Aug 7, 2016

Best Portable Audio Player <$500

Best Portable Audio player under $500. My options so far are the FiiO x5 & and the Astell&Kern AK Jr
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For pure sound quality the PonoPlayer. Ayre Acoustics designed the analog circuitry and it is all discrete components. Run balanced headphones and you will hear why Stereophile magazine awarded it digital product of the year in 2015. I have two and love them. So organic sounding.
If a DAP under $500 I would pick Fiio X5 and A&K100mk2. If it is more than $500 I would definitely choose Onkyo DP-X1.
Cayin N5 houses a single Asahi Kasei's AKM4490Eq DAC, the same DAC equipped (as a dual DAC formation) in AK380. With 3.5mm headphone out, Line out, singled out coax out, and 2.5mm balanced out, as well as USB DAC capable, this is probably by far the best DAP I've seen thus far for this price range.
Not to mention the dual microUSB capability, its vast amount of power capable of driving immensely high impedance headphones at Hi gain, and supports up to DSD128 NATIVE playback, I cannot think of any other player that equips all this and surpasses all the features the N5 has to offer at just above $400.
It does observe some hiccups though such as a "unique" UI, and a dismissable but noticeable hiss when music is not playing from a 2.5mm balanced out setup, this just adds to the taste of the player itself.

Last but not least, customer support from Cayin is impeccable. Andy Kong of Cayin is constantly on the lookout for user feedback on Head-Fi forums, and if users discuss a common bug, Andy is quick to the scene, takes it to the firmware/tech development team, and does what it takes to resolve it, thus reflected on the recent firmware updates of the N5.

Either that or Cowon's Plenue D. Size of a cigarette box, capable of up to 24/192 playback with a monstrous battery life of up to 100hours at mp3 continuous playback, or 50hours 24/192 continuous playback.
Of course, we cannot dismiss Cowon's very JetEffect equalizer, and Plenue D is equipped with it as well. In fact you wouldn't be able to take full advantage of the DAP without the JetEffect.
This for $200? It's a steal in my opinion.
I'm using FiiO x5 2nd Gen. LIke it a lot, I lIke looking at all the other DAPS out there, but haven't felt like a change is needed. It is kinda hefty, so its mostly used when sitting down or bedside.
WildChinoise
I really like mine. The interface is a bit oldschool, but it's for music not catching pokemon. Sound quality is excellent, amp output is enough to drive 600 ohm T1s to jet engine levels, and the storage capacity is unmatched.

I carry it around in my pocket just fine - the gen 2 feels a lot smaller than the gen 1. That said, if you wear skinny jeans, you might still have an issue carrying it comfortably... but, if you wear skinny jeans, it's probably the least of your issues.
I'm anti-DAP. There has not been one in which I preferred the interface, speed of updates, or flexibilty to smartphone apps. Having something like Android on the DAP is nice, but still isn't ideal update wise.

The Axon 7 is my preferred DAP. AKM 4490, Dolby Atmos with dual speakers, choice of apps with updates (UAPP with parametric eq), and it happens to be a flagship performance smartphone too.

Not only that, I can plug in my LH Labs V2+ Infinity for even better audio performance and the ability to run balanced. The flexibility is untouchable.
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You can bypass the internal resampling via the UAPP app as mentioned above to utilize the higher grade DACs in phones that have them, just like you can externally. S/N ratio and distortion numbers are they key indicators to look for. If they are the same measured on the phone compared to the same dac/amp combo on a standalone device, there will be no difference.

These higher quality DACs that are starting to appear in phones will be less susceptible to EMI based on a good shielded implementation, and also in being a separate chip compared to a shared one. I get no EMI from my Axon 7 or HTC 10.

Copying my music over wifi from my network share to the phone is a convenience I will not give up.
bhazard451
We agree on convenience, I use JRiver Media Center so I can access my entire library from either my HTC One (M9) or the iPhone 6 plus (unfortunately no app solution, have to use webgizmo). I do that for causal listening and convenience. If I am wanting to listen to a lot of hi res files on the go, sans any conversion, I will pull out the X3ii+e12A combo that has 128gb micro sd loaded with select files. Until the latest generation of smart phones, 192kHz/24bit capable phone DAC's were not prevalent and thus render the UAPP' ability to handle high res streams moot. I looked into USB Audio Pro Player previously and some people experienced incompatibility issues, this may have been rectified in later releases. I'm also not sure why you are contributing to a DAP suggestion thread if you have planted your feet firmly on the side of "No DAP." I guess some people just want to watch the world burn and soak in the chaos.

https://www.massdrop.com/talk/110/da-ps-and-portable-music-players/491868 - this is a better thread to discuss the pro's and con's of DAP vs. Phone
Out of the list you have AK Jr hands down. As long as you are using mainly iems (amp stage in the JR I didn't find to be too powerful). Another option could be one of the newer audiophile phones (haven't heard any yet but I have an ZTE Axon 7 on order). Also the Lotoo Paw is another contender if you wanted something a bit simpler and cheaper.
Don't know if you saw this string of posts, but it has some other options for decent DAPs .

https://www.massdrop.com/talk/110/da-ps-and-portable-music-players
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