Best iPod alternatives 2019: Touch, Nano and Shuffle alternatives

Best Apple iPod alternatives Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best Apple iPod alternatives you can buy in 2019.

There’s no getting away from it, the Apple iPod is a great portable music player, as the latest seventh generation iPod Touch shows. But, as its iPhones have taken over music playing duties for many, the tech giant has scaled back its range of music players. In fact, only the Touch survives. 

But what if you already have an Apple iPhone but still want a dedicated music player? Or if you need a portable music player that plays hi-res music? The good news is that there are plenty of alternatives out there.

These portable music players tend to have limited storage out of the box but can be used with microSD memory cards, so you can boost their capacity and fill them with hi-res tunes without worrying about memory space. Some can also double up as a DAC to enhance the sound from your laptop.

We've tested a wide range and rounded-up the best iPod alternatives across a range of prices. We can’t guarantee that these will be cheaper than the current iPod Touch, which remains great value for money, but in terms of quality and all-round ability there should be something in this list for you. Budget accordingly for a decent pair of headphones, and you'll have a formidable portable system.

Check out our list of the best iPod alternatives below.

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Apple iPod Touch (2019) review

Best Apple iPod alternatives 2019: budget and premium

(Image credit: Sony)

1. Sony NW-A45

A convincing iPod alternative with massive battery life.

SPECIFICATIONS

Storage: 16GB + microSD expandable | Screen size: 3.1-inch | Battery life: 45hrs | Dimensions: 9.8 × 5.6 x 1.1 cm | Weight: 98g

Reasons to Buy
Precise, hi-fi sounding vocals
Solid build
DSD playback
microSD slot for extra storage
Reasons to Avoid
Headphones not supplied
Clunky user interface

It wouldn't be a list of iPod alternatives without a Sony Walkman on the list, and the Sony NW-A45 is a particularly fine example.

If you’re looking for a personal music player (PMP) that lets you listen to hi-res PCM and DSD files on the fly with optional noise-cancelling, this Sony Walkman is for you.

It's around the same size as a credit card, so slotting it into a pocket will be simple enough. The 16GB of built-in storage is a little stingy, but a microSD slot means you can boost this to a more usable 512GB for all those high-quality files.

An extra string to the Sony's bow compared to the Touch (or the older Nano for that matter) is it doubles up as a DAC, so can improve the sound quality of your laptop. But it's the natural, detailed sound that keeps us coming back for more. If authenticity is your thing, then this is the iPod alternative for you.

Read the full review: Sony NW-A45

Best Apple iPod alternatives 2019: budget and premium

(Image credit: Future)

2. Astell & Kern A&norma SR15

This iPod alternative is a hugely appealing all-rounder, with excellent sound and features.

SPECIFICATIONS

Storage: 64GB + microSD expandable | Screen size: 3.3-inch | Battery life: 9hr | Dimensions: 9.9 × 5.7 x 1.6 cm | Weight: 154g

Reasons to Buy
Subtle and clear sound
Intuitive interface
DAC and preamp
Reasons to Avoid
Design may not appeal to all

The Astell & Kern A&norma SR15 may look a little less than normal, but it suits this player's extraordinary spread of abilities. Boasting an easy-to-use interface, expandable storage and plenty of hi-res file support – not to mention serious levels of detail and a dynamic sound that's synonymous with the brand – it promises a severe step up from your smartphone or iPod Touch.

The device can also be used as a DAC/preamp, allowing you to use it to enhance the performance of your smartphone and/or laptop.

Read the full review: Astell & Kern A&norma SR15

Best Apple iPod alternatives 2019: budget and premium

(Image credit: Future)

3. Cowon Plenue D2

A class-leading performer with the features and practicality to boot.

SPECIFICATIONS

Storage: 64GB + mircoSD expandable | Screen size: 3.7-inch | Battery life: 45hr | File support: 24-bit/192kHz PCM, DSD128 | Dimensions: 5.3 x 7.9 x 1.5 cm | Weight: 97g

Reasons to Buy
Balanced, dynamic and punchy
Pocket-friendly size
More subtle than predecessor (Plenue D)
Reasons to Avoid
Interface looks dated

The demise of the Apple iPod has opened up the market for other portable music player brands, including Cowon.

The Cowon Plenue D2 (or PD2) is the next-gen version of one of the most impressive budget players we’ve encountered – the Award winning Plenue D. This budget portable music player has vast file support, pocket-size practicality, an accessible price and sounds great too.

It may not be quite such a budget bargain as its predecessor, but it manages to justify the premium. If you want a dedicated music player device, this Cowon should be high on your list – we haven’t heard a better-sounding portable music player at the money.

Read the full review: Cowon Plenue D2

Best Apple iPod alternatives 2019: budget and premium

(Image credit: Future)

4. Astell & Kern Kann

Astell & Kern's premium player delivers a fantastic high-end sound.

SPECIFICATIONS

Storage: 64GB + dualSD expandable | Screen size: 3.3-inch | Battery life: 14hr | Dimensions: 11.5 × 7.1 x 2.5 cm | Weight: 278g

Reasons to Buy
Good array of features
Superb detail
Strong, dynamic presentation
Reasons to Avoid
Design might not appeal to everyone

Astell & Kern’s Kann player’s larger-than-life design won’t be to all tastes, but its superb sound quality is unquestionable, making it a great alternative for the iPod Touch.

The Kann might be big, but that extra space leaves room for a lot of physical features. But when it comes to performance per pound, there’s no mistaking the Kann’s sonic chops.

It’s dynamic, has a great sense of timing, and gives an insightful performance. Other portable players at the Kann’s price point need to watch their step – it's a formidable machine.

Read the full review: Astell & Kern Kann

Best Apple iPod alternatives 2019: budget and premium

(Image credit: Future)

5. Astell & Kern A&futura SE100

Portable music players rarely sound this good, nor cost this much.

SPECIFICATIONS

Storage: 128GB + microSD expandable | Screen size: 5-inch | Battery life: n/a | Dimensions: 13.0 × 7.5 x 1.5 cm | Weight: 240g

Reasons to Buy
Hugely capable sound
Extensive file support and storage
Bright, punchy screen
Easy to navigate interface
Reasons to Avoid
Sharp edges on casework

The Astell & Kern A&futura SE100 is a portable pleasure that deserves to be pocketed. Sitting between the A&ultima SP1000 and Award-winning Kann in A&K’s hi-res player portfolio, it’s rather pricey but justifies its position above the latter with a far better performance.

The SE100 has all Astell & Kern’s best parts – an engaging sound, bold design and a feature-heavy music player experience. It even retains the A&K trademark DAC alter-ego, which allows it to be the sound-enhancing middleman between a computer and headphones. 

Of course, it’s priced out of reach for most at the top end of pricing for the portable music player market. But for those with grand portable ambitions, decent high-end headphones and, crucially the budget, this sonic-savvy source is a logical buy.

Read our full review: Astell & Kern A&futura SE100

Best Apple iPod alternatives 2019: budget and premium

(Image credit: Future)

6. Fiio M3

Small in stature, but this bona fide iPod alternative is big on sound quality.

SPECIFICATIONS

Storage: 8GB + microSD expandable | Screen size: 2-inch | Battery life: 24hr | Dimensions: 7.4 × 3.9 x 0.9 cm | Weight: 40g

Reasons to Buy
Small and lightweight
Expandable microSD storage
Detailed sound
Hi-res support List
Reasons to Avoid
Small controls

The FiiO M3 is around the size (and weight) of a matchbox, and will appeal to those who don’t want their music collection clogging up storage space on their phone, but aren’t prepared to fork out a significant amount for a separate device.

That kind of minimalistic approach to music on the move may be more of a minority interest now than it was a few years ago, but nevertheless it will still have its fans especially those looking for an iPod Shuffle alternative. For everything the FiiO offers at this price, it deserves recognition.

Read our full review: Fiio M3

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