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MP3 Players

Overview

I love getting new “toys.” If I do reviews of my new toys, I don’t feel so guilty about buying them. I am including some reviews of MP3 devices that I have purchased over the last few months. Some of the reviews may become dated, and for that I apologize.  These are the two devices that I still use to listen to audiobooks.  Of course they would work fine with music, but for me that would be a waste of potential listening time.

Currently in Use

I listen to MANY audiobooks, so having a reliable device is important. I have pretty much settled on my iPod Nano. It is the current version of the hardware. Over the years I’ve had several Nanos – The review of the little square one below is completely out of date since they haven’t sold that version for several years. I have 2 newer ones and then this one that is current. I updated because I drive a car with an iPod interface that wasn’t working with the earlier device.

This little guy works great. It holds tons of books (from Audible or ripped from CD) and interfaces perfectly with my Prius. When the phone rings (on my Android phone), the device pauses automatically. I can browse books on the touch screen of the car if I like (but I rarely do that for safety reasons). I can plug it into external speakers or headphones at home, too, so it is pretty versitile.

When I first got it, there were a couple of things I didn’t like. The first was that I had to wake it up to change the volume or pause it (I thought). Then one day I accidentally touched the center of the volume button on the side and the thing paused without turning on the screen. Problem solved. The only thing I don’t like is that to move forward a little or back a little is difficult with the touch screen. It does have a 30 second repeat, but on a 1″ screen that can be problematic. I prefer the earlier way of adjusting an iPod with a more mechanical button, but you can’t have everything.

I have some books on the Sansa Fuze, but the batteries are getting weak, and they don’t interface with my car — I can plug them in to the sound system, but if the phone rings, I have to manually pause them. Needless to say they aren’t getting much use these days.

My conclusion: If you have $150 to drop on an audio device (and you don’t want to use your smartphone), this one is the current pick of the litter. There are others that are cheaper that work just as well (but not with my car).

Sandisk Fuze:  (old version)

I bought the 8 gig version of the new Sandisk Fuze in April, 2008, and it arrived in May. I bought it because I wanted a sleek little player that would play not only Audible files but also Overdrive and mp3’s ripped from CD. It is advertised as having resume on audio files, and I wanted to test that out. Oh yes, I also REALLY like new toys.

It is shorter and a bit thicker than the iPod Nano (3rd generation). The weight is about the same. The device is silver (8gb ones are silver at this point), and the back has a slightly rubbery feel. It doesn’t look any different than the rest of the device, it just seems to have a bit of resistance to sliding a finger across it.

The on/off/hold switch is on the right side of the device (as you face it), so it won’t get turned on accidentally if the hold isn’t enabled. That is one problem with the Nano. You HAVE to engage the hold, or it is liable to get turned on in a pocket or purse.

The pause is at the top of the wheel, and that is less user friendly than the pause at the bottom of the wheel of the Nano. Since I’m carrying it in a homemade pocket on a neck band, it is harder to reach the pause button than it is on the iPod Nano. The audio jack and charging/transfer jacks are at the bottom as they are on the Nano. It has no built in lanyard attachment point, so hanging it around the neck is problematic. There are several dealers on EBAY that have skin cases and armbands for the device, though, so that shouldn’t be too big a problem.

Audible:

Getting the device recognized by Audible Manager was a deal. Audible implies that one must use Windows Media Player with the Fuze, so I tried that first. The files transferred just fine, but they wouldn’t play. Audible Manager kept telling me that there was no device installed. I finally e-mailed tech support at Audible, and Raphael suggested that I download the newest version of AM. I had just run the update from within the program, but I did as he suggested. AM informed me that I was reinstalling the same version of the software, but I let it proceed anyway.

After reimporting my books and choosing a new device in AM, I plugged in the device and it was still not recognized. I was pretty frustrated by this time, so I closed out of Audible Manager and Media Player and started them. After several fruitless tries, AM all of a sudden recognized the Fuze. It let me transfer the files from within Audible Manager (in my opinion a greatly more effective way to move Audible files to devices that with Media Player), and the file played.

Audible says that the Fuze will only recognize type 4 files, but I was able to transfer type 3 AND 2 files with success. Whether there will be the popping problem with the lower bitrate files remains to be seen, so I am currently listening to Skinny Dip (Hiaasen) in type 2, and there don’t seem to be problems with it. The Nano had a nasty clicking that shows up in type 2 files at times, but so far I haven’t seen it in the Fuze. THis has changed with the latest updated software. I’m not sure it will take type 2 files at all anymore.

Once I got the device activated on Audible, it worked flawlessly with those files.

Overdrive:

This one was a slam dunk (I thought). I clicked on the “transfer file” button in the Overdrive console, and the book went immediately to the device. The problem is that the default folder on the Fuze is the music folder, and in order for the resume to work properly, the files have to be in the “Audiobooks” folder. It is necessary to browse to the Audiobooks folder and save the files there, at that point they resume correctly.

Update, 2014:

I still use the Nano for Overdrive files (from another library) because it works fine with them as long as you don’t change books.  I bought the one I’m still using in 2008, so that is a pretty good life span for a device that is carried around in pockets.