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Top 7 alternatives to the iPod Shuffle and iPod Nano

Apple's iconic iPods are going away. But if you're still in the market for a dedicated music player, there are still some worthy options out there.

Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Ty Pendlebury
3 min read

Apple didn't invent the portable music player, but the company's iPod was the category's first true mass-market phenomenon. But in the post-iPhone era, iPod sales have continued to plunge -- which is why Apple finally pulled the plug on sales of the iPod Shuffle and the iPod Nano yesterday. 

So what now? Of course, these models will still be available in retail and online until stock runs out. But we know some of you still want non-phone music player alternatives for workouts, for the beach or just for serious music appreciation. With that in mind, we've sorted through the shrinking MP3 player market for some worthwhile alternatives.

SanDisk Clip Jam


Price: $30

SanDisk must be pretty happy right about now -- the SanDisk Clip Jam is one of the only ultracheap MP3 players left. The Clip Jam has always been a good alternative to the Shuffle because a) it has a screen, and b) it doesn't require iTunes.

Sony NW-E390 Series


Price: From $50

We haven't reviewed the Sony players, but with prices starting at 4GB and based on what we've seen from Sony's portable players of the past few decades, it should be a decent option.

Fiio X1


Price: $99

An audiophile favorite, the Fiio X1 offers a lot for your hundred bucks. It looks and sounds more expensive than it is and will sound great with headphones many times the price. While not as exercise-friendly as the Apple models, this is the budget MP3 player to buy.

Cowon Plenue D


The Cowon Plenue D music player


Price: $190

Cowon has had some stunning players in recent years -- the discontinued Plenue 1 is still one of our reference portables -- and the tiny Plenue D follows in this tradition. It's easy to use, sounds really good for the money, and fits conveniently in your pocket.

Apple iPod Touch 

Sarah Tew

Price: $199

The iPod Touch is now Apple's last remaining MP3 player, but with a camera, Wi-Fi and iTunes Store compatibility, it's one of the most fully-featured here. If you don't want a phone, this is your next best option. 

Apple Watch


Price: From $279

It's the circle of life. The Apple Watch essentially started off as a Shuffle with a Watchband and now it becomes its own Shuffle replacement. While getting music on to the Watch is far from straightforward, if you're an Apple user and want to work out, this is the only real option left. 

Audioquest Dragonfly Red and Black


From left to right, the original DragonFly, DragonFly Black, DragonFly Red

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Price: $99/$199

People buy an MP3 player for one of two reasons, and both have involve their phones. The first is for the times they don't want to carry one around all the time, and the second is that they want something that sounds better. If you're in the second camp, then the Audioquest Dragonfly DACs are for you. This is a separate stick with a USB port on one end and a headphone jack on the other -- it's designed to improve the sound from your PC or phone. Sure, hanging a DAC off an umbilical USB cable is a small inconvenience. But it's not as bad as having two players in your pocket, and the cutting-edge performance more than makes up for it.