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'Technogadget Guy' Ed Curran Reviews MP3 Players

Aired August 2, 2000 - 2:39 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Since the Napster lawsuit that we told you so much about hit the headlines, we've been hearing an awful lot about MP3. Now MP3 allows us to download music from the Internet, and it is so hot we hear it's surpassed pornography as the No. 1 download from the Internet.

One drawback to MP3: Once we download, most of us can only listen to the tunes over our computer, but that's changing fast. More now about all this from our "technogadget guy," Ed Curran, our regular Wednesday techno guest.

Ed, tell us a little bit about what you've got today?

ED CURRAN, TECHNOGADGET GUY: Well you're absolutely right, Lou. I mean, in the past, the most searched term on the Internet was sex. Now, it's MP3, and they estimate that in 1999 there were about a billion downloads of these files.

Now what is an MP3? What's important to remember a couple of years ago, if you wanted to download audio on the Internet, to download an average song might have taken you 45 minutes to an hour. Today with MP3, you're taking the size of a song and cutting it down to about a 12th of its original size by cutting out some of the things your ear can't "see," and compressing it and sending it over the Internet.

With today's faster modems, it means that you can download a song in what used to take you 45 minutes or an hour, you can download a song with a regular modem in about 15 minutes, and with today's DSL services and faster Internet services, download a song in just a minute or so.

Now, here are some of the cool players you can use. This is from RCA. It's called the Lyra. And it can play back up to an hour of near CD-quality audio.

It's really cool. All of your stuff is on this little card here. This card is a 64 megabyte card. And again, for highest quality audio, you figure about a megabyte per minute. So this is 64 meg, which means it'll give you about an hour of audio here.

The Lyra from RCA is able to do not only MP3 but also an audio format that a lot people are familiar with on the Internet called Real Audio G2. And this sells down below $200 for the Lyra, and for the one we have here with 64 megabytes of memory, it sells for about $249.

Now, this can play an hour of CD-quality audio, but this little guy next to it from Sony can also play an hour of CD quality audio and take it with you. Can you believe the tiny size of this? I'm going to turn it on here, and notice the name of the song scrolls on the front. It says, "Hot Stuff," Donna Summer. And if I hold this up to my mike, you can hear the audio and the audio is just phenomenal.

That's Donna Summer playing off this little unit here from Sony. Again, it holds an hour of near-CD-quality audio. This is the network -- the network Walkman, and it sells for about $330: very impressive.

Now we're carrying our telephones with us. So why not carry our music with us as well? This is an Ericsson telephone, and on the bottom of it, we have an MP3 player. It also doubles as a hands-free unit for the telephone.

But this MP3 player just clips on the bottom of the telephone, and all your music is stored on this tiny little card inside of here.

WATERS: Oh my.

CURRAN: This is going to be out in the next month or so, and it will for $150 to $200. But it goes right on the bottom of your telephone and comes off. And if you get a phone call while you're listening to your music, all you have to do is press one little button and take your phone call. And that's from Ericsson.

Now, you know, the people at Casio, Lou, always put everything on your wrist, and that's what Casio does. And this is MP3 on your wrist. This is a watch from Casio, goes on your wrists, has headphones that plug into it. You can have 30 minutes worth of CD- quality on here, and it sells for about 250 bucks. Very impressive from Casio, though a little large for my wrist. I don't know, just a little large.

WATERS: Although it would make a good gift for me for Christmas, Ed.

CURRAN: OK, I'll keep that in mind.

WATERS: All right, fine.

CURRAN: Now, this -- hey, this is what I want for Christmas. This is from Creative, and it's called the Nomad Jukebox. And why do they call it a jukebox? Because this unit, which is about the size of a CD, portable CD player, has a hard disk inside. Instead of the flash card memory that a lot of these units use, it has an actual hard disk, a 6 gigabyte hard disk. So this can hold over 100 hours of music of MP3 files.

You can get on the Internet, go to a place like, find music up there, and put it on something like. And also you can take music off of CDs you currently own, put them in the MP3 format, and put them on any of these players. So it's not just downloading from the Internet. You're able to take music you already have, put it in this portable MP3 format, and take it with you. But very impressive that this unit, at a rather impressive price of $500, however, would give you the capability of 100 hours of music stored in this little unit like this.

WATERS: Ed, the question I have as you go down that line of new technology is this Napster lawsuit and if it will have any effect on any of this technology: Are record stores now a thing of the past? Is the genie out of the bottle here?

CURRAN: Well, the genie, I'm afraid, is out of the bottle. I mean, MP3 has been in use for quite some time, and the floodgates are opening. I mean, people are using this left and right.

Whether Napster is around or not, people will be trading music files, people will be taking music off of their CDs and putting them on small units like this.

I mean, that kind of legal use and also the illegal piracy that goes on is something the music industry and the software industry has had to put up with for a long, long time.

I don't think it means an end to record stores, not in the near future anyway, but it certainly is a whole new ballgame here as far as the music industry is concerned.

WATERS: Welcome to the 21st century, and thank you to Ed Curran, our technogadget man, who will join us again next Wednesday, as he does every week, from now until the end of time.



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