Best MP3 player 2021: choose the right portable music player to take your music with you


Believe it or not, the MP3 player is not dead. Well, it actually depends on what you think of when you think of an MP3 player. Of course, the classic iPods of yesteryear might be out of sight, because our smartphones can do all they can and more. But, there is still room for a device dedicated to audio, whether it is for a much higher audio quality or simply to have a compact and affordable device that does not burden itself with all the additional functions of a device. telephone.

You can find MP3 players (although playing lossy MP3 files might be the least they can do) with powerful DACs and amplifiers, giving you the high-end sound and power you need if you use high-end headphones. headphones or earphones. You’ll also find substantial support for a wide variety of audio formats, various connectivity options, and more storage flexibility in many of these devices. So if you are looking for a portable home for your music library, you will find it here.

TL; DR – Here are the best MP3 players:

1. Apple iPod Touch

Best MP3 player

Apple’s iPod Touch is leading the way in the MP3 player market for all the versatility it offers at such a low price. It might not offer the most high-end DACs or heaps of storage, but if you just want to load up a library of MP3s (and we’re talking real MP3s), the iPod Touch is more than ready for you. facilitate the task.

The iPod Touch has a sleek, slim form factor paired with a reliable touchscreen and a familiar operating system. If you’re coming from an iPhone (or even an Android phone, honestly), the learning curve for getting up and running with the iPod Touch will be minimal. And you’ll get plenty of battery life. You can plug headphones directly into iPod Touch or enjoy wireless playback with Bluetooth. If you want to listen to Spotify or pretty much any other streaming app, you will be able to do so over Wi-Fi. And, if you are done listening to music, you can use the iPod Touch for pretty much almost everything an iPhone can do except connect to cellular networks.

2. Sony NW-A55

Best cheap MP3 player

Sony NW-A55

When it comes to audio, however, the Sony NW-A55 goes way beyond an iPod Touch. You can plug a pair of wired headphones into the unit and enjoy your favorite lossless audio files ripped by an S-Master HX amplifier, or you can even use DSEE HX to scale compressed audio files. You’re also not limited to wired headphones.

The Sony NW-A55 includes NFC for easy pairing with Bluetooth headphones, and it offers aptX HD and LDAC codec support to let you enjoy excellent audio quality via Bluetooth. And, when you’re at home and don’t need a portable music player, you can plug the NW-A55 into your computer and use it as a USB DAC.

3. Astell and Kern Kann

Best MP3 Player Under $ 1000

Astell & Kern Kann

The Astell & Kern Kann Music Player is not for the casual music listener. Its price almost guarantees it, but it manages to stay below $ 1,000 (especially with a current reinstatement from Astell & Kern which sees the price drop to $ 600). You get a solid device with physical buttons for playback control and a volume wheel built into the side of the device to match the design. 64GB of on-board storage will get you started, but if you have a large collection of high-resolution audio, you’ll probably want to use the SD and microSD card slots.

This music player has a wide range of supported file formats, from classics like WAV and MP3 to FLAC, OGG, etc. Inside it contains a 32-bit AKM AK4490 DAC and its own amplifier with up to 7 Vrms output to support high impedance headphones or low impedance speakers. You’ll also have plenty of options for using it, as you can plug it into an unbalanced 3.5mm jack or balanced 2.5mm audio jack powered by the internal amplifier or connect to balanced line level outputs. or asymmetric. There’s even Bluetooth for wireless audio with aptX codec support to boot. As an added benefit, the Kann can also take audio input via USB, letting it serve as an external DAC for your computer.

4. Astell & Kern AK Jr

Best MP3 Player Under $ 500

Astell & Kern AK Jr

The market for high-end MP3 players is almost unbelievably expensive, but when you consider what kind of quality amps and audio converters they need to pack into a portable device, it starts to make a little more sense. That said, you can still pick up a premium one for under $ 500 with the Astell & Kern AK Jr.

This small music player is thinner and lighter than the Astell & Kern Kann, making it more user-friendly for regular listening on the go. You can opt for casual listening with this player, as it supports MP3 and Bluetooth, and it even has 64GB of internal storage to keep a small music library. But you can also opt for a hi-fi library. There is room for a microSD card to store extra large files from lossless audio formats like FLAC and WAV. You even get support for high-resolution DSD audio. And, if you want to use the Astell & Kern AK Jr’s DAC and amp for your computer, you can plug it in and send the audio to your headphones or speakers through it.

5. Astell & Kern A & futura SE200

Best MP3 player when price is not an object

Astell & Kern A & futura SE200

If you’re all about high fidelity audio, you shouldn’t hesitate to use the Astell & Kern A & future SE200. This premium audio player is an upgrade from its already impressive predecessor, the SE100, and it brings some notable improvements. It still has a convenient five-inch touchscreen to help you navigate your music library while offering a simple volume wheel and side buttons for easy playback control.

Inside the chic aluminum and ceramic chassis, Astell & Kern packed a single AK4499EQ DAC from AKM and two ES9068AS DACs from ESS, making the SE200 the world’s first multi-DAC digital audio player. Astell & Kern have also opted for several amp designs to make the audio characteristics of the different DACs shine. All of these features will allow you to take your favorite lossless audio files (with 256GB of built-in storage) and play them back with your favorite headphones on the go, whether balanced, unbalanced or even wireless bluetooth headphones with plug. support aptX HD.

6. SanDisk Clip Jam

Best Impulse Buy MP3 Player

SanDisk Clip Jam

As long as you set your expectations appropriately, you might be surprised at what you can get for $ 30. The SanDisk Clip Jam can be a good portable player for a kid or for those situations where you don’t want to carry an expensive portable device. You don’t get wireless connectivity and don’t support apps or streaming. But you can add a microSD card to increase the 8 GB of on-board memory to a total of 40 GB.

It comes in a handful of bright colors, and as the name suggests, it has a built-in clip that you can use to attach it to your clothes. Since it also plays MP3, WMA, AASC, OGG, WAV and FLAC tracks, this might be all you need.

What to look for in a portable music player

We tend to refer to portable music players as “MP3 players,” a tacit acknowledgment of the overwhelming popularity of this lossy and highly compromised audio format. But the most important consideration when buying a player is to make sure that it supports the format in which your music is stored. This can include Apple iTunes tracks in AAC format or high quality “audiophile” tracks in FLAC, OGG or lossless format. DSD files. Also keep an eye on the storage capacity: a modestly sized music collection containing high bitrate music can easily reach hundreds of gigabytes.

Most audiophiles already know the value of a high quality digital to analog converter (DAC). An MP3 player with a high quality DAC can easily sound better than your PC’s built-in sound card. And while the benefits of putting a pair of DACs in an MP3 player are questionable, driving the left and right stereo channels with discrete amplifiers can certainly ensure accurate sound reproduction.

Should you be worried about getting an MP3 with a balanced audio port? It depends on the quality of your headphones and your hearing. A balanced port can reduce line hum and increase the signal to noise ratio, allowing you to hear more of your music. But you need to be able to swap out a standard 3.5mm headphone cable for a balanced 2.5mm cable – and your headphones should ideally be designed for balanced connections, otherwise there’s no point.

And if you want to connect your player wirelessly, look for Bluetooth support – ideally, with aptX wireless codec support for better sound quality. If not, buy your audio player by asking the same questions you would for any portable device – do you like the interface, for example, how long does the battery last, and do you want it to do something other than play music, such as running apps or playing games.

Dave Johnson has been writing about games and technology since the days of the Palm Pilot. See him scream in the void of Twitter @davejoh.


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