The Rise of the HD Music Player
Following the rise in popularity of the high-res DAP in the past few years, it's getting kind of hard keeping up with all the new devices hitting the market. Lots of you want to know who has the best HD Music Player. Many devices have caught our eye and the range of features you can now get in a portable package is mind-boggling. With ever more competitive pricing this makes choosing the right one pretty darn complicated. I wanted to make things a bit simpler so I knocked out this top 10 list of the best high res players we could find. Everything we have listed here has been tested by us and if there is not already a full review up there will be one live on the site soon.
in my opinion the Sony MW-ZX2 is the ultimate DAP right now for on the go use. Users can enjoy the benefits of having over 60 hours of MP3 playback or over 33 hours with High-Res formats such as FLAC & WAV. The inclusion of high end bluetooth for wireless headphones and wifi capable of being used with streaming services such as Tidal and Spotify is a great addition.
The sound quality is excellent and the unit works well with almost any headphones. Excellent Sony build quality and an easy to use Android UI round of a well polished package making the NW-ZX2 on of the finest HD players you can buy.
LOTOO PAW GOLD
Lotoo are still new to the Audiophile DAP game but with the PAW gold they entered the market and made a big splash. A quirky looking player the Gold has been praised for its reference level sound quality that will have fellow audiophiles grinning from ear to ear.
The interface is simple in that everything you need for switching settings on the sly is available through dedicated hardware buttons. Build quality is exceptional and despite the high price I would recommend the PAW gold to anyone who wants to do critical listening on the go.
SHANLING AUDIO M2
We reviewed the Shanling M2 earlier this year and praised it highly for being one of the best sounding DAP's for those of you on a budget.
Sound quality is clean and detailed with just a touch of warmth that makes this one of the most versatile DAP's on this list in terms of headphone pairing. The scroll wheel interface is fast and intuitive and file support is excellent.
Stong build quality and the inclusion of Line Out, headphone out and COAX connectors round off a great sounding and looking mp3 player at just under $200
OPUS #1 - HIGH RESOLUTION DIGITAL AUDIO PLAYER
If you were thinking about buying an Astell & Kern player then stop right there. Want all that performance with a way better UI? Welcome to the Opus #1. In side by side blind testing I nor anyone else present was able to distinguish a noticeable difference between the Opus #1 and the AK240. The kicker? The Opus #1 costs a quarter of the 240.
This dedicated HD music player comes with a host of bells. The interface is a stripped out audio focussed version of android that is both fast and simple to use. The sound is neutral, detailed and has the biggest soundstage we have ever heard from a mobile device.
Questyle with the Questyle QP1r looks, at first glance, like an ipod on steroids. Unlike the Ipod though this DAP sound great from the HP out and has the ability to drive most full size headphones. The interface and scroll wheel is no match for some of the touchscreen offerings, it can get flaky at times but persevere and you are rewarded with beautiful sound that is warm spacious and detailed.
Build quality on the QP1R is unlike anything else and really helps make it stand out as a true premium audio device.
LOTOO PAW 5000
Another music player on this list from Lotoo and this one focuses on the sub $200 market. The PAW 5000 takes a lot of the features people like on the more expensive PAW Gold and brings them to the masses.
You get regular and balanced headphone out as the option to output optically to your HiFi system. The Paw 5000 is also capable of being utilised as a 24 bit DSD player.
Bluetooth is another draw but ultimatley we just like the sound on this little player. It works great at driving headphones up to 250 ohms and does equally well with all but the most sensitive of IEM's.
Featureing both dual sabre DAC's and Dual sabre amps is the big feature of Onkyo/s excellent DP-X1 and it sounds incredible. Crystal clear, uber transparency and loads of power and give it a sound that is worthy of use with the best headphones and files you can throw at it.
The android UI is a dream and high-res support for streaming services is built in. Connectivity is further enhanced by balanced headphone out and Bluetooth 4.0.
Another thing we really like is that with the DP-X1 you won't be running out of space to store your files with 32GB built in and dual micro-SD slots expanding the total capacity to 432gb.
For a long time Fiio have been in control of the cheap DAP market but now there is some new competition in the way of the Xduoo X3 Hifi Mp3 Player.
The X3 supports a range of high resolution audio formats such as DSD: DSF, DFF, PCM:APE,FlAC,WAV,AIFF,ALAC,WMA,PCM: MP3 OGG,ACC. All that can be stored via the Xduoo's 2 micro SD card slots capable of expanding the storage to a whopping 256GB.
On the inside you will find the brilliant Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC Chip. The screen may be small but at a touch over $100 this is our pick for best budget audiophile player right now.
Pioneer are a big name Audio brand. Huge in the world of home and in car audio they have now stepped into challenge some of the relatively obscure brands that dominate the audiophile hobby. The XDP-100R is a great first attempt and one that is already gaining a lot of popularity over at the Head-Fi forums.
Style wise it looks an awful lot like those overpriced Astell & Kern music players. The build quality is great and it even has a built in bumper for added protection. With a Sabre ES9018K2M DAC and 9601K amp inside its sounds damn good. Neutral, detailed and balanced offering users high levels of transparency in the sound.
Another player supporting high resolution wifi streaming with compatible software the XDP-100 will work well with both Hifi and headphone systems.
Pono Music Player
Everyone was skeptical at first even myself but the PONO player has gone a long way to proving doubters wrong. While the PONO might not be the ultimate end game HD Music Player on this list it is still one of the best sounding. Additionally considering you can now pick one up for under $400 it seems to be a bit of a bargain.
Smart choices such as supporting high-fidelity DSD audio, a balanced headphone out and having Ayre acoustics technology inside has made for a surprisingly popular High Res audio player.
Sound is immersive and engaging, with lots of space and air between instruments. Detail retrieval is even more impressive and I like it so much I just bought one for myself... I think that is testament enough.