Making the best out of the DSi music player...

Making the best out of the DSi music player...

Why am I reading this and who is this intended for?
Because you're going to own or already own a DSi.  The DSi has identical features that match an iPod Touch/iPhone but at a very basic level.  Except the camera.  Mr. Satoru Iwata aimed far too low when setting the resolution on that thing.  Seriously, 640x480?  That's webcam resolution.  He should've gone with 1024x768 and still store a modest amount of pictures.  The only thing the camera has going is its aperture (meaning, it can gather enough light to make pictures look as they should; and it SHOULD seeing as it lacks a flash capability).

Anyway, this isn't meant for those who already own an MP3 player or an iPod Touch.  You bought a DSi and you want to listen to your music collection on it.  You want to make the most of the DSi's very basic features and hang onto the idea that Nintendo can expand on those features through upgrading the DSi firmware.  Or on the opposite spectrum, you don't need all those fancy features and just want to listen to your music.  You don't mind going through a brisk task to randomizing what you're listening to.

It would be unfair to compare something like an iPod Touch versus the DSi.  Both of their batteries can be replaced.  The iPod Touch lasts longer on a single charge.  Their screens can be dimmed and turned off to conserve battery power.  Simply put, the iPod is a dedicated music player.  The DSi is a dedicated video game system.  You're using the DSi because it's all you have or you want to save money but get some fantastic games.


What music format does the DSi support?

ONLY supports AAC encoding.

WHY is it in this format?
There's two ways to see this: either Nintendo wants to save money or they're being very stingy. Use of the MP3 codec like the one in iTunes is NOT free. Apple actually has to pay for this and you're getting a hell of a bargain when using iTunes. Other conversion programs you get for free are using a free (and better) MP3 encoder to convert your music to MP3 files.

MP3 was officially created in a German institute in the early 90's.  AAC was collaborated with the likes of AT&T, Nokia, and Dolby around 1997.  It is the successor to MP3 and has been optimized to be better than MP3.

Is converting to AAC a good or a bad thing?
Good in the sense that AAC can achieve MP3-quality audio at lower bitrates than what MP3 can do at higher ones.  Also, it will do this at significantly smaller file sizes, so large MP3 collections can save anywhere from a couple hundred megabytes to a few gigabytes.

And it's bad in the sense that, well, you have to convert your music collection from MP3 to AAC.  And you might want to leave your computer alone to do so, preferably overnight if your collection is huge.

Are there any downsides to converting it all to AAC?  Anything I should take note of?
As long as you keep the bitrate of conversion identical to what the MP3s are currently in (even if they are encoded at a 
Variable Bitrate or VBR), you'll end up with a smaller file that sounds identical to what you started with initially. If you're not sure, round it up to the nearest "average" encoding bitrate defaults that's available in your audio conversion program settings (i.e., 128kbps, 160kbps, 192, 256, 320, etc.) and you'll be fine.

You will, of course, get much better results if you ripped from the original source, not from the MP3.  To get the music squeezed down once more from an already compressed MP3 file lowers the quality.  I'm not an audiophile though so I can't really tell the difference.

Will these AAC files be compatible with anything else?
AAC has become a recognized and universal standard like MP3.  Every song on the iTunes Store is in AAC format for example.  iPods, Zunes, PSPs, iRivers (with open-source firmware apparently!) are 
common devices that can play them right out of the box (except for that iRiver one, of course). In terms of software, iTunes, Songbird, AIMP, MediaMonkey, and Winamp can play AAC too. You'll have no problem finding something to play AAC if you decide to replace your MP3 collection with that of an AAC-encoded one.



What is an SD card?
A novel little memory card used for storing data.  Tons of electronic devices use them.  Forget about worrying trying to find something that uses one or not.

Why would I need an SD card?
Without one, you will not be able to listen to music on your DSi in the first place.

What kind of SD card should I get?
-A card that is proportionate to what's in your music player in terms of the size of your music collection.
-An SDHC card.

What is SDHC?
Secure Digital High Capacity. There are several varieties of SD cards but you SPECIFICALLY want an SDHC card. Thankfully, Nintendo had foresight to support this.

A non-SDHC card has a maximum capacity of 2 gigabytes and that's it.  SDHC cards can go above that limit.

How much can SDHC store?
For the sake of humor, the theoretical maximum is 2 terabytes or 2048 gigabytes but it is currently capped at a sizeable 32 gigabytes.

What does that mean?
You can better or match the available capacity of iPod Touch devices, seeing as they're all the rage today...

...of course, with a DSi, you're just doing the very BASIC functionality of what an iPod Touch does.  But Nintendo seems open to expanding the DSi features.

But I don't want 32 gigabytes.
We'll shorten gigabytes to GB now.  SDHC cards also come in 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB varieties.

Okay. How much are they?
Before I list prices, I'd like to suggest you go for 
Kingston-brand SDHC cards. Why? Because they're the only ones with lifetime warranties.

Here's a list of prices as seen from from March 2009, rounded to the nearest dollar:

4GB - $10
8GB - $16
16GB - $36
32GB - $85.  Yeah, hell of a deal there, I'm sure.

Why are there slightly pricier versions of the same capacities?
Technical standards are revised frequently to provide improvements. It's not in terms of the drastic differences between standard SD and SDHC but, in this case, writing speeds.  The writing speeds are identified with class numbers.  The larger the class number, the faster the card can be written to. The class number translates to the speed in megabytes, as easy reference. There are only 3 classes: 2, 4, and 6. The 4GB card I listed up there was Class 4 for example. Same for the 8GB. You want a Class 6 8GB? Add another buck! =)
 Amazon actually stocks Class 6 16GB cards for $34 with free shipping to boot (as of March 2009).

Am I saving money?
Let's see. If you want a modest amount of songs going, then:

iPod Touch 16GB - 


Nintendo DSi - 
16GB SDHC card - 
Total - 

You'd save 
$94 dollars.  That's quite the savings.

How do I access my SD card on my computer?
Either your computer already has a card reader (most computers within the last few years do so by now) or you need to buy a USB card reader. If you need to buy a card reader, just Google "USB card reader" and that's it. Card readers at this point DO NOT differentiate between SD and SDHC unless your computer is half of a decade old.  In that case, you might have issues reading SDHC cards and need to resort to a USB reader (or a new reader for your computer...or a new computer entirely).  And you do NOT need to pay more than $10 or so to buy a USB card reader. I bought a no-name brand for seven dollars and nothing has happened to it or the cards I insert into it.

I have a miniSD/microSD card. Can I use these too?
Yes, as long as you have the proper adapter to insert them into your DSi and your computer.



That sounds great and all but how does it function?
While I don't have any specifics regarding playback controls, the features I've found online seem to imply the DSi only supports A-B sectional repeating (you set an artificial start and stop point during any point in a single song, advertised by Nintendo as a way to help teach yourself to say a foreign word or learn how to play a part of a piece of music), a slider navigated with the stylus to affect playback speed and pitch, and volume controls.

Big question: Can I play music with the DSi closed?
Yes, as long as there is a headphone plugged into the unit. The screens should very well turn off and save you precious battery power.

Can I control playback with the DSi closed?
Sadly, no. I suggest you go find a 
batch file renamer such as ReNamer for your PC or something for your OS to arrange the files where the music files are stored on your SD card, NOT IN A MUSIC PLAYER. This is the only way the DSi will follow anything resembling a playlist.


What am I going to have to do before I start placing songs on my SD card?
  • Convert your songs to AAC.
  • Properly name your music files.
  • Select albums, collections, and songs you "can't do without".
  • Space permitting, copy other albums, collections, and songs you're in the mood for.