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The average price of a portable CD player has fallen from more than $150 in 1990 to less than $100 today, boosting sales and leaving portable cassette players ambling far behind. Especially popular are colorful "sports" models. They differ from the rest of the pack in a couple of respects: Their lid is secured with a latch and sealed with a rubber gasket; they have rubberized plugs covering jacks for an AC adapter and headphones; and they tend to be pricier than their less colorful, unsealed relatives.
The latch keeps the lid closed so successfully that some models are a bit hard to open. The gasket and plugs help resist sand, dirt, and moisture, though you'll need to wipe off a player that's dusty or wet before you reopen it. And keep in mind that these players are water resistant, not waterproof--don't plan to play Yellow Submarine while scuba diving.
We tested five sports models; one "youth" model, with even flashier colors but the same innards; one traditional model without latch or gaskets; and one minidisc player and recorder (see below). For more on all types of CD players, see our February 1999 report.
Another up-and-coming way to play portable music is with a beeper-sized electronic MP3 player. These units let you download music from the web or copy it from a CD, and because they store music on chips, they don't skip. They cost about $100 to $300. We reported on the Diamond Rio MP3 player in the July "Front Lines."
I hear you knocking
Headphones are the key to good …