A Good MP3 Player

Check out these features:

  • Supports MP3 and WMA (and mounts as a hard drive)

  • 4 GB storage

  • 10+ hr removable lithium-ion battery

  • Size is 3" x 2.5" x 0.4" for the one standing up, 2.4" x 3.1" x 0.4" for the one laying down. Around the size of the iPod mini, but smaller in some dimensions.

  • USB 2.0 or Firewire, and recharges over the connection

  • RIM-style navigation, including side scrollwheel and back button

  • AM/FM radio, including "Personal Audio Recorder" features such as recording at scheduled times, pausing live radio, and actively buffering the last 30 minutes in RAM


There's only one problem: it doesn't exist.

I've been looking for an MP3 player with, at minimum, 4 GB, WMA support, and a built-in radio (not on a "remote"). Ideally it would be relatively small with a big display and navigation that doesn't require a clumsy protruding joystick-like apparatus. Any suggestions?

My failure to find a good player did give me an excuse to do some 3D modeling and rendering, though. 🙂 The above image illustrates what I want hardware-wise (within the constraints of current, inexpensive technology) and is also my first attempt to use radiosity and HDRI in Lightwave. There are no lights in the scene, only the High Dynamic Range Image for the environment, and a gray plane for the ground. This approach tends to produce more realistic images, at the expense of rendering time: the 800x600 version of this image took over 48 hours to render on a 2.4 GHz P4. Of course, there are a variety of techniques you can use to significantly reduce rendering time (using multiple passes, "baking" radiosity info onto the surface, interpolated mode, etc.), but so far all of the things I've tried degraded the quality too much for a still image like this one (reflection, etc.).

Comments (33)

  1. Davin says:

    Cool design!

    I think I am going to get the IRiver IHP-20 http://www.iriveramerica.com/products/iHP-120.asp

    I do like the Nerous too: http://neurosaudio.com/

    All of the code for the neuros is opensource and in C#.

    I find the decision hard though 🙂

  2. Nat says:

    I want this one too

  3. You had me going there! The one thing I really really want in a radio (both FM and AM) is ability to TiVo-ize it.

  4. Mike says:

    Check out the Rio Karma, I don’t remember off-hand if it has a radio though.

  5. Joku says:

    I would change/add:

    – > 40 GB

    – software that comes does support encoding, only lossless compression

    – wireless network connectivity for streaming out video/music files to a tv/stereo set which offers network connectivity.

  6. Joku says:

    .. I mean, doesn’t support/default to lossy encoding.

    Additional points would come of:

    about PDA size and same functionality.


  7. jsaylor says:

    Even worse, try to find one with an AM radio (for talk and sports!) – it’s impossible.

  8. Samd says:

    Great design! You had me going too, I really was crestfallen on your punch line (There’s only one problem: it doesn’t exist) :0)

    I had never heard of the Neuros. Great, except for no WMA support

  9. Brian says:

    I want Tivo Radio!!

  10. Lomas says:

    Perhaps you should pursue a career in Microsoft’s hardware division. 🙂

  11. Yep, TiVo-like functionality would rock, and shouldn’t be that hard.

    AM would be nice, as mentioned, although I’m not holding my breath for that one because the AM intenna would add bulk a lot of people wouldn’t want. Maybe that could be solved by putting it in the removable battery, so people that wanted AM could choose to sacrifice a bit of battery life for it.

  12. Regarding existing players:

    Neuros: Looks interesting. A bit big, but good for people who want a lot of customization.

    iRiver IHP-120. Again, bigger than I want and has the joystick UI. Also no radio, IIRC. I’ve heard good things about it in general though.

    Rio Karma: Pretty close. I’d buy a model 1/2 as thick with FM and only 4 GB.

    A friend pointed me to the GPX BA-1000 (http://www.outpost.com/product/3997998). I’ll be picky again and say it’s too big, but it’s getting there.

  13. Patrick says:

    I have and love the H120 (nee IHP-120). It does have FM radio but no recording, which is disappointing. It comes in a 40GB flavor and is firmware upgradeable (so in theory adding FM radio is possible but but I’m not holding my breath). I wanted ogg so my options were pretty limited – fortunately I think it helped rule out a bunch of players I probably wouldn’t have wanted anyway 🙂

  14. In case anybody is reading down this far, for now I have decided to go with the iRiver iHP-120 until something better comes out.

    But will somebody *please* tell them that their mechanism for setting the radio presets is — how shall I put this nicely — probably the most poorly designed user experience I have seen in the last decade? Not only do you practically HAVE to read the manual, a trivial slip will cause you to lose them all. It’s like a game, and it took me all three lives to set eight radio presets.

  15. Bob says:

    It look like you should have waited.

    Korean electronics manufacturer iRiver has today announced the new H300 series portable music and photo player.

  16. kss says:

    This almost what you described except it doesn’t have enough memory:


    Radio YourWayTM AM/FM Radio Recorder


    Portable AM/FM Radio.

    10 Station Pre-Sets

    Record over 4 hours of AM or FM broadcasts for later playback (32MB Internal Memory)

    On-the-fly or scheduled recording. Enjoy unattended recording of your favorite AM or FM radiobroadcasts.

  17. Bob, as a loyal reader of sites like http://www.engadget.com I knew about iRiver’s new players before I bought the 120. It may be great for some people, but doesn’t converge towards my requirements.

    I’m sure something will be out in a month or two, though. I forced the issue by buying the 120. Kind of like washing your car to make it rain. 😉

  18. kss, yeah, I’ve heard mixed things about that one, but the concept is good. It should only be a matter of time before those capabilities are integrated into other players.

  19. Zell says:

    Hmmm i have been looking for an mp3 player that is overall very nice. I do like the neuros because it has the frequency broadcast feature that lets you jam signals on a station, however i dont like the "backpack" that you have to wear with it, and withought it, you can’t do anything, however i dont think the ihp has the frequency jamming feature, does anyone know if it does?

  20. lu says:


  21. Guido says:

    Ok, not 4gb… but I heavily reccommend iAudio’s: Voice recording, FM, MP3/WMA, everything included in an EXTREMELY (literally) small player.



  22. Davin#2 says:

    I think i’ve seen better, but i like this one the best, imeant…4 gb, wow thats a lot of music storaging don’t you think?

  23. Davin#2 says:

    Someone has my name too…= )

  24. sandra says:

    tsssssss just buy an iPod

  25. Quack! says:

    Just get an iPod… who needs radio when you have all your favorite music in your pocket anyway 🙂

  26. martin says:

    He means the iPod, but with lousy controls and lousy internal software.

    WMA support? Who needs lousy WMA sound quality and DRM that allows you NOTHING?


  27. Wisconsin Attorney says:

    Here’s what I want:

    I’ve been checking around, and apparently, what I desire doesn’t yet exist. I want an Mp3 type player, with at least 40 GB storage, and an AM/FM receiver. There are such units with FM receivers, but no AM capability. I’d like to be able to listen to Rush Limbaugh until his commercial break, and then launch in to Kung Fu Fightin’ or One Night in Bangkok. And while we’re at it, let’s make it docking station capable so that I could drop it into a machine at my work and listen to my tunes or the radio or the CD player built into the dock while simultaneously charging the unit’s internal battery. I guess I’ll just have to shelve my plans until I can get what I want.

  28. iPod says:

    just get an iPod!! who wants WMA support anyway? Radio when you can have 10.000 songs with you? If you want an mp3 player just go for the real stuff and it’s called i P o d

  29. I don’t have anything against the iPod; it just doesn’t meet my needs & wants.

  30. iPod says:

    I can’t imagine that WMA support is a need! Why would you want inferior sound quality?

  31. I agree, I too am in the market for an mp3 player that takes aa’s (I have a grocery bag full) has am radio, for talk, and of course large mp3 storage capabilities, never have had an mp3 player before, so want to make my first one make me happy

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