Unless you are gonna pay a fortune and get a player like a cowon with high end dedicated audio processors, you aint gonna beat this little beauty!!
I had an old sony nw-hd5 hard disc player, but fancied an upgrade, not expecting the quality to get any better. I was mistaken!
I have a recording studio quality sound system at home, and this player has made me unhappy with how it sounds! I use sennheiser headphones with it that I previously bought separately, but the included headphones are still very good! leagues ahead of the iPod or any other stock headphones! unmatched sound quality from sony yet again, proving they still lead in this area!
As for the software, gone are the woes of sonicstage, puttin music on this player couldnt be easier! just make sure you dont overload your usb bus or transfer large quantities of files at once, or you may find some of them are corrupted when you try to play them back on the player.
The clear audio technologies are incredible, the bass response from it is insane, i like a bass heavy sound, but I cant stand the amount of bass this kicks out if its up full! I have the clear bass sitting at 2/3 and it is perfect. (please note: the actual bass level will vary GREATLY with the mixing/production of the songs you listen to, AND the headphones you use, if you want to truely judge the sound of a player, buy decent headphones!!)
Build quality is as expected from sony, very good. Player is very small and very light, but still feels solid in the hand with its rugged metal casing.
The screen is very sharp and bright, the videos pre-loaded look very good for a player with a screen of this size, tho it wont be everyones cup of tea watchin a full film on a 2" screen.
the player also starts up extremely quickly, almost instantly after you slide off the hold switch! not to mention the every superior battery life found in sony players. you will actually get the quoted 40 hours, and this doesnt seem to vary with music bitrate, as i use mostly 320kbps tracks, and i can go weeks without charging!
overall, if you are an audiophile who thrives for quality, and dont wana break the bank or require a player with 100s of gb of storage (i have over 1600 high quality tracks on this, and i still have a few gb of free space, and havent deleted the preloaded songs or videos), forget the iPod nano or the cheap copy of one you were considering - buy this now!!