Your current choices for portable audio devices:


Cassette player - very cheap. Often have integrated digital radios now. Cassette media are also very cheap (five 90minute cassettes for £3 or so in the UK). Can have a record function builtin. Easy to record a mix-tape, if you have the appropriate hardware in your HiFi. Auto-reverse available on some models.

CD player - also cheap. Prerecorded CDs are widespread. Can play homemade recordable CDs. Digital quality sound. Some have anti-shock.

DCC player - ummmm... would make a good dictaphone if you could still buy the DCC media...

MD player - Players are cheap (sub £100), recorders slightly more expensive (around £150). Digital quality sound. Does not skip. Media are cheap (sub £1 for 74 minutes stereo). Can hold 2x 74 minutes in mono mode. IMHO, they look very good. Good battery life. Can record live audio. Sturdy. Small (fits in the pocket). Small, virtually indestructible media (according to the advertisement...)

MP3 player - currently the most desirable audio device. Digital sound. Does not skip. Drag and drop MP3s from your computer. Small. No moving parts.


Cassette player - now virtually defunct. Prone to warble when you're running for the bus. Can chew up your tapes and render then unusable. Have to turn them over after 45 minutes. Battery life is poor. Quite bulky. Analog sound. IMHO the top end isn't great, and middle is usually too loud and there's not enough bass (on those without an equaliser).

CD player - prone to skipping with dirty or scratched CDs. Not guaranteed to play CDRs. Ones without Anti-shock will skip at the mere mention of a bus journey. Battery life is quite poor. No live record function. Don't fit in your pocket, and work best when carried horizontally.

DCC - you can't buy them anymore. Impossible to buy DCC media also.

MD - still quite expensive. Prerecorded media are expensive. 1:1 record time from your CD player to MD.

MP3 - still expensive devices. Old MP3 players take a long time to transfer songs from your computer to the player. Music must be in MP3 format. Cannot record live audio. Memory cards are expensive. A 64MB card will still cost you as much as a MD player!

That's it for now. Please /msg me with any comments.
Thanks to Flameboy for /msging me with hints
In my experience, minidisc has one very serious advantage over MP3 players: cheap, interchangeable, small media. In something the size of a packet of cards, I can fit five hours of audio for a cost of about US$8 (that's about four minidiscs, folks). I can change from one to the other in 2 seconds; and I don't need to be near a computer to do it. Another serious advantage of minidisc is the ease of editing track information: labelling tracks, inserting new index points, reordering tracks, deleting and inserting tracks at any point in the minidisc without losing time, and so on.

Another disadvantage of cassette tapes is the sounds quality decays over time and cassette players need to have their heads cleaned and/or demagnetised in order to sound good. With all the other media, provided you are careful, the quality remains the same.

One further disadvantage of cassette tapes and DCC's is that they are sequential access media; which means if you don't like a song, you have to fiddle with fast-forward and reverse to find the next song, whereas with the remaining media are random access -- you can jump to any point in the recording.

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