HR Audio Player Recommendations

I am considering purchase of a portable HR audio player - anyone carried out comparisons of the few manufacturers there are for these devices and why they choose a particular model. Price / Features etc.
Advice appreciated.

I have an iFi hip-dac and a FiiO M11s. I prefer the sound from the iFi, but for convenience and functions I prefer the fiiO. The fiiO can convert all formats to DSD which boosts the sound quality significantly, but reduced battery life.

Personally, I would focus on what you need it for. The iFi needs to be connected to a device, such as an iPhone, which impacts its convenience outside the house. The FiiO is a standalone unit, both streamer and amp, but needs WiFi connectivity. Both have their disadvantages but with a good enough DAC in each, it’s mainly about the IEMs or headphones that’ll make the biggest difference to sound quality.

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You need to think about what sources you want to use, particularly whether just internal storage (built in or SD card), local network (UPnP) or internet server (Tidal, Qobuz etc.)
All of these are possible, or you might choose to hook it up to an iPhone, which can be very cost effective although I find the connection can be a faff.
Also, what sort of headphones? I like using wired IEMs but others want the convenience of Bluetooth or the comfort of full blown over-ear phones. Lighter portable players often don’t have the power to drive some of these, so matching is key.

The simplest for me is my iPhone, qobuz subscription, download into cd res or higher, then dac of choice chord mojo then headphones.


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As stated/asked above, before you make a choice - what is the following:

  1. Choice of brands/models of headphones or IEM’s
  2. Choice of source - streaming and/or internal memory files
    3, Will it be used when you have Wi-Fi available - or mainly out & about?
  3. Budget?
  4. Balanced headphone cables?

There are many, many choices out there…

@CrystalGipsy has compared some……

I’ve had around 10 or 12 in recent years. Everything from an iPod 5G Video, through an iBasso to a few Ponoplayers, a Sony ZX-2, A&K AK70, AK100 Mk.II, AK120 Mk.II, Cowon Plenue P1, and AK380. Note though that I’m not a fan of IEMs - I just don’t like having things inside my ear - so all have been used with full sized or portable on ear headphones.

My two favourites are my iPod 5G Video and one of my Ponoplayers; the iPod gets used a lot mainly because it has been iFlashed and currently has a 750GB capacity with space for more should I need it. It has everything that’s to love about the iPod, especially the click wheel which is so much more intuitive to use than a touch screen (don’t even try using a touch screen DAP while driving!). It sounds pretty good too - miles better than the Classic successor and the later iPhones and iPod Touches. I use it a lot in the car so it’s easy just to unplug and put in my pocket with a pair of Sennheiser PX100s and I’m good to go just about anywhere.

The other favourite is the Ponoplayer. This one sounds lovely, and rather better than the other two I have, for some reason. It’s great with the aforementioned Sennheiser PX100s, it’s also really nice with just about any of the other 'phones I have, but it really comes good with a pair of Sennheiser HD600s in balanced mode. This is what Charlie Hansen of Ayre Acoustics used when he designed the audio stages of the Ponoplayer, and it really shows as the two gel so well together. It’s just a shame that the Ponoplayer feels like a Fisher price toy and the screen is functional at best. However, it’s lack of flash is kind of loveable too - very much the opposite of the uber-flash Astell & Kerns. I like it very much. I just wish the battery lasted longer.


What search title do I utilise to see his comparisons?

Sorry, don’t remember. However as I wrote his name here, with @ before his avatar, he will be notified and certainly respond here.
@obsydian has tried some too.

@frenchrooster hello i have only tried USB DAC, never liked the idea of another device to carry around and loose. I tried Chord Hugo, Cyrus USB and Audioquest Cobalt, VFM the Cyrus cant be beaten and a cheap way the dabble, the Audioquest Cobalt is, was a fully loaded option i kept, the Chord Hugo i quickly sold at a loss very underwhelming.


Try “portable” or “dap” and use the option to put posted by crystalgypsy.
Eg this one

And DAP journey mkii

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I wonder if it’s better to use a good usb dac connected to an iPhone or an all in one HIRES mobile player.

I have tried mobile and dacs and DAPs. DAPs win every time for me. They are designed for one thing and do it better. Leaves your phone free for other stuff and doesn’t drain its battery and no annoying dongle to loose or pull out. I have had ones from iBasso, Hiby, Astel&Kern and Fiio. Phone dacs I had the entire range of Dragonfly’s, Chord Mojo and Ifi iDSD Nano BL all moved on. I disliked the Chord the most found it incredibly dull and picked up interference from the phone.

Currently I have the Fiio M11 Plus DAP, it’s the best of the bunch I have had and currently beats the current crop for form and function.

It’s become my primary listening medium. It’s a fantastic device. Has the processing power of a modern phone so is slick to use, has a lovely screen , superb build quality and sounds fantastic to me. It has balanced audio out and enough power to drive most headphones, some inefficient ones may need a bit more juice, but all the users I know love it and have no issus. It certainly doesn’t have issues with any of mine.

Being Android based its pretty open and uses their own OS that’s been modified to allow full hires up to 384/24 or DSD256. It has a great THX amp module no background noise at all its super quiet.

You can install all the most common apps and all ones that don’t resample themselves will be bit perfect. More importantly for me it’s also Roon Ready which means it ties into the rest of my music zones nicely. Works like a dream has very strong network connectivity which many DAPs that are more expensive get wrong (A&K looking at you) .

Being Roon Ready means it’s replaced all my other headphone stations all of which were more pricey setups. I also use it more than my Naim. I use it with full headphones mainly unless out and about and will will use iems. I have an sd card with all my flac files on it and I can easily add new ones quickly from my backup Nas using qnaps app.

For me its perfect device allows me to have my music collection and more around the house and outside the house. I can use it as a DAC if I wish to not that I need to as it does everything I need. For its price it’s just amazing and is rock solid in everything it does.


The iPhone + DAC can be a great option if you are happy to use your phone and it’s cost effective as you are only buying a DAC/headphone amp, not a streamer/transport. The problem is that you need to connect via an Apple CCK adapter. This works perfectly well, but it’s very unweildy if you are on the move or if you need to use your phone for anything else. Maybe fine if you sit at a desk with the phone beside you.

I do this occasionally with an Audioquest Dragonfly, but I much prefer to use my Sony portable, which has a long battery life and doesn’t drain the battery on my phone.


Still looking at various players, but could you comment on the Fiio and driving Sennheiser 650/660 headphones?

I had some credit in the wifely credit bank so I decided to go with Astell and Kern SR25mkii. I have only had it a couple of weeks but so far so good in most respects. Loaded all my music onto a Sandisk 1TB and was off and running. I like the AK because it is nice and compact and seems simple to use. I am using it purely with headphones for now (sometimes wireless, sometimes wired) and at present my only downside is that with my headphones in DAC mode the SR is fixed on maximum volume and blowing my brain out.

Presumably I will work out how to resolve that some time soon…

Probably too soon for me to act as someone recommending it, but no regrets so far. It isn’t cheap (£700) and perhaps there are cheaper alternatives with less of a brand name that tick more boxes, but certainly worthy of consideration.

I don’t have any but I know some that do and it drives them just fine. Just get one to try out send it back if it doesn’t suit. Fiio are available to buy quite easily from the big river and other sellers in the UK.

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