MP3 players are still useful these days

Buy MP3 players: These models are worthwhile

MP3 player for athletes and audiophiles

25.09.2018, 6:00 p.m. The dead live longer: Although MP3 players are becoming less important in the age of smartphones and music streaming, they still have certain advantages. Computer Bild and explain who the purchase is still interesting for.

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The air is getting thinner for the classic MP3 player. Sales in Germany have plummeted by over 90 percent since the record year 2007. Smartphones and tablets are increasingly competing with it, as is the trend towards streaming music instead of buying it. Last year, Apple removed its iPod nano from its range. Rumor has it that the iTunes music store will end in 2019. Windows versions prior to Windows 7 and the 1st generation Apple TV are already excluded from shopping today. Nevertheless: the MP3 player holds its own as a niche product

MP3 Player: Survival Strategy Specialization

Nowadays, two types of devices, each with their own target group, are particularly interesting:

In addition, there are so-called MP4 players, which play videos as well as music and are usually WiFi-enabled.

Small, light, portable: MP3 players for athletes

When jogging or in the gym, smartphones are rather impractical: their weight can be felt even on a cell phone wristband, and exercising is not entirely risk-free for the expensive devices. Compact sports MP3 players have a clear advantage here. They often weigh only a few grams and can be attached to the waistband or collar with a clip. Usable models are available for as little as 25 euros - in the event of loss or damage, the financial damage is therefore limited. The models of the Sony Walkman series rely on an alternative design. They are shaped like neckband headphones, but contain all of the player technology and a rechargeable battery.

The functions of a sports MP3 player are mostly limited to the essentials. The display is very small, if at all, and is only used for navigation. As a rule, four or eight gigabytes are built into the internal memory. There are only options for expansion in exceptional cases. The controls are very intuitive: You can adjust the volume and title with physical buttons without looking - this is practical when doing sports. In addition, special functions such as a pedometer or a stopwatch are sometimes integrated. A separate type of sports MP3 player are underwater players. They are suitable for swimming and diving and have an all-round waterproof housing.

Specialists in good sound: high-resolution players

This type of device focuses on what MP3 players are particularly good at anyway: playing music - and often better than a smartphone. Hi-Res audio players process high-resolution file formats such as FLAC or ALAC. These contain more information than compressed MP3 files and therefore enable a much higher sound quality. Both the dynamic range - i.e. the distance between the softest and loudest sound - and the frequency response - the span from the lowest to the highest recorded sound - are larger in Hi-Res files. They even outperform audio CDs in terms of sound.

Since high-resolution audio files take up a lot of space, most hi-res players have at least 32 GB of memory. This can often be enlarged with a microSD card. Another special feature are special playback functions, for example equalizers. This allows you to adapt the sound to your listening habits or the respective music genre. An upscaler also works in many models. It tries to improve the sound quality of compressed files.

High-resolution audio players are available from well-known hi-fi brands such as Onkyo or Pioneer from around 200 euros. If that is not enough for you, you will find what you are looking for with specialized premium manufacturers such as Astell & Kern. Its devices almost always get top marks in tests, but they also have their price: Starting in the middle three-digit range, there is virtually no upper limit. Such high-end digital players sometimes advertise with noise-reducing housings made of copper or with special connections that are supposed to transmit the audio signal even more unadulterated. However, it is questionable whether the human ear can still perceive quality differences at this level.

Wannabe smartphone: MP4 player

Many hi-res audio players have a large display on which videos can also be played and pictures displayed. This means they are also MP4 players, named after the space-saving MP4 video file format. The best-known model is the iPod touch from Aple, which is now in its 6th generation. Equipped with two cameras, various sensors and a WLAN receiver, it is similar to a smartphone - but without a telephone function or mobile internet. This is exactly the problem with most MP4 players: They do not offer any added value to those who already have a good smartphone. The display and camera usually only have low resolutions, the range of functions remains behind that of a mid-range smartphone despite WiFi and Bluetooth. Aside from a few cases, buying an MP4 player is hardly worth it.

More possible uses thanks to Bluetooth

In general, you should pay attention to the following properties when buying an MP3 player:
  • At least 4 GB of memory (for videos or hi-res audio files, 16 GB or more is better),
  • over 10 hours of battery life,
  • audio formats should at least support MP3, WAV and WMA,
  • 3.5 mm jack connection for headphones.

If you want to listen to the music on your MP3 player loudly from time to time, Bluetooth is very useful. The transmission standard can be used to establish a connection to wireless speakers, sound bars and modern hi-fi systems. With the iPod touch, this works alternatively via AirPlay. Another way of transferring songs is the classic cable connection: Most portable audio players have a USB socket for this purpose, which also serves as a charging connection. Attention: Many Sony models have a so-called WM port instead of a micro or mini USB. This is only compatible with special cables from the manufacturer.

Save money with streaming audio

WiFi-enabled MP3 players have a particular advantage: you can also listen to music on them via streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music or Tidal. Since songs and albums can be downloaded locally from most providers, they are also available for playback in WLAN-free zones. This saves you having to buy new music tracks and the sometimes laborious copying back and forth between MP3 player and PC.

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