MP3 Player Buying Guide

MP3 Player Memory

The price of an MP3 player is largely dependent on how much memory it has. Memory is essentially storage capacity. So, the bigger the memory, the more songs it can hold (in addition to other files, like large video files). Memory is measured in bytes. When you read the technical specs of players, you'll usually see memory listed in GB (gigabytes, units of 1 billion bytes).

To help determine how much memory you need, let's consider an example. In 2011, Apple advertised its iPod Shuffle with a memory capacity of 2 GB as being able to hold hundreds of songs. The specific number largely depends on the the length of a song and the quality of the file. Bit rate, measured in Kbps (kilobits per second), determines the quality of the file. The higher the bit rate, the higher the quality and the larger the file will be. You'd be able to fit about 728 3-minute songs (36.4 hours of music) recorded at 128 Kbps on 2 GB of storage. But at the higher-quality rate of 320 Kbps, you'd only fit about 292 songs (14.6 hours of music). Other players have much larger capacities -- usually 4, 16, 32, 64 or even 160 GB.

Once you have a better idea of how much storage space you'd like, you can easily decide which MP3 player is best for you. The kind with the largest capacities are hard-disk MP3 players. However, these are susceptible to skipping, because the mechanism in them uses moving parts. Flash-memory MP3 players don't come with quite as much storage space, but they don't use moving parts and are generally more durable -- something that's better for those who want to listen while exercising.

Flash-memory players usually have enough storage space (up to 64 GB) to satisfy even those with fairly large music libraries. Although the hard-disk variety is still around (Apple's iPod Classic, for example, can carry 160 GB), flash-memory players are much more common. But if you have an extremely large library of music (more than 64 GB worth), or you want to also use a lot of storage space for video and high quality photos, consider a hard-disk player.

Sometimes the MP3 player itself isn't enough -- accessories can make the experience of listening to music even better. Read more about them on the next page.