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:///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

Shanling M0

For its very small price and footprint, very good usage and sound performance altogether, the M0 has made it to our Portable Player Recommendations. It sounds good, performs good and the amount of features were just enough to convince me to make this decision. I can’t think of an extremely small player like this which has these features in an all in one package. I recommend the M0 to everyone who has an active lifestyle, who has good IEMs for sport and etc. and wants to have a good sound quality from their sources.

$109 from Shanling

Review: https://headfonia.com/review-shanling-m0/

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://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://headfonia.com/review-shanling-m3s/

Cayin N5ii

I’ve loved the Cayin N5ii right from the beginning. It has a beautiful design, top build quality, customizable interface, extreme versatility and it’s easy to use. If that isn’t enough for you than its sound signature will win you right over. With the N5ii, Cayin has managed to deliver a DAP that looks, feels and performs like a high-end DAP double or more its price.The Cayin N5ii simply is a killer DAP in this price segment that kind of makes it difficult for the competition to live up to it.

$299 from Cayin

Review: https://headfonia.com/review-cayin-n5ii

Fiio M9

A versatile player, that was the goal of FiiO with the M9. With a lot of features, Bluetooth duplex, WiFi streaming and evolving hardware/software, the brand has made big improvements from the previous generations. It’s a smaller device, definitely more portable than before, yet it feels sturdier and nimbler. Sound is very good as you would expect, the FiiO M9 carrying the brand signature. The sweet sound of numeric I should say, as the DAP never felt harsh once. If you want a bright signature, I’d suggest another brand or model as this one is intended to please none but all. Access to third party-apps and Bluetooth duplex alone, make it a top choice for me. For 299€, it’s simply the most versatile audiophile player you could get at the moment. The perfect blend of audiophile prowess, compact design and Swiss-knife capabilities. Get this and a Q5, you’ll be fully equipped for years.

€299 From Fiio

Review: https://headfonia.com/review-fiio-m9/

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

iBasso DX150

With the DX150 and DX200, iBasso does a superb comeback on the DAP market, a sheer revival of the DX50 and DX90 combo. The iBasso DX150 sounds great and the wide range of amplifier modules should cover every need for every audiophiles. The best choice being the AMP8, a balanced discrete amplifier module, yup. Design wise, I have mixed feelings. The screen is superb and handling is good, better than the previous generation, despite its mid-fi position. Yet, it’s 19.5mm thick, even more with the case which makes the DX150 a pain to carry on. Imagine piling up 3 iPhone and you have an idea of what you’ll have to bear. In term of functionality, the iBasso DX150 is a good all-rounder. Android allows audio streaming and third party installation (remember to install the Google play store though), bi-directionnal Bluetooth transform the DAP into a portable DAC and the coax/optical/usb output is perfect for those who just need a source.

Without regard to the price, the DX150 is a sure choice, an alternative to the excellent Cayin N5ii for those who prefer stock android experience and a comprehensive range of amplifiers. If you take the price in count, it’s a superb DAP which goes directly in my buyer’s guide. If you own a DX90, you can finally switch to a new iBasso DAP, it’s just that good.

$499 from iBasso

Review: https://headfonia.com/review-ibasso-dx150/

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

Sony ZX-300

A world in which Sony does not lead the middle and top end of the DAP market is thankfully a bitter past. Sony’s disappointing A-series Walkman are long gone. And so are fiddly controls whose sole capital is size. The ZX300 pulls its weight both stylistically and in use. With the singular proviso of audible hiss when combined with sensitive earphones, it sounds great. It looks great. It works great. Its screen is better than most of the competition at its price. It’s killer.

$698 from Sony

Review: https://headfonia.com/review-sony-zx300/

Astell&Kern A&norma SR15

The A&norma SR15 combines all the necessities of a modern audiophile EDC DAP. It is small, light, has a no nonsense User Interface and sounds excellent on top. The build quality is excellent and the attention to detail in the design astonishing, if you’re wondering about the tilted screen, hold it in your hands before making a final judgement. The SR15 matches best with easy to drive headphones and in ear monitors. It’s a solid recommendation for everyone looking for a companion on the go!

$699 from Astell&Kern

Review: https://headfonia.com/review-astell-kern-sr15/

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://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://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.

  • Reply May 19, 2018


    I think Questyle is a big omission.

  • Reply June 28, 2018


    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?

  • Reply July 5, 2018

    Benjamin Pillmore

    Is there an A&K SE100 review in the works?

    • Reply November 27, 2018


      That has been published already

  • Reply September 24, 2018


    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.

  • Reply October 5, 2018


    Would the shanling m3s be enough to drive dt880pro 250 ohm?

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