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Moving to quieter material and things don't really improve much, with a low-level hiss becoming apparent that's just impossible to ignore. This was most evident when listening to Pat Metheney's atmospheric Map of the World and you don't have to have expensive headphones to hear it either. Anyone with a decent pair of noise isolating earphones will notice it, and it results in a top end that's just a little bit over-harsh, with high hats and cymbals grating against the eardrum more than they should.
Compared to Sony's NWD-B105 - one of the best sounding budget players I've heard - and Apple's nano, the 105 lacks smoothness. Even SanDisk's cheap-and-cheerful Sansa Express is a better listen. And the bundled earphones don't help either: they sound ok in the mid-range and top end, but lack any kind of bass or coherence when the music gets complicated.
Of course one thing the 105 boasts that not many other sub-£60 players can is a colour screen and video playback. But again performance lets it down. Apart from the low resolution and small 1.8in size it has a slightly flickery quality that gave me a headache after looking at it for a while. It's nowhere near as good as the iPod nano's screen, for example, which boasts both higher resolution and rock-solid picture quality.
Archos' 105 isn't a bad player for the money. Just under £60 gets you an attractive, well-designed piece of kit, a reasonably-sized colour LCD screen and decent usability as well, all of which are hard to come by at this end of the market.
But it's rather basic in terms of features and is a bit of a compromise too: it's neither a brilliant music player nor a particularly practical pocket video player. If it was my choice I'd spend a little less cash and buy a music-only Sony NWD-B105 or Sansa Express, or stump up a little more cash for a player with a better screen.
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