December 9, 2012

Sansa Clip+ Digital Audio Player

I just picked up another Digital Audio Player (DAP): the Sansa Clip+ by Sandisk. I like to use the term "DAP" for a couple of reasons. First, all of my digital music is in the FLAC format, so technically my devices are not "MP3" players. Second, I don't like to use the word "iPod" generically when referring to a digital music device (unless, of course, the device happens to be an iPod branded device by Apple). Getting back to the Clip+, I can't give it enough praise. In fact, this is my second Sansa Clip; I also have a first generation Clip (without the "+") that still works perfectly. So why buy another one?

Well, the first generation Clip only has 4 GB of memory, whereas the Clip+ has an expansion slot for a micro flash memory card. The Clip+ also has 4 GB of internal memory, but I added a 32 GB card for a total of 36 GB, which is more than enough for my needs. The Clip+ also comes in an 8 GB version, but the additional cost didn't make sense to me when those micro cards are so cheap (the 32 GB card was about $20.00). I still can't believe that twenty bucks can buy 32 GB of storage . . . this is simply amazing.

36 Gigabytes of Music!
I realize that iPhones and Android phones are making stand-alone DAPs unnecessary and on the verge of extinction. I get it. However, simple and compact DAPs are still very useful in certain situations. This little gem is very well known for its audiophile quality sound, decent output power, great battery life, and outstanding feature set (e.g., native support of FLAC, WMA, and Ogg Vorbis formats, ReplayGain support, a voice recorder, and FM radio). If you say "dude, it doesn't show cover art" or "I want a touch screen UI" then just move right along and go iPad yourself. I use the Clip+ to LISTEN TO MUSIC, and the tactile buttons are great for executing basic controls without having to look at the screen. In fact, I intentionally got the Clip+ (an old model) rather than the newer Clip Zip model, which has a tiny color display that accommodates cover art. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate color displays or touch screens. I realize that touch screen DAPs and phones have their place and are a treat to use and stare at from time to time (indeed, I have a Cowon J3, which is a DAP with a touch screen; see below).

The Sansa Clip+ is my newest DAP and it will get a lot of use, especially when I'm exercising or traveling. I guess my first generation Clip will be moved to the bench for the time being, along with some of my older DAPs and iPods. Speaking of which, the following picture shows all of the DAPs and iPods in my house:

The devices are arranged in chronological order of acquisition, beginning at the top left. Regretfully, I did not keep my first two DAPs: a Sony MiniDisc player (circa 1998); and the first generation iPod Mini (early 2004). Yes, I consider the MiniDisc player to be a DAP because the music was stored in digital form. Anyway, at the top left is my first generation iPod Shuffle (2005). That sucker is still in pristine shape, and I even have the stupid necklace lanyard thing (never used). Some folks still insist that the first generation Shuffle sounds better than ANY other iPod model. Next is my third generation iPod Nano (2007). I'd still be using this if Apple would pull its head out and support the FLAC format. Perhaps I could Rockbox my Nano (Rockbox is replacement firmware that is universally considered to be a huge upgrade to OEM firmware), but meh whatever.

I'll never buy another iPod device unless it supports FLAC (as an aside, if you are interested in non-iPod music players, then you ought to check out Anything But iPod. I did). Indeed, FLAC support is one of the reasons why I bought the first generation Sansa Clip (2008) and its big brother, the Sansa Fuze (2009). These two appear at the top right of the picture. The Fuze has all of the benefits of the Clip, along with a nice color screen and a memory expansion slot. My Cowon J3 is in the bottom left position (I got this in 2010). The J3 has an awesome color touch screen, audiophile sound quality, a memory expansion slot, and many other cool features. I really should watch videos on the J3 to take advantage of its screen, but I only play music and an occasional flash game on it. Next to the J3 is a fourth generation iPod Touch (2012). In a moment of weakness I allowed another Apple device into my house. It is not mine, I don't listen to music on it, and in my opinion it's only good for playing Angry Birds and Doodle Jump. Lastly, we have my new Sansa Clip+, as described above.

Getting back to the Clip+, all of the positive reviews you read online are true. There is no better DAP for the money, from both a feature set and sound quality perspective. If you need something inexpensive for the gym, for biking, running, skateboarding, or hiking, you really should get one. If you want audiophile sound and features, then install the Rockbox firmware, get some decent replacement headphones or IEMs (see this post), load up the Clip+ with some lossless FLAC files, and enjoy the music.

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