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Best Overall: Apple iPod touch (7th Generation) at Amazon
"Easily the most versatile portable music player for workouts."
Best for Swimming: H2O Audio Stream Waterproof MP3 Player at Amazon
"This ergonomic MP3 player is an ideal fit for all types of swimmers."
Best for Running: Sony Walkman NW-WS623 at Amazon
"A great standalone music player for runners."
Best Advanced Features: Apple Watch Series 5 at Amazon
"You can easily load up your favorite songs before you head to the gym or go out for a run."
Most Compact Player: AGPTEK E02 at Amazon
"Weighs .67 ounces and measures 2.75 x 1.02 x .63 inches — roughly the size of a pack of gum."
Best 2-in-1: TomTom Spark Cardio at Amazon
"A compact music player that also does double duty as a smartwatch and fitness tracker."
The iPod touch is something of an oddball since it’s really just a baby iPhone without the added benefits of mobile data and trailblazing horsepower. When you’re working out, however, that alone makes it an excellent choice that won’t break the bank. Starting at 32GB of internal storage, you can put more than enough music on it for even the longest workout routines, and if you detest compression, there’s plenty of room for your FLAC files too.
While the iPod touch isn’t the most portable music player, it’s easily the most versatile. Not only can you load it up with music in almost any format you like, but you also have an entire catalog of iOS apps to draw from. So if you’re a Spotify user, you can stream or take your existing playlists offline at the gym before setting off into the streets for a long outdoor run. Moreover, you’re far more likely to find workout accessories for the iPod touch than for any other music player out there. As Apple hasn’t changed the dimensions in the past seven years, there's already a huge catalog of bespoke cases and armbands in full swing.
Even if you’re already an iPhone user — or, perhaps, especially if you are — the iPod touch can be a great option for your workouts, since it provides the same user interface you’re already familiar with and is compatible with almost all of the same apps you may have already paid for. Yet it’s more portable and less expensive than the latest iPhones, and it will free you from distractions, letting you focus on your workout rather than a steady stream of irksome notifications.
With 10 hours of straight play time, 8GB of memory (2,000 songs-worth), and an IPX8 waterproof rating (the highest you can get), this ergonomic MP3 player is an ideal fit for all types of swimmers. The device supports a variety of files, including MP3s, WMAs, FLACs, and more. You can also pair the player with your smartphone—be it an iPhone, Samsung, Android, etc.—to connect wirelessly to your Spotify and Pandora accounts.
Lap swimmers will appreciate the H2O Audio Stream Waterproof MP3 Player's superior underwater performance. With a 360 snap-clip, the player easily connects to goggles, shorts, and swimsuit straps.
At first glance, the Sony Walkman NW-WS623 looks like a pair of wireless headphones. But with options for either 4GB or 16GB of internal storage, the NW-WS623 is a great standalone music player for runners who don’t want to worry about bringing along a separate MP3 player.
The NW-WS623 is waterproof and sweatproof, making it ideal for exercise. It can even withstand being submerged in salt water, so you can take it swimming or surfing in the ocean. With an ergonomic in-ear design, the NW-WS623 should stay securely on your head, even while running. The internal storage can hold hours of music, podcasts and audiobooks that you can play for up to 12 hours per charge. The device also has a quick-charge option where you can get up to 60 minutes of charge in three minutes.
Since you can upload audio files directly to the NW-WS623, you can use it without connecting your phone. That may be ideal for some runners, but if you prefer to take your phone with you during a workout, you can pair it to these headphones and stream music or even answer phone calls via Bluetooth.
Seeing as Apple pioneered the mainstream portable music player in the form of the iPod, it should come as no surprise that among the many other features the Apple Watch offers, it's also a great wearable music player.
Thanks to the tight integration with your iPhone's Music app, you can easily load up your favorite songs before you head to the gym or go out for a run, and then pair up a set of Bluetooth headphones to listen to your music on the go, without needing to lug around your phone. And if you’re an Apple Music subscriber, the cellular version of the Apple Watch Series 5 will give you wireless access to your entire library on the go, along with Apple’s own collection of over 40 million songs, right on your wrist.
Of course, the Apple Watch is so much more than just a music player — it’s also a great workout device, so you’re getting the best of two worlds here. Built-in fitness apps track your workouts, including things like distance run, laps swum, and calories burned. In addition, a GPS records the route you take while a huge collection of specialized third-party fitness apps are available from Apple’s sprawling App Store.
The charming AGPTEK E02 comes with 8GB of memory, weighs .67 ounces and measures 2.75 x 1.02 x .63 inches – roughly the size of a pack of gum.
With a clip on its back made for active exercisers, the AGPTEK features an FM Radio, voice recorder and up to 10 hours of MP3 audio playback. The tiny MP3 player has one button that acclimates to the user’s thumb, making it easy to navigate through songs, as well as pause and play. The E02 supports up to 32GB of memory with its Micro SD card and plays MP3 and WMA file formats. It comes with a one-year warranty.
If you're looking to leave your smartphone behind while you hit the trails but still want a compact music player that also does double duty as a smartwatch and fitness tracker, your best bet is the TomTom Spark Cardio device. Capable of storing 500 songs (56 hours of listening), the TomTom Spark Cardio is worn around your wrist and comes with cordless Bluetooth headphones, so you don't have to worry about wires inhibiting your stride.
Even better, the built in fitness tracker function allows you to monitor your progress 24/7. At the touch of a button, you can see how many minutes you've been active, steps you've taken, calories you've burned, as well as measure your heart rate, thanks to the smartwatch's eight different modes. For example, enter cycling mode and you'll be able to see the duration, distance, speed and pace for your entire ride, while the swimming mode will tell you your stroke rate and number of laps. And to help you stay on track of your progress and goals, the device syncs with the following apps: NikePlus, Runkeeper, UP by Jawbone, Strava, MapMyFitness and Endomondo.
We bought four top-rated workout music players that our reviewers tested for 66 hours. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these music players, from their size to their special features. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
Type of Exercise - Are you a runner? Or maybe a swimmer? Or do you change up the type of exercise you do depending on the weather or the mood you’re in? Different players cater to different types of workouts. Those who work out in the outdoors or swim regularly may want to look at waterproof players. And runners will want something as light and compact as possible so it won’t weigh them down.
Connection - The whole point of buying a separate workout music player is that you probably don’t want to carry your phone with you. You’ll want to make sure, then, that whichever one you pick attaches in a comfortable and secure way. Some use a watch, while others clip to your clothes. Or if you do prefer to have your phone with you, then an armband holster might be a good purchase.
Size - When it comes to workout music players, size matters. You want something that is small enough to be discreet and to tuck in a pocket, but large enough to where it isn’t cumbersome to use buttons or skip a song (or alternatively, has a headphone cord that allows you to control playback). Players often increase in price as they decrease in size, so you may need to figure out what kind of balance you want to strike between the two.