Q: Recently I have been considering a new pair of headphones because I am getting quite tired of the standard Apple earphones that the iPods come with. I have three products in mind, and I am having trouble deciding which one is the best choice. They include the Bose QuietComfort 3, the Beats by Dr. Dre, and the Shure SE530. As you can tell, they aren't the cheapest ones out there, but price at this point really isn't an issue. Which one out of the three is the most comfortable, has the best audio quality, and is the … Read more
Q: I have yet to really build a music file online. I have dabbled with Napster and iTunes, but really don't have much of a collection. I would like to begin ripping music CDs to my computer. It is confusing, but from what I have read it appears I should rip my music up in MP3 format, which would make it very versatile for different uses. I have several music players (an iPod Touch, a Nano and a Creative Zen V Plus for the gym). I do like iTunes and probably would download less than 75 songs a year. … Read more
Q: I am writing about the new iTunes price change. I remember reading that it would happen, after Apple announced it a couple of weeks ago. I was ecstatic about having iTunes Plus with all of the songs, and the opportunity at having cheaper prices. However, at the time, it seemed that some songs were going to go to a new price of $0.79, with most staying at $0.99, and a small portion going to the higher price of $1.29.
The time has come where the price change is in full effect and I have to say … Read more
Q: I have a question about the new Walkman or really any MP3 player. How do I know the Walkman or the Creative Zen will work with iTunes? The rest of my family already have iPods, and I want something different but my concern is all the music I have tied up in iTunes, how do I know what MP3 players will work with that music?--Marty, via e-mail
A: The short answer is: it depends. First off, if we're taking about working with iTunes the software, the answer is no...unless you want to use a "hack" such as iTunes agent. Now, when it comes to iTunes, the music store, things get a bit more complicated. If the music was purchased in iTunes at 99 cents a pop before the DRM restrictions lifted (which happened on April 7 of this year), then it will only be compatible with the iPod, since that is the only MP3 player that supports protected AAC. However, if the files are unprotected AAC--purchased after the date above or as AAC+ tracks at $1.29 per--they will play on the most recent Walkmans and the most recent Zens (as well as other players, such as the Sansa Clip).
What can I say: I'm a sucker for constructive feedback. Recently, I posted a piece about why I'm so infatuated with Rhapsody's subscription service, and I was pleased as punch to hear that the unconventional music model has some supporters aside from myself. The article also generated a fair amount of questions about the service and how exactly it works--understandable, what with the fact that the subscription music model is not exactly transparent. This week's MP3 Mailbox Monday addresses two aspects the model that I think will be particularly helpful for subscription music newcomers.
Q: I was told by a friend that once he declined the yearly service offered by Rhapsody, he was no longer able to play his MP3 songs already downloaded to his personal MP3 player. I do not know the maker of the personal player, but I know he had downloaded the files to his computer, and transferred them to the player, free MP3's, which were part of a trial offer from Rhapsody. What I would like to know: how can the player not function and play those MP3's once he no longer had an active account at the Rhapsody site? Thanks for your help. -- Richard, via e-mail.
A: I doubt that they were "free MP3s." If he signed up for a free trial of Rhapsody, he would have been able to download and stream any music from the Rhapsody catalog during that free trial, but after the trial was up, he would no longer be able to play the files (unless he continued the subscription by paying for it). The tracks themselves were not free--the subscription was during that time. Once the subscription is up, you no longer get access to the music.
Also, the files were likely not MP3s at all, but DRM-protected WMAs, which is what Rhapsody uses for its subscription catalog. The reason it uses this type of file is that WMA DRM10 tracks are capable of having a timer built in, which allows them to lock after a certain time period if a person does not continue paying for the subscription. (Likewise, in order for a device to support subscription music, it has to have a hardware clock built in that is compatible with this timer.)… Read more
Q: What is the best all-around Bluetooth speaker adapter if I want to connect my laptop to some good speakers that are not equipped with Bluetooth?--Tom, via e-mail
A: What you would want is a Bluetooth receiver, which can be a challenge to find; actually, we don't review them at all at this time, so I can't give you a personal opinion on any specific product of this kind. Generally, I get questions from people who are looking for a Bluetooth transmitter, which will allow you to connect a non-Bluetooth audio device with headphones or speakers that … Read more
Q: I've recently started looking for either a small MP3 player with a good speaker on it, or a small portable speaker that I can travel with that will work with my Zune and other players. I prefer a nonfolding one. I tried to look for a recent review of either category, but didn't find any. Can you help?--Jeremy, via e-mail
A: Right off the bat, I recommend checking out our top 10 portable speakers product roundup. Any of those speakers come with a high recommendation.
However, if you're looking for something ultracompact, pay particular attention to the Soundmatters FoxL, the Samsung BS300, and the iMainGo 2 (this last one does double duty as a protective case for your player).
One other option that did not make the top 10 but still might be a good choice for you is the Sony SRS-M50. It's plenty compact and the two speakers can actually be separated for wider sound.… Read more
Q: I read that I could send an e-mail for help on products?! I am only 16, so I couldn't really say that I am an audiophile or have mastered the world of sound. I do, however, love music and the art/technology of sound.
I used to own a pair of Shure SE120, which really introduced me to the world of above-standard sound. Those broke twice, but I got a new pair each time from Shure and I was very happy. Right now, I own a pair of Phillips SHE9850 and am very happy with those.
I was … Read more
Q: I just want your personal opinion on this as a CNET editor of music devices and accessories. Let's say money is not a factor. I am wondering which of the below is the best option (I have an iPhone 3G and love to listen to music): the UE Triple.fi 10vi, the UE Triple.fi 10 Pro, or the Shure SE530 Sound Isolating Headphones. Keep in mind I own and am very comfortable with the fit of the Shure SE110 Sound Isolating headphones, and Shure SE210 sound isolating headphones. Thanks.--Ashwin, via e-mail
A: Given that you are … Read more
Q: Wish I had known before I bought my Fuze last week that iTunes wasn't going to work, although I have to say, I'm glad to discover I'm not losing my mind when I plug it in and don't see anything on iTunes saying "put your files on your player." For now it sounds like the best I can do is to burn all my iTunes purchases onto discs and rerip them as MP3s using Windows Media Player (WMP)? I'm assuming I'll have to type in the track, album, and artist info myself, but there are always rainy days for that sort of thing...
A more immediate concern for me is downloading podcasts--I love mellowing with a little informative talk rather than trying to DJ and find "just the right song," plus the 30-mins (or so) length is perfect for my workouts. So what's the best way to get podcasts off the ether and into my ears, in your opinion? I'm looking for the simplest, fastest, least brain-damaging method. I've been using iTunes and then drag-and-dropping them in Windows Explorer, but even with a high-speed connection at home that seems extraordinarily slow (I thought these things were low bitrate so they'd be easier to move around?) as well as inelegant.--Anton, via e-mail
A: As for the first question about converting the iTunes tracks, what you mentioned is pretty much exactly it. It's definitely time consuming, but the legality is not questionable, and even with burned CDs, WMP will often recognize the album and be able to fill in ID3 tag info for you automatically. There are also programs such as NoteBurner, which converts the tracks without having to burn and re-rip. However, last I checked, this method was legally questionable, what with the fact that such software circumvents the DRM technology. However, it's still readily available, so clearly the area is gray enough.… Read more