with files from HANNAH JAMES
Forget what industry heavies are saying. Digital music is the future of music. Lawsuits and zealous legislators might grab the headlines, but the success of sites like Apple's iTunes Music Store (10 million downloads and counting) and upcoming Canadian music downloading site Puretracks proves that MP3s are here to stay.
MP3 players come in every shape and size, with capacities ranging from a couple of hours' worth of music to entire collections. How to choose?
Flash-based players are generally smaller but have less capacity. Hard-drive players are larger and more expensive but can hold massive amounts of music. Software is comparable, and all but the cheapest offer excellent sound.
Note that there's more in store. Next week sees the release of the Philips HDD (www.philips.com), which holds 15 GB of music and lets you record your own MP3 files. It's a rocket.
Still overwhelmed? Here's a starting point.
Appearing now in a 50 Cent video near you. The iPod is a thing of beauty. It's sleek, gorgeous and disturbingly powerful, ranging from 10 GB (2,500 songs) to 40 GB (10,000 songs). Now available for Windows. Come on, you want one. $439-$729 at CPUsed (488 Dupont, 416-533-2001).
CREATIVE NOMAD JUKEBOX 3
A mid-range machine that holds 20 GB of music, uses Firewire and runs on simple software. $449 at Best Buy (147 Laird, 647-777-3196).
More compact and less powerful than Nomad's Jukebox series, this player can still hold an impressive 850 songs. For those who favour portability over power. $250 at Carbon Computing (772 Queen East, 416-535-1999).
$407 www.buy.com Are 20 hours' worth of music all you need on your MP3 player at one time? The sleek Nitrus might be just the ticket. It's as small as a flash-based player but has the speed and capacity of an entry-level hard-drive machine. Plus, it's made by one of the pioneers in portable MP3 players.
iRIVER iFP 256T
A teeny, tiny flash-based player that holds five CDs' worth of music. It's not going to make iPod users tremble with glee, but at this price more casual music fans can't lose. $299 at Golden Electronic (261 Yonge, 416-862-1925).
$390 www.jetaudio.com A small and stylish flash-based machine, with 512 MB of memory. If you need more, give up palm-sized portability and go for a hard-drive-based player.
SAMSUNG YEPP YP55V
How they cram five hours of music into this cute pen-sized player is beyond me. $299.95 at Bay Bloor Radio (55 Bloor, 416-967-1122).
Another iPod challenger designed for maximum mobility, this MP3 Sony Walkman holds 100-plus songs - more if you plug in Sony's Memory Stick. $455 at Kromer Radio (420 Bathurst, 416-920-6700).