When you buy an MP3 player, you usually get MP3 software for your PC with it. Often, though, there are shortcomings with this software, like having to register it to keep using it – Diamond’s Rio suffers from this. You can, though, buy separate MP3 software, and eJay’s MP3 Station Plus offers a lot for a surprising low outlay.
MP3 Station Plus can encode your music as MP3 without restriction and can then maintain a database of your chosen tracks and build playlists for any occasion. It’s pretty good on the encoding side and you can pick any data rate from 32 to 320kbit/s, depending on how you’re going to use the MP3 files. It encodes quickly, faster than playing the track in real time, at its default rate of 128kbit/s.
Once you’ve made up a playlist, you can play it back from your PC or burn a CD from within the program. The one feature you can’t perform, which you might think essential, is uploading the tracks to an MP3 player. The reason for this is the variety of connections and memory card formats different players use. It would be good to have facilities for the most common players, though, so you could use the same software for all your MP3 work.
There are a few interesting extras in the product. There’s a built-in track title database, for instance, which calls up track lists for over 100,000 albums. This database can be updated for free over the Internet.
Then there’s the Music Animator. This is a visual lightshow, based on the kind of frequency histograms you see on many hi-fi equalisers. The animator takes the concept further, with about 30 different special effects to give visual interpretation of your music. You can blow the display up to full screen, too, and it would be interesting at parties, if you happen to have a digital projector lying around.
If you use Dance eJay 2 or its Techno Edition cousin, installing MP3 Station Plus automatically updates the programs to add MP3 export options to them. Apart from uploading to players, MP3 Station Plus is pretty much a one-stop-shop for MP3 tracks. It’s reasonably priced and easy to use.
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