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You don't get the same snap and energy with pop tracks that you might get from, for instance, Cowon's S9 or Sony's NWZ-S639F, and in A-to-B tests the Philips GoGear Opus makes the Archos 2 sound slightly dull, but in isolation the output is well-balanced, clear and enjoyable. If the player has weaknesses, it's that the mid-range is probably a little too thin to carry heavy rock music, while fans of dance and electronic music will probably want something with a bit more welly at the bottom end.
Testing with the Opus, tracks by Massive Attack, Bat for Lashes and Beck didn't sound as rich and dynamic on the Archos 2, and switching the EQ preset to Bass only made the sound go flat and muffled. If you like electronic or bass-heavy music and fancy the Archos's low, low price point, then pair it with a set of bass-focused earphones if you want to avoid disappointment.
While we're being negative, it's also worth pointing out that, with only ten hours of music playback, the Archos 2's battery life is distinctly behind the curve. More seriously, file format support is not exactly extensive. MP3? Obviously. WMA? Why, of course. AAC, OGG, FLAC, APE? Not on your nelly.
The lack of support for FLAC is particularly galling, as with its high capacity, low price point and expandability, the Archos 2 might have found some love from audiophiles looking for a bargain basement, take anywhere player. Then again, audiophiles will probably also want a player that sounds spectacular, not merely solid. Arguably, though, the money saved on the Archos 2 could be put towards purchasing a better pair of earphones, so things might just balance out overall.
As it is, the major thing that the Archos 2 has going for it is that it's a lot better than you might expect for the money. Personally, I'd rather spend less on a 4GB Clip or more on the 8GB version and do without video. In fact, I'd rather pony up a little more dough for a more capable video PMP. All the same, were I a cash-strapped chap with a heaving music library, I'd probably be more tempted. If that sounds like you, and you can live without the last word in audio quality, then buy away. In a way, the Archos 2 is the Fiat Panda of the PMP world. It's not really funky, lovable or exceptional in any way, but it's affordable and does the job. For some people out there, that's enough.
The Archos 2 doesn't excel in any area, but it's very cheap and the quality isn't at all bad for the price. There are more exciting players out there, but it's worth considering if you're on a tight budget.
Scores In Detail
- Sound Quality