Best high-resolution digital audio player: Which DAP reigns supreme?

    Whereas TVs have turn out to be higher and higher over the previous 15 years, audio has taken a number of steps backwards. Many people have sacrificed constancy in pursuit of comfort and portability, adopting inferior audio codecs comparable to MP3 and making them our new benchmarks. Lossy codecs comparable to that strip music of its dynamics, element, and vitality. Nevertheless it doesn’t should be that approach. Choose up a high-resolution digital audio participant (DAP) and you may have your cake and eat it, too.

    Not like old-school MP3 gamers, Apple’s iPod contact, or a smartphone, high-res DAPs are designed with high-end audio circuitry, high-powered digital-to-analog converters (DACs), and amplifiers that may drive a variety of audiophile-class headphones. Their unique function is to play music, and whereas they will play nearly any sort of music file, they’re actually designed for the codecs and codecs that ship better-than-CD high quality.

    Editor’s observe: This story was up to date March 28, 2018 so as to add our tackle the Astell&Kern AK70 MKII, which is our new prime choose on this class.

    Greatest high-res digital audio participant

    Till now, the Astell&Kern AK70 was our prime advice in high-resolution digital audio gamers, so it’s becoming that its successor—the Astell&Kern AK70 MKII—ought to displace it. The older mannequin stays available on the market, however a further $100 delivers a raft of latest options and even larger efficiency.


    Assist for MQA information and the presence of a balanced headphone output are simply two of one of the best options in our runner-up choose, Onkyo’s DP-X1. This participant is fantastically designed, simple to make use of, and it sounds improbable. We’d prefer it even higher if it supported aptX HD.

    Characteristic comparability

    The next desk gives you a side-by-side comparability of the gamers, together with a mainstream media participant—Apple’s iPod contact—as a reference level. 

    Best DAP featire table Theo Nicolakis

    The function units of high-res DAPs differ significantly.

    How we examined

    We examined every participant with Bowers & Wilkins’ P7, B&W P5 Wireless, and B&W C5 (Sequence 2) headphones in quite a lot of listening environments. Bowers & Wilkins’ P7 was my go-to headphone for all crucial listening.

    B&W P7 headphones Bowers & Wilkins

    We used Bowers & Wilkins’ P7 over-the-ear headphones for our crucial listening assessments.

    We copied a set of high-res ALAC, FLAC, and DSD music information to 64GB microSD playing cards and used them with all three gamers. Check information had been encoded with 24-bit decision at sampling charges starting from 48- to 192kHz. A number of the music information we used had been provided by the producers; others had been bought from HDTracks, B&W’s Society of Sound, AcousticSounds, and comparable high-res music-download websites. We additionally bought a number of the identical albums on CD and from the iTunes retailer (the latter as lossy AAC-encoded information) for comparability.

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