I didn't intend to buy myself anything for my birthday this year, but I ended up replacing an MP3 player. The old one finally expired, and I am apparently unable to live without one -- I made it about three days before logging onto Amazon and buying another.

I don't have much brand loyalty, except when it comes to portable electronics. I do appalling things to them, especially music players. I am a one-woman extended consumer stress test Trial By Fire for those. I need the kind of gizmos that can be thrown into a knapsack, dragged across the whole of Middle Earth, on foot and on horseback, through sun, wind, rain, snowy mountain passes, and armies of orcs, hurled into the fires of Mordor, and fished out again with maybe some minor cosmetic damage to the case. I will happily take low-end, simple-minded devices, as long as they have the basic function I'm aiming for, and are close to impossible to destroy.

The late MP3 player was a Sansa Clip+ , and so is the new one. I will cry when SanDisk stops making these things, although I'll probably do it while paying for the replacement model. I am more than happy to give SanDisk money for pretty much any kind of tiny solid-state storage anything. They've achieved the trifecta of "cheap, working, indestructible", an honor I formerly reserved exclusively for Memorex portable CD players. (I had one that worked flawlessly for eight years before I finally gave it to someone else.) I think they secretly make their Cruzer USB drives out of vibranium. The Clip+ players are a little better disguised, inasmuch as the buttons are plastic. The previous one survived two years -- which is a goddamn long time for my music players -- of the following:

  • Being jammed into or clipped onto an assortment of things for travel, including but not limited to: Pants pockets, coat pockets, purses, messenger bags, shopping bags, bra cups and straps, newsie caps, watch bands, the hair tie on the end of a braid, and if I really ran out of other places to put it, the elastic waistband on a pair of string bikini panties.
  • Going absolutely everywhere with me, excepting the shower and swimming pools, but including the bathtub, when it was pinned to the side of the twisted pile of hair on top of my head.
  • Getting dropped onto industrial tile or open concrete, in excess of, at a conservative estimate, nine bajillion times.
  • Getting dropped into puddles, spilled on, or caught in the rain, at least a couple dozen times.
  • Being run almost continuously for up to 16 hours (8 hours of sleeping with earbuds in because the neighbors wouldn't shuddup + 8 hour work shift) a day.
  • Being repeatedly plugged into, and repeatedly unplugged from, a Win/Lin PC, a Macbook, and a variety of wall and car doohickeys, for both data transfer and charge time.
  • Being used as a MicroSD card reader for transferring things onto an R4 flash RAM card for NDS, because I was too cheap and lazy to go buy a USB card reader when I already had one like right there.
  • Moving across the continent.
  • Being endlessly fiddled with as I wandered blindly around Boston, trying to figure out where exactly the T stops were in relation to one another.

And the part that finally died was an intermittent solder joint in the output jack, always the weakest link in portable audio equipment. Which was probably my fault, for continually trying to catch the thing by the headphone cord whenever I dropped it. The headphone plug actually snaps firmly into place on these, so that works like a charm, right up until the one time it doesn't.

The Sansas are just smart enough to do what I tell them and nothing else. You can set them up to sync with Windows Media Player, Winamp or one of the iTunes clones, but the player itself is drag-and-drop, and in Windows at least, you can right click and make a simple playlist with the context menu. It reads ID3 tags strictly for display; since it doesn't try to categorize things for you, it doesn't make any idiotic category mistakes. My Doctor Who audios are listed as Audiobooks or Podcasts according to which folder I dumped them in. Audiobooks and Podcasts resume playback wherever you left off; Podcasts also ask if you'd rather go back to the beginning. It's too simple-minded to be confused by AlbumWrapped things. It supports Unicode; the default firmware has fonts for Western alphabets, Trad/Simplified Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Thai (confirmed by my own extensive and strange music library), and apparently there's an international firmware that also has the fonts for Arabic and Hebrew, but I haven't bothered.

My only quibble is that the pack-in earbuds are terrible. (Other people have complained about the USB cable, which is only long enough for both plugs and the standard anti-interference core. I actually appreciate that -- where else are you going to get a free 4" cable that doesn't snag everything else in your bag?) The sound quality is actually surprisingly good for a $35 gadget, especially if you mess with the equalizer, but you'd never know it if you used the buds that come in the package. My personal recommendation, continuing along the theme of "cheap shit that works and doesn't self-destruct", are these guys. They're $10 (or less!), have a frequency response of 18Hz-22kHz (read: bass does not suck), and, while I have managed to demolish several pairs, I always do it by being stupid and trying to forcibly yank them out from under a heavy object without checking first. The wires run a short distance through the candy-colored plastic things, which in normal non-idiot use makes them resistant to the spontaneously pulling apart, like I've had some do.

Imma go wreck my hearing while doing wardrobe tests. Video shoot tomorrow! Whee.


  1. This is the most helpful product review I have *ever* read.

    1. I could really just condense that down into "have one, they're cheap and they don't break." I could write the exact same review for the Toshiba laptop (4 years, countless miles, simpleminded but still working) and the Samsung phone (7 years, so stupid it doesn't even have a camera, not broken yet). Give me a few years and I'll be posting the same thing about the 3G Kindle.


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