What MP3 Players Do for Us
While many people from the younger generation might be outright puzzle by the concept of an MP3 player (what? Phones weren’t always the easiest way to access a music library?), for those just a bit older the MP3 player is a sort of iconic device. As the world shifted from the bulky and impractical CD players, everyone expected a new sort of gadget that could be a multimedia center usable even while you’re out running or hiking in the middle of nowhere. And these players didn’t let us down. No need for carrying discs or cassettes with you, no need for swapping out batteries, no more picking and choosing which album you’ll listen to for a whole day. The MP3 player offered (and still does!) long battery life, insane storage capacity, and a chance to have all of your favorite music in a small wearable gadget. Sure, you could get the same from your phone these days, but that wasn’t possible back then. And even now, if you lose the Wi Fi signal, there’s little that your iPhone will do for you as you most likely have your music in the iTunes library. Nowadays, people don’t always keep music directly on their phones, syncing with cloud storage instead. So an MP3 player might be your best bet if you can’t get an internet connection and still want to enjoy some tunes. Plus, they’re much more compact than phones, which have gotten as big as a book.
What Makes Different MP3 Players Worthy of Your Money
Yes, we talked up these devices quite a lot but the best MP3 players should offer more than the basics. Let’s go step by step and see what you should be looking for in your portable music gadget.
First up, we should cover storage capacity as it’s a pretty key feature for any device nowadays, especially one that you use to build a music library. While there is no real cap on the amount of space you get, we’d say that a player with anything around 128-256 GB is perfectly fine for both storing music and, perhaps, some important documents or a few movies (in case your player is capable of playing those). However, if you feel content with just a few albums, even 2-8 GB will do just fine. There’s no need to go for the highest capacity
Now, since we’ve already mentioned movies, it’s probably about time to discuss compatibility. While the device is, indeed, called an MP3 player, it should most likely be able to play other music formats such as WAV, FLAC, WMA, OGG, AAC, and more. Those who want the best sounding tunes should be on the lookout for FLAC in particular as it’s one of the top audiophile choices. But that’s not all as most of these gadgets are capable of playing back videos and even opening up text documents. So if you find an MP3 player that can open MP4, AVI, MKV, TXT, DOC, and more, don’t be surprised! Instead, buy it because that’s a pretty nice haul of formats.
But if you plan to enjoy the player for a while or need something to keep you entertained for a while, you should also be on the lookout for a model with long battery life. Since they don’t need to support a multitude of apps or stay connected to Wi Fi all day long, most of the MP3 players should be able to run for up to a day or more and their rechargeable batteries are supposed to juice up quite fast. You could probably listen through your whole music library on a single charge if you had to!
We also wouldn’t say no to a handy touch screen, which makes scrolling through the songs a bit easier and also simplifies controls for those who don’t want to bother with buttons. Plus, a touch screen won’t get loose over time like buttons might.
Oh, and while we’ve already talked about the built-in storage capacity, it’s only fair to mention that having a memory card slot in your MP3 player is a good idea as well. A small card can more than double your device’s storage capacity all by itself, which is always nice.
Last but not least, it’s not exactly mandatory but a bit of damage resistance wouldn’t hurt. A player with a rubber case will simply bounce off of the floor if it falls out of your pocket while you work out or jog. Meanwhile, a more basic model would simply shatter. Plus, a waterproof body could be a great choice if you lead an active lifestyle and plan on taking your personal music player out to the woods or on a river trip. Heck, even if you just like to enjoy music while you take a shower, a water-resistant player is a safer choice for sure.
There are also things like the OS (Android or Apple products are the ones that will most likely have them) and the color and the size but those are mostly a matter of personal preference. Thankfully, MP3 players have been available for years now and the technology has been largely perfected so you should have no issue finding one of the best MP3 players specifically for you. Whether you listen to FM radio, a curation of personal tunes, or audio books, these tiny gadgets will always be in your pocket to help you get immersed in the world of sound. And now, let’s look at our top 10 picks deserving of the title of the best player out there.
Astell & Kern AK Jr.
- The player itself has 64 GB of on-board storage and you can put in a memory card (up to 200 GB) to expand it.
- You can control this model via touchscreen as well as a few dedicated buttons. A good mix of old and new technology.
- The supported music formats are pretty broad.
- The player doesn’t support video playback at all.
- If you fill the player up, it might start to lag a little. That’s easily solved by keeping just a few gigabytes free though.
- You could accidentally unlock the device as the lock button is on top of it and can be pressed while it’s in your pocket.
- Your track positions aren’t saved when you turn the player off. And if you decide to update the playlist, the device doesn’t remember which song you were on.
If you’re looking for a player strictly for enjoying some of your favorite songs, the Astell & Kern AK Jr. is certainly a fine choice. Sure, it won’t be able to play back a movie or help you get online since it doesn’t support Wi Fi (Bluetooth is used for file transfers), but you’re buying an affordable digital music player, not a tablet. Besides, the storage capacity here is quite impressive, even if filling the player up to the brim isn’t advised. And the sleek design makes it easy to keep this model in your pocket while you’re working out at the gym or running down the stairs trying to catch your train. It may not be the most high-tech solution but it offers great sound quality, works with pretty much all popular music formats, and can offer enough space for any music lover’s library. Certainly a budget-friendly pick but a great one nonetheless.
Apple iPod Touch 6th Generation
- The player is, of course, compatible with iTunes.
- The product comes with a free stylus so you don’t leave smudges on the touch screen.
- You can use the built-in camera to take photos.
- Though it’s still just an MP3 player, you can play games, watch video, and use handy apps for taking notes and browsing the internet via Wi Fi.
- It’s pretty fragile and a single fall can damage the player irreparably.
- No slot for a memory card.
- Does not support FLAC and other high-quality audio formats.
It’s no secret that Apple has been reigning in the world of MP3 players for years now, providing high quality at a reasonable price. This iPod model is about as powerful as an iPhone 6 and boasts a similarly stylish design. However, it comes with all the shortcomings of the previous products, including a lack of a memory card slot (so you’re stuck with whichever storage capacity you’ve initially paid for) and no support for high-res audio. It’s been a long-standing complaint from audiophiles but if you’re a casual listener and feel comfortable with MP3, the iPod is probably as versatile as it gets. You can play games, browse internet, take photos, and stream audio books and music using just one tiny device. Just make sure you’re in Wi Fi range or that you have a good offline library built up. And we’d also recommend getting a protective case, especially if you plan on taking the player with you while you run. Sport and a device this fragile don’t mix all that well. We should point out, though, that this being an Apple gadget doesn’t put any restrictions on your music app of choice, so you can enjoy Spotify, Google Play, Pandora, and many more, as long as the internet is on. While we feel like this Apple player will miss the mark for connoisseurs of sound, a casual listener should love this teeny multimedia center in their pocket.
- Quite a budget-friendly choice despite coming from a popular and respected brand.
- The charge time is pretty modest at just 2 hours so you can get the player juiced up a bit even while you’re taking a shower or making dinner.
- You can use to set an alarm clock that will wake you up or remind you about important events.
- You can view photos and customize the display to suit your preferences.
- The battery life isn’t the longest out there and could certainly be better.
- There’s no memory card slot and the maximum built-in storage this model offers is just 16 GB. Not enough for a huge music library.
- Does not support the high-quality formats such as FLAC.
The word “cheap” often conjures up the wrong image of a poorly made device that’s not going to satisfy a picky customer. So let’s call the Sony NWE395 affordable instead, as it’s indeed one of the more budget-friendly models out there and it doesn’t skimp on quality either. For one, the player takes just 2 hours to charge fully and though the 38-hour battery life isn’t astounding, it’s enough to take it out when hiking or for long flights, which is all you’d really need. If there’s one genuine flaw in this model, it’s the lack of a memory card slot as the built-in 16 GB of storage are nice but not enough for those who want to have a really big music library. Still, it should be sufficient to store some audio books and several dozen of your favorite albums. Especially since you can’t play back FLAC files on this, which offer higher quality but also weigh far more. The Sony NWE395 is, however, capable of playing AAC and WMA in addition to MP3, both quite popular formats. We were a bit surprised to see that the player supported photo mode and allows for viewing your gallery of pictures and customizing the interface. That’s a big plus and something that isn’t always available even in high-end models. So while the Sony NWE395 certainly has some flaws, the low price and good battery specs make it a worthy choice.
- Supports many formats, some not even playable on the more expensive and, supposedly, more advanced models.
- Has a microSD card slot that supports cards as capacious as 256 GB and even higher. Perfect for those who have a huge music library.
- Reasonably priced for a device of this quality level.
- The library scanning and updating takes a while even if you don’t have that many tunes stored. Might be a result of the lack of actual built-in memory.
- There are a few seconds of lag when you start up a song, resulting in silence before every track.
- It seems like the firmware itself is a bit glitchy and your mileage with this model will largely depend on the latest update. Some of them are known to have compatibility issues while others work perfectly.
- The battery life is pretty short.
We have to admit that the FiiO X3 is not always as responsive as we would have liked and it’s not a matter of controls. The handy touchwheel offers easy navigation through the interface, so it’s definitely a plus. However, the interface itself seems to lag and freeze up occasionally, a byproduct of imperfect firmware and something that might be fixed in a few updates.
If there’s one thing that’s definitely a flaw that’s not going to be resolved in a week or a month, it’s the battery life. While 11 hours of autonomous work is not bad, it’s still behind many of the competitors with their 30- and 40-hour specs. However, do note that this model has a “sleep” function that lets it keep its charge for up to 2.5 weeks. That’s right, you can charge the player once and then leave it at home just to snatch it up before a long trip and be instantly connected to your music library. And even when you do end up having to whip out the USB cord for charging, the process takes just 3 hours tops, not too shabby at all.
We absolutely love the format compatibility, though, which includes most popular options out there, including FLAC. Many audiophiles scoff at other player models due to their lack of high-quality music support but the FiiO X3 breaks down the barrier between portability and quality, so if you value good sound – this should be a great find for you.
So while there’s both good and bad about the FiiO X3, we do feel like its advantage are far more substantial than its flaws. And that’s what makes it one of the best players out there.
Sony Walkman NW-WS413
- An innovative design that’s perfect for sport lovers and those leading an active lifestyle.
- They’re waterproof and damage-resistant, one of the few models that you could expect to survive not just a downpour but a straight-up swim through a river.
- This model is downright tiny and easy to store when not in use.
- The storage space is pretty modest.
- The battery life could be higher.
- Supports just a few audio file formats.
When you first look at the Sony Walkman NW-WS413, you might not even realize it’s an MP3 player. Yeah, the product looks more like a pair of wireless earbuds but it’s indeed a tiny multimedia center. This is one of the most compact wearable players we’ve seen though that does mean you have to make some sacrifices. Firstly, the battery life is quite modest at 11 hours. Second, the maximum storage is 8 GB and the model we’ve looked at actually had just 4 GB. Though we do feel like it’s not that much of an issue since the main purpose of this model is to provide you a soundtrack for workouts, hiking, and swimming, not store a huge music library. Oh, yes, did we mention that these unassuming-looking buds are actually completely waterproof? And we don’t mean the kind of proofing that protects them from the rain. You can go for a dip in the swimming pool and even dive underwater and the music will keep on playing. We do have to warn you that the additional barrier of water between your ears and the buds does distort the quality of the sound somewhat but that’s not really something that the player can fix. Otherwise, though, the sound quality is pretty impressive, especially for a player of this size. Though we do have to mention that this model has no mic since it would have gotten waterlogged the second you went into water. This means no voice recording feature but it’s not an essential one anyway.
In the end, we can’t fault the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 for not adhering to usual standards as it’s not trying to comply with them. This player is a great pick for sportsmen, those who want music to follow them no matter where they are (even in water!), and hate the idea of a player breaking just because a bit of water got on it. A reliable and innovative choice for those who like to try new things.
- The sound quality is insanely impressive, on par with expensive sound systems.
- Moreover, the player supports all high-res audio formats so you won’t ever hear annoying clipping or have to bear the 128 Kbps MP3 files that are torture to a true audiophile’s ears.
- You can stream video and browse the Internet using the built-in Android OS.
- This model has two memory card slots so you can expand the storage capacity to levels that you won’t get anywhere else.
- The price is pretty outrageous for an average consumer though it’s worth it for the quality.
- While it’s not big, the player is still larger than most of the models from the competitors.
- The battery life is quite poor, especially if you turn on several apps at once.
The first thing you’d likely notice about the Pioneer XDP-100R if you saw it in a store would be the price. Yeah, it’s steep and it might make you wonder what you’ll actually get to offset the cost. Well, first off, this model is aimed not at a casual listener but rather at sound aficionados, those audiophiles that seek out music in high-quality formats. The Pioneer XDP-100R supports a variety of top-notch formats, including the ever popular FLAC. And it has great sound adjustment options so you’ll always hear your tunes just the way they’re meant to be heard.
But audiophiles are also likely to have huge music libraries, that’s no secret. So the manufacturer has also equipped this player with two memory card slots, which means you can get as many as 512 GB of extra storage, more than enough for thousands of albums. That extra slot does mean the device is a bit thicker and bigger than most of the players we’ve reviewed so far but the difference isn’t that noticeable, especially if you’re just carrying it around in your pocket.
When you tire of music, you can simply get onto the browser and watch a Youtube video or surf the web, since the Pioneer XDP-100R works on Android and supports all manner of apps. All in all, this is really akin to a high-quality multimedia center that fits into your pocket. Sure, it’s pricey and won’t be everyone’s first choice, but true music lovers will likely snatch it up in a heartbeat.
- An ultra-affordable player that’s not going to make a dent in your budget.
- Supports plenty of formats, including high-res ones.
- The battery life is around 30 hours, pretty great, all things considered.
- Though this model has a memory card slot, it only takes cards up to 64 GB.
- The design is a bit outdated.
- The player doesn’t save where you last stopped in the track, which is a problem for audiobook lovers. It only saves the last played tune.
If you love music but don’t have that much to spend on an MP3 player, don’t fret. We believe that everyone should have what they want so we found the budget-friendly yet excellent AGPTEK M20S. Even though it costs just a fraction of what the name-brand players do, this model is still pretty high-tech.
For one, the AGPTEK M20S supports a variety of formats both basic and high-res, so you can listen to your favorite tunes the way you want to. Of course, storing them means you need some space, especially if they’re in FLAC. While the player itself has just 8 GB of built-in memory, it supports cards with up to 64 GB. Not the highest, sure, but good enough to keep a solid music library. And you’ll actually be able to listen through all of it in one go, if you wanted to, since the battery life here is up to 30 hours. A respectable level, to put it mildly, we’ve seen similar specs from iPods and such.
If we had to guess what makes this model so cheap despite its excellent quality, it’s probably the lack of innovations both in design and features. The player is clearly focused on simply providing good sound quality with no added frills. And if you’re fine with that then this is a great choice. Affordable, high-quality, and reasonably capacious, the AGPTEK M20S is a thrifty music lover’s dream.
Apple iPod Shuffle (4th Generation)
- The renowned Apple quality is on full display here with small size and durable body. A lightweight yet sturdy model.
- The design is sleek and simple with easy controls.
- The player doesn’t lag or freeze up at all, even when you shuffle your whole library.
- A measly 2 GB of storage is enough for just about 10 albums or so.
- The lack of a screen is a bit disappointing since you can’t see the name of the track being played.
- No memory card slot means no ability to add at least a few more songs when the device is full.
There’s not that much left unsaid about Apple devices in general and the iPod specifically, especially when it’s the iconic Shuffle. This tiny square player was once the king of the market and it’s still good enough to contend with the innovators. Sure, the 2 GB of built-in storage and a lack of a memory card slot will put off those seeking a player that can store a huge music library. But if you know what you like listening to and don’t need that much space, there’s really not that much to dislike about this model.
The controls are sleek and simple with just a few buttons to adjust your listening experience. You can put the player on shuffle with one tap of your finger, leaving it to the device to surprise you with your favorite tune. The sleekness is evident in the design as well as this is one of the slimmest players we’ve seen, you could fit four of these onto your palm. Our only major gripe would have to be the lack of FLAC support but that’s common for all Apple devices.
So unless you’ve got thousands of songs that you need to fit onto a player, why not hop onto the Shuffle’s wavelength and enjoy a player that’s as well-designed as it’s well-made. Music lovers won’t be disappointed and those seeking a good player will surely find a lot to like about this one.
- Pretty high built-in storage capacity of 32 GB is amplified by two microSD card slots for a total of 400 GB.
- Supports all popular music formats and even some of the more obscure ones.
- Plenty of sound adjustment options for those who like to customize their listening experience.
- The price is a bit steep.
- The size of the player itself isn’t exactly small though it’s still a pocket model for sure.
- The corners of the body are a bit sharp.
Yet another player that presents an admittedly biting price but compensates for it with excellent quality, the Onkyo DP-X1 is a model that has very few faults in terms of actual playback and interface. The only things we didn’t like about it are the price (duh!) and the design, which leaves the player larger than most model and with unpleasantly sharp corners. But the latter can be fixed with a soft case and the size issue isn’t too substantial since the Onkyo DP-X1 should still fit into a pocket easily.
When it comes to music and storage, though, this is a great choice. With 32 GB of built-in storage, you’d already be able to keep quite a few albums on the player. But the two extra card slots bump that up by about 400 GB and that’s just amazingly capacious. You can fit your whole music library as well as some videos onto the player. You won’t be able to listen too long though as the battery life doesn’t go that far beyond 10 hours. It’s not bad, just not what we expected from a device of this caliber. Still, the sound quality is pristine and the support of all popular music formats is a big bonus for music lovers.
So if you’re not put off by the price and awkward design, there’s very little to put you off of the Onkyo DP-X1. It’s a well-made and convenient player that won’t disappoint even a demanding customer.
MYMAHDI MP3/MP4 Music Player
- An insane bargain that’s sure to fit into any budget with no issues.
- The modest 8 GB built-in storage can be expanded via a memory card up to 128 GB.
- The player even supports video playback in AMV and AVI formats.
- Pretty heavy despite the small size.
- The buttons aren’t placed that conveniently.
- No intuitive way to resume playback on the point where you left off.
One of the most affordable players out there, the MYMAHDI model won’t wow you with a famous brand name but it’s a pretty good choice nonetheless. For every flaw, it has an answer that’s sure to impress. For example, the 8 GB of built-in storage might not be that impressive but you can use the memory card slot and boost it by up to 128 GB. And even though the screen isn’t the largest, you can still watch videos (limited to two formats, however).
We do have to say that this model is a bit bigger and heavier than most though it’s not exactly a crucial problem for an MP3 player. It still fits into your pocket and the many buttons on its case aren’t about to rip your jeans or scratch your hand. Though you might, indeed, get confused about controls for the first week or so.
All in all, if you’re looking to save money, the MYMAHDI is a wonderful option, if a bit behind in terms of design and features. Still, it boasts great battery life above 30 hours, has enough storage for many songs, and supports video and text just as well as audio. Now that’s what we call a bargain!