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Remember MP3 players? Long before we had everything we needed on our phones, we had to have a portable player to listen to our music. In the history of portable audio players, there were Sony Walkmans, followed by CD players, and finally, the MP3 player dominated the early 2000s.
It may surprise you that MP3 players (also known as digital audio players or DAPs) are still very much around. The MP3 players in 2023 can sync to streaming services like Spotify, color and touchscreen displays, and expansive storage options.
Also: The best Bluetooth speakers
I've rounded up the best MP3 players on the market today that are worth ditching your smartphone for.
Sony NWE394/B tech specs: Storage: 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB | Battery: Up to 35 hours | Display: 1.77-inch (128 x 160) color LCD | Media types: PCM, AAC, WMA, JPEG, and MP3
Sony Walkman players may look a little different than you're used to, but this Walkman still functions the same as Walkmans of the past—just with a modern edge. It has an LCD display with up to 16GB of memory, which equates to about 4,000 songs.
You can easily drag and drop your files from a laptop or computer to the Sony NWE394/B, and it's also compatible with iTunes or the Windows Media Player to create your own playlists. In addition, there are 30 preset FM radio stations, a sleep timer and alarm, and included wired earbuds right out of the box.
SanDisk Clip Jam tech specs: Storage: 8GB plus a microSD slot | Battery: Up to 18 hours | Display: 0.96-inch (128 x 64) White OLED | Media types: MP3, WMA, AAC, and WAV
If you want to spend less than $35 on an MP3 player, this SanDisk Clip Jam player is a solid option. It's just 0.8 ounces and comes in fun colors like red, pink, and green. It has room for 8GB of storage, or about 2,000 songs and eight books. However, a microSD card slot allows for additional storage.
Like my top pick, this MP3 player also has a built-in FM radio tuner and included earphones.
Astell & Kern KANN MAX tech specs: Storage: 64GB plus microSD | Battery: 13 hours | Display: 4.1-inch (1280x720) touchscreen | Media types: WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DIFF, DSF, MQA
At $1,299, this MP3 player isn't for the average person. Instead, this is for audiophiles who want a high-quality MP3 player to immerse themselves in music fully. It has an analog volume controller to deliver a rich, dynamic sound.
This player has four levels of gain, which is the amount of amplification applied to a signal to increase its strength. In addition, a feature called ReplayGain will automatically adjust the volume so it's consistent across tracks. KANN MAX also has three output connections: a 3.5mm single-ended output, a 2.5mm (4-pole supported) balanced output, and a 4.4mm balanced Pentaconn output.
In addition, Open App Streaming allows for online/offline access to selective apps like Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music, and more.
Mighty Vibe tech specs: Storage: 8GB | Battery: 5 hours | Display: 1.4 inches (Just buttons, no display) | Media types: Spotify and Amazon Music
This compact MP3 player from Mighty Vibe is reminiscent of Apple's popular iPod Shuffle and works similarly but is more 2023-friendly. You use the Might app to sync your Spotify or Amazon Music playlists wirelessly. Mighty Vibe's Stay Fresh feature automatically syncs these playlists while you sleep, so you always have up-to-date tracks.
A clip-on design makes this MP3 player perfect for running or working out. It works with both Bluetooth headphones and wired headphones, although some users said that wired headphones sound better.
FIIO M11S tech specs: Storage: 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage | Battery: 13 hours | Display: 5.15-inch bezel-less (1440 x 720 ) touchscreen | Media types: WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF, DXD
Lossless audio has risen in popularity in recent years thanks to Apple 's implementation of the technology in Apple Music. This MP3 player from FIIO is perfect for lossless audio tracks thanks to a custom-made OPA926 op-amp chip, which provides lower noise floor and distortion.
The player comes with Android 10 right out of the box so that you can access the Play Store and whatever streaming app is your go-to. It uses Bluetooth 4.2 technology, and when set into Bluetooth receiver mode, it becomes a high-quality Bluetooth amplifier with better frequency response.
The best MP3 player for most people is the Sony NWE394/B 8GB Walkman, based on compatibility and price. It also has an impressively long battery life of up to 35 hours.
4GB, 8GB, or 16GB
Up to 35 hours
SanDisk Clip Jam
8GB plus microSD
Up to 18 hours
Astell & Kern KANN MAX
64GB plus microSD
The right MP3 player for you will depend on how much storage you need, what audio files you want to upload, if you need something simple or high-end, and what price you're willing to spend.
Below, I've broken down the options further.
Choose this MP3 player...
If you want...
The best overall option when it comes to price and quality. This Sony Walkman is compact and allows you to listen to your favorite curated playlists.
SanDisk Clip Jam
A budget-friendly MP3 player. It has room for about 2,000 songs or eight audiobooks.
Astell & Kern KANN MAX
An MP3 player for audiophiles who are serious about sound. It has four levels of gain and three output connections for different sound experiences.
A mini MP3 player that has a clip. You can sync up your Spotify or Amazon Music playlists wirelessly to listen on the go.
An MP3 player perfect for lossless audio. It has a quality metal build as well as a touchscreen display.
I considered many factors when making the final picks for top MP3 players, such as brand name and reliability, customer reviews (both good and bad), audio quality, media types, and different price points.
In 2023, you might wonder if it's even worth buying an MP3 player when you can just listen to music on your smartphone. However, MP3 players are great for kids who want to listen to music but don't yet have a smartphone, people who like to run or hike outside, or those who simply want to listen to music without any distractions from their phone.
No -- the beauty of MP3 players is that they don't need Wi-Fi to work, meaning you can use them in more situations. However, some MP3 players do have Wi-Fi connection compatibilities, such as the Mighty Vibe player or the Astell & Kern KANN MAX.
Of course, there are plenty of other MP3 players outside of these five options. Here are some other products I think are worth looking into:
This MP3 player is just $36 and uses Bluetooth 5.0 for faster data transfer. It can also store 32GB, which is about 5,000 songs.
Even though Apple discontinued the iPod Touch in 2022, you can still buy used or refurbished models if you want to relive the good ol' days. The iPod touch can also take photos and videos.
A full-color 2-inch LCD display can display lyrics to whatever song you're listening to so that you can sing along.