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. And with Black Friday around the corner, it's a good time to be keeping an eye out for bargains.
Check out our list of the best iPod alternatives below.
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
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
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
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
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
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