Picture Sunday: Audiophile DAPs

The stars of this weeks’s Picture Sunday are DAPs. Check out our other Picture Posts Here, and Here.

 

I remember when I got my first player but to be honest isn’t wasn’t really a DAP, it was the iPod Classic which I hooked up to the CypherLabs CLAS SOLO DB and some portable amp.

Quickly after the DAP market exploded and everyone wanted a piece of the pie, the list at the bottom of this article proves that. Nowadays almost every self respecting audio brand has an “audiophile” DAP in their product line-up and that has advantages and disadvantages.

The disadvantage is that the market is flooded with DAPs. Which one too choose? Which one sounds best? What user interface is best? Does the company keep putting out new firmware’s? Is there a company that does it al? Choosing a DAP really has gotten complicated. There are DAP companies that get a lof things right but there simply is no perfect DAP (yet) for everyone. Take the Luxury&Precision L3, it’s one of the best sounding IEM DAPs on the market but it has a lacking User Interface. Then there are DAPs that work great but don’t sound that good, and then there are also companies like Astell&Kern that get almost everything right, but their DAPs come with a heavy price. Do you feel comfortable walking around with a DAP that costs more than your first car?

IMG_20160621_125321

The down side at the same time also is an advantage. There is so much choice now that you can choose your DAP based on the type of music you listen to. At the same time DAPs got so powerful that you can spend more on your DAP as you won’t be needing an external amplifier anymore. Another advantage is that DAPs just keep getting better: DAP companies push each other to keep on producing DAPs better than the competition and that has already brought us DAPs with a desktop sound quality. And there are DAPs in all price classes that let you enjoy high Resolution music, going from the $99 Fiio X1 to the $3999 AK380. If you’re serious about audio, there’s no excuse anymore to keep using your phone.

Fiio X1

Anyway, DAPs these days look and sound great and there’s something on the market for everyone. DAPs that I use most are the iBasso DX90, the LP L3, the Fiio X7 and the AK380.

Which is your favorite DAP and why?

Relevant links

Luxury&Precision L3

Luxury&Precision L5PRO

Pioneer XDP-100R

The Bit Audio Opus#1

The Cayin N5

The Fiio X7

The Fiio X5II

The Fiio X5II – Part 2

The Fiio X3II

The Fiio X1

The Fiio M3

The Cowon Plenue D

The Astell&Kern AK380

The Astell&Kern AK JR

The Astell&Kern AK120II&AK240

 The iBasso DX50 & DX90

The iBasso DX100

The PONO

The Calyx M

The ColorFly C4

The Hidizs AP100

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

18 Comments

  • Reply July 17, 2016

    Lynx

    No DX80? lol I believe you once had a demo of DX80. Is this DAP so bad so you think it is better to not publish a review?

    • Reply July 17, 2016

      Lieven

      I have the DX80 but the noise is soooo bad. Sq is ok’ish. I haven’t decided yet on the full review but I probably will do it

      • Reply October 8, 2016

        Ortega

        DX 80 is not bad. It’s supierior! For me really bad are all A&K products, way too overpriced for normal people. DX 80 is like an old friend, trustworthy and solid.

  • Reply July 17, 2016

    Elmariachi

    Cool pic! I really like these pucture Sunday articles. They are very fun to read. I recognize the L5 pro and the L3, is there a third dap in your collection from L&P?

    • Reply July 17, 2016

      Lieven

      those are two L3’s. And thank you, means alot

  • Reply July 18, 2016

    wasaki

    To be honest , none of them impress me .
    the only dap I love is still under …….

  • Reply July 18, 2016

    Barun C

    Love the photo Lieven. Putting the CIEM lot (From another edition of Picture Sunday) side by side gives another perspective of the portable audiophile market though.

    Whereas all the CIEMs hail from different parts of the world in Europe, UK, US, Asia, the DAPs (Except for the out of production iPod Classic) all belong to either China or S.Korea.

    My favorite DAP is not listed here, I hope HFN will review it one day, it’s the Questyle QP1R.

    • Reply July 18, 2016

      Lieven

      We’ve been promised a review sample by questyle but the distributor doesn’t really feel like it, it seems.

      The DAP market indeed is an Asian “thing”, must be because of production costs.

  • Reply July 18, 2016

    Wonder

    what’s that? the grey L3? is that the pre production unit? i heard that the L3pro will also be grey and with wooden back plate.

    • Reply July 18, 2016

      Lieven

      It was an L3 Prototype

      • Reply July 22, 2016

        Wonder

        i think it will finally become the l3 pro amd the current l3 is just a pre pre production unit. kinda feel like cheated.

  • Reply July 19, 2016

    CoiL

    I have heard only few DAP`s but my favourite is atm DX50. Why? Because it has been on market very long time and it has many custom firmwares too. Also, easily removable/changeable battery that has wide-spread form factory and specs. DAP functionality. 3 physical buttons to switch/pause between tracks through Your pocket blind-eyed! Also, it is highly hardware mod-able and repairable. After harcore modding it to DX5X I`m blown away how good such “oldie” DAP can actually sound – it supasses my desktop Aune T1 (also hardware modified) setup with Siemens E88CC goldpin tube and it says quite a lot about it`s capabilities imho 😉
    Won`t get new DAP before my DX5X totally dies out – I just don`t see point into getting new one – I have enough SQ for my ears and power also and rock-stable custom FW that doesn`t need upgrading. Imo – DX50 is kind of “legendary”. Just my 2 cents 😉

  • Reply July 30, 2016

    keke24

    Shame you don’t have arguably the best dap made at any price point: the Questyle QP1R. Any plans to obtain and review one in the future?

  • Reply August 21, 2016

    Jeremy

    What about ONKYO DP X1 been waiting for a review for a while!!

  • Reply November 3, 2016

    Vinc

    Soundwise Fiio X7. Design Fiio X3. User convenience Sony A10/15. Overall Fiio x5ii, as it is ideal size, best looking (right after original X3) Fiio player, solidly built and has best sound in it’s price category. And special price for best DAP would go to Studio 3rd anniversary edition as it piece of art simplistic original player with unmatched battery life and extremely detailed analytical and quite good sound. Astell & Kern players are nice too, but priced 3x times higher, than others, so it can compete for best DAP unless money are 0 factor for you.

  • Reply November 24, 2016

    Ivan

    What low budget(around $100) DAP would you recommend? I’ve looked at the FiiO X1, xDuoo X3, Colorfly C3, but I’m still not sure what’s better. I noticed the xDuoo has a better DAC chip but how much would that affect real world performance? Thanks!

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