Get a tight grip on your wig, your socks, and your monocle, because all are about to be blown off. There’s still people out there who use mp3 players for their music, podcasts, and audio books. These individuals don’t rely on their phone, tablet, and laptop, but have chosen to stay the course of the Zune and use dedicated gadgetry to provide their aural pleasure. To many, this might seem madness, adding in an operation that can easily be handled by existing hardware. To us, it smacks of smart spending and self-awareness.
Turning your expensive pocket computer into a Discman, especially if you’re taking it out on jogs, or into the pool with you, is a great way to waste money. An mp3 player ordinarily costs a tiny fraction of what your phone does. Since it is built largely to do a single thing, it does that better than the finest apps on your other devices. In other cases, the cost is comparable, but the performance is far better than what a catch-all smartphone can produce. Bearing more features, smaller size, low cost, and much lighter weight, one of the 9 best mp3 players might be the mobile music solution you’ve been seeking.
Jump onto any retail website and a search for “mp3 players” will give you a wheelbarrow of results. Most of them are going to be iPod rip-offs that often look exactly like Apple’s Nano. Brands like G.G.Martinsen and MYMAHDI rank highly among these emulators and can be snapped up at Amazon for a song. They provide fine sound, all the normal features you could want, and cost so little that it won’t matter if you burn through a few. Should you want disposable tech that works until you lose it or someone at your orgy walks away with it, find a cheap reproduction with some decent star ratings wherever you shop for gear.
A smooth face with large buttons and a design that’s miles from Apple’s iPod, the A01T, and upcoming choices like the A02, could put new style into the mp3 world. It has a subtle gold hue that catches the light nicely, and shows off the metal body. All the drooling over looks is allowed, because the function is solidly there, which makes the experience of using the A01T feel wholly seamless. An additional pedometer, and noise-isolation features kick off some nice features for movers, shakers, and jet-setters. Purchase: $37
Micca Speck G2
This is technically an mp3 player, but it isn’t the kind we’re used to seeing. Acting as a multimedia input and output you can use this to play music, video, and combination files through the HDMI port. The Speck G2 will work with any high-definition television and most standard USB flash drives. With an included remote, it’s an easy way to move your movies and music on the road, so long as you know you’ll be able to reach a television, stereo, or other display at some point. Purchase: $40
SanDisk Clip Jam
Quick and dirty, SanDisk is about low prices, lots of storage, and no funny business. On board is an FM radio dial, so you can get stations when you tire of streaming all of Elbow and Ween’s greatest hits. Storage space starts strong, but can be expanded by any microSD card you choose to slip inside. The display and interface are basic, which makes the battery life soar. It won’t push tons of power, and your music will sound good, not exceptional. It’s more than you expect without being cluttered. Purchase: $55
Waterfi iPod Shuffle
The Shuffle is still beloved by some, who want an mp3 player they can throw away at a moment’s notice. The postage-stamp body and remedial interface, to say nothing of near weightlessness give it a niche nothing else can fill. Add in the protection to waterproof it up to 200 feet, and provide comfortable silicone tips that give you a solid seal for superior sound when submerged, and it’s a spicy meatball for your audio-gasms. Purchase: $190
You’re never going to go wrong with an iPod of any generation. Though you’ll be settling for obsolete gear that feels like it’s from an earlier time, it’s basically an iPhone that doesn’t get clogged up with the “phone” part. You also aren’t required to use whatever dicey service plan Apple has cooked up with the cellular providers. It’s redundant compared to a phone, but Android users who want pocket apps that can’t be had on Google’s service will find it’s just enough Apple. It also slides into and out of storage much more quickly than a full 5.5″+ screen. Purchase: $220+
Astell & Kern AK Jr
USB DACs (Digital to Analog Converters) are commonly used to turn digital formats – like mp3 or mp4 – into forms we’re more familiar with. Doing this provides extra depth and range to audio, as it uncompresses the small digital files into larger files with richer sound. The point of bringing up these DACs which provide such find sound, is you don’t need them if you have the AK Jr. A prestige mp3 item with a dedicated volume knob, astounding sonic reproduction, and enough juice to make bigger, badder headphones jump to the rhythm, jump, jump! Astell & Kern have made the discerning king of audiophile mp3 players. Purchase: $269
Sony is an odd, but consistent, bird. Going as far back as the time before there was Star Lord’s Walkman, Sony has been the name in portable music. Though the iPod unseated Sony for a time, their current batch of mp3 devices is nothing short of inspired. Though the one to crow about is the NWZ-A17, don’t ignore the NWZWS613BLK – if you’re a runner – or the NWZ-A35 Walkman. They’re all attractive, with dark, professional bodies and displays that are serious, not childish. That gravitas goes into the tough build and wiry feel to the slender body. If you want a “Best in Show” or “Bang for the Buck” prize, here’s your azure ribbon. Purchase: $314
Cowon Plenue 1
Because mp3 players are typically small, cheap affairs, like dating a college freshman, it doesn’t occur to many brands to attempt a luxury listening model. The Plenue 1 couldn’t have a more fittingly pretentious name. It looks like it lives on the counter at an organic gin martini bar in the Bay Area. It’s also a survivalist, able to survive a few board meeting with the concrete. We’d suggest getting a case, as the natty tux looks don’t wear scuffs lightly. Though it handles a multitude of file types, branching all the way into ripped SACDs (Sony super Audio CDs) it doesn’t stream, and the buttons are too touchy. Accessories can help, but add to the already helium-filled price. Purchase: $400