Finding the best MP3 player these days is a bit like looking for a needle in a 4G haystack. Dedicated MP3 players have been squeezed out of the market by more connected digital devices – smartphones and tablets – that offer music-on-the-go plus so much more.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分However, that's not to say the single-function MP3 player has disappeared into thin air completely. They're still out there – and it's probably because the humble MP3 player has some very real benefits. It's cheaper than your average smartphone, so ideal for those who don’t want to risk dropping their phone when they’re out for a run; straight-forward to use; and free from all those attention-distracting aspects of connected life, like text alerts and social media notifactions.
The other major benefit of most decent MP3 players is that the battery will far outlast a smartphone on even the lowest power settings. For those who are traveling and don’t have access to a plug socket, that could be a major boon.
Still, given that MP3 players have suddenly become quite an archaic piece of tech, a lot of the noteworthy producers have dropped out of the game altogether (even Apple2020欧洲杯足球即时比分, who popularised the form with their iPod range, have discontinued all but the iPod Touch.) In their place, knock-offs and cheap, poor-quality options have sprung up all over the place.
T2020欧洲杯足球即时比分o help you separate the wheat from the chaff, I reviewed a range of the top music players, testing them for sound quality, ease of use, durability and more. Here's what I found, starting with the very best MP3 player of them all...
1. Sony Walkman NW-A55L
Why we like it: It has absolutely everything an audiophile could wish for
When it comes to music players, there’s no brand with a greater pedigree than Sony Walkman. Past a certain age, everyone had a Walkman at some stage or another. And then Apple came in with their iPods and the monopoly was over.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分What you may not know is that the Sony Walkman brand continued after the advent of the .mp3 format, and the brand is thriving. In short, this one is one heck of a step up from your old Walkman.
The NW0-A55L (catchy name) is palm-sized, mostly taken up by a touchscreen, about a centimetre, thick with a row of buttons (on/off, volume rocker, play/pause, skip forward, skip backwards, and a lock slider, if you were wondering) down the right-hand side. On the left side, there’s a port you can plug a microSD into to boost the memory. So far, so swish.
You can add music to the device via either Bluetooth or the USB cable, which comes inside the box, and it’s all simple enough, just drag and drop the files: no fuss, no nonsense.
But when you get the whole thing fired up you start to see how much Sony has packed under the hood here. The opening screen is simple: the album cover and the simple controls. But flick up and you can see and adjust the EQ. There are several preset options such as ‘Bright’ and ‘Mellow’ and two to customise to your own tastes.
From there you can swipe left and right to adjust various settings. These can upscale CD-quality audio to high resolution; make low-frequency response more like an analogue amplifier; make the music sound more like it is being performed in a studio, club, or concert hall; minimise volume differences between songs; and adjust songs to make them sound more like they’re being played from vinyl.
Of course, the average user won’t mess around with any of these settings, but it’s a testament to the technology that it's all here if you want it.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分Back up to the main menu and you’ll find all the generic stuff. Search by album, artist, genre, release year, or composer; look up your playlists or just the songs you can play in hi-resolution; or use the MP3 player as an FM radio. I particularly liked a little feature called SensMe, which curates your tunes automatically into playlists based on their mood.
Sony has poured all its Walkman pedigree into crafting the essential MP3 player here, at a price that you can't argue with.
2. Bragi Dash Pro
Why we like it: A flawless cross between an MP3 player, wireless headphones, and so much more
There's much to say about Bragi’s Dash Pro, but the first is simply that wireless headphones probably aren't what you think of when you call to mind an MP3 player. Years of iPods in pockets have conditioned us to think of MP3 players as small boxes that connect to our ears via headphones – but Bragi change all that in an instant, by embedding the audio technology into the headphone itself.
And it works well. Very well. Uploading music is a doddle – just stick the buds in the accompanying charging pod, connect it to your computer via the USB cable (supplied), and get drag and dropping. Music can go into one of four playlists, and the system can handle around 1,000 songs in total (Bragi suggest spreading these across all four playlists, so the tiny onboard computer doesn't get overloaded).
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to go. You select a playlist by holding the right headphone. From there, the gadget is controlled through a system of swipes (forwards to go forward in the playlist, backwards to go back), taps (once to start playing, twice to move to the next song) and holds (functional things like entering or exiting a menu). It sounds complicated, and it certainly needs learning, but it's intuitive and the system doesn't take too long to grasp.
Alternatively, you can use the 4D menu, which you have to activate manually. This uses the movement of your head rather than the touch of your fingertips to take direction. So, shake your head to move along a playlist, nod to start playing a song, look to the right to pause, etc. It's an interesting invention with useful application for those without the full use of their hands/arms. Personally, though, I found it fiddly as hell. One for the development board.
The music quality is good. Really good. Listening to the Hamilton soundtrack, I heard musical elements that I hadn’t picked up on inferior headphones and speakers. Everything feels deliciously crisp and clear – a real treat. Partly, that's thanks to the noise cancelling function, which is good quality and prevents distraction. The headphones also offer a helpful thing called Audio Transparency, which allows you to still hear the outside world over your music, and also hear yourself speak. Handy while crossing the road, or speaking to someone in passing.
And, of course, the buds are good for working out. No wires means no tangles, and no box in your pocket means no fuss. If you're looking for an MP3 to exercise with, you'll also be pleased to note that the Dash Pro headphones are waterproof up to one metre so you can use them while swimming or in the rain. Oh, and they include an easy-to-use fitness tracker, but that's for another article.
O2020欧洲杯足球即时比分n a full charge, Bragi say you'll get five hours of playtime – I managed around four hours and 40 minutes on average. Handily, the case they come in also acts as a charger with up to five charges in it, so you could conceivably get thirty hours out of the headphones before you need to plug them in again.
3. Astell&Kern SR15
Why we like it: 2020欧洲杯足球即时比分Premium audio quality for well trained ears
T2020欧洲杯足球即时比分he SR15 is a top quality MP3 player that offers the best music playback quality and almost exactly nothing else. With a price tag like this, it's one for true audiophiles only.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分The design is stunning. An off-kilter screen, nicely clicky scroll wheel, and shiny geometric back all add up to make this blocky MP3 player feel ultra-premium.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分Under the hood, it's all about the music. As you'd expect, you can play songs individually, by album, artist, genre, playlist, or folder. You can even select 'favourites' and put them into their own little playlists.
As you might expect, given the price, the sound quality is stunning – jaw-droppingly excellent. The best of the best. The player can handle what Astell&Kern calls Mastering Sound Quality or MQS, which is essentially studio-quality sound. You won't find a better audio player out there (aside from more expensive versions from Astell&Kern.)
The quality is so good thanks to a specially designed high-performance digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) and some top of the range processors. All MP3 players have these microchips but the quality can vary. Essentially, the DAC is the chip which turns your music from a binary data stream of ones and zeros into audio you can actually listen to. Lower quality ones can’t keep up with some files’ data rate, making music sound distorted or adding unwanted extra noises.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分Long story short, good quality digital-to-analogue converter = good quality music. And the SR15's DAC is very, very good quality: it can keep up with music from the highest quality files. That won’t mean much to the average person, but for true audiophiles the difference will be immediately noticeable.
There's also the chance to download songs from WiFi. However, you can only get them from two services: Groovers+ and TIDAL. Perhaps more will be added in future, but for now that feels like a waste of a feature, given that most people use iTunes or Spotify.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分Still, other features more than make up for it – although, again, you'll need to be a real music obsessive to make the most of them. You can, for example, create your own equaliser, which is neat but basically incomprehensible for the average user. (There are no instructions for those who need a tutorial on matters like this.) The control system itself is intuitive – swipe right to bring up the menu, swipe left to bring up your current playlist – but the nuances of using the equaliser were essentially lost on me.
T2020欧洲杯足球即时比分hat aside, my only real problem with the device is the volume wheel. On one hand, it feels very satisfying to use. On the other, even the slightest nudge brings up the volume controls, as you might expect. However, you can't do anything else while the volume controls are on screen, so if you nudge the wheel by accident (easy to do while simply holding the device) you're stuck waiting a few seconds before being able to return to the menu you were perusing or whatever. There is a lock function for the volume wheel, but this only works when the screen is off.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分Ultimately, this device is definitely not for the average person. True music lovers will adore the stunning audio quality.
4. Victure M3 Music Player
What we like about it: 2020欧洲杯足球即时比分Cheap and exercise friendly
I'll admit I didn't expect much from the Victure M3, but, actually, it's a pretty impressive piece of technology, considering the price.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分For just over £20, you get a little device that's fully capable of playing everything from MP3s to top quality FLAC audio files – a rare capability for such a cheap music player. The quality is strong considering the price; although in the same breath it's obviously nowhere near the SR15.
S2020欧洲杯足球即时比分till, that bargain price becomes even more impressive when you realise that the Victure M3 isn’t limited to just playing audio files. It can also play video, text, and image files. Considering the tiny screen is only about an inch across, you can’t expect brilliant quality, but honestly, I was surprised at how clear the picture is.
This particular MP3 player seems designed for active users and comes with a belt clip and a pedometer. The latter was surprisingly good when I took a walk around the office. I counted 133 steps from my desk to our reception and back. The Victure M3 thought it was 138; not a bad margin of error, and the same as my top-of-the-line FitBit, which counted 128.
One serious flaw in the Victure M3’s ‘active’ credentials, though, is that the Bluetooth mode is absurdly restrictive. You can’t use the pedometer or any other apps while Bluetooth is running. When Bluetooth is on, you can play music and that’s literally it. It’s a real shame, because if Victure had nailed the Bluetooth, there’d be basically no flaws in this little gem.
There’s also a handy voice recorder which, despite not being as good as my phone or a proper dictaphone, does hold its own and was capable of picking up my voice from about two metres away.
T2020欧洲杯足球即时比分he radio is also great and I had absolutely no problems connecting to any station. This MP3 player comes with the ability to record anything you’re listening to on live radio. Pretty handy if a song you enjoy comes on and you want to add it to your collection.
Overall, considering the price, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than this device, which absolutely transcends the quality of its budget brethren.
5. FiiO M7
Why we like it: 2020欧洲杯足球即时比分The audio is excellent from this premium yet well priced product
Right out of the box, the M7 feels like a premium product (though the price tag is far smaller than that of other top-of-the-line devices) with a chunky, blocky design and aluminium case. There’s not round edge in sight, giving this little brick a fairly unique look in today’s soft, ergonomic tech world. I also really appreciated the volume control wheel, which has a satisfying click when you turn it.
The M7 runs on a heavily modified version of Android which is clearly designed to mimic iOS. It includes only the most basic functions. You can’t connect to the internet to download or even sideload apps. The operating system is essentially there to allow you to flick through your music.
The music itself is of an impressive quality (though it's not quite up to the same levels as the Astell&Kern product). It’s worth noting that you’ll need a decent pair of headphones to get the most out of the M7 – if the quality gets a too much for your headphones to handle the M7 will immediately pause playing.
Speaking of headphones, you’ll also need them to access the FM radio. Most MP3 players don’t have a radio antenna built in, so the wires of your headphones becomes one. Without wired headphones, you won’t be able to use the radio. Having said that, I did have a bit of trouble listening into two major stations, and I struggled with others when my headphone wire was twisted.
Overall though, the M7 is a brilliant little MP3 player with a refreshingly back-to-basics approach in terms of functionality. For audiophiles looking for a bargain, this one is a good choice.
6. Apple iPod Touch (6th Gen)
Why we like it: It’s basically a smartphone
P2020欧洲杯足球即时比分laying with an iPod Touch feels a bit like the technological equivalent of standing in the Colosseum, looking at the ruins of a once powerful nation. Just as the Romans once ruled most of Europe, iPods once ruled most of the MP3 market.
Sadly, with the rise of the iPhone, Apple MP3 players have started to fade out of existence. Nowadays, Apple has discontinued all but the 6th generation iPod Touch, which launched in 2015. No doubt there’s plenty of internal sales data behind this decision, but it seems odd considering the Touch line was always the most similar to an iPhone of any iPod.
Who is this product for? If you didn’t want to listen to music on your smartphone, why buy an MP3 player which mimics a smartphone in almost every regard apart from the ability to give and receive calls? If you want smartphone qualities in your MP3 player, why not just buy a smartphone? It’s not as if the iPod Touch is vastly cheaper than the iPhone 6S on which it’s based, and that comes with more features too.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分Alas, these are questions for Apple CEO Tim Cook; I can only review what I have in front of me, which is a smartphone-MP3 player hybrid. And, to be fair, it's a really good device in its own right. I took some great photos, enjoyed my free trial of Apple Music, and was fairly impressed with the sound quality.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分If you’re a major Appleholic, this is the device for you. It functions just like an iPhone 6S but lacks a few key features including Touch ID, 3D Touch, NFC, GPS, an earpiece speaker and a noise-cancelling microphone. The camera and screen quality certainly hold their own – the best on this list – although they still look outdated compared to the newer iPhones.
Probably the big advantage of the iPod Touch over others I reviewed is that you’re not limited to just listening to music that you’ve downloaded. You can also stream with services like Apple Music or Spotify, watch music videos on YouTube, or play a time-wasting game downloaded from the App Store. It’s a phone without the phone part.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分Ultimately though, despite being a top quality product, it’s hard to find a reason to recommend buying an iPod Touch over just using your phone. In fact, there are newer, cheaper smartphones with better functionality. And it’s not like Apple have dumbed down their iPod for those put off by the idea of using an overly complicated phone.
7. SanDisk Clip Jam
Why we like it: It packs a lot of features into its budget body
I was expecting to be disappointed by the Clip Jam. It’s small, it’s cheap, and it feels very plasticky and lightweight.
However, once I turned it on, I was actually pretty impressed. The little device has tonnes of cool features (listed above). The FM radio is noteworthy as it worked even more easily for me than the same feature on much more expensive products.
Of course, the music playback is the main function and it works well with decent sound quality. You can play music on shuffle, or by artist, album, or select individual songs which are played in alphabetical order by title. You can also make playlists on your computer and drag them into the relevant files on the device using File Explorer.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分The SanDisk MP3 player is very basic, to be sure. It’s clearly designed for activity, with the titular clip on the back of the device fitting perfectly over a pocket or on a waistband. Sadly, there’s no Bluetooth mode so you’ll need wired headphones, but the device does come with a set if you haven’t got any of your own.
Despite being seriously basic, it’s very easy to use, works very well, and is packed with a plenty of useful features. You get what you pay for in this life, but the Clip Jam is worth every penny.
8. SanDisk Clip Sport Plus
This is basically the Clip Jam, with a larger colour display, a bigger battery, and more memory (16GB). It's also water resistant and has Bluetooth capability. Hence the slightly higher price point.
9. Groov-e MP3 Player
T2020欧洲杯足球即时比分here's nothing more depressing to me than the thought of a sweet-natured but technophobic grandmother purchasing this MP3 player for her tech-loving grandchild, hoping to put a smile on their face. The thought of the sneering grandchild opening the box and desperately trying to feign enthusiasm, grandma's cringing realisation that she's wasted her hard-earned cash on this terrible music player... oh it's all too much.
This MP3 player is the pits: cheap, nasty, and barely functional. The buttons are horrible – they get covered in fingerprints instantly – and the usability is barely any better. Plus the battery only lasts for six hours. The whole thing is like a comedy parody of the iPod Shuffle. But then, I shouldn't have expected anything better from a company who confused an exclamation mark with a question mark on the first page of their instruction manual.
Frequently asked questions about MP3 players
What is an MP3 player?
Simply put, an MP3 player is a small music player. An MP3 file carries audio information, but no visual data. Therefore it is the ideal file to use to store music or audio clips which do not require visuals. However, the term ‘MP3 player’ is a bit of a misnomer for modern devices. Most also play other file types such as AAC, WAV, and WMA. Some can even play lossless audio files such as FLAC or ALAC.
Lossless vs Lossy audio files
W2020欧洲杯足球即时比分hen it comes to sound quality, it’s worth noting what type of files your MP3 player can work with. The best quality audio files are termed ‘lossless’. These include file types such as FLAC or ALAC. These file types compress audio, but don’t necessarily strip out any of the quality. MP3 and AAC formats found in songs downloaded from iTunes are both termed ‘lossy’ audio files. This means that they are compressed into a much smaller file than FLAC or ALAC, but in order to do so, they strip out some of the sound quality.
Do all MP3 players have Bluetooth?
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分Most modern MP3 players have Bluetooth but that’s not to say all do. If you’re not sure, be sure to check the box for the Bluetooth logo which should appear pretty prominently. Still, if you accidentally buy one without Bluetooth and you only own wireless headphones, don’t panic – all of the non-Bluetooth MP3 players I tested came with some cheap wired headphones that should see you through for a while.