The fact that you can shrink an audio file from a CD to a tenth of its original size spawned a host of portable MP3 players. The majority of them use solid-state memory, such as CompactFlash or SmartMedia cards, to hold the music. This makes for terrific cigarette packet-sized players, but also horrifically expensive media.
The MpTrip player forgoes the convenience of being a tiny player, but shimmies around the problem of expensive media. It does this by taking the normal DiscMan form-factor, but plays MP3s from a CD-ROM instead of an audio CD. This makes it cheaper to use, but requires a CD recorder. If you already have one, it’s an inexpensive way of getting portable with MP3 files.
However, the conversion is complicated. First, Adaptec Toast is needed to make the CDs, and it must be set up to burn the CD in the correct format. Specific Mac instructions are available on the easybuy2000 Web site.
There are many ways to get MP3 files – some legal, some not. The most legitimate way is to take your own CDs and convert them. Toast can be used for this, as can many shareware applications that are around. Once the CD is converted, the resulting files will be about a tenth of their original size, so around ten CDs-worth of music will fit onto a single CD ROM.
So far so good, but there are issues with dealing with so many tracks on one disc. Unless you’re happy to listen to ten hours of music at once, you will need to skip forward and backwards. This is fine for a normal CD, but when using MpTrip, there could be as many as 200 tracks, and clicking to track 199 is a drag.
Sound quality is remarkably good. When we tested it using the supplied earphones, 50 per cent of people preferred the sound of MpTrip to a more expensive CD player playing the original CD. I only tested it on four people, so the results aren’t conclusive, but are good enough to show that the quality is at least close. When we played the music through speakers, however, the difference was noticeable, though only to our resident audio geeks.
MpTrip is a great idea, but it has some problems. Once you make a CD-ROM it can’t be edited, so if you want a different selection of music, another CD must be made. However, the sound is impressive, and having ten hours of music to hand is a great feature. The price is right, so it’s definitely worth trying.