Sansa Clip

In late March, I bought a Sansa Clip mp3 player, at long last. It’s made by Sandisk. It is pretty sweet. I like it a lot. It was $60 at Best Buy (and other, online stores) for the 4 GB version, which was only $10 more than the 2 GB version, so obviously I sprung for the higher one. I used the $50 gift card my aunt gave me for my birthday, and I bought an armband designed specifically for the Sansa Clip, for $20, along with it.

It’s called a Clip because it is designed to be their “exercising” mp3 player, with a clip on the back to fit into various armbands that are out there. (And, as I found out accidentally in a fit of panic, the clip is removable and re-insertable!) It also has flash memory (obviously) so it doesn’t skip when you’re running, and it’s really small. I think it’s comparable to an iPod Nano.

I bought an mp3 player other than an iPod for a few reasons. First and foremost, with the last firmware update, it can play Ogg vorbis and FLAC files, which I have quite a few of and which all music players should support. Ogg is a free and open-source alternative to the mp3 audio compression codec, and FLAC (free lossless audio codec) is basically the free and open-source alternative to .wav files. FLAC files are awesome because you can compress them a lot or a little&#8212though never as much as .ogg or .mp3 files&#8212and the sound is still identical to the original, uncompressed file from the CD. Compression level does not affect the sound at all. The only reason you would ever compress a FLAC file to anything other than its smallest size is because greater compression takes longer, so if you have hundreds of files and little time to convert them, you might choose the quicker compression. Hardly ever an issue for anyone.

Also, entirely besides the convenience of the Sansa Clip’s ability to play the FLAC files that I have on my computer, I wanted to reward the company that goes to extra lengths to support FOSS software. Samsung, Apple, and Microsoft apparently see no need to do that, and in fact they might think it to their benefit to promote the use of DRM-protected software*. I have no interest in giving my money to a company that can’t be bothered to provide support for two common FOSS file types, especially companies with as much money and resources as those three. (*Apple’s new non-DRM-protected mp3 files are a good start, but supporting more file types is better than fewer.)

The only other brand of mp3 players I read about that plays Ogg and FLAC files is Cowon, but they didn’t have any good, cheap options that I could find.

The second major reason I bought the Sansa Clip was that it isn’t an iPod. Everyone and their pet gecko has an iPod. I wanted something different. As long as it wasn’t clearly a worse product. And, based on the reviews of the Sansa Clip, my experience with it the last three weeks, and the aforementioned FOSS file support, it is as good as I had hoped. I am completely satisfied with it. I can only think of one flaw, which is in their list of bugs to fix: podcasts can’t be added to the “Go List” (the impromptu playlist that you can create on the spot). That hasn’t been a problem so far because on the occasions when I want to listen to several podcasts consecutively, they are usually all from the same program or symposium, so they are already grouped in their own folder by the Sansa Clip, so I just start at the first one and they play in order.

Yes, my desire to have something that few people have is essentially the same as the desire of emo teenagers to lash out at “society” and be non-conformist. So what, it resulted in me getting a great mp3 player for cheap, so apparently it’s a good strategy.

The third major reason, which ties in with my anti-iPod sentiment and is equally important, was the iPod’s requirement to use iTunes. I don’t use iTunes on my MacBook, I don’t have much music on my MacBook, and I certainly neither have nor want iTunes on my Ubuntu desktop computer (there is no iTunes for Linux, thankfully). iTunes is a terrible music program. It’s inconvenient, bulky, counterintuitive. I hate iTunes with a burning, searing, crippling passion. My loathing for iTunes is unmatched by that of Ahab for the white whale. It is 99% of the reason I don’t put much music onto my MacBook or listen to music on it very often.

The last reason I chose the Sansa Clip was its price. $60 for this mp3 player, even if it only last for a couple years, is a fantastic deal. So far I’m certainly getting my money’s worth.

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