As with the Clix 2 before it, the sound quality on the B20 is superb. With support for MP3, WMA and OGG, there’s reasonable choice when it comes to codecs. That said, with the Creative Zen supporting AAC, the B20 won’t be so tempting to existing iPod owners. Also, for the real mobile audiophile, the lack of FLAC support will be a drawback – it’s also rather puzzling, considering that FLAC is basically a lossless version of OGG.
Listening to high bit rate MP3 files (256kbps and above), the BE20 turned in a glowing performance, especially when coupled with a set of Shure E500PTH earphones. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon was a complete joy to listen to on the B20, with Great Gig In The Sky standing out as a real triumph – the slow and measured build up to the staggering vocal crescendo had me reeling, and remembering just why this is one of the best albums ever produced.
Switching to Nigel Kennedy’s interpretation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the B20 proved that it was just as effective with classical music. Although many consider Kenedy’s Four Seasons to go against the traditional style for the piece, I like the faster and more aggressive interpretation, and that aggression comes across perfectly via the B20, with every bow attack on each string injected into your head.
As is generally the case, the earphones that ship with the B20 are quite poor and anyone considering this player really should invest in a decent set of earphones. I hooked up a variety of earphones to the B20 including Ultimate Ears triple.fi 10 Pros, Shure SE310s, Denon AH-700s as well as my Shure E500PTHs. It’s clear that the sound quality from this player is first rate, regardless of what earphones you use, but of course, as always, the better the earphones the better the sound.
If you read Jon’s Cowon D2 review last week, you’ll realise that the B20 isn’t the first truly compact MP3/DAB device to grace these pages. But the problem with the Cowon D2 is that Jon found it almost impossible to get DAB reception, despite trying to use the device in a variety of locations. Thankfully I had no such issues with the B20, finding first rate DAB reception almost everywhere I went. Even wandering around the TrustedReviews car park, which is notoriously bad for radio and TV reception, the B20 managed to lock onto a plethora of stations without so much as a hiccup.