I'm going to try to keep this short...
I currently have a rockboxed ipod classic 5g 30gb with mid-level Shure IEMs. The ipod battery is almost dead and with a large collection of music (hundreds of GBs), I'm getting tired of always having to delete/re-upload music to my player. Now that rockbox is finally stable on IPC7g I was thinking about getting the 160gb version, but I was surprised to see how many new, high-quality players are available at reasonable prices nowadays. The idea is that, with SD card expansion, maybe I could get a better-sounding player for similar amount of money.
So my question to you all is: do you think a rockboxed ipod classic 7g can sound as good as other price-comparable options (see below)?
My priorities are:
to spend under $300 USD
have a good sounding player
portability (i.e. no ipod+DAC combinations)
lots of available storage (either 100+ gb or via SD cards--i'm hoping for 128gb microSDs in near future, although multiple 64gb will do)
I have been considering the following (along with prices, memory specs, and audio hours of listening)
replacing the hard drive/battery on the old ipod and calling it good (~$250, 240gb, ?)
iPod classic $250, 160gb, 30hr battery
Cowon X7 $230, 120gb, 100hr
hifiman HM-601 $200, 4gb/sdhc microSD, 10hr
Colorfly c3 $130, 8gb/sdhc microSD (64gb limit!), 10-20hr
NOVA-N3 $200, 16gb/sdhc microSD, 20hr
Fiio X3 $200, 8gb/sdhc microSD, 10hr
iBasso DX50 $240, 8gb/sdXC microSD, 14hr
Cowon J3 $220, 16gb/sdhc microSD, 64hr
Cowon D20 $180 32gb/schc SD, 90hr*
Hisoundaudio Studio 3 Anni Ed. , $300?, 4gb/sdhc microSD, 85hr
a Sony player with sdxc/sdhc?
a Teclast player with sdxc/sdhc?
1 microSD 64gb: ~$50
1 SD 128gb: ~$70+
The D20 is tempting because it uses an SD, not microSD card... but what about the SQ?
Have you heard a rockboxed ipod vs. any of the above players? Is there a huge difference? Worth the hassle of multiple SD cards? Worth the lower battery life? Any other players that I should consider?
Your experience and advice are most welcome!!!