Best portable MP3 Player for audiobooks
February 19, 2013 6:37 PM   Subscribe

So, I'm an audiobook junky and my current mp3 player is starting to go. My past few MP3 players have been various models of the SanDisk Sansa lines (e260, Fuze) which I've been moderately happy with. I'm not confident that the new Fuze+ models are particularly good based on the reviews. So I turn to the green for advice.

Important: Battery life, good audiobook controls, reasonable size, cheaper is better.

Preferable: at least 4GB or expandable SDHC memory. The more durable, the better (I'm rough on my electronics).

Not so important: Music controls, doesn't have to be latest model, software for syncing doesn't matter so long as I can mount the memory, included headphones aren't important.
posted by pyro979 to Technology (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you still have your old Sansas around? You *might* want to take a look at rockbox. It supports most of those, isn't hard to install, and might provide you with better audiobook controls.

(I used it only briefly on some version of the fuze. The interface was less intuitive but provided more useful features. But my memory of the experience is vague, so I can't provide much of a recommendation other than: hey, it's free if you have the hardware lying around, so it might be worth a quick try.)
posted by bfields at 7:34 PM on February 19, 2013

I do actually like my ipod classic for audiobooks. I had a (3rd gen?) nano (the long shaped one) that I liked more, but none of the other current ipods. it's got a little hard disk in it though, so you have to be a little careful. once you get used to importing them into itunes properly, it works well. if I don't feel like messing around in itunes I sync things in winamp and it does a fair job of getting the audiobooks in if you make a playlist.

don't get a zune, I'll tell you that, mine failed spectacularly at audiobooks.
posted by euphoria066 at 8:00 PM on February 19, 2013

To expand on bfields' suggestions: I've used RockBox in the past (on an ipod nano 2g) and liked it. I could bookmark places in recordings, and I could change the playback speed while retaining the same pitch. IIRC one or both of these things may have been possible on the ipod too, but only on some particular class of AAC recordings with a special flag set to tell the machine that they were podcasts/audiobooks. RockBox let me do it with any old MP3 (or OGG, WMV, etc.). The interface overall was a little fiddly but it didn't bother me.

Consider also: buy a small cheap (possibly secondhand) Android phone if you don't have one and use an audiobook player app. Unfortunately I don't have any personal recommendations here, but there are a few to choose from.
posted by pont at 11:31 PM on February 19, 2013

Best answer: Hey, guess what? You're me. I've been a Sansa user since the iPod Mini came out and I couldn't afford one. After breaking a few of the classic Fuzes and noticing the price of a (second-hand, since they don't make them anymore) replacement, I went with the Sansa Clip Zip 4gb and have been very happy with it. It takes memory cards, the sound quality is great, and podcasts/audiobooks are placed into a Books folder for easy menu access. I really couldn't be happier with it. works just fine with it as well, if you use that.

Incidentally, I bought my wife a Fuze+ two years ago and we really, really don't like it. Following the release and reading the reviews and such over the years, it really does seem like it was a colossal mistake on Sandisk's part.
posted by Wrongshanks at 2:25 AM on February 20, 2013

Response by poster: @bfields - When I say the player is going, I mean hardware failure. Eventually every one of them stop transmitting sound from headphone jack.

@pont - I have an android setup in the car (for when I'm driving with the wife, we listen to a separate audiobook, then I do on my own), but I often do chores and exercise (well maybe not so often on this one) with the mp3 player, and drop it with some regularity, so I'm not sure how long the phone would last.

@wrongshanks - I've been staying away from looking at the clips because I figured they were more for music, but if you say it's good for audio books, I'll check it out.
posted by pyro979 at 5:24 AM on February 20, 2013

I am using a Clip Zip 4Gb exclusively for audiobooks and (having tried other brands) recommend it. Don't get a refurbished one though. It may save you $20, but it's worth the extra $20 for Sansa tech support which they don't give on non-new ones. Ideally, someone would write a rockbox-like OS for it that catered to us audiobook freaks but no one has yet and the controls of others I've tried are no better. I have no experience with android audiobook apps so I'm interested in what others have to say about them.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:24 AM on February 20, 2013

On preview, call Sansa tech support if you have a problem with the hardware. They will send you a replacement if they can't fix it over the phone.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:26 AM on February 20, 2013

Response by poster: @ObscureReference The player I have is over 2 years and and to top it off it was a refurb (I agree with you on this), so I doubt the support would help me out much =c)

As far as audiobook apps on android, Smart AudioBook Player is amazing. Full featured and free (there is a premium version for $2 that adds even more features). I have a smartphone mount in the car, aux jack and have setup the player to popup whenever the phone starts charging (I used one of the automation apps for that). It's an almost perfect setup except a weird bug on this particular Droid X that once in a while dismounts the microSDHC card which I can only fix by restarting (but that's not the setup's fault =c).
posted by pyro979 at 5:50 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm happy with my Sandisk Sansa. It bookmarks my current position, and plays the tracks in order. I wish I could enter timecode, to Fast Forward to a specific location.

In regards to hardware failure-- I replace the headphones more than twice a year. I like headphones that make a 90 degree angle at the jack connection, because there is less bending stress where the cable is connected to the jack.
posted by ohshenandoah at 10:12 AM on February 20, 2013

Response by poster: Pulled the trigger on Clip Zip 4GB, will report once I use it.
posted by pyro979 at 1:49 PM on February 20, 2013

Response by poster: For googlers - so far so good. Plays audio books quite well, seems more durable (I also purchased a silicone skin for it.) 2 things to note that might cause a pause - (1) there is no track number indicator which only slightly annoying, and (2) I don't see a way to do play an audiobook based on a folder, which I had to do sometimes when the tags fail me. But neither are deal breakers.

Thanks @wrongshanks
posted by pyro979 at 4:57 PM on February 24, 2013

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