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Portable CD Players
What is the difference between CD-R- (CD recordable) and CD-RW (CD rewritable)?
What are the benefits of going remote?
What are the considerations about button placement?
Is a lock function an anti-theft device?
What are all the different jacks used for?
How many buffer seconds are necessary?
Do rechargeable batteries last as long as the regular kind?
Can I hook up a jack with a digital recorder?
Does it matter where the jacks are located?
What is a car kit?
Is it worth investing in headphones?
What is buffer memory?
Q: What is the difference between CD-R- (CD recordable) and CD-RW (CD rewritable)?
A: Although understanding technology is often enough to cause an irregular heartbeat without any exertion, this time it's painless. CD-R discs are an "aim for the heart"; they're a one-shot deal — no recording over the first recording. CD-RW discs have more malleable personalities. They allow you to record, erase and record again, but their altered encoding means they do not play in all CD players.

Q: What are the benefits of going remote?
A: Some portable CD headphones have a small remote control pad built into the headphone cord, making it convenient to change the volume or to switch tracks. If there is no in-cord remote control, you must use the controls on the personal CD player itself. Often, players have a proprietary jack for the remote. You can only use the headphones packaged with the player, and if you want to use a better set of headphones, you'll lose the convenience of the remote control. Some manufacturers have begun building standard 1/4" mini headphone jacks into the in-cord remote controls themselves, allowing you to upgrade to better headphones without ditching the remote. Check the in-cord remote for the type of jack used if you plan to buy a better set of headphones.

Q: What are the considerations about button placement?
A: When it comes to buttons, easy access is key. Portable CD players are generally, well, portable, so most likely they will bounce around in a pocket or bag while in use. That being the case, to adjust the volume, skip back a track, skip past a track or pause, you must take the player out of its hiding place to push the right button. Has the potential to be a pain in the pocket& or bag, does it not? Some players are uniquely designed with controls that allow adjustment-by-feel. Simply reach into your pocket and feel for the right button.

Another consideration is the placement of the sound enhancement controls, such as bass boost. If you like to constantly monkey with the sound, you'll want a model that has all of the buttons grouped on the outside of the player (some have adjustment controls located inside the CD compartment).

Q: Is a lock function an anti-theft device?
A: Most high-end portable CD models have a hold or lock function. While this feature will not deter deviant behavior, it is handy for preventing accidental button-pushing while the unit is in a bag. This function works differently on some players than on others. For instance, some players have volume + and - buttons that would be locked by the hold button. A toggle wheel volume control, however, would not be locked, allowing you to adjust the volume without disengaging the hold. Consider how you will use the player before deciding which would be more convenient for you.

Q: What are all the different jacks used for?
A: All personal CD players have jacks for both an AC adapter and a set of headphones. Other personal CD players have a separate line-out jack as well. If you plan to use your CD player at home plugged into your home stereo unit, you'll want a separate line-out jack. This jack is a fixed output, which means the volume level is steady and would be controlled by whatever you plug it into, such as a receiver. The volume control of your CD player regulates the signal fed to the headphone output, but has no effect on the level of the line output. This way, you only have to worry about one volume control.

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Q: How many buffer seconds are necessary?
A: A 40- or 45-second buffer is absolutely necessary if you'll be using it while jogging; anything less and the player will eventually skip. A 10-second memory should be sufficient for car use, but bear in mind the inevitability of road bumps. If you drive in an area that develops potholes the size of your first car, you may want more buffer.

Q: Do rechargeable batteries last as long as the regular kind?
A: Although rechargeable batteries are cost-effective, they do not last as long on a single charge as single-use alkaline or lithium-ion batteries. Nickel-metal hydride (NiMh) formulations have more staying power than their nickel-cadmium (NiCad) brethren. Whether you're using the single-use or rechargeable variety, it pays to have extras for battery emergencies.

Q: Can I hook up a jack with a digital recorder?
A: Yes, a few portable CD players have a separate digital output jack. This digital output, however, is not a standard optical or coaxial output, but a smaller proprietary jack that fits on the rim of a personal CD player. You'll need a special digital adapter cable in order to connect it to equipment with standard coaxial or optical digital connectivity.

Q: Does it matter where the jacks are located?
A: All jacks are located on the spine somewhere some on the rear of the unit, some on the side and some on the front. Jack location is important, depending on where the player is stored while in use. Most CD storage bags have room for the player as well as some discs. Generally, they have a small zipper that allows cables plugged into the unit to feed through.

If you plan to keep the player in a pocket, you'll probably orient the player so that the headphone jack faces up, toward the opening of the pocket. In this case, it makes sense to look for a player whose volume control is near the headphone jack. Otherwise, this control will be down inside the pocket where it's difficult to reach and susceptible to inadvertent adjustments as the player shifts inside the pocket.

Q: What is a car kit?
A: A car kit includes a cigarette lighter power adapter and a cassette adapter. Shaped like a cassette, the adapter plugs into your car cassette player, allowing you to play CDs from a portable player through your existing car system. Some car kits also include a dashboard mount to secure your portable player in the passenger compartment.

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Q: Is it worth investing in headphones?
A: Yes. The headphones supplied with most portable players are cheapies; you're paying for the player, not the phones. Typically, you'll want to purchase a better set of headphones to get the best possible sound from your player.

Q: What is buffer memory?
A: To combat skipping, many portable CD players incorporate a buffer memory that stores (depending on make and model) up to 45 seconds of audio as a CD plays. When the player is bumped or jostled, it temporarily reads the contents of the buffer so playback can continue uninterrupted while the laser assembly regains its bearings. Buffer memory is referred to by many names, including anti-skip protection, anti-shock protection, ESP (Philips' acronym for Electronic Skip Protection) and ESP2 (Sony's acronym for Electronic Sound Protection). Whatever you call it, be aware that it will drain your batteries quickly when engaged. This feature can be disabled to conserve battery power when you're using the player in a more stable environment.