On this page, you’ll find the Best Portable Audio Player – Best DAP recommendations of this moment. This is an ever-evolving list and the units are ranked from cheapest to most expensive.
Shanling M0 Pro [Added 23/03/2023]
The Shanling M0 had been the most popular DAP from Shanling, because it was a perfect replacement for the legendary Sansa Clip, with a better sound and more features. Well, it seems Shanling nailed this one as well, and the M0 series is going forward with an updated, cool-looking and feature-packed device which sounds even better overall.
I recommend the new M0 Pro to everyone who has an active lifestyle, who has good IEMs for sports and etc. and who wants to have a good sound quality from their source.
HIBY R3 Pro Saber 2022 [Added 26/01/2023]
HiBy R3 Pro Saber 2022 is a viable choice for the ones who’re looking for a super compact DAP with lots of features and streaming capability. For just 209 $, you get a lot of things including a very nice neutral sound which is the most important in my book.
I also think that this device is a great transport. Don’t look at it as a sole DAP. Sometimes I stream through my phone with the UAPP app to my DACs, but the R3 Pro saber is much smaller and it doesn’t need any other application to work with DACs. It also helps me to get rid of my phone for this purpose. Wonderful.
HiBy R6 III [Added 23/02/2023]
The HiBy R6 III sounds quite balanced, clear & refined, and neutral overall. It has a gorgeous design, small enough to carry around without hassle, and is light enough to put into your pocket. It has an Android 12 interface so the possibilities of what you can do are limitless. It has a very fulfilling sound quality. It is an excellent package altogether. If you’re looking for a capable Android DAP and multimedia device, this is one of the best bets in this price bracket.
Since they launched their first DAP in 2017, HiBy has improved the sound aspect substantially. One can easily say that they now have a very mature sound performance with almost their entire DAP range, and the R6 III, with an even cheaper asking price, is going to be a hit in the market.
Fiio M11S [Added 01/10/2022]
Once again, FiiO did what they do best: take a good player and enhance every part of it, to re-establish their leadership position.
After years of $700-$1500 players, the FiiO M11S is a true breath of fresh air, offering 80% of the M11 Plus performance, for just $500, reintroducing the brand in a price range they left almost two years ago.
On top of that, the FiiO M11S doesn’t lack in any section: UI is fast, the sound is great, battery life quite impressive and build quality remains top-notch, even compared to its bigger brother. So if you’ve been holding to your “old” M11 / M11 Pro, considering the M11 Plus too expensive, or just too big, the new M11S finally is the replacement you waited for.
HiBy RS2 [Added 18/09/2022]
The HiBy RS2 is a unique player in its way. It’s a nicely designed, compact and elegant player that manages to achieve a single goal; to play your files with high-performing sound for the price. And it does just that. I honestly didn’t expect this performance, and I’m sure the users will be impressed once it reaches out to its potential owners.
In the RS6 review, I mentioned that HiBy can build upon this circuit design and improve it further. Well, they seem to be successful with this RS2 and they now have the potential to appeal to warm and musical sound lovers in the market.
Fiio M11 Plus LTD [Added 10/06/2021]
Let’s make it simple, like the FiiO M11 Pro before, the M11 Plus LTD is one, if not the best player you can get in this price range.
UI is fast, the sound is superb, and it does almost everything well, either as a DAP or as a source. You can just fill it with your own music, install the music APP of your choice or simply use it as a great source for your car (yes FiiO did earn a certification for that too). Add a layer of finesse, thanks to years of work at FiiO’s engineer camp, and you got it all.
If you didn’t have the chance to get the M11 Pro before, you should seriously consider the M11 Plus LTD. It’s equally good, if not better in some aspects. The only viable contender that I could think of is the Shanling M6 21, but it’s also one of my top picks. So here it is people, two players, two choices, but at the end of the day two incredible devices. And you better get one till you can, who knows what could happen this year again.
The Fiio M11 Plus replaces the Fiio M11 Pro on our list of recommended DAPs. So yes, the FiiO M11 Plus LTD wins our recommended buy award!
Shanling M6 Ultra [Added 15/12/2022]
The most updated member of the Shanling M6 line is a very competitive and successful compact DAP. It’s a very dependable package whether you’re on a commute, on a walk or simply in your house trying to relax after work. You can stream with the best music apps, listen to your local files, or even watch a few videos online. ,
It has a snappy performance, an ergonomic design and an enjoyable sound, with a lasting battery. Shanling priced this one very well when I look at the market today. It’s a good all-in-one package.
DethonRay DTR1+ [Added 16/01/2022]
The Dethonray DTR1+ retains its unique approach to the market and Anson aims to keep its customer base. I tell you he definitely did that with this release. When it’s time to just listen to your archive alone, there’s no better option for that sole purpose. There’s nothing else better for this price tag in terms of pure sound performance.
Looking at the DAP market, I doubt anyone can show me a player for this price with a better sound. Of course, it is a limited product and doesn’t have any features at all, but that’s the point. The sound upgrades are clinical and eliminate the deficiencies of the DTR1, especially in staging and layering too. If you have the DTR1 already, I doubt there’s a need for the new model. But if you don’t have one, if you don’t care about streaming or other features, and finally if you seek the best portability, this is the DAP to go.
Lotoo PAW 6000 (Added 1-12-2019)
With the PAW 6000, Lotoo set out to create a machine nearly as good as the PAW Gold Touch. They took out a few hardware bits here and there yet managed to keep the clean reference sound from their flagship. Most companies would try to cut down on sound quality to make a clear ladder of the product hierarchy. Not Lotoo. They want to offer their customers the best sound they can make, even if it means it will rival their own products in some way.
The PAW 6000 has superb build quality, is pocket-friendly by today’s standards, and comes with a very mature user interface. I am still baffled how they managed to pull off a firmware that was stable with basically their first try. On top of all that, the Lotoo PAW 6000 lasts longer than almost any other DAP on a single charge.
Shanling M7 [Added 19/05/2022]
Shanling claimed that this was the much more compact version of the M9. But for some reason, I mostly associated it with the Shanling M8, which I think is still a great DAP. So in my opinion, this is simply the replacement of the M8, instead of challenging the M9 with a smaller footprint. I think an “M8 MKii” name would be fitting for this player.
So the M8 owners can still use their DAP, especially if they love that very warm sound signature. However, if you want to get a compact, stylish, competitive DAP in the market today with plenty of features and great sound, this I think is the best choice right now. When you think about the great user experience and much smaller footprint of the M7, it’s a great option with excellent sound quality.
iBasso DX320 [Added 01/09/2022]
Once again: the iBasso becomes my go-to reference for anyone seeking a TOTL player, at premium prices. The brand did the same as they do for the DX300, just polishing a few aspects of his player, and fixing the rare issues found on the previous model. It’s insanely fast, magic to use, and fantastic to listen to, even with big cans like my old Sennheiser HD800S, or even the Meze Empyrean.
At $1599, the DX320 is definitely not cheap – that’s a $400 price increase – but it’s still a no-brainer, outperforming many players, sometimes much more expensive. The only drawback? It’s a big player like two iPhone Max blended together, but that’s the only caveat I could point out.
So yes, this player goes directly into my recommendation list, and if you’re out for a TOTL player, you should definitely try this one first, or at least add it to your list.
Astell&Kern A&futura SE180 [Added 08/07/2021]
Once more, Astell&Kern gave us a fantastic player, albeit a bit too big for any true nomad users. It’s not as versatile as a FiiO, nor it is cheap. But, all in all, the SE180 is the best-sounding DAP I ever listened to this year. So much, in fact, that I literally bought one after a few tries, and wrote this review. The player is simply gorgeous – if a bit thick – and from the moment you’ll lay your eyes on it, to the time you hold it, everything screams posh and luxury. To be fair, priced at €1599, you’d expect the player to look like a luxury product, but I can still remember my SP1000 and its dangerously sharp edges, which now look like a downgrade as if it was twice more expensive.
Personally, I’ve always favoured ESS DAC compared to AKM, and once again, the A&K SE180 strengthens my opinion: better dynamic range, sharper sound, and thanks to the brand tuning, it sounds equally natural now. If you want something a bit cheaper, you can check the SA700 or the new FiiO M11 Plus LTD (until stock lasts) or the iBasso DX300 if you favour versatility over performance. But, if your main goal is to get the best sound, under €2000, I’d say that the SE180 is the obvious answer, for the moment. A fully recommended buy!
The Astell & Kern SE180 to me is quite a successful audio player. It has the usual A&K experience with polished software, good battery life, and authentic design. Most importantly though, I really enjoyed the sound quality and technical performance as a whole, especially with the SEM2 module.
It is pretty close to the performance of the SP2000, and that reason alone makes it a great alternative for audiophiles who don’t have that huge budget for the flagship.
Review with SEM2 DAC Module: https://www.headfonia.com/astell-kern-se180-review-sem2/
Review of all SEM DAC Modules together: https://www.headfonia.com/astell-kern-sem-modules-review/
Fiio M17 [Added 10/11/2022]
Lo and behold, this is FiiO’s best DAP up to this day, a true flagship condensing a complete high-end desktop system, in a “portable” player, re-establishing their leadership position – once again.
Sure, it’s more transportable than a real nomad. Sure it gets way hotter than you’d ever expect a player could do. But, once you’ve plugged your ears/headphones, everything becomes insignificant, erased by the sound’s prowess of the DAP. Top that with the same CPU found in the M11 Plus, a bigger screen, and a plethora of inputs/outputs and this player will replace/complete every source you may hold prior to that. At $1,799 USD the FiiO M17 is definitely not cheap – that’s $1000 more than the M11 Plus – but it’s still a no-brainer, outperforming many, if not every, players available at the time of writing. And, if I still have a personal affection for the DX320, for many, the M17 will be the one and only to get.
Shanling M9 [Added 27/01/2022]
When Shanling introduced the M9, I thought it would be a design and operation improvement only. Turns out it wasn’t true. The sound quality has a distinctive upgrade too, which has been a surprise for me. M9 performs great with many different IEMs/headphones with good consistency and great technical performance. I know many people found the price increase hard to swallow, but when you listen to the device, it impresses.
If you’re looking for a TOTL portable DAP with an excellent screen, good battery life, fast operation and full Android support, this is one of the best players in the market. I don’t know if the regular version will be as good as this one, but regardless, I recommend the M9.
Lotoo PAW Gold Touch
Lotoo has a very unique approach to digital audio players. With their pro-audio background, it doesn’t come as a surprise that they have opted for a super neutral signature for their top of the line music player. At the end of the day, it is the ground for their customers to build their own sound on, and what better signature to have than a reference one?
The PAW Gold Touch brings a few features to the table which we haven’t seen in any other portable player, at least none that I know of. If I’m correct, it’s the very first player to come with a built-in Sample Rate Converter and enabling this one, makes a noticeable difference in sound.
Hats off to Lotoo for one of the best audio players in the current market. The Touch gets my personal stamp of approval and goes on to the list of recommended DAPs.
HiBy RS8 [Added 09/03/2023]
The new Hiby RS8, with its R2R ”Darwin” architecture, is one of the most successful portable players in the market, without hesitation. You get everything in a well-rounded package, with endless features and usability. I have re-discovered my music with the RS8 and I feel it performs excellently as a TOTL player should in this range. Not only is the HiBy RS8 an extremely versatile DAP, but it also sounds fantastic. I feel the HiBy RS8 also is among the best-performing players in this segment together with the N8II and SP3000.
If you’re looking into a top-end portable player that can do it all, then the RS8 probably is the DAP to put on your shortlist. It’s very easy for me to recommend the HiBy RS8, and as such, it surely is a recommended buy. It will be added to our DAP Recommendations. A fantastic job from HiBy.
Cayin N8ii [Added 08/11/2022]
After months of testing, it’s very easy to say that Cayin has created a seriously good high-end DAP. Not only does it have excellent build quality, but the internal design, versatility, usability and sound tuning also are spot on. At the moment, apart from the SP2000T and perhaps the SP3000, I don’t think there is any other DAP that comes close to the N8ii’s overall performance.
The Cayin N8ii offers a multitude of different sound combinations, making a DAP that basically works with everything you hook up to it. The N8ii surely isn’t cheap but is an absolute pleasure to use and to listen to, it’s that simple. The Tube output in combination with the CLASS A setting is magical if you ask me, and for most of the ears-and headphones I used, this combo/setting for sure is the one to go for.
It took Cayin a few good years to come back with an upgrade of their reference N8 portable player, but they really have outdone themselves with this Mkii. The only possible point of improvement I can think of is the inclusion of a Hybrid mode, just like in the SP2000T, but that’s about it. The Cayin Audio N8ii DAP easily replaces the “old” N8 on our list of Best DAPs, and I with pleasure put our Recommended Award label on it. Well done, Cayin.
Astell & Kern SP2000 [Added 12/05/2020]
The Astell&Kern SP2000 is the best-sounding portable player the South-Korean brand has built so far. No, it doesn’t come cheap but you in return get a DAP with an innovative design, extreme usability, and most important of all: a top-level sound where the technicalities are king.
On top of that, you can use it as a portable source with the Line Out, as DAC/AMP, or just as a digital carrier. And then there’s streaming, APK install capability, and AK Connect if that wasn’t enough already.
In short, the Astell&Kern SP2000 is one of the very best all-around High-end portable players on the market.
Astell&Kern SP3000 [Added 28/02/2023]
What a great DAP the Astell&Kern SP3000 is! It’s a true flagship and engineering marvel. Each time when you think it can’t get any better, AK comes in and strikes again. On a technical and user experience level, the SP3000 is a step up from the previous SP2000 flagship, though we still like that one very much as well.
The SP3000 is an expensive portable player, and it doesn’t always offer the same tuning options as its competitors, but it’s very good in what it does. With the SP3000 you get a very high-end portable player with a unique design, perfect build quality and excellent performance. The new UI is much better than before, but it of course isn’t the full android experience you get.
Looking purely at the sound quality, the keywords to remember are dynamics, extension, precision, musicality, engagement and effortlessness.
The Astell&Kern SP3000 receives our “Recommended Buy Award” and it is now listed in our DAP Best Buy list where it is in good company. I am keeping the SP2000 in that list as well, as the SP2000 still is available, and it still is very good.
Why didn’t Ibasso DX200 make the list ?
As long as they refuse sending us gear, I refuse listing them ????
I wouldn’t worry too much about not having an iBasso Dx200 reviewed. It is a good sounding unit, but out of the three I’ve owned, the second two developed different faults.
wait are your reviews bought? damn, this completely destroys any credibility you may have had.
Lol are you saying you wont review things unless they give it to you for free?
That’s literally bribing you to give them a good review.
Can’t take this place seriously any more.
Not at all, you guys have reading issues. There’s not much we can do if someone is not sending us gear. I still don’t think the DX200 ever deserved to be on the list btw.
FYI, iBasso has started working with us months ago already. Some units are on loan, some we can keep for reference. Some are good, some are not.
We review gear we bought, loaned or can keep. We’re always clear about that in every review. Please think before submitting ridiculous posts.
I bassodx200 is trash……The laundry list of things it glitches on, just wow. from bluetooth dropping to slow UI, I regret ever buying one.
Why isn’t the Opus#1 on this list? When I compared it to the Fiio X5iii I found it to be so much better in terms of sound quality and smooth UI.
that’s a tough one. Non of my writers have asked to put it in the list, so there must be something they don’t like about it.
Strange a little bit I think ! , I looked for it here as I want to get 1 as the price of the opus #1 now is 294$ , so it’s really important to know how it fares against the others , sadly I live in Egypt where you can’t dream to find them in shops to try or buy ????, so I’m asking about you personal opinion under 300 is there are any better dap to get ? , my headphones are Senny’s HD 598 SE
Mustafa Yeten Yavas
Very many thanks for all excellent reviews of the all listed DAP’s dear expert site http://www.headfonia.com . According to me Headfonia is very best site regarding the audiophile gears . Keep on running in such an amazing road dear head and staff of Headfonia . I am very happy to read your amazing reviews and to be one of your faithful subscriber’s .
Mustafa Yeten Yavas
Retired Captain Turkish Navy
Member of the Turkish Audiophile Club Techno-Fi
Güzel sözler için teşekkürler. En iyi dileklerimle
Could you recommend a couple of daps under about $1500. I’m looking for one that I can use primarily at home instead of getting an amp/dac combination. I’m really only interested in the sound quality (I like warm), and It would need power as I would use it with high-end headphones (Ananda, Aeolus, etc.). I don’t care much about features except I would need to be able to stream Amazon Music HD, etc. I was thinking about the Astell & Kern Kann Cube (I know it’s a big). Any recommendations please?
Thanks for the reviews- I’ve been going back and forth looking at your site. I finally wound up purchasing some cheap(er) IEMs from your list and a Cayin N3. I’m very happy with everything so far, even if I don’t understand half of the features or specs. But again, I appreciate all the details and insight.
TheFiio X1.2 is listed here as review: soon but on facebook you said it wouldn’t be reviewed because it’s cheap and you are lacking in time.
What are you going to do with the X1.2?
It’s on the list but it’s not a priority. Not because of the price, but because of the lack of time and the availability of other, more interesting products.
Would you consider adding the Cowon Plenue S to this list?
Probably not, no.
How about the sony zx300?
So are you saying the “Sony NW-WM1Z High-Resolution Audio Walkman” is the best
of all of these DAPs, because I’m just getting into music, and I’d like to know which is the best
to buy, I have heard the SP1000 was the best on the market, but in the Sony part you said
you’d choose the Sony over the Astell&Kern, there is a £700 difference.
What DAP should I buy, when I’ve never heard one and I am looking to buy one?
I don’t know about “sound signatures” it’s all greek to me.
It depends on the reviewer. I don’t think there’s one best. Depending on the monitor I use I prefer the Sony or the SP1000. Berkhan prefers the Sony cause it’s bigger bodied and warmer.
For my ears the SP1000 performs best with BA drivers, but it can be different for anyone
If I were buying a ~$3000 DAP, my primary use would have to be at home or in an extremely quiet place, using ordinary premium headphones or IEMs (no noise canceling or DSP). Used outdoors or on public transport, you might as well have the $250 DAP, because you won’t hear the very finest of the $3000 detail in most portable uses.
I think Questyle is a big omission.
this is fact on so many levels…I’ve owned two, and its no joke.
Among the nintaus x10, the fiio x1.2, cayin n3, shanling m0, what would you put first in the list, or any better sugestion within the same price tag and specs?
Is there an A&K SE100 review in the works?
That has been published already
I would like to replace my old iPod in my car. I do not understand why manufacturers do not think of those who want to listen to high-quality music in their car. Could you suggest to me a DAP that meets the following:
– Max Sampling Rate: 32-bit / 384kHz
– File Types: DSD, FLAC, WAV, ALAC, WMA, IOS, DSF
– Handle external HDD to 2 TB
– Have composite video out (via 3.5mm A / V connector)
– have remote control
Thanks in advance if you can help me.
Would the shanling m3s be enough to drive dt880pro 250 ohm?
Probably, no. I have the M3s and a pair of 250ohm DT770 pro’s and even on high gain they are woefully flat and underinflated. With the addition of a Fiio E12i though it’s perfect.
Hi Ralph, what about the M3S with 80 ohm DT770s?
Thanks for sharing
Have the Fiio X1, works best as a line-level source to a decent headphone amp. Have to say the Fiio M3K has better sound all by its lonesome, as long as the headphones are low impedance/low power requirements. There seems to be more grunt with the X1 + 12a Monte Blanc combo, but much more transparency/resolution for everything above the bassline with the M3K. Seems like Moore’s law still applies to DAPs.
U mean Shanling M0 is better than Hiby R3, fiio m6 and Hidizs AP80….
why there is no place for hifiman?
In looking at the reviews, I would like to know what you think of the updated Dacs, to be specific, the AP60 II and the Hidizs AP80.
I am thinking about them or a FiiO unit.
Sono ondeciso fra M11 AK SR15 e cowon PL. Cosa mi consigliate a livello sonoro?
Are there any reasonably priced units that have over 20,000 file/song capacity? 400gb or better.
I`m also very interesting about that. There must be some strange restrictions in everyone new DAP they cannot defeat. Can anybody explain this. What a large capacity card for me if I can have limited 20000 files/songs. Sorry for my english.
Surprised that none of Cowons are on the list. Any reason…they have been received very well by reviewers here on hfn.
I would like to know also why Cowon is also being ignored?
If they’re not in the list, it means they have to work harder and make better DAPs 😉
Thanks for all your reviews! they are spot on.
I could care less where your getting your products as long
as you share your thoughts on them.
I have both Sony 1z and Astell and Kern 1000m..
both incredible units.
Again your spot on. Sony is slightly the winner due to its warmth.
Thanks for all you due.
Pompano Beach Florida
Have you tested the XDUO20? Clear , flat and dynamic and with an amplification able to drive almost everything. What about the 750 euros QLS QA361 ? The best amplification in the market and perhaps the best sounding DAP i ever heard. Simple , without bells and whistles but if the sound is the target i think is unbeatable.
Better than dx220 and lotoo paw gold ?
Where is the Questyle QP2R in this list?
I’ve had one and the power output is low, requiring almost full volume on some IEM’s. There is a known issue with the reliability of the balanced output and they have no UK distributor to supply units to their various dealers, since they dropped SVC Distribution, who were excellent.
Also, they treat customers with contempt, in that they never answer their emails.
Thanks for the list. What about new Fiio m15 is it worth or you see issue with it and better to buy cayin n6 2
Hello, Fiio m11 pro or Hiby r6 pro is better in terms of sound ?
It depends of what kind of sound do you like or what type of music do you listen. For me the r6 pro was better for rock music. The m11 pro sound great but i was not 100% convinced when i was listening rock music. The only problem for the hiby is the hiss when you are using iems. I used one time to walk and the hiss was annoying. For headphones is great. The shanling m6 pro seems to be a great competitor too. I had the m6 and it was wonderful!!!
Hi, I need some recommendations. I do have an iBasso DX90 and I think it’s time to replace it with another mid-tier DAP.
I already have better sounding or more expensive DAPs, but I’ll never take them out of my house! So, this one will replace my DX90 just for walking or traveling, paired with my inseparable Shure SRH1540.
Which one do you recommend?
Probably a idea to remove those outdated ones or at least mark them as outdated. Let’s be honest – it’s already 2021 and how could zx300 stay here.
How about QLS Qa 361, could you tell me your opinion about it ? Thanks
With the release of AK180 with similar chip with SP2000.How would you describe the gap between those two DAP in term of sound qualities and technical performances?
Any particular reason Sony NW ZX 507 is not in the mix?
Probably as we didn’t review it. And if we did, it probably wasn’t spectacular enough for the reviewer
Victor Hoi Yu
Hi Lieven, if I want to improve the sound quality of my source at home to Hugo 2 as DAC connecting to desktop amp, compare to iPhone / iPad as source, which DAP you will recommend which can serve this first purpose and at the same time a good portable player on the go?
Sp2000. Fiio m17
I have HiBy R6 ( 2020 ) for my IE 900 and 64 Audio Fourte. Now thinking to upgrade for new DAP but have lot confusion in my mind. Can you recommend me which his best to get upgrade from current DAP.
Thanks in advance.
Top 3 on the market for me: RS8, SP3000 and N8ii
Strange, that none of OPUS models are on the list. They beat many DAPs listed here.
The only OPUS we covered was #1, and that was back in 2016.