The glory days of the iPod might be in the rear-view mirror, but MP3 players are still alive and kicking. With a slew of options, large and small, expensive and budget-friendly, there’s still plenty to choose from for those that don't want to spend a fortune to listen to their favorite tunes. Of course, before you purchase, you should be cautious because where you’ve purchased your favorite tracks plays a role in which player you should select. For instance, if you’ve purchased music from iTunes, only Apple’s iPod players will recognize and play the music. However, if you own a lot of DRM-free music or music that isn’t limited to just one company’s products, there are some great options to select without breaking the bank. See our favorite picks below. First released in 2013, Apple’s iPod Shuffle remains a shining light in the MP3 space, thanks to its diminutive size and wallet-friendly price point. The clip-and-go iPod Shuffle, available in a variety of colors, has around 2GB of storage and 15 hours of battery life. The easy-access controls offer a big, clickable control pad making it easy to change volume, as well as select new music. The iPod Shuffle does exactly that, it shuffles the music that’s installed on the iPod. Without a screen, you’re left to the whim of the Shuffle’s “shuffling” and you hope that it finds you the song you want to listen to. To help offset the lack of song selection, Apple included “VoiceOver” that can tell you the title, artist and battery status. The anodized aluminum build feels sturdy and durable. Years after its release, the iPod Shuffle remains the gold standard for under $100 MP3 players. AGPtek is a relatively new brand, but it has impressed quite a few people when it comes to cheap MP3 players. And the AGPtek M20S is a great model for those who don’t need as many features. Despite the AGPtek M20S’s low price, it has a premium-feeling metal construction and it doesn’t take up much space at only 3 x .3 x 1.2 inches. It can play a wide variety of audio formats, including MP3, WMA, OGG, APE, FLAC, WAV and AAC. (Not to mention support for FM radio.) The M20S also has great battery life, with 14 hours of playback on a two-hour charge. When it comes to storage, the M20S comes with 8GB of room, but you can expand it with up to a 64GB microSD card. It also has support for 20 different languages, including English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Dutch and Portuguese, making this model a hit with people from all over the world.
FiiO might not be a name that’s recognizable in the MP3 space alongside well-known brands like Apple, Sansa and SanDisk, but what it lacks in name recognition it more than makes up with in audio quality. The X1 offers Bluetooth capability, so you can connect to speakers or hook up your wireless headphones. Another added bonus: All major music formats are supported, which means what you listen to on the X1 is completely up to you.
The two-inch LCD screen offers everything you need, including album, artist and playlists, which comes in handy with up to 128GB of expandable storage (no onboard memory). The lack of onboard memory isn’t the sole differentiator. The audio quality is also exceptional and sounds like it’s coming from an MP3 player with an added zero to the price point. Rated at 12 hours of playback, the FiiO X1 is an all-star MP3 player with high-quality audio that’s still friendly on your wallet.
Again, AGPtek may not be a well-known electronics brand, but it sure knows how to make a great-sounding MP3 player at a lower cost than most iPods. The AGPtek Rocker is a small, well-designed MP3 player that has lots of features and comes in black or silver.
What’s most impressive about the Rocker is its support for high-resolution lossless music files. The device can handle many file types, including AAC, AIF, Apple lossless, APE, FLAC, OGG, WAVE, WMA lossless, M4A, MP3 and WMA. On top of this, it also supports Bluetooth 4.0, so you can connect this device directly to Bluetooth headphones, speakers or car systems. The battery lasts for approximately 10 hours for regular music playback and seven hours for music over Bluetooth.
Keep in mind that this player does not have internal storage, so you’ll need to purchase a MicroSD card for storing your music. This unit can support microSD cards up to 256GB in size, but you’d probably be just fine with a well-made 128GB card.
SanDisk’s Clip 8GB Jam MP3 player is a No. 1 best seller on Amazon, and for good reason. At a very wallet-friendly price point, the 4GB (1,000 songs) MP3 player offers both onboard storage, as well as a built-in microSD card for expanding the size of your music selection. Unlike Apple’s iPod line, which requires music purchased from iTunes, the SanDisk plays audio in various formats regardless of where the music was acquired. Add in a 25-hour battery life and you’ve discovered a well-built, well-priced budget MP3 player.
Beyond music, the SanDisk can also hold audiobooks for listening on-the-go and adds an FM radio tuner for even more music options. Available in a bevy of colors, the 1.28-inch color display is functional, but feels downright tiny in the world of today’s 5-inch plus smartphone displays. There’s one last surprise at SanDisk’s budget price tag and that’s the inclusion of earbuds, which adds a little more value to the already low price point.
With an impressive 35 hours of audio playback (four hours for video) battery life, Sony’s NWE394 MP3 player is an exceptional option for commuters and travelers. The 16GB of onboard memory offers more than enough space for thousands of songs and even space for video. The 1.77-inch display might not feel like a large video screen in today’s tablet-heavy world, but for quick video clips and some photos, it’s a nice addition to have without all the bells and whistles of distracted smartphone life. Fortunately, you’ll have excellent audio quality, thanks to the inclusion of a dynamic normalizer, which balances the volume levels between songs.
Like most non-Apple MP3 players, Sony offers support for all lossless music formats and offers easy content transfer with drag and drop through a file explorer on Windows. Creating playlists from your PC through Sony’s dedicated software offers easy transfer right back to the E394 for immediate use. The design itself is typical Sony quality and minimal with just the necessary buttons on the front in a format that’s easy to memorize for on-the-go use.
Sony’s unique looking NWZ-B183F offers a completely different styling than we’re used to seeing in the iPod-centric MP3 world. The cylindrical shape doesn’t take away from any function or capabilities, but it sure looks cool all while offering Sony’s typical audio quality. The stylish aluminum finish and black color stand out in a world where a multitude of colors was the norm for MP3 player releases. With a total weight of just 1.1 ounces, there’s virtually no added bulk.
When it comes to battery life, a 70-minute recharge will help power the Sony player for around 20 hours of audio run time. The included USB connection helps provide drag and drop file adding with 4GB of storage that offers space for more than 1,000 songs. The included headphones don’t offer the same audio quality as over-the-ear ones costing hundreds of dollars more, but they're fine for easy listening.
Sony’s NWWS413BM all-in-one MP3 player is the most unusual on this list as the standalone combination MP3 player/headset. The wearable player skips the need for a separate base unit and headphone connection and goes right to 4GB of memory in your ear. It is waterproof, sweat resistant and dust proof and that helps separate it from the rest of the MP3 player pack. The ergonomic design offers a secure fit, lasting comfort and ambient noise reduction to reduce the outside commotion. All this is tucked away in a headset that offers around 12 hours of playback.
Like other Sony MP3 players, there’s room for all lossless music, as well as drag and drop from iTunes on the Mac (non-purchased songs only) and Explorer on Windows 10. Ideally, the this MP3 player is ideal for active lifestyles including running, hiking, jogging and biking offering hands-free distraction and no cords to get in the way. The included USB dock offers 60 minutes of battery life on just three minutes of charge, which is the perfect amount of time for a workout.