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in this issue ASA BUTTERFIELD BY MITCHELL NGUYEN MCCORMACK

Gadget: Dedicated Portable Audio Player

CONCERT IN A POCKET. Any smartphone can play music, but for THE TRUE audiophile, a dedicated audio player can be indispensable.

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WHEN SMALL IS TALL

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If you simply can’t get through the day without your playlist of favorite tunes at hand, then the SanDisk Clip Jam might be for you. Yes, that’s SanDisk, the brand known primarily for its memory cards and flash drives. The Clip Jam, appropriately enough, is adequately small to be clipped on to your shirt or bag strap. Sound quality isn’t exactly stellar, but still deep and rich. There’s no support for lossless audio files or other fancy formats, but, again, the aim here is convenience. And that’s exactly what you get: A small gadget that’s easily carried around and can hold, oh, around 1,600 or more songs. Pretty slick, no?

HIGH FII-DELITY

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The X series of portable music players from Fiio are among the most compelling pieces of evidence that dedicated audio hardware are leagues ahead of common mobile devices in terms of sound quality. This tradition continues with the X5. It might not exactly look stunning, but once you load up some of your favorite tracks, crank the volume to the absolute max, and notice the lack of any distortion when you put on your headphones, you’ll definitely swear off listening to music on your phone ever again.

BLISS FOR THE RITZ

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Let’s get one thing straight: Astell & Kern has never been shy about aiming at deep-pocketed audiophiles. But you definitely get what you pay for and, with the brand’s new flagship audio player, the AK380, you get the kind of quality you’ve literally never heard of before. We’re talking about 32-bit/384kHZ capability—quite a large step from the more common definition of high-resolution audio, which still stands at 24bit/192kHz. And let’s not forget all the extra bells-and-whistles that are also available, from an exclusive docking cradle, a CD-ROM drive and even a portable amp. What more can you ask for?

WALK THIS WAY

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When it comes to portable audio players, no name is as instantly recognizable as Sony’s Walkman. Of course, the original model from 1979 is a far cry from what we have today, especially the NW-ZX2, which perfectly captures the magic of the Walkman’s heydays. This is essentially a premium audio player with incredible audio quality and extensive support for a wide range of audio files. The icing on the cake here is the device’s Android operating system and onboard Wi-Fi that allows it to run, say, music streaming apps. However, the price tag might sting a bit.

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