Over the years, I have amassed quite an album collection. My love of music started when I was a teenager, and I had over 500 LP records by the time CDs were invented. I've also always been a gadget guy, so it didn't take me long to get a CD player and hundreds of CDs. Then came MP3s, and the years long (and still ongoing) project of burning over 1,500 CDs onto my computer's hard drive for convenience.
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Now I have over 70 Gigs of music (yes, that's over 1,500 albums) on my hard drive (and yes it's backed up onto 2 more portable drives). Thanks to iTunes Music Software and the Apple iPod Classic, I can easily carry and listen to all 1,500! This year my Christmas present to myself (well, that and a nice check from Epinions for reviews like this one) was a new MP3 player, since my old 20 gig Samsung player broke.
Why the Apple iPod Classic?
I have to tell you, I loved the ultra cool, fun to play with iPod Touch. The touch screen was sweet and intoxicating. My problem with it? The largest one holds a scant 32 gigabytes. Sure I could put half my album collection on it, but who do I tell to stay behind? Sorry Mr. Vai, I can't bring all your albums with me. Ozzy, your later albums just didn't make the cut. Mr. Young, I could only take half your albums. Well I just couldn't envision the beat down I would take when I told the members of Metallica that St. Anger and the Load and Reload albums weren't coming along.
The solution was clear, I would have to give up a little bit of whiz bang- gee ain't it cool for good old fashion storage capacity. The Apple iPod collection holds One Hundred and Twenty Gigs of Storage. That's as much as my home computer! (yes it's an antique its over 2 years old). My 70 gig collection would fit on it with plenty of room for expansion. Not only that, I could put on podcasts or TV shows or books on tape, even my digital photo collection.
The Apple iPod Classic Design
The Apple iPod classic is slim, charcoal black and has a large color screen for scrolling through your albums, viewing your photographs or watching a TV show, music video or movie you've downloaded to it.
Apples and iTunes
The iPod classic is designed to SYNC with iTunes on your computer. Just plug in the apple proprietary cable into your iPod and the other end into your computers USB port, and you can synchronize all the files that are in your iTunes library onto your iPod. I did that and only a couple hours later, my iPod was loaded. It does take a long time to load 70 gigs of songs onto the iPod. Later, when I burn more CDs onto my iTunes library and sync the iPod again, it sees the new CDs and adds those to. This works for albums you ripped yourself and albums you purchased from the iTunes store. However, the iPod can only sync to ONE library. I plugged it into another computer and a message came up saying that if I wanted to sync it to that library, the old library would be deleted. You can't just put your library and two of your closest file sharing friend's libraries onto your iPod. Subsequent syncing sessions don't take long after your main library is loaded.
You may also manually load only artists, albums, TV shows etc. that you select to your iPod.
iTunes Organization on the iPod Classic
Okay, I will be the first to admit that I am very anal retentive when it comes to my movie and music organization. Albums are in alphabetical order by artist and chronological by album. You will find AC/DC Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap at the beginning of my rock collection and ZZ Top's Rhythmeen at the end. (what, Abba's Greatest Hits is at the beginning?, no way, that's not mine). Classical, blues, jazz and books on tape are in similar order. Classical is organized by composer, not performer. iTunes lets me come close to my own organization. I can organize by genre, to quickly locate jazz, blues, opera etc. However, I mainly have my collection organized in the Albums by Artist format. iTunes lets me have all my artists in alphabetical order and the albums in chronological order. I did have to change the artist/album tags on my classical for this to work, otherwise, to listen to Beethoven, I have to look under Karajan, Ozawa and Norrington to find my collection of Symphonies. (The only exception to this is exceptional performers like pianist Vladimir Horowitz or mezza soprano Cecilia Bartoli. I have them listed under their own names rather than whose works they perform).
Herein lies the problem. On iTunes on the iPod, you cannot organize via artist album! By artist will do okay, but any song on other albums appears under artist, making it confusing. Furthermore, the albums are listed in Alphabetical order under the artists. Animals is the first album listed under Pink Floyd (after the All Songs category), instead of Piper at the Gates of Dawn. The iTunes on the iPod doesn't have as many ways to organize as the iTunes on my computers. A minor inconvenience for most, but annoying to me. Songs at least are in the track number that they appear on the original album. My classical performances are scattered because on my computer they were organized by the Album Artist tag. I have to go back and change the artist tag to the composer rather than the conductor and symphony orchestra so that I can tell my Bizet from my Beethoven.
Compilation albums thankfully are in their own subcategory (separate from album or artist category), so a collection of Blues songs isn't spread under the subheading of 20 plus blues artists, but conveniently located under Compilations in their respective compilation album by alphabetical order. Atlantic Blues, Chess Blues, etc. You still have to scroll through other compilations though, like The Best of Brasil, Hitsville USA the Motown Classics.
With some work on the tags in my iTunes library on my computer, I am sure that the organization on my iPod classic will get better. The iPod does not use all the tags that are on iTunes 8, so even if your iTunes 8 library is organized to your liking on your computer, it may not translate perfectly to the iPod classic. You can also only edit tags on the computer, not from the iPod.
One thing I love about the iPod is that it is SOOO EASY to use. Hit menu and scroll by turning the wheel to how you want to look up your music. Album, Artist, Song etc. If you select album, all your albums are in alphabetical order by album title! Each time you hit the center enter button, you "drill down" into categories. So if you select artist, the first enter brings you to album, then scroll to select an album and enter to pick one, then scroll to the song you want etc. Hit Menu to back up to the previous screen. At the sides you can move forward or backwards, and the bottom button on the scroll wheel plays, pauses or shuts off the iPod. It could not be simpler. I was surprised at how fast or slow the scroll feature worked. It can sense when you want to move from A-Z quickly or just through the M's as you try to locate Michelle Branch from between Michael Schenker Group and Midnight Oil. (Yes the iPod alphabetizes by first name, so unless you go through ALL your artist tags and change them to Branch, Michelle, get used to looking everyone up by first name)
Over a dedicated home stereo system, the sound is good, but it is easily outshined by the original CDs. You sacrifice quality for convenience with an iPod. (unless you encode everything in a lossless codec, but that would use up lots more space and defeat the idea of carrying your entire collection on one 120 gig iPod classic). I have found that I am perfectly happy listening over my office stereo at casual listening volumes, and in my car. Where the iPod really shines though is with a good pair of headphones. I hate the little earbuds the iPod comes with, and I use a pair of Koss Porta Pros. It adds a sense of depth and bass to MP3s that makes it sound like the bands are right in your head. Combine your iPod classic with a good pair of headphones, and take your entire album collection to go!
Other Uses / Where to Use
You can watch TV Shows on the subway! iTunes sells many TV shows for $1.99 or $20-$30 bucks for the season for download to iTunes that can be synced onto your iPod. Let the other riders wonder why you are laughing hysterically as you watch Larry David bumble his way through a season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. You can download podcasts by folks like Ricky Gervais (creator of The Office) or store all your vacation photos to show your friends. (Those grandkids sure look cute, let me show YOU 2 gigabytes of my vacation to the Galapagos!) You can use it to store all your books on tape and be motivated by Anthony Robbins or Steven Covey as you drive to work or listen to meditative music as you sit by the ocean. It also has alarms built in (wake up to music), a calendar and a clock in case you forget what day or time it is, and some games. I love the music trivia game that uses your own album collection to quiz you.
I use this at the gym, but I wouldn't recommend this one if you use it for mobile exercise. In other words, when I ride the stationary bike or use the Natilus machines, the iPod can sit next to me while I work out. If, on the other hand, I put it in my pocket and then played racquet ball, it would skip due to all the movement. It is just fine for walking, but not for jogging. The iPod is also not ideal for use in the gym pool or hottub, it is not waterproof.
The Apple iPod Classic is an ideal way for music lovers to carry around large album collections. It is easy to use, easy to sync with your whole music and video library on iTunes and sounds good, especially with a good pair of headphones. Despite some of my minor annoyances with it, overall the iPod Classic is a five star product.
Black Leather Case (to protect your iPod)
Rocketfish AV Cable (to plug your iPod into your stereo)
Cassette Adapter (to plug your iPod into your car)
Car Charger (to charge your iPod in your car)
iPod Kicker (a boom box for your iPod)