How Does It All Sound?
If the three formats had to be ranked according to their quality/size ratio, the order would be AAC, WMA, MP3. After listening to AAC and WMA, the sound quality of MP3 is not up to par. As for AAC and WMA, the biggest difference was clarity. At the same bit rate, AAC offered a clearer and closer sound to the original, beating out WMA. WMA definitely sounds better than MP3; its sound is a bit more vibrant.
The Future: MP3, WMA,....AAC?
What the future holds for MP3 seems to be clearer and clearer as the months pass. As MP3 continues to age, it is becoming increasingly apparent that it is living on borrowed time. As for WMA, the future is not so certain. Will Microsoft's codec be the future of compressed audio and portable audio devices, or will it be the relative newcomer AAC? MP3's current strength lies in its wide acceptance and software support. The current encoding and decoding algorithms are extremely fast, and - most importantly - widely available for free download. WMA has its strengths, though, given that Microsoft owns the rights to the codec, which allows Windows users the ability to easily encode to WMA without using additional software. AAC is what Dolby Laboratories has to offer to the "market." It claims to have five-channel sound at incredible fidelity to the original audio source, with the resulting file being 30% smaller than an MP3 encoded at the same rate. The problem is that it has not been as widely accepted as MP3, or even WMA. Trying to find software to either encode or decode an ACC file is difficult and can be frustrating. But with more and more companies adopting the AAC standard into their own portable audio players, AAC may be the future.
All in all, the 2U4U is a good product. Nothing too exciting, but it certainly has its moments. It does what it claims to do, and does it well. The real-time encoding/ recording abilities worked surprisingly well and resulted in a satisfying quality WMA encoding. And, with a $199 price tag, it's a financially feasable solution. If you are looking for an extremely lightweight portable audio player with microphone and line-in recording abilities, then you might just want to look in the 2U4U's direction.