March 01, 2005

The Shuffle Has Landed

Originally from What Do I Know, reBlogged by ts

My new 1GB iPod Shuffle arrived late last week, and it’s every bit as fantastic as I assumed it would be.

The first thing you notice about the iPod Shuffle is the size of the box it ships in — approximately the same width and height as a CD jewel case, but about an inch thick to hold the instruction book, software CD, and the Shuffle itself. Once unpacked, the Shuffle is so ridiculously light that when held you barely feel it. I expected the Shuffle to be at least the weight of a AA battery, but it’s less. Or put another way, it’s the size of a pack of gum, but much lighter. And this is the 1GB version too (the largest drive it comes with).

Despite its light weight, the Shuffle doesn’t feel flimsy or cheap. The construction is tight, and the navigational buttons are responsive and user-friendly. Some have bemoaned the lack of a display, but in the case of the Shuffle I believe less is truly more. The refreshing lack of futz, widgetry, and other stuff would only further complicate what should be a simple experience. Most people will wear the Shuffle around their neck, on their arm, or in their pocket, and would never look at a display anyhow. I admit it would be useful if you wanted to que up a specific album before placing it out of sight, but as someone who listens to music almost always in random mode, a display wouldn’t do much for me anyhow.

Speaking of random, Auto-Fill in iTunes is a dream. Plug the Shuffle in, select a particular playlist or your full library, and let iTunes do the heavy lifting. I’m now in the habit of auto-filling my Shuffle in the morning before leaving home and listening to it nearly all day. Silly, I know, but it’s actually kind of fun to see what Shuffle picks for you. I’ve honestly found myself thinking, “nice choice, Shuffle” at a good track and “where the hell did you find this?” at others. I know I know…iPods don’t have brains or moods…right?

The next time you Auto-Fill, iTunes overwrites your previous fill with a fresh batch. The whole process takes about 3 minutes or so, and on average I fill about 160 songs (almost all my mp3s are 192kpbs or higher, so they’re heavier than most).

The one fault I found in the Shuffle is the lack of an EQ or additional amplification. Unlike the other iPods, the Shuffle plays your mp3s as-they-are, which could be an adjustment for those accustomed to listening to their digital audio with an additional level of processing. A decent pair of headphones though makes all the difference in the world. I use a pair of Grado SR-80s at work, and the Shuffle sounds fantastic. Be prepared though for funny looks from people when seeing a small white pack of gum attached to the end of your headphone cable.