78 rpm records are possibly not the finest of choices for music on the trail

Music

Three Points of the Compass carries an android mobile phone while hiking. This does everything I want it to do. This includes playing mp3 files, it has a radio and (fairly) decent speaker. But using it for music does eat into the battery.  So, should I still also be carrying along my ‘old school’ music player on hikes?

Thankfully I no longer have to contend with my Sony Walkman in the outdoors. It was an exciting piece of kit in its time, at last, we could take our music out with us, no longer relying on radio alone and actually being able to afford one of these players. But, never mind the case itself, what about all the tapes that had to be carried along too? How many recall the hours spent making up ‘mix-tapes’ to share around? My model shown below was the Walkman FM/AM Radio Cassette Player WM-FX277, released in 2001. It operated on two AA 1.5v batteries. The daft little headphone that came with it has not survived the years, the thin foam covering to the ear pieces was never that robust. With batteries and a tape installed, and a simple pair of replacement ear buds, it weighs 248g without the horrible pouch that it came supplied with.

My Sony Walkman from a good few years ago. The combined tape player/radio was quite a bulky item and could , in no way, fit into a pocket. The rather horrible plastic wallet with belt clip was a necessity when hanging out with this and a few pals of a weekend or evening

My Sony Walkman from a good few years ago. The combined tape player/radio was quite a bulky item and could not fit into a pocket. The rather horrible plastic wallet with belt clip was a necessity when walking anywhere without a pack. There were few people, myself included, that didn’t also use the rather naff clip on belt pouch. Technology had to catch up with us as none of us really liked having this thing dangling by our side, complete with trailing headphone lead

Following on in the wake of my Walkman was my Discman, sadly, my Sony Discman never survived the years. To be honest, I was never the greatest fan of it as it skated terribly if jolted, so it ended up rarely leaving the house. ‘Jog-proof’ models followed but I never trusted them enough to buy one. I was pleased when my next step-change in portable music came along.

Sony announced the MiniDisc medium in 1991 and the first player was released just a couple of years later. Digital sound quality was good, and the storage space on each disc superior to the CDs that came before with up to 80 minutes. However, it wasn’t to be- Sony and technology generally, and the public specifically, gave up on MiniDisc players after just a few years. Sony ceased manufacture in 2013. A shame really, as my next big step saw not only a marked improvement in player memory, size and convenience, but also a drop in sound quality, though I suppose I have come to accept it these days.

The Sony MiniDisc Recorder MZ-B10 runs on two AA batteries (or mains power) and has a built microphone and speakers

The Sony MiniDisc Recorder MZ-B10 runs on two AA batteries (or mains power) and has a built microphone and speakers. Released in 2003, it has 48 hour battery life on playback. it was possible to change the recording mode and get as much as 320 minutes with an 80 minute recordable MiniDisc. Weight, with player, handstrap, two batteries, earbuds with integrated control switch and MiniDisc installed, is 248g

The World’s first commercially released personal digital mp3 player was the MP Man F10, released in March 1998, it had a 32MB memory and held around eight songs. By the time I purchased my MP Man MP-Ki (MP-FUB26) in, I think, 2004, it held an ‘awe-inspiring’ 128MB. At last, I was able to transfer more than just a few of my vinyl collection to digital files and take the music out with me. The little player, played for well over a day on one tiny AAA battery,  could be plugged straight into my PCs USB outlet, no messing about with leads necessary. My little MP Man player weighs 58g with a 1.5v AAA battery installed and a set of 17g buds.

My one surviving early mp3 player- the little MP-Ki 128 from mpman. Despite having a dire memory, this was actually a pretty good piece of kit, running, seemingly for ever, off of a single AAA battery

My one surviving early mp3 player- the little MP-Ki 128 from MP Man. Despite having a dire memory, this was actually a pretty good piece of kit, running, seemingly for ever, off of a single AAA battery.

7th generation iPod Classic

6th generation iPod Classic

Then Apple turned up and seemed to take over the mp3 market almost overnight despite being able to play many audio file formats. The first iPod was released in 2001 but I waited a few years before dipping a toe into their merchandise as they were a tad pricey compared to what else was around, and I never had a lot of money back then. My first iPod was the Classic. That had an immense 160GB memory but was a chunky, quite heavy piece of kit (140g). But in my large hands, I found the ‘click wheel’ easy to use. Introduced in 2007, they were finally put to bed in 2014. My Classic just died a death one day, the battery finally succumbing to age. So, real value for money there…

I now use a 7th generation Apple iPod Nano with 2.5″ multi-touch screen and 16 GB flash memory. This, in theory at least, gives me storage for up to 4000 music tracks, but I have it stuffed with a few seventies concept albums and various podcasts so am quite a bit under that number. But still, on a full charge, the battery supposedly gives almost 30 hours of playback, though I reckon I actually get far less than that. On the tiny screen there is also 720 x 576 video playback (3.5 hours of playback on a full charge) and I have occasionally uploaded a film or two to watch, but again, that eats into the memory. Though much larger than a 12.5g iPod Shuffle, this really is a tiny little player. However a Shuffle has no screen and is more awkward in track selection. Much of my iPod Nano’s 31.5g weight (with no buds) is down to a metal body construction.

My iPod weighs 45g including 14g ear buds

My iPod Nano weighs 45g including 14g ear buds. This is model A1446 from 2012. The buds are not Apple, I tend to go through these and use just about anything reasonably priced that I can afford to lose or have damaged, usually my replacements are Sony. There is Bluetooth capability on the Nano but I don’t use this due to the effect on battery life

Of all the iPods, I reckon this generation Nano was the most functional that I have owned. The Shuffle is diminutive, but only has 2GB storage! Other Apple models also have too many negative features to my mind. Plus, I like the screen on the Nano and I don’t have toooooo many issues with being a slave to iTunes. I can almost endure the drop in sound quality that we now all have to accept, almost…

The FM Radio on the Nano has always worked well for me and I tend to use this feature most frequently while commuting, though it does require wired buds to work. I never use the integrated pedometer as I don’t believe it.

Apple have now discontinued production of the Nano and just about every other mp3 player they have produced too, though the iPod Touch is still available as I write this page. A decent memory on those but simply too large for me to consider.

The minuscule SanDisk Clip Jam is made of plastic and comes with a clip on its reverse. FM Radio can also be played, provided ear buds are fitted to act as an aerial

The minuscule SanDisk Clip Jam is made of plastic and comes with a clip on its reverse. FM Radio can also be played, provided ear buds are fitted to act as an aerial

If I want to step away from Apple products, then I can carry the little SanDisc Clip Jam. This has a plastic body and only weighs 23.3g without buds, plus another 11g for the SanDisc buds or 14g for my usual Sony earbuds. So normally, it weighs less than 28g and I can charge it with a USB/Micro USB cable I already have with me for charging other devices. This cannot sync with iTunes but can be plugged into my PC via USB and ‘drag and drop’ music to either its 8GB internal memory of up 64GB micro SDHC memory card. The Jam has an internal battery and provides up to 18 hours playback. Again, like the iPod, the Jam supports various media formats- mp3, WMA (no DRM), AAC (DRM free iTunes), WAV and audible DRM.

My phone has, to a large extent, replaced my little musoc players. Additionally, I can watch films or recorded TV programmes on a fairly decent sized screen. This is possible to do via my iPod also, but such media is shown on a tiny screen and can deplete the storage capacity and quickly flatten a battery

My phone has, to a large extent, replaced my little music players. Additionally, I can watch films or recorded TV programmes on a fairly decent sized screen. This is possible to do on my iPod Nano also, but such media is then shown on a tiny 2.5″ screen and can deplete the storage capacity and quickly flatten the battery

The weight of a little music player is tiny today. Using buds, I can get many hours a day usage before it has to be charged up. Of course I can also listen to music on my phone, but doing so risks flattening the battery that may be required for more pressing or even urgent business. I don’t actually tend to walk while wearing buds and listening to music. I prefer to have my wits about me, listening for people behind or in front, a cycle or horse approaching from behind on mixed use paths (or, God forbid, a motorbike on a By Road). I also want to integrate myself with my surroundings, listen to the birds, the animals, the wind, the path beneath my feet. Music, podcasts, films, the mountain weather service, these are for camp.