10 Reasons Why to Buy a DAP Over an MP3 Player in 2024

Various music players on a table together

The Best Music Players for High-Fidelity Listening On-the-Go with Headphones

In the fast-paced world of digital music, choosing the right device for your listening needs can be a daunting task. As we step into 2024, the landscape of portable music players continues to evolve, offering a plethora of options for music enthusiasts. Whether you're a casual listener or a dedicated audiophile, understanding the differences between a standard MP3 player and a high-resolution Digital Audio Player (DAP) is crucial in making an informed decision. MP3 players and modern smartphones have long been a popular choice for their compact size and ease of use, providing convenient access to music on the go. These devices are designed to play MP3 files, which are compressed to reduce file size, sacrificing some audio quality in the process. While they are perfect for everyday use and offer impressive storage capacities, their audio fidelity is limited compared to more advanced options.

On the other hand, high-resolution DAPs cater to those who seek the ultimate audio experience. These players support a wide range of high-resolution audio formats, like FLAC, WAV, and DSD, which capture the full detail and depth of original recordings, offering a listening experience that standard MP3 players cannot match. High-resolution DAPs are equipped with premium components such as high-end DACs and amplifiers, ensuring low distortion, high dynamic range, and precise sound reproduction. They also provide extensive customization options, allowing users to tailor their audio playback with customizable EQ settings and various filters. The expandable storage capacity of these players is another significant advantage, accommodating large libraries of high-resolution audio files. Furthermore, modern DAPs offer versatile connectivity options, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and USB outputs, making them compatible with a wide range of audio systems and headphones. The dedicated focus on music, free from the distractions of smartphones, enhances the immersive listening experience, while the thriving audiophile community continues to drive interest and innovation in high-resolution audio technology.

It's 2024, and it's time to upgrade from your phone or MP3 player to something that is going to do your music justice and offer the sound quality it deserves. If you haven't already, make 2024 the year you upgrade to a high-res digital audio player (DAP). Let's go over some of the top questions people are asking about MP3 players and DAPs, and then we'll show you some of the best music players you can buy in 2024. Let's get to it!

#1 What's the difference between MP3 players/DAPs and smartphones for music playback?

There are a lot of differences between smartphone and standalone portable music players (DAPs and MP3 players). The principle differences lie in sound quality, high-resolution audio file and format compatibility, battery life, storage, and overall functionality. We'll get to sound quality differences in a bit, but here are some primary differences between the two:

Music Players (DAPs): DAPs are less versatile in terms of functionality compared to smartphones. Their primary and often sole purpose is to provide the best possible music playback experience. This singular focus means users can enjoy their music without the distractions of notifications, calls, or other smartphone activities. Many DAPs offer features such as customizable equalizers, high-resolution audio support, and balanced outputs. However, this focus on audio quality comes at the cost of convenience, as users must carry an additional device solely for music. You can't beat the tradeoff however for the quality of audio that a DAP provides, and listening sessions free of distractions bring another level of enjoyment all together. Some DAPs are even much smaller than smartphones (see the SR35) and are in many ways more convenient to carry around, especially if you want to be disconnected from the world for just a little bit to listen to some tunes. 

DAPs are designed to optimize battery life for music playback, often providing longer playback times compared to smartphones. This is because DAPs do not run multiple background processes that consume battery power. Additionally, many high-end DAPs offer expandable storage options, allowing users to store large collections of high-resolution audio files without concern for the limited storage that might be an issue on smartphones. 

Smartphones: Smartphones (iPhone and Android-based phones) offer unparalleled versatility and convenience. They allow users to access music through various means, including streaming services, downloaded files, and internet radio. Smartphones can integrate seamlessly with wireless technologies like Bluetooth, making them compatible with a wide range of audio accessories. The ability to multitask—such as browsing the web or sending messages while listening to music—adds to their convenience. However, this multifunctionality can lead to compromises in audio quality and battery life.

The smartphone is the antithesis of the audiophile experience. Listening for the sake of listening to music is now hindered by a hundred other tasks and notifications popping up constantly. Running multiple apps, making calls, and using other smartphone features can quickly drain the battery, reducing the time available for music playback. Storage can also become an issue, especially if high-resolution audio files are stored alongside other data like apps, photos, and videos. If your goal is to make your music sound the best it can and you want to get the most enjoyment possible from your listening experiences, then a smartphone is not the answer. You want a DAP. 

Astell&Kern SR35 DAP Music Player

Starting our list is the excellent SR35 from Astell&Kern. It's the smallest player on the list and it's a great option if you want to take a DAP to the gym to work out or having something to easily put in your pocket. AK implements a new audio circuit for the SR35 - providing more sonic fidelity in an entry-level player than ever before. The newly designed Dual/Quad DAC switching mode on the SR35 allows the user to disable 2 of the DAC chips to run in a dual-DAC mode for better efficiency and longer battery life, without much sonic degradation. Dual DAC mode is certainly great at bringing out those crispy details, and brass shine, and giving you decent and punchy low end. If you are concerned about the battery life if you're going on a long trip or whatnot, I certainly wouldn't be disappointed by the dual-DAC mode.

The Quad-DAC mode really flexes the music muscles of the SR35. I can notice an immediate change and improvement. Mids and lows are buffed/enhanced, the soundstage gets wider and deeper with the extra processing power. I would say it still leans to the analytical side of things for the most part, but I could see the SR35 easily pairing with a warmer headphone without issue for those who prefer a more musical presentation. In the scheme of things, Astell&Kern is giving music lovers options on how they want their music to sound, and that's a great thing. Having more versatility from one device is a lot more economical, especially for those who are new to the hobby or on a budget if upgrading from a phone. The biggest and needed improvement is by far the power output. Dual gain and dual/quad DAC switching is also a huge perk, giving you the option to improve efficiency and increase battery life if needed. The up-to-20 hours in dual DAC mode is impressive, and the quad DAC setting adds a lot of extra weight and depth to the presentation and performance. The soundstage and overall sonics are equally improved over previous A&norma installments. Classical, Rock, and Metal sounded fun and exciting on the SR35, and with the number of sound options, you can make just about anything sound great. What's considered entry-level here by Astell&Kern would be equally premium and higher-tiered for any other manufacturer.

Amazing AK Sound Quality, Portable Size 
New Dual DAC Mode

#2 How do MP3 players compare to Digital Audio Players (DAPs) in terms of audio quality?

MP3 Players: Traditional MP3 players (like the Apple iPod) are primarily designed for convenience and portability, often sacrificing some degree of audio quality to achieve these goals. They typically use basic Digital-to-Analog Converters (DACs) and amplifiers, which are sufficient for casual listening but may not satisfy audiophiles seeking high-fidelity sound. MP3 players generally support compressed audio formats such as MP3, AAC, and WMA, which, while efficient for storage, involve a loss of audio information that can degrade sound quality. The resulting playback can be sufficient for everyday use, like jogging or commuting, but might lack the depth, clarity, and detail that discerning listeners crave.

Digital Audio Players (DAPs): In contrast, Digital Audio Players (DAPs) are designed with a focus on superior audio performance. They incorporate high-end DACs and amplifiers that can significantly enhance sound quality, delivering a richer, more detailed, and more immersive listening experience. DAPs support a wide array of audio formats, including high-resolution and lossless formats like FLAC, ALAC, WAV, and DSD. These formats preserve the full spectrum of the original recording, providing an audio experience that is as close to the studio master as possible.

Additionally, many DAPs offer features such as customizable equalizers, balanced outputs, and support for high-impedance headphones, which further enhance the audio experience. The hardware components in DAPs are carefully selected to minimize noise and distortion, resulting in cleaner and more accurate sound reproduction (see the latest technologies included in the AK SP3000T). Audiophiles and serious music enthusiasts often prefer DAPs because they can discern the nuances in high-resolution recordings, which MP3 players might not accurately reproduce. Overall, while MP3 players are adequate for casual and on-the-go listening, DAPs are designed to deliver superior audio quality that meets the high standards of audiophiles and music lovers who seek the best possible listening experience.

Sony NW-ZX707 Walkman Music Player

It's not hard to hear the signature Sony sound in the NW-ZX707. If you know, you know. If you don't, you're in for a treat. The NW-ZX707 sounds warm, musical, clear, and lively. It's the type of sound that takes you by the hand and leads you straight into the music, so you feel fully engaged. You'll hear plenty of details in your favorite tracks, but there's a smoothness to the sound. "Detailed" and "smooth" might seem contradictory, but they coexist quite nicely in the ZX707. The bass on the ZX707 is warm and generously punchy. Drum hits feel dimensional, and bass guitars sound deep and rich. Some of our favorite genres of music to listen to with the ZX707 are classic rock, pop, classical, and jazz/soul.

The Sony NW-ZX707 is an excellent upgrade over the previous generation NW-ZX507. Not only has the styling been changed to black with gold accents, but the screen is bigger and the sound is bigger. What isn't much bigger is the price tag, which has only increased by $70, to $898. With a 5-inch screen, up to 25 hours of playback, USB DAC function, and next-generation upscaling, the upgrades are apparent. The Sony ZX707 has a warm, rich, and wonderfully clear sound that is especially good for rock, classical, jazz, blues, and vocals. Going up the Sony DAP price ladder, you have the NW-WM1AM2 we'll see in a bit for about $500 more than the ZX707. You will get a grander sound, with even more transparency, but you'll also be toting around a larger player. If you're basing your decision purely on sound quality, go ahead and look at the WM1AM2. But if you want a pretty darn awesome-sounding digital music player in a smaller, lighter chassis, you're going to love the ZX-707.

Fun and Dynamic Sony Sound
Great Features, Portable

#3 What features should I look for when buying a DAP in 2024?

High-Resolution Audio Support: Ensure the DAP supports a wide range of high-resolution audio formats, such as FLAC, ALAC, WAV, and DSD. This will allow you to play music files with greater detail and fidelity compared to standard compressed formats like MP3.

Quality DAC and Amplifier: The Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) and built-in amplifier are critical for sound quality. Look for DAPs with high-end DACs from reputable manufacturers like ESS, Burr-Brown, or AKM, and ensure the amplifier can drive high-impedance headphones if you plan to use them.

Storage Capacity and Expandability: High-resolution audio files are large, so ample storage is essential. Consider DAPs with large internal storage (128GB or more) and the ability to expand storage via microSD cards, which can add terabytes of additional space.

Battery Life: High-resolution audio playback can be power-intensive. Check the DAP's battery life specifications to ensure it can last through extended listening sessions. A good DAP should offer at least 10-15 hours of playback time.

User Interface and Operating System: A user-friendly interface is crucial for a smooth listening experience. Look for DAPs with intuitive operating systems, responsive touchscreens, and easy navigation. Some DAPs run on customized versions of Android, providing access to streaming apps and other functionalities. Astell&Kern has a wonderful UX interface that we cover in our guide here.

Connectivity Options: Versatile connectivity options enhance the functionality of a DAP. Features like Bluetooth (preferably with high-quality codecs like aptX HD or LDAC), Wi-Fi for streaming services, USB-C for fast data transfer and charging, and balanced outputs (2.5mm or 4.4mm) for better audio performance are important considerations.

Build Quality and Design: A well-constructed DAP not only looks and feels premium but also ensures durability. Look for devices with robust materials like aluminum or stainless steel, and check for design elements that enhance usability, such as ergonomic controls and a sturdy build.

Software Features and Customization: DAPs with customizable sound settings, such as parametric equalizers, DSP effects, and user profiles, allow you to tailor the audio experience to your preferences. Some DAPs also offer advanced features like MQA decoding for high-quality streaming.

Streaming Service Compatibility: In 2024, many audiophiles stream music in addition to playing local files. Ensure the DAP supports popular streaming services like Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, and Apple Music. Integration with these services can be a significant advantage. See our Music Streaming Guide for more info. 

Portability and Form Factor: While high-end DAPs often come with larger form factors, portability is still a key consideration. Ensure the DAP is lightweight and compact enough to carry around easily without compromising on performance.

Astell&Kern SP3000T DAP Music Player
Building upon the success of the highly acclaimed SP3000, Astell&Kern has taken its flagship player to the next level by incorporating the warm, rich sound of tube amplification. The SP3000T features Astell&Kern's innovative Triple Amp System, which was first introduced in 2021 with the A&ultima SP2000T. By integrating a real vacuum tube, Astell&Kern has created an authentic analog sound that is complemented by advanced audio features such as TERATON ALPHA, tube current settings, and the hybrid amp design. This unique fusion of analog and digital excellence results in an immersive auditory experience that defies convention, setting the A&ultima SP3000T apart as a truly exceptional portable audio player.

There's no denying that the Astell&Kern SP3000T DAP music player is an impressive piece of tech. There have been substantial improvements made to the overall design of the audio circuit, including the adoption of many of the techniques and components used in the flagship SP3000 DAP music player. The inclusion of the tube circuit brings countless possibilities for tailoring your music the way you want to listen to it and experimenting with new presentations to hear your music like never before. The premium DAP features completely independent digital and analog signals, using the flagship AKM AK4499EX DAC for the analog signal and the AK4191EQ DAC for the digital signal. This results in incredible fidelity, layering, and imaging for a portable sonic palette. Versatility is the other big takeaway here. You have a tube circuit, an op-amp circuit, and every other possibility in between. Audiophiles like choices, and Astell&Kern is giving them to us. 
Triple Amp Mode for Sound Versatility
Cable Recommendation: Silver Dragon USB Cable
Real Raytheon Tube for Warm and Rich Sound
Read the Review

#4 How much storage capacity do I need in my DAP/MP3 player?

The amount of storage capacity you need in your Digital Audio Player (DAP) or MP3 player depends on several factors, including the size of your music library, the quality of the audio files you intend to store, and whether you plan to store other media or use streaming services. Here’s a breakdown to help you determine your storage needs:

1. Size of Your Music Library

  • Small Library (Up to 1,000 Songs): If you have a smaller collection, 16GB to 32GB of storage might suffice. This is typically enough for a mix of standard MP3 files (around 5MB per song) and some high-resolution files. Most entry-level DAPs and music players come with around 32-64GB of internal storage like the Sony NW-A306 player.
  • Medium Library (1,000 to 5,000 Songs): For a medium-sized library, consider 64GB to 128GB. This will comfortably hold thousands of standard MP3s and several high-resolution albums.
  • Large Library (More than 5,000 Songs): For extensive collections, 256GB or more is recommended. High-resolution audio files can be quite large, so this capacity allows you to store many albums without running out of space. Most audiophiles will consider adding additional storage via SD cards as audiophile-quality libraries can be large and take up a lot of data storage. 

2. Quality of Audio Files

  • Standard MP3s: MP3 files typically range from 3MB to 10MB per song, depending on the bitrate (e.g., 128kbps vs. 320kbps). A 32GB player can hold roughly 3,000 to 10,000 MP3s at 128kbps.
  • High-Resolution Audio (FLAC, ALAC, WAV, DSD): High-resolution files can range from 30MB to several hundred MB per song (some can even be a gig or more). For instance, a typical FLAC file might be around 50MB. Thus, a 128GB player can store approximately 2,500 FLAC files (50MB each).

3. Other Media and Uses

  • Videos and Podcasts: If you plan to store videos, podcasts, or other media, you’ll need additional space. Videos, in particular, can be quite large, so factor this into your storage needs. It is not recommended to use your high-resolution music player for video purposes, as there are even fewer video mediums that offer high-resolution audio to take full advantage of the high-end components in the player. 
  • Streaming Services: If you primarily use streaming services (e.g., Tidal, Spotify, Qobuz), local storage needs might be lower. However, consider that some services allow offline storage, which requires additional space.
Sony NW-WM1AM2 Walkman Music Player

Now let's take a look at Sony, the creator of the Walkman, whose legacy continues on today with some premium portable music players on this list. The AM2 is the step down from the Flagship, the ZM2. Despite its warmth and richness, the WM1AM2 is not laid back or lush-sounding, nor is the bass bloated or overwhelming. There's a sense of energy, liveliness, and openness to the sound. The bass is full and well-rounded but well-controlled. The treble is sparkly yet smooth. Mids are on the forward side. There's a nice amount of headroom, with the sound feeling both wide and deep. Like most Android devices, the NW-WM1AM2 comes pre-equipped with the Google Play Store and a host of Google-supported apps. Compared to Astell&Kern, it's a pretty open Android OS. The AM2 has full WiFi and streaming functionality with your favorite music streaming apps - a nice update to this generation. Combined with DSEE, a 10-band EQ, the DC Phase Linearizer, Normalizer, Vinyl Processor, and more sound enhancements, the WM1AM2 is a fun listening experience. You can tailor it to just about everything you want to listen to, and it's especially great for Rock, Rap, EDM, R&B, synthwave, and Classical. At the end of the day, we feel this DAP is really the best bang for the buck on this list.

There are many good DAPs on the market. Sony makes some of the best when it comes to sound and build quality. The addition of Wi-Fi on the NW-WM1AM2 makes it more competitive against models from iBasso and Astell&Kern that already have Wi-Fi. The switch to the Android OS gives you options for apps and cloud storage. With up to 40 hours of playback and improved ergonomics, the NW-WM1AM2 is an attractive option for those who enjoy the signature Sony sound: fun, musical, and bassy, but with a sense of openness and control. The WM1AM2 is great for peppy and bassy music - but it is by no means limited. For example, if you enjoy Jazz but don't want a lot of sharp edges or excess top-end energy, this is a great choice. With options for streaming, storage, and sound enhancements, the WM1AM2 is a fantastic option for the modern audiophile.

Excellent Battery Life
Warm & Natural Sound
Cayin N7 DAP with Meze Liric Headphones
iBasso DX320 with Meze Elite and Focal Celestee Headphones on a table with keyboard

#5 What audio formats do DAPs support?

When selecting or using a DAP, it’s crucial to consider the supported audio formats to ensure it meets your audio quality needs and are compatible with your music library. Lossless formats like FLAC and WAV offer the best audio quality, while formats like MP3 and AAC provide good quality with smaller file sizes for more extensive music collections.

  • High-Resolution Audio: Many DAPs are designed to handle high-resolution audio files, such as 24-bit/96kHz or higher, ensuring audiophiles get the best possible sound quality.
  • File Size vs. Quality: Lossless formats provide superior audio quality but take up more storage space compared to lossy formats. Users need to balance storage capacity and desired audio fidelity.
  • Compatibility: While most modern DAPs support a wide range of formats, it’s essential to check specific device specifications to ensure compatibility with preferred audio formats.

Be sure to check out our Music Streaming Guide for more information about high-resolution file formats.

Various File Formats:

  • FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec)
  • WAV (Waveform Audio File Format)
  • ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec)
  • AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format)
  • APE (Monkey's Audio)
  • DSD (Direct Stream Digital)
  • MP3 (MPEG Audio Layer III)
  • AAC (Advanced Audio Codec)
  • OGG Vorbis
  • WMA (Windows Media Audio)
  • MP2 (MPEG Audio Layer II)
  • M4A (MPEG-4 Audio)
  • Opus
Cayin N8II DAP Music Player

The N8ii is equipped with the ROHM BD34301EKV DAC chipset in a dual configuration (x2). This is the first time that the chipset has been used in a portable music player. Cayin operates these chips in mono mode for better performance as well. The ROHM chips are natural-sounding, and as much as I can tell are about as accurate as you can get. The ROHM Chips decode DSD as pure 1-bit here, and this is only just the first step in a much larger and more nuanced audio circuit design. The N8ii also has the ability to switch amp modes between Class A and Class AB, which affects the tone of the music player in its own way: Class A Mode features low distortion and an optimum playback condition. Silky smooth, warm, and lush - the best fit for sentimental music with lots of detail and macro dynamics. Class AB Mode features higher efficiency and dynamics. Clean, tight, extended, and authoritative slam, and the best fit for music with a high dynamic range.

It's an impressive music player when it comes to sound. It's not as easy to define sonically as a DAP with an ESS or AKM chip, as the overall design of the audio circuit is a bit more complicated and, like I said before, nuanced. Organic sound and details aplenty, the N8ii provides excellent sound stage width and depth. The layering is superb, with great spaciousness and texturing. Grunge, Rock, Classical, R&B - everything we throw at the N8ii sounds phenomenal. It's a sound you can only really hear to believe.

The Cayin N8ii DAP is one of the most premium music players you can get on the audiophile market right now. The impressive thing about the N8ii is the complete audio circuit. The ROHM DAC is a first for a portable music player, and the switchable amp modes combined with the KORG Nutubes make for a sound as sophisticated as the technology behind it. The Cayin N8ii is as close to end-game sound as you can get in a portable device of this size and provides the user with a memorable listening experience each and every time.

Great SABRE ES Sound, Clarity & Details
Streaming Functionality, Design is Sleek

#6 How do I transfer music from my computer to my MP3 or DAP music player?

Transferring music from your computer to your MP3 player or Digital Audio Player (DAP) is typically a straightforward process. Here's a general guide:

  1. Connect your music player to your computer: Use a USB cable to connect your MP3 player or DAP to your computer. Make sure both devices are turned on and that your computer recognizes the connected device.
  2. Locate your music files on your computer: Your music files are usually stored in a folder on your computer. If you're unsure where your music is stored, you can use your computer's search function to find them.
  3. Copy the music files to your music player: Once you've located your music files, you can copy them to your DAP by dragging and dropping them from your computer's file explorer (e.g., File Explorer on Windows or Finder on Mac) to the folder representing your music player. Alternatively, you can use software provided by the manufacturer of your DAP to manage the transfer. See more about AK File Drop in our guide for Astell&Kern players
  4. Wait for the transfer to complete: Depending on the number and size of the music files you're transferring, it may take some time for the transfer to complete. Make sure not to disconnect your MP3 or music player until the transfer is finished to avoid data corruption.
  5. Eject your audio player: Once the transfer is complete, safely eject your audio player from your computer to ensure that no data is lost. You can usually do this by clicking on the eject icon next to your MP3 player's name in your computer's file explorer.
  6. Disconnect your MP3 player: After ejecting your MP3 player, disconnect it from your computer by safely removing the USB cable.
  7. Verify the transfer: To make sure the transfer was successful, you can disconnect your MP3 player from your computer and navigate through its menus to locate the transferred music files.

See the guides below for more information:

Android Transfer banner
Check out our guide on transferring music to your DAP
Astell&Kern KANN Max DAP Music Player

Let's take a look at the portable powerhouse known as the KANN Max from Astell&Kern. It's actually a little surprising how powerful the KANN Max is when you look at the size of the DAP. Aesthetically, it’s exactly what you would expect from Astell&Kern – sharp edges, futuristic looking, and sleek design. The KANN Max is equipped with a 4.1-inch 720x1280 touch display. I find this the sweet spot for a portable player in general, let alone one with this much power. It’s snappy and responsive and is crisp enough at this size to look great. Sure, there are larger and better-looking screens out there, but for an Astell&Kern player, you’re gonna be listening to the music, not watching YouTube or playing games. The KANN Max is equipped with four ES9038Q2M DAC chips and supports up to 32-bit 768. The DAP sounds dynamic and resolute, and it’s easily the best-sounding KANN music player. The power output goes a long way to help provide a dynamic and impactful listening experience each and every time. Wonderful extension in the bass, clear and resolute mids, and some really nice energy in the top end - there's not much to be mad about with how this music player sounds.

You can set the output level on these devices according to your power needs. The low output does 2Vrms unbalanced and 4 on balanced. Mid output level does 4Vrms on unbalanced and 8 on balanced. The high output level does 6Vrms on unbalanced and 12 on balanced. Distinctive to the ACRO and now the KANN Max is a super high gain level, giving you a whopping 8Vrms in unbalanced and 15Vrms in balanced mode. It can’t be overstated how impressive it is that a device of this size can output that much power. It’s still not going to power a Susvara, but it can pretty much do everything else out there. The KANN Max is about as beastly as you can get for a portable music player. The size, sound, power, and a number of high-end flagship-level features make it really hard NOT to recommend this music player for those who like using their full-size headphones on the go. It's great for Classical, Rock, R&B, EDM, Synthwave, and Classic Rock in particular, and for those wanting to use USB Audio out, we recommend pairing the KANN Max with a Silver Dragon USB Cable for the best in digital transmission of data to your DAP. Also, since the Kann Max has the power for most full-size headphones out there, we paired it with our Silver Dragon headphone cable and Utopia 2020 for optimal detail and resolution.

Great Depth and Soundstage
Lots of Power!

#7 Can DAPs connect to streaming services like Spotify and Tidal?

Yes, many modern digital audio players (DAPs) have the capability to connect to streaming services like Spotify, Tidal, and others. This functionality allows users to enjoy their favorite music streaming platforms on a device that is dedicated to delivering high-quality audio.

Several DAPs come with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, enabling them to directly access streaming services through their respective apps. Astell&Kern music players even go as far as to preload your favorite music streaming service apps on the DAP when you open the box. You can find out more in our Astell&Kern Support Page HERE.

Qobuz and music streaming logos

In some cases, DAPs may not have native app support for certain streaming services. However, many of these devices offer workarounds, such as:

1. Android-based DAPs: Some DAPs run on a version of the Android operating system, allowing users to install streaming apps from the Google Play Store.

2. Bluetooth connectivity: If a DAP has Bluetooth connectivity, users can stream music from their smartphone to the DAP using Bluetooth codecs like LDAC or aptX HD.

3. Third-party apps: Some DAPs support third-party apps that enable access to streaming services, even if there is no native app support.

Before purchasing a DAP, it is essential to research the specific model to ensure it supports the streaming services you prefer and offers a seamless user experience.

Sony NW-WM1ZM2 Walkman Music Player

Remember when you couldn't add apps to and stream music using the Sony NW-WM1Z? With the release of the second generation of this Sony Signature Series Walkman, the NW-WM1ZM2, those limitations are but a distant memory. The second generation of this flagship Walkman from Sony is now supported by Android and compatible with Wi-Fi to accommodate today's audiophile who wants the option of playing locally stored files or streaming from hi-res services like TIDAL and Qobuz. But that isn't the only new feature of the NW-WM1ZM2. It's got a larger, hi-def touchscreen plus better battery life, for starters. This is a luxury product through and through. Like the WM1A, the frame of the WM1ZM2 is OFC (oxygen-free copper). However, the OFC purity has been upgraded to 99.99 percent. Sony says this offers even greater benefits in terms of audio quality and high rigidity. Bass notes are clear and powerful, the atmosphere is more expansive, and mid to high-range sounds linger beautifully. The frame is plated with gold on the front of the player and machined aluminum on the back. According to Sony, the gold plating over the oxygen-free copper (OFC) frame facilitates "better audio quality where you can hear each instrument as if it were performing live."

The sound is expressive and lively. It's the type of sound that grabs you by the wrist and says, "Dance with me." Sound that makes you feel every bit of emotion that an artist pours into a performance. There's plenty of punch and power, plus a wonderful sense of dimension and distinction. Nothing gets blended or bumped out of the way; there's a sense of completion in each note and sound. It's an incredibly enjoyable listening experience time and time again. It's superb for dance, pop, EDM, rock, and more. If you want the best of what Sony has to offer in portable music listening - this is it. We paired the Bronze Dragon with both of these Sony DAPs and IEMs since we were looking for more warmth and resolution in the music with these particular headphones.

Full, Luscious Sound
Outstanding Build Quality, Premium Materials

#8 Are there any MP3 players or DAPs with Bluetooth connectivity?

Yes, most despite being audiophile-grade devices, most digital audio players today have wireless functionality like Bluetooth connectivity. Consumer-grade Bluetooth MP3 players are quite common as well. This feature allows you to wirelessly connect your DAP or MP3 player to Bluetooth-enabled headphones, speakers, or car stereos, providing more flexibility and convenience in how you listen to your music. 

Brands like Astell&Kern, iBasso, Cayin, and Sony all provide Bluetooth connectivity with their music players. The big variation here is the codecs that each music player is compatible with. Pairing devices will need to be matched codec-wise to enjoy the full benefits of faster bandwidth for transmitting things like high-resolution audio. Sony's proprietary LDAC codec sounds phenomenal on their DAPs when paired with a compatible headphone or headset (like the WH-1000XM5 or WF-1000XM5), offering dynamic and impactful true-high-resolution audio (if your files are hi-res). 

When choosing a DAP with Bluetooth connectivity, consider factors such as supported codecs, Bluetooth version, battery life, and overall audio performance to ensure you find the best device to suit your needs and preferences.

Sony NW-A306 Walkman DAP Music Player

Sony proves to us that when we think a product can't be revolutionized anymore — it is. Yet another milestone in the evolution of the Walkman, the NW-A306 digital music player is the newest iteration of the NW-A300 series. A tiny DAP that's packed with features, it can literally fit in the palm of your hand. These days when portable devices need a separate bag to tote them around in, Sony's size for the A306 is a welcome one. Sony likes to keep the specs of their internals under wraps, so where we might not know the exact chipsets inside, that's okay. What we do know is that Sony implements a number of sound enhancements with their music players. The NW-A306 player itself is natural sounding enough - we wouldn't classify it as warm like its other higher-end siblings. The real charm of the portable music player comes out when paired with extremely efficient IEMs or headphones, and the wireless connection is a huge component of this music player since that's where a lot of Sony's proprietary sound enhancements really take full effect.

Sony is packing in features for users to choose how they want their music to sound. The A306 gives you the option to turn on various sound settings such as AI-powered DSEE Ultimate upscaling, Vinyl Processor, Clear Audio+, and more. For those who love the warmth and character of vinyl, the Vinyl Processor function strives to subtly reproduce the low-frequency resonance, tone-arm resistance, and surface noise of vinyl. DSEE actually does a great job at perceivably upscaling the audio - we preferred it most of the time when listening to rock for example. Clear Audio+ is another interesting sound enhancement from Sony, offering more space and detail with the track, though I found varying effectiveness of this based on what we were listening to. Sony has made the perfect portable DAP for anyone looking to listen to music hassle-free on the go. With its Bluetooth connectivity, you'll benefit from the ease of pairing your favorite wireless headphones or IEMs and enjoying high-resolution audio. With the quintessential "Sony" sound, Rock, EDM, Hip-Hop and more will sound fun and dynamic. As an entry-level DAP, it's a great choice for those wanting to take their first step into the world of audiophiles and enjoy audiophile-grade sound.

Amazing Portable Size & Battery Life
Fun Sony Sound, Pairs well with the WH-1000XM5

#9 How long does the battery last on an average MP3 Player or DAP?

The battery life of an MP3 player or digital audio player (DAP) can vary significantly depending on factors such as the device's size, battery capacity, screen type (LCD, OLED, etc), size, and the features being used (e.g., Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or high-resolution audio playback). On average, most modern MP3 players and DAPs offer battery life ranging from 8 to 20 hours or more on a single charge.

Keep in mind that battery life can be significantly reduced when using power-hungry features like Wi-Fi streaming, Bluetooth connectivity, or playing high-resolution audio files. Some high-end DAPs with larger screens and more advanced features may have shorter battery life compared to more basic or entry-level MP3 players. To maximize battery life, users can lower screen brightness, disable unused connectivity features, and opt for lower bitrate files when high-resolution audio is not necessary. Many devices also offer power-saving modes that can extend battery life further.

#10 What are the best DAPs & music players for audiophiles in 2024?

All of the DAPs covered on this blog so far have made our list for the best DAPs and music players of 2024. These DAPs represent phenomenal price for performance ratio, a plethora of unique features and functionality, and the best part is that your music has never sounded better on the go. Here is our top DAP of the year: 
Astell&Kern SP3000 DAP Music Player

What does peak performance look like? What does the best of the best get you when it comes to music and sound quality? There's one thing you can't argue about, and that is Astell&Kern DAP music players are some of the best-looking portable audiophile gear on the market. Their sleek and cutting-edge designs help their music players stand out from the crowd, but the important thing is that they're not just all looks (but very capable feature-heavy DAPs). Astell&Kern has made some significant improvements in the sound department with their new flagship. This is the maiden voyage for the world's first AK4499EX DAC chips, AKM's latest flagship set, which arranges them in a quad-DAC format. On top of that, the new innovative HEXA-Audio Circuitry structure design puts two AK4191EQ chips for processing digital signals directly. Most digital players process digital and analog signals together inside the DAC. However, the SP3000’s advanced HEXA-Audio Circuitry structure reduces the noise of the digital signal input through the AK4191EQ, a separate digital delta-sigma modulator, and the AK4499EX DAC is then designed to process the analog signals separately. 

This is a new approach to sound for DACs, and by using this design the digital and analog signal processing is physically separated resulting in some astounding signal-to-noise ratio measurements and dynamic sound. So just what does this new architecture do for the SP3000 sonically? Quite a bit. It's some of the best three-dimensional sonic renderings I've heard on a music player. It sounds more accurate than what I've heard previously. The layering helps with the clarity and prominence of the entrances, cleanly hearing when they come in, trail off, etc. The texturing helps various instruments and voicings not get covered by roaming competing frequencies, along with making out individual performances, articulations, and breathing. Classical, Jazz, Folk, Alternative, and Classic Rock, it does most genres exceptionally well, as a flagship music player should. The SP3000 is a great device to be used as a server or even a USB DAC with your laptop or computer. We recommend pairing it with our Silver Dragon USB cable with ultrapure silver conductors for the best in signal transfer for your digital music. The SP3000 redefines flagship sound for me. It's a spectacular-sounding piece of equipment and we think the best sounding DAP on the market.

New HEXA DAC Circuitry Sounds Amazing
Flagship Features, New UI/UX Design

Dragon Audio Cables

Here at Moon Audio, we specialize in custom audio cables. Audio cables impact sound quality, so it only makes sense to invest in high-quality cables that will complement your HiFi audio gear. For all our digital audio players at Moon Audio, we recommend pairing them with the popular Silver Dragon USB Cable. The Silver Dragon USB Audio Cable is our top-of-the-line (USB or digital) cable created with ultrapure silver conductors for the best signal transfer for your digital music. The cable uses 99.99998% UP-OCC Stranded Silver 24AWG Teflon insulated stranded conductors with a double-layer shield to ward off outside interference. The Silver Dragon USB is the most resolute USB cable on the market today for an amazing price point. So stop paying for over-inflated cables and give it a try. Be prepared to be amazed at the difference it will make when transferring your computer audio catalog to your USB applications.

We also make a Black Dragon USB Cable variant. The Black Dragon USB Audio Cable uses 99.999% pure copper 24AWG Teflon insulated stranded copper conductors with a double-layer shield to ward off outside interference. Standard USB cables are not up to the task of large bit rate information. Drew Baird, P.E., Moon Audio Owner and Founder, has optimized this cable for audio transmission of large hi-res files. USB cables can make big a difference, and the Black Dragon is one heck of a bang for the buck cable.

Our HiFi Audio Dragon Cables bring out more of what you love in your music and audio gear. If you love your headphones but wish they had a bit more top-end sparkle - a Silver Dragon Headphone Cable would be a great option. If your USB cables keep dying - as many stock cables do - then check out our quality USB Audio Cables. We say time and time again that materials matter, and our audio cables and custom geometries actually help to bring out those desired properties in your gear and music. We make tons of custom options for our customers so that you can get the right HiFi Audio cable for your exact needs. If you have any questions feel free to Contact Us and we'll be more than happy to help.

Generally, stock audio cables are manufactured with subpar materials, metals with impurities, poor geometries, and an overabundance of layers to make them look and feel like a fire hose. Inconsistency and lack of quality control in stock cables can lead to poor sound quality and a veiled sound vs. what the musician intended for you to hear and feel from the music. Dragon Audio Cables are handcrafted with the highest standards and made to order according to your specific needs. At Moon Audio, we create a custom cable for you using the highest quality UP-OCC silver or copper conductors that can be manufactured. UP-OCC metals are void of impurities and are optimized for signal transfer and sound quality. We have one of the largest collections of audio and headphone connection options available online and we create limitless audio cable options depending on your specific gear and needs.

Why Dragon Cables?

You’ve heard the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, right? Well, the same applies to your brand-new audiophile-grade headphones or other audio components. The weakest link, in this case, is your stock audio cable or the cheap interconnects the manufacturer threw in the box just to get you up and running. Why is the audio cable always an afterthought, when it’s just as important as the rest of your system? At Moon Audio, we use the purest and best raw materials in our cables to unveil your music. We believe that materials matter and your audio cables should have the same care and craftsmanship that manufacturers put into their audio components and headphones. Audio cables are ultimately the connection to your music. The fact remains that cabling is often considered the last priority to that of the main product and a means to cut down the overall production costs. It’s as simple as that. Dragon Cables elevate every note - as if you were hearing your favorite music for the very time. 



2024 is the perfect time to elevate your audio experience by transitioning from listening to music on your phone to investing in a dedicated digital audio player (DAP). With advancements in technology and the growing popularity of high-resolution audio and premium music streaming services, a DAP offers unparalleled sound quality and performance that your smartphone simply cannot match.

By upgrading to a digital audio player, you'll unlock the true potential of your music library, whether you're enjoying locally stored high-resolution files or exploring the vast catalogs of streaming platforms like Tidal, Qobuz, or Spotify. DAPs are designed with audio quality as their primary focus, featuring superior digital-to-analog converters (DACs), powerful amplifiers, and low-noise circuitry that work together to deliver a clean, detailed, and immersive sound signature. Moreover, DAPs offer a more intuitive and streamlined user experience compared to smartphones, with dedicated interfaces and controls optimized for music playback. You'll have quick access to your favorite tracks, albums, and playlists without the distractions of notifications, calls, or other apps competing for your attention.

Whether starting out in the world of audiophilia, there are plenty of options to choose from that won't break the bank. Check out the popular Astell&Kern SR35 or the Sony NW-A306 for starters. Budgets can grow all the way up to flagship music players, where the fidelity and power can literally rival some full-size desktop systems (with the right pair of end-game headphones). At the top, you'll find players like the SP3000 from Astell&Kern or the Sony WM1ZM2 Walkman

In 2024, as more people recognize the value of high-quality audio and seek a more immersive listening experience, making the switch to a digital audio player is a wise choice. Embrace the future of portable audio and treat yourself to a device that prioritizes sound quality above all else. Your music deserves to be heard the way the artists intended, and a DAP is the perfect tool to make that happen.

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