Windows 98 Home   All Products  |   Support  |   Search  | Home  
  Windows Home  |
Search for
Using Windows 98 Download Support

  Windows 98 Home

Getting Your Work Done

Communicating with Others

Exploring the Internet

Maintaining Your Computer

Having Fun


Having Fun

Digital audio hits the road

by George Legge

Saxophone and computer The demand for handheld digital audio devices is almost as hot as the latest all-boy pop band. But before you spend your hard-earned cash on the newest music-playing toy, be sure you know what you're getting.

Portable digital audio players come by several names: handheld MP3 player, music clip player, handheld digital music player, and portable MP3 player. The name may change but the tune remains the same: all handheld digital music players (DMPs) let you download compressed digital music from the Internet, and then listen to it through a device smaller and lighter than a Walkman or portable CD player. And, unlike CD players, handheld DMPs are “skip” proof.

Having the right stuff
So what kind of handheld device should you get? They come in a variety of colors, shapes, and price ranges, with additional features galore, but what's really important is to make sure your player can handle both of the most common file formats for audio compression: MP3 and the Microsoft Windows Media Audio format. These two audio technologies compress files down to a sound quality similar to that of a compact disc by squeezing down unnecessary file space and eliminating bits of data not perceived by the human ear.

Support your local musician
By making sure your player can handle Windows Media Audio files, you do your favorite artists a favor by protecting them from piracy. MP3 technology in its existing form can’t effectively protect artists from having their material stolen. You can log on to a secure music site, purchase an album and then download it in the MP3 format without knowing whether the material is stolen or licensed. Windows Media Audio can be encoded to prevent illicit downloads.  Plus, it produces better quality sound than standard MP3. At least 70 digital media software distributors (including RealNetworks) recognize Windows Media Audio as an emerging standard for digital audio technology.

Mini storage
Next, determine how much storage space a prospective player offers. Most handheld devices come with either SmartMedia cards, which are more compact but offer less storage, or the larger, higher-capacity CompactFlash cards. A 32-megabyte card of either type supplies one hour of music. High-end players offer up to three hours of storage.

Details, details
If your computer has a Universal Serial Bus (USB) port (most made in the last two years do) look for a unit that will connect through it. Parallel port connections will work too, however USB links make downloads much faster. Check the device’s LCD readouts for brightness and readability, especially in sunlight, and find out how long the batteries will last.

Many electronics manufacturers offer handheld digital devices in a variety of colors, shapes and prices. One company promises a product by fall of 2000 designed exclusively for standard cassette players including car stereos. It gets better--most manufacturers supply software that let’s you transfer music from a CD into your device or “burn” audio from your computer onto a recordable CD (CDR). You can also compile and play entire libraries through desktop "jukeboxes" with software usually supplied by the device maker.

The current street price for most DMPs is US$150 to US$250, but as demand for these devices grow, that figure should drop.

Whatever you choose, a portable digital player will save you trips to the record store at the mall and give you hours of listening pleasure.


George Legge

George Legge thinks the perfect handheld device is one that not only plays Windows Media Audio but lets you download compressed pizza. He’s still looking.

No handheld? Listen online
Media Metrix magazine reported that Windows Media Player was the most widely used audio player for streaming audio over the Web.
It can play several audio formats, including .wav, MP3 and of course, Windows Media Audio.

Check out the Windows Media Web site where over 150,000 different downloadable broadband shows, music, videos, and jukeboxes are offered.

For more information on MP3, Windows Media Player, and digital audio music see the following Using Windows articles:

MP3: bringing music to a computer near you


Windows Media Player: a stream runs through it


New Windows Media Player is a sound vision