What to look for in an MP3 player in 2022
First, let’s answer the obvious question: Why don’t you just listen to music on your phone? There are several reasons, but at the higher end of the scale, MP3 players pack far better audio components than even the best phone.
On a budget, they can go places you might be afraid to risk breaking or losing your phone – and many of them are smaller than a standard smartphone to boot.
Even if you have one of the increasingly rare phones with a headphone jack, they can’t use headphones as a high-end MP3 player. A headphone amplifier built into a quality MP3 player will have more power to drive more sensitive headphones, and the sound quality will often be miles better.
Although we often call them MP3 players, these portable playback machines can handle many more formats than just MP3 files. Many high-end players and some budget models have support for high-resolution audio formats and lossless audio files such as FLAC and ALAC. Some even support more advanced audio formats such as DSD.
An important aspect that you will need to consider when buying a player is the headphones that you will be using with it. Any player can drive a standard set of headphones, but a higher-end digital audio player can use headphones that require more power.
The above doesn’t matter whether you intend to listen with wireless earbuds or a portable speaker. On the other hand, this requires Bluetooth. Many players offer Bluetooth support, but not all.
Most of the reasons for buying an MP3 player involve playing your own music files, but occasionally you’ll want to stream them as well. Some players — usually higher-end models — work with streaming services. However, even in more expensive players, sometimes the FM radio is all you get in addition to your own digital music collection.
- ✓ Fantastic sound quality
- ✓ LDAC and aptX HD for great Bluetooth sound
- ✓ Expandable storage up to 1TB
- ✓ Balanced output for premium headphones
- ✗ A corner screen won’t be for everyone
Astell&Kern is a manufacturer of premium digital audio players and for years the company has often been ahead of the competition. While the Astell&Kern A&Norma SR25 MKII may seem expensive compared to MP3 players old and new, this is among the company’s most affordable models and you get a lot for your money.
At its heart, the A&Norma SR25 MKII is a dual DAC from Cirrus Logic, capable of playing files up to 32bit/384kHz for lossless files. It also has support for Native DSD (DSD256), in case your collection includes these files. In addition to the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, you get a balanced 4.4mm output for connecting to high-end headphones.
Speaking of headphones, you shouldn’t be too careful about the ones you use with this model. The Astell&Kern A&Norma SR25 MKII can easily handle powerful over-ear headphones, although we cannot guarantee that they will work with every single pair of headphones out there.
If you’d rather opt for wireless headphones, fear not. Not only does the A&Norma SR25 MKII support Bluetooth, it also supports LDAC and aptX HD for high-quality wireless audio.
The player has 64 GB of internal memory and support for microSD cards up to 1TB. If you want to listen to music that is not part of your personal collection, this player’s Open APP Service allows you to install Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and other music streaming services so that you can listen to whatever you want.
The only odd aspect of the Astell&Kern A&Norma SR25 MKII is the angled screen, which may take some getting used to. But other than that, this is the best MP3 player out there.
The best MP3 player overall
Astell&Kern A&Norma SR25 MKII
If you want your portable music to sound as good as your hi-fi setup at home, the Astell&Kern A&Norma SR25 MKII and a good set of headphones will get you there.
- ✓ It supports multiple high-resolution formats including DSD256
- ✓ Built-in 10-band equalizer
- ✓ Expandable storage up to 512 GB
- ✓ Super affordable for the feature set
- ✗ They don’t look as nice as the more expensive players
- ✗ Small screen
Maybe you’ve never heard of RUIZA, but it’s time to start paying attention. The A55 64GB HiFi Lossless MP3 Player packs many of the features you’d expect to find in more expensive MP3 players into a dramatically more affordable package.
The A55 supports several different sample rates depending on the file format, but for most lossless files like FLAC, it tops out at 24bit/192kHz. It supports WAV files up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD256.
The RUIZU A55 has a headphone jack which should be fine for in-ears, but we’re not sure it would power heavy headphones. Additionally, it also supports Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless playback, although the company doesn’t specify which Bluetooth audio codecs it uses.
If you want to shape your sound signature, the RUIZU A55 has a built-in 10-band EQ. While some purists don’t like using EQ, this is handy if, for example, you’re using wireless headphones with an EQ function built into a smartphone app that you can’t access while listening to the A55.
This player comes with 64 GB of built-in memory. High-resolution files can take up space quite quickly, so it’s good to know that the microSD card slot allows you to add up to 512GB of additional storage.
The best cheap MP3 player
RUIZU A55 64GB HiFi lossless MP3 player
The RUIZU A55 64GB HiFi lossless MP3 player offers features you once only saw on much more expensive players. It cuts a few corners, but for the price this is a fantastic player.
- ✓ Excellent multi-format high-resolution playback sound
- ✓ Support for LDAC and aptX Bluetooth audio codec
- ✓ DSEE HX Al can improve the sound of compressed files
- ✓ Simple support for streaming applications
- ✗ Battery life is not as long as claimed
- ✗ The Android operating system can be slow
Sony has been making the Walkman since 1979. Of course, these aren’t the same cassette players that Sony originally sold, but they carry the same spirit. The Sony Walkman NW-A105 belongs to the middle range of the Sony Walkman line, and this model offers the perfect combination of sound quality, features and price.
The NW-A105 features Sony’s S-Master HX digital amplifier for pristine sound via the built-in headphone jack. Looking at files, this Walkman handles lossless files up to 24-bit/192kHz and DSD256, so you have options. Additionally, if you have a lot of MP3 files, Sony’s DSEE HX Al can help restore some of the original sound quality of those files.
The Sony Walkman NW-A105 supports Bluetooth for wireless playback. Even better, it supports both LDAC and aptX HD for high-quality audio without the need for wires. This model has only 16 GB of built-in memory, which can be expanded via a microSD slot.
Sony says on its Amazon page that the NW-A105 can provide up to 26 hours of playback. This assumes you’re listening to MP3s at 128 kbps, which doesn’t offer the best sound. If you listen to high-resolution files at higher volumes, you can expect this time to decrease significantly.
The NW-A105 runs Android, which means it’s easy to load streaming apps to complement your music collection. It’s a bit slower though, so don’t expect the same speed you’d get on a phone.
The best MP3 player with Bluetooth
Sony Walkman NW-A105
If you’re looking for a great-sounding digital audio player with Bluetooth, but don’t need Sony’s flagship Walkman models, the NW-A105 is the sweet spot in the lineup.
- ✓ Built-in speaker so no worries about lost headphones
- ✓ It also plays video
- ✓ Surprisingly long battery life
- ✓ Some lossless formats are supported
- ✗ Only 8 GB of internal memory
If your kids want a smartphone, but you don’t think they’re ready, an MP3 player can be a good alternative. The TIMMKOO Bluetooth MP3 Player has a built-in speaker and touch screen, but no social media or web access.
This player has 8 GB of internal space, of which 6 GB is usable. That’s not a lot of space for a large music library, but luckily, the storage is expandable via microSD card, up to 512 GB.
The TIMMKOO MP3 player has a 1,800 mAh lithium-ion battery that can provide up to eight hours of video playback. On the other hand, if you stick to music, you can get up to 50 hours of playback. When it’s time to charge, TIMMKOO can be charged via the USB-C port.
In addition to the built-in speaker and headphone jack, TIMMKOO also has Bluetooth 4.2 for connecting to headphones or a portable speaker.
If you’re looking for something for younger kids, this probably won’t cut it for you. Instead, you should opt for the AGPTEK MP3 player for kids. It’s colorful, solid, and much easier to use than any other player we looked at. It can even work as a sleep aid with built-in soothing sounds.
The best MP3 player for kids
TIMMKOO MP3 player with Bluetooth
The TIMMKOO MP3 Player with Bluetooth is close enough to the iPod touch to keep your kids entertained, but limited enough that you don’t have to constantly supervise them using it.
- ✓ Lightweight and easy to carry
- ✓ Clothes pegs
- ✓ IPX5 waterproof
- ✓ Built-in FM radio
- ✗ Only 16 GB of memory
- ✗ Storage is not expandable
While some of the top players on this list are great, you don’t really want to be taking them for a run or to the gym. If you’re looking for an MP3 player that’s rugged enough to withstand a workout, but won’t cost too much if something goes wrong, the SanDisk 16GB Clip Sport Plus is your best bet.
The SanDisk 16GB Clip Sport Plus is smaller and lighter than the other MP3 players we looked at, making it easier to move around. As the name implies, it has a built-in clip that allows you to attach it to your clothing, meaning you don’t have to risk it slipping out of your pocket. This model is also waterproof IPX5, you don’t have to worry about a little sweat.
The 16GB Clip Sport Plus supports Bluetooth, which is nice because wired headphones can interfere with certain exercises. On the other hand, if you opt for wired headphones, they act as an antenna that will allow you to use the built-in FM radio.
When it comes to storage, you’re stuck with the built-in 16GB, as there’s no expandable storage. However, 16GB can hold plenty of MP3 files, so you can expect to hold anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 songs depending on how long they are and the MP3 bitrate.
The built-in battery gives you up to 20 hours of playback on a single charge, although this will vary depending on volume.
The best MP3 player for training
SanDisk 16GB Clip Sport Plus
Want to head out for a run without risking your phone or more advanced MP3 player? The SanDisk 16GB Clip Sport Plus is tough enough to withstand your workout and light enough not to hold you back.