Best high-res digital audio player 2020: Which DAP reigns supreme?

Whereas TVs have change into higher and higher over the previous 15 years, audio has taken a number of steps backwards. Many people have sacrificed constancy in pursuit of comfort and portability, adopting inferior audio codecs comparable to MP3 and making them our new benchmarks. Lossy codecs comparable to that strip music of its dynamics, element, and vitality. However it doesn’t should be that means. Choose up a high-resolution digital audio participant (DAP) and you may have your cake and eat it, too.

Not like old-school MP3 gamers, Apple’s iPod contact, or the standard smartphone, high-res DAPs are designed with high-end audio circuitry, high-powered digital-to-analog converters (DACs), and amplifiers that may drive a variety of audiophile-class headphones. Their unique function is to play music, and whereas they’ll play nearly any sort of music file, they’re actually designed for the codecs and codecs that ship better-than-CD high quality.

Up to date February 28, 2020 so as to add our Astell&Kern SA700 evaluation. This high-priced participant gained’t slot in everybody’s funds, however the beautiful piece of equipment simply knocks our earlier favourite participant—the Astell&Kern KANN Dice—from its perch as our favourite high-res digital audio participant. 

Greatest high-res digital audio participant

When you can afford its excessive asking worth, the A&Ok SA700 will ship elegant audio performances with any sort of music, squeezing the perfect efficiency from high-end headphones and earphones. It additionally boasts elegant industrial design and can be utilized as an exterior DAC and headphone amp with a private laptop.


It’s a one-two end for Astell&Kern. In case your funds can’t help the $1,499 KANN Dice, contemplate the corporate’s Astell&Norma SR15. It substitues twin Cirrus Logic DACs for the ESS Sabre elements within the Dice, and it doesn’t have that participant’s five-pin mini XLR balanced headphone output, nevertheless it does help aptX HD and it’s able to dealing with 24bit/192kHz PCM audio and DSD64 recordsdata. Better of all: It prices half as a lot because the KANN Dice.

Greatest budget-priced high-res digital audio participant

You’ll be able to pay an entire lot extra for a high-resolution digital audio participant, however this mannequin from Activo delivers virtually every little thing you’ll get in a significantly costlier mannequin for simply $299, together with MQA and aptX HD help.

Function comparability

The next desk gives you a side-by-side comparability of the gamers, together with a mainstream media participant—Apple’s iPod contact—as a reference level. 

Best DAP featire table Theo Nicolakis

The function units of high-res DAPs fluctuate significantly.

How we examined

We examined every participant with Bowers & Wilkins’ P7, B&W P5 Wi-fi, and B&W C5 (Sequence 2) headphones in a wide range of listening environments. Bowers & Wilkins’ P7 was my go-to headphone for all crucial listening.