Like a football team that plays scintillating attacking football, but concedes goals from set pieces too often, the Express does have a flaw. And it’s in the crucial area of sound quality where the player falls down. It doesn’t offer quite the same level of detail and clarity that the Creative Zen Stone Plus does, nor can it match the sheer breadth and depth of the aforementioned Sony player or the iPod Shuffle for that matter.
Listening to a few tracks from Biffy Clyro’s magnificent new album, Puzzle, revealed a slight thinness in sound – and that’s accentuated when you pump the volume right the way up. Nor does the Express support OGG or any of the lossless codecs – WMA Lossless, Apple Lossless or FLAC. It does, however, play protected DRM WMA files, MP3 files up to 320kbit/s and standard WMA files up to 192kbit/s.
On the other hand it’s by no means bad, and if all you’re using it for is music to go with your workout, there’s really nothing major to complain about. The earbuds supplied in the box are pretty good too, and streets in front of the phones supplied with either the Sony NW-E015, the iPod Shuffle or the Zen Stone Plus. They’re a bit muffled-sounding in places, but there’s absolutely no hiss and they’re surprisingly full-bodied considering the overall price of the player.
As with all of the competition at this price, the Sansa Express has its weaknesses. In this case it’s a slight deficiency in the sound quality department and file format support. However if it’s features you want, headphones that won’t need replacing straight out of the box and the potential for a cheap memory upgrade, there really is no competition at the price. In the world of budget, flash-based MP3 players it’s truly championship-winning material.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 7