The sound may have more to do with the ear-buds/head-phones. From what I an reading here all I can say is what I get from my tests.
At flat EQ volume max (max is 0db) connected to a ONKYO system with 2 5-way speakers (yes 5-way, 1 woof, 2 mid, 2 twt.) there is no big difference in sound from this unit and a JVC DVD player playing the same mp3's.
As far a ear-buds..... Price and how you put them in you ear has a lot to do with volume and bass.
For me I got on sale a pair of head-phones JVC HA-S150-SX FLATS and the bass and volume is very good on what I play (note: If you use the custom EQ there is a anti cliping filter added that drops the volume a little. To get the same level as non custom first adjust all bands 4 steps up, then adjust to taste. If you bump all bands 4 up then switch between flat and custom there should be no big change in volume).
Just for any one who whats to know here are the specs. on the head-phones (listed as I-pod and I-phone compatible).
The Sensitivity and Impedance are where the volume is made. Higher numbers (dB and ohms) the better. I never need to go over 40% to get the same volume as if perfomed live with amps. Also I used a mix of amazon mp3's and my own I made from my cd's to check volume.
Hope the specs on the head-phones helps. I have a few and so far those are the best of what I have.
thanks for the info. I agree with you. I am using a good quality v-moda ear phones and it gives great bass with my laptop. When you connect the player to a 5.1 ONKYO system, the output quality is mostly depend on the quality of the ONKYO provided the sandisk output is of reasonable quality. That is why you do not notice any diff. I rockboxed the player and the sound quality improved a lot, but still not in par with my laptop. I bench-marked it with an i-pod shuffle recently and did not notice any quality difference. It seems like my expectation is bit too high for a mp3 player.
The volume level on my player is extremely low also. I adjusted the EQ and the sound level increased quite a bit, but is still very low compared to another mp3 player that I have. I like to use it when I'm mowing the lawn, but I can barely hear it with the volume turned all the way up. I was wondering if this is a defect in my player or is this normal?
George I had this same problem and I like to listen to audio books while I am while doing yard work and could not here it while I am mowing or weed eating. I was even considering buying some of those expensive headphones when I had one of those slap you forehead moments and just put some normal ear bud head phones and then put some of those cheap over the ear muffs on top of those.