The 10 Best Budget MP3 Players to Buy in 2018

See our selection of cheap MP3 players

The glory days of the iPod might be in the rear-view mirror, but MP3 players are still a thing. With a slew of options, large and small, expensive and budget-friendly, there’s still plenty to choose from for those that don't want to spend a fortune to listen to their favorite tunes. Of course, before you purchase, you should be cautious because where you’ve purchased your favorite tracks plays a role in which player you should select. For instance, if you’ve purchased music from iTunes, only Apple’s iPod players will recognize and play the music. However, if you own a lot of DRM-free music or music that isn’t limited to just one company’s products, there are some great options to select without breaking the bank. See our favorite picks below.

Best Overall: AGPtEK M20S

AGPtek is a relatively new brand, but it has impressed quite a few people when it comes to cheap MP3 players. And the AGPtek M20S is a great model for those who don’t need as many features. Despite the AGPtek M20S’s low price, it has a premium-feeling metal construction and it doesn’t take up much space at only 3 x .3 x 1.2 inches. It can play a wide variety of audio formats, including MP3, WMA, OGG, APE, FLAC, WAV and AAC. (Not to mention support for FM radio.) The M20S also has great battery life, with 14 hours of playback on a two-hour charge. When it comes to storage, the M20S comes with 8GB of room, but you can expand it with up to a 64GB microSD card. It also has support for 20 different languages, including English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Dutch and Portuguese, making this model a hit with people from all over the world.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Apple iPod Shuffle (4th Generation)

First released in 2013, Apple’s iPod Shuffle remains a shining light in the MP3 space, thanks to its diminutive size and wallet-friendly price point. The clip-and-go iPod Shuffle, available in a variety of colors, has around 2GB of storage and 15 hours of battery life. The easy-access controls offer a big, clickable control pad making it easy to change volume, as well as select new music.

The iPod Shuffle does exactly that, it shuffles the music that’s installed on the iPod. Without a screen, you’re left to the whim of the Shuffle’s “shuffling” and you hope that it finds you the song you want to listen to. To help offset the lack of song selection, Apple included “VoiceOver” that can tell you the title, artist and battery status. The anodized aluminum build feels sturdy and durable. Years after its release, the iPod Shuffle remains the gold standard for under $100 MP3 players.

Best Audio Quality: Sony NW-A35 16GB Walkman

If you’re in the market for an MP3 player, it’s most likely stellar audio that you’re after. Look no farther than the Sony NW-A35, which produces better-than-CD audio quality. Its S-Master HX digital amp cuts distortion and noise across a wide range of frequencies, while the DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Experience) HX feature upgrades music to high-resolution.

And not only does this MP3 player sound good, but it looks good, too. Its simple, minimalist design reflects how easy it is to use, thanks to its 3.1-inch intuitive touch-screen. It comes in 16GB and 64GB models, but can be expanded up to 192GB with the help of a microSD card. You’ll also bask in up to 45 hours of playback time and smooth Bluetooth connectivity.

Best for Running: MP3 Player, popwoods Music Player 16GB

For athletes who like to get their heart pumping to music, but don’t like carrying a bulky smartphone, this MP3 player is the answer. It has a built-in pedometer function to record steps, distance and calories burnt and even comes with an adjustable armband to keep your hands free. With 16GB of storage, it can hold 4,000+ songs, though that can be expanded up to 128GB with a TF card. This device has a built-in 500mAh battery to deliver up to 50 hours of playback, so you needn’t worry about your battery dying mid-workout.

Design-wise, it measures 3.5 x 1.57 x 0.4 inches and weighs three ounces, which makes it easy to carry throughout a long run. It also has a 1.8-inch color TFT screen, plus four directional keys that make it easy to navigate your music.

Best Budget: MYMAHDI MP3/MP4 Music Player

What’s the best thing about the MYMAHDI MP3 player? It’s cheap. That makes it perfect for the person who might not be the most, how shall we say, responsible when it comes to their gadgets, but still wants to listen to music on the go. It has 8GB of internal storage, which can be expanded up to 128GB via a microSD card. Music is easy to add via drag and drop when connected to your computer, and it supports a variety of formats, including MP3, WMA, FLAC, APE, AAC and more.

The body is made of metal and for its compact size, it's fairly heavy (78 grams), but that makes it all the more durable. With a speaker on the back, it also doubles as a voice recorder with a convenient A-B playback button.

Best Battery Life: Sony NWE395

With an impressive 35 hours of audio playback (four hours for video) battery life, Sony’s NWE395 MP3 player is an exceptional option for commuters and travelers. The 16GB of onboard memory offers more than enough space for thousands of songs and even space for video. The 1.77-inch display might not feel like a large video screen in today’s tablet-heavy world, but for quick video clips and some photos, it’s a nice addition to have without all the bells and whistles of distracted smartphone life. Fortunately, you’ll have excellent audio quality, thanks to the inclusion of a dynamic normalizer, which balances the volume levels between songs.

Like most non-Apple MP3 players, Sony offers support for all lossless music formats and offers easy content transfer with drag and drop through a file explorer on Windows. Creating playlists from your PC through Sony’s dedicated software offers easy transfer right back to the E395 for immediate use. The design itself is typical Sony quality and minimal with just the necessary buttons on the front in a format that’s easy to memorize for on-the-go use.

Best Design: AGPTEK A01T 8GB Bluetooth MP3 Player

Next to Apple devices, MP3 players have a habit of looking pretty dated, but the AGPTEK A01T holds its own when it comes to design. It’s sleek and slim, designed with six touch buttons and a 1.8-inch color TFT display. Its body is metal and comes in a subtle gold color.

With an intelligent digital noise reduction chip, it reduces noise to let you focus on the music. With a built-in pedometer, it’s also a great option for athletes and the Bluetooth 4.0 functionality means you won’t have to put up with tangled cables. The AGPTEK A01T has 8GB of storage, with support up to 128GB, and can deliver up to 45 hours of music-playing or 16 hours of video-playing on a 1.5-hour charge.

Best All-in-One: Sony NWZWS613BLK 4 GB Bluetooth Sports Wearable

Sony’s 4GB NWZWS613 all-in-one is a bit different from the others on this list in that it combines an MP3 player and headphones, forgoing the need for a separate base unit and headphone connection. It features a wrap-around design for a light yet secure fit and is even waterproof up to two meters (though it’s not suitable for salt-water use), sweat-proof and dust-proof.

It comes with a wrap-around ring used as a remote control and when paired with your phone, it can take calls on the move. With a quick three-minute charge, you’ll get up to 60 minutes of playback, which is the perfect amount of time for a workout. You can easily load up music by dragging and dropping your favorite songs, albums, and workout playlists from iTunes for Mac or Windows.

Best for Lossless Audio: FiiO X1 II Lossless Media Player

When it comes to MP3 players, it’s important to remember that that name doesn’t really encompass every audio file that can be played natively on these devices. Even on the Apple options, you can load on lossless file types (FLAC, WAV, etc.) and play them back at a much higher quality than MP3s. And that’s exactly what this FiiO X1 II player is designed for: full, high-resolution, lossless audio playback at a pretty affordable price point.

FiiO is a company known, actually, for providing portable headphone amps, which explains why they’ve centered themselves on the lossless sector of the portable media player industry. First, let’s start with the connectivity, as it’s arguably the most interesting aspect of the design. It does provide Bluetooth connectivity, though third-party reviews indicate that it is perhaps a little spotty and unreliable.

The FiiO X1 II uses pro audio protocol and gives you a beautifully balanced output the likes of which you would normally only find in full pro stereo systems. It supports the above-mentioned audio formats in addition to a few others, but it does so at 192 kHz/32-bit resolution, which is well beyond the quality of CD playback, and certainly beyond that of MP3s. There’s a reduced latency mode with all of the wireless functions, and there’s even some smart tech that registers that if you’ve connected it to your car system and optimizes the power to match the playback.

Best for Sports and Activities: RCA 4GB Sport Clip

Killer price and beautiful simplicity combine in this ultra-affordable RCA MP3 player to give you the ideal companion to your morning workout. While it doesn’t offer the flashy touchscreen like many others, and doesn’t feel quite as premium in build quality, it’s slim size, and pen-like design means that it will slide into your activewear pockets or clip onto a strap (with the included detachable sport clip) better than most of the other options on this list.

It’s got 4GB of internal storage, which can hold up to 1,200 MP3s, as well as a built-in rechargeable battery for ease of use. And because the USB is directly built into the device just like a thumb drive, you won’t need to spend additional time finding a micro-USB cable just to charge it up or transfer songs. It’s a no-fuss, low-price option for those who don’t need to put all the bells and whistles in to their jogging music player.

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