As a self-contained portable source, the HM-801 stands alone at the moment, IMHO, followed by the 602. The difference is more evident when testing with higher end cans and IEMs. I have never auditioned the RE262s, transitioned to customs about a year ago.
On a general note, dedicated DAPs tend to outperform portable media players in overall SQ.
So you consider the hifiman 602 to have higher SQ than the whipmod then? I'm trying to decide if i should get a whipmod or get a hifiman. Also does the whipmod LOD work with other ipods other than the whipmod? Thanks!
To my ears the quality of the LOD you use with the WhipMOD or iMod matters a great deal. The "Fat Boy" Reference LOD is downright amazing with amps such as the Pico Slim or the new SR71B in terms of added detail, soundstage and instrument separation. Granted, the cost of one of such LOD equals the price of the 602 itself. But you have greater level of freedom to pick your amp and LOD to arrive to the desired overall SQ. The 602 is a great deal for what you pay and one of the best players out there period, all things considered, IMO, but only if you prefer its sound signature. If you have to put a mini-to-mini to a portable amp, the value proposition is lost, considering you still have to deal with smaller storage capacity, lack of gapless playback and playlist support, etc.
If you buy any LOD with built-in BG caps, it will still work with non-modded iPods, but the signal path will not be as clean, because of the extra caps there. But you should still be OK.