MP3 Player & iPod Buying Guide

The concept of portable music has come a long way since the days of the Walkman and portable CD players. These old-fashioned devices required constant changing of tapes and CDs and weren't compact or practical enough to carry around comfortably. Nowadays, MP3 players and iPods allow us to carry around literally thousands of our favourite tracks in one stylish and compact place. They've almost rendered CDs and tapes obsolete and track/album changing now simply involves the pressing of a button. MP3 players and iPods also offer a whole host of other functions aside from playing music. For example, many models let you watch videos, view photos and even play games.

iPods: What Are They

Apple's revolutionary brand of iPods have completely changed the way we listen to music. Their sleek and stylish design, fantastic storage capabilities and innovative functions and features, make them the number one choice of MP3 player for many people. Since their release in 2001, the iPod has evolved from a portable music device into a multi-functional PDA.

There are now many different versions of the iPod available on the market, all offering a variety of functions. Some are still just simply a portable music player, whilst others allow you to watch movies, play games, take photos, organise your life and even connect to the Internet.

Apple's proprietary music software; iTunes, remains one of the iPod's biggest selling points. Its simple layout and wide array of file editing functions gives you a superb platform to start managing your own personal music library.

iPod Classic

The most appropriate word to sum up the iPod Classic is 'Storage.' With 160GB of storage capacity, the iPod Classic allows you to carry your entire music library with you, wherever you go. Nowadays, with improved access to a broader range of music and cheap download prices, many people's music libraries are expanding rapidly. Smaller memory capacities on other models simply don't offer enough storage for some people.

This huge amount of storage space brings the added benefit of not having to constantly check and uncheck tracks in your iTunes library to create enough space for new downloads. You can have every song checked and not have to worry about new downloads taking up too much space.

Essentially, the iPod Classic is just a portable music player, which is why it appeals to people who aren't interested in apps, taking pictures, touch-screens and connecting to the Internet via a portable media device. However, they do include a number of other features, designed to give you a more enriching MP3 player experience. For example, you can download movies, TV shows and photos to your iTunes library and synchronise these items to your iPod classic simply via a USB cable.

This gives you the added option to watch movies or view photos on the go. iPod Classics also come with a wealth of built-in games, which can be used simultaneously with playing music. It's also worth noting that the iPod Classic can be used as a portable storage device that allows the transfer of text based files between the iPod and a computer. The iPod Classic is available in black or silver for just £189.99.

iPod Shuffle

First released in 2005, the iPod Shuffle is the smallest member of the iPod family. The main purpose of the iPod Shuffle is to serve as a 'Clip 'n' Go' device, meaning you can literally just clip it to your clothing and press a single button to start listening to your music. The clip feature of the iPod Shuffle makes it the perfect MP3 player for using at the gym or whilst carrying out other physical activities such as running, cycling or even just doing the housework as it remains secure and is therefore unlikely to get damaged.

The iPod Shuffle is simple, fun and doesn't take itself too seriously. It is available in a wide selection of funky and vibrant colours and has a large, clickable control pad, which makes playing music simpler than ever before. Tracks can be changed by the simple clicking of a button, meaning you don't even have to take your iPod out of your pocket or unclip it from your clothing to manage what you're listening to.

Another great feature of the iPod Shuffle is the Voiceover button. By pressing this button as a track is playing, you activate the in-built voice of the iPod Shuffle, which will inform you about the track name, album title and battery status. This is an incredibly useful feature as the iPod Shuffle does not have a screen.

iPod Nano

The iPod Nano is a compact, multifunctional MP3 player with an easy to use, colour, touch-screen interface. It may not have the same storage capacity as the iPod Classic, but what it lacks in memory, it more than makes up for in innovative features.

One of the iPod Nano's most compelling features is its built-in Bluetooth capability, which allows you to pair your iPod Nano with wireless Bluetooth compatible headphones, rendering wired headphones redundant. This is a fantastic feature if you visit the gym frequently or enjoy running or cycling. Gone are the days of your headphones getting caught in your free-weights or being ripped out of your ears should you fall off your bike.

The built-in Bluetooth feature also allows you to pair your iPod Nano with Bluetooth enabled speakers, giving you an outlet to play your music library out loud as opposed to through your headphones. This is beneficial as it gives you the option to listen to your music library whilst carrying out other tasks which may require you to have your ears and/or hands free.

Aside from being a music player, the iPod Nano serves as a medium to watch movies, view photos and play games. Simply download media files to your iTunes library and synchronise them to your Nano to start enjoying them. The striking colour display of the iPod Nano will bring your films and photo to life and give you a fantastic platform to watch and view them on the move. On top of all these superb built-in entertainment features, there's an FM tuner, which lets you listen to football scores, news updates and talk shows whilst out and about. You can even pause live radio for up to 15 minutes should you need to do something else.

The Nano is also a fantastic workout partner. Nike+ Support and a pedometer are built-in to the device, which give you useful information about calories burnt, duration, steps, pace and even heart-rate. This means you don't have to spend extra money on pedometers and shoe sensors. You could even create a workout playlist for your Nano to give you that extra bit of workout motivation. Like the iPod Shuffle, the Nano is available in a wide range of cool and stylish colours, guaranteeing there's an iPod Nano to match your personality and tastes.

iPod Touch

If you're looking for a portable media device that allows you to not only play music, but also connect with the world, take photographs, download apps and much more, all on a striking retina display, then look no further than the iPod Touch.

The beauty of the iPod Touch lies in its design. For such a powerful and feature-packed machine, it is incredibly compact and light-weight. The anodized aluminium material of the iPod Touch, coupled with its streamlined dimensions, ensure that it fits comfortably and securely in a pocket without being noticeable or causing discomfort. When you add the slim and practical design of the iPod to the 4 inch retina display and scratch-resistant, crystal screen, you have a truly beautiful piece of technology in your hand. A major selling point of the iPod Touch is the integrated, 5 megapixel iSight camera. The good quality resolution of the camera and its portability render it an adequate replacement for many Point and Shoot digital cameras. By using the iPod Touch camera as your main tool for casual photography, you can save yourself a good amount of money and space that would be taken up by a digital camera. You also have the added benefit of being able to upload your photographs straight to social media sites, just as long as you're in a Wi-Fi zone.

A full HD video recording service is also incorporated into the iSight camera, meaning you can take out your iPod Touch and start recording in stunning HD, wherever you are. To further enrich your photography experience, Apple offer downloadable camera apps that allow you to edit your photos using special effects.

The ability to connect to the Internet and synchronise music, apps and films without using a computer is the most significant attribute of the iPod Touch which separates it from the rest of the iPod family. If you're at home, you can connect your Touch to your broadband connection and if you're out and about, you can utilise one of the many Wi-Fi zones which are located in cafes, pubs and restaurants across the country. This gives you the added benefit of being able to update social media sites and check your emails when you're away from a computer.

The most current and ground-breaking feature to be incorporated into the iPod Touch is Siri; a built-in personal assistant that is activated simply by your voice. Unlike other voice recognition devices, Siri understands natural speech, meaning you don't have to remember specific commands. Siri can read and send emails and text messages, give you directions, locate nearby businesses and post updates to social media sites.



iPod Storage Comparison Table

iPod ModelMemory(GB)Average No. Of Songs
Classic16040000
Shuffle2500
Nano82000
 164000
Touch81750
 163500
 327000
 6414000

MP3 Players

MP3 players are designed to play any MP3 music file - this is simply a format allowing compression of music into small files whilst retaining a high quality sound. This allows you to store many more files per GB than a standard audio format, such as those used for CDs. A compact disk can hold around 20-25 tracks (74 minutes of music), whereas the same disc could store around 200 tracks in MP3 format.

The small size of MP3 files allows for fast download speeds. You can purchase one of your favourite tracks or albums online and have it available to listen to on your computer or MP3 player in minutes, meaning you don't have to leave your home to buy music.

While portability will always remain the biggest pull factor for MP3 players and iPods, customisable playlists also attract a whole host of new users. The ability to create a unique list of songs to match certain moods or genres means you can simply press play and then not have to worry about pressing another button or fiddling with your MP3 player until you get to the end of your playlist. This keeps your hands free and allows you to focus on other things, which is particularly beneficial if you're on the move.

MP3 Players: Features

The majority of MP3 players will include some or all of the following features:

Colour/Backlit Screen
Combining a colour screen with a backlight provides your MP3 player with extra illumination and a stunning visual display. Without a colour display, your MP3 player would essentially just be a music player, which is fine, but if you want more from your device then a colour screen is a must. A colour display and backlight will allow you to watch videos, view pictures and add album artwork to your music playlist.

Radio
The majority of MP3 players will come equipped with either an FM radio tuner or a DAB radio. On many MP3 players, you have the option to record directly from the radio, meaning you can listen back to chart shows, interviews, news broadcasts etc. The radio feature will also allow you to listen to football updates if you're out and about and don't have access to a laptop or television.

Rechargeable Battery
One of the most important features to consider when purchasing a new MP3 player is battery life. With busier and more mobile lifestyles comes the need for longer lasting portable media devices. Most modern MP3 come equipped with built-in rechargeable lithium batteries, which can last for days and eliminate the necessity to keep buying new batteries, which saves you money. You can also charge your MP3 player via a USB cable, meaning you can charge your MP3 player at work using your computer.

Clock/Alarm
A built-in clock is a handy little feature of most MP3 players, which becomes particularly useful if you don't have access to a watch or phone or if you're lost in music and need something to remind you of the time. The alarm function that comes with the clock is a more than adequate replacement for a standard alarm, therefore saving you money. On most MP3 players, you can set the radio or one of your tracks to be your alarm tone, so you can wake up to your favourite tunes.

Equalisation Settings
Most MP3 players offer built-in equalisation settings which enable you to change the sound style of your MP3 player to match the genre of the music you're listening to. For example, a Rap setting will usually increase the bass and a Pop setting will generally lower the bass, but increase the treble. More advanced MP3 models will include a customisable equaliser, which allows you to tweak sound to an even greater extent to achieve an even more personal listening experience.

Clip/Strap
A clip or strap will usually be included in an MP3 player package, allowing you to securely fasten your MP3 player to your clothing or a bag and leaving your hands free to do other things. Clips and straps are ideal accessories for jogging and carrying out physical activities where you need constant use of your hands, such as house work.

Docking Station Compatibility
Docking stations give you an outlet to play your MP3 music library out loud.

For more information on docking stations please refer to our Audio and Hi-Fi Buyer's Guide.



MP3 Players: Accessories

We have a great range of accessories, designed to complement and enhance your MP3 player and iPod experience. Our fantastic selection of docking stations give you the option to play your music library out loud, whilst keeping your hands free to perform other tasks. Some of our docking stations are portable, meaning you can take them away with you on holiday business trips, giving you an outlet to play your music.

We also stock a wide array of headphones in various shapes and styles. There are the more basic in-ear headphones for everyday use alongside the more advanced on-ear headphones which are perfect for music enthusiasts and watching movies. If you're looking for supreme sound quality, then check out our extensive range of Beats Audio headphones.

Glossary

  • Bluetooth - Wireless technology designed for transferring data over short distances.
  • Dock Connector - A connector used to attach electronic devices to other external devices. E.g. an iPod to a computer.
  • Flash Memory - Compact, solid-state memory. It can store memory without a power source and is primarily used in portable media devices.
  • GB - A gigabyte. A unit of measurement relating to computer data. One gigabyte equals one billion bytes. See table above for average number of songs.
  • iTunes - Apple's platform for storing and managing music and other media files. It can only be used with Apple products.
  • Lightning Connector - A power connector created by Apple in 2012. It is significantly more compact than the older dock connectors.
  • Micro USB - A smaller and more durable version of the standard USB.
  • MP3 - A small and compressed sound file, which is easy to manage.
  • MP4 - Unlike MP3 files, MP4 files can store video as well as audio.
  • MPEG - Motion Picture Experts Group. They publish standards for various areas of technology. E.g. audio and video formats used online.
  • PDA - Personal Digital Assistant. A handheld device for people on the move, designed to help manage their lives. Modern PDAs can function as mobile phones and connect to the Internet.
  • Playlist - A personalised list of songs, put together by the user to match certain moods, occasions or tastes.
  • Retina Display - Created by Apple. A display of such high quality that it contains more pixels than the human eye can actually see.
  • Streaming - The transmission of audio/video across the Internet to another device. E.g. a film to a laptop.
  • Synchronising - The transferring of data between 2 devices. E.g. from iTunes to an iPod.
  • USB Cable - Universal Serial Bus Cable. Designed to connect a USB device to a host, such as a computer or games console.