I do use a DAP, have for years, but it’s now very much a “situationally progressive” thing for me. Which really means that it depends on where I am, what I’m doing, and how much listening time I’ll get … as well as how light I want to (or can) pack when traveling as to whether I take/use a DAP or listen via other means.
Walking over lunch, or very short (usually same-day in/out deals) trips, or trips where the only listening I’m doing is on the flights in/out and they’re shorter (under 4 hours), then it’s pretty much just the iPhone X and AirPods and/or the lightning dongle and Bose QC20i.
Longer trips, without my fiancé (so lots of time to listen), or longer flights, but for which I can get away without taking a laptop is really when the DAP comes into play. Currently I have a Sony NW-WM1Z and generally use it with the Empire Ears Zeus XRA.
Shorter trips, that require a laptop, it’s usually the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red or Meridian Explorer 2 that come along, same if there are real space/weight constraints. As the trip and available listening time go up, so does the scale of what I’m willing to carry.
For longer trips with lots of potential listening time, but that don’t need a laptop, I might even take the WM1Z and the Hugo 2 and use the Sony as a high-quality transport, only using the phone as a source for streaming.
I’d probably have to be gone for a month, on my own, with lots of free time for listening, to bother taking both the laptop and the Hugo 2.
Most of the portable listening occurs on IEMs, but I’m looking for an excuse to play with the LCDi4 … obviously not a candidate when isolation is needed, nor when others are around, but it’s an interesting proposition for when I’m stuck somewhere for a week or more with limited exploration/entertainment options once back at the hotel.
That’s a long winded way of saying, I only use a DAP when I’ll have lots of time to focus on listening and can spare the extra space/weight, and don’t have my laptop to hand!
And there’s been a progression of DAPs. First it was a series of iPods. Then I picked up an Astell & Kern AK120 (from the “old” Headphones.com) which was used with an RSA Intruder and SE846 for most of it’s life, and then briefly as a transport feeding a Chord Mojo. It was a while, after that, before I found another DAP I thought was worth dealing with.
The AK100ii and 120ii did nothing for me, nor did the AK240 … I just don’t get on with stuff based around the CS4398 converter (or, at least, the overall implementations that use it as the DAC chip). The AK3XX series were too much of a pain to use with a Mac, and had storage limitations I was not willing to put up with at their price points … and they was a bit too much “Velvet Sound” going on (AKM49XX DAC reference).
The FiiO X5iii was a lovely little unit … hardware wise. Unfortunately the firmware was “never quite there”. It actually went backwards in terms of stability and functionality for me, and to this day I don’t think it still supports all the features/capabilities listed on the box (more than a year after I bought one, since sold).
Had a WM1A for a bit, and that’s probably the sweet spot for me, but I eventually succumbed to the lure of the WM1Z, even if the weight is a bit silly and the gold finish a bit too flashy. It’d be nice if these units could be used as USB DACs (the last firmware added MQA support, which would be a lot of work if they couldn’t eventually be used as such), but other than not being able to use them for streaming it’s a near-perfect solution for me.