But the nano isn’t up there with the best in class from the likes of iRiver and Sony. It’s in the bass region that the nano falls down. You can hear the entire low end, but there just doesn’t seem to be quite enough body to it. The noisier parts of the soundtrack to Gladiator proved just too much for it, lacking the sheer power and drive to create the dramatic effect necessary, while the full-on wall of sound on Sigur Ros’ Glosoli confounded it completely. Massive Attack’s Teardrop needs a real thump to drive it forward and the nano just didn’t come up with the goods. Of course you can fiddle with the EQ to big up the bass, and the nano even has a bass boost feature, but I found both of these approaches unsatisfactory, particularly the latter which tended to produce an almost distorted-sounding, crunchy bottom end.
The other issue with the nano is the power of its output. Though you’re unlikely to be using it with anything other than ear-canal phones or earbuds, there are some who will consider connecting something larger. If this is the case, I’d suggest you try and give the nano a run out with your headphones of choice first, because, even at maximum volume, it doesn’t go very loud with difficult-to-drive cans. The top-of-the-range Sennheiser PXC 450s illustrate this perfectly, but I could also listen to my in-ear Shure E2Cs at maximum volume for short periods, without giving myself a headache.
In comparison to our current flash player of choice – iRiver’s Clix 2 – Apple’s latest nano has fallen behind the times a little. It does have a lovely colour screen but it can’t play video, its sound quality isn’t up there with the best and, though I haven’t mentioned it up until now, its music sound file support still only extends to MP3 and AAC, not OGG or (obviously) WMA.
So it’s not quite good enough to knock our favourite flash player off the podium, but there are still many good reasons to buy an iPod nano. Its navigation system and software integration is still the best around, it remains the best looking flash player on the market, the battery life is now excellent rather than average and finally, it is very good value at £111.56 for the 4GB player and only about £22 more for the 8GB version.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 8