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The New iPod Killers

First of all I have to tell you that this technology is absolutely awesome. This is one of the few tech devices I will not be without. I have been able to virtually throw away my CD and audio tape player since I acquired an MP3 player. If you listen to music or enjoy learning by audio half as much as I do you will absolutely need to get one of these devices.

Most of you know that I am an obsessive compulsive when it comes to researching a topic. While, yesterday I spent over 10 hours thoroughly researching the available devices. I read many hundreds of user postings and feel very comfortable in telling you I have identified the best and least expensive MP3 player on the market, yes even better than the widely acclaimed iPod, actually much better than the iPod.

Two years ago Apple Computer first sold the iPod and it has become a cultural icon. It weighed just 6.5 ounces and held about 1,000 songs with its 10 gigabyte (10,000 megs) 2.5 inch hard disk drive. Prior to the iPod most players, and many today, used flash memory of about 100 megs to store the music and thus could only store a few dozen songs at most. The iPod has sold about 1.4 million units to date. It has been updated twice and now comes in three versions and is priced at $300, $400 and $500.

Earlier this year I wrote a posting on my experiences with the new hard drive based MP3 players and my decision to purchase a 60 gigabyte Nomad Zen. This device can record 16,000 songs on it. That is a few weeks worth of non-stop music or lectures. Since I am very frugal I went with the Nomad because at the time it was $100 less than the $500 iPod and had a double the battery life. But it was still $400.

However the Nomad Zen is somewhat bulky and my close friend Jon refers to it as a brick as it weighs about one pound. So after using it for over six months it was time for to reevaluate the market and see if I can upgrade to something better. I had always been tempted by the iPod, but had a tough time justifying the expense. Even though I could afford it, it seemed to much to pay for me. But obviously nearly 1.5 million people have felt otherwise. The other major obstacle was that it only has a 7-8 hour battery life.

There are now two new MP3 players to consider, Dell Jukebox (DJ) and the Rio Karma. It weighs slightly more than the iPod, but has double the battery power and is one of the few MP3 players that has a built in recorder. The cost for the 15 gig unit was nearly $300 and the 20 gig unit was $330. If you need a recorder on your MP3 player, this is the most cost effective unit for you.

However, earlier this week I realized that the 20 gigabyte Rio Karma is my new unit of choice. This unit actually weighs one ounce less than the iPod, a mere 5.5 ounces. It is nearly as light as many of the new cell phones and about 75 percent lighter than my Nomad. It also has double the battery life of the iPod and lasts over 15 hours on one charge. If you enjoy listening to music, then this is the MP3 player for you as Rio was recently purchased by Denon Marantz, a high end audio company. The sound from this unit is probably the best on the market with one of the best signal to noise ratios and the most power. It blows away the iPod in volume as it has 15 mW per channel at 16 ohms, which is enough to drive most full-size dynamic head phones to top volumes.

What really made me enthusiastic though was the sound. CNet is one of the top tech sites on the web and they rated the Rio Karma an editor?s choice. If you want to really go in depth you can read CNet?s user?s comments on the Rio Karma for more details. Some of the posts are absolutely irrelevant though as they refer to the previous company?s support policies for different MP3 players, not the Rio Karma and now Rio has brand new Customer Support structure.

Now for the good part, the Rio Karma is available for under $300. So the bottom line summary is that if you enjoy listening to music or audio lectures then hard disk based MP3 players are essential for you. At this time I can not endorse any player out there more than the Rio Karma

New York Times November 30, 2003

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