Are you a passionate music-lover or audiophile? Do you enjoy listening to music or audiobooks while traveling, exercising or studying? While many people use their smartphones to listen to music, having an MP3 Player can give you more freedom and flexibility when it comes to listening to music wherever and whenever you want.
Here are a few reasons why you might want to get an MP3 Player (even if you have a smartphone):
- You want the enjoyment of having a device that’s solely dedicated to playing great quality audio
- You don’t want to use your phone because you want to save on battery life and space
- You want to be able to take your music with you anywhere, without the interruption of phone calls or the worry of wearing out your phone
With this guide, we’ll help you find the best MP3 player for your lifestyle, budget and personality.
How to Choose the Best MP3 Player
There are five main questions you should ask yourself in order to choose the best MP3 player for your needs:
- How much do I want to spend?
- How much storage space do I need? (How big is my musical library, am I using large audiobooks?)
- What extra features, if any, do I want in my MP3 player? (Do I want it to play videos, Bluetooth, FM radio, etc.?)
- What size, shape and overall design am I looking for? (Do I want something compact and portable or unique and personalized?)
- What type of audio files do I have and how do I prefer to manage and enjoy my music? (Do I prefer shuffling, creating playlists, gapless playback, etc.?)
There is an overwhelming number of options when it comes to shopping for MP3 players. Ask yourself these questions and follow up with research to make the best choice worth your investment.
MP3 Sound Quality
Sound quality is one of the most important aspects of any MP3 player. Sound quality is commonly influenced by the way the audio files are compressed. There are two notable forms of data compression found in MP3 Players: Lossy and Lossless.
- Lossy: The file size is reduced significantly to help save space, with a sacrifice to quality.
- Lossless: The original data in the file is preserved (it can be compressed or uncompressed) to maintain the original quality.
Which is better? Lossy compression actually removes some of the data from the file to reduce the size, whereas nothing is lost with lossless. What this means for your music is that lossless audio may sound more realistic and better quality. The noticeable difference between lossy and lossless audio may not always be apparent, but this can be an important feature for audiophiles. Choosing a lossless MP3 player may not be necessary unless you’re also using higher-end headphones or speakers.
MP3 players typically store files with internal flash memory or external memory in the form of a card. In other words, you can choose to add additional memory to the MP3 player depending on whether or not it has a memory card slot.
Some MP3 players can only hold a certain size of SD card in them. For example, if the MP3 player can only read SD cards up to 64GB, any cards larger (such as 128 or 256GB) will not work. If you already have an SD card that you’d like to use, it’s important to make sure that it’s compatible with the device that you’re looking at purchasing.
The amount of storage you need will vary depending on how many files you want to keep on your device. To put things in perspective, one gigabyte can hold an average of about 200 songs. However, this also depends on many factors, including the quality of the music files and the length of the songs. If you tend to listen to a large number of audio files, it might be worthwhile to invest a bit of extra money into an MP3 player with a good amount of expandable storage.
MP3 Player Screen Size and Resolution
While screen size and resolution shouldn’t be a deal-breaker when it comes to buying the best MP3 player, you should definitely consider the appearance and quality of the device’s screen before buying.
Screen size and resolution will be much more important if you’re planning to use your player to watch videos. MP3 players that double up as video players can have a resolution of 480p or more. That’s not a lot compared to what most smartphones and tablets can do, but there are a few higher-resolution MP3 players available.
Screen size generally ranges from 2.5 inches to 4 inches, with some screens being even less than 2 inches. A smaller screen can mean more portability, but always remember to consider the overall design of the device, including the button placements and the user interface. The actual size of the screen may not be as important as how easily you can navigate through it.
The types of files in your music library can play an important role in choosing an MP3 player. If you have already downloaded your music in a certain file type, then you will want to make sure that your new MP3 player can read those files.
The most common types of files are WMA, MP3, M4A, FLAC and AAC. If you have mostly FLAC files, then you will want an MP3 player that can play Lossless files. The rest, with the exception of WMA, are lossy file types which most players can handle. WMA can be either lossy or lossless. Nearly all MP3 players will list which file types they are able to read and play.
MP3 Player Portability
The best MP3 player should be portable enough that you can take it with you in your pocket, purse, bag or car without it weighing you down. It should be slim and lightweight enough to be easy to carry, but not so light that it can break in two if you drop it. For MP3 players with the best portability, look for devices with screen sizes of 3 inches or smaller and avoid devices with sharp corners or awkward shapes.
A smooth, compact and sturdy MP3 player is your best bet if you want something you can carry in your pocket throughout the day. Keep in mind that many MP3 players can come with their own cases, which will add bulk as well as protection. If you are especially active, look for MP3 players that include a clothing clip.
MP3 Player Battery Life
When you’re traveling, jogging or commuting to work, you want to be able to listen to your music without worrying about the battery. For many people, carrying around a portable battery pack isn’t a practical solution. A good MP3 player will have a long battery life and the ability to play hours of music on a single charge.
Battery life in MP3 players can vary depending on what features your player has and the way that you use these features. If you’re using Bluetooth on your MP3 player, then your battery usage will be much higher. If you want to save on battery life, opt to listen to your MP3 player with a good pair of wired headphones.
As a side note, it’s important to remember that the level of volume you use has an effect on the drain of battery life. If you listen to music at a higher volume, it will drain battery life quicker. The brightness of your MP3 player and how long the screen is on for can also quickly drain the battery. For this reason, a lot of manufacturers have an auto-sleep or lock time on the device. If you want to preserve the battery life of your MP3 player, make sure to adjust the screen settings and minimize track skipping.
Best MP3 Players
Apple iPod Touch (7th Generation)
The Best All-Around MP3 Player
Before the rise of the iPhone, the iPod Touch was one of the coolest things you could have in your pocket. Well, they are still going strong today as it’s basically an iPhone missing a few features and sans cellular capabilities.
If you’ve used an iPhone, you’ll feel right at home with the 7th generation of the iPod Touch. It runs the same OS and comes with a similar set of features including a FaceTime HD camera and a Retina display. With a resolution of 1,136 x 640, you can game on this one to a degree. It has the speedy 1.6 GHz dual-core A10 Fusion processor and 2GB of RAM (a decent improvement compared to the previous model).
An obvious draw of the iPod is the fact you get access to iTunes and its massive catalog of music. It’s quite capable on the audio front as well with support for a full range of formats including WAV, AC-3, and AAC among others. The 7th gen iPod Touch also has a built-in speaker along with a 3.5mm headphone jack, Bluetooth 4.1, and Wi-Fi.
The touchscreen is a huge perk along with the battery life which can give you around 40 hours of audio or 8 hours of video playback. The 7th gen Touch available with 32GB, 128GB or 256GB of storage and available in several different colors.
- 4-inch Retina display
- iTunes access
- FaceTime HD camera
- Great for media
- Excellent battery life
- No SD slot
- Relatively expensive
Bring Back the Old Days with a Modern Device
Some of us grew with a Walkman in our pockets while others are only now introduced to this Sony legendary piece audio technology. But regardless of how you know about the Walkman, we can all agree it makes life better!
The NW-A55/B is the modern version of Walkman, with a slim design, graphic interface, and touch controls. The MP3 player comes S-Master HX amplifier so you can listen to your music in higher-than-CD quality Hi-Res audio. It also has an integrated DSEE HX system that can restore high-range sounds lost from compression.
If the built-in 16GB of storage is not enough, you can use an microSD card or the BT 4.2 connectivity to stream your favorite tunes. The device also has a 3.5mm jack input for headphones or speakers, so you can amp up your listening experience.
The interface is quite intuitive and the touchscreen is very responsive, but there is a bit of lag when you first boot it up. You also have side controls (good old-fashioned buttons). The interface can be used to select your music, organize it, and customize the overall experience according to your needs.
Lastly, the battery is supposed to give you around 45h of playback time, but it all depends on whether you’re using the BT or accessing the music from local storage. Regardless, you can use it all day long without having to stop for a charge.
- High-quality audio, with customization possibilities
- Modern and durable design
- Convenient to carry around
- 3.5mm jack input
- BT 4.2 connectivity so you can use streaming services
- The interface is a bit confusing
Cowon Plenue D2
An MP3 Player for Audiophiles
The Plenue D2 is the improved version of the original MP3 player from Cowon, the Plenue D. As such, it features the same boxy design, with larger storage space (64GB) but the same touchscreen (2.8 inches) and controls. Of course, storage space is expandable (up to 128GB) through the micro SDXC slot. And, just like the original, the D2 resists for up to 45h on one charge.
The Plenue D2 may look small, but it packs a lot of power due to technology that’s packed under the durable casing. As such, it can provide Hi-Fi audio in the form of 24bit 192kHz stereo DAC (dual CIRRUS LOGIC CS43131). CS43131 is considered a high-performance DAC and comes with a high-res headphone amp for an improved listening experience.
Furthermore, Plenue D2 supports DSD (Direct Stream Digital) which is a super audio CD format that can process signals at 2.8224MHz per bit. For the best possible audio reproduction, the DSD in delivered using the Native method. In addition, the MP3 player will play anything you throw at it including FLAC, ALAC, and good-old MP3s.
D2 has a standard headphone jack but there’s no Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity. Still, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you have your favorite music in storage. Lastly, the amazing specifications (like SNR 130dB, THD+N 0.0004%, Stereo Crosstalk -143dB, and Balanced Output 4.0Vrms) help deliver perfect sound quality even to the most pretentious listeners.
- Designed for impressive audio quality
- Build for durability (aluminum casing and compact design)
- Impressive audio technology
- Accepts a wide range of audio formats
- You can extend the storage to 128GB
- Great battery life
- No BT or WiFi
- The touchscreen is a bit slow
- Difficult to customize using your computer
High-Res Lossless Audio Player with Android & Wireless Connectivity
M11 from FiiO is an Android-based lossless portable music player. This means you can listen to your favorite tunes in Hi-Res quality (better-than-CD) and you can use your favorite Android music apps for streaming.
The device comes with lots of cool features, but the most important ones are about audio quality. For instance, it is powered by the hexa-core Samsung Exynos 7872 SoC and has two AKM AK4493 DACs to decode your music. In addition, it is equipped with a custom-made OPA926 op-amp chip, which has a lower noise floor, lower distortion, and overall cleaner power.
Furthermore, the M11 offers a wide range of outputs (2.5mm & 4.4mm balanced outputs, and one 3.5mm single-ended output). Combine all these with the Dynamic EQ feature (10 band dynamic EQ with adjustments up to +/-12dB) and you get a device fit for any music genre.
M11 also offers several ways of listening to music. For instance, you can use the Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity (supports SBC/aptX/aptX HD/LDAC/LHDC formats), the 2.4/5GHz dual-band WiFi feature, or the local storage (32GB default with the possibility to add up to 4TB with 2 micro-SD cards).
The device in itself is modern-looking and durable, fitted with a large and colorful 5.15-inch 10-point multitouch screen (1440*720 resolution). It also supports quick charging, while the 3800 mAh high-voltage battery can last for up to 13h of playback time.
- Durable build with modern design
- A wide range of useful features
- Impressive High-Res audio quality
- Touchscreen that’s easy to use
- Plenty of local storage capacity
- A bit on the pricey side
- Battery life could have been better
SanDisk Clip Sport Plus
The Best MP3 Player for the Outdoors
When you’re shopping for the best MP3 player, SanDisk usually isn’t the first company to come to mind… unless you’re looking for a memory card for your music. Well, the company surprised us with the SanDisk Sports Plus, an affordable option ideal for outdoor enthusiasts.
A few of our top options would be handy to take on a jog, but smaller is usually better when you’re exercising or at the gym. The Clip Sports Plus can handle the treadmill as easily as a mountain trail considering you can clip it to your clothing and go to town. It can take a light drop better than others as there’s not a huge screen to worry about and it’s water-resistant as well.
We’re not going to hit you with Hi-Def tech specs for obvious reasons, but it can play MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC and AAC audio files along with DRM free iTunes songs. The 16GB variant has enough room for around 4000 songs, and you can use a memory card although that appears to vary by model. Other features include Bluetooth, a micro USB 2.0 port, and an FM tuner.
SanDisk didn’t break any new ground with the design of this one, but it’s a solid little MP3 player that’s perfect for the outdoors with around 20 hours of power. It is tiny at only 1.28 ounces and one of the few that gives you a variety of options out of the gate. There are 4GB, 8GB and 16GB variants of the Sports Plus and around eight colors to choose from.
- Weighs less than 2 ounces!
- 16GB of expandable storage
- 2-year warrant
- The display can be hard to read
- Limited formats
Truly Authentic Sound in a Modern Device
The Walkman series from Sony continues to produce impressive MP3 players that allow users to care for their music collection and carry it around regardless of size and formats.
As such, the NW-ZX507/S is a slim Walkman device, with impressive audio technology stashed inside its slender aluminum body. In fact, the miracle of engineering starts with the premium aluminum milled frame (for low impedance) and continues with advanced lead-free soldering and a gold-plated circuit board. So, you get a premium-quality device, that’s also durable and built to fit the times.
The player runs on Android and supports WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, which puts you in touch with the most popular streaming apps. The sound quality is higher-than-CD (Hi-Res Audio) due to the S-Master HX amplifier and DSEE Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (restores quality in digital compressed files).
This Walkman can keep playing for up to 20 hours of 128 kbps MP3 files or up to 18 hours of 96 kHz FLAC files. It also has USB Type-C charging, so it won’t be difficult to find a power outlet if you run out of juice.
Lastly, the 3.6-inch full-color touch screen combines nicely with the side controls that are nicely carved on the side.
- Slim design with touchscreen and aluminum body
- Specially crafted for high-res music
- 64GB local storage capacity
- WiFi and BT connectivity
- Android OS
- Good battery life
- It’s not a budget option
- Power output is very low
Astell & Kern KANN Cube
An Audio Powerhouse in your Pocket
This is definitely not the usual MP3 player you can find on every site! In fact, KANN CUBE is the second model of its line. The first thing that stands out is the design – it may be a bit bulky, but it works!
The sharp corners, the metallic-gray color, and the unusual shape make this MP3 player incredibly attractive. Furthermore, the design speaks about the cool features that lie underneath the cool-looking casing.
As such, the device features dual ESS ES9038PRO DACs (designed for Pro Audio Equipment), it has a Quad-Core CPU, supports 32bit/384kHz with Native DSD256 Support, and has three audio output modes (2.5mm balanced, 3.5mm headphone & 5-pin Mini XLR Output for even less noise (4Vrms). Of course, you can also use BT and WiFi to access your favorite online music sources.
In addition, it is equipped with Open APP support for music streaming and can be controlled using the 5.0-inch HD touchscreen (720×1280 pixels resolution). The battery lasts for up to 8 hours of continuous playback and the device provides 128GB of internal storage with one microSD card slot.
- Unique-looking designs
- High-quality touchscreen
- Good battery life
- Professional-sounding audio quality
- Three audio output modes
- 32bit/384kHz, Native DSD256 Support
- It’s expensive for an MP3 player
The Next Generation HiFi Music Player
If you’re feeling a bit nostalgic about the time when your music was away from your phone, the HIDIZS AP80 music player may be just the right product for you. It is small, lightweight, and features a 10-band EQ (±12dB) and 8 presets equalizer. It comes with 3.5mm connectivity, touch controls, and is powerful enough to deliver a hi-res audio experience with most headphones (it supports most high-resolution music formats).
For the moments when you don’t want to get tangled in wires, the AP80 music player also has BT connectivity. Not to mention, there’s a feature that keeps track for your steps and lets you tune in your favorite radio stations. Note, AP80 uses LDAC Bluetooth so it may not work if your headphones don’t support it (Bose QuietComfort 35 II for example).
It can store up to 1TB of information using an expandable Micro SD card and is powered by an 800mAh 3.8V Lithium Polymer battery that provides about 15h runtime. Finally, if you store your music on your smartphone, you can still enjoy this little music player by using the bi-directional DAC interface feature.
- Compact and lightweight design
- Touch controls & buttons
- Large storage capacity
- An impressive set of functions
- Both wired and wireless connectivity
- Good battery life
- Powerful enough to drive most headphones
- There is a bit of a learning curve
- The screen protector is not the best quality
- Some minor software glitches
Another Excellent Option from FiiO
FiiO has a slew of music players, and we’ve already taken a look at the high-powered X7 Mark II. If you dig the company’s audio efficiency but need something more affordable, the FiiO M7 is well worth a look.
While boxy, this MP3 player is easy to use and easy on the eyes with a clean design. You can’t pop the bottom off this one, but the M7 does resemble the rest of the company’s lineup and has a 3.2-inch touchscreen. The resolution clocks in at 480 x 800, and it has 768MB of RAM to go along with 2GB of built-in storage.
A microSD card slot lets you expand your range, and that’s a good thing considering how great this player sounds. It has a 32-bit ES9018Q2C DAC and deals with APTE-FAST, Lossless, AIFF, FLAC, WAV and more with ease. It can also do 24-bit PCM up to 192kHz and 1-bit native DSD at 2.822MHz. We love the fact it has a USB Type-C port, and it’s snappy thanks to a quad-core Exynos 7270 processor as well.
The FiiO M7 is rated at 30 hours per charge, and while you won’t get Wi-Fi or Android on this one, it does have Bluetooth 4.2 and an FM tuner. It comes with a case and screen protector and is available in several colors with Blue, Red, Silver or Black.
- Solid battery life
- 2GB of expandable storage
- Native DSD decoding
- Bluetooth & FM tuner
- Sensitive controls
- No streaming options
Compact & Sleek Design with Lots of Power
Designed on Samsung’s Exynos 7207 SoC (system on chip), the FiiO M6 music player comes with an incredible set of features. First, it supports WiFi, AirPlay, USB DAC, and Bluetooth connectivity, so there’s absolutely no excuse to continue using your smartphone for music!
Second, it is compact and sleek, it has touchscreen controls, and offers about 13h of playtime due to the large capacity battery (1200mAh). To charge it, you’ll need the provided type-C connector that can also be used for data transfer or USB DAC interface with a computer.
The device supports a wide range of audio formats and works with a series of apps for streaming music such as Spotify, MOOV, Tidal, and more.
- An impressive list of functionalities
- Supports a wide range of audio formats
- A lot smaller than a smartphone
- Touchscreen controls
- Supports a wide range of connections
- Good battery life
- It’s not Plug and Play – it needs a driver to connect with your PC
- Battery life is shorter
- The interface is a bit confusing
Music is medicine for the soul. If you’re passionate about your music, you should think about investing in the best MP3 player that you can rely on for several years of audio enjoyment.
In addition to finding the best MP3 player, you should also be on the lookout for the best wireless headphones, earbuds and noise-cancelling headphones to truly enhance your audio listening experience.