Sunday, August 14, 2005

Product Testing

This blog, like my life, has had vague to completely diffuse focus; this post included. Today I'm going to give you the results of an extensive review of so-called mp3 players. I have tried Windows Media Player, the iTunes player, and finally WinAmp. First, let me say, that I don't have an iPod, but I like the idea of having copies of a lot of music on my computer so that when I'm chilling in my un-AC'd room I can listen to a wide range of music with little effort. Essentially, my computer is my iPod that I can't take anywhere. That's fine. When I'm going places, when I'm on the subway or whatever, I like to read and listen to other people's conversations. I have a little mp3 player that can hold 4 or 5 albums worth that I got free with my digital audio card, but it runs out of battery-juice really quickly. It was fun but the novelty has worn thin. Anyway, I have tons of CD's, but many of them I never listen to because I just get bored of them if I listen to the whole album. Such as the Germs' MIA, or X's Los Angeles, or my Pussy Galore CD, and other stuff I hardly ever listen to like Tribe Called Quest, but stuff I still would like to hear every once in awhile. Also some of my box sets, like Datapanik in the year Zero by Pere Ubu that has tons of great stuff but also tons of throwaways, also the Nuggets. So I uploaded tons of stuff on my computer to play on the Microsoft Windows Media player, little realizing that it was converting everything to WMA format, not the MP3 format. But I uploaded like a hundred albums because I was excited about hearing a random mix of a billion different things. Unfortunately the Windows Media Player messed up the indexing of a lot of the different tracks, especially anything that I had burned off of other people. For instance, I have burns of all of the Metallica albums because I'd never pay those thugs any money, but I still want to hear their jams. And early Sleater-Kinney, I love, but I don't think I'd pay for that either. (sorry girls.) And my Joy Division cd, which I REALLY should buy, but I haven't gotten around to it. So anyway, the Windows Media Player sorted about 95% of the tracks correctly, but moved stuff it didn't recognize into random Unknown folders. I got sick of moving them back. My room is a mess, but I like my audio files tidy. So after a month of this nonsense I decided to look for an alternative. Enter iTunes. So I loaded iTunes and it converted ALL of my files into some wacky Apple audio format. But the filing seemed to be more straightforward. All of the Unknown stuff still was Unknown but everything else could be tidily sorted by album, artist or even genre. And it has a pretty wicked visualization thing (I can watch it for a very long time without getting sick of it.) Anyhow, I didn't like the fact that iTunes seems even less album-oriented than Windows Media. You can't really choose an album to play--or if you do, it doesn't seem to want to play the songs in the right order. (It doesn't display the album art either, which is another disappointment. Not classy, Apple. For shame.) What a pain in the ass. I guess Albums are becoming an antiquated concept--and who am I to complain because I wanted to make random mixes anyway. So I asked around, and somebody said that WinAmp was the best. And so I loaded WinAmp and it didn't do any funny conversion. But it made me notice that I have two copies of every tune that I have on my computer, one in Windows format, one in the Apple format, and then a dozen or so albums that are in the mp3 format. (To my ears they all sound tinny, anyways, maybe I should just forget it all and become a vinyl geek.) So here is the conclusion I have come to. I am sick of all the players. Each one is stupidly designed, or designed for people who don't care, who just want to play the latest Britney Spears or 50 cent single over and over again. But if I had to choose one, I would choose the WinAmp, one reason being that it doesn't do any converting (digital proselytizing), seems to be able and willing to play any kind of audio track, and, most importantly, when you do the random mix it tends to play better songs than the Windows Media Player or iTunes player. Something to think about. One time I downloaded a trial version of MixMeister, and it was really great. It does automatic mixes with intelligent cross-fading--it was a really really cool piece of software. But it costs 50 dollars if you want to use it for more than 30 days. I don't know if its worth it. Of course, that's cheaper than becoming a vinyl-geek.

3 comments:

erroneous said...

winamp's pretty good. and you can do a lot of customizing with it.

i make data cds with the files all in folders by artist, with subfolders for albums. pretty easy to drag in an album at a time, or to drag in 30 albums and hit shuffle. although, shuffle is never as random as you want it to be. (No matter what, if you put Tammy Faye Bakker in the mix, instead of salting it occasionally amidst the Slayer and Spandau Ballet, you're going to get almost all the Tammy Faye in a row.)

There's also a nice freeware hack out there called Media Player Classic (googlable), that emulates the old microsoft player, you miss out on the visualizations and skins and all that fun stuff, but it plays most any audio or video format, and doesn't crash your computer...

Zentrout said...

Dan- you wanna know irony? X's 'Los Angeles' was the first album I put on my i-pod. Spooky.

sarcasmus said...

you have an IPOD? (Oh, excuse me, iPod--that little i makes such a difference)--That IS Spooky. Not as much as Tammy Faye Bakker. (She's on MP3??Imagine that visualization!) This world is too much for me.