What to do, what to do, what to do??? What mp3 player should I buy?
November 3, 2009 8:50 PM   Subscribe

Could you help me find a mp3 player that has large capacity and plays flacs?

It seems to me that I am spending too much time googling on this matter, so I decided to finally post my question here.

After my trusty mp3 suffered a severe fall from my schmuck self, I decided to upgrade. Which is when I hit a wall... :(

I am something of an audiophile and have a fairly large, evergrowing collection of music, so I am looking for something that's a music player FIRST and everything else is secondary. So something around 120gb, or more. iPods don't play flacs, and I've been using Rockbox long enough to know that there isn't a port for the later generations (with bigger capacity) of iPods. Is there anything else that I can buy?

I am really not interested in a device that plays dvds, makes pancakes, and occasionally calls the boyfriends of my ex-girlfriends to have a chat, so lets make sure it's something reasonably priced and back to basics. :)
posted by GrooveStix to Shopping (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add that I am fairly literate with PCs, and since I've been using Rockbox, I am willing to rely on jailbreaking whatever you propose, if there's an option for it.
posted by GrooveStix at 8:54 PM on November 3, 2009

I am something of an audiophile...

I would point you in the direction of Cowon products, except that I don't think they have any players with that kind of massive storage (which basically requires a hard drive for today). If you're willing to sacrifice disk space, the D2+ (which I have) and the S9 (which I don't have) are both awesome players. They support every format you'll probably care about, have a very impressive sound, plus a powerful software equalizer. Unfortunately they're flash-based, which means 16 or 32GB (and the D2+ supports removable SDHC cards).

I am really not interested in a device that plays dvds, makes pancakes...

Unfortunately, that's the direction these devices have gone. You're going to be getting a video player, FM radio, wifi internet browser, etc., on top of a music player. A quick search on Newegg turns up Archos devices that meet your requirements (large storage and FLAC support), but I can't vouch for the quality. Sorry to not fully answer the question, but I still highly recommend a Cowon player if audio quality is your primary concern. Hopefully someone else can recommend a device that's hits all your bullet points.
posted by knave at 9:06 PM on November 3, 2009

The Archos 5 supports FLAC and goes up to 250GB.

posted by wongcorgi at 9:28 PM on November 3, 2009

Cowon Q5W - looks like max of 80GB.

posted by wongcorgi at 9:36 PM on November 3, 2009

Would you be willing to convert the FLAC to Apple Lossless and then putting the files onto an iPod? It appears there is at least one pc application (dBpoweramp) that will convert FLAC to WMA Lossless. Itunes will convert the WMA Lossless to Apple Lossless. See these posts. (Yes, it looks like a fair amount of work)
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 10:09 PM on November 3, 2009

Are you running your mp3-player into a high quality stereo? If not and you're just using it out and about (while running, on the bus, in the car, whatever) then I would argue that the quality of FLAC is not necessary for that purpose. Ambient noise will be greater than any flaws introduced by a good encoder like lame at a decent bitrate.

What I do is keep a great big archive of all my music as FLACs (on a RAID, backed up, etc) and I have a script which exports MP3s from the FLACs at about 160kbps using lame. Sound quality is more than good enough for anything except the in-home hifi. With mp3 at that sort of bitrate, you can fit as much music in a couple tens of GB as would fit in well over 100GB as FLAC.
posted by polyglot at 12:29 AM on November 4, 2009

If you want to go the Apple Lossless route as Napoleonic mentioned, there is a great tool called Max (OSX only), that will easily batch convert your FLAC to Apple Lossless, and even add them to iTunes.
posted by wongcorgi at 1:13 AM on November 4, 2009

Best answer: An 80-gig, 5.5Gen Ipod Video running Rockbox is probably your best bet - assuming you're not averse to the crappy DAC that is in the iPod.

I went through this search about a year ago. I settled on the Cowon D2 at that time, and boy, do I wish I hadn't.

Now, don't get me wrong, the Cowon SOUNDS PHENOMENAL. Leaps and Bounds better than my iPod or iPhone.

However, like you I was looking for storage (for FLAC, as well as mp3s that I don't have FLAC copies of), so I figured I would just make heavy use of the SD Card slot, and swap in cards as needed.

A 16GB card filled with MP3s takes upwards of 5 minutes to scan and index. Sometimes longer. And then it doesn't index correctly anyway, and half the tracks don't show up correctly, or don't play. Tracks that play just fine and have perfectly-readable tags if I stick the same card into my PC and fire up any media player at all. Keep in mind that I am RIDICULOUSLY ANAL about tagging and such - all my mp3s are tagged id3v2.3 only, UTF-8, which is what the D2 wants. It still doesn't work consistently.

I am by no means the only person who has problems with Cowon gear and ID3 tags. A quick search will confirm this.

FLAC tagging on the Cowon has a similar tagging issue, where the album tag gets obscured half the time by some bogus "ARTIST=" nonsense that I cannot seem to locate and strip (admittedly, I haven't spent much time on this particular issue).

In short, while I love how my Cowon sounds, I cannot in good conscience recommend it, leaving what (in my experience) seem to be the default recommendation of a Rockbox'd 5.5Gen iPod.

FWIW, I also owned (for about an hour) an Archos 5 250GB (not the Android "Internet Tablet" version, the original one). In that hour, I discovered a dead pixel, the software crashed 3 times while trying to run the device's setup wizard, and the hard drive spun to a degree that you could feel the vibration of it spinning while you held it in your hand. So I can't recommend the Archos 5 either, on those grounds.

I'm still curious about the Newman M8000 - some sites give it a great review, but Engadget was hugely critical.

I really, really wish that Trekstor would make a 64GB (or, in my pipe dreams, even larger) version of the Vibez. The Vibez, if you're not aware, is the direct descendant of the Rio Karma which was, is, and remains the best portable audio player ever manufactured (I loved loved loved mine, and was saddened beyond reason when it died.)
posted by namewithoutwords at 4:40 AM on November 4, 2009

A 16GB card filled with MP3s takes upwards of 5 minutes to scan and index. Sometimes longer.

Indexing on my D2+ is slow, but I've never seen it that slow. If I load new stuff on it, it's something like 30 seconds to index for me. Can't speak to the ID3 tag issues you mentioned, since I always navigate my collection by directory hierarchy.
posted by knave at 6:17 AM on November 4, 2009

Will you be using a separate headphone amp?
posted by box at 7:00 AM on November 4, 2009

Head-fi is the place to go with this question, specifically the portable audio forum:

posted by DuoJet at 10:02 AM on November 4, 2009

any cowon/iaudio device will play flac files. In terms of capacity it varies. can go up to 250GB
posted by radsqd at 11:31 AM on November 4, 2009

Response by poster: I looked into the 5.5 iPod option, and it seems the best alternative. It's fairly cheap on ebay, and they are now selling 120GB and 240GB hard drives for it, which can be easily installed and promptly formatted and Rockboxed! :) I used to have a Gigabeat, but they discontinued it, and I can't find a good replacement for the LCD screen (which cracked) because douchebags are selling LCD screens for about $80 on ebay. Wtf?

I think that's the best option for me. I wish they had a 160GB drive for it, since that would've been perfect, but after spending ridiculous amounts of time googling, browsing forums, reading random IRC chatlogs, I think I had enough of it. I'll just settle for a 120GB at the time, and hopefully upgrade to something better soon.

Thanks to everyone for your responses!
posted by GrooveStix at 2:37 PM on November 4, 2009

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