The Best MP3 Players in 2021
No, MP3 players aren’t dead. They’re still great for moments when you just want to listen to some music while out and about without having to carry your smartphone. Or for moments when you want to go off the grid for a couple of weeks. They’re also great for working out in the gym or jogging since we all know that smartphones are getting bigger all the time. The good news is that today, finding the best MP3 player is easier than ever.
Times change and with them, the MP3 player market shrank like never before. You have a handful of models, most of which target the audiophile market. There are just a few budget choices and out of high-end models, it’s pretty easy to find the best ones. All you need is lots of memory, solid UI, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi support and that’s it. If you want a better sound just get a headphone amp and you’re set. Pair the amp with lossless audio files and you’ve got yourself the best MP3 player in the world.
Today, we have a selection of best MP3 players for every person. We have the best overall player, best players for audiophiles, along with models that are a match made in heaven for those who need a cheap running buddy. Let’s check them out.
Best MP3 Players
Apple iPod Touch
The Best MP3 Player For Most People
- Storage: 32GB – 256GB
- Dimensions: 123 x 59 x 6mm
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi: Yes, Both
- Battery Life: 33 Hours Of Playback
The iPod Touch is an ancient device by today’s standards but the few things it does, it does right. The device features excellent UI that’s easy to navigate and its music playing features are easy to use. The iPod Touch is a great all-around media player that’s a perfect choice for those who want a device that will serve them tons of entertainment without the ball chain in the form of a SIM card.
When it comes to performance, the iPod Touch rocks. The sound is excellent and perfect to go with any headphones. Its screen, while pretty small, is bright and colorful. Finally, the battery life is superb.
The iPod Touch can play music, videos, it can access the internet and play any YouTube video. It can be used for gaming, and it’s great for snapping some daylight photos. Finally, it’s the only Apple device smaller than the iPad that comes with a headphone jack. Yup, if you want iOS but also want to use it with your regular, 3.5mm headphones, the latest iPod Touch is the one to get. Downsides include a screen that’s a bit small for watching videos and a high price, at least for the 256GB model.
- Lots Of Storage Space
- Can Run iOS Apps and Games
- 3.5mm Jack On An iOS Device
- Simple To Use
- Screen Too Small For Comfortable Video Experience
The Best MP3 Player With Bluetooth
- Storage: 32GB Expandable
- Dimensions: 70.5 x 130 x 15.5mm
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi: Yes, Both
- Battery Life: 12 Hours Of Playback
FiiO is known for its excellent yet affordable portable amps but the company also produces excellent MP3 players aimed at audiophiles. They aren’t cheap but they are worth the price. The M11 is the best FiiO MP3 player and that says something. First of all, design. It’s perfect. Rugged yet stylized, industrial yet evocative.
When it comes to performance the M11 is like nothing else. It supports virtually every audio file type you might throw at it, from regular MP3s to FLAC and APE files. The sound is superb. Detailed, balanced, with wide dynamic range and very precise. In other words, yes, it’s somewhat neutral but well suited for every music genre. The bass is detailed and it’s there, but it’s not at the front like many users prefer.
The good thing is that the M11 comes with a 10-band equalizer that can change the sound signature to your liking. Combine the EQ with a pair of bass-heavy headphones and you can enjoy the sound even if you are a bass head. The M11 works with a broad range of headphones. You can hook up a pair of high impedance over ears and they’ll work perfectly.
On the other hand, the player features Bluetooth 4.2 and works perfectly with any pair of wireless headphones. You have support for SBC/aptX/aptX HD/LDAC/LHDC Bluetooth formats. There are also two AKM AK4493 DACs inside the player that will filter the music and deliver it crystal clear at the other end. Another great feature is the presence of three types of audio jacks: 2.5mm, 3.5mm, and 4.4mm allowing the player to be used even with powerful studio headphones.
The player uses Android as its UI, which is great. It’s easy to use and comes with support for a limited selection of Android apps including all music streaming services. And the 5.15” screen is excellent, vibrant and pretty bright. You can expand the limited storage with up to 2TB MicroSD card if you find one. Battery life is another plus and the player includes a USB C port used for charging. Literally, the only negative we can think of is a bit higher price. Everything else is top tier.
- Superb Sound
- Supports All Kinds Of Audio Files
- Supports Almost Every Streaming Service
- Long Battery Life
- Works With Almost Every Pair Of Headphones
- Limited Internal Storage
Sony NW-A55 B
Excellent Midrange MP3 Player
- Storage: 16GB Expandable
- Dimensions: 55.7 x 97.3 x 10.8mm
- Bluetooth And Wi-Fi: Only Bluetooth
- Battery Life: 45 Hours Of Playback
Sony’s Walkman line devices were and still are the favorite portable audio choice for millions of people for decades now and the company continued to release Walkman audio players even after the rise of smartphones. The NW-A55 model is a mid-range MP3 player that keeps the good Walkman stuff while offering excellent sound. You have the superb build quality, the invaluable mechanical keys that provide that sweet physical feedback when pressed, and excellent UI that’s responsible and easy to navigate.
The sound is a bit on the bass side but its overall tone is relatively balanced. The sound’s clear and very detailed, with a plethora of Sony’s proprietary sound effects that can tweak the sound signature to your liking. The ClearAudio+ effect lets users enjoy their music in a rich and dynamic coating, with the effect reaching its full potential with a pair of quality Hi-Fi headphones. These will work great thanks to the presence of an excellent amp and a DAC. Also, the player works perfectly with any Bluetooth headphones.
The battery on this device can deliver almost two days straight of audio playback and it’s relatively fast to charge. This is where Sony’s proprietary connector used for charging and connecting the device with a computer shows its ugly face. It’s cumbersome and unnecessary in the age of USB C. At this price, it would be much better Sony offered a standard USB C port on the NW-A55. Also, the storage can be increased with memory cards but at default, it’s pretty limited at only 16GB.
- Excellent Design
- Responsible UI
- Superb Audio Quality
- Excellent, Mechanical Keys
- Amazing Battery Life
- Limited On-Board Storage
- Lack Of Any USB Port
HiBy R5 Saber
Lossless Digital Audio Player
- Dual Cirrus Logic CS43198 flagship DAC chips
- 3.5mm SE and 4.4mm balanced headphone and line outputs
- DSD, DXD, APE, AIFF, FLAC, WAV, and WMA lossless formats support
- Android 8.1
- 18 hours playtime on 3.5mm SE / 11 hours playtime on 4.4mm balanced
Enjoying lossless audio on the go is not a simple task, but definitely something the HiBy R5 Saber can deal with. This portable mp3 player is quite an interesting device since it ticks a lot of the checkmarks an audiophile would look for.
The HiBy R5 Saber uses a dual Cirrus Logic CS43198 flagship DAC, and if you know anything about audio you know just how great these chips are for audio quality. The device also comes with 3.5mm and 4.4mm balanced outputs and 1040+1040mW@16Ω which makes this tiny device pack quite a punch in terms of features.
The device also supports all formats of lossless audio: DSD, DXD, APE, AIFF, FLAC, WAV, and WMA. Obviously, the device can also play MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, etc. which are lossy formats. The device is even MQA certified which means that if you are a Tidal user you can use the full potential of the platform and unfold the full spec of your songs.
The device runs on Android 8.1 with a 3500mAh battery which supports 18 hours of playtime on the 3.5mm balanced output and 11 hours on the 4.4 balanced output. Overall this is a great package for anybody passionate about audio on the go that wants the highest possible audio quality.
- Balanced outputs are amazing to see on a portable device
- The professional-grade DAC chip means you will hear your music properly
- All formats of music files supported
- Runs on Android so it is quite accessible
- Expensive but everything related to audiophile-grade hardware is not cheap
- Older Android version
SanDisk Clip Sport Plus MP3 Player
The Best MP3 Player For Running
- Storage: 16GB Non-Expandable
- Dimensions: 53.3 ×92.5 ×11.5mm
- Bluetooth And Wi-Fi: Only Bluetooth
- Battery Life: 20 Hours Of Playback
If you need an ultra-portable MP3 player for jogging and workouts that won’t break the bank take a look at the SanDisk Clip Sport Plus MP3 Player. It’s very small and lightweight so you can carry it anywhere with you since you’ll hardly notice it. It’s water- and sweat-resistant and it comes with a belt clip, perfect for workouts and outdoor adventures. And it supports Bluetooth so you can pair it with any wireless headphones.
The sound quality is okay. Pretty good with gym-friendly headphones but not great if you hook up a pair of quality studio headphones. But since this MP3 player is made for outdoor activities, we won’t take that as a downside. The UI is dated and the screen is extra small, but they work solidly with the mechanical controls. The only major downside is the lack of a MicroSD card port, which should be the standard even on devices this small.
- Lightweight And Portable
- Perfect For Workouts
- Not Made For Audiophiles
- Storage Cannot Be Expanded
How To Choose An MP3 Player
Picking the right MP3 player is easier than ever. Just pick the right capacity, decide whether you want extra features, and that’s pretty much it. Oh, and there’s the decision between affordable and audiophile MP3 players. Let’s cover each point in detail.
Storage Capacity And Expansion
Most MP3 players come with expandable storage while their built-in storage is limited. You shouldn’t care about built-in storage in most cases but some lightweight and portable players do come with non-expandable storage.
All you have to do is to check whether the storage is expandable or not. If it is, forget about internal storage limitations. It if is well, make sure that you’re satisfied with the storage size because you won’t be able to expand it later on.
Do You Need Just An MP3 Player Or Something More?
Another important question. If you only want to listen to music, that’s great. In that case, you don’t have to worry about the UI and whether it’s based on iOS or Android and stuff about screen size and quality. If you do want extra features such as video playback support, or third-party apps, get a player that’s based on Android OS or get the iPod Touch.
If you ask us, the iPod Touch is the best pick for people who want video playback and third-party apps. Most Android-based players have a very limited selection of apps while the iPod Touch has full App Store support. Sure, some apps won’t be available but you’ll get lots of apps and games. You’ll also be able to take photos and videos as well as to subscribe to Apple Arcade if you want access to a ton of excellent games.
Some MP3 players come with zero wireless connectivity options but most current models offer at least Bluetooth. Check for those if you’re in the market for a new player. If you want Wi-Fi connectivity be ready to pay extra for a high-end player.
Regular Or An Audiophile MP3 Player?
Regular MP3 players are cheap, they offer solid audio quality, and may come with extra features such as video playback, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and third-party apps. If you’re using a pair of affordable headphones that cost under $50 these might be great for you. But if you want something more, think about getting an audiophile-grade MP3 player.
Now, these players don’t have to cost a fortune. Many great models sport very affordable prices while coming with DACs and support for high impedance Hi-Fi headphones. Just make sure to have a pair of headphones that can keep up with them. Some budget gaming headset you’re also using for listening to music won’t cut it. If you want to buy an audiophile MP3 player, get a pair of quality Hi-Fi headphones or some nice wireless headphones to go with the player.
Other Features To Look Out For
Other, smaller, features to look for are stuff that might not matter much for some but can be very handy to others.
Water Resistance – If you need a player for workout sessions, get one with water resistance. They won’t break if you accidentally drop them into water and they will work fine while you’re excessively sweating.
Multiple Headphone Jacks – Another interesting feature that might be really helpful for some users. Some MP3 players come with the bigger, 4.4mm jack that can usually be found on high-end Hi-Fi and studio headphones. If you want to use one of those, either get a player that comes with it or get an adaptor.
USB C Port – If you’re one of the people who want to remove the excessive cables from their lives and use only one – USB C – get an MP3 player with one. Lots of players come either with old MicroUSB ports or they use proprietary ports for charging and connecting to computers. Luckily, you can find affordable players that have USB C ports at the bottom.
aptX And LDAC Support – If you own a pair of high-end wireless headphones you probably want a player that supports high-def wireless codecs. Look for players that come with aptX or aptX HD support. That’s the best Bluetooth audio codec at the moment and while it cannot come close to audio quality over cable, it’s pretty good. Sony’s LDAC is also pretty good, but not as good as aptX.
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