Most rugged MP3 player?
December 15, 2009 7:01 PM   Subscribe

In search of an MP3 player that can take a beating...

I'm looking to get an MP3 player for a family member who does a lot of construction / home improvement type activities around the house.

Important things:
1. Can take falls, scratches, etc. (!!!)
2. Fairly simple and not too small buttons
3. We considered the iPod shuffle, but we think it will be too small and get lost / thrown in the wash, so a bit bigger than that. Largish wallet sized is OK

HD size and the interface software aren't a big deal, so it's OK if they are not that great.

Another option is if you know of a great case for say an iPod nano that would make it rather rugged, that would work too. I've used the silicone sleeve type cases before and I don't think they would cut it.

posted by Endure You Are Not Alone to Shopping (17 answers total)
Ryobi makes an MP3 player designed for construction sites.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 7:06 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've got an ipod classic and am clumsy. It's survived for a couple of years now despite repeated drops on concrete and in the street. While I've never tried operating it underwater, I've used it in the rain without any ill effects.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 7:12 PM on December 15, 2009

A couple of ipod nano cases that might work: 1 2
posted by sentient at 7:15 PM on December 15, 2009

Get one with solid-state storage, avoid mechanical hard drives (they're by far the easiest part to break).

I have a Sansa e260 that's been dropped dozens of times and it's totally fine (the metal backed case helps).
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:19 PM on December 15, 2009

The iPod nano seems to be fairly rugged in of itself. I've bashed the hell out of mine at the gym since I got it last fall. The corners are all rounded from damage and the metal has a significant crease on the backside, but the unit is still totally functional. Most recently, I was doing power cleans with it in my pocket and the bar caught the headphone plug on the way down. The plug bent and snapped off, but I was able to pull the stub out easily and the unit was not damaged. It has also had a 100 pound dumbbell dropped on it when I was letting the weights down after finishing a set and it slipped out of my pocket. I've been impressed so far.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 7:23 PM on December 15, 2009

I use the BlackBerry Storm myself, but I saw this review a while back about the iPod Nano and was really impressed with the durability.
posted by slavlin at 7:38 PM on December 15, 2009

I listen to mp3s in bed (old-time radio shows and stuff like Melvyn Bragg's "In Our Time" are a great palliative for insomnia!) and every iPod I have ever owned died after less than a year of no harder buffets than falling from bed to floor repeatedly. (I'm jealous of all of you guys who drop them on concrete, etc., with no harm done.)

So now I use cheap mp3 players, about three $20 ones per year, and see real savings. I would probably do the same if I were your family member.

The Freestyle Audio Soundwave looks awfully sturdy in person; I was just too cheap to invest in it instead of my $20 disposables.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:43 PM on December 15, 2009

I was a day one buyer of a 3rd Gen Nano and mine is still going strong and I use it all time. I can't tell you how many times I've dropped the thing onto hardwood floors or linoleum. It just works and it is pretty darn simple. Now iPod ear buds are another story, those I have a tendency to kill after about 9 - 12 months. Speaking of which, they make ear protection style headphones for musical devices so that you can listen to something while there are loud noises about. I use mine while cutting the grass so that I can listen to podcasts without cranking the volume. That might be useful for him if he uses a lot of loud power tools.
posted by mmascolino at 8:17 PM on December 15, 2009

i had a first generation nano with a month of release and treated it pretty rashly its entire life, dropping it at least once a week, throwing it into my bag that i would then just toss on the floor, etc. it worked perfectly for years until i lost it two months ago. i'm still hoping it's hiding somewhere in my apartment, i loved it so much!
posted by lia at 8:25 PM on December 15, 2009

I want to warn you that the screen on the iPod nano is somewhat fragile. As an Apple fan, it pains me to say this, but the current gen of nano in the buff is probably not a good idea. An earlier gen may be a better choice.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:42 PM on December 15, 2009

My Sansa was pretty indestructible, weird-ass interface and a little awkward, but I've dropped it down flights of stairs without problem.
posted by The Whelk at 8:46 PM on December 15, 2009

I had an iRiver that lasted four years of daily use, including two summers of outdoor forestry work (I'm talking heat, cold, coffee spills, stepped on and ground into the mud...)
Conversely, when it finally died in July, I bought an iPod and it died the other day for no apparent reason .. coming soon to an AskMe near you!

(seriously, does anyone have any suggestions beyond what's listed on the Apple iPod support page?)
posted by mannequito at 11:12 PM on December 15, 2009

ah, my ex used this for her Sansa (its built for an iPod but the Sansa fit snugly)

Pelican cases are like termites created by man : indestructible.
posted by mannequito at 11:15 PM on December 15, 2009

nthing the Sansa. Mrs. Toxic had an e260 for years and years, that she just replaced with a Clip Plus (which might be the best sounding player on the market, and you can throw a 16GB microSD chip in it). These things will get scratched up and look beat up, but they'll work without issue, seemingly forever.

I dropped a Samsung YP-U3 off a fifth story balcony onto concrete. It continued to work for years. I washed it once, which killed some of the pixels in the screen (though, it didn't affect operations). Eventually, the headphone jack got flaky.
posted by toxic at 11:18 PM on December 15, 2009

I've got a 2g Nano, which is pretty durable already, and a hard-plastic Otterbox case for it (they don't seem to make it any more, but here's a modern equivalent--you want the Armor Series).

The advice to get something solid-state is very good, as is the advice to get a separate case.
posted by box at 6:54 AM on December 16, 2009

I can't speak to their later builds, but I have an older Creative Zen MP3 player that has been dropped in a bucket of paint and fallen off the top of a moving vehicle at 30+ MPH (not, however, at the same time...) Looks like hell but is still flawless in performance-- I think I'm gonna cry when it finally bites the big one.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:47 AM on December 16, 2009

Response by poster: I definitely will get a solid state HD. The issue is mostly the screen. My Dad (who will be the recipient) had broken two cell phone screens. Similar to the iPod Nano review slavlin linked to the cell phone kept working after the screen failed. That's kind of my big worry with the iPod Nano.

The Ryobi Andy's Gross Wart linked to looks perfect! No screen to break, long battery life, so of course I cannot find it anywhere to purchase. Figures.

Thanks for the advice anyone! I will update this and let you all know how it works out.
posted by Endure You Are Not Alone at 8:45 AM on December 16, 2009

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