Guys, thanks so much for all of your suggestions. When my Gen 5.5 iPod started acting up a couple of hears ago, I almost bought a Cowon player as it seemed like the only alternative on the market at the time. When I realized it had no microSD slot, I kind of gave up on the whole thing. So I bought another iPod Classic, installed Rockbox and stopped logging in here.
So I've obviously been out of the loop for some time. I'm now seeing all these new players. Some look interesting, but few meet my requirements as well as the X3 promises.
I was actually THIS close to ordering a Colorfly C3 last night, until I realized it doesn't allow gapless playback. I had no idea that was even an issue in 2013. Are they seriously still making DAPs that won't playback gapless? I guess that should have been on my list. Requirement #1.5 is gapless playback. Luckily the X3 supposedly supports it.
The DX100, AK100 and Hifiman products (and maybe the Colorfly C4) all appear to have potential, but they're all outrageously overpriced. Considering these are all built in mainland China, I see no reason why any of them should cost much more than $200. I realize these are small volume products, but $800+ for a portable player that can fall out of my pocket, get left on a plane, etc. is just not practical. I am sure it's possible that they sound better than $200 products, but how much better (specifically through the LINE OUT)? Enough to justify 4x the price? I seriously doubt it.
At this point, I would just like something decent sounding (i.e. better than an Rockbox Ipod's lineout) that meets all of my practical requirements. Once someone manages to get #1-7 right, then they can start trying to make something that actually sounds good. I simply have no use for a wonderful sounding player that has a horrible UI, or won't play FLAC, or won't play gapless, etc.
The recommended Sansa Clip+ really has my attention now. At $30, I could almost consider it disposable. I used to pay more than that for one import pressing CD! For that price, I would be willing to try the headphone jack as a lineout. One question: Why the Clip+ over the Clip Zip? Isn't the Clip Zip newer/better?
Are you saying anything that is manufactured in china shouldn't cost way more than 200? really ? do you know how many stuff that is manufactured there? I can't say anything more to how wrong the notion of china = cheap in todays world, its extremely stupid and ignorant
you can just go and get RWAs Imod if all fail