Top 5 Music Players for Audiophiles

Audiophile Players

Anyone with a smartphone has a portable music player in their pocket, but while that might be okay for the average punter, anyone with a desire to listen to digital music at the best possible quality will likely be left disappointed. If sound quality is the key driver in your next music player purchase, then one of these five models should be on your shopping list depending on your demands and budget.

ColorFly-C4

Colorfly Pocket Hi-Fi C4 Pro 
from Advanced MP3 Players

The C4 Pro is more than just an audiophile’s choice; it’s the professional musician’s choice too, thanks to its high-end DAC and sampling capabilities. The DAC – a single CIRRUS Logic CS4398 chip – is usually found in top-notch hi-fi equipment, and delivers gob-smacking sound that includes every last detail yet manages to be both clear and punchy too when utilised with lossless formats such as FLAC or APE.
There’s a generous 32GB onboard storage and a micro-SD slot to double it to 64GB, 6.4mm and 3.5mm headphone sockets, plus twin SPDIF sockets that support input and output, allowing the C4 Pro to be used as a dedicated DAC or sample converter. Throw in its old-school walnut veneer and yellowed metal fascia, and this is a player that raises the bar for other players to aspire to.

Yours for £549

More on Colorfly

Astell-and-Kern

Astell and Kern AK100

from Advanced MP3 Players

If proof were needed that the audiophile market is a growing one, this new player from iRiver provides it in spades. It sports a Woflson WM8740 DAC, delivering gorgeous sound to rival the Colorfly models, but unlike the C4 Pro, manages to bundle all of this in a pocket-friendly case and with a screen that’s closer to the Cowon’s in terms of colour and functionality, although like its top-notch rivals, the AK100’s UI can feel quite sluggish.
But elsewhere there are some nice touches to accompany the glorious sound quality on offer: the 32GB internal memory is augmented with not one, but two micro-SD slots giving it a theoretical maximum of 96GB. The AK100 also includes a high-quality headphone amp, Bluetooth wireless support and a recent firmware update extended support to Apple-friendly formats, including its own lossless ALAC format.
The obvious question is whether you plump for this over the C4 Pro. With sound quality this good on both devices, you’re left choosing between size – this is far more pocket-friendly, aesthetics and additional capabilities, with the C4 Pro just winning out if you’re a pro musician.

Yours for £569

ColorFly-C3

Colorfly Pocket Hi-Fi C3
from Advanced MP3 Players

The Hi-Fi C3 is aimed at those who can’t justify the huge outlay demanded by the C4 Pro. That’s evident in its choice of DAC (the cheaper TI PCM1770), aluminium-style finish and reduced capacity (8GB plus micro-SD slot). Nevertheless, while the C3 can’t scale the heights of its bigger brother, it’s still a superb-sounding device, with precise, clean and rich tones to leave you in little doubt that Colorfly’s excellent technical knowledge has been put to good use even at this reduced budget.
There are major issues with the interface and awkward navigation controls that could prove troublesome, but this player is all about the superlative sound quality at a price that won’t break the bank.

Yours for £149

More on Colorfly

Cowon-x932

Cowon iAudio X9
from Advanced MP3 Players

While Cowon can’t quite scale the heights of Colorfly and iRiver, the iAudio X9’s JetEffect 5 audio engine ensures it’s still head and shoulders above the likes of the iPhone 5 and iPod touch. And what you lose in top-notch quality you more than gain elsewhere, whether it’s the 110-hour battery life, larger 4.3-inch screen, more intuitive interface and ability to more precisely shape the sound to your personal tastes using the built-in equalizer controls – a staggering 44 presets are supplied, with four customizable slots available.

The iAudio X9 also has some built-in video capabilities, but they’re limited to the point of being a distraction to the unit’s main appeal. The resistive touchscreen can be awkward to use too, but thankfully the iAudio X9 sports all the physical buttons you need for playback so you can limit your exposure to it, leaving you free to enjoy audio bliss without having to reach for the charger.

Yours for £159

More on Cowon

Cowon-E2L

Cowon i10
from Advanced MP3 Players

If your budget is excruciatingly tight, then Cowon’s entry level i10 player is the one to check out. Like the iAudio X9, despite some limited video support the i10 is best thought of purely in audio terms. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised too – despite sporting Cowon’s older, less-advanced JetEffect 3.0 engine, the sound is clearly a cut above most music players out there, and there’s plenty of options for tweaking it to your tastes. While doing so, we were pleased to see that like its peers it’s capable of delivering extra bass without overwhelming the mid and high levels.
The price you do pay is with limited storage – with no expansion slot available, make sure you purchase the largest capacity (8GB-32GB models are available) you can afford. The touchscreen controls on the front can be a little confusing too, but it’s light, feels durable thanks to the rubberised casing, and delivers where it matters: in the sound department.

Yours for £99

More on Cowon

Keep on walking and listening with Sony Walkman Music Clip

Who’d have thought all those years ago, when we were proudly lugging round our original Sony Walkmans, that the next generation would be sporting tiny 10cm widgets that could hold and play nearly 1,000 songs?

Sony is continuing its Walkman tradition with the new Walkman Music Clip, a wearable MP3 player that features bass boost, quick charge and a detachable strap.

Sony-Music-Clip

Weighing a featherlight 28g and measuring less than 10cm, the Music Clip comes in a two-tone finish in a variety of colour choices (red, green, blue, pink and black), with matching power illuminator. The power illuminator also pulses in time with the music, and if you need a fuller, deeper sound, push the Bass button for even more low-end power.

Battery life is a very decent 18 hours – and if you’re in a rush, plug it in for only three minutes to get a 90 minute playback charge – handy if you’re in a hurry on your way to work.

The detachable clip attaches the music player to a belt, bag or pocket, and music can be loaded using a USB connector from your PC – you can drag and drop files or transfer them via Windows Media Player 11/12.

You can browse quickly through your music using the ZAPPIN button, which plays a short snatch of each track. The 4GB player can hold 980 songs, the 2GB version, 470 tunes.

The Walkman Music Clip will be available from mid-May – find out more at www.sony.co.uk

Flex those muscles with Radiopaq’s new Flex headsets

If you are looking to buy sports earphones that won’t fall out of your ears when you raise the tempo of your workout, then look no further than the new Flex headset, high-tech sports earphones, designed to deliver outstanding audio performance no matter how vigorous your activity.

Radiopaq

In boasting a unique over-the-ear design, users will be oblivious that they have these super lightweight, semi-flexible ear phones in their ears, although the high-quality music blasting into the ear drums may give it away. These ultra-comfortable ear phones are equipped with a gold-plated 3.5mm stereo jack plug, ensuring the optimum sound quality when connected to any Apple iPod or any MP3 player with a 3.5mm stereo Jacket Socket. The Flex headset is also compatible with MP4 players, portable DVD players and all netbooks, laptops, notebooks and computers, although taking the latter five on a run with you is not advisable.

Radiopaq’s mantra is to provide innovative, high quality portable audio products, and by incorporating a convenient touch-button remote control on the cable, which can control the volume, track selections and the on/off function, means that Flex can be operating easily whether you are out jogging, hurtling down a mountain on a snowboard, or pounding the treadmill at the gym.

Getting into a bit of a knot with your cable whilst you are exercising is an affliction many headset users are often subjected to. By featuring a soft rubber silicone cable finish, Flex’s cable is tangle-resistant, giving you the freedom to move unreservedly without the worry of knotting cables.
Greater freedom to make the most of your workout whilst listening to sound quality that rivals the more expensive headsets are not the only great qualities of Flex. Automatic call cut-in makes answering phone calls on an iPhone seamlessly hands-free using the built-in microphone on the remote control.

Music is immediately restored after the call is finished; bringing an end to desperately fumbling around to find the track you were on, whilst cursing the person who interrupted you!

This stylish, lightweight and ultra-robust headset is a fantastic sporting companion, and for just £24.99 is a preferable alternative to the more expensive action earphones, which offer little more in their design, comfort and functions.

The UWaterG2 MP3 player: Committed to creating unswerving swimmers

The surge in fitness and exercise the New Year traditionally creates is often accompanied with a surge in the sales of fitness gadgets and equipment. Given this annual trend, Latest Gadgets thought our readers may welcome being informed about a particularly notable new ‘fitness’ gadget – The UWaterG2, the world’s smallest 100 percent waterproof MP3 player.

UwaterG2cam

This remarkably diminutive device has been created by Fitness Technologies Inc, a leading manufacturer of waterproof audio technology. Like many great gadgets about to join the eternally evolving technology marketplace, the UWaterG2 is to feature at this year’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES), held on 6 – 9 of this month.

It has been long established that exercise is made infinitely easier when it is accompanied with music. Having been IPX8-certified at the highest rate possible, still working under ten feet of water, this micro-sized MP3 player, boasting dimensions of just 0.4” x 1.25” x 1.75” and weighing less than an ounce, clips easily onto goggles, armbands or headbands causing no obstruction or hindrance to a swimmer, and on the contrary, is designed to enhance performance.

Although it is not just the pangs of swimmers’ boredom and loneliness the UWaterG2 can help eradicate, as the advantages of this “ultimate outdoor companion” can be utilized by surfers, scuba divers, snorkelers and even by those executing activities that do not include water, such as running and walking.

This miniscule device comes with 2GB, 4GB or 8GB of memory and is available in five different stylish colours. Its uniqueness lies not only within its miniscule size and being virtually weightless, but also due to the fact it features Waterproof Audio Technologies (WAT)  “Twist & Lock” technology, which, as well as sealing 100 percent of water out of the ear jacks, provides long term protection against corrosion.

Being equipped with a highly visible multi-colour LED mode control means the UWaterG2 can be operated effortlessly, even when under ten feet of water. The UWaterG2 package includes a USB cable, four sets of silicon ear-tips, extendable stereo waterproof earphones, a detachable flex clip, a user’s manual and an international extended warranty.

The LG verdict? Not bad for just $59.95, especially when you consider the health benefits it will bring if it helps you stay committed to clocking up those lengths.

Sony’s A-Series MP3 Walkmans hit the UK market

If you want to get your hands on one of Sony’s new A-Series Walkmans this Christmas, than you’ll be pleased to learn that the electronics retailer Advanced MP3 Players have signed an exclusive agreement with Sony to sell the company’s flagship series of walkmans to British consumers. And judging by the spec of this super slim multimedia entertainment powerhouse it is wholly understandable why British consumers would want to get their hands on this video MP3 walkman.

Sony-A840

The features Sony’s new A-Series possess, are truly phenomenal and can barely be touched upon in a short review, but one of its key qualities is the slimness of the 64GB Walkman Video MP3 Player, which, being just 7.2mm thick, this stylish device is Sony’s slimmest MP3 player yet.

Aiding its stylish exterior is the 2.8 inch full colour OLED wide display, which, in producing 100% colour reproduction, provides razor-sharp, ultra-bright and decidedly detailed and clear visuals on the screen. With an optional video/audio output cable multimedia content from the walkman can be transferred to a bigger TV screen. With Content Transfer software, iTunes collections can be exported, whilst the Walkman can be easily filled using drag and drop with Windows Explorer and synchronised with Windows Media Player.

Other remarkable qualities of both models include Digital Noise Cancelling, which, by blocking out external ambient noise, delivers crystal clear audio reliability. Not only does the Digital Noise Cancelling suppress up to 98% of external noise, but users can set the function to comply with different environments, such as being on a train, on an aeroplane or in an office. The full S-Master Digital Amplifier produces sound so clear, it has been likened to putting you “centre stage in the studio or concert hall”.

Being the only retailer in the country to stock this product Advanced MP3 Players is naturally excited about having the exclusive monopoly over what has been dubbed as “incredible” and a “must have for all audiophiles out there”.

The 64GB model is priced as £299, whilst the 32GB model costs £219. Although if you want to purchase one of these truly advanced MP3 Walkman’s, you’ll have to move fast, as Advanced MP3 Players only have 300 of each model in stock. Visit www.advancedmp3player.co.uk to check availability.

BeoSound 8 comes out with a Bang (& Olufsen)

Bang & Olufsen announced the BeoSound 8 as a speaker dock for your iPhone and more importantly, your iPad. It seems like every day there is a speaker dock for the iPhone released but the compatibility with the iPad makes this one a little different. If you keep most of your music on your iPad, BeoSound 8 is a beauty.

BeoSound8

BeoSound 8 offers superb audio quality in a small package. A speaker’s audio quality is influenced by its physical position in a room. BeoSound 8 solves this by integrating a room adaptation switch allows you to adjust the performance to suit the placement of the speakers, be it a corner, against a wall, or standing freely. The three switch positions will primarily change the equalization of the bass channel. This allows the speaker to be placed anywhere without compromising the sound performance.

The BeoSound 8 can connect wirelessly to your PC or Mac using Apple Airport Express or AirTunes. The look is sleek and polished in typical Bang & Olufsen fashion. The body comes in black or white and you can personalise the speaker fronts with different colours to suite your home. The cone shaped speakers hide the depth and provide a breath of fresh of air in a world of box speakers. I like that the BeoSound 8 can be hung on a wall using a wall bracket. If you are lucky enough to own more than one Bang & Olufsen product, you can use one of their intelligent remotes to control all your devices or use the dedicated remote supplied.

To supplement the BeoSound 8, a free BeoPlayer application for the iPhone and iPad will be released in December to allow Internet radio to be played. The paid-for ‘Pro’ version will have a music library browser and alarm clock.

Available from late November at £900, it hurts the wallet. For that price, I would have liked a few more features. Perhaps the full version of the BeoPlayer included? Composite video output to allow video through the TV? The BeoSound 8 definitely makes a statement. But is the price of that statement worth it?

Philips GoGear MP3 players: Credible iPod alternatives

iPod. It’s pretty much the first and last word in personal digital audio. So does Philips really think that its GoGear MP3 players can compete? Well, yes. And if not compete, they can certainly under-cut the opposition.
GoGear is a range of differently sized, featured and priced MP3 players, from the entry-level Raga at £39.99 to the £129.99 Muse.

Philips-Go-Gear

As well as playing digital audio files – MP3, WAV, WMA, FLAC, APE – all of the MP3 players come with a 20-preset FM radio function, voice recorder and an impressive battery life. You’ll get 22 hours music playback on the Raga model, to an almost two-days (45 hours) on the Muse. The Muse also supports AAC and Ogg Vorbis formats, making it the default player for users with exotic music file formats.

Battery life for video is not quite as impressive, however. It runs in at five hours on the Ariaz and Muse, and only four on the Vibe. For comparison, the iPod Touch puts out seven hours from a full charge. You won’t find any video on the entry-level Raga.

The Vibe, despite a smaller battery life, has also got a smaller screen: 1.5-inches. The Ariaz has 2.4-inches, while the Muse boasts a 3.2inch HVGA touchscreen, with the ability to connect to an HDTV. We’re pretty sure it’s a 720p output, although we’ve not run a test ourselves. Even it was sub-HD, however, it’s a very nice feature.

The Muse is clearly Philips’ golden boy, with plenty of features thrown in to ensure people step-up from the Ariaz to the premium model. Along with the touchscreen, HD-out and the additional format support, it’s also been blessed with a microSD card slot for further expanding your music collection. At its peak, the 32GB Muse can use external storage function to turn into a 64GB music device.

If you’re feeling less ambitious, the Muse also comes in more manageable 8- or 16GB models. The Ariaz and Vibe are available at 4/8/16GB, while the Raga offers 2/4/8GB. With any of the players, you’ll receive a pair of sound isolating headphones with surround technology, making you feel right in the middle of the action.

Will to GoGear MP3 players kill the iPod range? No. But the Raga’s 8GB for £39.99 RRP (currently £29.99 at Argos) is great for people on the go. And music lovers could do worse than the Muse, with its expandable memory meaning more storage for less. And the HD-out means that you’ll be able to share awesome videos anywhere, providing the TV has been bought within the last five years.

At just five hours of battery for video, however, it seems that the Muse is destined to be a portable media player for HDTVs, rather than a standalone video browsing device.

TWIG: Lecci Headphone Splitter, Artificial Moving Ski Slope and iPad USB charger

The Week in Gadgets

Camera makers were unveiling new models at a dizzying rate during this week’s Photokina and we’ll be taking a look at some of these in the coming week. We’ve also got a chance to play with some of the “hot” new Christmas gadgets coming your way – including the Samsung Galaxy Tab, though we still can’t tell you what it costs.

Y-headphone-splitter

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best and I fell in love with the Lecci Headphone Splitter. Sometimes one of the best thing about new music is sharing the experience with a friend – it’s at the core of Apple’s new Ping social network or Last.fm. For those of you with more conventional friends, that you actually meet in the flesh, it’s easier to share music with but also loaded with it’s own challenges. How well do you have to know someone before you share earphones? Especially a nice deep pair of inner ears? Instead of choosing between that and menacing everyone else on the bus with your tinny built in speakers, Lecci have made a little Headphone Splitter with a keyring attachment. Simply plug it into your PMP and … well you’ve seen the picture you can work out how it works. Yours for £5.95 from Gizoo.

Sometimes simple ideas get complicated. Ideas like “I want a ski slope in my living room.” We’ve all thought about, sure. But Skiplex Ltd went a little further and made the Artificial Moving Ski Slope – a continous moving ski slope that can mimic baby slopes or black runs. You will of course need a spare room the size of a squash court. And £176,250. You can probably pop it next to your F1 Simulator. Yours from thepresentfinder.

LINDY-iPad-USB

Love your iPad, hate the way it refuses to charge on certain USB ports? LINDY electronics would like you to part with £9.99 to solve that problem. The LINDY USB charging adaptor (which works with all Apple devices) does what it says on the tin. Whilst you can adapt some motherboards to charge iPads you probably can’t be bothered and £9.99 isn’t a great deal for restoring “charge anywhere” convience.