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Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

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Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby The_BPP » Thu May 28, 2009 6:47 pm

I know it's not really music recording, as such, but you good people know your onions when it comes to sound quality...

I've tried an iPod touch (with an upgraded pair of earphones), and frankly, it was rubbish - talk about style over content (at least in the sound stakes).

Is there an mp3 player with excellent sound quality? Maybe something with a large capacity that will play lossless formats? I don't need the internet, or any fancy GUI, just excellent sound.

Thanks for your help.

P.S. Apparently, Steve Jobs is a bit under-the-weather at the moment, so that is at least some comfort. Only kidding! It's no comfort at all.
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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby ken long » Thu May 28, 2009 6:57 pm

There was a few media reviews in the papers and a big marketing campaign for Sony's new X-series Walkman a few weeks back.

http://www.sony.co.uk/product/nws-x-series/nwz-x1050

I'm not familiar with any of the proprietary technology used on it and haven't tried it. Seems like the headphones are noise cancelling though this won't have an effect on the sound quality.

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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby Nat JM » Thu May 28, 2009 7:17 pm

Do you plan on buying downloads? In this case, you first have to select where to buy downloads from by listening to the different available formats on your computer and picking the best to your ears, then you can start looking for a MP3 player that can play those.

I've got a Creative Vision M and my partner has got a Creative Zen V and we're both converts, they're much better than the iPod, both in terms of sound and stability. However, the sound you get from them is not comparable to what you can get from good speakers hooked to your computer (with a good soundcard).
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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby The_BPP » Thu May 28, 2009 7:28 pm

Nat JM wrote:Do you plan on buying downloads? In this case, you first have to select where to buy downloads from by listening to the different available formats on your computer and picking the best to your ears, then you can start looking for a MP3 player that can play those.

I've got a Creative Vision M and my partner has got a Creative Zen V and we're both converts, they're much better than the iPod, both in terms of sound and stability. However, the sound you get from them is not comparable to what you can get from good speakers hooked to your computer (with a good soundcard).

I actually buy from itunes, but theres no protection on their downloads, these days, still, native AAC support would be handy. I checked and then new Sony does do that. Thanks, Ken! :)
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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby tant » Thu May 28, 2009 7:35 pm

I have a couple of ipods and have everything as WAVs or AIF or AAC.

And i use either my Sennheiser HD650 or some quite expensive shure in-ear things..

Sounds pretty good to me.

Even when i have plugged into some decent monitors or hi-fi's.

I think its the type of files you use that is important not the player so much.
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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby The_BPP » Thu May 28, 2009 7:44 pm

Honestly, I listened to the iPod objectively with no negative preconceptions, and I like to think I've good ears. On several tracks, of different genres, some of which were wav, some were aac (both formats should sound superior to mp3) it just didn't sound as expensive as the player looked. Certainly, compared to using an average hi-fi headphone amp, the iPod was found wanting.

What I want is something that sounds comparable to using my earphones with a hi-fi amp. That ain't the iPod.
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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby tant » Thu May 28, 2009 7:52 pm

Yes but you are not going to find something that can fit in your pocket that will sound like that are you? Really?

But if i am wrong and you find something then tell me i will be buying one straight away..
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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby Kwackman » Thu May 28, 2009 7:53 pm

Just before you abandon the iPod, check the settings to see if any of the "enhanced" sound options have been turned on.
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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby John Willett » Thu May 28, 2009 8:01 pm

No MP3 can be "audiophile" - but a player with uncompressed wav or lossless FLAC can be very good - especially if you use a Graham Slee Voyager to power the headphones.
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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby The_BPP » Thu May 28, 2009 8:01 pm

tant wrote:Yes but you are not going to find something that can fit in your pocket that will sound like that are you? Really?

But if i am wrong and you find something then tell me i will be buying one straight away..

I was rather hoping I would. Modern technology being what it is. I don't expect the volume levels of my home hi-fi, just the quality.
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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby ken long » Thu May 28, 2009 8:02 pm

All fair points. There's also the issue of the EU limiter or something rather on the iPod. It can be bypassed internally. The headphone can be fed straight from the DAC. This makes a world of difference I've been told but as I don't use any portable music devices, I couldn't say.

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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby Neo-Classical Guitar Man » Thu May 28, 2009 8:03 pm

I like my old Mitac Mio 168 Pocket PC which sounds excellent and works great. There are many different players out there for it, all with differing features and sound quality, i.e. the EQ sections sound better on some than others. There is even an iPod clone complete with dial icon on screen that you move via the touch screen :D. One or two Winamp clones exist too. Another nice thing is that if it has WiFi, you can connect to a NAS home server with music on and stream to your Pocket PC.

Anyway even the most basic Pocket PC will make a good portable player and can be bought very cheaply, anything up to £20 or £30 on average from Ebay, occasionally you will find ones for £5 that are in good condition. The older ones like mine (circa 2004) take 2GB SD cards max, but models in the last three years take 4GB and higher.


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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby ken long » Thu May 28, 2009 8:08 pm

John Willett wrote:No MP3 can be "audiophile" - but a player with uncompressed wav or lossless FLAC can be very good - especially if you use a Graham Slee Voyager to power the headphones.

Honestly, John! That thing is as big as the player itself!

:bouncy:

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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby The_BPP » Thu May 28, 2009 8:10 pm

John Willett wrote:No MP3 can be "audiophile" - but a player with uncompressed wav or lossless FLAC can be very good - especially if you use a Graham Slee Voyager to power the headphones.

I wasn't planning on using the mp3 format, as such. I appreciate there will be an element of compromise, so I would prefer to use the onboard headphone amp - a seperate amp isn't exactly an elegant, portable solution.
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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby tant » Thu May 28, 2009 8:10 pm

Hey the Voyager Portable Headphone Amplifier posted above is looking more like it..

I think my cheque might be in the post..

Quite a useful little thing to have also..
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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby The_BPP » Thu May 28, 2009 8:15 pm

I've just done a bit of homework, and the Cowon S9 looks good, with good comments on sound quality, plus FLAC and OGG support. Any experiences of Cowon?
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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby Dave H » Thu May 28, 2009 8:18 pm

I have owned an Ipod for about 2 years now. The sound quality really depends on what you put in to it. If you convert CDs to Apple Lossless they sound pretty good. If you download from Itunes they sopund pretty bad, if you convert to the highest possible mp3 from CD they sound pretty bad. Keep the EQ settings flat, everything else just sounds overhyped in some way or another.

Although I probably am an audiopihle, I didn't buy it to be an 'audiophile' device, I bought it to listen to my music on the go (isn't that what they are for anyway?). The stock headphones are pants to say the least, I have a set of Sennheiser CX300s which dont break the bank but are decent. Believe me, if you buy an Ipod and these headphones (or any other half decent set) and convert everything to lossless from cd you will not be left in a cold digitised shudder.

I think the device you are looking for probably wont exist for a good few years yet.
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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby The_BPP » Thu May 28, 2009 8:39 pm

Dave H wrote:I have owned an Ipod for about 2 years now. The sound quality really depends on what you put in to it. If you convert CDs to Apple Lossless they sound pretty good. If you download from Itunes they sopund pretty bad, if you convert to the highest possible mp3 from CD they sound pretty bad. Keep the EQ settings flat, everything else just sounds overhyped in some way or another.

Although I probably am an audiopihle, I didn't buy it to be an 'audiophile' device, I bought it to listen to my music on the go (isn't that what they are for anyway?). The stock headphones are pants to say the least, I have a set of Sennheiser CX300s which dont break the bank but are decent. Believe me, if you buy an Ipod and these headphones (or any other half decent set) and convert everything to lossless from cd you will not be left in a cold digitised shudder.

I think the device you are looking for probably wont exist for a good few years yet.


I'm not an ipod basher, by any means. I fully expected to like the sound. I listened to several songs in .WAV format, which, presumably, is the about as good as it should get. The EQ was flat, but I did play with it a bit, too. I used some philips earphones (they cost around £60, so midrange), that I've used with my PCs onboard sound card, so I know what they sound like. I thought the iPod had a slightly brittle top-end, compared to my PC's inbuilt sound, which, lets face it, probably wasn't built with quality in mind. It was a disappointing experience.
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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby ken long » Thu May 28, 2009 8:54 pm

The_Big_Piano_Player wrote:
I wasn't planning on using the mp3 format

That's what I understood.

I did own a first gen iPod and but the battery quickly ran down - after about a year of using it once a month? It was slim but the OS was terrible, though revolutionary at the time I remember. I also won a first gen Nano years later. That time, the battery lasted 6 months. So I'm not impressed with any of them overall. I've used an iPhone and that looks pretty. But I don't see the need for internet access on the go... on my PHONE!

As for the sound, it was never amazing but its aimed at people who want to cram as much as they can in there. People who want to shuffle 2 million songs during their commute on the Central line. For that, MP3 is ergonomic and when you consider the inherent noise of 'listening on the go', at a healthy level it really shouldn't matter too much. That said, I've only ever used uncompressed audio on these kind of devices. The first iPod was 5GB IIRC. Still remarkable at the time.

My colleague has a Zen and loves it too. He can easily replace the drive and it reads many formats and can be used as a (temporary) storage device.

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Re: Is there an audiophile's MP3 player?

Postby The_BPP » Thu May 28, 2009 9:12 pm

Well, after a lot of web searching, Ken, my search seems to be a toss-up between the cowon s9 and the walkman x series. They both have excellent reviews on sound quality. I won't be listening on the train, just in my office, where ambient noise isn't a problem, but sound quality is.
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