An Unusual Audio Device Quandary

DSC_0049.JPGJulie’s doing some skating choreography. In doing this work, she needs to be on the ice with an audio source, playing the music and instructing the skaters. We got to thinking about what kind of device she needs:

  • Audio quality is probably the lowest priority–weight and usability are the highest.
  • It shouldn’t be really heavy. Lighter is better, but probably anything over a kilogram is too much weight to haul around.
  • The controls shouldn’t be finicky. They need to be easy to operate, ideally with gloves on, but in any case with cold hands.
  • The media doesn’t really matter–it could be a flash card playing MP3s, a CD player or even an audio tape player (we still have a stereo has a tape player, specifically for skating-related stuff).

An iPod is out, because its controls are way too small and finicky. In truth, I think she needs an old-school tape player, with a handle and big chunky buttons. Do they even sell those anymore? Maybe we need to visit some pawn shops or something.

Any other suggestions? I thought it was an interesting situation, because it possibly calls for an outdated technology


  1. Check the kids section of any major department store. They’ll undoubtedly have cheap cassette or CD players for under $30. Plus, it’ll probably be shaped like Spongebob Squarepants.

  2. Not terribly helpful for you, but I just bought a tape recorder like that about 6 months ago, here in Japan, for my school. I had to order it from the electric shop. I’d ask at an electronic store. You may have to order it from a catalogue or something though.

  3. You would need a CD player type boom-box. You’ll be able to rewind or forward to the right frame in seconds. Cassette tapes are way too slow. Check out the Curtis Portable CD Radio at FutureShop.

  4. “iPod is out…” are you really really sure? The reason I ask is that the shuffle has much simpler controls than the bigger pod’s touchwheels. Five very normal buttons, collectively occupying the entire face of the thing, and relatively big and easy to differentiate.

    This same interface can be found on the remote/tuner they sell, and thanks to the plethora of remotes out there, you can have just about any feature or button layout you want.

    For example, how about this wireless remote for the iPod with 100-150 foot range? That would cover virtually all of a skating rink: set up the iPod near the boards with some speakers, and remote it from anywhere!

    The fun thing about iPods is the accessory market is so absurdly abundant that you can find just about any configuration you desire: portable speaker setups,

  5. Ryan: Yep, the iPod is out. The Shuffle has no display, so there’s no indication of where you are in the song. It’s very difficult to accurately ‘rewind’ 30 seconds, for example. Also, the audio device needs to carried, as the music shouldn’t fill the entire arena (there may be other skaters on the ice).

  6. I have an Olympus Digital Recorder and love it. It weighs less than a cell phone and the sound quality is decent. You can get them with hours of play time for under $100. If you need a PC interface with that – you might pay a little more.

    Check out London Drugs – I think they have a sale this weekend.

  7. I think that having eliminated the iPod shuffle because there’s no display and it’s hard to rewind 30s accurately, an old-style tape recorder is likely to be a case of exiting a frying pan to enter a fire.

    That said, Jeff’s suggestion of a digital recorder has merit. Barring that, the SanDisk M240 player has huge buttons and a display.

    It just so happens my Nokia 6682 (ahem) is a passable MP3 player which will push sound through the speakerphone as well. I think you will find that most current MP3-playing phones have the same feature, so that might be another route.

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