Dinosaur Roar
September 14, 2014 4:26 PM   Subscribe

Alternatives to the discontinued iPod Classic 160GB?

Our household is dependent on large storage capacity personal music players. Right now, we're rocking the iPod Classic, but it's possible that it's on its last leg. In any case, it's pretty beat up, because it gets used very frequently.

I was just sort of looking at buying the latest 160GB Apple offering, when days later Apple discontinued it. I've since searched around, and the new 160GB prices have skyrocketed (ebay etc.). I'm not interested in paying stupid prices, but would still like to have a music player with large capacity.

I have no particular loyalty to Apple - and apparently it's no longer an option for this product anyway - so any brand is fine as long as:

1) Not more than about $250

2) Large capacity - preferably without fiddly memory cards augmenting a paltry native capacity - with 120GB an absolute minimum, more much welcome. Bigger capacity = better.

3) Decent sound quality

4) Reasonable quality and durability

I have long since lost track of non-Apple offerings in this space, so I basically have no idea what's out there. I do have an uneasy sensation that while technology has marched forward, this particular device space has been left to wither on the vine - so I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

P.S. Please spare the electrons and don't bother trying to convince me to "keep it in the cloud" and "stream" and other nonsense. I want my music - or at least a good chunk of it - with me, physically, thank you.
posted by VikingSword to Technology (13 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
How to replace the hard drive in an iPod classic with a SSD

A quick search on Amazon turned up almost nothing. There is the FiiO X5 High Resolution Lossless Music Player.

Today, I think most high capacity mp3 players are smart phones.
posted by blob at 4:47 PM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

How do you use them? Do you carry them around in your pocket, use them at your desk, in the car, etc.? I just ask because it might influence which form factors would work well. I'm in the same boat in that I use an iPod Classic in my car because it's the only one that will hold all of my music. I'm dreading the time when mine fails. Note, it is possible to replace both the battery and the hard drive in the iPod Classic. It's kind of a pain, but those are the most likely components to break, and that may be the path I go down if I don't find a suitable replacement.
posted by primethyme at 4:47 PM on September 14, 2014

Reddit has been discussing this very topic recently. The general upshot seems to be to find a good sturdy device that can handle SD cards and then load them up. Since each person has their own nitpicky things they want, it might be worth reading through it rather than having people pluck out possible answers for you. My suggestion is really just to wait til the 160GB ones come down in price and/or developing a different system for on- and off-loading it on to portable devices. That said, this is the comment to me that best matches what you're looking for.
posted by jessamyn at 4:48 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Did you check out this thread? There were lots of answers. Pretty much all of them required the memory card solution, but as with most phones, you just put that in and never pop it out again and drag everything on to them, card in place, over USB.

The ponoplayer costs too much, the fiio and cowon are ok, but i was most intrigued by the sansa clip. With rockbox firmware it supports 128gb microsd. Tiny, good audio quality, plays lots of formats, should cost around $150-160 for the card+unit.(the player is ~$40, the cards are ~$115). With how cheap the cards have gotten, i think you want a card based solution. Anything that comes with that storage built in is going to be comparatively overpriced.

Personally, i'm excited to finally have the latest apple offering of the 128gb iphone i've wanted since 2008, but hey, if you still want a dedicated PMP the sansa seems to be maxing out the bang/buck meter for now. It also seems like, at least in theory(as per that hydrogenaudio thread i linked), you will be able to upgrade to a 256gb or larger card later.

Also worth noting they're described as indestructible and simple in this thread as a model series. Which is generally what i've heard(i haven't hands-on interacted with sansas since the early, ipod nano era ones when i was almost out of high school)

also, i totally hear you on the local storage and people telling you "just stream it!" thing. This was totally infuriating on a recent road trip with flaky cell service. I missed my ipod the entire damn time.
posted by emptythought at 4:50 PM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

The 5th and 6th generation iPods are pretty hackable. I have a 30GB 5G ("Video") model with an upgraded battery and 128GB DRAM. It's ugly on the outside but I know the insides are perfectly OK, because I did the work myself. And now that it's all solid state, it's pretty close to shockproof.

If you're not willing to shop used and not willing to buy hardware to upgrade yourself, your options are slim. Most devices only have 64 GB installed at most, and so you'll have to add the cost of an SD card to pad it up to the storage size you need.

But like I keep telling people: There are already tens of millions of portable music players available. iPods, Sansas, Zunes (don't scoff at the Zunes, man), and they aren't any worse than they ever were, and they're available cheap. If you've already got one, replace the batteries and keep using it. They aren't clothing: If they're not abused, they don't wear out.
posted by ardgedee at 5:01 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

They aren't clothing: If they're not abused, they don't wear out.

This isn't strictly true. Those little 1.8in drives have hilariously low MTBF, and lots of them will just wear out from normal use over time way faster than any laptop/desktop hdd.

I almost wrote a paragraph praising the wonders of a cheap 120gb zune(of which you can still regularly find unused/barely used/new), and then reflected on that a bit more.

It's rare to ever encounter faulty flash memory that isn't a low-grade knockoff or defective out of the box, but micro hard drives are flaky somewhat delicate things that don't last all that long. I can't really in good conscience recommend spending more than a bit of money on something that isn't a flash solution to this problem.
posted by emptythought at 5:10 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're the kind of person that's into things like minor hacking, a Rockboxed Clip (or an iPod or other device (e.g. iRiver) with an SSD installed) is pretty great. If you're the kind of person that's into throwing money at problems, there are some nice audiophile devices that would probably be up your alley. If you're a different kind of person that's into throwing money at problems, the newest iPhones go up to 128gb, and lots of Android devices can handle relatively-gigantic SD cards.
posted by box at 5:29 PM on September 14, 2014

(Not really germane to your question, but, depending on how you listen to stuff and how high your standards of audio quality are, you might also be interested in exploring the world of headphone amps and outboard DACs.)
posted by box at 5:33 PM on September 14, 2014

Response by poster: Fantastic responses so far, thank you everyone, and keep 'em coming. Several people asked me for use scenarios, so here goes.

The iPod Classic gets used in three ways in the VS household.

1) My wife takes it to and from work on the subway commute; additionally, she uses it at work during the times when it's possible. That's 5 days a week.

2) Again, my wife - jogging. However, that's intermittent, as we jog 4 times a week, and she only takes the ipod maybe 15% of the time. I have my own ipod and very rarely take it jogging. Also very rarely I'll take it on the bus (since I rarely have the occasion to use public transportation).

3) I use it when I'm at home in the living room but for some reason don't turn on my iMac. At that point, I switch the cable that goes from the iMac to the active speakers (studio monitors) and stick it into the ipod and play the music through the studio monitors.

Sometimes it gets taken on longer car trips to listen to in the car, but that's pretty rare.

I am not averse to some not overly complex, or requiring special tools, hardware/software hacking. I have all my music on external hard drives hooked up to my iMac, so it's all governed by iTunes, but I have no objection in principle to running any other software on a music player. One minor complication is that 90% of my music is in ALAC files (m4a), but I'm not opposed to just converting whatever I need to load onto the new player into FLAC or whatever. I'd prefer to stay with lossless files, but I'm not fanatical about it, as I figure the DAC in the player will be the limiting factor fidelity-wise anyhow, so getting into something lossy is OK (as long as it's not something on the level of 128 mp3 which I believe I can clearly hear, especially on classical music - though perhaps in a few years I won't be able to tell; though my wife will still be able to).
posted by VikingSword at 6:03 PM on September 14, 2014

ALAC? That probably means you're ripping with iTunes, and that you're firmly part of that, whaddayacallit, Apple ecosystem (and converting, while very possible, eats storage space and is kind of a pain). If I were you, I'd think about new phones and old iPods updated with SSDs.
posted by box at 6:19 PM on September 14, 2014

Response by poster: I'm actually using XLD to rip stuff to ALAC (and convert other formats), not iTunes. Only time I use iTunes for conversion is when I'm burning a CD in iTunes and it does its AiFF conversion internally. I keep stuff in ALAC, because my music files are organized in iTunes and I wanted relatively efficient (spacewise) lossless files.
posted by VikingSword at 6:24 PM on September 14, 2014

Since Apple opened the ALAC codec to an Apache license, more players are supporting it (or AAC) natively, so check the specs. You'll still have to Rockbox a major-label player (like Sansa) for ALAC support, though.
posted by ardgedee at 7:40 PM on September 14, 2014

I have an Archos 5 Android with a 500 GB hard drive. If you reformat the drive from ext to FAT32 just about any computer can mount it as a drive. They renamed the almost exact same player as the A48. Both are out of production, and were going for $200 while you could still buy them new, but are much more expensive now. They run Android 1.6. The Archos custom player is pretty good, and can handle 65000 songs without long delays. Battery life is about 4 hours playing music or videos, much less with continuous hard drive activity. It can play FLAC, too. I replaced a 160 GB Classic with the Archos, which was a big improvement, mainly due to never having to run iTunes again. You see them on eBay sometimes. The model numbers come from the 4.8 inch tablet screen it has.
posted by rfs at 12:46 PM on September 15, 2014

« Older Any advice on writing a book?   |   How to prudently withdraw invested money? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.