There are five main questions you should ask yourself in order to choose the best MP3 player for your needs:
How much do I want to spend?
How much storage space do I need? (How big is my musical library, am I using large audiobooks?)
What extra features, if any, do I want in my MP3 player? (Do I want it to play videos, Bluetooth, FM radio, etc.?)
What size, shape and overall design am I looking for? (Do I want something compact and portable or unique and personalized?)
What type of audio files do I have and how do I prefer to manage and enjoy my music? (Do I prefer shuffling, creating playlists, gapless playback, etc.?)
There are an overwhelming number of options when it comes to shopping for MP3 players. Ask yourself these questions and follow up with research to make the best choice worth your investment.
MP3 Sound Quality
Sound quality is one of the most important aspects of any MP3 player. Sound quality is commonly influenced by the way the audio files are compressed. There are two notable forms of data compression found in MP3 Players: Lossy and Lossless.
Lossy: The file size is reduced significantly to help save space, with a sacrifice to quality.
Lossless: The original data in the file is preserved (it can be compressed or uncompressed) to maintain the original quality.
Which is better? Lossy compression actually removes some of the data from the file to reduce the size, whereas nothing is lost with lossless. What this means for your music is that lossless audio may sound more realistic and better quality. The noticeable difference between lossy and lossless audio may not always be apparent, but this can be an important feature for audiophiles. Choosing a lossless MP3 player may not be necessary unless you’re also using higher-end headphones or speakers.
Many MP3 players typically store files with internal flash memory or external memory in the form of a card. In other words, you can choose to add additional memory to the MP3 player depending on whether or not it has a memory card slot.
Some MP3 players can only hold a certain size of SD card in them. For example, if the MP3 player can only read SD cards up to 64GB, any cards larger (such as 128 or 256GB) will not work. If you already have an SD card that you’d like to use, it’s important to make sure that it’s compatible with the device that you’re looking at purchasing.
The amount of storage you need will vary depending on how many files you want to keep on your device. To put things in perspective, one gigabyte can hold an average of about 200 songs. However, this also depends on many factors, including the quality of the music files and the length of the songs. If you tend to listen to a large amount of audio files, it might be worthwhile to invest a bit of extra money into an MP3 player with a good amount of expandable storage.
MP3 Player Screen Size and Resolution
While screen size and resolution shouldn’t be a deal-breaker when it comes to buying the best MP3 player, you should definitely consider the appearance and quality of the device’s screen before buying.
Screen size and resolution will be much more important if you’re planning to use your player to watch videos. MP3 players that double up as video players can have a resolution of 480p or more. That’s not a lot compared to what most smartphones and tablets can do, but there are a few higher resolution MP3 player options available.
Screen size generally ranges from 2.5 inches to 4 inches, with some screens being even less than 2 inches. A smaller screen can mean more portability, but always remember to consider the overall design of the device, including the button placements and the user interface. The actual size of the screen may not be as important has how easily you can navigate your controls.
The types of files in your music library can play a large role in which type of MP3 Player you choose to buy. If you have already downloaded your music in a certain file type, then you will want to make sure that your new MP3 player can read those files.
The most common types of files are WMA, MP3, M4A, FLAC and AAC. If you have mostly FLAC files, then you will want an MP3 player that can play Lossless files. The rest, with the exception of WMA, are lossy file types which most players can handle. WMA can be either lossy or lossless. Nearly all MP3 player product pages will list which file types they are able to read and play.
MP3 Player Portability
The best MP3 player should be portable enough that you can take it with you in your pocket, purse, bag or car without it weighing you down. It should be slim and lightweight enough to be easy to carry, but not so light that it can break in two if you drop it. For MP3 players with the best portability, look for devices with screen sizes of 3 inches or smaller and avoid devices with sharp corners or awkward shapes.
A smooth, compact and sturdy MP3 player is your best bet if you want something you can carry in your pocket throughout the day. Keep in mind that many MP3 players can come with their own cases, which will add bulk as well as protection. If you are especially active, look for MP3 players that include a clothing clip.
MP3 Player Battery Life
When you’re traveling, jogging or commuting to work, you want to be able to listen to your music without the worry of a dead battery. For many people, carrying around a portable battery pack isn’t a practical solution. The best MP3 player will have a long battery life and the ability to play hours of music without the need for a charge.
Battery life in MP3 players can vary depending on what features your player has and the way that you use those features. If you’re using wireless Bluetooth technology on your MP3 player, then your battery usage will be much higher. If you want to save on battery life, opt to listen to your MP3 player with a good pair of wired headphones.
As a side note, it’s important to remember that the level of volume you use has an effect on the drain of battery life. If you listen to music at a higher volume, it can drain battery life quicker. The brightness of your MP3 player and how long the screen is on for can also quickly drain the battery. For this reason, a lot of manufacturers have an auto-sleep or lock time on the device. If you want to preserve the battery life of your MP3 player, make sure to adjust the screen settings and minimize track skipping.