The most reliable way to get quality sound from a portable device is not to spend money trying to find the “right” smartphone, but to buy a specialized Hi-Res player . It will provide incomparably higher sound quality not only with wired but also wireless connection.
Our material contains the most interesting digital players that have entered the market recently. The rating, as usual, is compiled as the price increases.
7. HiBy R2 GEN II
Price – $89
This budget Hi-Res-player is running a proprietary operating system HiBy OS. The DAC in the player is made on the ES9219C chip from ESS Saber, the Ingenic X1000E is used as the central processor. The model can work with PCM 32 bit / 384 kHz digital signal and native DSD256 stream, the player is one of the smallest audio devices supporting MQA file decoding. MSEB Sound Tuner’s proprietary remastering algorithm makes it possible to adjust a variety of sound processing parameters. Wireless options include a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi module and a Bluetooth adapter with UAT and LDAC support. A full battery charge provides up to 15 hours of continuous playback and up to 20 days of standby time. The model is produced in three colors – black, silver and red – and weighs 70.6 grams with dimensions of 71 x 63, 1 x 12.4 mm. The output power is 90 mW, a single 3.5 mm jack is provided for connecting headphones.
Pros – compact case, proprietary OS, support for MQA and LDAC
Cons – low output power
Verdict: Basic Hi-Res player for beginner audiophiles
6. Shanling M1S
Price – $189
The new generation of compact digital player has received an improved processor, a new DAC and new operational amplifiers. The processing of all signals and the operation of the MTouch 2.0 operating system are entrusted to the central three-core processor Ingenic X2000. The digital-to-analog converter is based on the ES9038Q2M chip from ESS Technologies and is capable of working with 32-bit / 768 kHz PCM signals, as well as processing the native DSD512 stream. Support for MQA files is also announced. The built-in amplifier is based on two RT6863 opamps and provides output power up to 245 mW into 32 ohms. The player has two headphone outputs – unbalanced 3.5 mm and balanced 4.4 mm, as well as a Wi-Fi module that provides AirPlay and DLNA and a Bluetooth adapter.
Pros – high-quality op-amp and DAC chip, balanced connection
Cons – too compact?
Verdict: A new version of the famous player with improved features
5. Aune M1P
Price – $369 ($399 for Bluetooth version )
When creating this model, the developers paid special attention to proper nutrition – the player is equipped with a rechargeable battery, at the output of which low-noise stabilized buses are organized to power all the main elements of the signal circuit. The central processor in the model is Freescale 600M. There are 3.5 mm, 4.4 mm and 2.5 mm jacks for connecting headphones, the output power is 130 mW at 32 ohms unbalanced and 280 mW at 32 ohms balanced. The Bluetooth version of the model supports aptX HD, AAC and SBC codecs. The player is equipped with a 2.4-inch IPS display, there is also a slot for connecting microSD cards. The model has two precision clock generators, the DAC unit is made on a chip from ESS Saber.
Pros – balanced connection, two clock generators, original power supply
Cons – simple design
Verdict: Nothing fancy – just good sound
4. HiBy R6 Pro II
Price – $749
This model is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 CPU running Android 12 OS. The D/A converter uses the top-end combination of AK4191EQ decoder and two AK4499EX converters. The player supports decoding and conversion of 32bit/1536kHz PCM stream and native DSD1024 stream. The HiBy R6 Pro II has two precision clock generators operating with femtosecond precision. The amplifier can operate in two modes – pure class A or class AB, the player is equipped with two pairs of 3.5 mm and 4.4 mm jacks. The second pair is used for line signal output and operates independently of the headphone jacks. The output power with an unbalanced connection is 125 mW, with a balanced connection – 385 mW. Large display measuring 5.9 inches diagonally has a resolution of 1080p,
Pros – flagship chip from Asahi Kasei, two modes of operation of the amplifier, separate connectors for the line output
Cons – power could be higher
Verdict: Original player with flagship DAC
3. FiiO M15S
Price – $999
The improved version of the popular audio player with the S suffix features a new DAC, CPU and operating system. The player uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor, which is responsible for the fast operation of Android 10 with support for the Google Play app store. The digital-to-analog converter is based on the flagship ES9038Pro chip from ESS Saber Technologies. The front panel of the device is occupied by a 5.5-inch touch screen. To connect wireless headphones, the model has a QCC5124 Bluetooth adapter that supports LDAC and aptX HD codecs. The set of wired headphone jacks includes three jacks – 2.5 mm, 3.5 mm and 4.4 mm, the maximum output power in balanced mode is an impressive 1200 mW at 32 ohms. The model works with Apple Music and is certified Roon Ready for integration into relevant systems.
Pros – powerful amplifier, top-end DAC chip, Roon Ready support
Verdict: An excellent player that can work with any headphones
2. Astell & Kern A&futura SE300
Price – $1,900
The new player from the Korean company is distinguished by the use of a digital-to-analog conversion block on a resistive matrix (R-2R), which includes 96 precision resistors. The power supply is made using the Teraton Alpha proprietary solution, which radically reduces the power supply noise level and provides the amplifier stages with clean voltage. Headphone jacks are provided for 3.5 mm, 2.5 mm and 4.4 mm. The amplifier works in class A / AB, the maximum voltage on an unbalanced 3.5 mm jack is 3 V, on a balanced 4.4 mm – 6 V. The case is made of aluminum and stainless steel, the color LCD touch screen has a size of 5.46 inches diagonally and a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The model works with PCM signals 32 bit / 384 kHz and native DSD256 stream, and also supports all major music services.
Pros – DAC on a resistive matrix, original low-noise power supply
Cons – only the price and lack of support for DSD512
Verdict: A real player for those who understand
1. Cayin N7
Price – $1,999
A top player focused primarily on working with a native DSD stream. For its correct conversion, a discrete one-bit DAC on a resistive matrix, including 128 thin-film resistors, is used. 32bit/768kHz PCM signals are also supported, but are converted to 1-bit before being sent to the DAC. The fully discrete amplifier can operate in both class A and class AB, switching between the two modes is done by pressing one key. Low-noise JFET transistors are installed in the input differential stage, bipolar transistors provide voltage amplification and operation of the output stage. The amplifier has a fully symmetrical circuit, headphone outputs are represented by 4.4 mm and 3.5 mm jacks, similar terminals are used to organize a line output. The built-in battery has a capacity of 9,000 mAh, and its full charge is enough for 10 hours of operation. The model is running Android 12.
Pros – original DAC on a resistive matrix, fully balanced path, line output
Cons – optimized for DSD
Verdict: The ultimate player for those who don’t compromise when working with DSD