Ever since MP3 emerged I was interested in portable MP3 players. One reason for this is that in my eyes all older technologies like tape were ancient and outdated and way too limited. MP3 offered more flexibility - can you still remember waiting 90 minutes real-time for a tape being recorded? Then you know what I mean.
One of my first encounters with those portable players was a survey I wrote for the German Linux Magazine in 1999. I soon discovered that not only Linux support and storage capacity made major differences but also sound quality.
Sadly most MP3-player manufacturers do not seem to actually test their players with the intended audio equipment - a headphone! Most players promise a wide frequency range, linear frequency scale and all such. But when connected to a real headphone you soon discover that most amplifiers in those players can not keep up and drop out, especially in the lower frequencies, i.e. bass.
The result is that most players sound quite nice but the real fun is missing. I found this to be true for most players I tested so far. Here is my rating and test result (from oldest to latest test):