Budget DAPs?

I have never really been interested in DAPs as I have always been a “phone for everything” person but I picked up a Shanling M0 and I have actually got to like the little thing.

I have found that when I walk my dog (3 times a day) I have been using the M0 with whichever IEM I am currently listening to. It has a (fair) few quirks but for 100€ I have been pretty impressed.

Recently I have been using it with a Topping NX4 DSD as a mobile solution and while I like the quality of the audio, I can’t say that I am passionate about stacking things in my pocket and the cables are a PITA.

So, although I would love to look at something like the Cayin (edited from A&K) that @Torq has fallen in love with, being more realistic I am thinking of something more budget conscious, mainly for flights etc.

So, let’s say under 300€ (under 200€ would be even better :wink: ) is there anything that is a worthwhile step up from the M0?

1 Like

IMO, only the iPod Touch is worth considering as a stand-alone in that price range. It’s small, holds plenty of content, is rock-solid reliable, is compatible with all iOS software, and works with any Apple compatible dongle or DAC or Amp.

Alternatively, consider products that supplement a phone, such as the EarStudio ES100 or FiiO BTR3 and Q5 products. They do not have on-board storage, but add DAP-like functionality to a phone.

1 Like

Thanks @generic but I’m afraid that anything with an Apple logo is a no go for me :smiley:

I did think about picking up an ES100 but to be honest I don’t think it would add anything I don’t have with the M0 (except for the great Android app).

I think one of the things I am liking is that since I use a DAP for walking my dog etc. my phone battery now lasts a whole day again (well, nearly) rather than having to charge it twice a day. I used to be against having to remove earphones to use the phone so I always used IEM’s with a mic but now I have gotten used to it I think I am over my lazyness :wink:

1 Like

Does anyone have an opinion on the Sony NWA45 (which seem to be very cheap at the moment here)?

I own the A45. Battery life and UI are pretty awesome, but it’s a little underpowered for anything beyond IEMs (think it’s a 32mW output at 16ohms).

Getting one on sale would be worth it; at retail, there’s probably alternatives out there more worth looking at…stuff like the Hidizs AP60 and HiBy R3 come to mind…but a little patience and some searching will help you find a stellar price on an Opus#1 and I think that’s one hell of a DAP, especially when they show up for less than $200.

1 Like

Shanling M2S is still my favorite, out of production now tho but I see you can still find them for around $100 or so second hand.

For something new… it’s hard to say I’ve not heard as many newer models as I’d like in the “budget” category. I also can’t say how the M0 and M2S compare [tho the M2S doesn’t have blutooth]

1 Like

I was actually looking at the M2x that seems interesting, unfortunately it’s not available here yet, only as a purchase from China.

Thanks for the input, unfortunately used here is next to impossible.

I’ve got an ES100 connected with balanced cable to my Shure SE535’s.

Tied to an iPhone it is really a great-sounding mobile solution that’s “mostly” wireless

I have tried the following in this price category:

Radsone ES100 and Fiio BTR1 (bluetooth/amps)

Cayin N3*
Hidizs AP60, AP60 v2, AP80*
Onkyo DP-S1*
Fiio X1 II
Fiio M6*
Fiio M9*
Xudoo X3 II
ipods of all sorts
Sony NW45A*

Of those, I like the starred ones.
The newer Fiio ones listed are the most full-featured but can slow down when using android apps. The stock app is pretty fast though.

The Sony one has a nice UI and sound is okay. No wifi/apps.

The Onkyo DP-S1 is a nice player with Tidal and Tune-In streaming. I really liked it’s sound and UI when I owned it. It was my favorite for this price range.

The Cayin N3 would be my favorite non-android chinese one of the ones I tried, and the AP80 is nice but really small.

The Hiby R3 is probably a great alternative but I have yet to try.

1 Like

That’s great info, thanks @antdroid as always!

I will start to check them out. I also saw the A&K Jr pretty cheap (209€) but saw some confusing reviews about it.

  • and thanks @taronlissimore for moving this to the right place!! Sorry about that!

Yea, feel free to ask any questions specific to any of those players.

I think an older gen A&K, Onkyo, iBasso, Pioneer, etc would be a great value with their clearance pricing and higher quality components.

For my personal DAP choice, I want one that gives me streaming capability since I do use Spotify. If i had tidal account, many of the non-android players support tidal, but since I’m so deep in Spotify, I’m limited to android-based players.

I stay away from Apple ipods because of storage limitations.


I am sort of in the same situation, Spotify is a very large percentage of my listening but I am not sure I want to opt for a DAP running an old version (or any version) of Android.

Then again, I am thinking of this DAP for use mainly on flights where Spotify streaming wouldn’t be an option anyway.

1 Like

I think @Torq has recently been trying some budget DAP’s out. He may be able to help. :grin:.



1 Like

As far as Android versions go, Spotify still works on older Android versions with latest updates. The Pioneer XDP-300R (and it’s twin the Onkyo DP-X1A) uses Android 5.1. It’s older, but I still get updates for all the streaming apps and it runs amazingly smooth despite the older hardware. It runs faster than my brand new A&K SR15, and significantly faster than the Fiio M6/M9.

The new Fiio M11 looks like a (price/perf) world-beater when you look at it’s specs, but is just above your price point. It’s a little large and bulky, but it has what looks like the best price to performance ratio of anything on the market in terms of pure features and hardware.


I have been researching the DAPs mentioned above, along with a couple of others. Unfortunately used is non-existent here and things like the Onkyo DP-S1 are retailing for 500€ where available.

The Fiio M11 does look tempting, but again, the cost here is between 500€ and 600€ which is a little too much for what I am planning on using this for.

@antdroid, I read that you returned the M6 but you also say you liked it, do you think it is worth the 160€? Was there a deal breaker for you or did you just prefer something else?

I am not sure if the volume buttons (instead of wheel) would drive me crazy or not!

I am sort of undecided between the M6, the Hiby R3 or the Shanling M2X (only available from Aliexpress at the moment).

1 Like

I like the LG V20 as a DAP. Yes it’s technically a phone, and yes the form factor is a bit big, but the sound quality is great, it can do 2 Vrms into high impedance loads which is more than many DAPs and it runs full Android. Also the battery is user replaceable and when running in airplane mode with battery saver enabled, the battery lasts quite a long time.


It seems like I have spent the last 2 weeks looking at every DAP available! I have followed the usual path of “That looks ok… oh, just for X more I can get… but the for only X more I can get…” then suddenly I am in the 4 digit category!! :smile:

I still can’t make my mind up!

I have at least decided what I want this for and what I do and don’t need. I am happy using the M0 as a pocket player for when I am working on my car or doing other stuff, I just hit “play all” and off it goes.

What I am looking for is something a little larger that will make it easier to listen to specific tracks/albums (the M0 screen is too small and it is a PITA to have to swipe to see the full name).

I have decided I do not want Android, even if this means I can’t stream Spotify. I have Spotify available on my phone, in my car, in every room of my house and in my office, so it is not an issue to be without it while using the DAP. I don’t need any other streaming services.

My two uses for this device will be for when I travel (unsing on flights and in hotel rooms etc) and also to use as a specific source for comparing IEMs (nothing spectacular, mostly <$100) for reviewing so it has to be pretty neutral and have no noise when dealing with IEMs. I would like Balanced output available although it is not a must. I do want a line level output as it will come in handy when I am EQing rooms etc.

I am currently leaning towards the Shanling M2X when it is finally available here (in a couple of weeks supposedly) but also contemplating the Cayin N3 or the A&K JR, although both these devices are getting a little older now. The Ibasso DX120 is another option.

So, a quick recap in case anyone has any ideas…

  • Under $300 ($200 would be even better, although I am willing to stretch to $400)
  • No Android
  • Streaming Services not necessary
  • LDAC
  • Balanced output if possible.
  • Line Output.
  • Most importantly good neutral sound and works with sensitive IEMs without noise.