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My Search for The Best MP3 Player

generic mp3 player icon

I’m going on another cross-country cycling trip this summer, and I’m in the market for a good, solid MP3 player.

Disclaimer: I’m a software guy who likes my devices to be good quality and long lasting. I’m by no means an audiophile, hardware tech, or professional MP3 player reviewer. All of my research was done using Google, and the only MP3 player I’ve owned is the Sansa e260 v2.

Requirements

Note: These are my personal requirements. They effectively eliminated a *lot* of products in the MP3 market.

1. Rockbox Support

First and foremost, I need rockbox support. Rockbox is a must-have FOSS firmware for MP3 players with a fantastic feature list. You can buy an MP3 player with terrific hardware design, but your experience can be absolutely ruined by poorly designed firmware. My old Sansa e260 was this way, but once I installed rockbox, it was like the device was freed from a software prison. And, of course–another benefit of it being open source–you can completely customize the look+feel of your MP3 player with other user’s custom rockbox themes.

Here is a list of MP3 players (targets) and their support status for the Rockbox firmware.

2. Rugged Components that aren’t shitty

Broken Sansa e260 v2

You can see the cheap plastic headphone jack of the Sansa e260 v2 broke off after a few years

I don’t like to buy throw-away crap electronics (which is almost impossible to avoid, but I try my best). I want to make sure that whatever I buy is a worthwhile investment that will last me, ideally, the rest of my life–or at least until the technology becomes absolutely superseded by something else.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any truly rugged MP3 players that are also supported by Rockbox (ie: Ryobi TEK4 AllPlay).

The only reason I’m buying a replacement MP3 player is because of the poorly soldered headphone jack used in the Sansa e260. Except for this shoddy headphone jack, my MP3 player is fully functional. If I was a skilled electrical tech, I could probably buy a better jack and solder it in place, but I have doubt in my skills, eyes, hands, equipment, and knowledge. So, my MP3 player is broken merely because of an output jack. I don’t want this to happen again!

3. Expandable

If I ever run out of memory, I want to be able to buy more memory, not buy a new MP3 Player. SD is a must. Bonus points for SDHC @ max capacity = 32 GB. SDXC @ max = 2TB is overkill for my purposes.

4. Hackable

I’m a huge supporter of the “if you can’t open it, you don’t own it” philosophy. I want to avoid companies that go above and beyond trying to prevent you from hacking their products.

*It is absolutely required that I can easily replace the battery.*

Conclusion

With the exception of the poorly constructed headphone jack, I really liked my rockbox-ified Sansa e260. IMHO, smaller is better, so I looked into the Sansa Clip+, but I read that the headphone jack is also poorly constructed in the Clip+, but not in the Fuze.

I decided on the Sansa Fuze v2. Here’s why:
* Stable in rockbox
* More rugged headphone jack (I’m not certain, but it sure looks better than the e260)
* Expandable with SDHC memory card (32 GB max capacity)
* Battery is accessible!
* 20 hour battery life

Sansa Fuze

Sansa Fuze running Rockbox

Note that the Sansa Fuze is not the same as the Sansa Fuze+. I saw bad reviews for the Fuze+ on Amazon.

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