By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch

Oct. 17, 1999

Other software providers are competing with MP3 technology.

Real Networks offers RealAudio, AT&T touts a2b and Liquid Audio promotes Liquid Tracks.

Microsoft has unveiled the latest version of its Media Player and a new Windows Media audio format that stores music in smaller files that are smaller than MP3 files. They all do about the same thing: compress and, in some cases, encrypt digital music files.

The most common players are:

RealJukebox from RealNetworks

This player, a companion to the well-known Real Player G2, plays MP3s, Liquid Music and RealAudio tracks. It will play them in any order from a playlist you create from CD recordings or from the Internet.

Its display resembles Windows' Explorer tree, and it uses the drag-and-drop method to create playlists.

RealJukebox can be upgraded for $29.95 with one year of free upgrades.

MusicMatch Jukebox

This jukebox will not play Real tracks or Liquid tracks. But it will convert your old vinyl records and analog cassette tapes to MP3 files. Check the back of your computer for an audio-in jack; it should be next to the headphone jack. If you have one, you can get a simple patch cord and connect the output of your stereo to your computer. Then you can digitize that old 'Frampton Comes Alive" album. MusicMatch can be upgraded to full-CD-quality sound for $19.95 with lifetime free upgrades.

More common player-only programs:

Windows Media Player

http://www.windowsmedia. com

The device plays audio and video in MP3s and other common Windows formats, including Microsoft's new WMA format. It will not play Liquid or Real tracks.

The Liquid Audio player

This unit will play Liquid Tracks and, in its next version, MP3s and Real tracks. But it won't play CDs or rip tracks from them. This is a different technology than MP3. It started as a secure form and was embraced early by the record industry. You either pay for these files, typically 99 cents to $1.99, or they expire and become unplayable at a preset time.


Similar in many ways to MusicMatch, it will play several formats besides MP3, including Microsoft's WMA files, but not Liquid or Real. And it won't rip CDs. It will, however, play Shoutcast audio from the Internet. Shoutcast is radio, essentially, that uses MP3 technology to 'stream,' or play, audio in real time.


More places to find MP3 players

Places to download music


Places to search for music