For the review we kicked off by coming over all minimalist and playing some Arvo Pärt - including his Miserere and Fratres - in the original ECM recordings, and Gorecki's O Domina Nostra. The sense of space and dynamic around all three works was simply glorious – they really have never sounded so good on an MP3 player.
To blow away the air of the pseudo-medieval, some loud Linkin Park – Minutes to Midnight – was called for along with the current office favourites from Seth Lakeman and Chris Knight that we have been using to appraise a lot of audio kit of late. Again, we can't think of a single reason to fault the S series' sound quality. Loud or quiet, acoustic or electronic, audio effects on or off, it just works - and works very, very well. Bass was solid, treble well defined, distortion of any sort noticeable only by its complete absence and everything was presented with a lovely feeling of balance and clarity.
Delivers over 37 hours of play
All those sound modifiers actually prove to be of some use too and manage to open up the soundscape without making things sound wholly and horribly artificial. Our tip: set the Equalizer and VTP to None, and everything else to On.
Even though the screen shares a common basic specification with the E series, it presents a far more fluid, colourful and coherent image. Watching the same iPlayer-sourced WMV9 video of a BBC Four special on Valery Gergiev that we used to test the Samsung Q1, the S639F proved every bit as effective a video player, the 2in screen notwithstanding.
The Big Idea in the S series is the SenseMe function. What this does is scan the musical content of the player using something called 12 Tone Analysis and LCMIR (Low-Complexity Music Information Retrieval) to group your tunes into ten playlist categories – Extreme, Classical, Electronic, Acoustic, Lounge, Pop Ballad, Upbeat, Relax, Energetic and Daytime. It's not wholly unlike the iTunes Genius playlist creator.
the radio is good too...
I have an S series Sony MP3 player, and I can confirm its rather good.
I recieved it as a present, and whether under normal circumstances I would pay extra for the sound quality, and usable interface, and physicaly well engineered feel, I couldnt say.
However the radio is rather good. It apears to use the headphone leads as an antena, so golden eared freaks with shielded wires may be out of luck, however it auto-tunes well, and can pick up a good stable signal where cheaper dedicated radios cant. FM only.
Nobody is asking you to pay £90 to enjoy music. In fact I think £86 (Amazon UK) for a 16GB DAP with great screen, great battery life and great SQ is a bargain. The equivalent iPod Nano 16GB costs around £140+ and comes with crap earbuds.
Still people have different requirement than others. In your case may I suggest Sandisk's Sansa Fuze. It has a reasonable display, great SQ and with support for micro SDHC cards. £49 at Play.com for 4GB. Or maybe the Sansa Clip.
Too expensive to just play some music!
Why do we have to pay £90+ to play our music?
Do we really need video playback and things?
Can we just have a music player (perhaps with a simple but effective display) that sounds as good as these reviewed models, that have memory slots (8GB SDHC cards are only a tenner now), but are much cheaper than these models?
Maybe Sony do have such things but you never seem to see reviews on them, as such, I don't know if the sound quality is as good etc.
You sound as though you are impressed that the Ipod touch can do stuff like maps and apps, something many portable devices were capable of doing years ago...
another tedious apple fan
On behalf of the ipod touch (which of course is a fair bit more expensive), the ability to use the BBC iplayer over my wifi network at home is brilliant. I use this extended functionality more than playing music.
This Sony player may be a better out and out audio player, but my needs have moved on...
I now really do want the web browser, iplayer, Nike+, guitar tuner, bloomberg app, maps etc
This looks like Sony is winning last years battle again.