Objective Reviews & Commentary - An Engineer's Perspective

February 24, 2011

Sansa Fuze (mini review)

sansa fuze packageINTRO: I liked the Sansa Clip+ so much I was curious about its bigger brother: The Fuze. The word on the web is the Fuze has similar performance to the Clip+ and it has several advantages.  And the newer Fuze+ is getting some negative reviews, so I wanted to grab an original Fuze before they're all gone. I purchased a black 4 GB version for $50.

FUZE ADVANTAGES vs CLIP+: Some reasons why someone might choose a Fuze over the Clip+:

  • The screen is bigger, easier to read, in color, and can show more information like more of the artist/song information, album art, etc.  The bigger screen is especially an advantage with Rockbox as it can display all sorts of cool things.
  • The controls are larger and easier to use. The buttons are more spread out on the Fuze and it has a rubberized rotating "wheel" which makes navigating the menus, adjusting the volume, etc. quicker.
  • The Fuze has a larger battery and will play music longer than the Clip+
  • You can watch videos in several formats including MP4, MOV, AVI, DiVX, WMV
  • You can take your pictures with you and display them on the Fuze.
  • The Fuze looks and feels more substantial. The back is “rubberized” which makes it feel better in your hand. It’s much thinner than the Clip+ which makes it seem more sleek and expensive.
  • I’m not sure many take advantage of it, but the “dock-style” connector at the base of the Clip+ allows it to be used in Sansa-compatible devices like portable speakers, etc. There are line outputs available in the connector.


  • It’s bigger, heavier, and especially wider. It’s more noticeable in a pocket.
  • You can’t clip it directly to your shirt sleeve, pocket, etc.
  • You may need to buy an armband if you want to use it at the gym or jogging
  • Some find the wheel imprecise and it also makes accidentally changing the volume easier
  • It uses a proprietary Sansa “dock” connector (the same as the e200 series) vs a standard mini USB jack on the Clip+. This means you need a special cable for charging and syncing the Fuze but not the Clip.
  • It’s been discontinued and will eventually be hard to find at stores.

sansa line upIMPRESSIONS: It’s a nice player—certainly one that seems like it should cost more than $50. It’s sleeker than the much thicker and harder to hold Clip+. There are some extra screen animations and graphics, plus the wheel, but the user interface, menus, etc. are mostly very similar to the ones on the Clip+. The Clip+ has volume up/down buttons on the side and the Fuze uses the wheel instead. Both players also run Rockbox firmware in similar ways but the bigger screen on the Fuze is a huge advantage here. Listening to the Fuze it sounds the same, to my ears, as the Clip+.

MEASUREMENTS: The Fuze measures nearly identically to the Clip+ right down to the 0.25% pitch error with the Sansa firmware. I checked all the same things I measured with the Clip+ and they’re all essentially the same. It’s very likely Sandisk is using the same audio design in both. It has the same ruler flat frequency response, low output impedance and respectable distortion levels. The numbers and graphs are so similar it’s a waste of time to publish them here—just see the Clip+ Measurements. Here’s a quick dScope capture showing several Fuze measurements (click for full size):

Sansa Fuze 0 dBFS 1 Khz ~180 mV 15 Ohms Multiple Measurements

SANDISK GOING BACKWARDS: I haven’t personally used or tested one, but judging by the reviews on Amazon, the forums, and elsewhere, the “new and improved” Sansa Fuze+ is mostly a step backwards. They updated the shape, look and controls to try and chase Apple, but if what I’ve read is true, it’s harder to use, slower, and doesn’t have as impressive of audio performance. Several people have said they got rid of their Fuze+ in favor of the older original. I also fear this may happen when they replace or update the Clip+ as well but perhaps they’ll learn from their mistakes with the Fuze+?

sansa fuse testBOTTOM LINE: If some of the advantages of the Fuze over the Clip+  are appealing, you might want to consider getting one soon before they’re sold out. I wouldn’t be surprised, if like the previous 5th generation iPod Nano, the Fuze ends up selling for more on eBay than they sold for new in the stores. Apple, in their quest for ever smaller/thinner/sleeker body jewelry, once again chose form over function and removed the video camera from the 6th generation Nano. That’s created a strong secondary market for the previous generation with factory sealed Nano 5G’s bringing higher prices than they did new. If you already have a Fuze and love it, you might want to consider buying a spare.

MISC DETAILS (edit 2/24/11): My Fuze is running V02.03.33A firmware. And I’ve been informed by one of the Rockbox developers on Anything But iPod the Fuze V2 (i.e. like the one I tested) uses different hardware than the Fuze V1. So your mileage may vary if you have the earlier version.


  1. I thought the Fuze has more output power than the Clip. There is also a LOD for it made by Fiio that you can get from Deal Extreme, that plugs into that fancy connector on the bottom.

  2. The Fuze does have a LOD you can get the cable on Amazon. And it has slightly different controls and a longer life battery. But it's otherwise the exact same hardware including the chip that drives the headphones. Same power.

  3. At the moment I am thinking about replacing my Sansa Clip+ with something, which has all the advantages of the Clip+, but a larger display and longer battery life. The player has to work well with my Shure SE425.

    Guess what: D'oh!

    The only thing, that comes to mind is the Fuze (not +). Ipod Touch and Nano 6g? Not interested, because I can't switch tracks without taking them out of the pocket. Sony? No way due to their catastrophic frequency respone with low-impedance multi-balanced-armature drivers (which my Shure SE425 has). Cowon? Maybe, but there seems to be a problem in the lower bass frequency range with those damn low-impedance multi-BA things and I don't see the point in investing a lot of money, if it means that I have to downgrade in the process.

    How could I be so stupid to buy those Shure SE425? Thankfully I don't own a custom IEM with even more of those low-impedance things in it, because I might be getting no sound at all then?

    Maybe I should get rid of my superb IEM's and buy a 360$ mp3-player with earbuds, like everyone else around me seems to do. Should I toy with the idea to get better sound quality, I will keep the earbuds and buy an even more expensive mp3-player, like everyone else around me seems to do.

  4. @Simon, everything is a trade off. B.A. IEMs, like your Shures, usually provide much more accurate sound. So if you value sound quality they're worth pairing with the right player.

    Why not just keep the Clip+? Is a bigger display and longer battery life more important than everything else including good sound? Bigger displays and bigger batteries also mean more bulk and weight.

    The new Clip Zip has a better display, and some say better battery life, so that's another option. If you've charged your Clip+ a lot the battery is probably getting tired so a Zip would almost certainly have longer run time.

    I have more than half a dozen portable players, and 95% of the time when I'm leaving the house, it's the Clip+ I listen to. Great sound, easy to use without looking at it, so small and light you forget it's there, and for me the battery life is fine. I get weeks worth of gym workouts on a single charge. And on the road I can charge it from just about anything anywhere including a portable battery with a USB port.

  5. @NwAvGuy

    I wasn't thinking about replacing the Shure SE425, because I love them. Furthermore, I would never replace the Clip+ with something, which may have a bigger display and battery but poor sound quality. It just makes me sad, that there is no mp3 player, which I would actually prefer over my clip+ or a refurbished Fuze.

    Maybe I will buy a refurbished Fuze on ebay, because I could get one for 30 Euros.


  6. Just like to say that the reason why the Fuze is so heavy is that the entire back is metal.

    And the rubber coat is hardly... durable. Mine has become sticky and parts have flaked off.

  7. Now that almost a year has passed, are there any other mp3 players on the market that would compete with the Sansa Fuze in terms of price, sound quality, expandable storage space and screen size? The Fuze is now quite hard to find outside of Ebay.
    I'm looking to pair the player with an E11 amp, which makes the clip+'s small size a bit silly.

    Thanks for your reviews, they are a great resource for laymen such as I who still want to understand why audio gear works the way it does.

  8. I bought my refurbished fuze on ebay for about 59 usd (8GB v2). works great, and will serve me well till something better comes along.

  9. @NwAvGuy,

    I've been looking information about the fuze's line out and only have found a discussion about if it is a true line-out or not. There are people that say it's 100% equal to headphones out but I find this very difficult to believe. I mean, I think there will be additional circuitry in the HO not present in the LO, is it true?

    Anyway, I've also been looking for RMAA results of fuze's LO and have nothing found. Have you ever done these measurements?

    Thank you so much and congratulations for your great blog!

    1. I did pick up a LOD cable for the Fuze but I haven't had time to try it. With it being a discontinued product it's not been a priority. I don't believe it will be the same as the headphone output but it's possible it could be.


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