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The one weakness of the previous generation of Sansa players was sound quality, and although SanDisk has improved things it's still not quite up there with the best. For starters, the View still won't play lossless formats, which is a big disappointment on a player with this sort of capacity, although it does support non-DRM AAC (including HE AAC) in addition to the usual MP3, AAC and Audible formats.
To see how it sounded, I hooked up the Grado SR325i headphones I use as reference and started back-to-back listening tests against the Trekstor Vibez, using a selection of music encoded at 192kbps in MP3 format.
Georgie Fame's Live At The Kentish Town Forum album, with its big band sound, is a fantastic test of dynamics, loudness and smoothness, and it was immediately apparent that the View is a very bright-sounding player. It boasts impressive punch and loudness: switch the volume limiter off, and it'll drive these large, supra-aural headphones to a decent volume. But it's also obvious that the View still has that typical SanDisk lack of smoothness, which translates to slightly harsh, grating high notes. In comparison, the Vibez has a fuller sound that's likely to be easier on the ear over extended listening periods. The iPod nano isn't quite as forward or exciting to listen to as the View, but is as detailed and a lot more ear-friendly and laid back.
Moving on from live music to something a little more processed - Mary J Blige's album The Breakthrough - and the aforementioned lack of smoothness is still apparent. More obvious, however, and disappointing, is the distinct lack of low-end grunt and bass quality. It's clear that despite the improvements, SanDisk's players still don't quite cut it in the sound quality stakes.
As a consolation, the bundled earbuds are surprisingly good - they're quite punchy and reasonably well balanced - but Trekstor's Vibez, Creative's Zen, most Sony players I've listened to, and (to a lesser extent) Apple's latest generation of iPods are better sounding players.
If you're after the ultimate in sound quality, the View won't be for you - there are better players out there. But you simply cannot deny the sheer bang per buck that this player offers. A 16GB flash player for under £130 is something no other manufacturer can come close to mustering: the 12GB hard disk-based Vibez is £20 more (without the video playback capability), and it's double the capacity of an iPod nano for the same money. When you add the fantastic usability via the new click wheel, the FM tuner, and external mic to the equation, nothing else comes close for value.
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