipod.com/ is a good site to find an Ipod alternative.

Offline AJ4Seven

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #20 on: January 18, 2011, 02:21:39 PM »
Buy a Cowon device, the D2 has a SDHC slot so can be expanded depending on the size on your collection, it plays a huge variety of formats (MP3, OGG & more importantly FLAC), you can drag & drop your files(i.e you can just use Windows Explorer to put music on the device/ or use the majority of audio sw) has a very good EQ system, the battery life is better than any of its competitors(they claim 40-50hrs but realistically you get about 20-30), has a very customisable interface(many different skins have been made by enthusiasts)  & the sound is awesome(depending on bitrate/quality of headphones used). I've had one for 2-3 years & I prefer it to my Sony HDD-NW1(How someone can say Sonicstage isn't bad must have a beefy PC as it crashed regularly for me).

The D2 is getting on a bit though so it isn't the best looking device so if you like your gadgets to look cool check out some of the other models in their range, the J3 is newer & was meant to be the replacement to the D2(no SD slot though). A good site for non Apple MP3 players is AnthingbutIpod.com lots of reviews there.

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #21 on: January 18, 2011, 03:08:25 PM »
Any suggestions for an alternative to an iPod Classic? I need at least 100GB of storage.

Offline Macphisto80

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #22 on: January 18, 2011, 05:02:45 PM »
Decided to get the Sansa Fuze. 2gb refurbished model for 21 quid on eBay was just too good to pass. The only gripe is the proprietory conversion of files, but I can just get a bigger SD card, plug it into my phone and then into my PC to just drag and drop files, then take the card out and plug it back into the MP3. Can't go far wrong with that price for what it offers, plus it looks nice too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QP8rDrrYDN8&feature=related

Offline Macphisto80

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #23 on: January 18, 2011, 05:04:06 PM »
Any suggestions for an alternative to an iPod Classic? I need at least 100GB of storage.
Can you get 100gb MP3 players?

Offline Andy @ Allerton

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #24 on: January 18, 2011, 05:24:02 PM »
Can you get 100gb MP3 players?

Yeah - those Media whatsits thingymacallits.
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Offline Macphisto80

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #25 on: January 18, 2011, 06:08:46 PM »
Yeah - those Media whatsits thingymacallits.
Tablets? Spit the bricks out, man.

Offline Rafadagaffer

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #26 on: January 19, 2011, 12:47:01 AM »
Decided to get the Sansa Fuze. 2gb refurbished model for 21 quid on eBay was just too good to pass. The only gripe is the proprietory conversion of files, but I can just get a bigger SD card, plug it into my phone and then into my PC to just drag and drop files, then take the card out and plug it back into the MP3. Can't go far wrong with that price for what it offers, plus it looks nice too.


If you are getting the fuze it might be worth looking into the rockbox project. It is an open source project which replaces the firmware on mp3 players with one with more features and better customization. It runs really well on the fuze too. Here is the website http://www.rockbox.org. You will not need to use the sansa software to load on songs if you use rockbox and it will play pretty much any audio format you can name. The micro sd size limit for the fuze is 32Gb not 16Gb as that ebay link suggests, at least it is for the 8gb fuze I have. If you do end up getting the fuze and have any question feel free to pm me :)
I think we have some posibilities, no?

Offline Macphisto80

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #27 on: January 19, 2011, 01:35:57 AM »
If you are getting the fuze it might be worth looking into the rockbox project. It is an open source project which replaces the firmware on mp3 players with one with more features and better customization. It runs really well on the fuze too. Here is the website http://www.rockbox.org. You will not need to use the sansa software to load on songs if you use rockbox and it will play pretty much any audio format you can name. The micro sd size limit for the fuze is 32Gb not 16Gb as that ebay link suggests, at least it is for the 8gb fuze I have. If you do end up getting the fuze and have any question feel free to pm me :)
Cheers, mate. Thanks for suggesting it to me, as I've probably just spent the best 21 quid I've ever spent should it arrive in perfect condition. Should be here tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #28 on: January 19, 2011, 07:41:42 AM »
If you're minted, the HifiMan HF-801 is the ultimate apparently, but at the otter end, the Sansa Clip is meant to be the best value.
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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #29 on: January 19, 2011, 08:33:39 AM »
On my 4th ipod now which is fucked needs replacing soon, going to give the zune a go next I think, anyone tried one?

Offline Andy @ Allerton

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #30 on: January 19, 2011, 10:43:39 AM »
If you're minted, the HifiMan HF-801 is the ultimate apparently, but at the otter end, the Sansa Clip is meant to be the best value.

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Offline Macphisto80

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #31 on: January 19, 2011, 11:36:50 AM »
If you're minted, the HifiMan HF-801 is the ultimate apparently, but at the otter end, the Sansa Clip is meant to be the best value.
I've seen the clips on eBay going for 15 quid, brand new or refurbished. Either way, that's a crazy low price to pay for something that does the job about as good as anything else if you're just listening to music. Was innitially going to get one, but seen the Fuze for an extra 6 quid. I'm surprised at how cheap these things are today. A few years ago, I bought a 512kb MP3 player off eBay from China. It had no known brand name. It cost me 50 quid at the time and it would just look silly now. Forget what became of it.

Offline Neoto

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #32 on: January 20, 2011, 02:01:25 AM »


The iRiver h140 - 8 years on and still the best mp3 player ever.  None of your fancy touch screens and colour menus, just a pleasing blue glow.

Mine got nicked a while back and I had to give in and get an iPod.  Just not the same...

You can still find them on ebay. I managed to break mine and got a replacement. They can also be fitted with Compact flash cards which is quite neat.

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #33 on: January 20, 2011, 07:19:16 AM »
Can you get 100gb MP3 players?

The iPod Classic is 160GB.


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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #34 on: January 21, 2011, 03:27:06 AM »
There's a few of those on ebay. There doesn't seem to be that many available, though. I remember at one stage MP3 was supposed to be the ultimate in sound quality. How much better is the format it uses over MP3? Some people say that vinyl still offers the best quality playback. I downloaded a couple of songs in the digital format of vinyl (can't remember what it's called) and the sound was slightly better, but nothing major. Files were massive too.


MP3 is and has always been just about compression of digital samples, the actual sound quality is not very good at all. The process of the MP3 compression actually removes a lot of the frequencies we, as users, dont necassarily need to hear for a half decent experience.
The best forrmat, quality wise is FLAC or WAV files. But they are very big, Usually about 45mb per 4 minute track.
When you rip CD's choose 320kbps, still no where near the 1411 kbps of the WAV files on the CD but better than 192kbps.

As for the Vinyl mate ? They are analogue, so the files you downloaded would of been converted from the Vinyl to Digital.

« Last Edit: January 21, 2011, 03:29:02 AM by shelovesyou »
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Offline Andy @ Allerton

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #35 on: January 21, 2011, 09:55:17 AM »

MP3 is and has always been just about compression of digital samples, the actual sound quality is not very good at all. The process of the MP3 compression actually removes a lot of the frequencies we, as users, dont necassarily need to hear for a half decent experience.
The best forrmat, quality wise is FLAC or WAV files. But they are very big, Usually about 45mb per 4 minute track.
When you rip CD's choose 320kbps, still no where near the 1411 kbps of the WAV files on the CD but better than 192kbps.

As for the Vinyl mate ? They are analogue, so the files you downloaded would of been converted from the Vinyl to Digital.



You forgot Atrac3

Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding (ATRAC) is a family of proprietary audio compression algorithms developed by Sony. MiniDisc was the first commercial product to incorporate ATRAC in 1992. ATRAC allowed a relatively small disc like MiniDisc to have the same running time as CD while storing audio information with minimal loss in perceptible quality. Today ATRAC is used in many Sony-branded audio players. Improvements to the codec in the form of ATRAC3, ATRAC3plus and ATRAC Advanced Lossless followed in 1999, 2002 and 2006 respectively.[1]

Other MiniDisc manufacturers such as Sharp and Panasonic also implemented their own versions of the ATRAC codec.

General bitrate qualityATRAC's original 292 kbit/s bitrate was designed to be close to CD quality acoustically. This is the bitrate used on original MiniDiscs. Years later ATRAC was improved and is generally considered better than earlier versions at similar bitrates. For purposes of comparison, CDs are encoded at 1411.2 kbit/s, and lossless encoders can encode most CDs below 1000 kbit/s, with significant bitrate reduction for easier-to-encode content such as voice.

[edit] PerformanceAccording to ATRAC engineers, ATRAC algorithms were developed in close cooperation with LSI development engineers within Sony in order to deliver on a tangible product that could encode at high speeds and with minimal power consumption.[2] This is in contrast to other codecs developed on computers with no regard for the constraints of portable hardware. This is reflected in the design of the ATRAC codecs, which tend to emphasize processing smaller numbers of samples at a time to save memory at the cost compression efficiency and additional multiplies. These trade-offs are entirely logical on DSP systems, where memory is often at a premium compared to multiplier performance.

Sony Walkmans offer better battery life when playing ATRAC files as compared to MP3 files. However, Sony only pushed ATRAC compatibility in Sony Ericsson Walkman series phones in the Japanese market, it is not supported in GSM/UMTS market phones. Sony's Xplod series of car audio CD players support ATRAC CDs. Minidiscs with ATRAC format songs have, in the past, been supported on Eclipse brand car stereos.



ATRAC3 (LP2 and LP4 Modes)Like ATRAC1 and MP3, ATRAC3 is also a hybrid subband-MDCT encoder, but with several differences.

In ATRAC3, Three stacked QMF split the signal into 4 parts:

0 to 2.75625 kHz (DC to f/16)
2.75625 to 5.5125 kHz (f/16 to f/8)
5.5125 to 11.025 kHz (f/8 to f/4)
11.025 to 22.05 kHz (f/4 to f/2)
The four subbands are then MDCT encoded using a fixed length transform. Unlike nearly all modern formats, the transform length cannot be varied to optimize coding transients. Instead, a simpler transient encoding technique called gain control is used, in which the gain of different subbands is varied during a transient prior to MDCT and then restored during decoding after the inverse MDCT in order to try and smooth over transients. Additionally, prior to quantization, tonal components are subtracted from the signal and independently quantized. During decoding, they are separately reconstructed and added back to reform the original MDCT coefficients.

Sony claims the major advantage of ATRAC3 is its coding efficiency, which was tuned for portable DSP which provides less computing power and battery life. However, as ATRAC is a hybrid subband-MDCT codec that is algorithmically very similar to MP3, any advantage is probably exaggerated. Furthermore, compared to newer formats such as Windows Media Audio which use a simple MDCT rather than a hybrid, ATRAC3 must perform an additional and computationally expensive inverse-QMF, although the hybrid system does significantly reduce memory usage, which was likely a factor given the limited memory available when ATRAC was originally developed.

LP2 Mode
This uses a 132 kbit/s data rate, the quality of which is advertised to be similar to that of MP3 encoded at a similar bit rate. However, in an independent double-blind test (2004/05) without format encoding parameters reference against Ogg Vorbis, AAC, and LAME VBR MP3, ATRAC3 came last.[4] Unfortunately, due to lack of transparency in ATRAC encoder versioning, it is not known if the ATRAC3 encoder tested was optimal, and subsequent investigation was inconclusive. It is possible that newer ATRAC3 encoders offer better performance.

LP4 Mode
This reduces the data rate to 66 kbit/s (half that of LP2), partly by using joint stereo coding and a lowpass filter around 13.5 kHz. It allows 324 minutes to be recorded on an 80 minute MiniDisc, with the same padding required as LP2.

FFmpeg has an implementation[5] of an ATRAC3 decoder, which was converted to fixed precision and implemented in the Rockbox series of firmwares for ARM, Coldfire and MIPS processors. RealAudio8 is an implementation of ATRAC3.

The PlayStation3 game Race Driver: Grid uses 224 simultaneous streams of ATRAC3 compressed audio, with between one and eight channels per stream at sample rates between 24 and 48 kHz, each filtered using 512 frequency bands of adaptive equalisation, routed via six reverb units running on the same SPU co-processor (one of eight on the PS3's Cell chip), alongside 7.1 channel hybrid third-order Ambisonic mixing.[6]

[edit] ATRAC3plus
ATRAC3plus CD playing on a Sony car stereo.This codec is used in Sony Hi-MD Walkman devices (e.g., "Hi-LP and Hi-SP"), Network Walkman players, Memory Stick players, VAIO Pocket, PS3 and PSP console, and ATRAC CD players. It is a hybrid subband/MDCT codec based on a 16 channel QMF followed by a 128 point MDCT. Prior to MDCT coding, Generalized Harmonic Analysis (GHA) is used to extract tonal components, an improved version of the process used in ATRAC3. As in previous ATRAC versions, gain control is used to control preecho rather than variable sized transforms, although different MDCT windows are apparently possible.

In the recently released SonicStage version 3.2 and 3.3 some more bitrates have been introduced, the available bitrates are: 48, 64, 96, 128, 160, 192, 256, 320 and 352 kbit/s. The newer bitrates are not always compatible with all older hardware decoders, however, some of the older hardware has been found to be compatible with certain newer ATRAC3plus bitrates.

MiniDiscs recorded in this format are incompatible with older players.

In a test conducted by an independent firm, but financed by Sony, it was concluded that ATRAC3plus at 64 kbit/s is equal in subjective sound quality to an obsolete MP3 encoder at 128 kbit/s.[7] Performance against modern high quality MP3 encoders was not evaluated.

[edit] ATRAC Advanced LosslessATRAC Advanced Lossless (AAL) is the latest update to the codec family. It can provide compression for a CD music source at approximately 30–80% that of the original size without any quality loss.

ATRAC Advanced Lossless is one of the very few audio codecs in the market that can provide scalable compression. It records both the information of ATRAC3 and ATRAC3plus, the residual information that ATRAC3 or ATRAC3plus eliminated from original signal. The ATRAC3 or ATRAC3plus data can be extracted just as it is, or the eliminated information can be added to perfectly reproduce the information on the original CD. In other words, ATRAC Advanced Lossless only requires storing one type of data, eliminating the need of data recompression and allowing the file size to be smaller than uncompressed or compressed versions of the same file. Benefits of scalable compression include providing excellent backward compatibility as well as faster transfer speed between portable audio devices and PC.

Similar "core" and "residual" stream implementations have also been used in the free software codec WavPack and DTS-HD Master Audio.

ATRAC Advanced Lossless is widely supported in older Walkman players and SonicStage version 4 or later. Sonic Stage 4 allows download of ATRAC Advanced Lossless to Minidisc Players, PlayStation Portable, and Playstation 3. Currently the latest Walkman players do not support ATRAC Advanced Lossless/ATRAC. Sony has all but dropped the ATRAC related codecs in the USA and Europe and their SonicStage powered 'Connect' Music Service (Sony's equivalent of iTunes) on 31 March 2008. However, it is being continued in Japan and various other countries. As of September 2007, Sony only manufactures in USA and Europe one Walkman product that supports ATRAC Advanced Lossless downloads/ATRAC, a portable minidisc player.

LFC. The only way is up. Hopefully.

Offline shelovesyou

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #36 on: January 21, 2011, 01:41:13 PM »
You forgot Atrac3

Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding (ATRAC) is a family of proprietary audio compression algorithms developed by Sony. MiniDisc was the first commercial product to incorporate ATRAC in 1992. ATRAC allowed a relatively small disc like MiniDisc to have the same running time as CD while storing audio information with minimal loss in perceptible quality. Today ATRAC is used in many Sony-branded audio players. Improvements to the codec in the form of ATRAC3, ATRAC3plus and ATRAC Advanced Lossless followed in 1999, 2002 and 2006 respectively.[1]

Other MiniDisc manufacturers such as Sharp and Panasonic also implemented their own versions of the ATRAC codec.

General bitrate qualityATRAC's original 292 kbit/s bitrate was designed to be close to CD quality acoustically. This is the bitrate used on original MiniDiscs. Years later ATRAC was improved and is generally considered better than earlier versions at similar bitrates. For purposes of comparison, CDs are encoded at 1411.2 kbit/s, and lossless encoders can encode most CDs below 1000 kbit/s, with significant bitrate reduction for easier-to-encode content such as voice.

[edit] PerformanceAccording to ATRAC engineers, ATRAC algorithms were developed in close cooperation with LSI development engineers within Sony in order to deliver on a tangible product that could encode at high speeds and with minimal power consumption.[2] This is in contrast to other codecs developed on computers with no regard for the constraints of portable hardware. This is reflected in the design of the ATRAC codecs, which tend to emphasize processing smaller numbers of samples at a time to save memory at the cost compression efficiency and additional multiplies. These trade-offs are entirely logical on DSP systems, where memory is often at a premium compared to multiplier performance.

Sony Walkmans offer better battery life when playing ATRAC files as compared to MP3 files. However, Sony only pushed ATRAC compatibility in Sony Ericsson Walkman series phones in the Japanese market, it is not supported in GSM/UMTS market phones. Sony's Xplod series of car audio CD players support ATRAC CDs. Minidiscs with ATRAC format songs have, in the past, been supported on Eclipse brand car stereos.



ATRAC3 (LP2 and LP4 Modes)Like ATRAC1 and MP3, ATRAC3 is also a hybrid subband-MDCT encoder, but with several differences.

In ATRAC3, Three stacked QMF split the signal into 4 parts:

0 to 2.75625 kHz (DC to f/16)
2.75625 to 5.5125 kHz (f/16 to f/8)
5.5125 to 11.025 kHz (f/8 to f/4)
11.025 to 22.05 kHz (f/4 to f/2)
The four subbands are then MDCT encoded using a fixed length transform. Unlike nearly all modern formats, the transform length cannot be varied to optimize coding transients. Instead, a simpler transient encoding technique called gain control is used, in which the gain of different subbands is varied during a transient prior to MDCT and then restored during decoding after the inverse MDCT in order to try and smooth over transients. Additionally, prior to quantization, tonal components are subtracted from the signal and independently quantized. During decoding, they are separately reconstructed and added back to reform the original MDCT coefficients.

Sony claims the major advantage of ATRAC3 is its coding efficiency, which was tuned for portable DSP which provides less computing power and battery life. However, as ATRAC is a hybrid subband-MDCT codec that is algorithmically very similar to MP3, any advantage is probably exaggerated. Furthermore, compared to newer formats such as Windows Media Audio which use a simple MDCT rather than a hybrid, ATRAC3 must perform an additional and computationally expensive inverse-QMF, although the hybrid system does significantly reduce memory usage, which was likely a factor given the limited memory available when ATRAC was originally developed.

LP2 Mode
This uses a 132 kbit/s data rate, the quality of which is advertised to be similar to that of MP3 encoded at a similar bit rate. However, in an independent double-blind test (2004/05) without format encoding parameters reference against Ogg Vorbis, AAC, and LAME VBR MP3, ATRAC3 came last.[4] Unfortunately, due to lack of transparency in ATRAC encoder versioning, it is not known if the ATRAC3 encoder tested was optimal, and subsequent investigation was inconclusive. It is possible that newer ATRAC3 encoders offer better performance.

LP4 Mode
This reduces the data rate to 66 kbit/s (half that of LP2), partly by using joint stereo coding and a lowpass filter around 13.5 kHz. It allows 324 minutes to be recorded on an 80 minute MiniDisc, with the same padding required as LP2.

FFmpeg has an implementation[5] of an ATRAC3 decoder, which was converted to fixed precision and implemented in the Rockbox series of firmwares for ARM, Coldfire and MIPS processors. RealAudio8 is an implementation of ATRAC3.

The PlayStation3 game Race Driver: Grid uses 224 simultaneous streams of ATRAC3 compressed audio, with between one and eight channels per stream at sample rates between 24 and 48 kHz, each filtered using 512 frequency bands of adaptive equalisation, routed via six reverb units running on the same SPU co-processor (one of eight on the PS3's Cell chip), alongside 7.1 channel hybrid third-order Ambisonic mixing.[6]

[edit] ATRAC3plus
ATRAC3plus CD playing on a Sony car stereo.This codec is used in Sony Hi-MD Walkman devices (e.g., "Hi-LP and Hi-SP"), Network Walkman players, Memory Stick players, VAIO Pocket, PS3 and PSP console, and ATRAC CD players. It is a hybrid subband/MDCT codec based on a 16 channel QMF followed by a 128 point MDCT. Prior to MDCT coding, Generalized Harmonic Analysis (GHA) is used to extract tonal components, an improved version of the process used in ATRAC3. As in previous ATRAC versions, gain control is used to control preecho rather than variable sized transforms, although different MDCT windows are apparently possible.

In the recently released SonicStage version 3.2 and 3.3 some more bitrates have been introduced, the available bitrates are: 48, 64, 96, 128, 160, 192, 256, 320 and 352 kbit/s. The newer bitrates are not always compatible with all older hardware decoders, however, some of the older hardware has been found to be compatible with certain newer ATRAC3plus bitrates.

MiniDiscs recorded in this format are incompatible with older players.

In a test conducted by an independent firm, but financed by Sony, it was concluded that ATRAC3plus at 64 kbit/s is equal in subjective sound quality to an obsolete MP3 encoder at 128 kbit/s.[7] Performance against modern high quality MP3 encoders was not evaluated.

[edit] ATRAC Advanced LosslessATRAC Advanced Lossless (AAL) is the latest update to the codec family. It can provide compression for a CD music source at approximately 30–80% that of the original size without any quality loss.

ATRAC Advanced Lossless is one of the very few audio codecs in the market that can provide scalable compression. It records both the information of ATRAC3 and ATRAC3plus, the residual information that ATRAC3 or ATRAC3plus eliminated from original signal. The ATRAC3 or ATRAC3plus data can be extracted just as it is, or the eliminated information can be added to perfectly reproduce the information on the original CD. In other words, ATRAC Advanced Lossless only requires storing one type of data, eliminating the need of data recompression and allowing the file size to be smaller than uncompressed or compressed versions of the same file. Benefits of scalable compression include providing excellent backward compatibility as well as faster transfer speed between portable audio devices and PC.

Similar "core" and "residual" stream implementations have also been used in the free software codec WavPack and DTS-HD Master Audio.

ATRAC Advanced Lossless is widely supported in older Walkman players and SonicStage version 4 or later. Sonic Stage 4 allows download of ATRAC Advanced Lossless to Minidisc Players, PlayStation Portable, and Playstation 3. Currently the latest Walkman players do not support ATRAC Advanced Lossless/ATRAC. Sony has all but dropped the ATRAC related codecs in the USA and Europe and their SonicStage powered 'Connect' Music Service (Sony's equivalent of iTunes) on 31 March 2008. However, it is being continued in Japan and various other countries. As of September 2007, Sony only manufactures in USA and Europe one Walkman product that supports ATRAC Advanced Lossless downloads/ATRAC, a portable minidisc player.



Having read that it seems to me its a much of a muchness mate, I mean MP3 will always be the superior format , because it free's up more space for storage, and although this ATRAC seems to have its advantages it doesnt seem to be that much better in terms of quality of sound, its still compressed at a similar rate to MP3.

It says there 'In a test conducted by an independent firm, but financed by Sony, it was concluded that ATRAC3plus at 64 kbit/s is equal in subjective sound quality to an obsolete MP3 encoder at 128 kbit/s.[7] Performance against modern high quality MP3 encoders was not evaluated '
Which for me means that it hasnt been compared to modern high quality MP3 encoders, so Im not sure its definitive that it is superior.
Maybe it is mate, but at the end of the day MP3 has its mark in the industry and it will take a hell of a lot to shift it, people dont care about how it works as long as they can access music quickly and make it portable, they are prepared to sacrifice sound quality to do it.
Like I said , its hardly noticeable anyway.

Cheers though.
the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am

Offline Bob Loblaw

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #37 on: January 21, 2011, 01:46:06 PM »
What if you're into your podcasts? Is there a software that goes with any of these players that make them as easy to get, and sync as iTunes does?

Offline Lusty

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #38 on: January 21, 2011, 04:15:14 PM »
You can still find them on ebay. I managed to break mine and got a replacement. They can also be fitted with Compact flash cards which is quite neat.

One on there for £140!  It was a lovely bit of kit but that's pushing it...

Offline Andy @ Allerton

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Re: Alternatives to Apple iPod MP3 players?
« Reply #39 on: January 21, 2011, 04:30:54 PM »
Having read that it seems to me its a much of a muchness mate, I mean MP3 will always be the superior format , because it free's up more space for storage, and although this ATRAC seems to have its advantages it doesnt seem to be that much better in terms of quality of sound, its still compressed at a similar rate to MP3.

It says there 'In a test conducted by an independent firm, but financed by Sony, it was concluded that ATRAC3plus at 64 kbit/s is equal in subjective sound quality to an obsolete MP3 encoder at 128 kbit/s.[7] Performance against modern high quality MP3 encoders was not evaluated '
Which for me means that it hasnt been compared to modern high quality MP3 encoders, so Im not sure its definitive that it is superior.
Maybe it is mate, but at the end of the day MP3 has its mark in the industry and it will take a hell of a lot to shift it, people dont care about how it works as long as they can access music quickly and make it portable, they are prepared to sacrifice sound quality to do it.
Like I said , its hardly noticeable anyway.

Cheers though.

The lower bitrate recordings are pretty much the same as double sampled MP3s..

Also you need to be reading the stuff about ATRAC3 Plus at the end - plus the lossless compression. Big difference there if you're a music buff.
LFC. The only way is up. Hopefully.