Last updated: July 1, 2020

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Yes, people still use MP3 players, and it isn’t just a whim. Many of us actually prefer having a device dedicated to audio playback, mostly because we want a more faithful sound than that usually offered by cell phones. This is particularly true for music lovers and audiophiles.

The reason why a half-decent MP3 player provides better quality than a phone is due to various factors. In addition, these devices have dramatically evolved to distance themselves from smartphones. Throughout this guide, we will introduce you to these criteria, as well as to a selection of the best MP3 models currently available on the market.

Key Facts

  • Think about how important sound quality is to you. You can now find MP3 players with audio chips and output power that offer a remarkable audio quality.
  • Remember that having a high-quality player isn’t enough. You should also pay close attention to the device processing the sound – be it headphones or connectivity systems.
  • In the last section of our guide, we will introduce you to the primary purchasing criteria to help you make the right decision.

Our Selection: The Best MP3 Players on the U.S. Market

For those of us who favor sound quality over immediacy and the use of any file regardless of its quality, there is a wide array of products that offer different specs and features. In the following list, we have selected some of the highest-quality MP3 players that will give you real bang for your buck.

Best-Selling MP3 Player

With hundreds of great reviews and high ratings from past buyers, this Bluetooth-enabled MP3 player by Soulcker is extremely functional and offers fantastic value for money. Supporting the most popular formats such as MP3, WMA, and AAC, it integrates an equalizer for you to customize your music experience. Its 16GB internal memory can be extended to 128GB with a MicroSD HC card. This device even features a pedometer for all your runs.

Best MP3 Player for Athletes

Now, if you are a very active person and go on hikes or work out frequently, this model might just be the right one for you. Its compact design, easy-to-use clip, and wrist belt mean that you can take this MP3 player with you everywhere you go. Offering Bluetooth connectivity and a 32GB internal storage, this model boasts a highly sensitive touchscreen and 18 hours of battery life – so you can be sure you never run out of it.

Best Hi-Res MP3 Player

Available in 2 different colors, this hi-res player certainly is the most expensive in our selection. But there are good reasons for this: its S-Master HX digital amplifier gives you an incredible sound experience that any music lover couldn’t go without. The upscaling function is designed specifically to give compressed files their original quality. With a battery life of 45 hours and an expandable 16GB internal memory, the NWA45 is an audiophile’s dream.

Best Budget-Friendly MP3 Player

If you are looking for a more basic model and aren’t willing to invest so much in it, then you will find this colorful MP3 player more to your liking. Available in 8 different colors, it is very versatile, too: use it as a music and video player, a photo viewer, and even an eBook reader. It supports WMA, MP3, and WAV formats, which is plenty enough to listen to your favorite songs. This product comes with a 1-year warranty.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About MP3 Players

While more and more people are listening to music on their cell phones, MP3 players aren’t close to disappearing. As a matter of fact, they are constantly evolving. If you want a superior sound experience, you should definitely turn to these electronic devices. Next, we will answer the most frequently asked questions by past buyers to help you make the right purchase.

MP3 players generally offer better sound than cell phones.
(Source: Antonio Guillem: 71234161/ 123rf.com)

What is an MP3 player exactly?

These portable electronic devices designed to play audio files have been in fashion for years now. The emergence of cell phones has led part of the public to forget about them, but manufacturers have responded with significant evolutions over the years. Their performance has dramatically improved, and they are cheaper than ever.

In addition to this affordability, the transformation has taken the form of players with larger memory capacity. Inherently offering greater output power than most mobile phones, hi-res models now include powerful audio chips that can process the sound in much higher quality.

Are MP3 players more efficient than cell phones?

First of all, it is essential to remember that there is a wide range of products – both for smartphones and MP3 players – with different features and performance. Generally speaking, specific players offer better audio quality than cell phones, mainly because their sole purpose is to reproduce sound.

The difference in performance further increases when you look at hi-res models. If you analyze the technical specs for the sound of cell phones, you will notice that little information is given. If you read a hi-fi player’s characteristics, on the other hand, a long list of specs is given. This shows why MP3 players are more efficient than cell phones.

MP3 players incorporate quality audio chips.
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The device that processes the sound is always the most important. Mobile phones are getting thinner every year and must include a screen, battery, processor, graphics card, sound card, antenna, and other components. A hi-fi sound player can focus exclusively on integrating a quality audio chip.

What are the advantages of MP3 players?

In the table below, we have summarized the main benefits and drawbacks of having an MP3 player – and, more specifically, hi-fi models. This should allow you to understand better how they detach themselves from cell phones, and why you should opt for one of these audio devices. As you can imagine, sound quality has a lot to do with it.

Advantages Disadvantages
They focus exclusively on sound and are far superior to standard MP3 players. It goes without saying that their quality is light years ahead of most smartphones.  While you can find good hi-res models for around $100, the best models will set you back over $500.
They integrate quality audio chip. If you don’t care much for sound quality, this is an unnecessary expense.
The sound processing ensures higher audio quality if you compare the same file with the playback provided by smartphones and basic MP3 players. You won’t make the most of their potential if you don’t have quality headphones.
Their audio output is more powerful. Having an MP3 player means you have to carry another device with you in addition to your phone.
 They can play files with and without audio loss, making the most of their potential.
You can connect certain models to a computer to use as a DAC.

What file formats and audio codecs do MP3 players support?

These electronic devices generally support a wide range of audio formats, some of which are compressed and have a loss of quality. Others are somewhat compressed but do not lose quality. Finally, you can also find uncompressed formats with intact quality, but these take up more space. Here is a list of the most common types:

  • MP3: This is the most typical format. The files are compressed, but they offer good quality if you keep them at a bit rate of 320 Kbps.
  • WAV: This digital format was developed by Microsoft and IBM without audio compression. Its biggest drawback is that it takes up a lot of space.
  • FLAC: Free-license audio codec. Its main advantage is that it allows compression without losses, so you don’t sacrifice sound quality. This is why it is a favorite among audiophiles and the star format for hi-res MP3 players. It needs less space than WAV.
  • AIFF: Audio format developed by Apple Inc. Its quality is excellent because it is not compressed.
  • OGG: Free and open audio format developed by the Xiph.Org Foundation. It is generally delivered with the Vorbis codec, whose quality is similar to that of MP3. This audio file is used by platforms like Spotify.
  • ALAC: Format developed by Apple to compete directly with FLAC. It is used by Apple Podcasts and Music.

MP3 players generally support a large number of audio formats.
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What is the DAC of an MP3 player?

First of all, let’s clarify that any device that allows you to listen to music integrates a DAC, which stands for digital-analog converter. In other words, any cell phone, computer, DVD player, and, of course, MP3 player has a built-in DAC. However, certain DACs available have greater features to obtain a superior sound experience.

To get a sense of this, keep in mind that no cell phone advertises the DAC found inside the device. This is because it is not designed to provide high-quality sound. Hi-res MP3 players, on the other hand, will generally mention it in their technical specs since it is directly responsible for its performance.

An electronic device that allows you to listen to music features a DAC – a digital-analog converter.
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If you want to go a little further, you should know that these hi-fi players even give you the option of using the device as a DAC when connected to a PC. This basically means that your computer uses the MP3 player’s sound card to improve its performance, which is ideal when your PC’s card is fairly poor.

Buyer’s Guide

Now that you are more familiar with MP3 players, you should know that hi-res devices offer various features that make them stand out from other devices designed to play music. That being said, there are still certain key factors that you should know before making your purchase. They will help you choose the right model if you get lost amid the wide range of products available.

Audio Quality

Before you get your hands on an MP3 player, make sure you analyze how important sound quality is to you. If you are happy with what your cell phone has to offer, you may not be so interested in purchasing an additional device. MP3 players and their technology are designed specifically for playing music.

If audio quality is a priority for you, on the other hand, you won’t regret buying one of these devices. They provide higher output power and better sound chip performance than the vast majority of cell phones. The difference in quality is quite noticeable with a basic player – not to mention hi-res models.

In addition to the standard 3.5-mm jack plug, many MP3 players now offer Bluetooth connectivity.
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Type of MP3 Player

Once you have decided to buy a player for an enhanced music quality experience, you will need to choose between standard and hi-res models. The main difference between the two types is the output power and the quality of their DAC. The sound processing of the hi-res devices is much better, which means that the audio quality is superior.

Entry-range hi-res players will cost around $100, with brands like Sony and FiiO offering products with an incredible quality considering their price. If you want to go for the very best in the industry, remember that this can set you back $1,000. These models are tailored to audiophiles and music lovers with well-trained ears and powerful headphones.

Connectivity

Nowadays, in addition to the standard 3.5-mm jack plug, many MP3 players integrate Bluetooth connectivity. That being said, this mode isn’t particularly recommended if you care about the audio quality because this system further compresses the data regardless of its format.

The most advanced MP3 players can even offer Wi-Fi connectivity. This system is much more efficient than Bluetooth and allows you to pair your device with headphones or speakers through the bandwidth without losing sound quality. If you are willing to make the investment, you won’t regret it.

Additional Features

Broadly speaking, cell phones with the best sound quality will equal the performance of low-end hi-res players. A smartphone with a powerful output and a top audio chip will set you back $600 to $1,000, which the most affordable hi-res models won’t cost you more than $100.

Once again, we want to emphasize the importance of headphones. Having a good MP3 player with a quality DAC and great output power won’t do you any good if you connect it to poor earphones. To get the most out of your device and its audio potential, we encourage you to go for at least medium-range headphones.

Summary

The best value-for-money MP3 players offer many different features and specifications. You can get decent performance and compatibility with uncompressed audio formats by purchasing a $30 model. If you opt for a hi-res device, you will get superior quality and fascinating sound processing for less than $200.

As we mentioned earlier, the best MP3 players with outstanding DAC performance designed to maximize audio quality can cost well over $800. These models, however, include additional features that not everyone will want or need. Remember that the quality of your headphones, as well as your own hearing ability, also come into play.

We hope that our guide on MP3 players has helped you make the right purchase. If that’s the case, feel free to share this article on your social media. You can also leave us a comment in the section below!

(Featured Image Source: Monika Wisniewska: 34480299/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Brett Holmes Technology Geek
Brett is a keen observer of the latest technology trends and knows his way around the industry because he runs an electronics store. He writes about it in his spare time and wants to help others learn more about the technology industry.