Sep 11, 2005, 2:40pm
So I got a new DAP recently.
What's a DAP? Why, it's a digital audio player. I don't call it an MP3 player (except to people like my Dad, who probably wouldn’t understand what it is).
I already have a DAP - a gen two ipod (10gb model). I never use it in a portable capacity any longer, even though I spent some quality dollars to get a double capacity super internal battery for it (and I even did the battery swap myself). The iPod is great, and is almost permanently hooked up to my bedroom clock radio (a Tivoli)... but I may sell it (anyone interested? make me an offer!).
And I have a cell phone that lets me play OGG and MP3 files (and WMA files) that's with me all the time. However, that device requires me to use the included voice / headphones that it came with, which for audio, are not the best of quality.
And, as I get into the whole podcast thing, my cell phone, with it's limit of 128mb stupid sony memory stick duos is not big enough for more than 3 or 4 shows at a time.
So I started thinking about a new DAP to buy, but I had very specific requirements.
- large (1gb or bigger) storage capacity
- line in recording ability with good quality recording, not just super tinny, low bitrate recording.
- built in mic that doesn't suck (my P900 phone has recording ability but the mic is not good enough for podcast recordings)
- fm radio - I miss fm radio, believe it or not. Especially CBC Radio One.
- support for formats other than what Microsoft of Apple deem all we need. In other words, OGG!!! (the PhatBox in my VW Jetta supports ogg, so almost all my music is in the excellent ogg vorbis format)
- ability to bookmark - some podcasts I listen to are 2 hours long, and I wanted the ability to bookmark where I left off.
- wide dB range. The iPod's Achilles heel is it's lack of a truly wide dB range.
- ability to store my calendar and phone numbers.
- insanely small. I wanted a DAP that weighed last than 2 ounces.
- flash based - being insanely small negates a hard drive based player.
In Canada, we have a range of choices. iRiver, from Futile Shop. Samsung, Sandisk (insanely cheap!), Mpio, Creative, Lexar, Rio, and others. And of course the ubiquitous Apple iPod family is everywhere. But we don't have some of the best of the Korean players - namely Cowon, sold as iAudio products. Only in the US.
I'd heard that for in line recording the iRivers were the absolute best, having a built in pre-amp, and the largest range of encoding options on any flash player. But I didn't like the bulky size or designs of the iRivers.
I'd heard that the iAudio 5 and iAudio U2 had the most amazing quality built in mic, and their line in plugs were full (3.5mm) size plugs - one problem with players like Samsungs with line in plugs is they are proprietary sizes - 2mm, 2.5mm.
For a special six month anniversary present, I decided to buy Beata a DAP player, something she didn't have, and Amazon had a Friday Sale on the iAudio U2 1gb model. I bought it for her. When it arrived, I set it up for her, loading up music and showing her how to use it. This was when I found out the built in mic, under certain recording conditions, sounded even better than a $140 Sony Microphone I bought for podcasting. I was blown away.
But 1gb was a bit small for my long term wants. I was torn. I needed a very simple and efficient remote recording option for podcasting, but I needed 2gb. Then I found out that iAudio, through their US store, sold an "iPod" white 2gb model of the U2. Two big problems - it was out of my price range and they only sold to Americans. And I heard rumours of a new iPod coming out (read about the nano a week before I made my purchase decision). The new iPod sounded interesting.
But at the end of the day, the iPod wasn't an option. Still too big (length - the depth is sweet, the width is okay, but it's too long, top to bottom). And no ogg support - why Apple doesn't support this format I dunno, but I'll never buy an iPod until they do. And no FM radio. No line in recording (though aftermarket options are available).
About as wide as a lighter, and shorter than one. Thicker though.
Very intuitive controls. Beata hasn't read her manual. I barely did.
So, after weeks of thinking about it, I discovered that Cowan's American site had had a big sale where if you buy two DAPs - the iAudio 5 512mb and the U2 2gb, you save a lot of money. And I knew someone who wanted a DAP - Jeanette!
Now, for the American I needed to buy it. Nick at Murky Coffee came to the rescue. He bought them, had them shipped to him, then shipped them to Pt. Roberts for me to pick up.
Woot. Now today, I have my 2gb U2 in pearl white, and Jeanette has the very cool iAudio 5. I don't have a calendar function or my contacts on the device, but I have everything else I wanted. A device that weighs 1.2ounces (it has a built in battery). It lasts 20 hours on a single charge. It has a very good FM radio. It has lots of tricky stuff associated with that radio - if I want to start listening to Larry and Willy again, I can set it so every morning, it records any radio station I program for any length of time I set - so I can set it to turn on, and record 96.9 from 6:30 to 9:00am each day, then turn off again. Sweet.
I can encode audio, but only up to 128kbit quality, which isn't the greatest for audio, but more than fine for spoken word.
And the sound quality? iAudio is considered, amongst most discerning audiophiles, to have the best dynamic range ability of any flash based player on the common market (ie, readily available). I have the same mp3 files on my iPod and the U2. I use the same headphones (Ultimate Ears Studio.3 canal phones). When I swap back and forth listening to them, there's a clear winner in sound quality - the U2. I'm actually surprised at how bad the iPod is, even with tweaked settings in the equalizers.
It's so tiny too - it hangs around my next most of the time, and is about the size of a pack of Wrigley Juicyfruit gum (the stick kind).
There's not much to want on this device. Is it too much to ask for a 4gb version? A colour screen would be nice, but not necessary (though an OLED colour screen would actually improve the battery life over the current LCD screen). Perhaps a bigger screen even - filling up more of the device's front, edge to edge to edge to navigation joystick.And maybe just a bit thinner, front to back, but you know what? When Steve Jobs was going on about the size of the Nano, 64% smaller than this, 72% smaller than that, 56% smaller than this, I was like "how about the U2, Stevie!!!". I did the math. Here's the numbers:
iPod Nano: 3.5" x 1.6" x 0.27", 1.51 cubic inches, and weighs 1.6 ounces. 14 hours claimed battery life
iAudio U2: 2.9" x 1" x 0.7", or 2.03 cubic inches, and weighs 1.2 ounces. 20 hours claimed (21 tested on one site) battery life.
So, I guess if you look at cubic size, Stevie can claim the U2 is 25% bigger than the iPod Nano. But it weighs less, offers more overall, and well, was definitely a no brainer choice for me.
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Photos from Algonquin Park
Photos from my trip to Algonquin Park this fall with my Mom and two brothers.
Making Snow for the Fortress
One of the worst jobs I ever had... till I got out.
Tools I Use
The tools I use to build websites and lead a tech life.
iPod and iTunes Offline
iMark's iTunes and iPod isn't iPlaying anything right iNow.
Most Recent Songs
Fiddlers Green by The Tragically Hip
Around The Bend by Pearl Jam
Here With Me (Rollo's Chillin' With the Family Mix) by Dido
With arms open wide by Creed
truffle pigs by Matthew Good Band
In the News
Burundi and Beyond - NY Times
Great article by Peter Meehan - provided some background.
St. Petersburg Times
Side mention in an article about good machines
AP Story on Espresso
Background and information provided
NY Times - Grinders Article
Especially proud of this one - got the reporter to focus on grinders
Globe and Mail
LOL - showing bad reporting, dude says I'm an American-based site!
The Olympian, WA
Talks about my love for the El Sal Siberia Pacamara
Seattle Times - Clover
Interviewed for comments on the Clover brewer
NY Times - How it Works
Background and information for various espresso machines
Time Mag Article
Just a brief mention, article about roasting beans.
Front page article about consumers getting into specialty coffee.
Quoted reference to what I wrote in an article at CoffeeGeek.
USA Today - Barista Jam
Intereviewed for my thoughts on what the epitome of espresso is.
The Wall Street Journal has interviewed me 3 times. This is the first time my name got in a story.
Interview with Reuters, Jan 2 - this is the USA Today version.
My Other Stuff
Launched Dec 22, 2001, this is THE online community for espresso and coffee fanatics.
It's all new, as of March, 2002. My personal coffee obsession site.
My company's site - needs an update!
Hey, if you feel the need to buy me something, check here!
Great gadget site run by the guy who used to do Gizmodo.
This is how I get my daily news fix.
The most active forums for digital photography online today.
Need my Daily Zen fix!
A blog about car stuff. Vroom Vroom.
An industrial design blog. Very cool stuff.
Friends and Family Plan
Beata's got her own blog! She updates it most days.
Riddla on Flickr
Matt Riddle's flickr account, updated regularly
Irdy, my friend from Jakharta, on Flickr
Canon EF 24-105 f4 L Lens
The best lens I've ever owned. Super sharp and quick.
A full frame dSLR, with luscious colour reproduction.
Alzo Digital Lights
Some amazing florescent cold lights for product photography
Canon Xsi dSLR
Amazing technology and image quality in a tiny package.
Latest prosumer camera from Canon - a much better upgrade than the 30D
Great 2.2lb computer that does most of my travel / writing needs
28mm f1.8 Lens
A great lens for closeup work and full picture photography
Finally got the right tools for freezing green coffee.
Canon 50mm 1.4
Most amazing lens I've ever owned. Produces stellar photos.
Super wide angle (full frame fisheye) zoom for my Canon 20D