***Step Three: The Players Club
To enjoy your freshly encoded songs, you’ll need an MP3 player like the hugely popular MacAmp from @soft. You can even control MacAmp from the Control Strip with the $5 shareware StripAmp. Be warned, though, that MacAmp is in public beta and may exhibit a nasty tendency to crash your Mac at inopportune times. The freeware SoundApp plays just about every sound format available, including MP3, but has a rather ugly playback window. The free MPEG Audio Realtime Player has a very cool slowdown/speedup feature but suffers a fatal flaw: it’s incompatible with Virtual Memory. To conserve screen real estate, try the $10 shareware MacAmp Lite, a standalone player that provides MP3 playback essentials in a tiny floating pop-out nub. Another space-saving option is the freeware Vamp, though it hasn’t been updated in a long time.
***Step Four: Play Different(ly)
Why just play your MP3s when you can customize your MP3 experience? A variety of skins and plug-ins are available for MacAmp that customize the appearance of the player or draw mind-numbing patterns on the screen in beat with the music. Tagging tools like mp3 tool, MusicVac, and MATE allow you to add song titles, artist names, and other information to your MP3 files that will automatically appear in tag-compatible MP3 players. You can automatically obtain song and artist information for most CDs using programs that access the online CDDB database like MPecker Encoder or CD player applications such as NetCD, InCDius GH, and TitleTrack. MP3 files also give you the flexibility of creating playlists that draw from your entire collection of songs, using the built-in playlist features of most players or the freeware Trax. Should you ever feel the need to return your MP3s to editable AIFF format, you can count on the free MPecker Drop Decoder or SoundApp.
***Step Five: Pump Up the Volume
Invite some friends over and get funky. Make playlists of your favorite dance grooves and hook your computer up your stereo using a stereo-miniplug to RCA adapter cable available from your local Radio Shack. A useful tip: Stereos with a cassette deck but without input jacks can be hooked up to the Mac using a stereo-miniplug extension cable and a CD-player car adapter (the kind that look like a cassette). Now you can let your Mac deejay the party with MP3s and forget about the music for the rest of the night. Just make sure to put your computer in a safe place — spilt drinks and computer equipment are a dangerous mix.