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Best Audio Quality Portable Music Player

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

Hi,

 

I am planning to buy a portable music player (like ipod, etc.), my top priority is audio quality and support for lossless audio, that's all.

(budget is not much problem, but won't like to go with HiFiMan's products)

 

After doing lots of research on the net, Creative Zen X-fi3, Cowon iAudio 10 and iPod Classic (5.5 gen) seemed me the best. However, on reading some older threads on this forum, it turned out that people prefer Sony Walkman players.

 

I already have Klipsch Image S4i, and will use it with the player, unless the player offers better ones. And I am not planning for any amps, etc. Just need the best sounding audio device out there.

 

Any sort of help will be greatly appreciated.


Edited by shn11 - 9/5/12 at 3:42pm
post #2 of 24

you left out colorfly C4 and ibasso dx100

post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 

don't know about them, though i've mostly decided to go with zen x-fi3, unless someone gives strong suggestion against it

post #4 of 24

Also forgot about the HDR-R10 (Japan version of the DX100, not sure if it's much different besides more support for formats).

 

Also the Altmann Tera Player is great. I own one myself. Highly recommended if you think it could work for you. It's definitely not for everyone.

 

I have heard the DX100, it's nice. Very impressive, just a bit outdated with the unsupported Android OS (2.3.1, whereas 2.3.3 would be supported). 

 

Colorfly C3 and Colorfly C4 are two options worth considering. Good reviews on both, C3 is much smaller though (so I've heard). Havent heard either one, but worth noting.

 

As far as high-end audio players go, it gets a bit hard to find out as most wont have all the different options to compare. Walkman DAP's seem to have lots of followers. I would suggest the iMod option if you go for an iPod Video (5.5Gen). That's how you'd get the most out of it.

 

I think DAP's are more than just about audio quality. You're on Head-Fi, you care about your music, but also, you make investments so that you can enjoy your audio to the fullest. Picking the right device is important because you're likely hoping to only buy one of them. Think about your usage and what exactly you want. Do your research and you'll be happy you did. Good luck with your search for an audio player to fit your needs. 

 

EDIT: I think it's necessary to share some experience with you. Through my time as a member, I have used the Sansa Clip Zip, iPod Classic (7th gen), iPod Video 5.5 Gen and Tera Player as my primary DAP's. I used the iPod's with an external portable amp, which honestly can make a world of difference sometimes. I had a Pico Slim that made the Trebles from both iPod's sound luscious and magnificent. The Sansa Clip Zip is by far no slouch. It is a sleeper. It looks like a nothing. It costs pretty much nothing, but man if you dont need much to it, it is a great sounding little device. Definitely cant go wrong at it's price. 

 

The Tera Player is a highly expensive device, but I love mine. I didn't pay full price, got it from a member selling it to make room for their home rig. IT's also very small and great sounding. I think the beauty of the Tera Player is in it's jitter free implementation. It is noiseless. Extremely black background and even sitting for hours next to my and others cell phones, I experience no interference like when I used my iPod with an amp. It doesnt have a ridiculous amount of power for headphones though, but if its a portable headphone, it'll be driven well or decently by the Tera. 

 

Something has gotta be said about the iPod being around for so long and bringing about a lot of change in how the world works. It definitely is a solid device and if you take care of it, you can use it for years still, and enjoy it as well. The iPod is honestly best with the iMod modification done to it and a portable amp being used. This will get you the most out of the device, and also allow those less knowledgeable to navigate and listen to your music.

 

Just remembered, the Teclast T51 (AKA Nationite S:flo2) is also highly regarded, though known to have a bad GUI, which is also a complaint about the DX100.

 

EDIT 2: Forgot to mention the Hisoundaudio Studio V (especially their third anniversary edition) is another high end audio player. I assume you also know about the HM-901 which not much has really been shared even though some people should already have the device. Again, I preach research, questioning, and even demoing devices till you are 100% sur of what you pick if you are not seeing this as a stepping stone, but rather an ultimate setup. 


Edited by kenman345 - 9/6/12 at 10:12pm
post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 

@kenman345

 

Thanks for such a long reply. I was hoping for such.

 

I must say that I am stunned by the specs of Colorfly, DX100, Altmann Tera-Player. They have the highest SNR and least THD+N I ever came across my findings. They even beat HiFiMan's player which I was considering as ultimate. However, their price seems to extremely high; I will probably buy one of them sometime later. However I could not find HDR-R10 (which you said is Japan version of the DX100), is that the correct name of the player?

 

Next comes iPod with iMod, but I am not willing to go for any modifications or amps, anyway I have heard a lot against iPod now, so now not willing to have one. Then Sansa Clip, I find it absolutely amazing in that able to give high quality audio in such a low price, I am also very impressed by it after reading one of its tech review.

 

I also found Teclast T51 to be impressive, though some people reported poor build. Sound quality should be nice if people are comparing it to HiFiMan HM-602. I will do more research on it, thanks for pointing this out. Though it seems difficult to buy it anywhere (it's neither on amazon nor on ebay!).

 

Hisoundaudio Studio V seems to be good but some people have reported bugs, etc. May be the anniversary edition doesn't have them. But price seems to be high for an SNR of 96dB, which is comparable to iPod (or may be iPod has better). However, according to reviews, it sounds great and is considered a high-end audiophile dap.

 

With Creative Zen X-fi3, one of my attraction is aptX, it'll be good since i travel a lot. Also I'm willing to try their x-fi eq. From reviews, it is better or comparable to iPods and is quite cheap.

 

So as of now I am considering Teclast T51, Sansa Clip (or Fuze) and Creative Zen X-fi3. Will look at Hisoundaudio Studio V if my other choices don't make me happy. After looking at the high-end options, may be an "ultimate setup" will be difficult for me at this time.

post #6 of 24

I don't know about the Zen X-Fi3, but the more recent Creative DAP's I've heard aren't that very good. Without EQ they sound acceptable but kind of mechanical. If you use the EQ you start to get distortion.

To me, the best sounding Creative DAP's are the old Creative Zen Touch (released in 2004) and Creative Nomad Jukebox 3 (released in 2002). The NJB3 uses a 2.5" HDD and is as big as a portable CD-player, so I just use mine at home. Compared to newer players is still sounds very good. The Zen Touch is under appreciated. The firmware isn't very good and most versions distort the frequencies in the user EQ. Only the early firmware version 1.00.06 doesn't distort the user EQ.

The Creative Zen Vision M is also a good Creative DAP. I'd say that it is the last great Creative player. It doesn't sound as good as the earlier players but still good enough, and it's great for video. In short, it's a trooper.

The old Creative HDD DAP's are very easy to convery to memory cards. Just remove the HDD, put a CF-card in an adapter and plug in the adapter, plug the player into the computer and update firmware and you have yourself a CF-modded Creative DAP.

 

I own 15 DAP's and have just got a second hand Rio Karma off Ebay that I haven't received yet. I prefer older HDD DAP's since they only focus on music rather than video, games and apps. Also I kind of like the brick like apperance of them...

 

My favorites would be the ancient iRiver H120 (released in 2003), the Kenwood HD20GA7 (Japan only released in 2005) and Victor/JVC XS-HD500 (also Japan only released in 2005). I think these all sound better EQ'd than my newer Cowon S9 and Sansa Clip+. Of course the difference is very small, but still...

 

If you're only talking about current DAP's, I cannot contribute too much, but if you include older ones I'd say that old doesn't equal "worse sound". Sometimes it's the other way around...


Edited by Danneq - 9/7/12 at 4:58am
post #7 of 24
Thread Starter 

@Danneq

 

Thanks for reply.

 

My main attraction was x-fi eq, for which Creative is known. Though I will also stick to normal playing but once in a while I can switch on the eq. However, some reviews clearly say not to buy, specially from here onwards: http://www.head-fi.org/t/520027/the-best-audiophile-mp3-player/210#post_7750582.

 

So that makes me even more confused, as I had read many positive reviews of x-fi3 in the past. Or should I also consider Cowon iAudio 10 now?

 

Also, being an old player is not a matter, but at least it should be available, for example I could not find Kenwood players you mentioned (on amazon, ebay), though I read their positive reviews. And I have heard hdd-daps may involve internal noise due to hdd involved, though i don't know how far that matters.

 

Your dap collection is very impressive, can you tell what you think about your Cowon S9, iRiver H120, Sansa Clip+ and Sony NW HD5? How will you rank them in sound quality? And also how they compare with your Creative Zen Touch?

post #8 of 24

@OP

 

A Lot of these devices can be acquired through the For Sale section of the forums here. I thought I saw a few days ago a Teclast T51 for around $150, and almost got it just to try it myself. You cant just look at the specs for a DAP. Music is something you really got to form your own opinion. Try seeing if you can arrange a meet up with a member that owns any one of the devices you are interested in. A lot of audiophiles are quite against the use of EQ. Buying a DAP based on a proprietary EQ may not be the right choice.

 

EDIT: HDP-R10 Just came out recently. Sorry for getting the name wrong earlier. I figured if I got the name wrong, I at least gave enough information for you to find it on your own.

 

looking at numbers and specs for devices is important and all, but a lot of importance is in implementation, like with my Tera Player, that make them great. What headphones or IEM's are you trying to use with your DAP?

 

EDIT2: Here you go for the Teclast T51 http://www.head-fi.org/t/624641/sflo2-16-gb-excellent-condition

 

Remember in the future to be careful when you say budget is not an issue. You can spend a whole lot of dough really easy around these parts.


Edited by kenman345 - 9/7/12 at 4:39am
post #9 of 24

@shn11

 

Well, the older MP3 players might not have very good availability. I have bought most of my old ones from Ebay. The Kenwood and JVC were bought from Yahoo Auction Japan when I lived in Japan in 2010. They can be very difficult to find outside of Japan.

You can find iRiver H120 and Sony HD5 on Ebay. The iRiver is still popular and usually is pretty expensive (usually over €100). You can get a Sony HD5 for less. A good thing with the Sony is that it has got a user replaceable battery. You can remove the battery just like on a cellphone and put a new one in.

 

If I were to rank the four DAP's that you mention according to sound when using EQ, it would be something like this:

iRiver H120

Sansa Clip+

Cowon S9

Sony HD5

 

Without EQ:

iRiver H120

Sansa Clip+

Sony HD5

Cowon S9

 

 

I have installed Rockbox on my Clip+ and the EQ in Rockbox is pretty good (I also have Rockbox on my H120 and Toshiba Gigabeat). The EQ on the Sony is pretty bad. If you use MP3 files instead of Sony's ATRAC codec, you cannot use all of the EQ settings. On the Cowon you can choose from a lot of EQ settings but it is very difficult to get a good one. It took me over 2 years to become satisfied with the sound when using EQ.

 

Overall, I think a rockboxed Sansa Clip+ is the best budget choice.

 

The Cowon S9 (and the updated version J3) are amazing for video, while the H120 and HD5 have black and white screens and can only be used for music.

 

I'd say that the Zen Touch is on around the same sound quality level as the Sony HD5. The Sony is a bit smaller, though. Both the Zen Touch and Sony HD5 require special software to transfer music. The Zen Touch requires Creative Mediasource or Notmad Manager, and the Sony requires Sonic Stage. That's a bad thing about some older MP3 players. And most older software is not compatible with newer Windows versions (most often they work best with Windows XP).

 

As kenman345 writes, it depends on your budget. You can find newer so called audiophile players for $600-700, or you can buy a Sansa Clip+ for $50. Or something inbetween.

 

If you want to go for an audophile DAP, the best bet would be to try the Colorfly C3. If you want to try something older, you just need some patience in case you don't have access to a computer with Windows XP. If you don't need the same functions as newer mainstream DAP's, I'm sure that you will be happy with an older DAP.

 

Sorry if I did not help you with my post, but it is difficult to answer the question "Best audio quality portable music player". Most of them sound very good and there's most often not much difference. Buying better headphones will most often make most difference.


Edited by Danneq - 9/7/12 at 5:59am
post #10 of 24

I like your post Danneq. IT's a good read and provides some useful information. 

 

Thanks for relating your post with mine. As with most things on Head-Fi, you can get anything you want if you have the right budget. Budget can control a lot of factors. The Colorfly C3 honestly seems like a nice player to me and based on Colorfly's history, I'm not surprised by the reviews. I may honestly still pick one up just to have and through around for those times I dont wanna use my Tera Player somewhere. Also good to have options. I really like the looks of the C3 and at that price I can afford to take a hit on it if I decide to resell it. But that's just how I am. If I want something and it shows signs of being what I could find useful, I dont really care about price, I'll find a way to get it. Thats how the Tera Player came into my life :-)

 

Older DAP's definitely have these issues with compatibility. I am not sure how the Zune works, but many people really like it's sound quality. The internal amp in the Zune is apparently much better than that in the iPod. I just don't know about the system you have to use to get the music loaded.

 

If you are ever trying to find out more about any of these devices, you should try using the "Head Gear" Section at the top of the forums, you should find most DAPs listed there and who owns them. Most Head-Fier's are happy to share their experiences, they just may not know about this specific thread.

 

If you can afford to get the Sansa Clip+ or Clip Zip (same internals basically) and another device later on, I highly recommend owning the Sansa player for the in between time. It's tiny enough you can get a FiiO E6 amp and have enough juice for most things if it even needs more juice to power whatever you are using to listen. It's not a very powerful player, but it's a pretty solid DAP, one you'll be happy to have to just use when you need it, even after you get something else. And at that price point, it won't set your other DAP ambitions far back at all. Also, many players use microSD cards and SD cards, so having a reason to stockpile microSD cards may help you when you get something more high-end, if you decide to get something after the Clip Zip (or Clip+).

 

EDIT: And don't forget, the classified's section of this website is a great resource for getting things cheap and in good condition. I always check the for sale boards even though I'm not really in the market for anything.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Danneq View Post
...

....

.....

As kenman345 writes, it depends on your budget. You can find newer so called audiophile players for $600-700, or you can buy a Sansa Clip+ for $50. Or something inbetween.

 

If you want to go for an audophile DAP, the best bet would be to try the Colorfly C3. If you want to try something older, you just need some patience in case you don't have access to a computer with Windows XP. If you don't need the same functions as newer mainstream DAP's, I'm sure that you will be happy with an older DAP.

 

Sorry if I did not help you with my post, but it is difficult to answer the question "Best audio quality portable music player". Most of them sound very good and there's most often not much difference. Buying better headphones will most often make most difference.


Edited by kenman345 - 9/7/12 at 6:11am
post #11 of 24

I usually don't look at the sources section of the classified section, but took a peek now (thanks for the tip, kenman345) and saw that there's a Victor XA-V80 for sale as well as a Kenwood F504 MediaKeg. The JVC XA-V80 is the successor to the XA-HD500 that I have, and the MediaKeg is the successor to the old HDD Kenwood DAP's. I have no idea of how the newer flash memory JVC and Kenwood DAP's sound like, but they cannot have gotten much worse during the last few years. These are both very rare and not sold outside of Japan. I think that the JVC has discontinued after Kenwood bought Victor.

 

If I didn't have too many DAP's already, I would probably have been interested. The JVC doesn't seem to have an expansion slot for MicroSD cards, but the Kenwood one does.


Edited by Danneq - 9/7/12 at 7:11am
post #12 of 24

While that suggestion was not directed towards you, I am glad it still applies to you. I sometimes just search on the For Sale section for items I dont know about, and then go an learn about them so I get exposed to many different parts of this hobby I love so much.

 

I know from experience that many things need to go into considering a DAP. Is their any other requirements that the OP is trying to meet besides audio quality? That's honestly something very subjective, and their are a range of items at all different price points that have their own advantages and disadvantages. Getting a bit of a better idea of how this DAP will be used would help fellow members suggest appropriate options.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Danneq View Post

I usually don't look at the sources section of the classified section, but took a peek now (thanks for the tip, kenman345) and saw that there's a Victor XA-V80 for sale as well as a Kenwood F504 MediaKeg. The JVC XA-V80 is the successor to the XA-HD500 that I have, and the MediaKeg is the successor to the old HDD Kenwood DAP's. I have no idea of how the newer flash memory JVC and Kenwood DAP's sound like, but they cannot have gotten much worse during the last few years. These are both very rare and not sold outside of Japan. I think that the JVC has discontinued after Kenwood bought Victor.

 

If I didn't have too many DAP's already, I would probably have been interested. The JVC doesn't seem to have an expansion slot for MicroSD cards, but the Kenwood one does.

post #13 of 24
Thread Starter 

@both

 

Thank you very very much, now my confusions are going bit by bit.

 

@kenman345

 

I realized that since there are loads of options I must now stick to some budget, say < $250, I can spend more if deal is really worth it.

So HDP-R10 is probably out as it is ~$1300 on amazon.

Regarding earphone, I own Klipsch Image S4i, which I bought without doing much research but find them to be okay for the price I bought them. So either I will use this piece or the ones that will come with the dap that I will buy.

Thanks for pointing out where to buy Teclast T51 and also for pointing out the Head Gear. But I couldn't find Classified section, can you tell me where is that?

Also thanks for pointing about Colorfly C3, so now that's under my consideration list, being ~$100.

Also, as you asked that what other qualities matter to me, so I must say that sound quality is top priority with support to lossless audio formats. Next comes (but not very necessary) the support for micro-sd cards and a reasonable interface, then some eq will be better (though I'll mostly be playing without any eq) and lastly I'm counting video playback only as a bonus.

The impedance of Klipsch S4i is 18 ohms, if that matters somewhere.

 

@ Danneq

 

iRiver H120 is ~$340 (on amazon), doesn't seem to be too great if you're listing $50 Sansa Clip+ just below it in your ranking. By the way, I have not yet heard any one else saying that Sony's DSEE is bad. People find it better than X-fi (and you also said that Zen Touch is similar sounding to Sony HD5 so that means Sansa Clip+ is better than Zen Touch, assuming Zen X-fi3 sounds almost same as Zen Touch, so it'll be better to drop the idea of Zen X-fi3).

Since you have ranked Sansa Clip+ above than (costlier) Sony HD5 and Cowon S9, it'll better to drop these two as well.

I am not planning to buy any new headphones/earphones, as I already own Klipsch S4i, so I would like to stick with them for a while, may be look for a high-end later.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

 

So now it looks like I have to choose between Sansa Clip+, Colorfly C3 and Teclast T51. So I'll focus on these and make a choice soon. Do you have any suggestions among these? Should I reconsider Zen X-fi3 or iAudio 10, or are these choices good?

Sansa Clip+ seems the best choice now unless Colorfly C3 or Teclast T51 really offer reasonable difference. Any suggestions on that will be very helpful.


Edited by shn11 - 9/7/12 at 3:09pm
post #14 of 24

Here you go: http://www.head-fi.org/f/109/for-sale-trade-and-feedback-forums

Quote:
Originally Posted by shn11 View Post

@kenman345

 

Thanks for pointing out where to buy Teclast T51 and also for pointing out the Head Gear. But I couldn't find Classified section, can you tell me where is that?

post #15 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thanks a lot for pointing out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kenman345 View Post

Here you go: http://www.head-fi.org/f/109/for-sale-trade-and-feedback-forums

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