This is where things are looking now: Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Best things: Outstanding sound, UI and design quality.
Worse things: Price! Balanced adaptors and excellent recordings required to be of any value.
The ZX-1: Given it is cheaper than an AK120 and, by way of being a fully-featured Android device with an excellent UI on a large screen, this might totally win if it weren't for the lack of memory or a removable SD card and the strange lack of volume. It also has something of a bright, sometimes annoying sound.
Best things: Large screen with excellent Android UI and thin, well-thought-out case.
Worse things: Lack of expansion. Weird volume limit. Slight harsh sound.
The HM-901: For its price, it might win on sound quality and capability over the Sony, but the scroll wheel and UI put me off wanting to use it. If I didn't have the AK240, I'd want to listen with the HM-901 more than the others by far.
Best things: Most engaging and listenable sound (ignoring the AK240). Balanced card is great with full-sized headphones.
Worse things: Chunky, clunky, 1990's UI. Balanced adaptors required.
The X5: A class act considering the price. It really needs playlist support and it would be almost perfect with IEMs. Add an amp for more expensive full-sized headphones. The value king by far and lacks very little in enjoyment when listening.
Best things: Cheap, but quality design both with software and hardware. Excellent sound for the price.
Worse things: Doesn't drive full-sized headphones well. No playlist support.
Omg Amos I agree with this 100%! It is eerie to see you spelling out almost my every thoughts on these players in a very structured way!
Hope you get to include dx90 (which you could probably arrive at a very similar "verdict" as the x5), and Calyx M.
My quick demo impression.
Edited by kkcc - 5/7/14 at 1:57am