Recently, starting with a total misunderstanding of why hi-res music is needed and who is interested in it at all. I realized how cool DAP is, especially if you are a music lover and appreciate good tunes, notes, and sound of instruments.

DAPs comparison table

DAP Storage Sample rate Bluetooth/Wi-Fi
FiiO M11 best overall 32GB/4TB 32bit/384kHz yes/yes
iBasso DX220 best under $1000 4GB/2TB 32bit/384kHz yes/yes
FiiO M9 best under $300 2GB/2TB 32bit/192kHz yes/yes
Pioneer XDP-30 best under $200 16GB/512GB 32bit/192kHz yes/yes
FiiO M7 budget 2GB/512GB 24bit/192kHz yes/no
Sony NW-WM1A premium 128GB/512GB 32bit/384kHz yes/no

To begin with, I think it would be super logical to figure out what a DAP actually is. By design, this is an MP3 player, but nowadays this is a strong exaggeration of his merits. The point is, yes, the system can play MP3 files without any problems. But more importantly, they provide the ability to play ultra-high-resolution audio. Often they are like a dish with different sauces, they have many different names: high-res (high resolution) audio players, portable media players (PMP), and even multi-media players (MMP).

Most DAPs can comfortably play the most available digital files in the world of music. They are specially designed to play high resolution or “lossless” digital files. With a ton of different products, features, and pricing policies, I sincerely hope that this review will help you choose your best DAP that will add some bright colors to your daily music listening. Moreover, all DAP reviews here are divided by price category to make it easier for each user to search through.

Even though among a huge variety, the best DAPs now have a huge range of functions, for example, the ability to connect to Wi-Fi, touch screens, a built-in solid equalizer, and Bluetooth wireless streaming, such a huge number of functions often justifies the sometimes inflated price tags that reach $2000. In general, it should be understood that this is not just a small turntable, but position it as a perfect audio system.

Best DAP under $1000 Reviews

iBasso DX220 – best under $1000

iBasso DX220

iBasso DX220 is the first in line among the best DAP under $1000. First of all, I would like to note the incredibly cool and stylish design, which immediately resembles the iPhone 5 line. Beautiful smoothed corners, a pleasant shade of the case. The iBasso DX220 packaging also deserves a separate mention. The box looks very futuristic, in pleasant colors, all the parts are folded incredibly neat and beautifully. In my opinion, this level of product packaging is a whole new level, because it includes absolutely everything you need for perfect use: all the way to burn-in cables, USB cables, Coaxial cables, glass screen protector replacements, HDTracks coupons, and a leather case for DX220.

The composition is made very reliably, the feeling that this device cannot be broken in any way, even if you try hard. One thing you may notice about it is that it has a replaceable amplifier module on the bottom, which helps a lot with getting a multitude of sonic signatures out of just one device. The back is made of glass but is also covered by a thick glass screen protector which is also incredibly nice.

Taking into consideration all my impressions about DX220 I can truly admit that this one is the best digital music player. Now, I’d like to turn your attention to its filling. There is also literally a monster inside DX220 – a full-blown desktop ESS 9028 PRO DAC. Moreover, the device has an 8-Core CPU, with a seasoning of 4 GB of RAM up to 2TB. DX220 has various connectivity options. There are Type-C USB Port, SPDIF Digital Output, and the power button on the top.

You can also find the volume wheel, and the play/pause, ffwd, and bckwd buttons on the right side of DX220. On the left side accordingly, you can find the microSD slot, and at the bottom, you will find the AMP card module, which has a wide selection of outputs, depending on which AMP module you’re using. The device provides you with a 32bit/384kHz max sampling rate. So taking into consideration all specs, I’m assured it’s the best sounding DAP for Tidal and other services as well. The battery life of 8 hours for such a stable device is also pretty solid.

Key specs

  • Storage/up to: 4GB/2TB
  • Max. sampling rate : 32bit/384 kHz
  • DAC chip: Dual ES9028PRO
  • Battery life: 8hrs
  • Bluetooth/Wi-Fi: yes/yes

Pros

  • Modern, smooth design with accurate angles and smart knobs placement
  • Balanced and detailed picture along with an excellent 1080p Sharp Full Screen
  • Sturdy and reliable with only 240g weight, that’s why-portable as well

Cons

  • After continuous usage runs hot and sometimes shuts off
  • Does not have a cooling system inside which directly affects the rising temperature and battery life tames faster

Astell & Kern A&norma SR15

Astell & Kern A&norma SR15

Probably looking at the tops of different devices, the reader often wonders why these devices are included in the list? Let’s figure out why exactly Astell & Kern A & norma SR15 got into this top and deserves consideration.

First of all, design. It will be made with a focus on geometric design, looks very modern and the color palette pleases the eye. At the expense of the technical side of A & norma SR15, we get an extremely reliable DAP equipped with two CS43198 DACs, 3.5mm, and balanced 2.5mm headphone jacks, 64GB built-in storage which is expandable via microSD card, and built-in Bluetooth, wi-fi, and Tidal. The A&norma SR15 boasts an improved interface and support for native DSD playback (to DSD64) in addition to PCM files up to 24-bit / 192kHz. Fortunately, the owners of high-resolution files are also not deprived. A 32-bit file with a 384kHz or 352kHz sampling rate is simply downsampled to 24-bit / 192 kHz or 24-bit / 176 kHz respectively for playback, while DSD128 is also playable through conversion to PCM 24-bit / 176kHz.

The device in use resembles the use of a full-fledged smartphone, with functionality from around 2010. To be honest, such progress is an incredible joy for the DAPs. you have access to the menu for quick access to wi-fi, Bluetooth, EQ, and volume swaps a screen-hogging interface for a scrollable single-tier bar. while the home screen, which can be viewed by scrolling right, also has a more contemporary feel. It displays more options, too. As well as albums, artists, genres, playlist, and folders there are also favorite settings and direct access to DSD and MQS (Master Quality Sound: 24-bit / 192kHz) files.

The battery of the A & norma SR15 is also quite solid. It supports 10 hours of active use without recharging. In fact, this is an incredibly good indicator since you can often take the device with you on a trip, to a party and not rack your brains on how to charge it.

Key specs

  • Storage/up to: 64GB/1TB
  • Max. sampling rate : 24bit/192kHz
  • DAC chip: Dual CS43198
  • Battery life: 10hrs
  • Bluetooth/Wi-Fi: yes/yes

Pros

  • Crystal clear and deep sound in thanks to 2 in-built DACs
  • Pleasurable and smart interface
  • Build quality is excellent, everything is made accurately, every component is in its place, feels very reliable

Cons

  • Cannot work as a DAC between headphones and PC
  • Тhe device is poorly optimized, the file transfer speed is very slow and it takes some time to turn on and start normal operation
  • Runs very hot despite the good battery life

Best DAP under $500 Reviews

FiiO M11 – best overall

FiiO M11

While starting to talk about the category of best DAP under $500 it’s literally impossible without mentioning FiiO M11. It is important to note that this device is very easy to use thanks to the pleasant-to-touch aluminum body and the big 5.2in edge-to-edge touch-screen with 1440 x 720 resolution. It’s an Android DAP, which by itself adds a solid number of functions. The screen is very bright, captures details well enough, and does not look dull. All useful features are located very conveniently, at the bottom of the device there are three headphone sockets: a 3.5mm analog output that can be switched to digital coaxial, balanced 2.5mm and balanced 4.4mm. DAP can also be used as USB-DAK due to the USB-C socket for charging, data transfer, and so on.

The M11 has two AK4497EQ DACs from AKM, arranged in a dual-mono set-up, and THX AAA amplification. Thus, it can process any audio file along with Fiio’s native 32-bit / 384kHz resolution. The number of processed formats is very pleasing: LAC, AIFF, FLAC, WAV, WMA Lossless, APE (Multiple), DSD, DXD, MP3, OGG, WMA. For this reason, even with the most demanding headphones, there will be no visible problems. Moreover, it is equipped with 32GB of internal memory, which can be expanded up to 4TB, which greatly simplifies the task for users who prefer to store all high-resolution audio on the device.

I think it is certainly a large amount of memory and a small size that makes the M11 the best hi res music player DAP. Despite its relatively small size, the device boasts a very capacious 4730mHa battery that can withstand nearly 13 hours of operation without additional recharging.

Key specs

  • Storage/up to: 32GB/4TB
  • Max. sampling rate : 32bit/384kHz
  • DAC chip: Dual AK4493EQ
  • Battery life: 13hrs
  • Bluetooth/Wi-Fi: yes/yes

Pros

  • Accurate and subtle sound
  • Very portable and reliably built
  • A wide variety of functions include great connectivity and onboard apps
  • Durable battery

Cons

  • A little too heavy for outdoor use
  • Provides very small speed of downloading music files, despite it’s hi-res player

iBasso DX160

iBasso DX160

According to some sources, iBasso DX160 is the trump card of the Chinese company. Since they’ve released DX160, they strengthened their position in the world market and at the same time created one of the best lossless music player. By similar products, it can definitely be meant as one of the most reliable digital audio players. This is not to say that the DX160 is by far the best DAP ever-ever, but it is worth considering anyway.

In general, the case looks quite stylish but at the same time laconic. Thanks to the large, borderless touchscreen, the picture is clearly visible, bright, and pleasing. The device is equipped with the latest version of Android 8.1, has an octa-core processor, so during use it works more than stably and smoothly. Despite the absence of the Google Play Store, there are enough worthwhile apps available to make multitasking essential. The DX160 boasts 32GB onboard storage which is very acceptable but by the time the operating system has taken its share, you’re looking at more like 25GB. In any case, there is always the opportunity to buy a microSD card and afford much more, up to 2 TB of memory.

The DX160 has 4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm unbalanced headphone sockets and also Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless connection. Moreover, the device is equipped with iBasso’s dual Cirrus CS43198 DACs – these are of native 32-bit / 384kHz and DSD256 resolution, so every worthwhile file type including MQA plays without any interruptions or problems. The DX160 has a 3200mAh battery, on the one hand not very much, but not too little, since iBasso claims an average battery life of 13 hours.

Key specs

  • Storage/up to: 32GB/2TB
  • Max. sampling rate : 32bit/384kHz
  • DAC chip: Dual CS43198
  • Battery life: 12hrs
  • Bluetooth/Wi-Fi: yes/yes

Pros

  • Great and valuable filling
  • The excellent interface on the borderless screen and very customizable Android OS
  • Highly detailed sound

Cons

  • Cannot boast fast working process, the device sometimes lags while working with big audio files
  • Pretty limited Bluetooth range although in works clearly

Best DAP under $300 Reviews

FiiO M9 – best under $300

FiiO M9

If you are unhappy with the audio quality that your smartphone reproduces, I think this budget version of the best DAP under $300 will suit you perfectly. FiiO M9 Solidly built, with a nice plastic finish that comes with it, it’s portable enough for daily use. It actually sits lightly in your hand and fits in your pocket without any problems. The M9 has two headphone jacks covering 3.5mm and 2.5mm plugs, and a USB-C charging port at the bottom. As everyone is accustomed to, there is a very little amount of onboard memory, only 2 GB. Therefore, to listen to high-resolution music, you can always buy a Micro SD card up to 2 TB.

Let’s now take a look at the insides of the M9 and check what FiiO has made. This device is equipped with AK4490EN DAC chips and an A3P030 FPGA. The system can boast of not the highest max. sampling rate 32bit / 192kHz, but still, I think this is quite enough to enjoy the music to the fullest. The possibility of various kinds of connections is also pleasing because along with the wired connections, the M9 also supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so it means additional connectivity options are present and that’s really good as for a budget under 300$ DAP.

It’s Bluetooth 4.2, and that includes the following codecs in 24-bit: aptX, aptX HD, LDAC, and HWA. Also, because the M9 is based on Android, this DAP is easily connected with Spotify, Amazon, and supports music in HD. But, there is also a disadvantage of the Android OS. I mean the fact that onboard memory is already very limited. Moreover, it is worthwhile to understand that part of the memory is still occupied by the Android of the new version. Therefore, one cannot do anything without an SD card.

Key specs

  • Storage/up to: 2GB/2TB
  • Max. sampling rate : 32bit/192kHz
  • DAC chip: Dual AK4490EN
  • Battery life: 10hrs
  • Bluetooth/Wi-Fi: yes/yes

Pros

  • Detailed, bright, and balanced audio quality
  • Has a very customizable Android system with various functions and great connectivity options
  • Gives an ability to download Spotify, Tidal and to use it in offline mode

Cons

  • 800 x 400 resolution looks very disappointing
  • A small amount of in-built storage, only 2 GB is actually like nothing

Sony NW-A55

Sony NW-A55

Sony NW-A55 is actually a very reliable audiophile DAP and accordingly is an excellent choice for guys who just want to immerse themselves in the world of high-quality music with pleasant functionality but without incredible costs. Paying attention to all the characteristics, I think this DAP is able to play any file, because, in comparison with other devices with the same price, Sony is in the irreplaceable leader, see for yourself how many formats it supports: MP3, WMA, FLAC, WAV, AAC, HE-AAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF, DSD, DSF, DFF, APE, MQA.

It can play almost anything with hi-res PCM files up to 32-bit / 384kHz (WAVs are supported all the way up, while FLACs top out at 24-bit / 96kHz), DSD tracks up to 11.2MHz (which the player converts to PCM) and MQA music. That covers nearly every digital music file you could probably own. Moreover, it will be played in excellent quality.

Compared to others, the NW-A55 does not have a very large amount of internal memory, but still, 16 GB looks like more than enough. Besides, it can always be easily increased by using a removable SD media by as much as 2TB. The last thing worth highlighting is that the NW-A55 lacks WI-FI connectivity. It is a strong disadvantage due to the fact that DAPs with WI-FI can easily stream music. Nevertheless, Sony NW-A55 remains a pretty good starter DAP for those who just want to begin listening to high-resolution music and enjoying it.

Key specs

  • Storage/up to: 16GB/2TB
  • Max. sampling rate : 24bit/192kHz
  • DAC chip: N/A
  • Battery life: 45hrs
  • Bluetooth/Wi-Fi: yes/no

Pros

  • Extremely portable and compact with enough battery life
  • Supports a wide variety of different formats
  • Has a fantastic Bluetooth option with an NFC chip that works really fast
  • Settings are very convenient, everything is placed very smartly and you are provided with some necessary customization

Cons

  • The absence of WI-FI connectivity is a strong disadvantage that limits your activity with the device

Best DAP under $200 Reviews

Pioneer XDP-30 – best under $200

Pioneer XDP-30

It often happens that everyone has a different budget. Some boast of expensive devices, but what about the guys who are not ready to pay a fortune for the simple DAP, but still want to enjoy high-resolution music? I think I found the answer – here is the best DAP under $200 called Pioneer XDP-30. Pioneer has been on the market for an incredibly long time, and I think thanks to his devices he made a famous name for himself. Let’s figure out what XDP-30 exactly is.

It looks like a very reliable device, with a rather small screen, but the trick is not in it, right? In general, the composition looks quite reliable, unlike most smartphones. He can play PCM files up to 32-bit / 192kHz and double speed DSD without any problems. Likewise, Streaming isn’t ignored either, with Tidal, Deezer, and TuneIn support built-in. In my opinion, the built-in internal storage of this device is not really chic, but average, 16 GB. As in any DAP, there is a special slot for a micro SD card to increase the memory capacity up to 512 GB.

Connectivity is fairly standard, with a 3.5mm headphone output and a 2.5mm balanced output. Inside, the device is equipped with twin SABER ES9018C2M DACs along with a pair of ES9601 amplifiers chips. Pioneer specified two clocks: one for 44.1kHz family of sampling rates and the other for 48kHz and its multiples. This reduces jitter errors and should give a better sound. In any case, the maximum sampling rate the XDP-30 is capable of is 32bit / 192kHz. The 1630mAh battery gives around 15 hours of use before needing a recharge, however, the figure still changes depending on the load you put on the device.

Key specs

  • Storage/up to: 16GB/512GB
  • Max. sampling rate : 32bit/192kHz
  • DAC chip: Dual ES9018C2M
  • Battery life: 15hrs
  • Bluetooth/Wi-Fi: yes/yes

Pros

  • Great combination of small price and excellent sound that is greatly balanced and detailed even at high volumes
  • Compatible with various file formats
  • Reliably built and easy to use
  • Unbelievable possibility for memory capacity with 2 in-built slots for micro SD

Cons

  • The screen is pretty tiny and the picture is not very detailed

HIDIZS AP80

HIDIZS AP80

It turned out that many DAPs are very convenient to use, some are small, some have a huge battery charge, but I think only HIDIZS AP80 can be deservedly called the best portable DAP.

It all starts with the packaging, that looks incredibly stylish, and everything is packed very nicely inside. In addition, upon purchase, inside you will find not only DAP but also a protective glass for the screen and extremely high-quality cables. The appearance of the AP80 is very cool because the finish in matt black painted aluminum gives the feeling that you are holding a true premium product. The whole display looks very bright and pleasing to the eye, everything is very detailed. With a 9218P DAC installed, HIDIZS AP80 can play both lossless files and even DSD files. Also, with the participation of a 32bit / 384kHz sampling rate, all played files sound incredibly high quality. Overall, the whole build quality is good enough, especially for that price. Feels like it sits firmly in the hand thanks to its nice finish and sharp edges. On one hand, The sound is very neutral in its default configuration, but on the other hand, I don’t really think it’s a huge problem due to the fact that users prefer different music. Feels like I should admit that AP80 is multi-purposeful.

The AP80 can justify its incredible portability with a battery that can work up to 15 hours without a single recharge. Despite all the advantages of the device, there are some unpleasant things. For example, the lack of built-in memory. All you can do is buy a Micro SD card that can hold up to 1 TB of memory.

Key specs

  • Storage/up to: no/1TB
  • Max. sampling rate : 32bit/384kHz
  • DAC chip: ES9218P
  • Battery life: 15hrs
  • Bluetooth/Wi-Fi: yes/no

Pros

  • The player works really quickly, the screen is also responding well
  • Neat design and packaging
  • Provides universal sound options

Cons

  • Lacks in-built memory
  • Sometimes freezes when works with huge lists of songs and big audio files
  • Best DAP under $100

Best DAP under $100 Reviews

FiiO M7

FiiO M7

From the point of view of a person who has considered DAPs of different price categories, looking at the FiiO M7, you can complain for a long time about different things, from the screen to the sound, but let’s look at the best DAP under 100$ without bias.

This brand is widely known in the market, thanks to reliable devices, they work smoothly and reliably. It is light enough, fits well in the hand, and fits into a pocket without any problems, which makes it quite portable. In addition, The Fiio M7 is available in silver, red, blue, and black, so everyone can choose the model they like.

The 3.2in 480×800 TFT display is as standard, despite its not particularly large size, not the full HD picture, not bright, it works smoothly and clearly. Unfortunately, DAP does not support Wi-Fi connection. Theoretically, the built-in memory is only 2 GB, which means that the main focus is made on your micro SD card, for which there is a separate port. The device supports up to 512 GB. As for the filling, it is important to note that The Fiio M7 is equipped with an ES9018Q2C DAK chip and can produce a maximum sampling rate of 24bit / 192kHz. As for me, these specifications are enough to provide excellent music quality. The Fiio M7 has an excellent Samsung Exynos 7270 SoC processing chip. One of the positive points this results in is that it makes everything smaller and it allows you to foresee more space for better cooling and a bigger battery to improve playtime.

By the way, at the expense of the battery. The M7 is equipped with a 1180mAh battery and together with the Exynos chip, the device offers up to 20 hours of active use, which is virtually unbelievable because no previous DAP could boast such an indicator. And this is far from the end, by the way, the M7 in sleep mode can work up to 40 days without charging, and even if it came to the point that it was pressed to recharge, it charges in under 2.5h over USB-C. To sum up, I’d like to say that I’m really excited by FiiO M7, so I suppose it is the best budget DAP, which for its price has something to please the user.

Key specs

  • Storage/up to: 2GB/512GB
  • Max. sampling rate : 24bit/192kHz
  • DAC chip: ES9018Q2C
  • Battery life: 20hrs
  • Bluetooth/Wi-Fi: yes/no

Pros

  • Pretty compact and highly portable
  • Excellent battery life
  • The greatest combination of price and quality

Cons

  • Lacks good optimization because it works poorly with hi-res files and huge lists of audio
  • A small amount of in-built memory
  • Lots of complaints about defective mini-jack

Premium DAP Reviews

Sony NW-WM1A – best premium

Sony NW-WM1A

This new version of Sony players is a flagman of 2017. Only by taking the player in hand, I did immediately feel the level of Sony quality. It is perfect. Also, there is good gain in the player. The presentation of the music has a completely different character. It is strict and sterile.

I like this device’s outlook. Strict masculine, perfect build quality and materials. It is just a Sony! Because of the quality materials, it is heavy and serious. But, it is not a problem for home listening. The size of this player is like an iPhone 6, but too thick and heavy. Good battery as promised. Also, only this Sony NW-WM1A provides a nice system to list your downloaded files. I use an additional 512GB card. Now, all of my favorite songs are always with me.

I am using the connection of balance, so it helps and balance sounds better. The interface is user friendly. If you use your smartphone as a music player, this device will sound like a live orchestra. The sound is quiet throughout the sound from stage and the rich bass is persistent. It has a cool option for tone controls – bass, treble, mid. To summarize, the Sony NW-WM1A is the perfect player for me, for this price.

Key specs

  • Storage/up to: 128GB/512GB
  • Max. sampling rate : 32bit/384kHz
  • DAC chip: N/A
  • Battery life: 30hrs
  • Bluetooth/Wi-Fi: yes/no

Pros

  • Easy-to-use, all functions turn very intuitively
  • Has an option of organizing the library

Cons

  • Too heavy to go out with it

Astell&Kern A&Ultima SP1000M

Astell&Kern A&Ultima SP1000M

At first sight – it’s a very expensive, luxury and good-looking model of player. I prefer to use modern things, which attract attention. This device is super cool, so I’ve bought it. Gold plating lives no chances for other models. I knew that premium devices are usually weighty; reflecting a hefty price tag and this player confirms it. If this is your first time dealing with an A&K device, the interface will be a little bit new and you have to get used to it; however, it is quite simple.

The straight lines and angles and the multifunctional control wheel on the right are awesome. This player has a good sparkling body-SP1000M and is a reference embodiment of Astell & Kern’s design principles. This player is exactly perfect for me – lighter, smaller and better sounds – that’s what I want. This A&K device sounds good in classical music, showing the most thick effects, surroundings.

Key specs

  • Storage/up to: 128GB/512GB
  • Max. sampling rate : 32bit/384kHz
  • DAC chip: Dual AK4497EQ
  • Battery life: 10hrs
  • Bluetooth/Wi-Fi: yes/yes

Pros

  • Sounds awesome on tracks with heavy metal music, keeping all the shades of music specification
  • Its monitor looks amazing – quite colorful, very different from simple digital displays ever

Cons

  • It requires both hands to operate it – especially if I needed to reach the screen off button

DAPs file types supported

DAP DSD MQA FLAC ALAC WAV AIFF AAC WMA OGG
iBasso DX220 yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
Astell & Kern A&norma SR15 yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
FiiO M11 yes no yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
iBasso DX160 yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
FiiO M9 yes no yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
Sony NW-A55 yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
Pioneer XDP-30 yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
HIDIZS AP80 yes no yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
FiiO M7 yes no yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
Sony NW-WM1A yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
Astell&Kern A&Ultima SP1000M yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes

Buyers Guide

What to look for when buying a digital audio player

Audio conversion

This is unbelievably important to understand that The quality of playback of any device always depends on the quality of the DAC in-built chips. DACs are mostly oriented on playing high-resolution audio files that your smartphone usually cannot play clearly enough. For example, hi-res files always sound better and accordingly much better than basic compressed MP3. and the processing power of the DAC chip determines how some specific features of hi-res music like harmonics, depth, stereo width, etc, will sound.

The most satisfying thing about DA converters, to my mind, is that the played sound of your personally chosen audio system, speakers, headphones will be absolutely at a new level. For this reason, it is very important to understand this topic well and to sort everything out for yourself, so that your choice depends not only on the price but also on the individual characteristics that you expect to receive from the purchase of DAP.

File types

It is also worth paying special attention to a rather important topic, such as the types of files that you plan to play and their sizes, respectively. Most DAPs support a wide range of file types, from rare ones, such as APE or DFF, to the usual FLAC or the good old MP3. File sizes are also very important because it is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the higher the file size, the higher the audio quality, as a rule.

On the other hand, the larger the file size, the more difficult it is to have many of them on the device because the memory is not infinite after all. Different DAPs have different sizes of built-in memory, but in practice, they are often very few. Therefore, thanks to the cleverness of the manufacturers, you can always buy a micro SD card from 256 GB to 2 TB. The sample rate and bit depth also play a very important role. Budget players often do not support the highest this rate, around 16-bit and 48kHz sample rate. This, of course, allows you to listen to music without problems, but DAPs will please you more expensively with a higher 32-bit / 384kHz rate, and, accordingly, a higher quality of music.

However, you can spend more and get these values much higher. But in fact, it already depends on the individual person, his capabilities and desires too.

Storage capacity

I think at the expense of the DAP storage, there will be much fewer questions, but still, let’s understand the most important concepts. In fact, all DAPs have two types of storage: internal and external. Internal is the memory of the hard disk built into the device. It often ranges from 0 to 64 GB on the most expensive devices. External memory is an additional memory that you expand with a micro SD card. It can be completely different and even go up to 2 TB.

Obviously, before buying a DAP, you should pay attention to the built-in memory and compare it with the music library that you want to have on it. If the numbers do not coincide, obviously you need to add up the SD card with the cost of the DAP, because you may be in for a very strong disappointment. There is one more point, rather unpleasant, but important. The fact is that some developers often offer from 2 to 16 GB of memory, but do not indicate that the DAP operating system itself also takes up several GB. Thus, let’s say that you bought a DAP based on android with a 4 GB hard drive. 2 of them are already occupied by the OS, so consider this point when buying. Otherwise, the fuss with memory will annoy you very much, so you need to take care of this in advance to get the maximum level of comfort when using it. I have always believed that it is better to buy everything at once, spend more but remain satisfied and not run to the store every time for additional components.

Storage capacity

Battery life

The next important point to consider is the battery, its capacity, and operating hours. Actually, even the best DAPs cannot boast quite good battery life. The fact is that the DAP is an active thing, like a second phone in fact. Often you will take it with you on trips, use it in transport, at work or somewhere else. Based on this, it is important that it works stably from 7-8 hours. As for me, this is the minimum threshold at which you will not be constantly mad that your device is again discharged.

In any case, it is worth considering that if the developer specifies 8 hours of work without recharging, this is theoretically true, but in practice, you can download something, add, change formats and customize the device. Therefore, I believe that it is always better to subtract 1-2 hours from the baseline indicator of the number of hours assigned by the developer, so you will see the average performance. For example, the FiiO M7 has incredible operating hours thanks to its hardware. It is this budget model that works up to 20 hours without recharging, which is incredibly pleasing. In any case, I better leave this choice to the buyer’s reasoning, because everyone has super different preferences.

DAP operating systems

The operating systems of DAPs are not particularly pleased with the variety. DAPs based on Android is the undisputed leader because it is multifunctional and quite convenient. If you have ever used a smartphone on Android, using DAP will not pose any problems. By the way, there are also DAPs with Linux built-in. I don’t know, fortunately, or unfortunately, but I didn’t have to use the latter. In general, I think the main message is very clear – to choose DAP based on the OS you are already familiar with because as I said earlier, you will use this device in the same way as a smartphone, so the highest level of comfort is probably super important.

Integrating DAPs in your home setup

If you have an extremely large high-resolution music library, the DAP streaming capabilities are worth looking into. It often happens that the current maximum memory capacity of your DAPs is insufficient. Moreover, often DAP can perform the function of a DAC when connected to a PC, that is, a kind of sound amplifier. This is very convenient for me because as a rule, the PC is able to recognize the DAC by default and no additional drivers or downloadable files are needed for this. This is actually an important point because when working with a PC and DAP, some things should be taken into account at the same time.

I strongly advise you to pay attention to the fact that DAPs, as we already know, recognize many different files, while your PC cannot always recognize some of them. Paying attention to the fact that fiddling with file converters and additional software is very time consuming, I advise you to take this into account before buying. After optimizing the connections between the DAP and the PC, the next in the chain of connections is the video or audio receiver.

For ideal optimization of all devices, the best option would be to use high-quality cables, which can also be purchased in addition, because the basic ones are not always of high quality. It is also a good advantage to use balanced connections to avoid audio distortions and drops. In addition to all that has been said, it is worth considering that the presence of a Wi-Fi connection to your DAP will greatly simplify the task at hand, because with its help you can stream music directly from Spotify, Tidal, and other high-resolution music applications

Integrating DAPs in your home setup

DAP connection

From a huge list of different types of cables and connectors, you need to be able to distinguish between the 2 most important and understand why they are needed at all. They are called balanced and unbalanced. We can usually notice the difference between them just after converting the sound from digital to analog.

The main goal of balanced connections is, of course, to eliminate extraneous noise so that the music sounds crystal clear and balanced. Balanced connections have the effect of causing the fundamental noise to be out of phase with itself, so it is virtually eliminated.

Of course, unbalanced cables are also needed, if only because they are super easy to use and do not require additional settings, but instead, they create some problems with third-party noise. Unbalanced lines should be kept short enough to avoid audio problems, less than 25 feet or so. This is to minimize any possible noise.

I think none of the readers wants to make spontaneous pleasant purchases and then take the rap and spend hours and rack their brains how well it is to establish your audio chain. This is a very delicate matter, you need to understand well what is cooperating with what and what is being connected to what. Only after a good understanding of all these processes, you will be able to make a good combination of devices without getting a bunch of noises, tears, and bugs. There are also several basic connectors you should know.

The first one is a headphone-out stereo mini-jack (1/8″ / 3.5mm). It is one of the most popular connectors. It is widely used in smartphones, headphones so you may have heard about it. Mini-jack is usually used to transmit analog audio signals. It can either be mono or a stereo version.

Secondly, there is a balanced stereo mini-jack 2.5 or 4.4mm. Unlike its brother, this connector is used more often to connect headsets to landline phones, lightweight two-way radios, and video cameras. Those need to put a microphone into the headset, as well as audio. For this reason, there is sometimes an extra stripe.

Thirdly, the Optical (3.5mm) is almost like the mini-jack one but with one basic difference. The optic is specially created to stream a stereo digital audio. However, it is also created for digital audio transfer. For clearest understanding, Optical 3.5mm can be found between your TV, stereo system, soundbars, and amplifiers.

Finally, here is a world-known USB connector. It is actually the most popular way of linking an external DAC to a computer.

What is high-resolution audio

Since high-resolution music is actively filling the areas of interest of music lovers, I think it’s worth figuring out what it is. High-resolution audio usually refers to music files that have a higher sampling rate or bit depth than a regular MP3 file. The more bits, the more accurately the signal can be measured, so moving from 16-bit to 24-bit can provide noticeable improvements in audio quality. High-resolution audio files typically use a sampling rate of 96 kHz or 192 kHz at 24 bits.

Despite the fact that it sounds incredibly cool, there is also a downside to the coin. The fact is that high-resolution files weigh much more than our usual audio files. At least 15 MB, this is the threshold below which the melodies do not fall. If we also take into account the fact that usually people like to create playlists of different genres, moods, motives with 20 or more songs, you can easily come to the conclusion that you need a lot of memory for such an extensive media library. Therefore, think 20 times before downloading everything.

If you are wondering what is so beautiful about high-res music, I will answer. With its help, you will feel every sound that the author wanted to convey, his mood, and his motive. The detailing of these songs is usually incredibly good. We are used to using familiar services like Spotify or Apple Music, where music is usually compressed with very low bitrates. based on this, high res audio looks much cooler and more melodic than the usual format.

high-resolution audio

Where can I buy and download hi-res music

Before we start looking for resources for downloading high res music, it is worth mentioning that usually, these services cost several times more than a regular subscription to the service for about $ 5. As far as I know, in the 2020 year, prices for hi-res music start at $ 14 and usually don’t go any lower, although in the nearest future this number may change.

One of the most popular is HDtracks, it has been on the market for a very long time and can please with a wide selection. But, the site has a strange bias towards an adult audience, because the catalog of jazz, old rock, and classics is much larger than the rest. The main advantage is the ability to choose the format between FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AAIF, and the ability to choose the sampling rate for each.

Another reliable service is Qobuz. Its main advantages are the ease of use of both the site and the application. A very simple and at the same time functional interface gives the user a feeling of complete comfort.
The last service that I would like to highlight is 7Digital. The site navigation is very simple and accessible. The only drawback is the ability to download only songs in FLAC format.

Where can I stream hi-res music

There are a lot of streaming services now, and they are all super different. All of them are constantly growing, expanding their catalog, adding new features, so for 2020, I think these will be a good choice, although in the future this information may change somewhat. Let me, for example, single out a few that, in my opinion, are the most reliable and popular ones. The first is Tidal, very popular all over the world. Its most famous feature is Tidal Masters, a partnership with Master Quality Authenticated that brings more than 170,000 studio-quality streams to you. Another cool service is Primephonic. Even though he mainly specializes in classical music and offers a huge number of filters to find music.

Well, the last one I would highlight is Amazon Music Unlimited. Not very famous because it appeared recently, but it gives hope that the future of high-res music belongs to him because we know how an Amazon is responsible for everything that it undertakes.

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