I will be publishing a full review of the Shuffle soon. It IS in some ways better sounding (though not as warm -- less distortion) than the original shuffle which is still among my favourites. It has a tiny break between songs - about the same as what other manufacturers claim is 'gapless'. It isn't gapless. It drives very hard to drive iems quite well, though about a step below the Clip in terms of overall resolution. It beats the clip for hiss - there is none in comparison. You can hear it with very sensitive earphones: Final Audio FI-BA-SB and A1, for example, but only barely. Lowest hiss of any. Good battery life, decent control scheme.
Honestly, I bought one only because my old shuffle was biting it (after 5 years). It has surprised me in every way. I don't care about iTunes - it does more than any software I've ever used and I've no (no longer that is) any vendetta against Apple. I use it, I close it, I listen - that is all. Had the iPod no need for iTunes, I'd still use it anyway to drag and drop playlists, all my favourite albums, ssongs, etc. thanks to great search features etc.
Shuffle isn't perfect, but it is one of the most impressive players I've used in a LONG time.
Looking forward to your full review.