- How to choose an MP3 player: key parameters
- Player types
- Main selection criteria
- Top Producers
How to choose an MP3 player: key parameters
The most important criteria when choosing an MP3 player are:
- Availability and type of DAC;
- The presence and type of amplifier;
- Supported audio formats;
- Built-in storage capacity and support for memory cards;
- Additional functionality.
- The manufacturer of the device is also important.
There are several criteria by which MP3 players currently on the market can be grouped. For example, in terms of sound quality, they are divided into “normal” and Hi-Fi. And in terms of design – to “standard” and performed in the format of headphones with a built-in player. And, finally, by the type of built-in memory – those with an internal drive and intended for use exclusively with a MicroSD card.
Sound quality differences
There are two types of players that differ in sound quality – “normal” and Hi-Fi. The former usually belong to the lower price range and cost from several hundred to 10-15 thousand rubles, the latter to the top (that is, from 30 thousand rubles and more).
Differences in these devices are manifested not only in price, but also in design. “Regular” MP3 players are equipped with simple DACs and low-power built-in amplifiers, which allows them to play music at an acceptable level of quality for most users. Hi-Fi devices receive a well-developed “stuffing” and therefore provide an almost perfect sound.
However, there is one small “but”. Most often, MP3 players are used to play compressed music, and, as the name implies, in MP3 format. Listening to compressed music on Hi-Fi devices is like firing a cannon at sparrows. Top players are designed to play the appropriate formats – for example, WAV or at least FLAC.
How to choose an MP3 player?
Thus, if you just need a device for listening to music on the road and you are not ready to look for an online store where you can buy Hi-Res albums, the most common MP3 player of a budget or mid-range price range will suit you. For fans of high-quality sound, ready to pay thousands of dollars for top-end audio equipment (including headphones with an impedance of about 250 ohms), Hi-Fi players are intended.
Form Factor Differences
There are two form factors of MP3 players – monoblock (the usual “box with buttons”) and “headphones”. Devices of the first type are the most widespread. These MP3 players are quite easy to use, have a familiar UX, and most importantly, they can be used with a wide variety of headphones, which will allow you to choose the right pair. They also have a disadvantage. The wire to the headphones is the weakest point of such an “audio pair”: firstly, it can interfere (especially during sports); and secondly – to fray, break, etc.
From this shortcoming spared “player-headphones”. Running, as the name implies, in the form factor of headphones (most often with a headband passing through the crown or back of the head), they provide complete freedom of movement. In addition, such devices, due to the minimum number of connectors, can also be waterproof, which will additionally please athletes who do not want to part with music while swimming or taking a shower.
But this is where the advantages of such players are limited. But there are more disadvantages:
- Unusual and sometimes uncomfortable controls. To switch songs, as well as start / pause, you will have to reach for your ear. Due to the lack of a screen, you will have to guess the desired composition by ear;
- Inability to connect other headphones. However, the speakers of such devices are often balanced for the acoustic parameters of the “stuffing”, so the unpretentious user will not even want to change the headphones.
The choice in this case is quite simple. If you do not want to put up with wires, plan to run a lot, swim, play sports in the gym or any other physical activity, and you just need music “for the background”, “headphone player” will be an ideal solution. For everyone else, a regular monoblock will do.
Differences by type of memory
According to the type of memory used, players are divided into three groups:
- Without internal memory, only with MicroSD;
- Without microSD slot, only from internal memory;
- And with internal memory, and with a slot for MicroSD.
MP3 players without built-in memory – the cheapest and most compact. Most often, such devices have tiny dimensions (slightly larger than a coin, for example) and weight (measured in tens of grams). Well, the battery life of such players can leave much to be desired.
Low price is the only advantage of such players. You still have to pay for the memory card that will be used in them. And the sound quality is usually not too high. Such players are only suitable for very unassuming users.
MP3 players without microSD support – perhaps the most common group of such devices. It, for example, includes almost all devices from Apple (iPod series), iRiver, Sony and even Fiio. The main advantage of such players is the support for a wide range of music formats, including lossless ones, due to the high speed of access to the internal memory.
The disadvantage is the limited amount of internal memory. Therefore, in order to carry the entire music library with you, you will have to “fork out” for an expensive device with a large internal drive. But in players with a small amount of internal memory, you will often have to change the recorded music.
MP3 players with built-in memory and microSD card slot is the most versatile solution. Music in them can be written to both internal and external storage, which provides almost unlimited scalability of the “portable music library”.
Players of the last two types are recommended for purchase. Devices without their own memory should be bought only if they provide functionality that is not available in other solutions (for example, the “budget Hi-Fi player” Fiio X3 II, equipped with quartz DACs and costing about 15 thousand rubles, does not have built-in memory ).
Main selection criteria
Availability and type of DAC
DAC – digital-to-analog converter – is used, as the name implies, to convert a digital audio signal into analog currents. The better it is, the more frequencies the player is able to reproduce and the wider the band of each frequency. Those. it depends on the characteristics of the DAC whether you can hear every note in the composition or whether you have to be content with the general rhythm.
If the DAC model is indicated separately in the characteristics of the device, such a player is recommended for purchase. Moreover, the following companies make the best DACs: Crystal, Philips and Wolfson. However, they are quite expensive – often unjustified for a portable player.
You can indirectly find out about the presence of a DAC based on the supported formats (see below).
Availability and type of amplifier
As the name implies, an amplifier is a functional element that increases the amplitude of a sound wave. This allows you to “rock” the headphones, make them louder or clearer.
Well, if the amplifier is indicated in the technical characteristics of the MP3 player. If not, it’s okay, just your favorite Beyerdinamic headphones with an impedance of 250 ohms will have to be used at home. And the best mobile amplifiers are from Analog Devices and OPA.
You can indirectly find out about the presence of an amplifier based on the supported formats (see below).
Supported audio formats
There are two types of audio formats – compressed and lossless. The former are distinguished by a small file size, more or less good sound quality (which strongly depends on the bitrate), and most importantly, a low load on the player’s processor. Lossless formats, in turn, have a large file size, excellent sound quality, a huge bitrate, they do not cut frequencies that are inaudible to humans, but at the same time they heavily load the processor during decryption.
Compressed formats include:
- OGG. Found mainly on streaming services;
- MP3. The most common format;
- AAC. Compressed format used by Apple;
- WMA. Compressed format used by Microsoft.
- Uncompressed (lossless) formats include:
- FLAC. Most common;
- ALAC. Like FLAC, only proprietary to Apple;
- APE. The most common Hi-Res format.
If the player supports lossless formats, then it has a more or less good DAC and amplifier. If it does not support, none of this is available, all conversions are performed on the device’s processor.
However, the more formats the player supports, the better. If it, like the Sony NWZ-B183F, only supports MP3 and WMA, other types of music will have to be converted with special programs.
Built-in storage capacity and memory card support
The large capacity of the built-in storage is not needed by an MP3 player unless support for lossless formats is required. Even on 4 GB you can record 2-3 discographies of different artists. However, the optimal capacity is 8-16 GB.
If you plan to record very large discographies (for example, the U2 collection or all of Michael Jackson’s posthumous albums), you should purchase a player with support for MicroSD memory cards or a built-in drive of 16 GB or more.
Additional features that you may find useful include:
- Body material. Metal is more reliable than plastic;
- Moisture protection. What is needed for athletes;
- bluetooth. Allows you to connect wireless headphones;
- A screen with multiple lines. Displays not only the song title, but also the selected modes, as well as general information.
But the touch screen and support for video formats in most cases are absolutely useless. Rather, they even say that the manufacturer saved on a good DAC and amplifier, just plugging in a more powerful processor. Unless, of course, we are talking about the iPod Touch.
Among the best manufacturers of players are:
- Apple. Releases the famous iPod series;
- Sony. Known for the Walkman brand;
- Fiio. Budget Hi-Fi players.
- You can also highlight the companies Ritmix and iRiver, which produce budget MP3 players.
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