SANDY BERGER: Plenty of Options for Playing Digital Music
The world of music has changed drastically. It is not so much that the music has changed (which it always does), but it is that we are now listening to music in new digital ways.
You may remember listening to vinyl records, reel tapes, eight-tracks or cassette tapes. They are all pass. Even CDs are on their way out.
Now everything is digital. We can now download music over the Internet to be played on our computers, iPods, Zunes and other portable MP3 players. We never actually see a disk or tape or hard drive. We just see the device. The music has become a file that we can backup on our computer or move around from device to device.
The ways we play music at home have also changed. We used to worry about having great sound quality with a multitude of speakers in the living room or throughout the house. Now we often listen to our digital music with personal earphones.
Yet we also have a lot of options for playing digital music at home when we want everyone to be able to hear it. A wide variety of devices are now available that are made to accept an iPod or other digital player and play the music through the devices' built-in speakers.
At a recent trip to the electronics store, I saw home speakers for digital music players from Bose, Logitech, iHome, Altec Lansing, Philips, Kensington, Griffin and many more. These ranged in price from $50 to $300. And obviously you can spend even more, if you choose.
I'll clue you in on a little secret, though. If your stereo or radio has an auxiliary input, you can buy a simple cable with a jack on one end that fits your portable music player and one on the other end that goes to the auxiliary port on the stereo or radio. These jacks are usually standard sizes so you can purchase a cable with the correct ends at the local Radio Shack or electronic store.
I use one of these cables to hook my iPod up to my Bose radio. I can also use it on my stereo, and it even works on the Sharper Image sound machine that I have. If your stereo or radio has a remote control, it will probably not work with an MP3 player that is hooked up like this. However, having to get up to turn your music player on and off may be a small price to pay considering what you saved over purchasing a dedicated MP3 speaker system.
Another inexpensive way to listen to your MP3 music at home is with an FM Transmitter. This is a device that will transmit your digital music over an FM frequency that you can then pick up and play on any FM radio. You simply use the included cable to attach the music player to the FM transmitter and tune the transmitter to an unused FM station.
I have one called the Whole House Transmitter. At $99, it is one of the more expensive units, but also one of the most powerful. It covers my entire house and yard, and I can also use it in my car.
I often use it to listen to podcasts while I work around the house. I just start the podcast on my iPod, attach it to the transmitter and turn on radios in all of the rooms that I will be in. Then I can walk from room to room cleaning and/or organizing and never miss a word of the podcast. A transmitter like this is also great for parties where you might want the same music playing throughout the house.
For party music and special themed music, I can also attach the transmitter directly to my PC and use it to play Internet radio. You can get thousands of radio stations on the Internet, including those from foreign countries. So if you want to have a German party, you can play polka music or you can have a tropical party with Hawaiian music playing through the house.
Again, there are more expensive solutions. I also have a Tangent Quattro, which is an attractive wood-finished tabletop receiver for Internet radio broadcasts. It accesses the Internet through my wireless network and plays thousands of Internet radio stations. The Tangent costs about $350.
If you want the ultimate digital music player, you can look at the Sonos, which has as many speakers as you like and a wonderful remote control. The Sonos will play the digital music from your computer and will even play Internet radio, but a full Sonos system will set you back about $1,000.
So now you have ways to play your digital music that range from a few dollars for a cable to $1,000 for a complete system. In this economy, my bet is that many of you will take the cheaper solution. In that vein, next week I'll tell you about how to get the music you already have into your computer and where to find free digital music without breaking the law.
Sandy Berger welcomes all of your questions and comments on today's column. Please post them on the Compu-Kiss Message Board at www.compukiss.com/happycomputing.
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