Best DAPs to buy in 2016
We have looked at the best high resolution players from brands like Astell&Kern, Acoustic Research and Lotoo as well as new entries into the market like Questyle and Pioneer and great value offerings from FiiO.
DAPs are audiophile quality digital audio players that support 24 bit formats such as FLAC, OGG and WAV as well as compressed formats such as MP3. These high end audio players are often capable of driving the best full size and on ear headphones.
-- Scroll to the bottom of this page to watch the video
The FiiO M3 can't be beaten in terms of value for money. The player will support lossless formats such as flac and wav up to 96khz/24bit and thanks to the 8gb of on board storage as well as a microSD card slot for up to 64gb you have plenty of space for your music. And to top it all off you get a free pair of earphones in the box!
FiiO really dominate the low priced DAP market and the X3-II is our most popular model. It's the perfect entry level player for those wanting to upgrade from their phone as it handles all popular lossless formats as well as DSD. The amplifier is powerful enough to drive most headphones and currently the microSD card slot can accept up to 128gb for storage. The player can also act as a USB DAC for your PC or Mac.
You could think that Lotoo have taken a risk with the PAW 5000's retro design - opting for a small non-touch screen and a small wheel/button combo. But doing this has allowed the engineers to focus on speed and responsiveness as well as power and a microSD card slot that will take cards up to 2tb once available to store as much lossless audio as you like.
Astell&Kern are known for their truly audiophile sound and no corners were cut with the AK Jr. It's one of the thinnest players around with a large touch screen making it very attractive. The player has 64gb of internal storage and can take up to 64gb via the microSD card slot giving 128gb in total. It also supports lossless and DSD formats and can double as an external USB DAC when connected to your PC or Mac.
THE BIT - OPUS #1
New kids on the block The Bit have released the Opus #1. This player runs on a stripped down version of android - this means that it won't support apps such as Spotify and Tidal but will make the player more efficient and concentrate more on sound quality. The Opus #1 has 32gb of on board storage and the 2 microSD card slots allowing a total of 400gb for all of your high quality files. There is also an optical output allowing the player to connect to an external DAC.
Pioneer's addition to the digital player market comes with a catchy name - the XDP-100R is a superb player! Running on android the player can host popular apps such as Spotify, Tidal and Google Play. The player has on-board Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, can support the most popular lossless formats as well as MQA audio, has a built in speaker and with 32gb of on board storage as well as 2 microSD card slots that can handle up to 200gb each - you get a lot for the money!
The sleek and stylish QP1R doesn't just look pretty, it can handle all popular formats and has plenty of power to keep all portable headphones sounding their best, and a lot of full-size cans too! Questyle have gone with buttons as opposed to the more modern touchscreen approach, but many people prefer buttons for their tactile feedback. It's good to know when a button's been pressed. The QP1R has lots of storage space, with 32gb onboard and two 128gb microSD slots which makes.. plenty of room!
The AR-M2 is a full android-powered device and since it can connect to local Wi-Fi networks, it can download your favourite android apps as well as connect to music streaming services like Spotify and Tidal. It has as much power as any portable DAP and sounds superb with almost any headphone you'd care to throw at it. Careful though, as it's so well put together that your headphones might sustain damage during any such collision.
Another Astell&Kern player, the AK320 promises to take us most of the way towards the giddy audio quality and functionality offered by the likes of the AK380, but for half the price. Still, the AK320 does nothing else by halves as it can handle all popular formats up to 24bit/192kHz, has 128gb storage built in, and has a slot for the same again making a whopping 256gb for all your favourite music!
Lotoo's current flagship DAP, the PAW Gold, has exceptional sound quality and a huge amount of power. Unusually for portable players these days, the PAW Gold accepts SD cards. Of course, microSD users can make use of an adaptor to get their collection working, or they might take advantage of the greater capacities available on this format, currently at 512gb. Lotoo say that SD cards sporting capacities as high as 2tb are compatible with the PAW Gold - if they were to exist yet!