back to article Ten... sub-£50 budget MP3 players

Some might argue that, with music playback now integrated into most mobile devices, low-cost MP3 players are fast becoming surplus to requirements. Yet, despite a decline in sales, budget audio kit is still very much in demand this time of year, and manufacturers continue to bring new models out in a bid to compete with Apple’s …


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  1. Shades

    Exclusivity of iTunes? Rubbish!

    Why, oh why do you still continue to support the fallacy that iPods are manageable by iTunes and iTunes only? WinAmp, either with its built-in support or the superior ml_ipod plugin, is in many ways far better at managing the contents of iPods as its smaller, faster, not bloated, doesn't demand you install QuickTime, transcodes ANY file WinAmp can play (which is pretty much EVERYTHING!)... I could go on but you get the idea!

    C'mon, this is a tech website populated by techies isn't it?

    1. Shades

      Visitors to this site get weirder and weirder!

      Two thumbs down for a statement of fact? Bloody fanboys!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's nice to see that BUsh have moved their design language on

    albeit only from the 70s to the 80s

    1. LinkOfHyrule
      Paris Hilton

      Bush craft

      The Bush was only reviewed because of its name.

      "Maybe that's being a little harsh on Bush, but having gone through several in the past, I don't feel too bad saying it."

      "As usual with a Bush, it's simple and easy to use"

      Not quite as good as the Bush radio review the Register did a while ago though!

  3. graeme leggett Silver badge

    The Sony walkman

    Is to my mind a good mp3 player. I bought one because I wanted to be able to listen to the radio as well as play tunes (podcasts, recorded radio drama, etc) and there was nothing else available with a name I trusted.

    I found the earphones up to the job. I had cause to replace the phones not because I wanted better sound but because our cat bit through the supplied pair. The replacement pair were a gift from my wife and the response from those is superior (or over the top - I had to customize the Equalizer to trim the bass down...).

    As to being too quiet (I take it you did turn off the volume limiter?) while I never found difficult to hear anything the output is low when plugged into the mp3 socket of a (Honda Jazz) car stereo.

    1. AndyS
      Thumb Down

      "there was nothing else available with a name I trusted"

      You trust Sony?


      1. graeme leggett Silver badge

        More than "Technika"

        I was working to a budget.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Clip+ is loud enough for the Honda Jazz

      I use mine in the car all the time with the AUX jack. So long as you disable the EU enforced volume limiter it's loud enough that it doesn't even need to on max volume to match the cars radio.

  4. Ryan Barrett


    There's a reason why the EU has limits on mp3 player output. It's because using *bad* headphones and putting the volume up really high to compensate for background noise is really bad for your hearing.

    So why are you recommending players on basis of 'high volume'? When you should be recommending people invest 25 EUR on a decent pair of earbuds? Or a little more on a set of noise-cancelling cans?

    Really, this is what I expect from a Murdoch publication. From somewhere so geeky as theregister I expect at the very least informed advise...

  5. Gangsta
    Dead Vulture


    I thought top 10's were meant to be listed in an order of some sort ?(the worst to the best or ><)

    1. Marvin the Martian

      It's called "alphabetic"

      If you want to look it up, it's near the beginning of that dictionary thingy. Somewhat after Aardvark, before Astroturf. If you find Africa, continue. If you reach Gnu, you're right out, better give up.

      Hope it helps!

  6. Dan Atkinson 1
    Thumb Up

    Massive +1 for Sansa

    The Clip is the perfect MP3 player for exercise because:

    It's light enough to clip on your shorts without it dragging them down.

    The volume and track controls can be easily found , even when nestling under your top and even when dizzy from exertion.

    Drag and drop makes it a doddle to manage

    The volume is more than enough, especially combined with decent in-ear headphones (but only for blazing music out for short periods obviously).

    You'd be hard pressed to find a better application of form and function

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Voice recording?

    I'd like a cheap MP3 player that can also do voice recording with a built-in microphone. Any recommendations?

    I know they used to exist, because I had one, that broke. But when I looked for a replacement I couldn't find one ...

    1. nichomach

      The clip+...

      ...has a built-in mike.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Try a Creative Zen Stone Plus

      Only problem is it's got a sealed battery, it doesn't run on AAA batteries. The model it replaced did, that's not made any more.

  8. Steve Oliver 1

    Sansa Clip+

    Will actually support up to 40GB. I have an 8GB model with a 32GB microSDHC card. It takes bloody ages to rebuild the internal database every time I disconnect it from the computer, but it's otherwise fine. Word to the wise, though - secure the card with some electrical tape. If you don't, and you drop the player on the kitchen floor, the card will ping out and disappear under the cooker.

  9. Alex Walsh

    Sansa Clip+

    Is head and shoulders above the rest. Best sound quality I've had since the days of my iRiver H140 (and I've had a selection of Cowon, Creative & Philips players inbetween), all in a terribly small package. Whats not to love?

    1. Obvious Robert
      Thumb Up

      Can second that...

      And I picked up an 8GB one from Currys a few months ago for £30 just to take on holiday so I wouldn't have use my (shiny, expensive, Android) smartphone near the pool. Very pleasantly surprised by the sound quality, although maybe lacking a touch in the bass department for my tastes. But overall, 8GB with FM radio, audiobook support and expandable via microSD - what more could you want for £30?

    2. teebie

      It is an excellent player

      I have had a number of cheap mp3 players over the years and before I got a sansa they all had terrible terrible software. I bought a clip for slightly more and that was with me for years, until the clip broke off. The clip+ seems a bit more robust. I would recommend it to anyone who isn't absurdly attached to a particular manufacturer.

  10. Diesel Fitter

    Argos Feedback

    The comment about Argos is right. I bought an item that was broken. Argos refunded my money immediately but when I wrote about the whole thing (actually praising Argos's customer relations) they wouldn't post the comment. So don't expect even handed comment there.

    PS Agree about the Sansa Clip +. Very nice player but get some better earphones.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Sandisk Clip - the mp3 player with amnesia

    I've got a Sandisk Clip. Major issue is that the system cannot record playcounts with the native software so you have to remember which tracks you did and didn't listen to and manually manage your listening - that might be fine if you dock every day and have a good memory.

    To record playcounts on a SandiskClip you can install Rockbox, at some risk of bricking your device. I'm no iFan but Sandisk need to pull their finger out and improve the software to record playcounts...if some open source Rockbox software can do it why can't Sandisk?

    1. jason 7

      Playcounts? That important?

      That feature sounds about as must have as a spirit level.

      Manually manage your listening??? I think you are trying to hard. Just listen to some tunes and relax.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Playcounts - lets you automatically refresh media so you can listen to new music/podcasts

        I listen to a lot of music. I choose a random selection of music/podcasts and let smart playlists rotate media so that I don't have to listen to the same thing ad's not hard, you should try it!

        1. Obvious Robert


          Whatever happened to listening to albums?

  12. Jim 59
    Thumb Up


    For listening in noisy environments, eg gym, a pair of in-ear buds will block external sound, meaning you can actually turn the volume *down* and still hear the music perfectly, without giving yourself tinnitus in later life. Meanwhile the outer bud type are good where you want to be aware of other sounds. Eg walking down the street you can say "hello" and chat to people. (Only in the North, obviously).

    I am very happy with my Sansa Clip+. At 24Gb, it is big enough to house a whole music collection at hi-fi quality, which is important for me. It's great. I use it at the gym, at home with the hi-fi, and when walking.

    @AC: The Sansa Clip+ does voice recording, as do most MP3 players.

  13. Chz

    Wrong Walkman

    The B-series is indeed crap, but the E-series is *just* over the £50 mark and is even nicer (IMO) than the Clip+. Sony needs to adjust the prices on the lower spec units down a bit. It seems silly that the 4GB one can be had for £55 when the 16GB one is under £90.

  14. Peter Bond

    Sansa Clip...

    gets my vote, just so long as you ditch the bundled phones. I found some very nice Sennheisers on for £10...sadly only in white at the price, and the resultant sound is superb. Get the 2GB version and look for a cheap 8GB memory card and you are laughing. As for the Shuffle, who would by a cheap MP3 player you can't "drag'n'drop" content to from Windows/Linux?

    One thing missing from the reviews - can you synch playlists via an MTP media player? With the Clip you can.

  15. kingosticks


    The clip+ looks great and I checked it out on Amazon but there are a number of bad reviews because of big problems with the batteries. I'd imagine the problem wouldn't manifest when testing for a short time but it's a real deal-breaker for me.

    1. Jim 59


      My Clip+ battery lasts about 12 hours.

  16. And Clover

    Another +1 for the Clip

    I can also back up the Sansa recommendation. Good features; good format support; reasonably robust; proper mechanical buttons instead of touch-sensitive pads/screens (I've always found these unreliable on budget MP3 players). No problems with the batteries for me yet.

  17. Steve 13
    Thumb Down


    What's with the obsession over max volume? I've had a range of players over the last decade and never once had to use max volume, indeed I'm sure that if I tried that with my current S Series Sony it would physically hurt and shortly damage my hearing.

    Maybe the reporter in question is already partially deaf, but to mark down players because they aren't loud enough seems ridiculous.

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      high volume

      I only use max volume on my clip+ when listening to voice podcasts while cutting the grass.

      The BBC have a very variable approach to audio levels in podcasts. Some episodes of 'In Our Time' I have to stick through audacity and increase the gain by 12db so they match other episodes.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Rockbox on Clip+ rocks

    My Clip+ uses Rockbox after I found that its original firmware wasn't 100% compatible with Linux and Rythmbox syncing. Rockbox is a tad geeky (suits me fine!) but it gives the thing amazing functionality including uncompressed sound recording, a chromatic tuner, and Tetris.

    It's counted as rockbox "unstable" because you need the original firmware to upload via USB, but that works fine for me. Even my 13y old daughter likes it, so much in fact that she steals the thing all the time to listen to old "I'm sorry I haven't a clue" editions.

    Had it lock up a couple of times while frantically pushing buttons, listening to FM. You have to wait for the battery to run because there's no "reset".

  19. Lottie
    Thumb Up

    Thanks El Reg!

    Well my old Hitachi player is getting a bit second hand now and I've been keeping an eye out for decent players. Looks like I'll be going for the Sansa Clip+ after reading this.

    Thanks for the timely feature. Think I'll wait until January though and see what prices they drop to in the sales.

  20. paulc

    Linux support?

    Unless the player supports .ogg & .flac files and also appears as a removable drive when plugged in via USB I don't want to know

    1. A Known Coward

      Linux - Clip+ has all of that

      The Sansa Clip+ has Ogg + Flac support and operates as a USB Storage device. It's also by far the best mp3 player in this class.

    2. Chris Fox

      Clip+ supports FLAC and OGG

      ... and it appears as a USB mass storage device, using a standard mini-USB connector. You can also find instructions for replacing the "non-replaceable" battery, although it looks fiddly.

  21. JeeBee

    Quiet Sony

    The Sony is incredibly quiet even at full volume, you really need to be in a monastery to hear things. Even your footsteps can drown out the audio. At least it has a microphone for audionotes and a radio (on some models) though.

  22. David Gosnell

    Clip+ display reliability

    Is the Clip+ any better than the original Clip for its display reliability? I've read many reports of the OLED fading to unreadable over not that long a time on the original Clip, and my in-laws bought one that was DOA in this regard straight out of the shrinkwrap.

  23. Steve McIntyre
    Thumb Up

    Excellent timing

    Was just looking at music players over the weekend for a Xmas present.

  24. Richard Lloyd

    How come all these "budget" players were 25+ quid?!

    If you must buy a budget MP3 player, then sure you want one that's "throwaway" (e.g. works for 1-2 years and you chuck it away and buy the same or similar for a really cheap price). It surprises me that at least 20 quid is considered a "budget" price - surely we're talking 10 quid or less here.

    Sumvision are the total kings of sub-10 quid MP3 players, but I guess El Reg's snobbiness wouldn't stoop to review such a brand. There's a red Sumvision 1GB MP3 player for 7 quid out there for example, but nooo, that's too cheap apparently. I bet you 5 of those Sumvisions would last longer than any of the players you reviewed by a long, long way.

    1. Jim 59


      Inevitably, there are a thousand players missing from this test. If you have a Sumvision, and it's good, say a few words about it here. From what I can see, the sub £10 Sumvisions seem to be 1 Gb only. That's expensive per gig, and too small for most folks. On the other hand, Technica are doing a 256 Mb model for £4.

  25. Goat Jam
    Thumb Down

    Creative Zen

    "Three times now I’ve had to reset the device after it froze"

    LOL. They are still doing that? If so then the haven't improved in YEARS, because they were well known for that 5 years ago, and probably even longer.

    Avoid Creative products like the plague!

  26. Bunglebear
    Thumb Up

    Stuck record

    Sounding like a stuck record here, but I will add my pudgy hand to the ones raised for the Sansa. A fantastic device, very usable and robust with great sound.

    I will also voice my concern over the fixation with maximum volume, I have permanent hearing loss from abuse of headphones in my teen years. It really should only be flagged if its far too low (like the Sony) rather than commended that the whole bus can hear it from your ear buds. A decent pair of in-ear Sennheiser's will neatly solve the issue I find.

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