The last music player I bought was about ten years ago - I have no idea what the market is like these days. I'd like a portable "MP3 player", and my priority is sound quality. Budget is well under £50. Ideally with buttons, rather than a touch screen (quite important), and other features aren't important.
What's the deal these days, does everyone just get an ipod?
p.s. I probably have to get it on the high-street, not online. But maybe online.
The iPod shuffle is decent, I think they currently cost £40. There's no screen at all; you use the buttons and remote mic to control it. Pretty much everyone gets iPods because they're good mp3 players, if you ever have any problems you can take them into your local Apple store and get them fixed/replaced without any hassle.
iPods still pretty much dominate, they typically have the nicest interface or most robust feature set.
my priority is sound quality
Budget is well under £50
These two things aren't really compatible, for such a low budget you aren't going to find anything which actively pursues offering the best audio experience. It's a component called the DAC which primarily dictates sound quality, however most companies now use cheap parts in order to get into the low end market where Apple isn't as prominent. Apple did use decent quality DACs in their iPods up until about 2006, so a cheap second hand iPod would be the best option. You can get a 1st gen Nano for £40 from CEX, it's probably got the best ratio of price to fidelity in your budget. It can also be RockBox'd if lossless audio is your thing.
Bare in mind it doesn't really matter what you buy if you don't already own a decent set of cans though, everything will sound the same if a poor set of headphones are acting as a bottleneck.
Your headphones and how much you compress the file will probably have more impact on sound quality than which player you use within that budget, I've got a Sansa Plus which currently costs £34 from amazon and with the right file format it sounds pretty decent.
I do like Apple but they are overpriced for what you get. My main player is either my iPhone or the replacement Nano I've just got so I'm not biased.