Music
Best non-iPod MP3 players?

HandsShane writes “I am looking for a high capacity MP3 player and the commercial reviewers all recommend either the Apple iPod or the Toshiba Gigabeat. Both have DRM and usability issues I don’t want. I want an MP3 player that allows me the freedom to use my music as I want without having to convert formats or limit me to only playing my music on one device. I curently have a NetMD player which works wonderfully but it is getting more and more difficult to efficiently copy podcasts and non standard albums (like santastic) to mini disc without burning real or virtual CDs.” My picks are: The PEZ MP3 player, the Linux based Archos PMA 400 (I also use the iPod 5G, just don’t do DRM, it’s possible). Post your suggestions in the comments!

28 thoughts on “Best non-iPod MP3 players?

  1. The cowon iaudio x5 would probably be a good bet. 20, 30 & 60GB models are available with extended battery option for the 20 & 30GB. You can drag & drop files into the player, it allows many formats, it has video capability as well as USB hosting. Definitely the player for those who want more control over their gadgetry.

  2. The cowon iaudio x5 would probably be a good bet. 20, 30 & 60GB models are available with extended battery option for the 20 & 30GB. You can drag & drop files into the player, it allows many formats, it has video capability as well as USB hosting. Definitely the player for those who want more control over their gadgetry.

  3. Check out one of the Archos units, they’re very sturdy, high capacity, available all over eBay, and there’s open source firmware available for them, from a project called Rockbox:

    http://www.rockbox.org/

    Most audio formats have been added, flac, ogg, mp4, etc, and it’s a hackers dream as far as mp3 players go.

  4. I just got a iAudio X5 from Cowon. Its a great player, that supports flac, mp3, ogg, and some other audio formats. It also plays Xvid videos, and is available up to 60gigs. There is a rockbox port in the works, which makes me very happy. It supports recording, via line-in, and a small mic as well for voice recording. It is themeable if thats your thing, and supports USB host-mode for copying images from your digital camera. The best part is it doesn’t require any drm encumbered software to copy files back and forth, it just shows up as a usb drive in windows, mac, and linux.

    I just upgraded from a Archos Recorder that has been with me for a couple years, before that I had a Archos Player, and thanks to rockbox they lasted a long time and gave me great features. I just wanted more space and the ability to play flac and ogg (which the archos player/recorder cannot do).

  5. GameBoy Advance (and sucessors) with a Play Yan hands down. You have to get the Play Yan cartridge from Japan (Lik-Sang exports them) and hack a bit with the video conversion software (see lik-sang forums). The result is an MP3 and video player which is rugged, has excellent battery life and uses cheap SD cards.

  6. I wasn’t going to post, since I don’t care what MP3 player you buy, but you seem to have some facts wrong.

    The iPod does not force you to use any proprietary format, it supports the extremely standard MP3 format without any DRM whatsoever, and since you said you wanted a MP3 player I assume you want to play MP3s. You may also choose to use various other formats including WAV, AIFF, AAC, Apple Lossless.

    As for only being able to play your music on one device, that’s entirely untrue as well, unless you’re talking about music purchased from the iTMS, in which case it’s mostly untrue (you’re allowed several computers and unlimited iPods and CD-Rs)

  7. Just goo for the iPod. They’re the reference against which all other MP3 players are judged. You can go for Flash-based players (the Shuffle or Nano) or HDD based players (Regular iPod)

    The iPod has a very streamlined, easy to use and fast to navigate interface. This, above all else, is a winner in my books.

    The only time DRM comes into the equation, at all, ever, is when you purchase music from the iTunes Music Store, then you’ve got a (fairly generous) DRM imposed, but only on music you purchase.

    I know a number of audio engineers, who are all die-hard PC users, and they all went for the iPod, as for the equivalent bitrate, the MPEG4 AAC encoding that you can optionally use in iTunes, and therefore on the iPod, has the best sound quality.

  8. iAudio X5 is very good, all the good points have been mentioned in a previous comment. My only drawbacks:

    – no browse-by-id3 tag. It will recognize and show the id3 tags but it browses by filename & directory. It’s ok, if you sort your files properly (music/artist/album/track # – title.mp3) and there’s been talk about a firmware update to ‘fix’ it for months.

    Otherwise a great device. Mounting as a USB drive is terrific, I even helped a friend (iPod owner) back up his PC’s music collection before reinstalling windows due to a virus, as he couldn’t open iTunes to transfer to his iPod.

  9. “High capacity”. I have the same needs and have done quite a bit of research around this. I’m looking for something with:-
    – Standard 2.5″ disk for cheapness and high capacity
    – Driverless USB Mass Storage
    – Replaceable battery
    – Don’t care about DRM
    – Open source firmware
    I can’t find anything on the market at the moment though the Zen Xtra comes close. The problem is the poor firmware and that Creative have now gone for proprietary and buggy PlaysForSure. The Vosonix looks like it should be good but people report poor audio quality. Xclef seem to have disappeared. So I think in the end you’re forced back to obsolete Archos units.

    There really needs to be a hackable player for the high end geek. The iPod does have a lot going for it. Not least the wide 3rd party support that comes from being the market leader. But there’s just too many annoyances for me. And although they work for lots of
    people, I know too many people with broken ones. And I’m beginning to feel really uncomfortable with the idea of consumable durables that are actually not durable but disposable at that sort of price. It’s all very well throwing away a cassette player at $50 but it’s a bit rich when it’s $399.

  10. Thanks for the great advice so far (I am the Shane in question). I mostly use my current MP3 (NetMD Player) player for podcasts I have downloaded online. In a perfect world I would be able to use Ogg (which the iAudio supports) and FLAC. I used to use it for more but the “updates” to the music transfer sofware have made it harder for me to copy my music onto the player.

    The DRM limitations I mentioned are from some of the iPod and Gigabeat reviews. My only concern s being able to use my music on my player. I have been told by reviews and by people I know who own iPods and Gigabeats that this can sometimes be a problem.

    I have been told by people in my office that getting music purchased form other online stores (like puretracks) is sometimes difficult with an iPod. Similarly getting anything from iTunes into a gigabeat requires buring an CD and ripping the CD.

    I do not want to be tied to a single source for music and I want to be able to download albums like American Edit, or Santastic and put them onto my player without burning a CD and re-ripping it.

    The Cowon iAudio looks like exactly what I am looking for, and it is a voice recorder as well.

  11. Like my Iriver H340 (international version from ebay). The intl version has USBOTG (its a virtual portable hard drive as long as you have a cable). Iriver has since superceded this with 10 and 20 gig models which I can’t speak of. I’m hoping that these are preliminary steps to another round of 40G+ capacity HD from iriver. I can’t wait that long, I already waited 3 years for the one i bought. I chose iriver over ipod due to superior features and firmware updates, the other contender was a 100G archos that was twice as much. I remember the complaints for iriver in general being that it had a steep learning curve…its all good for geeks though, right? Good luck!

    Mystic River

  12. I’m looking for something with:-

    • Standard 2.5″ disk for cheapness and high capacity
    • Driverless USB Mass Storage
    • Replaceable battery
    • Don’t care about DRM
    • Open source firmware

      If that’s all you want, troll ebay for used Archos Jukebox Recorder machines. The Jukebox Studio machines are USB1.1, so they require drivers. The Recorder series (Recorder, V2 Recorder, and FM Recorder) are USB 2.0 and shouldn’t require drivers (my Studio does… I haven’t tried a Recorder). The original firmware isn’t open source, but http://www.rockbox.org has a replacement which is. They’ll accept standard 2.5″ Hard Drives up to 137 GB, and the Recorder series use rechargable AA batteries.

    • Hello,

      I use the Archos products for a long time now. First the Jukebox, then the AV380, the AV480, the PMA430 and the AV500. They have very good video capabilities, larger screen than the ipod, and changeable batteries.

      For people from the E.U., they are to order in my shoop here: netUNO

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