By Eliot Van BuskirkIn the last MP3 Insider column, I listed all the features that my dream MP3 player would have, from a retractable headphone cord to the ability to change colors at the push of a button. In response to the column, I received a ton of e-mail, detailing readers' ideas for the ultimate MP3 player, and I found a few features that would make my dream machine that much dreamier. So without further ado, here are some of the great ideas, courtesy of CNET readers:
Senior editor, CNET Reviews
1. Wireless connection
David Stein (Cleveland, Ohio): I'm totally stunned that you could feature an article on a "dream" MP3 player, come up with 15 suggestions, and totally miss one of the most badly needed (and neglected) functions of an MP3 player. If there's one factor that cripples MP3 players, it's cables. Want to listen to your MP3s via headphones? Plug 'em in with a cumbersome cable. Notebook? Hook it up to your notebook audio-in jack. Home theater? Bust out the RCA Y-cable. Car stereo? Forget it. Sync to PC, PDA, or other MP3 players? USB cable or serial cable or network cable… Not only does this result in an absurd proliferation of specialized cables, it limits the MP3 player to a one-machine connection. Want to transfer MP3s to your desktop while playing 'em on your home stereo or playing MP3s on two sets of headphones at once? Fuhgeddaboutit. Wireless is sorely needed but conspicuously absent in MP3 players. And you missed it (smile). EVB: The first time that I read this idea--the most popular one that I received--I literally slapped my forehead that I'd missed it the first time around. Whether it's 802.11b, Bluetooth, or HomeRF, a wireless-data connection between your MP3 player, your stereo, and your computer would be invaluable. Imagine walking home, dropping your bag on the floor (MP3 player inside), then, the next morning, finding that all the new music you'd downloaded was on the device. It'd be magical, and I think that good technology should feel a lot like magic.
James Bolt (New York, New York): Eliot: How on Earth did you forget the cross-fader? Use Winamp to play your 2,000 MP3s and hit Crossfade, and it's like having your own radio station. One song fades out, and another fades up simultaneously. No portable MP3 player has this feature, and once you've gotten used to hitting Shuffle and having the cross-fade effect, it's tough to live without it.
EVB: James, I couldn't agree more. I too use a cross-fader plug-in with Winamp to shuffle through my tunes and would love to have that functionality in my MP3 player. The recently released Samsung YEPP YP-700H comes close, but it fades out completely before fading another tune in--more of an annoyance than a true cross-fader. Any MP3 player with upgradable firmware should be able to add a cross-fader to its controls. Manufacturers are hereby advised to add this functionality as soon as it's feasible, to satisfy James and the others who wrote in asking for this.
3. AM radio
Patrick Robinson (Seattle, Washington): Your list is fine, but for the life of me, I cannot understand why no manufacturer has put an AM radio in an MP3 player--especially in an era when news seems to matter more than ever. I would pay extra just to have it! Don't you find it odd that with talk radio so popular, news on nearly everyone's agenda, and easy, clear, widely available reception for the signal that this old technology hasn't found a place in MP3 players? EVB: Now, this one surprised me. I can't remember the last time that I listened to the AM band since FM sounds so much better for music. But judging from last week's e-mail bag, an awful lot of people want an AM radio in their dream MP3 player. I have a hunch that the reason that no company has included an AM radio yet is that it adds too much size and expense to be worth it to most people. Maybe manufacturers will reconsider.
4. Better headphones
Floyd (Vancouver, British Columbia): I think you missed one dream feature--wiring that doesn't fail/become intermittent. I can't think of how many pairs of headphones I have that have to be jiggled and jostled so that I can get simple bloomin' stereo. They obviously use excessively thin wiring (just as the telephone does) and flimsy jacks. Yet we all want expensive headphones! I just want headphones that provide stereo sound for more than a few weeks. EVB: I'm with you on this one, Floyd; too many manufacturers get away with including flimsy headphones. It's almost like they expect you to trash the included pair right away and replace them with the sturdy, decent-sounding ones--at your own expense--that they should have included. Come on, guys, how about including headphones that we'll be happy with for years? Don't you want us parading that logo around at eye level everywhere we go?
5. Even more sound options
Krsnendu Dasa (Auckland, New Zealand): The Nomad Jukebox has a cool control that speeds up lectures without changing the pitch. It should also be able to slow down speed for transcribing. The addition of some kind of noise-reduction filters would also be cool (for example, hiss remover and hum remover). EVB: I included some extra sound settings in my wish list but left out these specifics. These controls would have other functions, too, besides speeding up lectures. For instance, slowing down audio is quite handy when trying to learn to play a certain part of a song or when transcribing a recording of a fast-talking interviewee. Hiss and hum removers might be more useful as recording plug-ins for stopping the noise from entering recordings of LPs or live sources in the first place. On the other hand, if you're downloading your MP3s from file-sharing programs, you have no control over audio quality. In that case, a hum/hiss remover could help.
Senior Editor Eliot Van Buskirk covers portable audio and music-related issues for CNET Reviews. Have a question for him? Let him know!
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