Audio buyer's guide

Nowadays, we’re spoilt for choice with the vast quantity of digital entertainment at our fingertips whether via DAB radio or the huge digital libraries we can store on tiny portable devices.

To help you get the best from your audio entertainment we have a quick guide to choosing a better audio device. Depending on how you like to listen, where you like to listen and what you like to listen to will all affect what’s best for you.

1. Where do you listen to your music?

If lounging on the sofa or settling back into your favourite chair is how you enjoy your music then a micro hi-fi is a great choice. However, for those who want to enjoy music on the move, or in the great outdoors, a portable player is the way to go.

2. What do you listen to?

No matter if you listen to CDs, digital music, the radio or even vinyl and cassettes there’s a way to enjoy your music. Micro hi-fis are ideal for providing a solution for more than one of these mediums, but most devices will specialise in just one.

3. What format is your music collection?

It’s important to match your new audio player to your music collection. It is possible to convert CDs, vinyl and tape to digital files for portable devices, but if you want to listen to your collection in its original format there’s still plenty of choice. If you already own digital files (such as WMA or AAC) then make sure your new device is compatible with them.

4. How much music do you have?

Storage is important if you’re purchasing a digital player. Roughly 4GB of space will store around 1,000 typical 128kbps digital tracks, which could be 100 albums. To take more music on the move, or to use better quality tracks, you’ll need more storage.


AAC – The Apple digital music format of choice, which is used by iTunes and the iPod range of players plus a number of other compatible devices.

Dock – A stand designed to fit portable audio players. Docks will usually play audio tracks, charge the player and provide playback controls.

MP3 –  An older digital audio format that’s suitable for portable devices, and can take original audio CD tracks and compress them to a far smaller size – around 1MB per minute.

MP4 – The successor to MP3, this digital format provides enhanced audio quality but can also support video files. If a device plays video it is often called an MP4 player.

WMA – A digital audio format developed by Microsoft® and supported by many audio devices, but not by the iPod. iTunes can however convert WMA files to Apple’s AAC format.

Watts RMS – A measure of speaker output power: the higher the number, the louder the speaker. An RMS measure is a good indication of output power as it’s over a sustained period rather than just peak output.

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