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Best portable music players

If your smartphone isn't up to the task, a portable music player can handle the job.
By

Published onOctober 22, 2023

Premium Pick
Sony NW-WM1AM2 Walkman
MSRP: $1,398.00
Check price
Positives
High-resolution audio
Native DSD support
S-Master HX amplifier
Wi-Fi for streaming
128GB capacity
Expandable storage via SD card
Negatives
No user-changeable battery
Limited firmware support
Case not included
Occasional lag with large music libraries
Best for most
FiiO M11S
MSRP: $499.99
Check price
Positives
5,300mAh battery
Bluetooth 5.0 with LHDC
Streaming service compatibility
Expandable storage
Price
Negatives
A little bulky
Bang for your buck
Hidizs AP80
MSRP: $199.99
Check price
Positives
Price
Hi-Res audio support
MicroSD storage
Works as DAC/amp for PC
Negatives
Few software options
Needs better default settings
Best battery
iBass DX170
MSRP: $449.00
Check price
Positives
Price
Connection options
Negatives
Less resilient materials
More power than most need
Best for gym
SanDisk Clip Sport Plus
MSRP: $59.99
Check price
Positives
Small and portable
IPx5 rating
18 hours of battery life
Negatives
Limited storage
Dull design

Though it’s a rare thing to need, a portable music player is something you might find yourself in the market for. Whether you’re looking to replace your smartphone or Bluetooth speakers as your music source or just looking for an integrated amp and digital-to-analog converter (DAC) stack that you can take with you, portable music players are the best they’ve ever been—even if their widespread appeal is all but gone.

What's new?

  • This article was updated on October 22, 2023, to include Sony's latest Walkman as a new top pick, add an FAQ section, and adjust formatting to our current style.

The Sony Walkman WM1AM2 is the best portable music player

A hand holds the Sony NW-WM1AM2 Walkman to show two headphone jacks.
Austin Kwok / SoundGuys
On the top are a gold-plated 4.4mm balanced port and a 3.5mm single-ended port.

If you’re searching for the pinnacle of portable audio, the Sony NW-WM1AM2 should be at the top of your list. With its DSD Remastering Engine, it transforms standard PCM audio into a high-frequency DSD 1-bit audio stream that mimics analog sound in its purest form. And if you want to go wireless, the LDAC codec ensures you lose none of that high-resolution quality when you cut the cord.

But the exceptional sound is only the start. The Walkman boasts a build quality that matches its audio prowess, featuring a gold-plated, oxygen-free copper chassis. It’s not just aesthetics; these premium materials significantly enhance sound quality, making every bass note feel like a heartbeat and each treble a crystal-clear chime.

Of course, what’s high-end audio without the stamina to back it up? With robust battery life, the NW-WM1AM2 ensures you’re not just tethered to your charger but free to roam with your tunes. And if you’re worried about your extensive, varied music collection, fret not. This device plays everything from your classic MP3s to high-end DSD files, serving as a veritable Swiss army knife of audio formats.

Overall, the Sony NW-WM1AM2 stands alone as a masterpiece of both form and function. Its considerable price tag is fully justified, offering an experience that’s second to none. If you’re serious about your sound, this is the investment that pays off in audio bliss.

Sony NW-WM1AM2 WalkmanSony NW-WM1AM2 Walkman
Sony NW-WM1AM2 Walkman
High-resolution audio • Native DSD support • S-Master HX amplifier
MSRP: $1,398.00

How does the Sony NW-WM1AM2 compare to the Sony NW-WM1ZM2?

Both the Sony NW-WM1AM2 and NW-WM1ZM2 offer similar core functionalities, such as DSD and LDAC support, but they differ in build and internal components. For an extra $3,000, the NW-WM1ZM2 features a purer copper chassis, a stronger power supply, and specialized internal components like high-polymer capacitors and better-quality wiring. These improvements aim to provide clearer bass, reduced distortion, and an overall enhanced audio experience. In essence, the higher price is largely paying for materials and technologies designed to deliver a superior sound quality. Take a look at the specs comparison below:

ModelWM1AM2WM1ZM2
Model
Storage
WM1AM2
128 GB (Actual 103 GB)
WM1ZM2

Model
DAC
WM1AM2
DSD Remastering Engine (Up to 11.2MHz DSD)
WM1ZM2
DSD Remastering Engine (Up to 11.2MHz DSD)
Model
Wireless Codec
WM1AM2
LDAC (3x bitrate of standard Bluetooth)
WM1ZM2
LDAC (3x bitrate of standard Bluetooth)
Model
Output Ports
WM1AM2
Stereo mini jack, Balanced standard jack
WM1ZM2
Stereo mini jack, Balanced standard jack
Model
Files supported
WM1AM2
MP3, WMA, FLAC, WAV, AAC, HE-AAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF, APE, MQA
WM1ZM2
MP3, WMA, FLAC, WAV, AAC, HE-AAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF, APE, MQA
Model
DSD types supported
WM1AM2
DSD (2.8224 MHz / 1 bit), DSD (5.6448 MHz / 1 bit)
WM1ZM2
DSD (2.8224 MHz / 1 bit), DSD (5.6448 MHz / 1 bit), DSD (11.2 MHz / 1 bit)
Model
Battery
WM1AM2
40 hrs (W.Music App), 18 hrs (Other Apps)
WM1ZM2
40 hrs (W.Music App), 18 hrs (Other Apps)
Model
Android version
WM1AM2
Android 11
WM1ZM2
Android 11
Model
Equalizer
WM1AM2
10-Band equalizer, DSEE Ultimate, DC Phase Linearizer, Dynamic Normalizer, Vinyl Processor
WM1ZM2
10-Band equalizer, DSEE Ultimate, DC Phase Linearizer, Dynamic Normalizer, Vinyl Processor
Model
Input Ports
WM1AM2
USB, Micro SD
WM1ZM2
USB, Micro SD
Model
Output Power
WM1AM2
60 mW + 60 mW (Stereo mini), 250 mW + 250 mW (Balanced)
WM1ZM2
60 mW + 60 mW (Stereo mini), 250 mW + 250 mW (Balanced)
Sony NW-WM1ZM2 256GB Signature Series Premium Digital Music PlayerSony NW-WM1ZM2 256GB Signature Series Premium Digital Music Player
Sony NW-WM1ZM2 256GB Signature Series Premium Digital Music Player
Sound great • Faithful sound reproduction • High-quality materials
MSRP: $3,699.99

The FiiO M11S is the best portable music player for most people

Image of a FiiO M11S Hi-Res Portable Music Player on a black desk

Considering that most portable music players are largely specification-driven and aren’t very complicated once you’ve identified what you want, the FiiO M11S has the most bang for your buck on the market today. The M11S offers a monster battery, top-of-the-line wired and wireless options, and the ability to use your favorite streaming services. Paired with a respectable output level, it’s none too shabby.

FiiO’s options here are generally the options with the largest batteries that you can find under $1000, so it’s no surprise that the latest addition to the company’s line would stack up against the competition this way. The main reason you’d want something else is if you really desperately needed higher power output than the M11S can offer, and that would mean making tradeoffs in the price or features department.

FiiO M11SFiiO M11S
FiiO M11S
Battery life • Wired and Wireless • Streaming service compatibility
MSRP: $499.99
High-power, high-res MP3 player
The FiiO M11S is a high-performance, high-res MP3 player. This Android powered device has a large battery, 5-inch display, multiple connection ports, and can play many music file formats.

Why is the FiiO M11S the best portable music player?

Paying many thousands of dollars for a portable music player is often only going to get you very small improvements at significant cost—so we’re going to advise you to not do that. While the FiiO M11S might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it does tick all the boxes for a good portable audio player that can also handle pretty much anything you throw at it (including most streaming services). To be clear, this is a unit that isn’t going to be a perfect match for all headphones; it’s just the right tool for most of them.

FiiO M11S
Storage
32GB (expandable to 2TB)
DAC
ES9038Q2m× 2
Output ports
USB-C,
3.5mm TRS,
2.5mm balanced,
4.4mm Pentaconn
Files supported
DSD64/128/256, DXD, APE, ALAC, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, WMA, MP3, OGG, AAC, MQA
BT codecs
SBC/AAC/APTX/APTX-HD/LDAC/LHDC
Battery
5300mAh
Android version
10
Equalizer
Parametric, user-defined bands
Input ports
USB-C
Output power
300mW 3.5mm port,
550mW 2.5 and 4.4mm ports

FiiO does a pretty good job of making the most of the components crammed into this unit, as it provides a parametric equalizer to customize your sound to your liking or even use presets from others online. Additionally, you can use this unit as a stand-in for a DAC and amp for your computer. Really, there aren’t very many features for portable music players not on the M11S, so this is an easy recommendation. This unit will satisfy the vast majority of use cases that even a highly demanding user would throw at it, save for waterproofing or ultra-high output.

If you’re using headphones that require more than a watt of juice to reach an appropriate level, you’re going to want to look for something else. Just like any other portable audio player, you need to match what your needs are to the right product first. However, unless you’re running super insensitive planar magnetic headphones or some ultra-boutique options, chances are extremely good that you don’t need a super high output source. For most people, that makes the FiiO M11S—the cheapest portable music player that has all the best features music players can offer—the best portable music player.

We decided against the FiiO M11 Plus because the upgrades it offers really aren’t worth the extra $175 unless you’re deep in the rabbit hole of portable audio already. Stacking an extra 10mW of output power and 700mAh to the battery is notable. Still, considering the M11S already has a decent output level and battery, you’re not likely to notice much change unless you have super power-hungry headphones.

If you’re on a budget, get the Hidizs AP80

A photo of a Canadian quarter showing the size of the Hidisz AP80 Pro.
The Hidizs AP80 Pro is quite small.

Even if you don’t have a ton of cash to burn on this endeavor, you can, in fact, get pretty much everything you’re looking for in a portable music player at a fairly “low” cost. The Hidizs AP80 is a rather unassuming square-shaped device with limited bells and whistles. However, it does tick all the boxes you could want in a portable music player outside of raw power. But even then, we were able to drive the Sennheiser HD 800 S and Meze Audio Liric without any issues. If you need a unit capable of higher output, you’re likely going to be looking at devices in a higher price bracket.

This portable audio player might be tiny, but it offers FLAC playback, LDAC, expandable storage up to 2TB via microSD, and, you guessed it: a headphone jack. There are two upgrade options for the AP80 if you decide you’d like something better, but the increase in cost is not likely to be worth the money if you’re looking for major upgrades.

ModelAP80AP80 ProAP80 Pro-X
Model
Storage
AP80
1TB
AP80 Pro
512GB
AP80 Pro-X
512GB
Model
DAC
AP80
Saber ES9218P
AP80 ProAP80 Pro-X
Saber ES9218P (x2)
Model
Output
AP80
70mW (32Ω)
AP80 ProAP80 Pro-X
70mW (32Ω), 190mW balanced
Model
Files supported
AP80AP80 ProAP80 Pro-X
Up to 32-bit/384kHz FLAC, WAV, AIFF, MP3, ALAC, AAC, WMA, OGG, DSF, DSD, DIFF, APE
Model
BT codecs
AP80AP80 ProAP80 Pro-X
SBC, AAC, aptX, LDAC
Model
Battery
AP80AP80 ProAP80 Pro-X
800mAh

While this may be the “best” in the budget category on paper, what you’re saving in money, you’re spending in effort. The player doesn’t automatically update its library every time you add to the microSD card, and you’ll also have to figure out how to set the auto-shut-off feature. Otherwise, the AP80 will just stay on in perpetuity. But once you’ve smoothed out these rough spots, you can use the AP80 as a headphone amp/DAC for your computer, an FM radio, or just the thing you bought it for — a portable audio player.

Hidizs AP80Hidizs AP80
Hidizs AP80
Price • Hi-Res audio support • MicroSD storage
MSRP: $199.99
An ultra-portable and affordable high-res MP3 player
The Hidizs AP80 is a compact music player that has expandable storage, can operate as a DAC/amp for your PC, and support high-res audio formats.

Need power? The iBasso DX170 has you covered

A manufacturer-supplied photo of the iBasso DX170 sitting atop a rough black material.
Black rectangles seldom look amazing, but the iBasso DX170 looks fine enough.

While it doesn’t have the same “everything but the kitchen sink” approach as the FiiO, the iBasso DX170 has a lot of power under the hood. The iBasso DX170 has the highest output level on this list and comes in at a full $50 cheaper than the FiiO M11S. That makes it a good match for someone who—for whatever reason—really, really needs more power. Of course, this could describe audiophiles who love to EQ their tunes with extreme adjustments either way, so if you’re a tinkerer, you may want to go this route instead.

Some users have reported that they’re unsatisfied with how cheap the DX170 feels in person, and to that, we’d like to note that with a price lower than its closest competition, the cost savings had to come from somewhere. For the utilitarian out there, it may not be such a big deal. However, anyone looking for a luxury product may want to look at higher-end iBasso options if you’re a fan of their schtick. Just note that you don’t need to use that “burn-in cable” included in the packaging.

iBass DX170iBass DX170
iBass DX170
Price • Connectivity options
MSRP: $449.00
Competitively priced high-end MP3 player
The iBasso DX170 has a lot of power under the hood. High output levels matched with a very competitive price make this an ideal MP3 player for some users.

The SanDisk Clip Sport Plus is a good gym buddy

Product image of a SanDisk Clip Sport Plus MP3 Player on a white background
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys

Of course, if you don’t need a lot of power, maybe you just need a bog-standard MP3 player like the old days. That’s where the SanDisk Clip Sport Plus comes in. This little fella can clip onto your shirt or armband and store 32GB (there are smaller models, too) of tunes for your workout. Additionally, it’s sweat-resistant with an IPX5 rating.

While it’s quite a bit cheaper than the other entries here, the SanDisk Clip Sport Plus isn’t exactly aimed at someone looking to replace a computer or a smartphone for their tunes. This is a product to remove all thought necessary for someone who just wants to use the earbuds or headphones they always work out with and now need a solution with a headphone jack. There’s no card slot, there’s no high-power amplifier, and there’s definitely no streaming support from any of the main music streaming services. However, as this product is a great deal less expensive than a phone (not to mention less of a tragedy if it breaks), it’s a good companion for a workout.

SanDisk Clip Sport PlusSanDisk Clip Sport Plus
SanDisk Clip Sport Plus
Small and portable • IPx5 rating • Battery life
MSRP: $59.99
Want music on the go? That's what you'll get
The SanDisk Clip Sport is representative of the MP3 players of old. A simple display and limited options help you focus on the objective of this device, to take your music on the go in a reliable and convenient package.

What makes a good portable music player?

It’s rough to admit, but the MP3 player is a bit of a relic of the past. If you want a portable music player, chances are the actual things you need it to do are fairly limited in scope and easy to accomplish. Consequently, this is one of those products that you can absolutely just check for the things you want on a specifications page and simply grab whatever suits your needs. There’s no right or wrong DAC chip to get—just whatever works for your needs and budget.

The Qobuz music streaming service app's Listening tab open on a Samsung Galaxy S10e smartphone next to a pair of Massdrop x Noble Kaiser 10 IEMs and a cup of coffee.
Lil Katz / SoundGuys
Smartphones used to be the answer, and then the headphone jack went away.

A portable music player won’t need to stand in as your primary entertainment device, so you really just need something with a headphone jack, decent battery life, and the ability to store your library of music.

What questions you need to answer

Here’s the info you need to track down before buying a digital audio player:

  1. How much power do you need?
  2. What formats are your tunes in your library?
  3. Do you need access to a streaming service? If so, you’re going to need a player with Wi-Fi (or perhaps even a fork of Android).
  4. What headphone connection do you need? Do you want a balanced output?

Nice upgrades are going to take the form of things like an expandable memory slot (microSD) or Bluetooth connectivity over advanced codecs like aptX or LDAC. Additionally, you may see different DAC chips from companies Texas Instruments, Sabre, or Burr Brown. Truth be told, you’re unlikely to notice a difference there, so don’t let that be the deciding factor for you. There are other specs you may want to pay attention to, such as battery size, bit depth and sample rate supported, power output, file types supported, and internal file capacity.

ModelPriceHighest bit depthHighest sample rate (kHz)Streaming?InputOutputMax OutputInternal storageBluetoothBattery
Model
Astell & Kern KANN Alpha
Price
$1099USD
Highest bit depth
32
Highest sample rate (kHz)
384
Streaming?
Yes
Input
USB-C
Output
3.5mm TRS,
optical out,
2.5mm balanced
Max Output
6Vrms unbalanced
12Vrms balanced
Internal storage
64GB (expandable to 1TB)
Bluetooth
5.0 (aptX HD, LDAC)
Battery
5600mAh
Model
Astell & Kern SE180
Price
$1499USD
Highest bit depth
32
Highest sample rate (kHz)
384
Streaming?
Yes
Input
USB-C
Output
3.5mm TRS,
2.5mm balanced,
4.4mm balanced
Max Output
3Vrms unbalanced
6Vrms balanced
Internal storage
256GB (expandable to 1TB)
Bluetooth
5.0 (aptX HD, LDAC)
Battery
3800mAh
Model
Astell & Kern SR15
Price
$699USD
Highest bit depth
24
Highest sample rate (kHz)
192
Streaming?
Yes
Input
microUSB

Output
3.5mm TRS,
Pentaconn
Max Output
2Vrms unbalanced
4Vrms balanced
Internal storage
64GB (expandable to 1TB)
Bluetooth
No
Battery
3150mAh
Model
Astell & Kern SR25 MK II
Price
$750USD
Highest bit depth
32
Highest sample rate (kHz)
384
Streaming?
Yes
Input
USB-C
Output
3.5mm TRS,
2.5mm balanced,
4.4mm balanced
Max Output
2Vrms unbalanced
4Vrms balanced
Internal storage
64GB (expandable to 1TB)
Bluetooth
4.2 (aptX HD, LDAC)
Battery
3150mAh
Model
FiiO M11 Plus
Price
$699USD
Highest bit depth
32
Highest sample rate (kHz)
384
Streaming?
Yes
Input
USB-C
Output
3.5mm TRS,
2.5mm balanced,
4.4mm balanced
Max Output
210mW unbalanced,
660mW balanced
Internal storage
64GB (expandable up to 2TB)
Bluetooth
5.0 (aptX HD, AAC, LDAC)
Battery
6000mAh
Model
FiiO M11S
Price
$515USD
Highest bit depth
32
Highest sample rate (kHz)
384
Streaming?
Yes
Input
USB-C
Output
3.5mm TRS,
2.5mm balanced,
4.4mm balanced
Max Output
200mW unbalanced
670mW balanced
Internal storage
32GB (expandable to 2TB)
Bluetooth
5.0 (aptX HD, AAC, LDAC)
Battery
5300mAh
Model
Hidisz AP80 Pro
Price
$168.99USD
Highest bit depth
32
Highest sample rate (kHz)
384
Streaming?
No
Input
USB-C
Output
3.5mm TRS,
2.5mm balanced
Max Output
140mW
Internal storage
(expandable to 2TB)
Bluetooth
4.2 (aptX HD, LDAC)
Battery
800mAh
Model
iBasso DX170
Price
$449USD
Highest bit depth
32
Highest sample rate (kHz)
384
Streaming?
Yes
Input
USB-C
Output
3.5mm TRS,
4.4mm balanced
Max Output
3.2Vrms unbalanced
6.4Vrms balanced
Internal storage
32GB (expandable to 1TB)
Bluetooth
5.0 (aptX HD, LDAC)
Battery
3200mAh
Model
iBasso DX240
Price
$949USD
Highest bit depth
32
Highest sample rate (kHz)
384
Streaming?
Yes
Input
USB-C
Output
3.5mm TRS,
4.4mm Balanced
Max Output
3.1Vrms unbalanced
6.2Vrms balanced
Internal storage
64GB (expandable to 2TB)
Bluetooth
5.0 (aptX HD, LDAC)
Battery
4400mAh
Model
Shanling M0 Pro
Price
$129.99USD
Highest bit depth
32
Highest sample rate (kHz)
384
Streaming?
No
Input
USB-C
Output
3.5mm TRS,
balanced
Max Output
90mW
Internal storage
(expandable to 2TB)
Bluetooth
5.0 (aptX HD, AAC, LDAC)
Battery
650mAh
Model
Sony NW-A306-B
Price
$349.99USD
Highest bit depth
32
Highest sample rate (kHz)
384
Streaming?
Yes
Input
USB-C
Output
3.5mm TRS
Max Output
1.1mW
Internal storage
32GB (usable is 18, expandable to 1TB)
Bluetooth
5.0 (aptX HD, AAC, LDAC)
Battery
Not listed
Model
Sony NW-ZX507


Price
$829.99USD
Highest bit depth
32
Highest sample rate (kHz)
384
Streaming?
Yes
Input
USB-C
Output
3.5mm TRS,
balanced
Max Output
100mW unbalanced, 200mW balanced
Internal storage
64GB (expandable to 1TB)
Bluetooth
5.0 (aptX HD, AAC, LDAC)
Battery
Not listed
Model
Sony NW-ZX707
Price
$899.99USD
Highest bit depth
32
Highest sample rate (kHz)
384
Streaming?
Yes
Input
USB-C
Output
3.5mm TRS,
balanced

Max Output
1.1mW
Internal storage
64GB (expandable to 1TB)
Bluetooth
5.0 (aptX HD, AAC, LDAC)
Battery
Not listed

Many of the units listed on this page are also capable of standing in for your DAC and headphone amp, which is a nice way to consolidate your electronics if you’re just starting your equipment stack. The vast majority of headphones out there aren’t going to need a ton of power.

What is the difference between balanced and unbalanced? Is unbalanced bad?

Hobbyists love their bespoke equipment, and headphones are no exception. Some boutique headphones require a balanced connection using either a 2.5mm 4-pole TRRS or a 5-pole 4.4mm Pentaconn. These aren’t going to work if you shove them into a normal headphone jack. You’ll need the correct port on your device, or you’ll need a dongle to get headphones with these cable terminations to operate. However, there’s a growing number of portable audio players that can accommodate these connections.

Included cables and adaptors shown with the Sennheiser HD 660S.
The Sennheiser HD 660S comes with 2 cables and an adaptor, providing 3 different connector options.

The difference between a balanced and unbalanced connection is in how the signal is treated on the way to your ears. Balanced connections will make use of a concept called differential signaling to supposedly tamp down noise introduced by interference from outside. In contrast, unbalanced connections will simply take the single-ended audio signal from your source without doing that. While it sounds like it might offer a huge improvement, decent shielding on your cables (which should be assumed at this point) should mean that there isn’t any significant difference between the two strategies as far as noise is concerned. For headphones, at least. If you don’t have a balanced connection, you really don’t have anything to worry about.

Are you sure you even want a portable music player?

Many people looking for portable music players are looking to use their favorite headphones with something they can carry and would drop the idea in a hot second if their smartphones could keep up. Now that the headphone jack is extremely rare in smartphones, it’s entirely possible that what some people are looking for isn’t a portable music player but a USB dongle.

The 1More Triple Driver In-Ear earbuds plugged into the dongle.
If you just want the headphone jack back, there are cheaper options than a portable music player.

These devices are generally a lot cheaper than portable music players, and they allow your smartphone to be the music player you want it to be. As always, products like this are mainly spec-driven, so any will work so long as they can meet the power requirements of your headphones—and the only hookup necessary is to use the USB-C port of your Android phone. Apple users will need to specifically look for units that have lightning connectors—though 9 times out of 10, you’ll be happy with the Apple 3.5mm dongle.

There’s also no need to overspend here, as even the cheapest units on the market are often powerful enough to drive higher-end options like the Sennheiser HD 800 S and even some planar magnetic headphones like the HiFiMan Sundara without any trouble. It’s one of those situations where the tech behind this sort of thing has gotten so good that it’s a non-issue at this point, and features are going to be what differentiates the models—not performance.

Why would you get a portable music player instead of using your phone?

Now that the headphone jack has disappeared from smartphones, there’s a small but vocal segment of music lovers that need a way to use their wired cans that isn’t tied to a computer. In fact, I’m one of these people. I often find myself traveling around with dubious access to the internet, and streaming access is poor at best. Ever drive across the great plains? Not so great cell reception there, is it?

It's one of those things that you'll likely never need—until you do.

While you could absolutely load up your phone with downloaded songs, you’re then fighting space issues if you don’t have a microSD card slot—something that is also going the way of the dinosaur. Even though this is mainly a problem for people who listen to higher bitrate files to the exclusion of all else, it’s still a concern for those who fill their phone’s storage with other things, like movies, photos, or apps.

Having a portable audio player on hand will allow you to not only offload the responsibility for your music playback onto a device that isn’t hamstrung by your data connection (or storage) but there are a number of other capabilities you can unlock. For example, smartphones aren’t amazing with high-end headphones. Still, a portable audio player with a high-current output can handle just about any headphones you want in your hotel room, cabin, or other destination.

What are some alternatives?

Of course, our impulse to prioritize function and cost above all other concerns may not be what you’re looking for, or maybe you just want something that fits your niche a little better. That’s fine! Here are a few other models that you can check out:

  1. Shanling M0 Pro: This unit was well received upon its release last year but doesn’t do much to set itself apart from the Hidizs AP80 Pro. It’s still a decent unit, though.
  2. Astell & Kern KANN Alpha: a pricy unit, this product prioritizes raw output power. If you have headphones that just can’t get loud enough with other products, this is pretty much the portable that’s most likely to satisfy you.
  3. iBasso DX240: Think the DX170 but with a bigger battery and more storage capacity.
  4. Sony NW-A306-B: A straightforward music player that undercuts the high-end in price but falls short when it comes to power output.
  5. Sony NW-ZX507: Sony’s recent attempt to make a powerful portable. 100+mW output means overkill for most headphones at normal listening volumes.
  6. FiiO M11 Plus: This product is much like the M11S but with a bigger battery and higher output.

This list is not exhaustive and will expand as we get to experiment with new products as they are released. However, this is a decent cross-section of what’s available and worth your money.

The best portable music players: Frequently asked questions

Yes, portable music players are still available, catering to audiophiles and those who don’t want to rely solely on smartphones, especially since many have ditched the headphone jack.

Absolutely. Brands like Astell & Kern, FiiO, and Sony offer dedicated portable music players with various features to suit different needs and budgets

Apart from your phone, you can listen to music on portable music players, laptops, tablets, and dedicated home audio systems.

A portable music player with storage options allows you to load your library and listen without needing an internet connection or phone.

Smartphones largely replaced iPods for most consumers, but portable music players have evolved to cater to audio enthusiasts who require higher-quality sound and features.

Yes, MP3 players are still available, but they often come with additional capabilities, such as high-resolution audio support and streaming options.

An iPod is a specific brand of MP3 player made by Apple that often includes extra features like a touchscreen, apps, and ecosystem integration. MP3 players, generally speaking, can be from various manufacturers and may lack these additional features.

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