tech

#837: Freestylin’ 7 – Into Best Buy

GETTING MORE TALE #837: Freestylin’ 7 – Into Best Buy

I hadn’t set foot inside a store since March 15.  Three months later on Jun 13, I broke this long streak and went into Best Buy.

We’ve been trying to stick to essential trips, and Mrs. LeBrain was doing the groceries and other essential shopping while I worked.  Ontario entered “Phase 2” of re-opening on June 12 so it felt like a good time to see how shopping had changed.

There was no lineup, but there were clear and nicely marked spaces for you to wait outside.  At the front was a gentleman in a mask.  Even with the mask I recognized him from a previous Best Buy excursion, back before the shit hit the fan.  He asked what I was looking for that day, and I said “laptop speakers”.  He instructed me to follow the arrows on the floor until I got to the computer monitors.  You can still walk around and browse, but they are trying to keep things efficient.

Most customers wore masks but they were not mandatory.  I have chosen to wear a mask in public.  To coin a phrase from our Prime Minister, I don’t want to speak “moistly” on people.  I tend to do that.  Of course as soon as I walked in, a maskless guy was meandering against the arrows talking on his cell phone.  Of course.

Best Buy have this re-opening well in hand.  They were organized, friendly and asked us to use hand sanitizer on our way in.  After a squirt and a quick walk around, I found the exact laptop speakers I was looking for.  $27.  Cheap and simple.   Looked around a bit more, and headed for the cash registers.  No line there either.  Mission accomplished with no fuss and no muss.

New speakers in action.  Uncle Meat made fun of my porch music choice.

The Covid world definitely looks different from the pre-Covid world but I think we can deal with this.  It’s going to take patience and a willingness to play ball.  There was a story on the weekend of a man entering a mall in Guelph where masks are mandatory.  When he refused to wear one, he coughed on the mall employee and fled.  This kind of behavior is disgusting.  Retail workers have it bad enough.  I’ve had people throw things at me but never had bodily fluids fired in my direction during a pandemic.  If you think wearing a mask is infringing upon your freedom, then take a stand and don’t shop at those places.  Vote with your wallet.  Don’t cough or spit, and don’t give a retail workers a hard time.  You’re the asshole if you do.  In the meantime, I will wear my mask.  I wear it to protect you from my flying spittle when I talk.  I’m not afraid.  I care.  You’re welcome.  I don’t care if you think I look stupid or not.

I look stupid on my best days anyway.

After Best Buy, we took a drive.  Streets were busy like a normal Saturday in the summer.  You couldn’t tell anything was amiss from the roads.  Restaurants, not so much.  Meals are permitted on patios.  Places with open patios looked comfortably full to the new Covid standards.  Establishments without had empty parking lots.  Elsewhere, we saw a lineup at the Nike store that went around the building.  Must have had a sale.  I don’t need shoes that badly!

I did need shoes, actually, but then I ordered some online.  It was actually better than shopping in store.  No picking through boxes looking for my size in a style I liked.  I simply clicked the shoes I wanted, clicked the colour, and picked my size.  They fit perfectly when they arrived a few days later.  Most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned, actually.  I could get used to this.  In fact, why should I buy shoes in a store again when there is a better selection online?  I hate shopping for shoes!

Yes, the world has changed.  It will continue to change, and our old world is gone.  Look at music.  Doro Pesch played a concert to a drive-in audience, and it looked cool.  Artists are constantly live streaming chats and performances now.  We adapt.  Some restaurants, businesses and rock bands will not survive.  The economy is still being ravaged.  Most bands will not return to the concert stage until 2021.

In the meantime, people are hungry for entertainment.  Bands and record labels would be wise to release stuff from the vaults during this time.  Unreleased live recordings?  Put ‘em out.  B-sides and outtakes?  Release them.  There has never been a better time for a band to put out of a box set of rarities.  Record stores are opening and need the business.

Unless our collective mistakes cause another surge and another lockdown, I am optimistic.  We have made it through three months of this.  While in some respects we are looking at a lost summer ahead of us, I think we still have a lot to look forward to.

Doro

 

 

 

Video: Test live stream, next live stream, etc.

VHS Archives #91: It’s 1998. Are you ready for DVD? (MuchMusic FAX)

Ah, 1998, a simpler age for simpler folks.  We had just finished upgrading all our cassettes to CDs.  Those old LPs that were gathering dust in the garage finally hit the curb and the landfill where they belonged.  The digital age had arrived!  Time for another new format to sweep away the old.

Are you ready for Digital Versatile Disc?

This segment was from the MuchMusic news program FAX, during a period when they used “videographers” carrying cameras on their shoulders at all times, to catch those always-breaking stories. Oh, the late 1990s.

#796: Improvisation

GETTING MORE TALE #796: Improvisation

When I need a particular piece of audio hardware today, I just have to decide what I want and order it.  It’ll be at the house two days later.  Oh, I need some more RCA cables to plug my tape deck into my PC?  No problem.  What colour and how long?  We have become soft and spoiled today, with the convenience of everything we desire at our fingertips.  Want a frozen turkey delivered to your front door?  No problem.  I’ll get you a turkey.  Or RCA cables.  Anything.

In the 1980s, we had to improvise.

When I first discovered music, the second most important music-related activity (after listening of course) was taping.  It was the easiest, cheapest way to get new music and there was a social aspect to it as well.  You had to borrow an album from someone, go to their house to tape it, or vice versa.  Most kids had a budget price dual tape deck.  I had a single-deck Sanyo, eventually getting a dual deck boom box for Christmas of 1985.  By today’s standards, recording tape-to-tape on a cheap deck yields horrendous results.  In 1985, it was the next best thing to owning the album yourself.  If you were in a hurry, you could use the high speed dubbing feature but that always created speed and warble issues that we could even hear as kids.  Regular speed dubbing was the only acceptable way to copy a tape.  However sometimes we had to think outside the box.

The most notable instance of improvising with what we had was using speakers as impromptu microphones.  It’ll work if you have nothing better to use.  We used speakers as microphones frequently back then, but what about copying music tape to tape?

Let’s say I was making a mixed cassette, and that mix was going to have some live songs on it.  There was no practical way to do a fade-in or fade-out on a low end dual tape deck.  In this case, I would use a Walkman as an audio input to my recording deck.  The sound was, shall we say, harsh.  But you could do it.  You could take a cable and go right from the headphone jack to the microphone-in jack on the deck, but that sounded pretty terrible.  A better way was to use a cable that had a headphone jack on one end, split to RCA left and rights on the other.  But I didn’t have one of those.  I had to make it myself by splicing one to the other.  Improvisation!  We couldn’t just buy everything we wanted.  Cables are still expensive today and finding the right ones in stock at a given time wasn’t a guarantee.  You made due with what you had until you could afford to do better.  Using the Walkman’s volume control, I could now fade in any live track I wanted.  A small thing, but I was already ambitious.  I enviously eyed pictures of mixing boards in guitar magazines.

Another issue I had was recording vinyl.  I had never heard of a preamp.  But I realized that my old turntable sounded better when plugged into something else first.  My parents had an old receiver with an 8-track deck and radio.  The 8-track didn’t work anymore but I used that gigantic unit to boost the signal from my turntable, before going into my tape deck.  The sound was messy to say the least, but at least I was able to listen to and record my LPs.

I had a little shoebox full of stuff I needed to push my audio capabilities, a small but mighty toolbox of essentials.  A tape head demagnetizer.  Isopropyl alcohol and lint-free wipes.  A record cleaning kit.  A little magnetic screwdriver for taking apart cassette tapes.  A gnarly pair of grey RCA cables that were the top of the line that I could afford.  My prized possession:  an RCA Y-connector.  That baby enabled me to take a mono signal, like from the family VCR, and split it to faux-stereo for recording to cassette.  Until we got a stereo VCR in the early 1990s, that Y-connector saw weekly usage on my Saturday mix tape sessions.

I had a little soldering kit that I could use to splice wires together, but one thing that I could never fix was a cheap set of Walkman earphones.  The kind with the little foam earpieces.  Utter shit, but that’s what we all had.  The headphone jacks on those things would not take long to start shorting out.  You’d go from a stereo signal to a mono signal to no signal back to mono without even moving it around.  I tried everything and could never fix those damned shitty earphone cords.  So you’d buy a new pair for $10 at the local Bargain Harold’s.  Those would be good for about a week before starting to give you problems.  Otherwise, everything that broke had to be fixed.

Maintaining your tape deck at home was essential, hence the isopropyl alcohol.  Hold your breath, dab some of that on a lint-free cloth, and gently clean the rollers and capstans inside your treasured boom box.  It would be remarkable how black that cloth could get.  I used my tape deck a lot.  I was constantly cleaning it, but it always had speed issues.  This was probably more due to poorly made, tightly wound cassette tapes than the deck itself.  Still, those old Sanyo tape machines were not designed to be worked as hard as I worked mine.  If I had known what a Nakamichi Dragon was back then, I might have been more motivated to get a part-time job!  But such machines were not available on an eighth grade allowance, nor was such a beast even known in these parts.

Using my limited resources, I was able to listen to and record from every format I had.  My turntable was so old that I could even play 16 and 78 rpm records (not that I had any).  Then a new format came along that slowly but surely digitised my entire world:  the compact disc.  I received my first CD player/tape deck for Christmas 1989, a mere four years after my first dual cassette.  An eternity in teenager time.  A significant fraction of my life to that point was spent meddling with tape decks and cables trying to get them to do what I wanted them to do.  Now this compact disc comes along, allowing me to hear the most perfect audio I’d even been exposed to.

My first CD player on top of an old Lloyd’s 8-track/radio/receiver.  The old setup!

I remember playing one of my first CDs, Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood, for my buddy Bob and his brother John.  I skipped ahead to “Time For Change”, and then fast-forwarded to the fade out.

“Just listen to that!” I said with a proud look on my face, as I cranked the volume all the way to 10.

After a pause, John asked “What are we supposed to be hearing?”

“The silence!  Listen to that silence!”  There was no static on the digitally recorded, mixed and mastered fade out.

Bob and John weren’t as excited as I was, but the compact disc represented a new standard.  The stuff I had wasn’t going to cut it forever.  Soon, as long the source was digital, I was making mix tapes that sounded better than store bought.

As much as the results were often dicey, improvising with audio equipment was tremendously fun.  Working with your hands, the satisfaction of getting something to work the way you wanted…it was a fun way to spend a Saturday in the 80s.  Even if the only people who got to hear your handiwork were a handful of your neighbourhood friends and classmates.

 

REVIEW: Video Capture USB 2.0

VIDEO CAPTURE USB 2.0 – Software by honestech

I almost gave this 0 stars.

For only $18, I was willing to take a chance. I needed to get my VHS Archives online before it was too late and the tapes were degraded all to hell.  Fortunately the tapes are in great shape, so all I needed was a way to convert them.  I didn’t even know if my VCR was still working.  It’s not so easy to hook up an old VHS player to a hi-def system anymore.

So I gambled my $18 for a little USB device to connect my VCR to a PC, using a USB-to-RCA device and some special software.  I set up a little work station with my VCR and laptop and began running into problems.

Issue #1 is no big deal for me, but might be for you.  The software you need can’t be downloaded, it’s on a little 3″ CD included, with a 16 digit access code printed on it.  My laptop refused to install the software — something to do with permissions and security.  The manual isn’t super-helpful.  “Any problems, please email the seller,” it says.  I’m sure some lackey at Amazon could tell me how to install it….

I bypassed the error by installing the software in a different folder.  Then I hooked up the VCR to the USB device and plugged everything in.  Unfortunately I could not get the software to detect the video source.  It defaults to capture from a webcam, but it couldn’t access the USB.  “The selected device cannot be used” said the popup window.  “If you get this error message, the USB might not install correctly.  Input win+x or use other ways to open the device manager”.  That was the not-helpful advice in the manual.  However it did tell me that the USB needed to install something on the laptop, and that was the hold up.

I was unable to get the USB to install, so I decided to try a different computer.  I tore down my little work station and hauled the VCR over to my desktop.

Everything installed quickly and easily on my PC.  In the end all I lost was an hour of my time, and my plan to use my laptop for everything.  No big deal.  I can manage.  So how does this device work?

Once you have it running, it works like a charm!  It’s the easiest thing in the world to use.  Rather than burn my tapes to DVD, I set the device to export directly to .WMV video file.  Click “record” on the software, press “play” on your VCR, and you are in business.  As soon as you click “stop”, the file will save itself.  You can make a file up to 24 hours long!  Any tape you have, this baby can handle it.  There is also an editing suite here to trim the excess or add transitions, but I don’t use it.  It is very limited.  You may as well use the default video editor on your computer (Window Movie Maker on mine).  Within minutes of playing my tape, I had videos on Youtube.  So painless!

The quality you get will depend entirely on your tapes and VCR.  Fortunately those things were not an issue for me.  You’ll probably have a harder time finding a VCR that isn’t all beat up, than using this device.  Incidentally you can plug in anything that uses standard RCA plugs or an S-video connector.

Bumpy installation aside, the Video Capture USB 2.0 has done everything I needed it to do, and actually more smoothly than I thought it would be.  For the price, this device is recommended — but be forewarned you may have the same problems installing it as I did.

3/5 stars

#610: 25 Years Ago – Digital Compact Cassettes

GETTING MORE TALE #610:  25 Years Ago – Digital Compact Cassettes

Every once in a while, you stumble upon some old obsolete media format that you never knew existed in the first place.  25 years ago, the Digital Compact Cassette was announced by Philips and Matsushita.  Philips and Sony launched the CD together, but this time Philips sought a new partner for its Digital Compact Cassettes.  It was designed to replace the standard audio cassette in a way that CD hadn’t yet:  it was recordable.  It was a direct rival to the Minidisc and DAT tape, neither of which caught traction.

The 1992 Digital Compact Cassette player had one benefit that the other formats lacked.  Players were backwards compatible.  You could play all your old tapes on them as well as the new DCC tapes.  The tapes themselves looked much like cassettes but with spool holes on one side only.  An added feature was a sliding metal guard, similar to those on floppy discs, to protect the tape inside.  Different players were marketed, including components for your home system, portable Walkman-like devices, and car tape decks.  Signalling the shape of things to come, there was even one player that could connect to a desktop PC.

Another benefit to the new format was that players used fixed magneto-resistive heads, which didn’t require any demagnetizing.  They were more resistant to wear and tear.  Cleaning was something you still needed to do with these players, and more frequently.  Unfortunately for DCC, there was already a lot of competition on the market, and the Sony Minidisc appeared to be winning.

The new Digital Compact Cassettes were not a huge technological step ahead.  The cassettes ran at the exact same speed as a standard audio tape, and were the same width.  The tape used was the same grade as VHS tapes.  They could hold a maximum of 120 minutes, about the same as the max for an audio cassette tape, though no 120 minute DCC tapes were ever made.  By comparison, a DAT tape could hold three hours, and a Minidisc 80 minutes (same as an audio CD).

Each DCC tape had 18 tracks, or nine per side.  The main eight tracks held the audio information, while the ninth could be encoded with the metadata:  track names, numbers, lengths and so on.  This allowed the player to be able to find any spot on the tape that you wish.  There was even copy protection available.  If a tape was encoded as a “protected original”, in theory you couldn’t make a copy.

Ultimately, the desire for a digital but recordable audio format was fulfilled by CD itself.  A DCC player could range from $600 to $1700, and with so many people still buying CD players, that wasn’t a viable price.  Recordable CDs fit the bill, once they came down in price in the late 1990s (formerly about $200 per single CD-R).  The cassette format died its well-deserved death.  Digital Compact Cassettes are barely a footnote, but the magneto-resistive heads have since become a crucial component of PC hard disc drives.  Even rejected tech can often lead to another.

There’s one final footnote to the story of the Digital Compact Cassette.  The film covering of those new innovative tape heads found usage in an unlikely place:  brewery filters.  The microscopic holes in the material turned out to be perfect for nice clean and clear beer.  And you have old obsolete cassette tech to thank!

 

 

#535: Drop the Microphone

GETTING MORE TALE #535: Drop the Microphone

Need to do some recording, but don’t own a microphone?  No problem.  In a pinch, any speaker can be used as a microphone.

As kids, my best friend Bob and I recorded stuff all the time.  Skits, songs, commercials, and school projects were all recorded on cassettes on a regular basis. Some of the most fun weekends we had were spent recording.  And laughing, a lot.

The problem was never lack of ideas, only lack of decent equipment.  As kids we had to make due with what we had, which wasn’t much compared to what can be bought cheaply and easily today.  We only had one microphone.  It was a Lloyds from the early 70’s, and I still have it.  But there were two of us and we both needed microphones.

I don’t know how we discovered it, but it turns out, any speaker can be used as a microphone, and that’s how we did most of our childhood recordings.

35-audioI had a ghetto blaster (dual cassette) with detachable speakers.  The speakers connected via a normal 3.5mm audio jacks.  The deck had a microphone jack of the same size.  Converting a speaker to a microphone was as simple as unplugging it, and plugging it into the microphone jack.

Every speaker has a magnet and a coil to create sound.  The signal travels through the wire to the speaker coil and magnet, causing the speaker’s membrane to vibrate and create sound.  It also works in reverse!  By plugging it into a microphone jack, the speaker membrane vibrates by picking up sound, and then converts it into a signal.

The sound quality was more than enough for two kids with a $0 budget.  It was a tad bass-heavy, but good enough for us.  Any serious recording should have proper microphones, but if you’re sitting down to record for shits n’ giggles, give it a try.

“Oral Roberts and Pals” sketch recorded January 12 1988 using the “speakers as microphone” technique.  From “Mike and Bob Vol II”.

#521: DVD Recorders

 

GETTING MORE TALE #521: DVD Recorders

Obsolete and outdated technology can be fascinating to look at. For a long while, it looked like everything was going to go DVD.  Even music.  There was talk of box sets by bands such as Led Zeppelin or the Beatles that could fit the entire catalogue on one disc.  The Digital Versatile Disc all but completely took over from the VHS tape for viewing, so why not for simple household TV recording too? Enter the DVD recorder. This was not the same as a DVD burner for your computer.  It was a standalone unit for your home entertainment system, connected to your cable box and ready to go.  As you can guess, it failed gloriously. Why? Uncle John’s daily calendar tells us it came down to cost:

scan_20160920-2

While it is considered obsolete now, the DVD recorder had one slight advantage over the typical PVR that you can rent today from Rogers Cable. That is keeping a recording permanently. I’ll give you a great example.

In 1994, my future father-in-law won tickets to go see the Toronto Maple Leafs during the playoffs facing off against the Sharks in San Jose. My future wife came with him, bearing a sign that said “DOUGIE G. FOR PRIME MINISTER”. This is of course a reference to legendary Toronto Maple Leaf center Doug Gilmour. Then my wife saw the unmistakable Canadian hockey broadcaster Don “Grapes” Cherry in the lobby, with his colourful suit and camera crew.  She shouted out “GRAPES!”  Nobody else in California would have known him as “Grapes” so he knew it was a fellow Canuck.  He saw the Dougie G. sign — his favourite player from Kingston, Ontario.  He asked her to come on down. That’s how my wife got on Hockey Night in Canada back in 1994. We have a copy of this on video tape, but when the game was re-run a couple years ago, we recorded it including the part with my wife on our Rogers PVR.

It was nice to have it digitally but we always knew we’d lose it if the PVR busted. There’s no way to retrieve a recording from it, according to Rogers. So when it finally kicked the bucket, we lost the hockey recording. No matter; we’ll just wait for the next re-run.

If we only had an old-fashioned DVD recorder, however, we’d have a hard copy that we could have kept safe and sound forever!

 

 

#515: Dye, Dye My Darling

GETTING MORE TALE #515: Dye, Dye My Darling

Have you ever wondered how a CD-R burner works?

It’s quite complicated actually, but the basic idea is that data is encoded in binary “pits” and “land”.  If you recall your grade 10 math, binary allows you to record any data in ones and zeros.  In the CD world, this translates to “pits” and “land”.  Think of the pits as zeros, and the land as ones.  When you burn a CD at home, musical data is encoded with a laser.  The laser doesn’t actually etch the plastic or metal layers of a disc.  Instead, it burns the data into a layer of dye.  It is this dye that gives a blank CD its typical colours.  Once this information is properly encoded onto the blank CD, you can then play it on most household disc players.  But they don’t last forever.  The colour of the disc can be a clue how much life it has.  It can help indicate what dye was used in manufacturing.

  1. Cyanine dye (green)

These are the earliest blanks made, with a layer of dye that was also UV sensitive.  Unfortunately this meant that your CD could be destroyed by exposing it to direct sunlight.  The dyes were improved to make them more stable, but many people had their data destroyed simply by leaving the disc out, playing side up, where sunlight could get to it.

  1. Phthalocyanine (gold, silver, light green)

A more stable form of dye.  You’d have to leave your CD out in sunlight for two weeks to destroy it.  Unfortunately phthalocyanine dyes are more sensitive to the writing laser, and these discs required some technical advances to make for a good recording.

  1. Azo (dark blue)

Rated for a storage lifetime of decades.  More stable than the other two dyes.  It would take a month of sunlight to destroy an azo-based disc.  Also capable of faster writing speeds than other dyes.

Because it would have been easy to look at a green CD and say, “Nope, I’m not buying this one,” disc manufacturers tricked you by adding other colours to the dyes.   But the type of dye is only one factor in how good your CD sounds and how long it lasts.  A CD is like a sandwich made of plastic with layers in between where the data is stored.  Poorly manufactured CD-Rs allow moisture to seep in between the layers and destroy the disc.  And of course the quality of the burner is also critical to a good sounding CD-R.  And be careful if you’re labelling your disc with a marker.  Sometimes solvents from markers can react with the dyes.

In very rare cases, CDs and even DVDs have been known to explode during burning, according to a New York Times article from 2004.  It happened when a disc was spun too quickly, probably as a result of heat from the burning laser combined with centrifugal force.  This is why the upper limit for burning a CD is 56x.  Go faster than that and your music could go BOOM (and not in a good way).

A re-writable CD is different still from a dye-based CD-R.  A CD-RW (which can be re-written thousands of times) uses a metal alloy layer that is physically liquefied by the laser.  It’s crystalline before burning, but less reflective after burning.  Therefore a CD-RW has pits and lands made of more and less reflective spots on the disc.  And if you don’t like it, you can start all over again.  The laser re-heats the alloy, restoring it to its crystalline reflective state.

It’s all very technical and interesting, but how often do you record a CD today?   Though burning a CD will always be a pastime for many music fans, the majority have happily moved on to easier and quicker flash storage.  Is that as fascinating as a laser etching your music onto a disc?  No, but however you handle your music collection is up to you.

REVIEW: Sony Walkman NWZ-E353

This is an old review, but I thought it relevant to post, because of the way that the Sony Walkman changed my music listening habits.

IMG_20140615_080150SONY Walkman NWZ-E353

For years, I had avoided going digital. I had an old iPod. The little one with no screen. It was awful. Syncing with iTunes? Why can’t it be simpler? When I listen to a CD, I drop it in and push “play”. No syncing, no trying to understand iTunes. That kind of simplicity is what I’m looking for. Then I had another iPod, a Mini, which was even worse; the battery was useless and it couldn’t power up. Plus iTunes is just awful, I don’t care what the Apple fanatics say. It’s not an intuitive program in the least. Why can’t it be easier?

I decided to pick this Sony Walkman up and I’m glad I did. It has revolutionized the way I listen to music. Before I had gotten to the point where I was only listening to music on CD in the car and occasionally at home when Mrs. LeBrain was out shopping. Now, I can have music going almost anytime I want, morning noon and night.

And it’s easy! Drag and drop! How much simpler can you get? Because I’m a bit OCD, when I rip a CD I edit my ID3 tags to get the cover art going and make sure the tracks are in the right order and so on. But it’s so easy, and I’d do anything to avoid having to use iTunes.

I don’t even care about the 4 meg size on this model. When the player gets full, I just delete some albums that I’ve played enough, and add some more from my computer.  Drag and drop. Easy! I rip my CDs to the highest quality MP3 possible, so I really only get about 25 albums on here at a time. But that’s plenty — when am I going to be away from my computer long enough to listen to 25 albums? It’s never happened. I’d have to charge it first anyway. Maybe I’ll upgrade one day to a player with bigger storage, but I don’t see the point right now.

IMG_20140615_080220The only modification I did was to buy some better, more comfortable ear buds. I’ve been through a few different pairs. With that combination, I have the best quality portable music that I need. I also bought some portable speakers but they go largely unused. I prefer to plug my player into the AUX IN jack of a stereo, and I’m off to the races.

The Walkman has some customization available, such as wallpaper, photo galleries, etc. It has this thing called “SensMe”…it’s supposed to pick music based on moods. I could care less, I don’t listen to random songs, I listen to albums. I prefer to listen to songs in the context in which they were meant to be listened to. There’s a fine sounding FM radio as well. There’s a video player but it seems to be quite finicky as to what type of files it will play, so I don’t use that feature. I had no desire to, anyway.

Battery life is excellent. It has battery saving software as well. I can listen to music all week, as often as I can squeeze it in, and only charge it once a week. It is charged with the included USB cable. Easy, easy, easy.

Whether I am listening to heavy rock, classical music, country, or jazz, I have had no issues at all with the sound quality. For example right now I am listening to Ryan Adams’ Demolition album. The bass frequencies are strong but the clarity of the acoustic guitar is stunning! The only music that suffers is live music. As you know with a live album you have the continual backdrop of crowd noise. An MP3 player places a split-second pause between every song, which goes unnoticed on studio albums. On live albums, it breaks up the crowd noise slightly and can be distracting. Not a huge deal, but I aim to be complete in my reviews.

So, enjoy this awesome MP3 player. Here are my 5 basic tips to the best listening experiences!

1. Rip your CDs to the highest possible quality. Don’t download.
2. Grab a free ID3 tag editor for maximum enjoyment — add cover art, correct spelling mistakes or track order.
3. Buy a good pair of comfortable earbuds to maximize the sound quality.
4. Use the battery saving software.
5. Throw out your iPod.

Enjoy!

5/5 stars