The 3 Best MP3 Players for 2023 #GeekLeap

Standalone MP3 gamers dominated popular culture for a very long time, however in 2023 virtually nobody wants one. Any iPhone or Android cellphone is an audio participant that works with subscription music apps like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon Music or YouTube Music. You pay your $5 to $10 a month, and also you get entry to almost each in style music ever recorded. And the tracks are downloadable, too, so you’ll be able to hearken to your music even while you go away a Wi-Fi or mobile protection space. It is fast, simple and handy. What’s to not like?

“Quite a bit,” I can hear a few of you saying. Perhaps you have obtained one too many subscriptions already, so why pay for yet one more when you have already got a music library of hundreds of MP3 recordsdata sitting in your arduous drive? A few of you, in the meantime, have meticulously crafted iTunes playlists, like combine tapes of outdated, that you do not need to recreate or switch to a different service, or uncommon, one-off reside tracks that do not exist on mainstream providers. (Phish followers, I am taking a look at you.)

Now, fact be advised, if any of that applies to you, you nonetheless do not want an MP3 participant — your iPhone can nonetheless sync music recordsdata from iTunes (on Home windows) or the Apple Music app (on Mac), and it in all probability has extra cupboard space than your outdated iPod ever did. Android telephones, too, can play no matter music recordsdata you’ll be able to load them up with. However in the event you actually need a devoted system to your music — or, perhaps, a parentally curated set of songs to present to a child who’s not prepared for a cellphone — there are nonetheless MP3 system choices on the market. They don’t seem to be all nice, they usually typically include some caveats. However in the event you’ve gotten this far, this is what I can advocate, greater than twenty years after the iPod was first launched. 

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The iPod Contact was the final devoted music participant in Apple’s lineup, but it surely was formally discontinued in Could 2022. You possibly can nonetheless discover used fashions on the market, however do not anticipate them to be supported for for much longer. 

What to do as an alternative? Get a used iPhone, or a brand new iPhone SE — and simply apply it to Wi-Fi. The latter will value you about $429 all-in (for 64GB of storage), however you will get a tool that may run the most recent model of iOS, and it could pull music from iTunes (on Home windows) or Apple Music (on the Mac). It really works seamlessly with Bluetooth headphones and audio system, however you will want a pesky Lightning adapter to make use of old-school headphones. And, as a result of it is obtained the App Retailer, you may as well go for alternate providers like Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube and the like (as long as you’ll be able to entry a Wi-Fi hotspot), along with or as an alternative of the Apple Music app. 

Sure, that is approach an excessive amount of to pay for a “music participant,” in my e book. However it’s probably the most succesful and versatile possibility right here, particularly for individuals who are already within the Apple providers universe — or refuse to depart their iTunes-based MP3 library. It is also a pleasant fallback moveable MP3 participant possibility for youths in the event you do not need to spend up for an iPad, which begins at $300 and is not pocketable.

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As soon as upon a time, individuals strapped iPod Nanos to their wrists and known as it an Apple Watch of kinds. 

These days the true Apple Watch can act as a sorta-kinda iPod, not less than for Apple Music subscribers. Simply sync some playlists to the Watch, and you may get pleasure from digital music (to not point out podcasts) on a set of wi-fi headphones, even when the iPhone is nowhere close by.

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The Mighty Vibe is the closest fashionable equal to the iPod Shuffle, the screenless iPod that was beloved by runners for weighing subsequent to nothing and simply spooling off songs from their favourite playlist. (It is also an ideal gadget loophole for sleepaway camps with “no display screen” guidelines.) The catch is that this mannequin solely works with Spotify Premium and (because of a current firmware replace) Amazon Music, each of which may be synced wirelessly. 

The Vibe can retailer upwards of 1,000 songs in its music library, and — not like the outdated Shuffle — it helps wi-fi and wired headphones. However it prices via the headphone jack by way of a proprietary cable, somewhat than extra ubiquitous micro-USB or USB-C connectors. The 5-hour battery life is so-so, as is the value tag over $100, which feels greater than what you need to pay for this MP3 system product in an period of $30 wi-fi headphones and $200 sensible telephones.

Learn our Mighty Vibe Spotify Music Participant evaluate.


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Different MP3 gamers

Sure, the merchandise above are actually the one ones I can advocate on this class with any diploma of enthusiasm. However they are not the one choices. In case you’re in search of a cut price basement possibility (beneath $50), a severe high-end various (beginning at $350 and going to 4 figures) or some fascinating workarounds, learn on. 

Micro participant for runners: SanDisk Clip

SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip

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Within the (distant) previous, the tiny SanDisk Clip household of gamers had been a serviceable possibility for primary music playback (as long as you are nicely versed in the old-fashioned drag-and-drop methodology of file switch). However some Amazon reviewers have criticized the later iteration of that mannequin — the Clip Sport Plus — saying that its Bluetooth connection wasn’t as much as snuff. If you wish to go this route, you would possibly need to keep on with wired headphones. 

Swim-friendly possibility: Aftershockz Xtrainerz



This 4GB “participant in a headphone” mannequin makes use of Aftershockz’s patented bone-conduction know-how. It is also absolutely waterproof, and retails for about $150. (Be aware that CNET hasn’t examined these hands-on.)

The finances hack: Any outdated smartphone



In case you’ve obtained an outdated cellphone — otherwise you purchase a brand new one with out service — you will have entry to the complete realm of app-based music providers, and any music recordsdata you care to add. One thing just like the $180-ish Samsung Galaxy A03S (proven above) matches the invoice properly, since you’ll be able to drop in a MicroSD card that you’ve got preloaded with tunes. 

Excessive-end choices: Astell & Kern and Sony Walkman


A Sony Walkman participant from 2016

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Audiophiles have lengthy appeared down on digital music as a result of the sound high quality was notably inferior for golden-eared listeners with distinguishing tastes. However the improvement of lossless file codecs (resembling FLAC) and low-cost ample multigigabyte storage have made moveable high-fidelity music a actuality.

At this level, there are actually solely two main gamers within the high-end moveable music house: Astell & Kern and Sony (the place the Walkman model nonetheless lives on). I’ve used earlier variations of every model, however not the present fashions. 

Sony Walkman music gamers begin at about $3,698. 

Astell & Kern gamers begin at $749. 

In case you’re the type of one that has arduous drives stuffed with uncompressed music audio recordsdata — and might hear the distinction between that and relatively low-resolution MP3 and AAC recordsdata — then, by all means, pair up a type of gamers together with your wired headphone of selection. 

That mentioned, almost the entire streaming music providers now supply lossless or excessive bitrate choices — that is almost all the massive gamers, from Tidal and Qobuz to Amazon and Apple. (Spotify HiFi, weirdly, stays a no-show.) 

In case you like what you hear, think about upgrading to a first rate headphone DAC (that is “digital to analog converter”) just like the Audiofly Dragonfly and a severe wired headphone. You then’ll have a strong audiophile possibility that is good for the street, with out the necessity for a standalone music participant.

Music lockers: YouTube Music and iTunes Match

In case you’ve obtained a digital music assortment that features one-offs and reside tracks that are not accessible on the mainstream providers, you’ll be able to add them to on-line providers, the place they’ll reside alongside subscription tracks and be shared amongst a number of units (together with sensible audio system).

YouTube Music, previously often called Google Play Music, affords this service at no further value for as much as 100,000 tracks.

Apple customers can go for iTunes Match, which helps you to add your personal digital music to reside in tandem with Apple Music tracks. It prices $24 a yr, above and past the value of Apple Music.

In case you go for both of those choices, ensure you preserve an area backup of your recordsdata, simply in case these providers go away.

Be aware that Amazon shuttered its “MP3 locker” service in 2018.

Extra audio suggestions

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