The Hunt for the Best Hi-Res Portable Audio player under $100
So you don't want to break the bank? You care about sound and want to buy the best budget high resolution music player under $100. Well let me tell you that yes it is possible to have audiophile level Hi-res music on the cheap. Your first priority should always be having good quality music files followed quickly by upgrading to audiophile headphones or earphones. These two steps will go a long way to getting the best sound within your respected budget.
These 2 areas are where you will get 90% of your sound improvements in a portable setup and, despite what some people profess to believe, the actual improvement in sound from stepping up from one of these budget audiophile DAP’s listed below (Digital Audio Player) to something like the Astell & Kern AK240 is relatively minimal.
Where you do see more of a dramatic jump is when you come from something like a mobile phone or cheap mp3 player. Moving to one of these dedicated music players that are designed with sound quality in mind will make a hell of a difference.
There are also some extra benefits to using a dedicated audio player to listen to your music on the go. Being able to handle a wider range of formats compared to simpler devices. Having a dedicated stand alone unit with increased power to drive certain headphones can also be a big advantage to some. not to forget using a separate audio player means less drain on your smartphone battery when out and about.
There's a lot of factors that make something a great sounding and fully featured DAP unit and here's my top 5 picks if cash is a little tight. The best portable audio player solutions under $100 right now.
List of the best hi res music players under $100
HIDIZS AP60 - A Feature rich budget player
Hidizs have been getting a lot of praise lately for there ability to deliver excellent high resolution audio players with a ton of features for people on a budget.
While it may not be able to match the all out performance of more expensive units it gives a taste of the more premium side of things.
The AP60 audio player is small, well made and extremely portable. Hosting a wide range of file playback options and a simple but easy to use interface its great value for money.
Shanling M0 - Best on the list!!
Shanling really put the audio world on notice with the release of their cheap MP3 player the Shanling M0.
There is a lot to love about this device and its hard not to start with discussing the super clean looks. Styling is on point and it has the build to match.
Features are also incredible and for $100 cant be beaten. You have a full touch screen interface. Dedicated volume control pot. It has certified high res Bluetooth audio which nothing else on the list has. It supports micro SD cards up to 512gb.
So with all that packed in you would expect them to maybe cut costs on the internals. Well, they didn’t. Driving the sound is the much loved Sabre DAC unit the ES9218P.
I cant stress enough what an incredibly good deal the M0 is right now and by far it is my favourite player on this list. So much so that I actually use on on a daily basis.
The screen might be minuscule and the interface limited and quirky to say the least but it manages to match much higher priced audiophile DAP's for sound.
A solid design with bold touch buttons and good interface for a budget hd music player we think this will be a solid choice for many people on a budget.
It has lots of support for differing file formats, can be used as an external USB DAC and has on of the best sounding DAC units at its price point.
Oh and we should probably mention that the battery life on this little player is incredible with around 24 hours of playback and 38 days of standby time it will stay juiced forever
Sansa Clip Zip - The Myth the Legend
The old standard of audiophiles everywhere. The clip gained quite the following back in the day because of its super flat and balanced output.
The Clip does very well with amping and plays a whole lot of formats out the box.
They are also lauded for being able to work with Rockbox, a 3rd party software that lets you have a massive amount of control and customisation of your device.
The clip is cheap, cheerful and sounds good to boot.
Xduuo x2 - Quirky filesystem but great sound
Coming in at just under $50 the Xduoo has been making big waves over the past year. Supporting WAV Flac and Mp3 amongst others is a good start but its the sound we were most appreciative of.
The Xduuo works well with most portable earphones and with music being bumped out in a clear and detailed style that has rightfully earned them a lot of praise.
We also like that this DAP is portable and has support for microSD expansion.
Your phone Plus the AudioQuest Dragonfly V1.5
Ok, so this isn't a DAP. However, given that most people will likely carry around their mobile phone with them everywhere they go why not turn it into a powerful portable player. The Audioquest Dragonfly (Original Review Here)is a USB stick sized Amp/DAC unit that seriously ups the capabilities of your phone.
No decent sub $100 audio player supports Spotify and Tidal playback so that's one giant plus of using your phone as a transport device. The other big plus of this method, of course, is that the Dragonfly uses the incredibly good ES sabre DAC, something you find in DAP's upwards of $400. It sounds great and doesn't cost the world.