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How to Attain "Radio Nirvana?"

A handful of more expensive digital audio players get good ratings from professionals and buyers alike for radio reception. If you look at top-rated players in the CNET and PC Magazine resources referenced in the table, you'll quickly see which ones I mean. But alas, none of these units offers much flexibility in terms of removable Flash media, and some of them require proprietary software that doesn't integrate well or easily with the Windows desktop. Unfortunately, it appears difficult at best, impossible at worst to get the best of all worlds in a single player.

At first, I got depressed after working through more than 100 top-rated units with digital audio and FM capability in a single unit. But then, I got inspired and went looking for pricing on portable radios, sans any digital music playback capability. Many such units will work for days from one or two AAA batteries, and at least one-half dozen get great marks from everybody for radio reception and sound quality, including professionals and buyers alike. Best of all, most such units seldom cost than $30, a surprising number are available for under $20, and a handful could be had for under $10!

So now, I've implemented a new strategy: I'll let my digital music player do its thing. I'll look for best sound quality and best price/storage capacity tradeoff, and stick to units with at least some removable Flash storage. I've found a nifty personal FM radio that cost me under $20, which is what I wear while NPR news is on, morning and evening (when I'm not in my car, which still does a great job of pulling in the necessary stations). When I want to listen to digital audio, I switch to my other player and keep on going. The price of the research to find perfection got too expensive, so I settled for seeking the best of a smaller number of breeds in the personal audio devices I made my own.

If you do want to find a good combo player, you'll have to shop carefully and then try to find somebody in your part of the world who owns that player and will let you try it out. Otherwise, look for a return policy that lets you send the unit back for a full or partial refund if you don't like how the radio works. "Try it to see if you like it" (especially when it comes to tuning in your radio favorites) remains the best test for the units you may want to keep (or send back).

Personal Player Info Resources




The "Portables" area has great information about top digital music players, selection criteria, and all kinds of good general information on the subject.


Great articles, product reviews, columnists, and general education; 586 hits for "MP3 players" in reviews search.

PC Magazine

Great coverage of MP3 and digital music players—including articles, product reviews, and more; 145 units listed in reviews/ratings section.

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