16 things which piss me off about my beautiful, bouncing new iPod.

1. Come on, admit it: the sound quality on a CD is still appreciatively better. Listening to MP3s works fine on headphones, but on a decent set of hi-fi speakers, their weaknesses become cruelly exposed. OK, so you could encode at a higher bitrate, but then you’d lose storage capacity – and as someone with an abnormally high appetite for music, capacity is something I’m not too happy to lose. So I compromise on 160, and put up with the consequences. (This also means that I won’t be giving up on CD purchases any time soon.)

2. Those crappy little “please mug me now” white headphones. Don’t use ’em. Instead, I’ve plugged in the super-comfy, hi-fi quality Sennheiser headphones which K’s sister gave me for my 40th birthday.

3. Damn, but these things scratch easily! After less than a week’s use, my machine already looked like a beaten-up piece of ancient old kit. Hence the need to purchase a matinee jacket (see #16 in the post below) for a whopping extra nineteen quid.

4. But then the iPod won’t fit onto its cradle, or onto the docking port on the external speakers, with its matinee jacket still on. Meaning a whole lot of squeezing and shoving on a daily basis, meaning still more scratches in the process.

5. That bloody AAC format. By default, iTunes encodes your CDs not as MP3s, but as AAC files with an M4U suffix. Which wouldn’t bother me unduly, except that I use something called Mixmeister to make proper DJ-mixed compilations, and Mixmeister doesn’t recognise the format. OK, so you can change the default setting in iTunes, and you can convert your existing AAC files into MP3s. But the file conversion process takes a fair amount of time, and I’m spending long enough mucking around with iTunes as it is.

6. That bloody “Alternative/Punk” genre. If it’s got electric guitars on it, and if it’s anything more leftfield than, I dunno, Bon Bloody Jovi or something, then iTunes decides that it’s “Alternative/Punk”. Even Keane! (Yes, OK, OK, I know what I said about them. But Somewhere Only We Know is still a good song in anyone’s book. Except maybe this person’s.)

7. I don’t see why the backlight shouldn’t stay switched on by default, whenever the iPod is connected to the mains. Because I’m rapidly tiring of wandering over to squnt at the thing. At my time of life!
Update: Aha, so there’s a setting which you can change, is there? Good. Fixed it. Take it all back.

8. When a song title is too long for the display screen, the iPod will scroll it across the screen in “marquee” mode. Except that by doing so, it renders the song title almost illegible. And it doesn’t even attempt to do the same thing for artist and album titles, which remain stubbornly truncated.

9. What to do about “standalone” MP3s, which don’t belong with any album? If you leave the original album title on the track information, then your album list becomes cluttered up with “phantom” albums which you don’t actually own. But if you go to all the trouble of replacing the album titles with something like “Misc 2004”, then you lose the information entirely. (I’ve ended up cutting and pasting album titles into the comments.)

10. Click-wheel fatigue. Ooh, I’m just in the mood for some Yo La Tengo. Well, don’t give yourself RSI of the thumb in the process. And are you quite sure you wouldn’t rather listen to Air instead?

11. When selecting an album (or playlist) on Shuffle, the iPod still starts by playing Track 1. Which really is something of a fundamental design flaw, wouldn’t you say?

12. When playing a mix album, the iPod inserts a short but all-too-noticeable gap between the tracks, thus fatally disrupting the flow…

13. …whereas iTunes fades tracks into each other just before they’ve finished, causing similar disruption in the opposite direction.

14. The iTrip needs a strong signal, and full battery power, in order to transmit the iPod’s signal to your radio. Anything less, and the background hiss becomes too great. Which means that it’s a complete dud in the car after the first 10 minutes or so. Which means that I’m looking at purchasing yet another accessory to connect the iPod to the car’s power supply.

15. Using the iTrip to connect with the hi-fi system in our holiday villa over the past week, we found that it worked absolutely fine for about 90% of the tracks. However, the other 10% contained some particular bass frequency which distorted the sound horribly. Which you don’t want when you’re trying to relax with a gin and tonic of an early evening.

16. You find yourself drawn, quite against your will, into the scary world of MP3 Player Politics. Darlings, have you seen the comments box attached to my previous, rather more enthusiastic post? There are detailed, point-by-point refutations in there, in amongst all manner of disproportionately abrupt surliness and point-scoring superiority. (Apparently, I’m a gullible dupe of the corporate capitalist conspiracy, or something. Well, aren’t we all.)

Smelling something of a rat (just who were all these strange new names?), I checked my stats, only to discover something of a traffic spike in my absence. It turns out that I have been comprehensively rubbished on a message board which is hosted by the makers of a rival product – complete with personal abuse, amateur psychoanalysis, and sniggering references to my sexuality. And all this over an MP3 player which, whatever choice is made, will doubtless be considered hopelessly obsolete in a couple of years’ time?

As Michael Bywater says in his admirable little tome Lost Worlds (my constant pool-side companion over the past week):

Choice perplexes us. It puts the burden on us, so instead of shrugging and making the best of it, we traduce ourselves for our failure to make the right choice. A European, a Japanese or an American wanting to buy a camera faces an appalling task of discernment, in an area which he or she is probably no expert (the difference being that he thinks he is), being thrown to the mercy of salespeople who are working to an unknown agenda, and one may be sure that, whatever they eventually come out with, there will be plenty of evidence to suggest that they made the wrong choice.

Well, quite.

See also:
Letters #2 to #4 in The Guardian’s Online section: iRiver posse kicks ass.

Escape From Blogland: They need our help
Santiago Dreaming: To iPOD Or Not To iPOD

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