Music Wants To Be Freed More flexible. More portable. Cheaper. These goodies will liberate your tunes from the shackles of old technology.
By Shoshana Berger

(Business 2.0) – Sweet Emotive

Philips's new bookshelf stereo is perfect for postmillennial booty-shaking. The Emotive Micro Audio System can handle CD or MP3-CD playback, it has a digital radio with 40 presets, and it pumps up the volume with a 50-watt amp and three-way speakers. The sound is great, but the Boogie Nights design is what really blows my hair back. Make that the designs--the Emotive is available in three super-chic casings: luscious green high-gloss acrylic, rough-and-ready orange rubber, and double-layer aluminum alloy. Take your pick: Each has a glowing LCD display that endows the machine with some serious soul. Philips Emotive Micro Audio System: $400; www.consumer.philips.com; 800-531-0039.

Nirvana on the Cheap

Apple's iPod is as slick as a wet bar of soap. Yet for $200 less, the 20-gigabyte Nomad Jukebox Zen is a squeaky-clean competitor. The Windows-only Zen quickly gobbles down 8,000 songs via a USB 2.0 connector, and it mimics the iPod's scroll-and-click interface. There's also a handy search function that uses an onscreen alphabet to locate specific tracks, albums, or artists--much faster than spinning through a riptide of songs. I'm still a sucker for the iPod's looks, but this little Buddha could make a convert out of me. Creative Labs Nomad Jukebox Zen: $299; www.nomadworld.com; 800-998-5227.

Drive-Thru Downloads

This clever car audio system hasn't shortened my commute, but now the ride's a lot more fun. The Omnifi is an MP3 jukebox designed for installation in the car. To transfer music, I can either tether the removable 20-gig hard drive to my desktop PC via USB or, better still, beam new tracks to my car using the optional Wi-Fi antenna. "Traffic jam" will never mean the same thing again. Omnifi Digital Media Player: $599, plus $99 for wireless upgrade kit; www.omnifimedia.com; 800-366-1619.

Feasting on the Public Domain

Box sets are like Vegas buffets--all-you-can-eat is never quite as satisfying as ordering a la carte. But Proper Music, based in the United Kingdom, is an exception to the rule. Taking advantage of European laws that grant shorter terms for copyright protection, Proper Music compiles classic material from the public domain to create four-CD sets that include nearly 100 songs--for about $20. Offering everything from bluegrass to bebop in fuzz-free high fidelity, these British invaders hawk a proper bargain that's legally sold Stateside on Amazon or at street-savvy record stores. Proper Music box sets: $16-$24; www.propermusic.com; 011-44-870-444-0800.

Call Waiting

Problem: My headphones are so good at muting the sound of office drones that I can't hear my phone ring. Solution: Skullcandy's Office Link. These headphones have a split cord--one plug for the phone and another for my CD or MP3 player. When the ring gurgles into the headset, I can flash over to the phone by clicking the hands-free button. Cell-phone versions are also available, so professional jet-setters can field calls while watching DVDs in the airport lounge. Skullcandy Office Link or Portable Link: $30-$50; www.skullcandy.com; 435-940-1545.