Moving onto something a little more mainstream, I fired up some Muse in the shape of the ludicrously silly track, Knights of Cydonia and was yet again impressed. The Lplayer pulls off the complex, multilayered guitars, synths and vocals with aplomb. There's plenty of bass without it being overbearing, plenty of clarity without things getting grating and the mid range is clear as a bell.
Time to chill out with a bit of jazz next, and Pat Metheney's atmospheric Map of the World was rendered just as well. Compared to the nano (playing the same track in Apple lossless format), which sounds pretty good in its own right, the Lplayer has more spark, more zing - the music just sounds more three dimensional and solid. I'd go so far as to say that this is among the best compact MP3 player I've yet laid ears upon - it's far better sounding than the Fuze and the nano and the Creative Zen also. In fact, it's as good as Sony's excellent NWZ-A829.
It does come with a pair of earbuds in the box, of course, which are okay - there's no buzz or distortion at loud volumes - but to listen to this player with a pair of bundled phones would be a waste - as with most other compact MP3 players at this price.
All this adds up to an impressive package that makes the Lplayer one of the best compact players around at the moment. It's very pocketable, beautifully made, has an excellent control system and screen, and a very good range of features.
It's also pretty competitive, value-wise, at £99 for the 8GB and £69 for the 4GB version - about the same price as an iPod nano. Most important of all, is that sound quality - a traditional strong point of iRiver players - is fantastic.