New MP3 Player Recommendation - Best Sound Quality
May 6, 2008 at 11:56 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 45


Jul 17, 2005
Hi, about ten minutes ago, I accidentally dropped my second-generation 4GB Clix on the sidewalk. The screen now displays an array of vertical lines. Resetting the device and the recovery function on the Firmware Update Utility both did not work (I could only hope that it wasn't physically damaged, though it was painfully obvious). Anyway, I suppose I need a new MP3 player and am hoping to improve on that first purchase.

On the go, I use Future Sonics Atrio M5 with small Shure black foam sleeves. I desire a device with at least 4GB capacity. Despite the accident, it doesn't necessarily have to be flash-based. Ultimately, I just want the best currently available sound quality, with or without software-based mods. I am, however, averse to the iPod. I'd prefer to keep it under $250, though if there's something above that price that is worth getting or significantly better in sound quality, please suggest it.

I listen for the most part to rock and ambient/experimental electronica or IDM. Notable artists include: Autechre, The Beatles, Blonde Redhead, Boards of Canada, Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, Neutral Milk Hotel, New Order, Nirvana, and Radiohead.

Update: I'm leaning heavily towards purchasing an 8GB Cowon D2 and upgrading later with an SDHC card.

Update 2: Thanks for the input, guys. You're right; sound quality definitely is subjective. I feel as if I prefer a warm sound with clean, punchy bass. If listening at home, I sometimes use Alessandro MS-1's...I love their bright, open sound. Though, the problem is that I'm not entirely sure what I like because I've only purchased bright equipment in the past. Maybe I would like something analytical...I do enjoy hearing even the most minute details in my music.

Also, FLAC support would be nice. I've heard mixed comments on the D2 stating that it's FLAC support is buggy.
May 7, 2008 at 1:36 AM Post #2 of 45
The Cowon D2 would be a good choice, especially if you want to use EQ adjustments and sound enhancements. If you prefer a more flat frequency response, you don't need to tweak the sound, the Sansa Fuze would be a better choice. That's in terms of sound quality from the headphone output under $250, a lot of people would recommend an iPod paired with an amp.
May 7, 2008 at 3:37 AM Post #3 of 45
I saw a chart once that the Sonys had the best quality, followed by the D2 and then the clix. My personal experience between the NW-728 and the P2 favors the Sony slightly.
May 7, 2008 at 6:55 AM Post #4 of 45
i would recommend getting a samsung p2. i have one and it is AMAZING. it has excellent sound quality (has very cuztomizable EQ settings) and it has constant big firmware updates. by the end of this month, it is expected that samsung will release some bluetooth multiplayer games =] it is a touch screen player so it is an alternative to the ipod touch/itouch and the 8 gb model is supposed to be be $250 but i got mine for $190 on amazon =]]
May 7, 2008 at 11:48 AM Post #5 of 45
I've been relatively disappointed with the D2. Even with it's bass boost function maxed, it's really not that punchy. If I try to fiddle with the low end EQ it muffles the rest of the spectrum understandably. Also, without any effects the soundstage does appear a bit narrow relative to other players/straight from PC, although it has two effects you can use to fix that. Also comes off as quite thin to me, and cold which is what everyone metions. Very articulate though, intricate guitar sections sound great as do strings and electronica, just it really does lack in emotional impact due to the lack of sufficiently punchy bass (for me anyway). Reputedly very balanced across the spectrum though if you don't like to fiddle with the spectrum.
May 7, 2008 at 12:56 PM Post #6 of 45
ive had a number of players and owned the atrio m5 (by the way, overall my favourite iem under 500$).

i had the d2 - it is gone. just for saying so, i might get flamed, but i did not like it. it could not control the bass with the atrio. it gave too low of stereo separation and congested the bass and lower mids. but it had almost no hiss with the atrio which was great.

the meizu m6 - more natural sounding player. i don't use eq by the way for any player. it just was more controlled in every category than the d2. but it hissed heaps. i hear the new sl version does not hiss as badly.

both of those two will get rockbox support probably this year: that means gapless. i don't know if rockbox will get rid of what i did not like of the sound in the d2 but i reckon not.

i have sony a600 series. most controlled bass of all the portables i have listened to but almost hissed almost too much. the a800 series hisses heaps too. but i have the japanese version. it records and if you use atrac and sonicstage, gapless. but, i don't use either. i use it only as a portable recorder. but great great sound if you can forgive the insessant hissing. in fact it hisses so much that over the sound of a bus, it hisses. i can hear the hissing in an airplane. the newer a900 series and last years a800 don't hiss as much but still hiss.

iriver clix (1). fine but just fine. it is sparkly but seems a bit too popish. it hisses but not nearly as badly as the old irivers. it is a little quieter than the sony machine. wasn't that impressed. the newer one is either just less poppy or more poppy so that headfiers can enjoy their super duper eq enhancements.

ipod: nano 3g. almost the same sound signature as the d2 but... better stereo separation and slightly more hiss. both hardly hiss at all so they are recommended with sensitive phones like atrio. however, get more sensitive and the hiss will be annoying. my um2 were sold after searching high and low for a source that did not hiss. it did not exist.

i have used md, dat, dcc and some other mp3/pmp players. i have tried samsungs from last year (not p2) and they were boomy but im sure some people like that sound.

my favourite for portability has been either the meizu m6 or the ipod 3g which i know you will hate.

p.s. it would be helpful to know what you mean by 'sound quality'. every player sounds good for something and none do it all. the sony are great for iems (minus the hiss - actually that is bad), the cowon are good for high imp phones like above 150 ohms (same with apple) and meizu is all around.

also, the defects of the d2 can be mostly corrected with impedence adapters. i have used i think 120 or so in the past and it was great. for the d2, i think about that much is perfect maybe a little more. for the ipod nano, i find i only need 75 to make it the perfect little portable. the sony don't really need it for atrio but to eliminate hiss the sony needs it. with it, still hisses a bit, but about the same amount as no cable d2 or nano 3g. with it, damn it is great sounding with atrio. i think have it.
sorry to suggest a player you would hate but, i found it rocks.
May 7, 2008 at 3:30 PM Post #7 of 45
nobody mentioned the Toshiba Gigabeat T400? 4gb, excellent features, sleek & sexy and most important - on every review on this little guy they say it's the best sounding DAP. i suggest you to read on it.
May 7, 2008 at 3:42 PM Post #8 of 45
yeah, everyone claims one dap is the best sounding over another. the question should be: what sound do you prefer? do you like warm? do you like detailed? do you like rolled off? many do so... quality is about one of the most inarticulate words in the english language.
May 7, 2008 at 11:53 PM Post #9 of 45

Originally Posted by shigzeo /img/forum/go_quote.gif
yeah, everyone claims one dap is the best sounding over another. the question should be: what sound do you prefer? do you like warm? do you like detailed? do you like rolled off? many do so... quality is about one of the most inarticulate words in the english language.

nice one.
May 8, 2008 at 5:26 AM Post #10 of 45
Just curious: why the antipathy toward iPods?
May 8, 2008 at 5:36 AM Post #11 of 45
In b4 someone makes an uneducated comment about how iPods have bad sound quality.
May 8, 2008 at 6:46 AM Post #12 of 45
I wouldn't say the ipod has bad sound quality, more like mediocre...
And the build quality of the ipod is questionable as well, mine died shortly after the warranty expired.
The ipod doesn't have a proper EQ.

Want more reasons why i dislike the ipod?
I replaced my ipod with a cheap Sansa Clip. It was a noticeable improvement in sound quality, the player is tiny and seems very durable.
May 8, 2008 at 7:13 AM Post #13 of 45
I was seriously considering buying the new sony 7XX or 8XX series.

I am presently using a first generation iriver clix and a 5 pro. I find it to be a pretty good portable setup.

I had owned the cowon d2 briefly and just could not get to like it even though i really wanted to. The soundstage compared to the clix was almost non-existent. Also it was not as fun to listen to. Just too analytical and grainy. Increasing the bass would just screw up the whole balance and make it sound even worse.

But nothing beats it on features. I liked everything about it but the sound.

I would like to know how the new sony series is in terms of sound. Is it warm and bassy? Also I would like to know whether it can play loud? I was hoping at least as much as the clix.
May 8, 2008 at 2:44 PM Post #15 of 45
I recommend the Cowon D2. Shigzeo may have a beef against it, but it's a fantastic player, and there's absolutely nothing wrong the SQ. He may not like the sound signature, but I find it to be just fine.

If you want to use larger cans on the go, this player can adequately power it, and can be paired with an amp, thanks to its very clean headphone out jack.

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