Portable Player (DAP) Recommendations - Headfonia Headphone Reviews

On this page you’ll find the Portable Audio Player a.k.a. DAP recommendations of this moment. This is an ever evolving list and the units are ranked from cheapest to most expensive.

Hidizs AP60

It’s small, looks beautiful and it’s very easy to work with as it has a very clear menu structure. It also connects to an external DAC like the Mojo without issues and it can be the DAC for your phone or other sources. The sound quality of the headphone out might not be the very best (think bass, warmer and fun) but it sounds very musical. It offers BT4.0 & apt-X and you can even stream Tidal over BT from your phone. Unlike the N3 it can’t control your phone but the menu navigation/screen is clearer. It makes for a good transport and that’s probably how a lot of people will be using it.

$89 from Hidizs / Hidizs

Review: http:///www.headfonia.com/review-the-hidizs-ap60-body/

Fiio X1.2

The Fiio X1.2 positively surprised me sound wise. It isn’t the most sexy, easy to work with or most modern player (it still features a scroll wheel) but it does sound very good for the $99 price it is going for. Sound wise it’s only just behind the more expensive Cayin N3 but it is in front of the $10 cheaper Hidisz AP60. The AP60 for sure still is the recommended DAP when you want to use it as a transport but sound wise the X1.2 simply outperforms it. If the X1.2 would be more modern, easier to work with and be as versatile as the AP60 and N3, then it would be a serious contender in the sub $350 category.

$99 from Fiio

Review: TBC

Cayin N3

The Cayin N3 is like the improved version of the Hidizs AP60. It does everything the AP60 does but it does it better. Great sound quality, less noise than the AP60, and all the same connectivity features. The N3 does also take over the control of your phone when streaming Tidal over BT 4.0. The N3 is the connectivity king looking at its features. It’s not only a great transport but it also sounds really good as a standalone player. The Cayin N3 is the recommended player under $150 without doubt.

$149 from Cayin

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-cayin-n3-the-master/

Shanling M3S

Tiny in size may be, but this is a huge DAP from Shanling. They surely know how to create an effective audio circuitry and great sound quality with that. The design is very charming and attractive, form factor is great, usage is good (although I think they should shift to a touchscreen later) and the sound is an absolute joy for this price. I’ll ask Lieven to take out their M2s DAP and replace it with the Shanling M3s to our beloved DAPslist. Without a doubt, I think it’s worth the extra money over the M2s, unless you’re looking for ultra mobility. Well done!

$279 from Shanling

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-shanling-m3s/

Fiio X5iii

The Fiio X5iii is the prettiest of all Fiio DAPs. I love the design, lay-out and the usability of the Fiio X5. It’s easy and a pleasure to work with and as it is Android, the Fiio X5iii can basically run all the apps that you want. When buying the Fiio X5iii you don’t only get a DAP, but a portable DAC and DAC/Amp with five different outputs (3.5mm SE out, 2.5mm Balanced out, Line Out, Coax out and USB OTG). You basically get one unit that can do it all. The Fiio X5iii sounds more to the neutral side but with a musical and smooth presentation yet keeping all the detail nicely in there. Is the X5iii a perfect DAP? No it isn’t yet as there still are several kinks to work out with the upcoming firmware updates. Even in the current state though, the Fiio X5iii already is a killer DAP in the sub $500 category. It definitely has the possibility to become the very best one, once the remaining issues have been worked away. If Fiio manages to improve the reactivity/speed of the UI, lose some noise and improve the clarity of the sound a tad more, it’ll be the almost perfect player.

$399 from Fiio

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-fiio-x5iii-3rd-generation-the-one-that-could/

Fiio X7

The Fiio X7 – just like the X5iii – runs on Android and it lets you install a whole bunch of 3rd party apps such as Tidal and Spotify. It can stream music from almost anywhere and it makes the X7 very versatile. It basically has the same functionality as the Cayin i5 does but the big advantage of the X7 is that it works with different amplifier modules and that way you can tune its sound or you can add a balanced output. My fav AM module is AM2. Connectivity wise the X7 also excels but it isn’t the prettiest and easiest DAP to work with because of its size. This to me still is the best sounding Fiio DAP. When the X7 was launched its price was $650, with the price it’s going for after the launch of the X5iii, it just has to be in this list. I’d still love to see the X7 sound in the X5iii though, that would be the ultimate Fiio DAP.

$479 from Fiio

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-fiio-x7-fiios-number-one/

Review AM Modules: https://www.headfonia.com/review-fiios-x7-amp-modules-remote-control-docking-station/

Luxury & Precision L3PRO

One of the prettiest DAPs on the market. The L&P focus is on design and sound and that’s exactly why it is up in this list. Because of their “Sound first” philosophy however, the user interface isn’t the best or most modern one though. For a DAP at this price there is no swiping in example, but boy does it sound and look great. If you only care about getting good sound and you don’t need all the extra functionalities the other DAPs offer, then stop looking. L&P together with Astell&Kern also has the best build quality and the most silent and best sounding 2.5mm balanced output.

$549 from Luxury & Precision

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-luxury-precision-l3pro-dap-mmmmusic/

Astell&Kern AK70

This is the DAP that won the 2016 DAP award here on HFN. It looks great, is a pleasure to work with and it sounds really good. The 2.5 and 3.5mm outputs are dead silent and they can both be used as Line Out. The AK70 doesn’t have any kinks like so many other DAPs have, and it can even be used to stream music from your NAS to wherever you want using AK Connect. It is my favourite DAP to use on the go. Sound wise you get a very engaging, smooth, laid back sound signature combined with a good level of detail and clarity. The AK70’s performance for its price is very correct and it’s still a recommended DAP for sure.

$599 from Astell&Kern

Review 1: https://www.headfonia.com/review-astellkern-ak70-geniality/

Review 2: https://www.headfonia.com/review-astell-kern-ak70-aks-best-yet/ 

Sony WM1Z

Sony produced a masterpiece with this DAP. Sony has their own S-Master amp technology and Pulse With Modulation system, which creates unrivaled battery life time in the market. The biggest criticism was on the S-Master but they seem to have solved its weak points now, with a much better noise floor and power. It’s a shame some units still have capped volumes but thankfully it’s easy to get around that limitation. This is the very best audio player I’ve experienced together with the AK SP1000. I personally would choose the Sony, because of its heart-warming sound and long lasting battery.

$2699 from Sony

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-sony-wm1z-splendid/

Astell & Kern SP1000

Is the SP1000 the ultimate DAP as the A&Ultimate name says? For the moment it, to me, certainly is right up there together with the Sony WM1Z, but the AK380 isn’t that far behind at all. The SP1000 not only looks great but it’s one of the very best technical DAPs that manages to remain musical in a neutral way. It’s great as a DAP, DAC, transport, source and even a network streamer. Sure it’s not the smallest or lightest DAP on the market but once you’ve listened to what it can do, you’ll happily carry it around with you.

$3499 from Astell&Kern

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-astell-kern-sp1000-impressive/


Only the most popular DAPs are listed here. If you feel it to be too limited, feel free to browse the full portable source Category:



  • Reply August 4, 2017


    Why didn’t Ibasso DX200 make the list ?

    • Reply August 4, 2017


      As long as they refuse sending us gear, I refuse listing them 😁

      • Reply November 25, 2017

        Darren Cotter

        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.

  • Reply September 10, 2017


    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.

    • Reply September 11, 2017


      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.

      • Reply October 12, 2017


        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

  • Reply September 11, 2017

    Mustafa Yeten Yavas

    Very many thanks for all excellent reviews of the all listed DAP’s dear expert site 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 .
    Best Regards
    Mustafa Yeten Yavas
    Retired Captain Turkish Navy
    Member of the Turkish Audiophile Club Techno-Fi
    Istanbul Turkey

    • Reply September 11, 2017


      Güzel sözler için teşekkürler. En iyi dileklerimle

  • Reply October 19, 2017


    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.

  • Reply November 27, 2017


    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?

    • Reply November 27, 2017


      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.

  • Reply December 12, 2017

    Sudershan Srinivasan

    Would you consider adding the Cowon Plenue S to this list?

  • Reply December 24, 2017


    How about the sony zx300?

  • Reply January 26, 2018

    Beginning Audio

    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.

    • Reply January 26, 2018


      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

    • Reply January 26, 2018

      dale thorn

      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.

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