That old trope again..
All the people asserting that this or that mp3 player has obviously superior audio quality to an iPod annoy me- they're about as empirical as CNet "journalists", and have as much clue about what they're listening for.
Personally I hate Apple, they piss me off, but I do, much to my irritation, use an iPod. Despite the fact that it needs to be jailborken to use with my linux boxes, despite the fact that I wouldn't pee on St. Steve were he on fire. The problem is, they sound good. The DACs and headphone amps are decent.
The person smugly banging on about the iriver i140 is particularly amusing. Having read a load of writeups by enthusiastic amatuers and part-time crApple haters, I bought one of these players looking forward to the superlative sound quality promised. What I got was a decidedly coloured and partial frequency response, and an SNR bad enough that you could hear the hiss walking along a busy road.
Being lucky enough to be an engineer in a facility with world-class audio test gear, I put the damn thing on the bench, loaded it with uncompressed test tones and put it through its paces. Noise levels closer to a mediocre FM radio were certainly impressive stuff. When I returned it to the shop, I had this sheath of paper to share with the shop assistant, should he quibble with whether it was "of merchantable quality". He didn't. He apologised profusely. I asked if he could grab a couple more units from the back, so we could see if we'd just been sold a turkey, as I actually liked the features and build quality of the iRiver. Sadly, we tried a few, and they all sucked. I got my money back with an apology from the helpful and long-suffering chap behind the counter.
Down the years, I've tried out various players that enthusiastic amateurs or self-professed but distinctly unscientific "audiophiles" have lauded- and most of them sound like cheap computer equipment rather than audio gear. A lot of them actually have such terrible EMI supression that you could hear big changes on the display. Not really great.
Anyway, much to my irritation, I've been returning to the iPod time and again. Some have been better than others- like the models that came out after the first gen shuffle (that had a great push-pull output stage) and before the cohort that included the first touch. However, they've been more satisfactory than all but the odd alternative. Sadly, the only way to find out how good they sound is to try them, or ask someone who actually understands audio from an engineering POV (rather than the sort of person who buys 200 pound cables)- you certainly can't trust most journos.
So I'm a reluctant prisoner of Steve, but I don't like my prejudice deafen me, unlike some.
Sorry for the wall of text. Peace!