The Worst to Best Music Players of 2016 we’ve used
The world of Portable Music Players is tricky. There seems to be three factions. The media player, the single feature and then Hi-Res. I’ve encountered all three while exploring the existing top sellers to put forwards my own Top Ten based on what we want as a consumers as the best music players of 2016.
I love music. I like audiobooks and have no need for connectivity as I have a smartphone and smartwatch. I don’t mind having to start building a new Hi-Res audio collection but I want to hear something that makes me think the audio device belongs in my wearable tech arsenal. I’m no expert, but I’m a consumer with an opinion. So buckle up and let me mind meld my Portable Music Player journey from a wide eyed bushy tailed audiophile virgin to HeyTC, part man, part wearable tech machine.
#10. iPod Nano 7th Gen – 2.5/5
Can anyone tell me the point of this? About the only reason I see for it’s existence is that it’s competing with the SanDisk Clip Sport for the “I don’t mind if this breaks” category of audio players. The problem is the SanDisk is cheaper and more versatile. I can just drag and drop files into it whereas the Nano needs iTunes.
Perhaps I’m being harsh on the Nano. It sounds no worse than the Touch, iPhone or iPad and everyone practically has iTunes anyway. Regardless this is a Music Player that offered me nothing unique, it remained more logical to use my smartphone for music rather than this.
#9. iPod Touch 8th Gen – 3 / 5
Like the Nano, how this device has reached an official 7th, unofficial 8th generation confuses me. It must be selling, but I presume it’s mostly to the app developers of the world rather than actual users. Everyone who wants an Apple device has an iPhone and / or iPad.
To take it one step further, Apple have just ignored all the branding of resellers calling these new coloured versions the 8th generation. Any other time they would be protecting their brand, but perhaps they no longer care about iPod?
The Touch isn’t bad. It does everything your smartphone does without the actual phone part. It plays apps, it connects to the net, it streams services – it does everything fine. That includes play music fine, but if I wanted fine I’d just listen to my music via the smartphone thanks.
#8. SanDisk Clip Sport – 2 / 5
Finally a device I understand why someone would buy. It’s cheap, it’s simple, it clips on while you’re jogging. It plays music adequately. It’s not as flashy as an iPod Nano but heck, at this price point, as a consumer I’m obviously looking for function over form anyway.
The SanDisk Clip Sport does have issues though. Playback, overall quality and performance are all questionable considering there are alternatives slightly more expensive but far better overall. At least you get headphones, a wall socket and won’t break your expensive smartphone.
The best thing is that it can take a beating. I’ve dropped it, trood on it and it still plays. Who says they don’t make things like they used to?
#7. Fii0 M3 – 3 / 5
The FiiO M3 is one of those SanDisk Clip Sport alternatives. It’s slightly more expensive but the audio performance is miles better.
The comparisons are interesting, I would easily say the audio playback is better than the iPod Touch, especially if you buy some better quality headphones. This doesn’t mean you’ll have the clarity a Hi-Res music player provides but you’ll get exactly what you want from a Portable Music Player.
The FiiO M3 is exceptional value for money. What it isn’t is feature rich, there is nothing to it besides playing music and that’s fine for me. If you need something more get an iPod Touch.
#6. Sony Walkman NWZ-W273S – 3 / 5
This waterproof music player definitely has a unique value, the performance is fine but the storage quantity is horrendous. My wife loves them though, as she can now go swimming without having to listen to screaming children.
For my needs, they just won’t do and in all honesty unless you’re going swimming or any other physical activity this music player isn’t going to be right for you.
#5. Pono Music Portable Music Player 4.5 / 5
This is where my list gets complicated. It evolves from what I want, to what works best. The Pono was the least functional portable Hi-Res music player I have used.
You can get used to its shape, but the fact it’s heavy and more natural resting on a surface makes me wonder if it was designed to be carried in a pocket at all? Especially when the battery runs out in 4 hours after a full charge.
There is no doubting the audio quality, but the navigation often turns into an involuntary random shuffle. It’s a shame as the Pono looks different and sounds fantastic.
Joint #3 Sony Walkman NWZ-A17 4 / 5 and FiiO X3-II 4 / 5
The Sony Walkman NWZ-A17 and FiiO X3-II are pretty close in my opinion. They both have features which are worthy of your time and in all honesty are better portable music players than my top two selections.
I’ve always liked Sony and the Walkman brand. It’s just a shame that I was so blown away by other Hi-Res audio devices before coming to this. It’s not bad, it’s actually really good in terms of features and audio quality but it’s not great like the slightly more expensive Digital Audio Players
The same is true with the FiiO X3-II, which has a fantastic DAC and an ease of use which I found strangely unique compared to many of the more clumsier interfaces portable music players have.
Both are well worth their $200 price points but I find them hard to recommend when $100 more can get the Astell & Kern Jr.
#2. Astell & Kern AK Jr. 5 /5
Perhaps I’d look more favourably on the NWZ-A17 and Fii0 X3-II if they were my first Hi-Res device? Regardless, there was something special about listening to Hi-Res music for the first time on the Astell & Kern Jr. Everyone says you always remember your first time right?
With the right headphones listening to music via this is almost perfection. Everything from the build quality of the device to the sound coming through is memorable. It’s definitely worth the price!
Yet I have to admit, I’m no pro-consumer and normally wouldn’t pay for a more expensive device like this – yet I was influenced by reviews and opinion. If I hadn’t, I would have missed this and my #1.
#1. Sony Walkman NW-ZX2 5 / 5
This isn’t for everyone. My wife doesn’t understand my fascination and appreciation for this device. Yet whenever I unplug from work, I plug into this. It’s turned me into a collector of music again which is nostalgic and addictive in itself.
The Astell & Kern Jr. is the best priced consumer Hi-Res portable audio player I’ve used and It’s unfair to put this Sony Walkman in the same category.
This is not for portable use. I don’t mean that in a negative way. This Sony Walkman NWZX2 has other-worldly battery life, the full suite of Android apps and connectivity to WiFi and Bluetooth. What you don’t have while out and about is the silence to hear the energy, the detail and perfection this gives. It’s simply amazing!
You can question whether it’s worth the money. I’d say, it probably isn’t to the vast majority of people. Yet I can’t help but feel like it’s opened up a new passion in my life and that’s pretty special to me at least. This is why the Sony Walkman NW-ZX2 is my #1.