The Best MP3 Players in 2023
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.
- 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
A Complete FiiO Experience
- Dual ES9038Q2M DAC
- Support up to 384kHz/DSD256
- 5300mAh battery
The FiiO M11S is the budget continuation of the M11 series with the M17 being the top-end and the M11 Plus being the mid-budget option (M17-1800$, M11 Plus -700$). The device runs Android with a Snapdragon 660 which is not necessarily impressive but it gets the job done.
Compared to the CPU the outstanding bits are of course related to the music playback capabilities of the M11S since it is using a Dual ES9038Q2M DAC setup with 670mW output power. This setup allows for 384kHz/DSD256 decoding with no audio degradation.
The FiiO M11S is also capable of low-latency Bluetooth playback (with LHDC transmission support for the first time) allowing you to enjoy flawless playback on Bluetooth devices as well. The M11S uses a 5300mAh battery to have enough juice to drive all those components without charging every couple of hours.
- Versatile setup with capable hardware
- A battery big enough to power the capable hardware the M11S has
- Has the option of Bluetooth playback
- There seems to be a bug where the device turns all lossless music files into AAC
- Limited instructions for the device
HiBy R3 Pro Saber
A Budget Friendly Option
- Dual ES9219 DAC
- 32bit/384kHz/DSD256 native
- Output power 101mW/340mW
When looking at enthusiast music players that can deal with lossless audio on the go you quickly realize that the prices ramp up faster than you can deal with resulting in a feeling of despair since a lot of these products are unreachable for most users.
By comparison, the HiBy R3 Pro Saber will set you back only 200$ which in this market is a very good value for what you get. The HiBy R3 Pro Saber uses a dual ES9219DAC, with support for 32bit/384kHz/DSD256 native playback, and can use most music formats you can think of (PE/WAV/WMA/WMA Lossless/FLAC/DSD/DFF/ISO/AIFF/M4A/MP2/ MP3/AAC/OGG Vorbis/OGG).
You also benefit from the fact that the device has multiple ports for connections: PO/LO 3.5mm port and BAL 2.5mm port output, USB 2.0 support USB DAC input/output, SPDIF USB port output, and OTG function.
You can also use Bluetooth 5.0 which supports most major Hi-Res formats for wireless playback which is perfect for an on-the-go audio device like the HiBy R3 Pro Saber.
- Decent hardware for great value
- The device uses a specialized OS made by the company
- Has a lot of ports and handy features for music playback
- The build quality reflects the price of the device
- The software is a bit confusing but you can get used to it
The Big Brother of All FiiO Players
- DAC: ES9038PRO*2
- Amplifier: THX AAA-788+
- SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon 660
- Battery capacity: 9200mAh
As mentioned previously in the FiiO M line of music players the M17 is the top-end top-spec device that rivals a desktop-class AMP/DAC setup. The player has desktop-class 8-channel ES9038PRO flagship DACs in the left and right audio channels each for superior resolution and zero distortion.
For the AMP the FiiO M17 uses the THX AAA-788+ which was specifically designed to output 3000mW per channel with a lower output impedance so it can power any kind of headphones.
To keep this device cool the FiiO M17 uses liquid cooling to transfer the heat out of the device since as you can imagine having desktop-grade parts in a pocket-sized device presents a challenge to the engineers.
To power all of this the M17 uses a 9200mAh battery that can last up to 10 hours of playback on the player. In short, the M17 is the very best transportable audio player you can think of with the highest quality components and capabilities.
- The very best of what a portable audio device can be
- Insane AMP/DAC configuration
- Almost 10000 mAh in the tank gives you some time to listen to your music on the go
- As you might have expected the M17 is both heavy and big so you better make sure you have a belt on your pants while it sits in your pockets
- The M17 is 1800$ which is not something everyone can afford for a music player
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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