Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My New Sansa

Instead of talking about media, I'm going to review a media player. I got a Sansa media player for my birthday last week. This is not my first MP3 player but it has a number of differences from the others I have owned.

The biggest difference between this and the other MP3 players I own is how songs are organized. The others either put songs in the order they are copied to the device or in alphabetic order. The Sansa ignores all of this and reads the MP3 tags. This surprised me the first time I ripped a CD, copied it, and played it. I was expecting the tracks to be in alphabetic order. Instead the Sansa recognized that they were all from the same album and played them in order by track.

While a great improvement over other MP3 players, this does have a downside. Not all of my MP3s have full tags, especially ones I had recorded from LPs. I had to use an extra program to fill in the tag information. Many of my MP3s came from free downloads from the old MP3.com and other sites. Most of these do not have genre filled in.

All of this is mainly a one-time chore. Once the MP3 tags are filled in they stay filled in.

Beyond that, the Sansa is a good player. It is flash memory-based so it does not have the huge capacity that the iPods or the Zune have. At the same time, it is cheaper and smaller. Mine is the low-end 2-gig model which is more music than I normally listen to in a month.  I can always move songs back and forth between the Sansa and my PC. For those who need it, it can go up to 8 gig plus additional memory can be added through a micro-SD slot in the side.

I loaded it with a gig of Christmas music, plugged it into a set of amplified speakers and played it most of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Then I removed all of that music and loaded my normal selections.

Sound quality is very good. The controls are fairly simple to figure out. I haven't bothered to look at the manual for this yet. I played with a friend's iPod last summer and had a more trouble figuring it out.

The Sansa has a small, color display. This normally goes dark after a few seconds of inactivity. It comes back on when any control is touched and shows the song, artist, the amount of time elapsed and remaining on the song, battery charge, and which song out of how many this is.

You can also use the display to show photographs and movies. These come out pretty tiny and this is not the first use I would make for the Sansa.

Like most MP3 players, you have to have a PC to use it. Unlike most of them, there are no special drivers to attach. You plug it in and it shows as a drive. You then use the Windows Explorer to copy files to and from it. Pictures and movies require a special converter. It also has a different connect mode in case you are using music protected by Windows DRM (Digital Rights Management). In this case you use the Windows Media Player to move music back and forth. I have not tried this.

In fact, DRM is why I went with the Sansa in the first place. The iPod uses DRM that ties it to a particular computer and essentially takes over your music collection. The Zune does something similar. Also, the iPod has a dark side - the batteries die and are hard to replace. The Sansa makes the batteries easy to get to.

The earbuds that came with the Sansa sound fine but hurt my ears after a while. I switched to a pair of Koss ones that I already had. The Koss earbuds go partway into the ear and sound great. On the other hand, the stock earbuds are better if you are going to spend most of your time wearing them. With the stock ones I can hear other people and carry conversations. With the Koss I have to pull out at least one.

The Sansa can receive and record FM radio. It can also record voice. I tried this during an Irish session and was surprised at how good the quality was - much better than other digital recorders I have used. This is recorded in .wav format.

All told, the Sansa is a good device.

1 comment:

Jay said...

This is a great player. I got it after I read the review at http://thesansa.com and my mind was absolutly made up. I love it because of all its wonderful features such as the large screen, video, microSD as well as its price! I highly recommend the sansa for everyone!