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BEST SUB-500$ DAP (Digital Audio Player)-Reviews, Impressions, Reference List

Discussion in 'Portable Source Gear' started by NymPHONOmaniac, Feb 24, 2019.
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  1. NymPHONOmaniac
    Yes, there some thread about people searching best DAP for this or for that, about best DAP that cost less than this or that, or about how great is a specific DAP.

    Every time I wonder WHY there no ''Best DAP'' list anywhere, so we can put all this great finds at the same place to help headfiers find the perfect one they search as well as avoiding the one that are plain crap.

    I guess it's because it need work and dedication, but i'm SO into DAP world, having try about 20 of them, ranging from 10 to 400$, that perhaps I can help, but not alone as I did not and will not try ALL DAP that are still selling right now.
    Myself, i'm more into asian brands like Ibasso, Xduoo, Fiio, Faudio and Zishan. Still, this passion make me try more in the past like old Hifiman HM-601.

    Anyway, I pass must of my time listening to DAP, its the center of my audio world, should it be for portability or connecting to my speakers system.

    All DAP in the list must sound good even if the price in take in account, have MICRO SD Slot, and it must play Lossless files (Flac is a must nowadays).

    Let's begin this, and I hope, never stop so all questions about DAP can be answer here or at least be directed to some trustable products with a link to review.


    -Benjie S5 (20-25$): ''Small, sturdy, long battery life, good sharp sound, mic, radio, lot of features, micro SD, good interface, good for low impendance IEM. ''https://www.head-fi.org/threads/benjie-offical-thread.805115/

    -Walnut V2S (26$): ''Small sturdy, Powerfull, can be use as stand alone amp, changeable OPamp, good battery life, good overall sound Wide Warm, Line out, Interface so so (no screen).'' ''https://thecontraptionist.blog/2017/07/22/walnut-v2s-back-to-basics/

    -Mrobo C5 v2 (30-40$): ''Good sound, great built, good interfact, long battery life, line out'' https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/mrobo-c5-2-0.22348/reviews

    -Zishan Z3 (40$): ''Great sound, High end AK4490 dac, powerfull, changeable OPamp, good battery life, Line out, supreme value.'' https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/zishan-z3.22970/reviews

    -XDUOO X2 (50$): ''Oldies but goldies, powerfull, good sound, excellent contruction, good battery life, no line out'' https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/xduoo-x2.20536/

    -Ruizu A50 (45-55$): ''Good neutral SQ, Nice built, powerfull, no line out'' https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/ruizu-a50.22552/reviews

    -Nintaus X10 (about 50$): ''Good sq from cirrus logic WM8965 dac, DSD, good construction, line out''

    -ZIKU HK X9 (45$): ''Use the incredible cirrus logic CS4398 dac....but need more info, still waiting for mine to arrive''

    -Fiio M3K (70$): ''Good sound from AK4376A dac, USB dac, good built, good interface, very small, low power outup, no line out

    -F.Audio S1 (60$):

    -Xduoo X3 first gen (if findable): ‘’Excellent sound from cirrus logic CS4398 dac, ultra portable, ultra sturdy construction, intuitive UI, long battery life, powerfull (high gain), line out, 2TFslots’’

    -Hidizs AP60 (90-120$):

    -Shanling M0 (110$): [/SIZE]''Good sound quality from ES9218 dac, good construction, good battery life, ultra portable, no line out, thinked for IEM use'' https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/shanling-m0.23172/reviews

    -Xduoo X3II (100-120$):
    ''Good SQ from AK4490 dac, usb dac, Bluetooth, good power output, lineout, clumsyUI''https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/xduoo-x3ii.23463/reviews

    -Zishan DSD AK4497 (100-130$):
    ''Excellent SQ from TOTL AK4497eq dac, powerfull, changeable OPamp, line out, 2.5mm balanced out, clumsy UI, DIY construction type''

    -Moonlight aigoPRO (100-130$): ''ES9018 dac''


    -Hidizs AP80:

    -Cayin N3 (130$): ''Good sq, bluetooth, USB dac, good construction, good interface, no line out''

    -Fiio M6 (about 150$): ''Good Sq, ES9018 dac, WIFI , Good battery life, good interface, small''

    -Hiby R3 (200$): ''Excellent sound from TOTL ES9028 dac, Wifi, very small, good construction, Line out, thined for IEM use''https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/fiio-m7-high-resolution-lossless-audio-player-samsung’s-exynos-7270-soc-aptx-hd-ldac-fm-radio.23118/reviews

    -Shanling M2S (200$): ''Great sound quality from AK4490 dac+ Muse 8920 amp, bluetooth, powerfull, long battery life, good construction, line out''https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/sh...d256-hifi-lossless-music-player.22354/reviews

    -Xduoo X20 (200-240$): ''Excellent SQ form sabre ES9018 dac, USB dac, Bluetooth, long battery life, great construction, 2.5mm balanced output, so so UI''https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/xduoo-x20.22868/


    -Pioneer XDP-100R (250-300$):
    ''Good SQ, Wifi, powerfull'' https://www.head-fi.org/threads/pioneer-xdp-100r.806346/

    -Ibasso DX90 (300-400$-out of production but still findable): ''Excellent SQ from DUAL ES9018 dac, ultra black background, 3 gain and very powerfull, intuitive UI and physical interface, changeble battery for infinite longevity, excellent construction, sturdy and durable'' PS:Mine still work like a charm after FIVE years, all reviews are positive but the half-star one from a dumbass...anyway, read all the others:https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/ib...audio-player.20032/reviews?order=likes&page=1

    -FIIO M9:
    ''Good sound from Dual AK4490 dac, WIFI, 2.5mm output, BT, gain, Lot of features, not th most powerfull DAP, perfect for IEM''https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/fiio-m9-android-based-hi-res-music-player.23373/reviews

    -Ibasso DX120 (300$):
    ''Great SQ, Clean, neutral sound, Powerfull, line out, 2.5mm balanced out, good UI, 2xTF slots, USB DAC'' https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/ibasso-dx120.23427/reviews

    -Ibasso DX150 (about 500$): ''Great SQ, changable AMP module, Wifi, BT, tunable sound, lot of features, good interface, good battery life''https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/ibasso-audio-dx150.23135/reviews

    -Lotoo PAW5000mkII (400$):

    -Shozy Alien+ (450$):
    ''Excellent sound from its AK4495eq dac, powerfull, low THD, line out, average UI, not very competitive price but its all about sound here''https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/shozy-alien.22463/reviews

    -Shanling M5S (450$): (need more impressions! But dual AK4493 dac look promising+wifi!!) https://www.head-fi.org/threads/sha...-2way-ldac-bt-3-2-touch-screen-fw-2-1.886502/

    -Audio Opus 1(s) (Around 500$): ''Excellent SQ, Line out, Balanced out, touch screen, good battery life, good interface-UI, USB DAC''https://www.head-fi.org/threads/bes...er-reviews-impressions-reference-list.900875/

    -Sony NW-ZX300A (380$ at Joybuy):
    ''Great clear SQ, Good interface, USB DAC, Bluetooth, balanced out, great battery life, half the price of ZX300!!''https://www.head-fi.org/threads/sony-nw-zx300.854693/

    (....okay it was long write this so it will be update later taking your suggestions in accounts!!)
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2019
    spookygonk, DocHoliday, gc335 and 4 others like this.
  2. NymPHONOmaniac
    So, headfiers DAP lover....any compulsive impulsive DAP collector here?

    Must admit I wait since one big month the very exciting ZIKU HK-X9!! Anyone try it on headfi or what?

    As a very big fan of Xduoo X3 first gen that have a cirrus logic CS4398 dac hide in its belly wich is the very same dac that TOTL old Colorfly C4 Pro have (yeah, its an oldies but I follow DAP world since alot of time), i became utterly obsess about this X9 player that have same dac...for a crazy 45$ price...as well, it suppose to have usb-otg dac! After some research, I fall on russian forum that praise it and all Aliexpress feedback was quite good too...so, now, i'm more than impatient and confirm (or not) if the underground hype is justify.

    In another price extreme, the Shanling M5s intrigue me too, not just because of wifi, but because of DUAL AK4493eq dac, 2.5mm output and long battery life promise. Sometime, with wifi DAP battery life suck...so, if anybody try this DAP and share impressions it will be nice!

    Hope this thread will get some love!

    And passion sharing!

  3. Mhog55
    Seems to subjective to try and reach a final conclusion as to which sub 500 dollar dap is the best. Most people choose their daps based on what the user wants from the device. I think the one constant here is sound quality, but even that is subjective. I think you would have to break this down into categories. From there you could talley up all the "opinions" of each category, figure out the averages for each dap in each category, and see what dap rates the highest average score to determine a non conclusive result. But, this has already been somewhat done on another similar thread.
    NymPHONOmaniac likes this.
  4. gc335
    I have way too many... I have a few old iPods (Rockboxed), DX150, DX200, Pioneer XDP-100R, Fiio X3ii, Shanling M0 and a Fiio M3. WHY?!?!?
    NotKunvinced and NymPHONOmaniac like this.
  5. HungryPanda
    Me too, 12 at last count. Most used at the moment Sony A40, iBasso Dx200, lotto paw 5000 mk2 and F Audio F1
    NymPHONOmaniac and gc335 like this.
  6. gc335
    How do you like the Lotto Paw 5000 mk2? I came so close many times to buying the mk1. I never pulled the trigger.
  7. HungryPanda
    Best sounding player but no folder playthrough. Sad
    NymPHONOmaniac likes this.
  8. HungryPanda
    If Sony and iBasso can do it?
  9. javre76
    iBasso DX150 should be included. Take out X5iii... way too many software issues IMO.
    NymPHONOmaniac likes this.
  10. NymPHONOmaniac
    Yeah, good idea, (but lotta work!) I was already begining to think about taking in account the features and interfact type, as well as size for portability aspect.

    How would you call the categories? Like: Ultra portable. Battery Life. WIFI. With BT. High SQ...???

    Personally, its the sound quality that always is more important to me, but interface and battery life are too. So perhaps I would like less categories as possible...not too much.

    LOL. Yeah...rationality ask WHY???
    But....the voice in my head say always WHY NOT! Less so for expansive one tough where the voice say: make ALOT of reasearch and reasoning before taking the plunge...but again, it can make me sold DAP that I will miss...like the Faudio FA1. This time its for sound only, all the rest kinda piss me off: battery life, interface, portability (so heavy), strange 2.5mm output performance (but it was perhaps due to the cable I have at the time).

    I have right now: Ibasso DX90 (still my favorite but he begin to age), Xduoo X20 (so neutral AND underated!), Xduoo X3 first gen (love it but the price jump and cause its out of production), Xduoo X3II (kind of very smooth sound, plus or drawback depending, but BT compensate....i guess), Xduoo X10 (pass!), Xduoo D3 (wanna love it, but UI is a disaster, sadcause it could have been an upgrade to X2), Walnut V2S (use it as a portable amp=love it!), Benjie S5 (very practical for supreme portable DAP for survival in forest or something)...perhaps I have other too and forget. I consider Radsone ES100 as a portableDAP too because my phonejust take dust in my pocket anyway.

    Whats you favorite...and talking about...overall value, would you say DX200 worth the jump?? And should XDP-100R be in the list??
    gc335 likes this.
  11. NymPHONOmaniac
    I must admit....its the one that obsess me the much....to compensate the fact i will NEVER be able to buy the GOLD.....did you think durability is good?? And, hum, little minimaliste sound description...panda way?

    PS: happy to see ya!
  12. NymPHONOmaniac
    was thining..well now at 250$...but yeah, your right. Goodbye X5iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!
  13. gc335
    I’d add the Pioneer/Onkyo series as well. The XDP-100r is a great dap imo. They used an old chip but the UI is good. Super stable and for sensitive IEMs the background is super black.
    NymPHONOmaniac likes this.
  14. Mhog55
    For me it's The Bit Opus#1s. This is based purely on sound alone. It does nothing other than play music files. Stripped android UI, super easy to navigate and flawless. Yes, a batch of these units had battery issues, but The Bit is making good on it. Dual totl Cirrus Logic dac chips, and more power from both the single and balanced entries than most competing daps.
    HungryPanda, NymPHONOmaniac and gc335 like this.
  15. ncristia
    Sony ZX300A at $380 dollars is pretty special. Also 2nd the Opus 1. Yeah night and day on the battery life between these two.
    NymPHONOmaniac likes this.
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