- Jan 17, 2013
On DAPs, it really depends on what you value the most. A&K has the best interface and best user experience, but their stuff is also insanely expensive. The new Sony DAPs aren't far behind on UI and sound as good, better or not far behind... depending on who you ask. The Questyle QP1R sounds fantastic and the price is solid, but the UI is pretty clunky and there's no wifi. The Acoustic Research M2 sounds great and has a good UI, but it's too loud for IEMs and basically only for full size headphones. The Opus 2 is pretty solid, but my experience with it is limited, so I can't say much. Same with the Pioneer and Onkyo players, but the sheer number of them up for sale on the sale/trade forum is somewhat concerning. Fiio X5 III pretty much has everything, but the wifi card sucks and I hear it can be a little finicky with some memory cards (though I haven't personally had an issue with it).
Mojo + Poly is a interesting alternative to a standard DAP - stream off the computer, server or phone w/ DLNA or APT-X Bluetooth, or play files from an onboard memory card (that you can control with your phone... so MojoPoly never has to leave your pocket). Considering Mojo sounds better than most DAPs, both pieces can probably realistically be had for under $1K combined, and the convenient/flexible options it provides, IMO, it's VERY compelling.
Of course there's always the iFi iDSD Black Label - not super pocket friendly, but it's a well priced DAC/Amp that sounds good and is portable. Probably not great for lugging to the gym, but a nice solution at work.
If you need the cheapest possible solution, the Cayin N3 is like $150 and it sounds really, really good (certainly much better than the Fiio X3 II) - the UI is just ok, but it's quiet and sonically on-point.
As for more amplification specific stuff... the Oppo and Cayin portable amps are well-proven and well-loved in the more budget-fi arena. The Continental V5 is pricey, but sounds spectacular. The Cavalli Liquid Spark sounds incredible - like better than a lot of desktops, but it might be pricey and who knows when it's coming out - there have been so many delays on it already. The Ray Samuels portable stuff is supposed to be good, but I've only heard one of the amps one time for a very brief listen on an unfamiliar headphone two years ago... so I can't be much help there.
I think those are most of your options. There are some notable pros and cons for each. Again, it's really about what you value most.
Wonderful! And thanks also Oscar. Your'e an amazing resource Hanso-really apprec your efforts with gear assist!