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Best of Tunes

by Kim T. Anderson

After years of using audio gadgets, I’ve found a sweet spot that’s simple, small, convenient, and relatively cheap. The unit has stood out among the many I’ve used for active sports like running and mountain biking. It may not, however, be the best choice for platform diving.

  I started out using different cassette players in the 80’s, moved to the ever-skipping CD player in the 90’s, found the first mp3 players at the start of this century, and finally moved to the iPod Nano a few years ago.  My nirvana moment came with the newest version of the iPod Shuffle this year.

The Shuffle is simple. It only has one main button--an on/off switch-- and a continuous play or shuffle switch.  It’s the size of a stamp and weighs as little as one bite from a PowerBar. The whole device is really just one big clip but that’s also its genius because it’s so convenient. I hook mine on my shirt, the earpiece of my sunglasses, or the lobe of my ear when I’m running without a shirt.  I usually try to use that last method when my teenage daughter has her friends over, which makes her proud that I’m her father.The cost of the Shuffle is roughly $80 and it can be purchased at many local stores and everywhere on the Internet. 

The software to load the Shuffle, iTunes, works on Apple and Windows as a free download.  If you are a beginner with iTunes, contact your closest daycare center and they’ll contract with one of their children to walk you through the setup process.

One of the bonuses of using iTunes is the ability to download great listening materials that are free…and legal. Really. They’re called podcasts, which are audio episodes of just about everything. There are hours of podcasts for athletes.

The Shuffle's memory comes in at one gig—that holds approximately 240 songs.  Meanwhile, the battery, which is not replaceable, delivers about 12 hours of continuous play. The unit can be recharged on its dock about 400 times.

For me, the main negative of the Shuffle is the inability to see my song list while working out.  If I want to get to a specific song or section, I need to fast-forward through each tract.

Can you find other units that are cheaper or have more features for the money? Yes, but when you factor in the simplicity and convenience, it’s hard to beat the iPod Shuffle. Now I just want an XM Radio player medically inserted behind my ear.  

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