The Sansa clip is a normal sounding player. It doesn't do anything really wrong, but then again it doesn't do anything exceptionally well. I have a Fuze that is supposed to sound the same and the sound is pretty flat and non dynamic. I have tried other players that sound much better, such as the S:Flo2 and the QLS QA350.
Anythingbutipod.com is a good site, but sometimes I want to start anythingbutsansa.com to counteract their sansa madness. They are irrationally crazy about the clip because it measure flat on some test. Guess what? it sounds flat as well, and not in a good way. The clip has its place as an ultra portable cheap player that sounds decent, but decent is not anywhere near good.
The problem with that is those players are $200+ players. If your paitient or dont mind a refurb or used you can get a clip+ for 30 dollars.
Source is the most fickle part of an audio rig. There is never 1 source that is good in everything for sure. I know this coz I've had my fair share of DAPs. I can surmise the following:
iPods - they are OK sounding players. The iPod 5G is probably the best sounding one I've heard, plus you can use Rockbox on it. Still, I do find that I need to amp the iPods to get a decent sound.
clip+ - After having only iPods, the clip+ was a big surprise. Much better sound quality from a much smaller player. Unfortunately the poor battery life and small screen and size really killed it for me.
s:flo2 - Bad customer service aside, the s:flo2 sounded excellent. It deserves the praise it gets for its SQ for sure. However for me, SQ isn't everything, and eventually the really bad UI and awkward shape made it a bad package overall.
Fuze - Currently using and so far it's the best. Good battery, easy navigation, Rockbox. Don't underestimate the Rockbox impact. Coupled with the Fuze's amp, it pretty much nullifies the need to use an amp for me. I've tried iBasso D12, P4, D4, Cordas, everything short of RSAs, and find that there is very minimal gain using an amp. I think a lot of people can atest to this, judging by a good number of Fuze rigs here without amps.
So yeah, I don't feel the Sansas are overrated. They are definitely bang for buck, and then some more. Maybe Cowons or the s:flo2 may sound better, but they all have their own problems. After the nightmare that is mp4nation customer service, I'm inclined NOT to spend too much on a source anymore. :)
So you say the Fuze had a different amp than the Clip? I was under the impression that they were the same.
I guess the real question, even though this may be getting a but OT, is there a player in the same price range that can compare to the Clip?
I mean really when someone bring up players that sound better than the clip/fuze theyre always the expensive ones. Theres gotta be something to be said about that.
I havent heard a clip, but I did get one for my GF for X-mas and Ill take a listen to it before I give it to her, because im gonna rockbox it too. Im interested to see how it sounds.
The biggest impact rockboxing will bring to it, asides from the ability to play m4a files, is battery life and a world-class EQ. And you can set each frequency band to your own freq., so it is truly customizable. And to me, the Fuze and Clip+ sound the same....and I have two of each.