Tech Guides & Reviews

Mixing It Up – iPod Alternatives

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Apple’s iPod has revolutionised the way we listen to music, no one can deny that. With excellent User Interface and storage, combined with the integration of iTunes (even the most ardent Apple fans will admit to iTunes not being the best), they provided the consumer with a music library that was in our pockets and on-the-go – but what if you want something else?

What if you are frustrated with the clunky functions of iTunes and the way it promises to seamlessly integrate iTunes but never does? What if you’re just a Windows and Android “fanboy” and don’t want to touch anything with a quarter-bitten apple on it? Whatever your gripe, this is the list for you.

Sony 3-in-1 Walkman

If you were born before the nineties (and for some reason, I’m pretty sure you were), you’ll know that before the iPod, there was the Walkman. With its unforgettable logo of the squiggly waves and the dot, they were the first to let us literally walk around with our music, without having to imitate John Cusack from Say Anything.

The quality is still there of course, with Sony’s range of 3-in-1 Walkmans. On top of being just headphones, they also have a built-in mp3 player with 16 Gigs of memory and can transform into a pair of wearable speakers. This, is of course, great for functionality, giving you the ability to carry your music anywhere without having to rely on your phone, not to mention catering for any party or gathering. Battery lasts for 20 hours on full charge for all day listening.

The downside to this is that there’s no user-interface, so you might have to press next quite a lot of times before you get to the song you want, which can easily be rectified by creating folders for different artists. But for the amazing quality of the music and comfort of the headphones, it might be a small price to pay.

RRP: £179.00 (Sony NWZ-WH505 Walkman)

Cowon X9

This one is for the purists. If you’re not fussed about the internet and games, or any of that other stuff that distract you from the true point of a music player, i.e. the music, then this is the one you want. In a similar vein to what Apple did what the iPod Classic, which provided 160 GBs of memory and 36 hours of battery life (which has now been discontinued due to a lack of purists it seems), this goes one step further and gives you 110 hours. That’s right: One. One. Zero. It might take you a while to get used to it, but there’s no denying the terrific sound quality this baby provides.

Cons: 32 gigs. If your music library is a bit more extensive than that, you might be picking and choosing, and no music lover wants to do that.

RRP: £159.00

Astell & Kern AK100

Did we say the Cowon was for the purists? We might’ve been wrong. This one is a beast, with a smoothness to its utility that is almost unparalleled. The User Interface is so sleek and tactile, that it melts at the tip of your fingers. Memory? You probably never have to worry about that again, with detachable (and re-attachable) memory cards providing you with up to 192 Gigs of music for a practice in endlessness. If you’ve never heard of FLAC files (which provide sound quality so pure that they’re referred to as lossless), then you will now, because even FLAC files seem to have an improvement once you put them in this machine.

The downside, of course, is the price you pay. For most, this is an indulgence at best, but for the true music lover, it might be totally worth it.

RRP: £799.99

Sony Walkman NWZ E Series

The NWZ E series provides cheaper alternatives with lower allocations for memory. Offering 8 gig and 16 gig options, they are easy to use and compact with less than half the size of the iPod Touch. The User Interface is reminiscent of older phones, with buttons that you use to navigate to your desired destination. These also offer options for videos, podcasts and games.

The negatives to it are the rather clunky buttons which may be frustrating for some, especially if you’re used to the smooth touchscreen capabilities of modern smart-phones. Sound quality is good but not amazing, but for the journey to work and back, these might be perfect.

RRP: £54.99 – £84.99

Samsung Galaxy S Wi-Fi 4.2

I know what you’re thinking: isn’t that a phone? Well, it certainly does sound like one. It’s basically the Galaxy S phone without all that phone functionality, so comparisons to the iPhone and iPod Touch are apt. Weighing in at a super light 118 grams, it supports video functionality and, as is evident from the name, connection to the internet. It also has Samsung’s SoundAlive feature which converts your music to its optimum level before reaching your ears for the perfect sound. With a memory of 8 gig (and room for adding more), this might very well fit in nicely into your music-listening experience.

RRP: £98.00