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 is an incredible sounding player that I punches well above its weight.
I love the design of the player with its clean lines and simple interface. Its available in dark gray and silver and the hardware is excellent with aAK4452VN DAC and MAX97220 amp unit driving headphones super loud with lots of detail and an admirable soundstage.
The AP60 audio player is small, well made and extremely portable. File support is great with ALAC, FLAC and DSD up to 192khz/24bit.
You have the ability to adjust between high and low gain settings, there is support for MicroSD cards up to 256GB and Playback time in our testing was around 12 hours.
If it was my money and sound quality was a priority I would be choosing the AP60 or the Xduoo X3ii that is listed below.
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 Sport Go - The Myth the Legend Continued
The old standard of audiophiles for many years. At a time when MP3 players were full of junk hardware and distorted the sound the clip stood out for its beautifully flat balanced sound. Its was small had great battery life and could be rockboxed thus giving a wealth of options for customizing your music player.
The new Clip Sport Go is the evolution and its not just a cheap MP3 player for running. It is an overall more refined version of the original that does everything a little bit better and still sounds awesome.
It drives most headphones and earphones well and plays a whole lot of high resolution formats out the box.
You will also find support for MicroSD cards multiple playlist functions and EQ settings to allow your some fine tuning of the sound..
The clip is cheap, cheerful and sounds good to boot.
Xduuo x3II - Outstanding value for money
Just over $100 on western sites but available for under $100 if you order from Aliexpress or Bangood hence its inclusion on this list. The Xduoo X3 II is an outstanding proposition when it comes to value for money.
The build quality is excellent with an all metal construction and great ergonomics making it very comfortable to use.
The hardware is also something of a high point with a well respected AK Dac unit and Texas instrument amp section the sound on the X3 II can really compete sonically with other players well over $200. Its clean, its detailed and has a hint on natural tube resonance.
File support is excellent and you have the bonus of bluetooth support with the higher resolution APTX codex plus the ability to use the unit as a transport device or external DAC unit for your PC.
An outstanding little player for the money, the only downsides are the low screen resolution and dated looking menu system.
Your phone Plus the AudioQuest Dragonfly
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.