The 8 Best MP3 Players
8. AGPtEK A20
7. Astell & Kern AK70 Portable
6. AudioFlood Shuffle
5. FiiO X3
4. SanDisk Clip Sport Plus
3. Onkyo DP-X1
2. Apple iPod Touch
1. Sony NW-A35
A Lifetime Of Music In Your Pocket
I think it's fair to say that music is the most immediate, immersive art form. Photography comes close for immediacy, but it can't reach the same level of physical and emotional stimulation that a piece of music can. I've been touched by many a photograph, but I can't recall one ever bringing me to tears or pumping me up for an exciting event; it's music that gets inside us like nothing else.
How you choose to get that music inside you depends a lot on your environment. I doubt you would, for example, choose to use an MP3 player while home alone. That's when you get to blast your favorite tunes without relying on headphones.
Of course, if you have the right speaker setup, and a compatible music player, you can use the same MP3 player you usually pair with a nice set of earbuds at the gym to pump glorious rhythms through your home system.
That's because all an MP3 player is, at its most basic, is a storage device with its own power source. Nowadays, disk-based storage is a lot less common than solid state memory, so before you get to the interface it's all just battery and memory.
The amount of memory and the power of that battery will have something to do with how you qualify a certain MP3 player over another, but it's that crucial interface that's going to make all the difference.
You can store thousands of songs on a given MP3 player, and play them back over almost any medium. The way in which you access those songs and albums varies from the incredibly simple interfaces that hearken back to the early days of the iPod to the more elaborate layouts of modern Apple and Android devices.
Not only do these more advanced MP3 players store and play back your music for you, they also host the full suite of apps for either platform, essentially doing anything an iPhone can do without the calling capabilities.
Music, Only Music, But Music
We touched above on the different capabilities of some MP3 players, and a deeper understanding of these differences will arm you with the perspective you need to make the best choice among them. At first glance, Apple seems like the king of the hill, but if I remember anything from playing that game as a child, the king inevitable loses the hill from time to time, so keep your mind open to the other possibilities.
At this point, storage space is almost irrelevant. Sure, you'll pay a little more to fit more songs, videos, pictures, etc. on your device, but you've got the option to save a little cash and keep your space limited, as well. If you're an audiophile with a lot of lossless audio content, you're going to need as much space as you can get. If you're more used to streaming audio, smaller bit rates won't phase you, and you can grab something with a little less storage.
Now, you might be attracted to the candy-like colors and flashy apps that Apple offers, and that's totally understandable; they continue to boast the largest app selection of any platform. If you're less into the apps, however, you stand to gain a lot of battery life by working with a simpler interface. It's the iPod's bright, colorful screen with all those fancy animations that drains its battery so fast. Without those variables, you have an MP3 player that will take much better care of you as you travel through terrain with difficult electricity availability.
If all your MP3 player does is play music, it's liable to last longer, have better battery life, and save you a good bit of money, as well. It's music, and it's only music, but, hey, it's still music.
Thanks A Lot, Steve
As we delve more and more deeply into the advanced technologies of the 21st century, it seems as though our collective memory has positioned itself to recall Steve Jobs as the inventor of the MP3 player. This is simply not true.
Long before the first iPods hit the market in 2001, companies like AT&T and SaeHan offered digital audio players with internal and external memory, and even the ability to download music from the internet and sync it with smaller flash memory cards for playback. Before those, of course, there were the Walkman portable cassette players and Discman portable CD players that created more clutter than anything else.
We can give Steve credit for changing the game, though. Not long after the first couple of iPod generations passed by, Jobs and his team at Apple realized that they could centralize a number of entertainment platforms on a single device well beyond just music.
In 2007, hot on the heels of the release of the first generation iPhones, Apple released their first generation of iPod touches, which utilized all the technological advantages of the first iPhone, just without the cellular contract or capabilities.
Since then, some companies have attempted to replicate Apple's interface, offering apps and touchscreens along with MP3 playback, while others have stuck with the tried and true method of delivering only music to their customers.