Top 10 Best Portable Music Players For Audiophiles – Q4 2018 Edition

Portable music players or Digital Audio Players (DAP) are popular nowadays. Music lovers and audiophiles are in demand of DAPs than can drive their HiFi and Hi-Res headphones and IEMs to enjoy music wherever they go. If you are in the market looking for the best portable music players currently available, then you are in luck because there are lots to choose from. I only listed the 10 best portable music players for audiophiles in the earlier versions of this article. But there are simply many to choose from; more than 10, and they are all good in their own way. I decided to include the other really good DAPs on the table below. The digital audio players on the table are listed according to price, with the first one being the cheapest on the list. However, I will only discuss further the top 10 that I think are really good portable DAPs. Remember, each DAP has its own pros and cons. More expensive DAPs doesn’t necessarily mean better overall, or better in terms of sound signature compared to the cheaper ones. When all have really good audio quality, it all comes down to sound preference and sound signature; and other features as well. Some people would prefer a “music player only” device, while others want more than just a music player. Go ahead and check them out below. Again, I’ll update this list from time to time whenever something new and better comes out. Without further ado…

Best Sounding Portable Lossless Audio Players

 DACAMPAudio FormatsDisplayOSStorageOutputConnectionBatt. LifeAvailability
Pioneer XDP-300R2x ESS Sabre ES9018K2MSABRE 9601K AmplifiersPCM, DSD 11.2, MQA4.7" (720x1280) Touch ScreenAndroid 5.1 OS with Play Store32GB Internal, 2 microSD Card (up to 200GB each)3.5mm Unbalanced, 2.5mm BalancedMicroUSB, WiFi, Bluetooth, aptX1,630mAh, Up to 16 hoursAmazon.com
OPUS#1S2x Cirrus Logic CS43198PCM, DSD4" (480x800) Touch ScreenAndroid Modified (Player Only)32GB Internal, 2 microSD Card (up to 256GB each)3.5mm Unbalanced, 2.5mm BalancedMicroUSB, Bluetooth, aptX4,000 mAh, Up to 11 hoursAmazon.com
HiBy R62x ESS ES9028Q2M2x TPA6120APCM, DSD256 (Native)4.2" (768x1280) Touch ScreenAndroid 6.0 with Play Store32GB Internal, 1 microSD (up to 256GB)3.5mm Unbalanced, 2.5mm Balanced, 3.5mm CoaxialUSB Type-C, WiFi, Bluetooth, aptX4,000 mAh, Up to 12 hoursAmazon.com
Astell&Kern AK70 MKII2x Cirrus Logic CS4398PCM, DSD1283.31" (480x800) Touch ScreenAndroid Modified (Player Only)64GB Internal, 1 microSD (up to 256GB)3.5mm Unbalanced, 2.5mm BalancedMicroUSB, WiFi, Bluetooth, aptX2,500 mAhAmazon.com
ONKYO DP-X1A2x ESS Sabre ES9018K2M2x SABRE 9601K AmplifiersPCM, DSD 11.2, MQA4.7" (720x1280) Touch ScreenAndroid 5.1.1 with Play Store64GB Internal, 2 microSD Card (up to 256GB each)3.5mm Unbalanced, 2.5mm BalancedMicroUSB, WiFi, Bluetooth, aptX1,630 mAh, Up to 16 hoursAmazon.com
iBasso DX1502x AKM AK4490EQDepends on ModulePCM, DSD256 (Native)4.2" (768x1280) Touch ScreenAndroid 6.0 Modified (No Play Store)32GB Internal, 1 microSD (up to 256GB)3.5mm Unbalanced, 2.5mm Balanced (depends on Module)USB Type-C, WiFi, Bluetooth, aptX4,400mAh, Up to 10.5 hoursAmazon.com
Astell&Kern A&Norma SR152x Cirrus Logic CS43198PCM, DSD256 (Native)3.3" (480x800) Touch ScreenAndroid Modified (Player Only)64GB Internal, 1 microSD (up to 400GB)3.5mm Unbalanced, 2.5mm BalancedMicroUSB, WiFi, Bluetooth, aptX3,150 mAhAmazon.com
FiiO X7II with AM3ASabre ESS ES9028 PRODepends on ModulePCM, DSD (Native)3.97" (480x800) Touch ScreenAndroid 5.1 Modified64GB Internal, 2 microSD Card (up to 256GB each)3.5mm Unbalanced, 2.5mm BalancedMicroUSB, WiFi, Bluetooth, aptX3,800 mAh, Up to 8 hoursAmazon.com
Sony NWZX300 WalkmanSony ProprietaryS-Master HX digitalPCM, DSD 11.23.1" (480x800) Touch ScreenSony Original OS64GB Internal, 1 microSD (up to 256GB)3.5mm Unbalanced, 4.4mm BalancedWM-Port, Bluetooth, aptXUp to 30 hoursAmazon.com
Astell&Kern KANNAKM AK4490 DACIntegrated AMPPCM, DSD256 (Native)4" (480x800) Touch ScreenAndroid Modified (Player Only)64GB Internal, 2 microSD Card (up to 256GB each)3.5mm Unbalanced, 2.5mm BalancedUSB Type-C, WiFi, Bluetooth, aptX6,200 mAh, Up to 15 hoursAmazon.com
iBasso DX2002x Sabre ESS ES9028 PRODepends on ModulePCM, DSD512 (Native)4.2" (768x1280) Touch ScreenAndroid 6.0 Modified (No Play Store)3.5mm Unbalanced, 2.5mm Balanced4,400 mAhAmazon.com
Sony NW-WM1ASony ProprietaryS-Master HX digitalPCM, DSD 11.2 (Native), MQA4" (480x854) Touch ScreenSony Original OS128GB Internal, 1 microSD (up to 256GB)3.5mm Unbalanced, 4.4mm BalancedWM-Port, Bluetooth, aptX HDUp to 30 hoursAmazon.com
OPUS#22x Cirrus Logic SABRE32 ES9018K2MPCM, DSD128 (Native)4" (480x800) Touch ScreenAndroid 5.1.1 Modified (Player Only)128GB Internal, 1 microSD (up to 200GB)3.5mm Unbalanced, 2.5mm BalancedMicroUSB, WiFi, Bluetooth4,000 mAh, Up to 9.5 hoursAmazon.com
Astell & Kern A&Futura SE100ESS Sabre ES9038 PROPCM, DSD256 (Native)5" (720x1280) Touch ScreenAndroid Modified (Player Only)128GB Internal, 1 microSD (up to 400GB)3.5mm Unbalanced, 2.5mm BalancedUSB Type-C, WiFi, Bluetooth, aptX3,700 mAh, Up to 11 hoursAmazon.com
Sony NW-WM1ZSony ProprietaryS-Master HX and DSEE HXPCM, DSD 11.2 (Native), MQA4" (480x854) Touch ScreenSony Original OS256GB Internal, 1 microSD (up to 256GB)3.5mm Unbalanced, 4.4mm BalancedWM-Port, Bluetooth, aptX HDUp to 30 hoursAmazon.com
Astell&Kern A&ultima SP10002x AKM AK4497EQPCM, DSD256 (Native)5" (720x1280) Touch ScreenAndroid Modified (Player Only)256GB Internal, 1 microSD (up to 256GB)3.5mm Unbalanced, 2.5mm BalancedUSB Type-C, WiFi, Bluetooth, aptX HD3,400 mAh, Up to 12 hoursAmazon.com

OPUS#1S Hi-Res Portable Digital Audio Player

Opus#1S DAPThe OPUS#1S is the second generation or the improved version of the Opus#1 (the company’s first DAP). The Opus#1S offers improved audio quality by providing better clarity, a bit wider soundstage, darker background, almost no background noise and reference-like sound signature. Sound is actually very clean and clear. The Opus#1S features two Cirrus Logic CS43198 DAC chips and it sports both 3.5mm single ended and 2.5mm balanced output ports. The 4” display is touch screen and it looks nice, not the best, but acceptable; has 32GB of internal storage but offers two microSD card slots that can support up to 256GB microSDXC each slot. The operating system is based on a heavily modified and stripped down Android OS. So one downside on the Opus#1S (like other Opus’ DAPs) is that it’s basically a pure music player only and no other function. The body is also made of ABS plastic, but the optional leather case is well-made.

The Opus#1S Portable Digital Audio Player is available on Amazon.com here

HiBy R6 Portable High Resolution Audio Player

Up next is the HiBy R6, and this one is probably the best and the most I can recommend when it comes to sound quality, set of features and value (price / performance). It’s simply a bang for the buck DAP. It features two ESS ES9028Q2M and the unit itself is powered by a Snapdragon 425 processor with 4GB of RAM. This is probably the only DAP with this caliber of compute power for a smooth operation in this price range. It’s based on Android 6.0 OS but it features a bit-perfect output, thus bypassing Android SRC. Aside from being a music player, it does support Google Play Store, this means you can install apps and thanks to its powerful SoC, it’s more than just a music player. You can do other stuff on the HiBy R6 as well. It has both balanced and unbalanced output, as well as digital output and features Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0. The only thing that you need to note on this DAP is that it has a high output impedance and some sensitive IEMs might not pair with it well. To fix this issue, simply use iFi’s IEMatch for (very) sensitive IEMs.

You can grab the HiBy R6 Digital Audio Player on Amazon here

Onkyo DP-X1A Hi-Res Digital Audio Player

The Onkyo DP-X1A portable digital audio player is currently the company’s flagship portable music player. The DP-X1A is the newly released and improved version of the DP-X1, more like a 2nd gen; and comes with twice the internal memory. It’s also somewhat similar with the Pioneer XDP-300R but Onkyo’s version is better overall. The DP-X1A features a dual ESS Sabre ES9018K2M DAC chip paired with two Sabre 9601K amplifiers for a balanced setup. It supports lossy, lossless, 32bit/384kHz PCM audio formats as well as DSD 11.2 MHz. However, it doesn’t support DSD natively, instead it will be converted to PCM format. The Onkyo DP-X1A is more than just a music player. It runs on Android OS and does come with Google Play; meaning you can install apps on this device and you can do more than just listening to music. It supports Spotify, Tidal, tunein, Pandora, iHeartRadio and other music streaming services.

You can learn more about the Onkyo DP-X1A Hi-Res DAP on Amazon.com here

FiiO X7II with AM3A

Next is Fiio’s flagship portable digital audio player – the Fiio X7 II. It’s the second generation DAP of the X7 series and features an interchangeable amplifier module. The AM3A is perhaps the most popular or common choice, but there are other amp modules available as well. The X7 II features ESS ES9028PRO, an 8-channel DAC chip, and supports various audio formats up to native DSD support. That’s no ordinary DAC chip and sound quality alone is really good. The X7 II is runs on Android 5.1 OS, so you get full Android experience and can install other apps for added functionality. It also features Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0, this means this DAP charges faster compared to other DAPs that doesn’t feature any quick charging technology. If you like the design of the Fiio X7 II, but is somewhat short on budget, you might want to check out their mid-range Fiio X5 III instead.

The X7 Mark II is bundled with an AM3A amp module that has both balanced and single ended output. The AM3A amp section features AD8620 precision, JFET operational amplifiers and OPA926 op-amp. The Fiio X7 II has 2GB DDR3L of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. It also has a dual microSD card slots that supports up to 256GB of microSDXC card. It also supports native DSD and Infinity Sound 3.5 + 2.5. In terms of wireless connection, it has WiFi 2.4GHz and 5GHz and Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX support. It’s also built with a 3800 mAh Li-polymer battery that can last up to 8 hours (according to Fiio).

The Fiio X7 II with AM3A Amp module is available on Amazon here

Sony NWZX300 Walkman

Ah! It’s a Sony….! The Sony NW-ZX300 Walkman is another “player-only” portable digital audio player. You can think of it as the little brother of the NW-WM1A and the flagship NW-WM1Z. It supports both PCM and DSD file formats and also features DSEE HX and S-Master HX digital amplifier. It has a 3.5mm unbalanced and 4.4mm balanced output ports and features LDAC wireless audio transmission and MQA formats as well. I don’t know what DAC chip is used in this device. Most likely Sony is using a proprietary DAC chip and amp components, just like the Operating System that is incorporated in the NW-ZX300 (all proprietary).

The Sony Walkman series’ audio quality and sound characteristics usually leans towards the warm side. It’s not the best the company has to offer, but I’m sure it’s sound quality is easily likeable. Sound is fantastic and it’s easy to use. If you can’t afford the NW-WM1A or WM1Z, and you want a Sony digital audio player, then this is it. The only thing that may prevent you from getting this one is if you don’t find the feature(s) that you need in this device; example video playback and streaming perhaps.

The Sony NW-ZX300 Walkman is available on Amazon.com here

Astell&Kern KANN

The Astell&Kern KANN is also one of the new portable audio player released by the company this year. This one is somewhat thick or bulky compared to the usual portable DAP. That’s because of its built-in high performance amplifier that supports an output of 7 Vrms when connected via a high-gain balanced output. The KANN was made for audiophiles or music lovers who wants to power not only their IEM/earphones, but full sized cans as well. It features a single AKM AK4490 DAC that supports native DSD playback of up to DSD256 or 11.2MHz. It also supports PCM audio playback of up to 32bit/382kHz.

The AK KANN has a 64GB of built-in internal storage, but it has a microSD card that supports up to 256GB of microSD cards and a full-sized SD card slot that can support up to 512GB of SD cards. In terms of wireless connectivity, it features WiFi 802.11 g/b/n supporting 2.4GHz connection speed and Bluetooth V4.0 with A2DP, AVRCP and aptX HD codec support. Consider getting the AK KANN if you plan to pair it with (or use) full sized headphones as well.

You can grab an Astell&Kern KANN from Amazon.com here. It’s also available in Blue color here.

Sony NW-WM1A Premium Walkman

The Sony NW-WM1A is one of the company’s latest portable hi-resolution digital audio players. This is actually a trimmed down version of the NW-WM1Z DAP (the gold one below), priced significantly cheaper at $1,399.99. Like the NW-WM1Z, the WM1A shares the same body design, user interface and almost everything, except for what is under the hood (or its internal parts) and the material used for its body. The Sony NW-WM1A DAP features 128GB of internal storage capacity, half of the WM1Z’s capacity and it uses regular OFC copper cables for its internal wiring instead of the braided Kimber Kable found in its higher counterpart. It also features Sony’s S-Master HX digital amp technology, DSEE HX digital sound enhancement and other sound enhancements found on the higher end one.

The body of the NW-WM1A is made out of aluminum chassis and Sony used MELF registers instead of Fine Sound registers found on the NW-WM1Z. Whether or not there is a huge difference in the audio performance it up to your ears. But I doubt that both DAPs will have huge difference in sound quality; and by huge I mean really significant that even an untrained ear can detect it easily. Like most of the high end portable players, the NW-WM1A supports most of the lossy and lossless audio formats available. It also supports native DSD playback up to 11.2MHz. This is one really good portable audio player and it’s also one of the most popular among audio enthusiasts as well.

The Sony NW-WM1A Hi-Resolution Portable Audio Player is available on Amazon here

Astell & Kern A&Futura SE100 Portable Music Player

The A&Futura SE100 is one of Astell & Kern’s latest portable digital audio player released this year. It’s generally better compared to the A&norma SR15, and it looks like a cut down version of A&K’s flagship SP1000. This is probably the next best option if you want an A&K music player but don’t have the budget for the flagship SP1000. At the heart of the SE100 is an ESS Sabre ES9038 Pro 8 channel DAC chip, supporting both 32bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD 256 audio formats. The unit itself is powered by an Octa-Core CPU for a fast and smooth operation. The rest of the features are actually very similar with the SP1000 already, like display size, connectivity options and more.

The A&futura SE100 portable music player differs (slightly) in design compared to the SP1000. However, the SP1000 does have the advantage when it comes to the DAC setup and configuration. The SE100 is built with a 128GB of internal storage plus you also get 1 microSD card slot that supports up to 400GB of microSDXC card. If ever you plan to buy one of this, I recommend that you also get the leather case (which unfortunately is not included in the box). Why do you need the leather case? Well, first is to protect the device from getting scratches and second is to protect yourself or someone from the device itself. Because the edges are sharp!

The Astell & Kern A&futura SE100 portable music player is available on Amazon.com here

Sony NW-WM1Z Signature Series Hi-Res Walkman

The Sony NW-WM1Z is the company’s latest and currently the flagship digital portable audio player that is loaded with lots of features. The NW-WM1Z is just one of the Signature series that Sony recently released. They also released the new MDRZ1R headphone and TAZH1ES amplifier. These three audio gear works cohesively with each other and the setup / pairing is really good. The Sony NW-WM1Z DAP currently retails for around $3,199.99, while the MDR-Z1R headphone retails for $2,299.99 and the TAZH1ES amplifier for $2,199.99.

The Sony NW-WM1Z is built like a tank, it’s pretty much solid. It features a 4″ touch screen display, with dedicated buttons on the side; and runs on a Sony original OS. Under the hood it features an S-Master HX digital amplifier and they even used a Kimber Kable inside to connect the components with the headphone socket. It also features DSEE HX technology that upscale music to high resolution quality. As for wireless connectivity, it has Bluetooth with LDAC and NFC. The NW-WM1Z has a generous internal storage capacity of 256GB, but if that’s not enough (since you’re loading DSD files), its storage can still be expanded via the microSD card slot. This portable digital audio player supports high-resolution audio formats like: DSD Native (11.2 MHz), AAC (Non-DRM), AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, HE-AAC, Linear PCM, MP3, and WMA (Non-DRM).

The Sony NW-WM1Z Signature Series Music Player is available on Amazon.com here. But there’s an Amazon third party seller who sells it for a (much) lesser price here. Not sure what’s the catch though.

Astell&Kern A&ultima SP1000 High Resolution Audio Player

Astell&Kern A&ultima SP1000The A&Ultima SP1000 is currently Astell&Kern’s flagship DAP. It’s their top of the line product, cream of the crop, “the ultimate”; and it exceeds the AK380 not only in sound quality and performance, but also in price as well. This $3,000++ portable audio player features dual AKM AK4497EQ DAC chips and octa-core CPU. It also has a 5-inch HD touch display with a resolution of 720×1280. You can also notice that the overall design is different from the AK300 series. The volume wheel has been redesigned, and the housing will be available in either stainless steel or copper. The two AK4497EQ DAC chips from AKM is able to playback 32bit/384kHz natively “with no compromise on sound quality”. It supports native bit-to-bit DSD playback up to 11.2 MHz and I’m more positive that it supports PCM formats as well.

Gone are the micro USB ports and A&ultima SP1000 features a Type-C USB port, allowing file transfers of up to 10Gbps. The SP1000 also features fast charging at 9V/1.67A; and it will only take 2 hours to charge and will allow you to playback music up to 12 hours. Other features are: built-in 256GB internal storage that can be expanded up to 256GB via microSDXC; WiFi 802.11 g/b/n with Bluetooth 4.1, 3700mAh battery, 3.5mm unbalanced output (serves as optical output as well) and a 2.5mm 4-pole balanced output.

The A&Ultima SP1000 is one seriously priced DAP and it’s for people with (very) deep pockets. Diminishing returns for this DAP is very real and it doesn’t really offer great value compared to other DAPs due to its price. But you can expect that sound quality is top of the line level. So think twice or thrice before getting this DAP; unless money is not an object for you.

The Astell & Kern A&ultima SP1000 Audio Player is available in Copper, Onyx Black and Stainless Steel variants. All are available on Amazon.com here.

By the way, A&K also released a “trimmed down” version of the SP1000, and it’s called SP1000M. It features the same CPU, same DAC configuration, but slightly smaller display, only 128GB of internal storage, slightly smaller battery capacity and also a slight difference on the output and audio quality. Nevertheless, it’s $1,100 cheaper from the SP1000. You can grab on here.

There you have it guys; this is currently my list of the best portable music players available in the market (as of Q4 2018) that are geared towards the hobbyist, enthusiasts and audiophiles. Remember, all of these portable music players have fantastic sound quality. Remember, this all comes down to personal preference. Audio is a subjective topic, and what’s good for you may not be good for me. Just one thing, do yourself a favor, if ever you are going to buy one of these DAPs, be sure to load them with high resolution lossless audio files, at least. Please don’t load them with a lossy and sometimes poorly encoded MP3 files. Otherwise it would defeat the purpose of getting one and you’re better off using your smartphone instead. Good luck!

See also my Top 10 Best Portable Music Players from Entry Level to Mid-Fi

See also my Top 10 Best Open Back Headphones under $500

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59 Responses

  1. TanLee45 says:

    How about the Lotoo PAW Gold and ARM2?

  2. Anton White says:

    Why no Questyle QP1r?

  3. George says:

    I would like to buy the Fiio X7 since it’s the cheapest from the 10. Please make a review of the X7.

  4. Tamal says:

    Small correction the k5 is only an amp, it has no dac of its own.

  5. David Nguyen says:

    Please make a comparison of the Fiio X7 and Pioneer XDP-100R

    • Alfredo says:

      Tengo el fiio x5 3rd, y el Pioneer xdp-100r, si das prioridad a streming como Spotify, es recomendable el Pioneer, pero si deseas usar solo los archivos grabados, es mejor el fiio

  6. woopie says:

    tera player?

  7. JAck says:

    None of the Digital Audio Players that are high end have replaceable batteries, after a couple of years the battery dies … eh … You discover the DAP is glued together and the battery can’t be changed. (look at reviews at Amazon (com / co.uk whatever) ) When the players have been on the marked for 2-3 years they start getting BAD reviews. (The DAC is NEW but the batteries have been inside the player for 2 -3 years. I been working for more than one computer supplier (support) and after 2-3 years the notebooks usually begin to make all kinds of errors caused by a “near flat” battery.)

    There is a reason you only get ½ year warranty on a notebook battery, THEY KNOW the battery will not last for more than 2 years max! – If the computer is sold 1 – 1½ years after production the battery will only last for a couple of months.

    I been searching for a DAP that:
    1 – is NOT glued together – I hate that!
    2 – have some kind of replaceable battery – like my 2004 DAP which is still working, but can’t handle FLAC, and is only 256mb!

    When I read reviews “this player is awesome” and so on – I would like to know how awesome the player is the day it needs a new battery?
    All the reviewers comment on battery life like it’s important. OK 10 hours is good! But how about 2 years from now, when the battery runs out in 2-3 hours and you want a new battery for your £700 glued together DAP – “oh… well.. sorry but we have glued it together, you can’t change the battery “but we have a new one on the marked that is much better than your old one only £10000”.

    Sad but true.

    • m says:

      Excellent reply; thank you.

    • Cool says:

      Damn, I didn’t know that.
      Extremely valid point. What comparable player on the market does have a replaceable battery ?

    • Roland Lickert says:

      You have a point one reason I stick to my I-Basso DX 50 that has replaceable battery same type as used for Samsung S 3 which is available in any Hand phone shop . One reason I stick to my Note 4 as well .

    • Jaythe_engineer says:

      I am an engineer that used to design industrial computers. Many of your statements are just plain false and show how limited your knowledge of battery chemistry and electric work together. I do not know of any laptop that starts to have ‘all kinds of errors’ from any battery condition. Batteries either supply enough power to run the laptop or they do not, simple as that. They are not active sources and cannot introduce noise to cause the system to have errors. And never in my 20 years of design would any person with technical knowledge use the term ‘flat battery’.

      A good LiPo battery these days can last well over 5-6 years if properly taken care of. They truly do have 1000+ charge cycles. There are 2 key points to remember. Never over charge the battery, remove the charge cable after 5-6 hours maximum. And never charge the battery when the unit is excessively hot or cold. LiPo batteries do not suffer from the old ‘memory effect’ so charging after 30-50% discharge rates is totally acceptable.

      Please be careful of what you read in some of these forums as uneducated and misinformed advice can alter your opinion of certain products and procedures in an unnecessary way.

      • Carlo T. says:

        What you have said is insignificant next to the MAIN point he was trying to make : that batteries GO BAD often times FAR SOONER than they should. As such, if you CANNOT change your battery, you are pretty much FUCKED with something that cost a LOT of hard earned money that you can no longer use. Perhaps You are one such person who find unlimited sources of money easy to come by. If so, good for you. But most of us are not in such a position. Being able to change a battery should be STANDARD on ANYTHING that cost even close to half a grand, let alone a grand or more. So why don’t you stick to your engineering and stop ridiculing someone who actually took the time to make a VERY valid point. In fact, the point he made was INSTRUMENTAL in helping make my own choice for a new player.

  8. dave smith says:

    Jack, you might want to take a look at the (recently discontinued) iBasso DX90. It uses user replaceable, and cheap, standard Samsung lipo’s. Unfortunately the latest model (DX80, for some bizarre reason) uses NOT-user replaceable batteries. I’ve found the DX90 to be an excellent player. I expect it’s discounted due to discontinuation.

  9. Sudershan S says:

    Acoustic Research AR-M2 and Plenue Supreme (Plenue S) should also be included in this .. both of them have been launched before Q1 2016.

    • Jeany Jane says:

      Yes, you are right, they should be included in this list and they will be included in this list. 😉
      Will update this post very soon and will do another article for the entry to mid range DAPs.

  10. Photonicpainter says:

    Astell & Kern Junior is also great player.It is cheapest in A&K line but no mess,it has great sound! I’ve heard it on CanJam 2016 with good headphones,it sound impressive!

  11. Christopher says:

    The HIFiMan line of audiophile players have user replaceable batteries and can compete with the sound of any of these players.

  12. Briucee says:

    What a joke …many of these (aside from sony and fiio x7) don’t even have Wi-Fi for streaming (tidal Hifi)… if i pay $1-3k want I’d want the most versatile music machine I can have …lately finally AK has finally gotten with the program and started to offer streaming (which is fast taking over flax downloads and CD purchases)

    • Jeany Jane says:

      Hi Briucee, the Fiio X7, Pioneer XDP-100R, Acoustic Research AR-M20, ONKYO DP-X1 all have WiFi and supports third party app. All high end A&K DAPs have WiFi as well.

      I think you are looking for an all-rounder device, in that case, my suggestion would be the new LG V20. It’s built with ESS SABRE32 ES9218 Quad-DAC chip. Great for IEMs and lower impedance headphones. However its amp section is not that strong and it’s not able to drive higher impedance headphone.

      Then again, like audio or music each one of us has his/her own personal preference and needs. Most of the DAPs above may not work for you, but for others they do.
      Personally I’d go for an all-rounder device as well.

  13. Homer says:

    Cayin i5 would give these players a run for their money.

  14. Michael Lee Finney says:

    I had about given up on lossles players, but they appear to be coming along. However, the review didn’t cover much needed information.

    1. What is the maximum capacity? If it uses mirco sd cards, what is the upper limit? I can easily by 512G cards at amazon for 60$. My minimum acceptable capacity is 512G and expect to exceed that in the near future.
    2. How about music organziation? I need (at least) genre / artist / album, but sometimes want other organizations. Will it take standard files from Windows, including with Unicode names? Does it understand tagging in .flac files? Can you search by variious criteria.
    3. The other poster is absolutely correct. I will not buy another player with a non-replaceable battery. I am retired, and once I spend the big bucks, I will not do so again for many years.
    4. Many want wireless connections. I will not use any form of wireless as a security policy. I need to know about wired connections.
    5. If it uses a

    • Jeany Jane says:

      1. Most of these DAPs supports up to 128GB of microSD cards. Only a few supports 200GB or 256GB. You said you can “easily” buy a 512GB at amazon for $60, but I don’t see any 512GB microSD card at that price at amazon. Care to point out want microSD card are you referring to?
      2. I’m not sure if you have noticed it or not, but this is clearly not a review. It’s a list, a round up list and not a review. If you are looking for information such as music organization, you’ll have to check out individual reviews of these players. Or better yet visit an audio store where you can audition them.
      3. Unfortunately, non-removable and non-replaceable batteries has become a trend, even on smartphones. If you want a good audio player with removable batteries, I suggest you check out the LG V20.
      4. All of these DAPs have wired connections. Majority of audiophiles prefer to use wired connections. Bluetooth and WiFi are additional features for convenience. You don’t need to use them if you don’t want to.

  15. Alessio Biondi says:

    Does exist a portable player with usb output for the akg n90q headphones?
    Yes, they have usb direct connect line out option, with their internal DAC.

  16. music says:

    Which one of the modern players are equipped in Bluetooth/apt-x codes???
    Not mentioned in the article….

  17. Gardy says:

    I have to decide between the sony nw-wm1a and the fiio x7… what should i do?

    • Jeany Jane says:

      Fiio X7 Mark II is out and will be available in the market soon. It has an MSRP of $650, I think you might want to check that one out before finalizing your decision.
      Also note that the X7 has interchangeable or upgradable amp module, thus making its sound sig a bit different depending on the module used.
      You might want to consider the set of features the NW-WM1A has vs the X7 / X7 II.

  18. Kevin says:

    One somewhat significant change between the ONKYO DP-X1 vs DP-X1A: X1 has 32GB internal memory, the X1A has 64GB. There are also reports of improvement with the securing of the headphone jack.

  19. Tako says:

    I own fiio x7 ii. And calyx m. I tried all thise dacs. But for sound quality people those ak are not as good as Calyx m. Just try once calyx m it is old one but fantastic sound. And new fiio beats down ak 380 just try

  20. Gopa says:

    Chord Mojo + Poly ?

  21. Esoteric Natured says:

    Based on this review, one might as well get the LG V30+ with the Quad-DAC, 128GB internally and the ability to go 2 TB if they ever make it for a reasonable price on the SD Card. Also, based on one of the comments, has anything changed with wireless connectivity? Based on the current capabilities, I don’t believe wireless is up to an “audiophile’s” standards and shouldn’t even be a consideration.

    • Jeany Jane says:

      Audio quality alone, I believe these DAPs would outperform even the LG V20 / V30+. Don’t get me wrong, I think the LG V30+ is really good, I have the V20 and sound quality is very acceptable and capable.
      These DAPs can definitely compete in terms of audio quality (since it’s their forte after all), but other aspects and features… HHHMMMMMMM….. probably not.

  22. Peter says:

    Think long and hard about any purchase from small companies making big promises – Did my research and bought A&K audio player – Within 5 months the charging adapter port dislodged – 2 months of chasing them down – ignored email and excuses – then to add insult to injury they refuse to repair the device even thought it was within the 1 year warranty window? I’ve been in the audio industry for 20+ years and have never been treated with such disrespect as A&K. I wasted my $$$$ and will now go with a major manufacturer like Sony, Pioneer or Onkyo – These Chinese manufacturers do NOT stand behind their product – Have gone thru 4 Ipods over the years – Never had something as simple this occur – cold solder joint , poor quality control whatever stay away unless U prefer to throw your money away

  23. Nicholas says:

    Why did the iBasso DX200 come off the list?

    • Jeany Jane says:

      This is a little bit an outdated article already. We’ll update this very soon. The DX200 is still a very capable DAP. But there are newer DAPs released in the market and are usually better than their predecessors.

  24. stephen Ella says:

    I have been using iPod Classics Gen 5. A quick change over of hard drive and battery means a like new player.
    I am using Rockbox, have 384G (plus room for another micro card) and a extra large battery (3000mAh).
    Total cost has been under $200. Not the best audio but good enough for long overseas trips.

  25. Josh Beck says:

    You know what never gets mentioned in these reviews but is the primary concern for many people, is usability. How reliable is it, how long does it take to boot, are the buttons responsive, is the UI responsive. How does it do on importing and recognizing music, how is playlist functionality, etc? I have an AK Jr and I agree sound quality is nice for the price and era when I bought it, but the UI is painfully horrendously laggy, it rescans the entire library on boot up if I have deleted anything recently, meaning a 5-10 minute delay before it is usable, and the “back” button in the upper left is pretty small such that I only get it with about 70% accuracy. When I miss it, I hit the album art, which has the function of hiding the back button, which means I need to tap the album art again to get the back button again to have another go at hitting it. But I also have to train myself to wait for the UI refresh for all actions. In that regard, it cannot compete with a first generation iPod released in 2001. I’d like a newer player with a bit better sound and functionality, but most importantly, I want a rock solid, snappy, elegant, easy and intuitive UI, and I could give a flying f*ck about access to the Google Play store 🙂

    • Jeany Jane says:

      Hi Josh, this isn’t really a “review”. This is just a compilation on some of the best DAPs out there. And I haven’t updated this in a while. For sure there are new ones already that are better on this list. AK’s are really expensive DAPs, more or less “overpriced” and many would agree to this. There are far better DAPs in the market than the AK Jr. If you’re looking for that price to performance, then you shouldn’t look at AK products at all. You may want to check out the HiBy R6 DAP then. It’s one of the fastest and snappiest out there thanks to its Snapdragon SoC.

  26. Gman says:

    Hi guys just to be fair you mention pricing on the Sony as a negative . Let’s be honest the A & k models are seriously unjustified pricing there is no question . It pure elitist bull. There is nothing in the build or R & D that justifies the pricing. Human ears can only hear as good as the hosts life experiences ( The hosts environmental experiences and biology (age) ). So that leaves fair market value and I for one would contest any justification by A & K looto paw or any of the other so call high end audiophile quality players. That not to say these players are not good it just illogical pricing that will damage this market . You make your for 1/3and get close to the same quality.

  27. Peter says:

    I would like to replace my old iPod in my car. I do not understand why manufacturers do not think of those who want to listen to high-quality music in their car. Could you suggest to me a DAP that meets the following:
    – Max Sampling Rate: 32-bit / 384kHz
    – File Types: DSD, FLAC, WAV, ALAC, WMA, IOS, DSF
    – Handle external HDD to 2 TB
    – Have composite video out (via 3.5mm A / V connector)
    – have remote control
    Thanks in advance if you can help me.

  28. John Lupton says:

    Jeany, hi you state above: “The Onkyo DP-X1 and the new DP-X1A is third on my list due to their pricing. ” I am not clear on what your #1 & #2 players are? Please clarify, thanks. The Kann looks tempting….hmmm.

    • Jeany Jane says:

      Ahh sorry about this. There were 2 other DAPs before the Onkyo’s before (I think it was the Fiio and some other DAP). I haven’t updated this article yet. and I should have because it’s pretty much outdated already. And there are new DAPs available in the market as well. But generally, I arranged them according to price, from low to high. Kann is good specially if you have a headphone that requires a good AMP. AK also released new DAPs like the futura and norma

  29. Alessandro Sabatino says:

    LG G7… The best

  1. May 4, 2016

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