Best high-capacity iPod substitute in 2018?
September 9, 2018 5:56 AM   Subscribe

I realize that I'm way out of step with modern times, and the masses are largely content with using phones for media players and syncing with cloud services - but I want to remain in full control of my mobile media playing. What is the best high-capacity media (MP3 & FLAC, mostly) player that can be had today? Curmudgeonly details inside.

This morning I fought with my aging iPod touch - which has been living in my car for more than a year as my mobile music repository - for more than 40 minutes trying to sync it with a "new" device, do updates, etc. etc. just so I could add / remove some music.

I want to just revert to a "dumb" media player with high capacity. Here's what I want:

- Must be able to sync with Linux.
- Must be able to play MP3s and FLAC files.
- Decent battery life - if I'm going from home (U.S.) to Australia, I want to be able to have music the entire way there on one charge.
- Standard headphone port.
- High-capacity - at least 128GB, preferably more. OK if this includes removable media like micro-SDs.
- Reasonably small - doesn't need to be iPod touch small/skinny, but I don't want to lug a brick when I go on a walk or (he said optimistically) go to the gym.

I've had a FIIO x5 (2nd generation) and liked, but not loved, it. But I managed to leave it behind on a plane somewhere between San Francisco and home. I do hope the person who found it is enjoying my music collection...

So, please, point me to something I can plunk down cash money for today and get back to enjoying my tunes instead of fussing with the unholy trainwreck that's iTunes and iOS.
posted by jzb to Technology (12 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Ok look, i know this is ridiculous but i had multiple Zunes. From the first to the mini, then the huge storage one. You can absolutely still buy the 120GB version around. It has an FM radio too. It's the best handheld device OS i ever used. Very smooth and simple. And you can mount to linux as MTP or as Mass storage. Lot's of resources on how out there. It doesn't do FLAC but it will do "lossless" wma (basically just 1Mb/s wma). The Pono player definitely supports flac and was cool to play with but i have no idea about linux.

The other thing that surprised me: an 8 year old samsung Android phone with a new battery and 64GB sd card (largest it supported) with winamp and nothing else is surprisingly good and fast. And easy to mount to anything. So if you can find a more recent used phone with microSD card you can pick a player you like and away you go.
posted by chasles at 6:26 AM on September 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have this under $40 mp3 player and it is expandable with a card. For 128Gigs, you will spend more on the card than the player. Office Max/Depot claim to carry them (at like $57) , but I would check with the store to ensure they have the exact model you want before you go in person. Mine is the 1.44 inch model. I'd stick with that size and not the smaller one so you can still read the screen easily. It supports "MP3 and AAC audio file formats as well as Audible (DRM only), FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, WAV, and WMA (no DRM)." Some have FM tuners, but I have not used that feature.
posted by soelo at 6:37 AM on September 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

The answer is: iPod!

Yes, that's right. You can buy old classic iPods off eBay and refurbish them yourself, quite easily and cheaply, with SD card or SSD insides. The now larger iPod will still sync with iTunes and work with all in-car software or hardware adapters etc.

See this page, containing various methods:

This method would mean buying two SD cards to replace the harddrive of an old iPod classic. £30 for the board and probably £30 each for 2 64gb SD cards.

If you do an eBay search you can find iPods that have already been upgraded this way. More expensive, but still... stay with the classic.
posted by 0bvious at 7:02 AM on September 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

I won't threadsit, but I want to emphasize must sync with Linux, not depend on iTunes and add - I don't want a project, I want to buy something off the shelf. I could fuss something together with a Raspberry Pi Zero, but really just want something that works out of the box and might even have a decent warranty.
posted by jzb at 7:25 AM on September 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I use an old iPod and Ubuntu. Programs lile Banshee function like iTunes for importing music to the device. Not sure if you‘ve tried that and decided it’s not for you, though.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 9:36 AM on September 9, 2018

I highly recommend a SanDisk Sansa like soello linked. They are tiny and attach to your clothes, and take an SD card.
posted by twoplussix at 10:15 AM on September 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

You could just get an Android phone and not activate its phone service and leave it in “airplane mode” all the time. I found one on sale for ten bucks at Walmart a few years ago and that's what I've used. It mounts in Linux as an MTP device like the aforementioned Zune. I run VLC on it for audio and video, but of course you could install whatever you want.
posted by XMLicious at 11:53 AM on September 9, 2018

The Sony NW-A45 (with an added microSD card) is worth a close look I think.
posted by kickingtheground at 1:09 PM on September 9, 2018

Yeah the easy solution to this is an android phone, a large SD card and your music player of choice.

I am in the same boat as you, flac and mp3, don't want anything managing my music and use Linux. But as an android user I don't have any humps to get over in doing things this way, it just works. I use vanilla music as player fwiw, but you can use whatever.
posted by deadwax at 2:42 PM on September 9, 2018

Yeah, an older phone with deactivated service, dumb though the idea sounds, might be your best bet. Get something with an SD card slot, find a media player app you like, and optionally root it and install a super-trimmed-down ROM with no features except for that music player.
posted by jackbishop at 3:25 PM on September 9, 2018

I was in the same situation as you (except I don't use Linux) and now i'm using this. I guess it should mount on Linux since it appears as a generic device in windows, like a generic card reader.
I put a 256 go card inside. Pretty much like your filo I don't love it because the interface is not that great, but it's cheap, it sounds good and is very small.
posted by SageLeVoid at 5:10 PM on September 9, 2018

San Disk makes small music players (the Clip, abobe, and the Sport) that have limited internal storage (8GB?) but will take a big Micro SD card.

Beware that the internal database of tracks has a maximum of like 2000 items, after which it sorts of loses its mind. And also if your MP3 tags are bad, it won’t sort the tracks of an album well, but maybe that’s just me.

Still, it’s cheap, holds a charge well, has a decent interface, and offers physical buttons so you can control it without looking (moreso than a recent glass-face iPod Touch, anyway).

Gosh, I miss carrying all my music.....
posted by wenestvedt at 3:15 AM on September 10, 2018

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