The Sansa Clip is SanDisk’s newest edition to the small, low-capacity player market. Clearly aimed to compete with Apple’s Shuffle, it obviously dominates in every way except design and size. It carries itself like many of the Sansa products in design, interface, and features. What sets this Clip apart from the others is its unique form factor and surprisingly good sound quality.
Sansas have not been known for good sound quality. However, over the last few new releases they have been getting progressively better with the Clip being the best sounding Sansa to date- even treading onto audiophile territory.
Read for more of an in-depth review.
- Quick Look
- Capacity: 1GB / 2GB
- Colors: Black, Blue, Pink, Red
- Screen: 2 Color OLED
- Battery Life: 15 Hours
- Audio Formats: MP3, WMA, WAV, Audible
The Clip comes with the basics: a 4” standard USB plug and earbuds. I have yet to see any official SanDisk accessories or even third-party accessories, but personally, I don’t think that too many aftermarket accessories are needed for the clip other than a few cases. I’d like to see something with a silicon or rubber skin, with perhaps a key chain attachment, maybe an armband. The clip on the player, though, does work very well for active use.
The exterior of the player is made entirely of plastic. The main housing is glossy and scratch-resistant with a slight metallic finish that could be likened to car paint. The face of the player has the same finish beneath a scratch-resistant plastic overlay, which covers the screen and the signature blue, glowing ring. The back removable clip is made of an opaque colored plastic matching the rest of the body.
The build quality is predictably light and toy-like, but button tolerances are tight, aside from the power switch that rattles a little. Despite the fact that it may feel “cheap”, I can comfortably say it will hold up in the durability department based on a few tosses across the room onto a hardwood floor. It will start to show wear if you are haphazardly tossing it into your gym bag or back pack, but will not have bearing on its functionality.
There is one aspect I don’t like regarding the placement of the headphone jack. Right angle headphone plugs get in the way of the volume controls on the right of the player. This is even more so when a heavier duty plug is used . Switching the USB port and headphone jack , or maybe even placing the headphone jack at the bottom of the player, would have been a better setup.
The bright 2-colo,r 4-line OLED screen performs well in almost all lighting conditions but will become unreadable in direct sunlight, just as nearly any non-transreflective display will. The screen brightness is adjustable and can be very bright, lighting a room in the dark. Unfortunately, you cannot dim the signature blue wheel.
The Clip is an MTP device and states in all packaging and literature that it is only compatible with Windows XP SP2 and above. This is the official supp
ort; however, I did find that it is actually MTP/MSC OS selectable, meaning that if the MTP protocol is not present when used with Linux or Mac systems, it will kick into MSC mode.
For Windows users, files can still be dragged and dropped like MSC mode, but using a media player will give you full playlist support. You have a choice of quite a few MTP-based media players like Windows Media Player 11, MonkeyMedia, WinAmp, and many others.
The interface is common to most of the Sansa family and nearly identical to the Sansa Express. The interface is easy to use. Although there is slight learning curve to get over, once you’ve used it for a day or so you’ll be golden. There is no acceleration on scrolling, so long lists of songs may be a bit harder to scroll though.
Compared to the Express, the larger buttons are much easier to use, and they have a better click to them. However, as I mentioned above, the volume buttons are hindered by the location of the headphone jack – a problem for those who have a right-angle or large plug.
FM Radio & Recording
The FM reception quality was all over the place. For instance in the book store I could barely pick up the strongest station in the area, but it worked fine outside. In a two-story house it picked up most stations but had a good amount of static. At the gym the TV transmitters picked up perfectly, but had weak reception of stations. Overall, I would rate the FM reception as sub-par. Radio recording is straightforward and records in WAV format.
This works just like any other recording-to-WAV format. When recording, the Sansa Clip can be paused which makes it convenient for voice dictation or class lectures. Like most players the tactile buttons are audible, and microphonic sounds will be picked up though simply handling the device.
Just a quick mention of the sleep timer, since I find that many people like to listen to their MP3 players to fall asleep. Intervals can be set at 10, 20, 30, 45, 60, 90, and 120 minutes.
One thing I really miss in Sansa players (and many will agree with me) is the ability to browse music in File/Folder fashion. The Clip, like like it’s Sansa brothers, uses ID3 tag browsing, but many prefer to keep their music organized themselves. An addition of file folder browsing would be nice to have in the next firmware update.
Playlist must be managed from a media player such as Windows Media Player or the like. The Clip does have a “go list” which allows you to create one on-the-go playlist. It’s a common feature and defiantly great to have, but it would have been nice to be able to save multiple playlists.
The EQ is responsive, but it cuts frequencies instead of boosting them. This is not a big deal unless you are using a more demanding headphone – then you may lose some necessary volume. The player has a 5-band custom EQ as well as several presets. To get picky, the bass end of the spectrum is not low enough; it sounds like it’s cutting in somewhere around 80-100hz. This is where it should be for a mediocre set of headphones, so that frequency should remain; but why not add another two bands and make it a 7-band EQ?
On the other hand, I prefer a flat EQ and only rely on the EQ to compensate for a poor sounding player. That said, I leave the Clip at a flat EQ since it performs nicely across the sound spectrum.
SanDisk touts in the press release that the Clip is “…one of the best sounding MP3 players on the market.” I own a majority share of the MP3 players on the market and I would say that statement is pretty accurate.
I discuss in many of my reviews that most consumers will not be able to tell the difference in sound quality since they don’t spend any money on headphones. This is still the case with the Clip: you will not be able to distinguish the sound quality difference if you are using the stock earbuds or modestly upgraded headphones. The difference will, however, be revealed once you plug in a nice set of phones.
On the go I rock a pair of Future Sonics Atrios M5’s ($200 MSRP) and they can reveal a lot about the quality of your audio source, so I demand a player that will keep up. Lately, I have found a good match with the Toshiba Gigabeat T400 and Cowon iAudio 7, being that they have enough clarity and warmth when paired with the Atrios. Those two players, compared to the Clip, had a slight advantage, noticeably with the bit more clarity in the midbass and highs. Keep in mind this comparison was done with very critical listening with 320kbps MP3s along with the use of my Sennheiser HD650’s.
The bottom line is that the Clip can run with the higher end players and is more than acceptable to use with a $100+ set of headphones.
I was really looking forward to this player because of its claims of having great sound quality, but to be completely honest, I was very skeptical since the Sansa family has historically produced mediocre sound quality. To my surprise I was not let down: the Clip played very nicely with my higher end headphones. What I like about the Clip, just like the Express, is that it can be a used as a spare or “beater” player in harsh work or active environments due to its low price. The bonus here is excellent sound quality, and what I consider to be a more practical form-factor compared to the Express and other players in its class like the Zen Stone.
The feature set is standard like many MP3 players and the interface is straight forward, with a slight learning curve unless you are familiar with Sansa players. The one thing that is missing, and would make this player much better, is a microSD slot as found in almost every other Sansa. Not too big of a deal, but it really would have been killer to be able to slip a 32GB microSD card into the Clip.
At its price of $40 and $60 MSRP I can easily recommend this to beginners as well as seasoned MP3 player users as a spare. The Clip has found a permanent home in my gearbag.
- Great sound quality
- Nice form factor
- Position of headphone jack
- Poor radio reception
- No microSD card slot