I'm trying to get my head around digital music players in this era of smart phones and have a few questions about my own requirements. Basically, I'm coming around to the idea that maybe what I want is, in fact, a dedicated music player, but I'm not sure.
So here goes. Some basic background: I listen to music all the time but especially when I'm working. I either stream music or have it loaded onto mt work computer and/or my Android phone. It takes up a lot of space on my work computer and also on my phone. I'd rather not have it on my work computer at all, both because I've run out of space and because I generally think it's not something I should be doing. It's not my computer. As for the phone, there are also space considerations there as well.
I also have some music on my home computer, which I almost never use. Using that machine as a central repository doesn't make sense.
So, what I think I want is something separate from my two computers and something I can take back and forth to work with me. But something I can plug into my two amps (I have a magni 2 at work and and SMSL at home).
I don't want to have anything to do with iTunes. Foobar doesn't seem to be an option on my work computer (a Mac). And either way, I don't want stuff on my computer(s). I have it on my home computer (a PC). At work and on my phone I mostly rely on google play to listen both to stuff on my HD and in the cloud.
Would a portable dedicated player make sense for me?
If I bought a dedicated music player, would I have to work via some software on a computer like iTunes? Or can I just rip files directly and put them on the player?
Here are a few thoughts/comments - for whatever they are worth:
1) If you really love listening to music and want the highest fidelity, flexibility, and robust capabilities then go with a dedicated device - this is my preference. There is a wide variety of devices available now (and over the last several years) with prices, sizes, and fidelity satisfy just about every desire or limitation one might have. My current favorite is the iBasso DX90 and I also have the Cowon Plenue P1 and J3 - looking seriously at the soon to be available Hiby R6 Pro (although the Hiby R3 and Hidiz AP80 look feature packed in a compact form factor - very tempting for sure).
2) If you do go with a dedicated player (sounds likely from what you state above) most of them allow you to drag and drop files directly from your computer to the device or memory card so you don't have to use special software. Several of the latest and greatest even allow you to transfer files wirelessly if that is of any interest (BT or Wifi, etc).
3) However, with all that said, most smartphones these days will deliver decent audio performance with the convenience of everything else that comes with a smartphone. Not my cup of tea but might be attractive to you.
My two cents.
Get a DAP that can function as a USB DAC/amp, to connect to a computer (PC or Mac or other).
This way the DAP stays fully charged and I'm guessing you can run streaming music thru the DAP.
Get a DAP with a line-output jack (not the same function as a headphone jack), this way you can connect an external headphone amplifier.
A headphone jack can function as a line-output, but a line-output function should feed a better signal to the external headphone amplifier.
Well, judging from what you've said there, I wouldn't say that you've got a requirement for the DAP to be able to act as a DAC device. You specifically said that you don't want to keep any of the music on your work computer. You also said that you like to use Google Play for some streaming. Based on that I'd say you've got 2 main options here.
The first is to get yourself a nice dedicated DAC device and a larger capacity storage card for your mobile device (assuming of course that you've got the option for expandable storage).
The 2nd option would be something like the FiiO M7, or Shanling M0, M2s, or M3s. All of those can connect to your phone via bluetooth and so you'd still be able to stream via Google Play to your mobile device, then it gets sent over BT to the music player. But then you've also of course got the option to use them as a standalone player when you want to. The M7 is the largest device, but it does also have the best battery life. The M0 is the smallest and lightest dedicated music player available and it's also the most affordable. But, due to the size, navigating the UI and long lists of tracks/albums/folders can be a little tricky.