In this day and age music has been a medium that goes a long way in defining our life and the regular activities we engage ourselves with. There are gadgets that cater to these needs being a portable music player. There are numerous brands that have flocked the modern day market with state of the art music players catering to specific target consumers depending on the budget and the features associated with it. We will be having a look at best portable music player that the modern day market has in store.
1 . Astell and Kern AK Jr. Hi-Res Music Player
Our Best Pick
Astell & Kern AK Jr. Hi-Res Music Player 64GB
We start with the Astell and Kern junior high-resolution digital music player. The looks and feel of the device are quite good and though some might argue that this might be a touch bigger than its predecessor, it still fits the hands quite well. The weight of the Astell and kern junior is merely 8 ounces and that makes it a perfectly portable device to carry around with ease and comfort. The built quality is one aspect that has impressed me a lot with high-quality aluminum in use.
The black look and feel adds up to the overall get up of this sleek gadget. The innovative volume control helps you to control the volume using one hand. Now let us shift our focus on the display screen, the mere 3.1-inch display screen is easy to navigate and is quite sensitive to touch.
The WQVGA touch screen works fine even in bright daylight making it an ideal option for outdoor picnics and trips. One aspect though that I think there is room for improvement is the digital internal storage of 64GB. There might be better options in terms of internal when internal storage is concerned at this price band. The good part being the external memory can be extended by 200 GB and supports Class 10 Micro SD cards.
AK Jr plays a whole host of file formats from WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, and APE to the AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, and DSF formats as well. Playing varied audio files would not be a problem with AK Jr. During the time of playback, it converts DSD files to PCM. The 3.5 mm jack is perfectly compatible with this device. This is one music player that would really be a handful to you if you already possess a high-end headphones.
2. Sony Walkman NW-ZX1 MP3 Player Hi-Res
The next in line is the company that was the pioneer in portable music players, the brand being Sony. The Walkman series had changed the way people listened to music over the years and we are here with the latest offering from Sony, the Sony Walkman ZX1 Hi-Resolution music player. The looks and design are similar to that of a smartphone.
Sony has designed this best hi-res music player with a proper emphasis on the build quality. It is built from high-grade aluminum with a matte finish. This makes it look that much more elegant and sophisticated. The back side has leather like material which is very rare in modern day gadgets.
The well-crafted metal body has the volume switches carved out of it sides and you can also change, skip and pause your favorite tracks at touch of a bottom though this might be a tad complicated considering the simplistic design of AK Jr. This might be working with others, but personally it felt a bit clumsy for me and was a bit confusing. The best part from this player has been the wonderfully built User-Interface it is great to use and the simplistic look and feel really makes you feel great.
The 128 GB internal memory is quite a handful and can store up to 750 high-quality resolution songs. Apart from the normal WMA, MP3, OGG, APE formats it is also capable of playing high-resolution audio seamlessly of diverse format like AAC, ALAC, ATRAC and also WAV. The display is of 4 inches and navigation is quite easy, this player is equipped with Android Jelly Beam that also allows you to play basic games as well.
3. iBasso DX90 High-Resolution Dual Sabre ES9018K2M DACs
The iBasso DX90 high-resolution music player comes in next. It is also a good player to consider, though not as value for money as the other two, the sound quality delivered by this product is surprisingly good. The size and price are something that you can consider if you’re buying it. Headphones that roll off high frequencies to a certain extent go especially well with the DX90. The sound quality very detailed to say the least. Different musical tones and reverberation effects can be heard very clearly using the DX90. Many people often complain that they get strange headaches and a feeling of discomfort after listening to music on their music players for long hours. Although it is not advised to listen to music for long hours on any player, the DX90 is very soothing on the ears and does not produce any desirable effects. Another great thing about this player is that the output sound is pretty neutral and does not favor specific instruments. This lets the listener hear the music or recording as it is.
However, for good recordings, the instrument sound qualities sound just fantastic. The bass effects are pretty well defined and can be distinguished easily. Kick drum bass and double bass sounds can be distinguished easily which tells a lot about the clarity in the bass of this player. The mid-range is also pretty good. No artificial boosting has been used and that is what forms its neutral quality. However, this neutral mid-range setting can become somewhat monotonous after long use. Moreover, sometimes vocal might have an unwanted glare, which some may prefer. The treble output of this player is its best quality. While most players have a piercing treble that is uncomfortable to hear, the DX90’s treble is very natural, clear and soothing to the ears. From the decay of cymbals to sharp guitar attacks, the DX90 sounds perfect. Overall, the player is pretty good for high-resolution audio listening with a moderate battery life of 8.5hrs and 8GB of onboard flash memory. The dimensions and weight are good too. The LCD display is crisp and clear.
4. FiiO X3 (2nd Generation) High-Resolution Music Player Titanium
The 2nd generation X3 from FiiO is another good catch that can hold its ground. It can play files up to 24 bit/192Khz. It supports a large number of formats like DSD, WAV, WMA, ALAC, FLAC, APE, AIFF etc. Its design utilizes a finely tuned low pass filter that gives its output much lower noise and distortion. It also has tantalum capacitor that ensures uncolored, natural sounds. Under normal conditions, the player provides a playback of 11hrs with its 2600mAh lithium polymer battery. The memory is expandable to 128GB. Its dimensions are 3.8×2.3×0.6 inches and it weighs around 4.8 ounces. Thus, it is small and light enough for easy use. The user interface and sound quality is not at par with the above three products, but it costs way lesser. The sound quality is neither warm nor too digital. Its overall sound quality is pretty neutral to any kind of music. Although the sound may be inorganic, its clarity is very good. The different musical instruments can be differentiated with ease. The bass texture and clarity are good. Lacks punch but have a responsive mid-bass. The mid-range is laid-back but with clarity. The upper mid-range is vibrant enough to surprise you. The treble is the best of the lot with a lot of sparkle and smoothness. Since it employs a low-pass filter, the background noise is at its minimum. It can drive headphones with an impedance of less than 48ohm. Overall, best music player for the price with pretty good satisfactory sound quality. The build quality is premium and it is a good catch if you budget is low.
5. High-Resolution Astell and Kern AK240SS Stainless Steel Dual DAC Music Player
If your passion for music is endless and so is the depth of your pockets, the Special Edition Dual DAC Astell and Kern AK240SS Stainless Steel High-Resolution Music Player is the product for you. It’s built of pure and high-quality stainless steel that provides a higher number of ground points on a wider area to produce incredible and unbelievable sound quality. The sound quality is much clearer and focused when compared with the previous versions. The protective case has leather upholstery that makes it look classy and expensive, which it is anyway. The back design resembles a stringed instrument. It features a PEM12 USB docking/charging station and ExtremeAudio charger. It also has an optical audio connection kit. The aluminum connection at the back provides the perfect connection. The product dimensions are 7×4.2×2.6 inches and weigh 3.9 pounds. This is pretty light for a stainless steel body. The earlier version had a duralumin body that did not provide as many ground points and thus its sound quality was not nearly as good as this one. However, pure stainless steel is extremely expensive to produce and hence the high price of this product. It has support for native DSD files because it has an added XMOS chip just for that purposes. Its internal memory is massive with 256GB. It can be expanded even further to 384GB. It has a 3.31 inch AMOLED display that awesome clarity. The screen has full touch feature suitable for smartphone users. This also makes it extremely easy to navigate along the UI. The bass, midrange, and treble have professional level clarity such that every single musical instrument can be heard. Even little bell or chime sounds can be heard. In one word, the sound quality is precise. The music comes alive with this player as if you are listening to it in person. The 3250 mAh lithium polymer battery gives ample amount of usage time.
What’s so good about high-resolution audio?
High resolution/definition audio does not have a rigid definition as opposed to high definition video. There is no global standard for it either. Generally speaking, any audio that has greater bit depth and sampling frequency than the CD quality can be referred to as high-resolution audio. This means that if the sampling frequency is greater than 44.1KHz and the bit depth is more than 16bit a piece of audio data can be called high definition. Usually, the sampling frequency for HD audio is 96 KHz or greater and the bit depth is more than 24 bit.
When good HD audio files are played by a good music player, the full range of sounds from the original recording is reproduced creating and out of the world experience for music lovers. Thus, superior sound quality is the main benefit. Since, digital sound systems tend to sample parts of an actual sound when recording it, the parts need to be gathered and reconstructed to form the original sound. The frequency with which the parts are sampled is called sampling frequency and the number of parts sampled is called bit depth. Obviously when reconstruction takes place the continuous original piece is absent. Instead, only parts of the original sound are present. The music player reproduces the sound by approximately reconstructing the sound from the parts. Thus, greater the sampling frequency and bit depth, better the sound quality.
Greater detail, texture, and clarity make high-resolution audio better.
Where to buy and download high-resolution audio?
There are some stores that sell high-resolution audio. Some are the very best and are listed below:
- HDTracks – It is the pioneer high-resolution music store in the US. It is also present in the UK. Its music partners are global biggies like Sony, Warner, and Universal etc.
- Naim Label – its main business is selling home entertainment systems. However, it also sells high-resolution audio.
- Linn Records – 24 bit/192Khz flac and alac formats along with 320kbps mp3 formats are available at Linn Records.
- Bowers and Wilkins society of sound – It is a very well-known name in the world of music brands and also sells high-resolution audio.
- Pono Music – It sells high-resolution audio and I owned by Neil Young. It will feature free downloads of high-resolution audio.
Our Best Pick
Astell & Kern AK Jr. Hi-Res Music Player 64GB