|The best-sounding MP3 players|
Ultimately, MP3 players are about the music--so which one sounds the best? Determining the best-sounding player is a tricky task since many of the top devices utilize the same sound chips. In fact, unless you have the golden ears of an audiophile, it's difficult to notice the difference between devices. Still, we, the editors and CNET Labs, put them to the test using a playlist ranging from Air to Bob Dylan, comprising a variety of genres encoded at 320Kbps VBR MP3, setting equal volume levels, and disabling any EQ or sound-effects settings. Using a pair of our trusty Grado headphones, we judged sound quality in a blind sound test and came up with some consistent (and interesting) results. Described as warm and true, the sound quality of Cowon's iAudio X5 fared very well, as did the iRiver H320 right behind it. Toshiba's Gigabeat F20 had mixed reviews ("tinny," "good for techno" and "slightly processed with a hint of hiss") as did Creative's "tight" and "hiss-free" Zen Touch. But it was the brand-new Sony NW-HD5 that consistently ranked number one, delivering MP3s "with a crispy warm seal." Which consistently ranked last? Apple's iPod Photo.