No turntables and no microphone

MP3 jockeys need the right equipment, but today they can choose from among several alternatives: a stand-alone audio player for playing back compressed music, a recording program (known as ripper) for converting the contents of compact discs to a compressed format (like MP3), or an all-in-one jukebox.

Audio players such as MusicMatch, RealJukebox, Sonique, XingMP3 Player and Winamp not only play compressed files, but also can take the place of the Windows CD Player -- and then some. Using an audio player is easy: while connected to the Internet, simply insert your audio disc into the CD player as you ordinarily would; your audio player will automatically initialise in place of the standard Windows CD Player, if you've chosen the former as the default. The software then reads the disc's unique ID number and compares it to the massive CD archive of more than 400,000 albums and 4.5 million songs maintained by CD Database (www.cddb.com). If the site has information on the album youÕre playing, CDDB supplies the album name, track title and length and other data to your audio player. In our testing, we stumped CDDB's database only on smaller independent releases, brand-new albums and obscure foreign CDs.

Audio players let you create playlists that sort compressed audio files into a play order, with pointers to their locations (for the benefit of the player software). The songs themselves may reside either on your hard drive or on the Internet. A playlist entry may even point to a streaming broadcast (a live, running audio feed).

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