I can name at least 2 tracks that sound absolutely fantastic out of the new Shuffle, but my experience has been that the tiny DAC in it becomes overwhelmed when you point a wall of sound (particularly metal) in its general direction - more expensive players like the X dont suffer that fate, IMO.
Price aside, who would buy one ? I can repackage mine and give it to a relative at Xmas, but a 2 measly GB ? Wtf, apple ? This seems to be a cynical marketing exercise aimed at people who are prepared to lose the tiny sliver of plastic and silicone at their first gym session.
The big improvement, based on the 3 days I spent with the previous generation Nano and my mediocre 2G Touch, is that Apple have somehow managed to fit an amp on a piece of silicon that cant be much bigger than a postage stamp. When I say 'amp', I mean it actually scales well with increases in volume rather than simply forcing you to turn it off - I sense another lawsuit in France
Sure, the golden-eared here will undoubtedly tell me that Apple have done something naughty with the Shuffle, and we will nod sagely that the bass has been boosted, the highs rolled off and unacceptable amounts of RF are being channeled straight into our brains. All very edifying, but I dont see anyone here buying the thing anyway - 2G isnt even enough for a single afternoon's entertainment at your desk.
My suspicion is that Apple have simply installed the same sound processing geegaws that proved so popular with the late-2009 Touch/iPhone refresh, and that would now be costing them very little to implement. My question is simple : if Sandisk and Apple can get good sound out of cheap components, and your average smartphone has improved exponentially in this area over the last 3 years, why is the onboard sound on most computers so bloody abysmal ? I havent heard anything from the Core i3/i5/i7 chipset, so I may be premature in saying this, but onboard sound has been woeful for way too long. Happy to hear otherwise from someone who has a recent Mac or PC-based machine and doesnt wince when they plug a set of headphones into the headphone jack.
Its great that the aftermarket has so many goodies designed to improve onboard sound, but in 2010 the baseline should be higher than it is. Intel have reportedly improved onboard graphics - time to spend a few pesos on the sound, team.
Back OT, I would advise the OP to get the Clip+ and as much SD card as he/she can afford. The Shuffle might be back to its 1st Gen 'mighty mite' best, but its not much use having a family car that seats 1 .....