MP3 players are making a comeback with travellers – seven devices you should try out

A handy size, and with better audio than your smartphone, these one-trick devices – increasingly known as ‘digital audio players’ – are ideal for travel and exercise

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 7:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 9:25am

Who needs an MP3 player, especially since playing music while on the go migrated to smartphones some time ago? Well, it seems there’s still a place today for them among travellers, active people and audiophiles.

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Given that smartphones are primarily designed for communication, relying on a separate MP3 player for music saves your phone’s battery. That could be crucial on long journeys. For runs and swims, a purpose-built MP3 player – such as a small clip-on MP3 player or even a waterproof all-in-one device – can be much more convenient than a phone.

However, the main reason that people are turning back to a separate “digital audio player” is sound quality; most of these new models concentrate on high-resolution music, and are purpose-built for much better sound quality than your smartphone.

Sony Walkman NW-A30

It may be a brand most commonly associated with the portable cassette players of the 1980s, but Sony’s Walkmans continue to impress in the digital age. Its 16GB storage isn’t much if you plan to make use of its high-resolution audio playback mode, but its choice of bold colours and its good value help the NW-A30 (from HK$1,680, US$215) stand out from the crowd.

Available at

Apple iPod Shuffle

Is there any better MP3 player for exercise or ultra-light travel than Apple’s smallest MP3 player? Available in grey, gold, silver, pink, blue and red, this tiny, 12.5 gram device (HK$388) stores just 2GB of music and plays them in random order only. It was discontinued by Apple a few months ago, so grab it while you can.

Available in Hong Kong at In-Smart, Sham Shui Po, Shop 1, 133 Fuk Wing St, Sham Shui Po, tel: 3586 0620


Astell & Kern AK70

This sleek device (HK$4,980) is all about sound quality and status. It’s able to play the latest high- resolution 24-bit/192KHz audio tracks; most phones only manage 16-bit/44.1kHz or CD-quality. Storing 64GB internally with a microSD card slot for expansion, this is one for audiophiles with cash to burn.

Available at


Pioneer XDP-30RS

Just like the pricier Astell & Kern AK70, this portable music player from Pioneer (HK$2,999) supports high-resolution music. While it can store 16GB of music (plus a couple of microSD cards), it also has Bluetooth for wireless earphones and streaming from Tunein, Deezer and Tidal. The XDP-30RS can also be controlled by a smartphone app.

Available at


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Onkyo DP-X1A

This portable high-resolution music player (HK$5,499) isn’t cheap, but it does have one clear advantage; maximum capacity. Capable of storing 32GB of music, the DP-X1A also has two microSD card slots. Overall, it’s similar to the Pioneer, adding Spotify, Tidal and Deezer streaming, but Onkyo’s effort is larger.

Available at


Questyle QP1R

Remember the iPod’s click wheel? It seemed odd back in 2002, and the appearance of a similar “steering wheel” on the otherwise sleek Questyle QP1R (HK$4,600) is strange. Inside its aluminium casing, the software supports high-resolution audio and has gold-plated components that lower distortion and, its maker claims, superior sound quality. Like the Onkyo, it can store 32GB and has two microSD card slots.

Available at


Sony Walkman NW-WS625

Perfect for those who like to dive into the hotel swimming pool or hit the gym soon after they land, Sony’s latest attempt at a waterproof Walkman (HK$1,190) is by far its best yet. The wearer can use an “ambient” mode to hear a trainer more easily, while it also includes Bluetooth, so you only have to take one pair of earphones on a trip.

Available at