Neither does it support gapless playback. But apart from iPod 5G and later Apple’s devices, or a surgical use of Rockbox software, true gapless playback simply doesn’t exist.
It plays dead
After losing my first unit somewhere around Yonge Street, in Toronto, I purchased another. That unit didn’t go through the wash. It wasn’t dropped from a seventeen storey building. It just died. The original iPod shuffle kind of had a thing for random death.
But being hooked, I bought another one. That one lasted about three years before going wonk. Luckily (and unexplainably) for me, my mother-in-law carefully stored that unit in a drawer Post-mortem. Later she sent it to me. It worked for about a year and a half after that. Today, it sits in a drawer of my own. Naturally, I bought a replacement.
Is it worth the trouble?
Yes, a thousand times. Its few caveats, while big, are in the main, no worse than today’s top-flight audiophile players. Unlike audiophile-level players, the original shuffle never has been expensive. And I think you’ll agree with me that dangling an Astell&Kern AK240 over your balcony is foolish.
Advice for buying one
If you’re thinking of picking up a shuffle, pick up a used one. Unused units still sealed prettily in their original packages likely will have dead batteries.
What about the Sansa Clip?
Either I’m a worse writer than I drink, or you didn’t read this essay. The Clip won’t do it. It’s interface is bosh. Its ergonomics are bosh. It needs a cable. Its tiny screen induces headaches. It does sound decent, but it doesn’t stand toe to toe with the original shuffle. It is neither as powerful, nor as able to resolve fine details of music. It does, however, hiss noticeably less.
Where do we go from here?
Hell if I know. Until another equally simple-to-use, great-sounding, compact, and screen-less player comes out, the original shuffle will be the standard by which I judge every other player, modest or proud. But working original units are getting harder and harder to find.
So here’s my plea to clever manufacturers out there: sometimes, a thing must be slavishly copied to not be forgotten. Dissect this beauty, harness its goods, toss its bads. But whatever you do, do it now, and do it well.