Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Audio Success!

Two new audio players for the TT have been released this week. Both use a universal file format and play from the expansion memory. The file format they use is not MP3, but Ogg. Ogg is a rival to MP3. It is meant to get better compression with higher sound quality and is a free and open standard, so software and hardware companies making Ogg players do not need to pay a licencing fee (as they do for MP3 players).

Anyway, you can find out about the Ogg format here, and downlaod free WAV-to-Ogg converters. I decided to run the same test as I did for Audio Plus (see below): I ripped an audio book (or part thereof) to WAV and then encoded that as an ogg file. The WAV file for 23 minutes of speaking was 248mb, which compressed to 11mb of ogg at quality level 1 with a nominal bitrate of 80kbps. The default for music is level 4 (128kbps), and the range -1 to 10 (500kbps). The encoding took about 20 minutes on my P2 laptop.

The player I decided to test is Pocket Tunes, because it looked to have a good feature set (the one downside is that it is skinnable and the skins are huge files). It only costs $5 up until the end of the year, which must be better than waiting for Real to finish their player and install spyware on your Palm.

Anyway, playing quality is excellent - playing through the TT speaker it was as good as a portable FM radio, through headphones rather better (and remember, I did a low quality compression). Pocket Tunes allows you to control the basic functions (start, stop, select, and volume) through the navigator pad and can turn the screen off after a customizable delay, leaving just the LED flashing. It allows you to build up play lists very easily on the Palm. I have never used an MP3 player, so cannot compare it, but my first reaction is that this does everything you expect. Here are some screenshots:

PocketTunesseparatorPocket Tunesseparator