The Best High-Fidelity On-the-Go
Best Music Players, Digital Audio Players (DAPs) of 2023
Best DAPs & Music Players
#12: Sony NW-A306 Walkman DAP Music Player
#11: iBasso DX170 DAP Music Player
It's a capable music player, being able to handle Native DSD up to x256, supports USB DAC mode, is equipped with a 4.4mm balanced and multi-purpose 3.5mm single-ended jack that functions as a phone out, line out, and coax out, depending on what you need. The internal computer power is great for this price: a quad-core ARM Cortex-A55 Soc, 32GB of internal storage, 2GB of LPDDR4, and support for SDXC and SDHC micro SD cards for expandable external storage. With support for pretty much every file format out there, and Android-based OS, 5G WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0, an average 10 hour battery life, and this music player will make your old iPod look like a Palm Pilot. Welcome to the iPod of the future, feature packed, and providing you audiophile-grade sound quality wherever you go. Rock, Classical, Jazz, and Folk are going to sound lively and dynamic with the DX170, and if you're looking for a premium sound at a great value, be sure to check out the iBasso DX170 DAP music player.
#10: Sony NW-ZX707 Walkman DAP Music Player
#9: Astell&Kern A&futura SE300 Music Player DAP
For the first time in an Astell&Kern music player, there is finally a fully discrete 24-bit R-2R DAC. Previous music players in AK's wheelhouse usually packed a series of AKM, ESS, or Cirrus Logic DAC chipsets. Delta Sigma DACs are easier to implement in a portable music player, but Astell&Kern was up to the challenge of figuring out how to put a ladder DAC into their latest DAP. The R-2R DAC, also known as a ladder DAC, arranges resistors in a ladder form and offers natural yet dynamic Hi-Fi sounds. AK has meticulously selected each of the 96 ultra-precision resistors and finalized the R-2R DAC technology - it is indeed a new sound for an Astell&Kern player, at least from an analog perspective.
The other new feature in the SE300 that makes another first for Astell&Kern is the dual amp mode switching. Dual amps provide a lot more tonal variation than some might think and also affects the overall efficiency of the device which can prolong or shorten battery life, based on your fidelity preferences. You'll also find High and Normal gain modes on the SE300. This allows you to get the perfect match for power output with your favorite headphones or IEMs. Offering up to 6Vrms in balanced mode, it'll have enough juice for most full-sized headphones out there, except specifically demanding cans. The SE300 uses an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) that Astell&Kern self-developed for optimized design instead of using common off-the-shelf commercial semiconductor chipsets, relaying digital signals to the R-2R DAC through its algorithm. Astell&Kern’s FPGA, developed specifically for the SE300, supports the most ideal OS (Over Sampling) / NOS (Non-Over Sampling). Enjoy the sound styles reproduced by NOS and OS modes, meticulously designed for the SE300's hardware and programs.
The SE300 sounds different from other AK players. Thanks to the implementation of the R-2R DAC mostly, it provides a clean, detailed, and natural sound to the music. I'm not hearing much coloration like some ESS and AKM chips/signal chains. I would definitely still consider it on the forward side, which is not that uncommon for the A&futura or A&norma lineups of DAPs. The SE300 is going to be a great DAP for lovers of detail: classical, jazz, rock, folk, and alternative in particular. There are enough firsts here that Astell&Kern should be proud of the way they've implemented these new features and continue to bring something new to the table.
#8: iBasso DX320 DAP Music Player
#7: Cayin N8II DAP Music Player
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.
#6: Cayin N7 DAP Music Player
#5: Astell&Kern KANN Max DAP Music Player
#4: Astell&Kern SR35 DAP Music Player
#3: Sony WM1AM2 Walkman DAP Music Player
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 had 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.
#2: Sony WM1ZM2 Walkman DAP Music Player
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.
#1: Astell&Kern SP3000 DAP Music Player
Our 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 - like many stock cables do - then check out our quality USB cables. We say time and time again that materials matter, and our 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 cable for your exact needs. If you have any questions feel free to contact us and we'll be more than happy to help.