A long time ago I decided to get half-way on the bandwagon and bought a little MP3 player with a built-in radio. It’s nice, but Cindy has used it more than I have and she has used it more as a radio than as an MP3 player. A major part of the reason is that it’s just too small. 128MB is only enough for a couple of CDs worth at any decent bitrate, and that’s not much variety. Basically it’s useful to listen to a specific CD, but not as a “take it along just in case” kind of thing.

This time around I wanted a similar physical size but a larger capacity. Cindy and I have a 20-CD wallet that we’ve been taking on car trips just about forever, and it seems to provide plenty of variety. Doing the math, that works out to around 1GB, so that’s the size I went for. I also wanted a radio and voice recorder, even though I’m not likely to use them often, and USB2 for faster file transfers because the player I already have is only USB1 and frustratingly slow. As I looked around at the various options in this niche, the iAudio (also known as Cowon) products stood out as providing better capacity and functionality than most brands at the same price. There were many options to choose from, but I eventually settled on the G3 because it was one of the cheapest options that met my criteria (at about $120) and also boasted an impressive battery life. In fact, I’ve been using mine quite a bit for a few weeks now and I have yet to replace the battery that came with it. The other thing that seemed notable was the mention of a higher-than-usual output wattage for better sound, and it seems to work. I’m no audiophile but even I can tell that the sound on this unit is excellent compared to most portables. I can crank up Red Delicious’s Casualties or Live’s Lightning Crashes to levels that are almost painful, and it never sounds either tinny (the most common problem) or washed-out. At first I wasn’t sure whether it was the unit itself or the included earphones that were better than I was used to, so I did some experiments with other components on each end and it’s both. Either component used with something else won’t be as good as the two used together.

So we have excellent battery life and sound, decent capacity and a very convenient form factor. What’s left? Downloading files was dirt-simple, and the controls (including navigation of all those CDs I downloaded) are very intuitive. There’s line-in and FM recording, which I’m unlikely to use but not universal in this category and nice to see as extras. That’s about it. In short, I’ve been delighted with this purchase and wanted to share my positive experience with others.