How we test MP3 players

MP3 players

How we test MP3 players

by Ben Stockton

Discover how we test MP3 players for sound quality, portability and ease of use to find our Best Buy models.

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What makes a Best Buy MP3 player?

Whether you're looking for a MP3 player with great audio quality, one that can play videos or simply one that's easy to use, we test each device in all the scenarios so you don't have to.

We examine everything that matters, from how long the battery will last when you're listening to music on the go, to how easily you can skip between tracks, regardless of brand or price. Use our reviews to find the MP3 players that deliver top-notch audio quality - whether you're listening to your favourite podcast or rock anthem.

Our reviews answer the most crucial questions about MP3 players:

  • What’s the sound quality like?
  • How easy is it to use?
  • How portable is it?
  • What’s the battery life like?
  • Should I buy it?

Find out which models come out on top in our MP3 reviews.

What is the sound quality like?

In our testing, a panel of audio experts listen to the MP3 player through the supplied headphones and a pair of known high-quality headphones. They carefully study the sound quality during a range of genres and speech, providing fantastic insight into the overall performance of each of the devices.

3 stars The biggest improvement in the sound quality rating by simply switching the supplied headphones for a pair of Best Buy headphones

We also check for sound leakage from the supplied headphones to understand how much, if any, noise escapes to bother people around you. This is known as the ‘tube test’.

How easy is it to use?

However good an MP3 player sounds, it's not going to be worth buying if it's difficult to use. MP3 players that score poorly in our ease-of-use tests tend to suffer from a common list of problems: poor displays, badly arranged keys and long uploading and downloading times when transferring files from your PC to your device.

Our tests weed out any tricky-to-use MP3 players, so you won’t be left hopelessly battling confusing instructions and counterintuitive menu systems, or wasting time waiting for files to transfer from your computer.

How portable is it?

You’d struggle to find a MP3 player larger than pocket-sized, but it's not just the dimensions that determine how portable a device is. The portability of an MP3 player is closely linked to its durability. We place the deviced in a drum one at a time and rotate it so that each player falls 50cm about 20 times while playing a playlist of 99 different songs. After 900 turns of the drum, we rate the players on whether they continue to play music while being bumped about.

What’s the battery life like?

After we've charged and discharged the batteries several times, we charge the batteries fully, load the MP3 players with 20 tracks and set them playing continuously. We then measure the length of playing time you get from this.

We then look at how long it takes to recharge the MP3 player.

46 hours The difference in battery life between the best and worst MP3 players when playing music

Should I buy it?

The performance of an MP3 player in all aspects of our testing determines the overall score awarded to the device. But as some elements are more important than others, they carry different weights:

  • Ease of use 40%
  • Sound quality 20%
  • Battery life 15%
  • Portability 10%
  • Versatility 10%
  • Durability 5%

For video-capable models, the weightings differ slightly to account for this extra functionality:

  • Ease of use 40%
  • Sound quality 20%
  • Battery life 15%
  • Portability 10%
  • Versatility 10%
  • Durability 5%