I still fondly remember my first MP3 player. It was an iRiver H320, which replaced my trusty Sony Discman. It was a time when we only used one device like music player, point-and-shoot camera, email machine, GPS navigation system, waste of time and everything in between.
Smartphones may be the epitome of convenience, but it wasn’t until I recently rekindled my love for a dedicated portable music player that I realized what we had lost along the way. And no, it wasn’t just the headphone jack.
The transition to wireless headphones and streaming services has made it difficult to get high-quality music through your smartphone, but the biggest cost of convergence is focus. When opening Spotify on our phones, we are bombarded with notifications and apps calling out our attention, to the point where the music has become just background noise. It’s just too hard to block out the noise and temptation of competing apps.
Since switching back to a dedicated portable music player, I have found myself listening to music more deeply. In other words, it made me listen to music like before. If you, like me, are trying to cut down on your screen time, stepping out of the house without an all-in-one messaging / social media / gaming machine like your smartphone may be just what you are looking for.
Of course, the sound can also be much better, and audiophiles preferred dedicated portable music players from the start. Not all music players are created equal, so it is important to keep a few things in mind when purchasing one.
I’m a huge fan of the Astel & Kern SR15 (which, by chance, is wholly owned by iRiver) for several key reasons.
Unlike other high-end portable players, the SR15 is super compact and sports a striking angular design that is anything but boring. The user interface is smooth and responsive, but, more importantly, it uses its own version of Android, devoid of Google’s apps and services. This means that you won’t be tempted to install apps not related to music, as there is no app store.
In order to get your favorite music apps on the device, you use the Astel & Kern “Open App” function. Granted, it’s a bit of a clunky installation process, but it works and it’s something you only have to do once. I was able to download and install Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora and Soundcloud to complement the preinstalled Tidal and Deezer.