Best MP3 Players of 2020
An mp3 player gives you the freedom to listen to music everywhere you go. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best mp3 player for your portable music preferences.
Personal Soundtrack: Your Guide to the Best MP3 Players
When Apple released their first iPod MP3 player in 2001, they launched a digital music revolution. For the first time in history, users could carry around thousands of songs in their pockets and effortlessly skip between them.
Since then, MP3 players have evolved and expanded. To compete with mobile devices, modern MP3 players now include additional features like Bluetooth, music streaming, and even video playback. Whether you're looking for a music player for working out or passing the time on your commute, how do you find the best MP3 player for your pocket?
At BestReviews, we answer your shopping questions. To compile our in-depth shopping guides, we do extensive research, test products in our labs and the field, grill the experts, and analyze feedback from existing customers. We never accept free products or perks in exchange for a good review. So, you can always trust that what we have to say is 100 percent honest and unbiased.
If you're ready to purchase an MP3 player, scroll up for BestReviews' top picks. For everything you need to know about MP3 players before you buy, you've come to the right place.
Is 32GB Enough? MP3 Player Storage
One of the most important decisions to make when buying an MP3 player is how much storage you need for your music. The most common MP3 player capacities are 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB. A single gigabyte holds about 250 songs, depending on the length and sound quality of each song.
If you're not sure how much storage you need, start by determining the size of your music library and how much music you want to take with you. To get a rough estimate, multiply the number of songs you expect to put on the MP3 player by five megabytes. (There are 1,024 megabytes in a gigabyte.)
If you plan on streaming music from the internet to your MP3 player, you won't need very much storage at all. Streamed music isn't saved to your MP3 player. To expand your MP3 player's capacity, look for one with a microSD card slot.
Is Mini Best? MP3 Player Size
MP3 players range in size from small squares to smartphone-size. Some MP3 players feature minimalist hardware design with a few scant buttons, while others look more like calculators with headphones.
- Mini MP3 Players: Small MP3 players—those with no screen or a screen smaller than three inches—are easy to take with you. If you need a durable, straightforward MP3 player, a mini MP3 player is your best option.
- Standard MP3 Players: Larger MP3 players, with four- or five-inch screens, are the size of your average smartphone and are easy to operate with one hand. While not as durable as their smaller counterparts, standard MP3 players have considerably more storage and features.
Desktop vs. Mobile: MP3 Player Software
When it comes to transferring your music to an MP3 player, there are two primary types of software: desktop applications and mobile apps.
- Desktop: Desktop applications require a computer to transfer your music to your MP3 player. This method is fairly straightforward and useful for those who store their music collection on a specific computer.
- Mobile: Mobile apps, like Apple's iTunes or Google Play, download content directly to your MP3 player. While this is the fastest way to get music onto your device, it only works for MP3 players running iOS or Android.
Upgrades for MP3 Players That Are Worth It
Many higher-end MP3 players include unique features at a premium price. Sometimes those features are gimmicks, and other times they're game-changing options that are worth the investment. Consider these upgrades when shopping for an MP3 player.
- Lossless/Hi-Fi Audio Support: If you have files in WAV, FLAC, or ALAC formats, you'll need an MP3 player that supports these higher-fidelity files. Similarly, if you subscribe to a music streaming service that streams high-resolution audio (like Tidal or Spotify), you'll need an MP3 player that can support high-res audio.
- Expandable Storage: Choosing an MP3 player with a microSD card slot means you can add storage or music at any time. If you want to carry around your entire music library on your MP3 player, this is an absolute must.
- Waterproof Protection: MP3 players make great exercise companions, but not all players can go swimming with you. If you plan on listening to tunes in the water—or you live somewhere it rains a lot and you run outside—play it safe by getting a waterproof MP3 player.
How Much Should You Pay for a High-Quality MP3 Player?
If you're not sure how much to spend on an MP3 player, first decide which type best suits your needs.
- Inexpensive: Small button-based MP3 players, typically designed for working out, cost anywhere from $25 to $60.
- Mid-Range: Touchscreen MP3 players, like Apple's iPod Touch series, are essentially smartphones that don't make phone calls, and they are priced accordingly. Android and iOS MP3 players usually start at around $300.
- Expensive: High-end MP3 players that support high-fidelity audio and streaming apps range from $300 to as much as $700.
Easy Listening: Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your MP3 Player
- Buy headphones separately. Most MP3 players come with average-sounding headphones that won't do your music justice. Pick up a separate set of headphones to let your tunes shine.
- Protect your investment. A screen protector or a case will keep your MP3 player safe and functional for years to come.
- Back up your MP3s on a separate device. Your MP3 player shouldn't be the only place you keep your music library. Make sure your music is backed up on a computer or in the Cloud in case you're ever separated from your MP3 player.
Q. Can I stream music from the internet on an MP3 player?
A. If your MP3 player runs a mobile operating system like Google's Android or Apple's iOS, then you can stream music via an app. If your MP3 player doesn't use Android or iOS, it won't support any music streaming services.
Q. If I buy MP3s from Apple, can I play them on a non-Apple device?
A. Yes. MP3s sold by iTunes are free of Digital Rights Management, which means you can transfer them to any device that plays MP3s. The same is true for MP3s purchased from Google Play.
Q. How long do the batteries last on an MP3 player?
A. Battery life will vary per device, but typically MP3 players can continually play music for 24 to 30 hours. MP3 players with color screens drain batteries faster than those with smaller, non-color displays.
Q. Is having a separate MP3 player better than using my smartphone as a music device?
A. Many people opt to use their phones as portable music players, although doing so comes at the expense of storage and battery life. If you use your phone as an MP3 player, you're limited to the available storage on your phone, which is taken up by your photos, videos, and email. In addition, using your phone as an MP3 player will use up battery life, which will mean charging your phone more often. Having a dedicated MP3 player ensures that your phone storage is free for your other personal files, while saving your phone's battery.