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DAPs, or Digital Audio Players, are devices that are capable of playing higher-resolution music and various file formats than more consumer-based devices like smartphones, an iPhone™ or iPod™. Popular brands such as Astell&Kern, Sony, and iBasso are high-end audio brands that make DAPs and include quality digital to analog converters and built-in headphone amplifiers. DAPs come in a number of shapes, sizes and price ranges. Looking to up your game on portable high-resolution music? Look no further.
Music players are a popular choice for audiophiles that like to take their music with them. Unlike iPods™, they are able to play various file formats and high-resolution music. DAPs contain a high-end digital-to-analog converter (sometimes two) and an amplifier and this combination makes it the perfect companion for the traveling audiophile.
There are some larger DAP options like Astell&Kern’s KANN Cube that include a 5-pin mini-XLR output, which makes it adaptable for home or 2-channel audio system use if you wanted to use it in that way. There are a number of recommended DAP brands at Moon Audio: iBasso, Sony and Astell&Kern all have great audio players for every budget.
Digital audio players can also come in desktop variants with streaming capabilities. Matrix Audio and the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge make great desktop players that are smaller in form factor. A popular option is to get a digital player that can also stream music from your favorite smartphone music streaming app via remote play; hence a music streamer. The Roon Nucleus also allows you to simultaneously access your personal music collection, via attached or internal storage, or accessed through a NAS, compiling a super music library for your listening pleasure. Larger devices that are fitting for the home audio room streamer come from Bryston and Aurender, both great recommendations for their features and functionality.
For more technical information on digital audio players, check out our page “What is a DAP?”
A DAP stands for Digital Audio Player. Digital Audio Players are electronic devices capable of storing and playing high-resolution music or media files. Many digital formats, resolutions, and encoding exist. Most DAPs can comfortably play most digital files. DAPs are designed to play high resolution or “lossless” digital files. They come in various formats from portable to desktop units. To learn more about DAPs, check out our “What Is A DAP” page.
Common digital audio player features include a touchscreen interface, a built-in headphone amplifier, local and expandable storage options, high-end digital-to-analog converter chips (sometimes dual-chip options), and much more. Considering the value and open compatibility with many file types and sizes, a DAP is a worthwhile investment over a smartphone any day. Your phone does a lot of things “okay,” but the DAP is designed to do only one thing: great sound quality.
Yes. Many digital audio players are compatible with 3rd party applications. Astell&Kern, for instance, has a service called Open App, in which they allow select APK (Android) applications to be installed on their devices which allow for music streaming and much more. High-resolution streaming services like Tidal and Qobuz also allow their apps to be used for downloading for offline play. To learn more about the Open App service and offline streaming, check out our blog article on APK Streaming.
Though somewhat subjective, there are music applications that stream higher quality audio. A number of these applications are compatible with digital audio players like Astell&Kern through their Open App Service. The most popular high-resolution music streaming applications are Tidal and Qobuz. To learn more about high-resolution music and various streaming services, please see our Digital Music Guide.
The digital audio player still remains the best way to take your high-resolution audio with you. Like an iPod™ on steroids, the DAP is the easiest way to listen to your high-resolution music tracks with your favorite audiophile-grade headphones. Built with the highest quality components, DAPs mimic your high-end home audio system but are small enough to fit in your pocket. If you’re an audiophile and want to bring your favorite headphones with you, chances are that in some instances, your iPod™ or iPhone™ will not have enough juice to fully power your headphones. Since most DAPs include a built-in amp for this very reason, DAPs will remain the best option for listening to your high-resolution music.
There are a lot of factors to consider before determining not just the best DAP, but the best digital audio player for you. If you are looking for a music player that has the ability to install 3rd party streaming applications like Tidal and Qobuz for offline listening, then the Astell & Kern DAPs are a good choice. They implement what is called Open APP Service which allows you to install specific APK applications to the devices. The SP2000 flagship DAP and all previous models are now compatible. If you have a set of power-hungry headphones, then the Astell&Kern KANN Cube is a solid pick considering it's up to 12V of power output. Sony and iBasso are also great choices for varying price points.
Digital audio players can support a number of file formats and sizes - WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF. Most phones are limited either by the file formats they are able to playback or by the power they are able to output, leaving many audiophile-grade headphones underpowered and therefore unusable. Digital audio players are the true portable/table-top device of choice for audiophiles since they have an internal amplifier that can power most headphones on the market.
Most portable DAPs that have the ability to connect to Wi-Fi should be able to stream music from various integrated or 3rd party applications. The Open APP Service for Astell&Kern players allows you to do this - see more info on installing APK apps on our blog. iBasso's DX220 uses the open Android 8.1 system. The Audio system has been reworked to allow third-party applications. Table-top variants sometimes come equipped with antennas for wireless connection or utilize wired network connection via LAN input. In those cases, like the Matrix Audio Element X, streaming is controlled via a connected device like your phone or tablet. Be sure to check the specifications if the DAP you are considering supports music streaming.