AGPTEK A20 MP3 Player Notes

Recently I wanted a super cheap MP3 player to use in settings where it was likely to get messed up or lost: DJing at bike races, hiking in iffy weather, etc.. This was much more bewildering than I expected as there are hundreds of models from dozens of unknown manufacturers, all with cryptic names and minor differences.

I wound up with a AGPTEK A20 because it’s cheap and would take a MicroSD big enough to cover my collection, without paying for somewhat redundant larger internal storage. As it turned out, I was correct in my surmise that in these commodity players it would be a pain to have music divided across both the internal and removable cards. Big tradeoff for this player that knocks about $10–15 off is that it has no Bluetooth support. It does though have FM radio and a recording feature for taking notes.

Early impression is that the A20 is… somehow a bit less impressive than you would expect even for $28, but no doubt on par with all the other obscure players in this class.

Physically the device is fine, and the software is functional… but the emphasis is on functional. Just a little bit more polish would help a lot. A small example would be parsing song and artist names to present the song list, rather than just showing filenames… Welcome to 1999! Except, you know, you can only ready about 9 characters. A larger improvement would be unifying the internal memory with the MicroSD card to present a single collection, rather than somewhat implicitly requiring the user to mode switch between them.

In any event though, the player does have the basics covered. It also works reasonably well with my Linux laptop, in a barebones way. That’s ultimately why I’m posting this, to confirm compatibility and record a couple notes for other users searching around.

The internal drive mounts seamlessly on my (Arch) Linux laptop and exposes the MicroSD card as well, which is nice. So pulling over a collection is a simple matter of copying or rsyncing.

The A20 will also play M3U playlists exported from any of a number of tools. The catch here is that you have to apply Windows conventions to those M3U files: It’s looking for CRLF line terminators, and backward slash (‘\’) path separators. Spaces, other special characters in the song names seem to be fine, and both the listing and playlist features work with songs buried several folders deep.

So, as long as you don’t want to do too much on the device itself other than hit play, and can prepare playlists and convert them appropriately, this seems like a reasonable super cheap MP3 option for Linux users.

2015 Music Highlights

Continuing from the movie & TV entries in my long lost highlights from 2015, this is the music I acquired and listened to the most in 2015. Again, these aren’t necessarily new to the world, and in some cases very much not so. The twelve entries here are in increasing order by play count. There’s some concern there about normalizing for when in the year the music was acquired and thus how much opportunity it had to be played. But that’s both taking this too seriously, and for the most part the counts are dominated by the first couple months or so after acquisition anyway.

Honorable mentions here go to Hey Mama by David Guetta and Nicki Minaj, probably the raunchiest song on the radio last year, and Trap Queen by Fetty Wap.

#12: Wherever is Your Heart /Brandi Carlisle

#11: Awake /Tycho

#10: Please Don’t Say You Love Me (piano version) /Gabrielle Alpin

Note that this is quite specifically the quieter, slower, more broken piano recording, not the more pop-tuned mix.

#9: Intro /The XX

#8: All This Could Be Yours /Cold War Kids

#7: Mess Is Mine /Vance Joy

#6: 9 Crimes /Damien Rice

#5: Lean On /Major Lazer

The “official video” for this is super awkward, so let’s stick with the lyric video.

#4: Where Is My Mind (instrumental piano) /Maxence Cyrin

#3: Bad Intentions (original, without Migos) /Niykhee Heaton

Recently another version of this came out with an interlude of some dumbass rapping. Everything else is basically the same, but that extra bit makes it much worse. Stick to the original recording.

#2: Unstead /X Ambassadors

Renegades is the song that got all the airplay from this album, and it is also very good. But Unsteady is excellent, focusing more on ache. An important note about this is that the album, VHS, is that rarity of the streaming age: Somewhat of a concept album. The whole thing is framed and intermixed with clips of the band ostensibly watching old camcorder tapes. Nothing too lofty, but it’s really good, they’re interesting in their own right. I recommend the whole album. There’s a good range of songs, many of them are solid, and the VHS clips really bring more depth to the standout tracks.

#1: You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive /Patty Loveless

There are of course many many versions of this song. Not only do I like this audio the best, but this one is worth watching on YouTube. The stills stitched together here to go along with the song add quite a bit of oomph to an already terrific recording.

 

2014 Music Highlights

Following up on my movie highlights, I now present my music highlights for 2014. I (obviously) don’t keep logs of all the music I listen to & when. Fortunately Amazon Digital and my MP3 player do track what was purchased or imported when. Similar to my other highlights, these are by no means necessarily new to the world in 2014 but instead in most cases simply new to me. The first set of these are pretty well known and mostly pop-ish songs, but the collection down bottom much less so.

DJ Play

First, a bunch of actually new-ish songs that got their share of radio play last year, and in some cases much more than that.

AWOLNATIONSail
It’s a bit too reminiscent of Breaking Bads’ use of TV On The Radio’s DLZ, but one of the seasons of Longmire ends with this used pretty well, as the hero drives literally and figuratively on Denver.

Glitch MobFortune Days
Previously noted for We Can Make The World Stop, The Glitch Mob returns with another good one, this time just outside the dub step milieu.

Kid Ink feat. Chris BrownShow Me
I’m conflicted by this hip hop hit. As usual, I have trouble with hip hop’s generally boring attitudes toward women, as particularly exemplified by the terrible opener for the official video. I also especially don’t want to support domestic abuser and general asshole Chris Brown. But the melody is really good.

BastillePompeii
This verged on being well over played on the radio, and though potentially reading too much into it, I really like the vague hints of story elements in this.

Sam SmithStay With Me
Right on the line of overplayed, but I am a huge sucker for sappy, overwrought heartbreaks and a bit of piano.

Vance JoyRiptide
An absolutely great way to seed a flowing, upbeat Pandora playlist is to throw this one in.

Mr. ProbzWaves [Robin Schulz Radio Edit]
Robin Schulz is ridiculously everywhere on my Pandora streams with his edits, but this beachy, upbeat tune from Mr Probz is really nice.

Calvin HarrisSummer
A pop-ish tune with just enough warble, everything is better in the summer.

AviciiHey Brother
Tim Berg blows away a more rock-ish tune than usual, and the video even successfully adds a bit of depth.

Pirate Radio

Now some songs that are not so or not at all present on the radio, at least around the northeast US.

Upbeat

To begin, a few more upbeat tunes.

Aloe BlaccThe Man and I Need A Dollar
Blacc is the singer on 2013’s Avicii hit Wake Me Up, of which he also has a good acoustic rendition. These two songs are him in an uptempo soul, R&B mode.

BakermatOne Day (Vandaag)
A fast but light, sky-ful Dutch dance song with a nice touch of saxophone.

Clean Bandit feat. Jess GlynneRather Be
Simple, fun electronic pop with sharp, clean vocals and instrumental ornamentation somewhat unique in that genre.

Tom Hangs feat. ShermanologyBlessed [Tim Bergling/Tom Hangs/Avicii/whoever he is Edit]
As far as I can tell, this is a Tim Bergling song performed by Shermanology, produced under his Tom Hangs stagename and then remixed under his Avicii stagename.  A sequence of credits as awesome as it is confusing. But this is a great, uplifting tune.

Parra For Cuva feat. Anna NaklabWicked Games
Absolutely incredible, upbeat take on Chris Isaak’s classic Wicked Games. Although there’s several ultra-slow covers I really like, this is the definitive version for me.

Quieter

At the opposite end of the spectrum, some quieter thoughts.

Selah SueThis World
A great somewhat down-tempo soul song.

Jim JamesState Of The Art (A.E.I.O.U.)
Basically the only good outcome from the very disappointing The Blacklist. One headline renders this as “digital ennui,” which I think is fair. I’m not sure what genre I’d lump it into, but it’s really good.

BirdySkinny Love
The Bon Iver original is also really good, but I particularly love this even slower, quieter rendition of this folk-ish song. Probably the saddest song of the year.

Sharon Van EttenSerpents [Demo]
This ostensible demo version and the song overall is shockingly under-established to have had such major exposure— no official upload?! But it’s a really great broken folk/alternative song. Pretty popular despite basically no radio play when it was released a few years back—and really, I have little idea what station here outside XPN would play it—as it was used devastatingly at the close of the fourth episode of the fourth season of The Walking Dead.