Looking to spend about 500-700 USD. Have RHA T20i earphones, ATH MSR7 headphones and a Cyrus Soundkey. Thinking of buying a pair of Hifiman Ananda so want to pair the DAP with them. Two that catch the eye are the Shanling M6 Pro and Cayin N6ii. Any advice would be great.
Stick with the ones that have caught your eye. They’re both great sounding.
Ananda’s are also great, but they take forever to break in. I’m at 120 hours and they are still sounding better and better.
Will the DAP need to be active portable? If you’re OK with a little weight, The Astell and Kern KANN is a nice DAP. The retail is $799 (was $999 when it was introduced). You can find them for around $700 or less if you shop. Headphones.com has a used one in their for sale gear thread for $499 you’d be buying from the trusted people who run this website so you’ll know it’s in good shape because they don’t sell damaged stuff. Very nice player, but it has a little weight from the built in amp. I have one.
Don’t mind if the DAP has a little bit of weight. I will use for travel but also at home and it will be my only music player. I like the look of the KANN but have also heard good feedback about the Cayin N6ii and am intrigued by the modular nature of it. On the weekend I had a chance to view and listen to the Shanling M6 pro, thought it looked very nice and liked the sound a lot. Wonder if there are any disadvantages of buying Shanling? The model I looked at was the 32GB version but have seen a 64GB and 128GB versions advertised. Does this matter?
I have just become a Cayiin N6ii owner. I love it. There are quite a few folk on the forum who own it and it seems to be very well regarded. It’s very well made and is quite heavy. But it still feels portable and certainly adds to the premium feel. There is also the iBasso dx220 to consider. Though I don’t have experience with one. @antdroid has reviewed quite a few Daps and is a good person to ask. Have a look on his website there’s lots of information there. Best of luck and let us know how you get on.
Here’s some random thoughts on DAPs Ive tried:
Android, small, cute form-factor. pretty fast, sound is nice and balanced. good detail for price. battery life needs to be optimized to be it’s best. Sony Music UI is nice, but has Google Play Store pre-loaded as well.
Android, lightweight for it’s size. Great sound quality and excellent resolution. UI is stock android for the most part but battery life is pretty poor as well as bluetooth and wifi signal is well below average. Great performer except for some bad design choices. No Play Store by default.
Dont recommend. Slow, bulky. Only redeeming factor is it is upgradable.
Big and heavy, however sound is excellent. Upgradable amp. Faster than other iBasso. Still limited by poor software and implementation as well as battery life, but excellent audio performance.
Cute, small and well built. Uses Microusb which is outdated. Android based however limited to what A&K allows you to sideload. Battery is ok, gets really hot. Can get extremely laggy at times. Very warm sound signature that does seem to have roll-off in treble significantly. Very mid-range focused and colored.
I have only tried it very briefly. I believe this is more neutral sounding. Lighter weight for how large it is especially compared to the Cayin models and the WM1Z. Android based but no playstore.
Android Based. Warm sounding stock. Heavy and large. Does feel nice in hand. Quick UI.
Small, great size. Android based with Play store. Sound quality isn’t much better, if at all, to most phones. Apple USB-C dongle sounds better to me. Fast UI with good processor and great software support. Systemwide EQ.
Pioneer XDP-300R/Onkyo DP-X1a:
Older but still runs well even today. Great UI. Good battery life with optimizations. Big, well built. 2.5mm jack has had issues in past but never was a prob for me. Faster than most android-based daps even today. Sound is excellent though more neutral/sterile than others. The built-in music player is amazing, and it’s EQ functionality is top of class.
Another android based thing. Small, super small form factor but very usable. I actually enjoy it quite a bit despite it lacks power. Perfect for sensitive IEMs that don’t need a lot of power. Sounds better than most other android-players in this price point but still pales in comparison to others just above it.
Warm sounding. High Output impedance. Nice builds. R3 is small. R6 is large.
Fiio M11 (original):
Heavy and kinda bulky. Missing good bass response. Poor bass resolution however great treble extension. Fast, fast fast. Noisy output for sensitive IEMs.
Onkyo DP-S1, Pioneer XDP-02 and that entire series:
Onkyo/Pioneer are same company with same DAPs in different styles. The Onkyos are slightly warmer and Pioneers are slightly more V-shaped. These are great portable small players and even have basic streaming capabilities if you use Tidal or Deezer. Linux-based custom OS that runs much better than expected. Good sound quality for the price and feels good in hand. Best implementation of the volume wheel I’ve used so far.
iPod Touch/iPhone SE/etc:
These actually sound pretty decent. Does not have some of the audiophile features like EQ, easy FLAC support, SD Card, and balanced output, but is by far the easiest to use and still sounds quite decent. Price to performance is pretty low though since it has limited storage unless you spend a lot of money.
mmm if i think of more, ive tried quite a bit, i’ll add more to this thread.
Sound quality wise my ranking would be like this: DX220 (w/ amp8) >= Hiby R6pro (pro is very different over the regular r6 because it has low impedance to get a hiss free experience using highly sensitive IEMs like Andromeda) > Astell & Kern AK70 mk2 (sold it but it had a nice silky sound signature) > Cayin N5iis (pretty old now) > Fiio M11 (never could like this one).
I myself am considering the Cayin N6ii because of the modular nature of it. However, the replacable new motherboards are quite expensive - you should note that. And the Shanling is also a great option as it literally just came out.
However, I’d stick to the smallest internal storage for any DAP I buy because at the end of the day, I’ll have to use an SD card anyway (so would save money there to get a large SD card). I don’t know anyone who stores all his/her music on the device’s storage.
Not really sold as a DAP but curious your thoughts on an LG phone like a v30 or v40, @antdroid ? Wondering if you’ve tried one of them with their “quad-DAC” and your thoughts on the sound?
I havent tried those. Sorry
I have the r6 pro and it’s really nice. Skip the stainless steel and just get the aluminum version for $550.
The two you list are nice too, but I don’t have experience with them.
Thanks to everyone for their replies and the information provided. It was particularly useful to hear that internal memory isn’t that important, as I was thinking of buying the 128GB model. At the moment my access to available models is quite limited and although the Cayin N6ii would probably be top of my list along with some of the Sony models, I’m going to look at the Shanling M6 Pro again and have another listen. If I like it I’ll probably buy it within the next week and will report back here. If I do, what about recommended SD cards and is a separate amplifier or DAC needed? Or will that depend on my headphone choice?
The stainless steel one feels so nice in the hand though…
Seriously though, I agree, it’s not necessary and I wouldn’t have gotten that version if not for it being on sale at the time and was going to arrive to me before a trip I was taking.
That’s awesome you got it on sale. The aluminum feels pretty good too, but I use a leather case tho. The other reason I went for the aluminum is because all the reviews complained about the weight. Oh and the $550 price tag haha.
It is definitely heavy. I was pretty surprised by how premium it looked/felt (not that $500 is cheap or anything). Between that and my LG v30 phone, I think I’m pretty set for portable audio… though I’m curious how that Sony Xperia X1 ii sounds in comparison to the LG v60
I defend the iPod Touch and iPhone on the grounds of (1) stability, (2) stability, (3) stability, (4) a strong ecosystem with tons of software and support, (5) the ability to add dongles for stronger DAP functionality, and (6) stability. The recent generation costs $300 for 128GB. That’s reasonable in my book given its STABILITY.
[Spoken by one who spent years and years and years dealing with mismatched RAM modules in PCs that led to the Blue Screen of Death. Plus, many wonky flash cards in cameras and other products.]
I have been living with the Lg V30 as a dap/phone for about 8 months. Take away: It’s great. All in one device, fairly neutral sounding, but nicely dynamic. Great portable solution when you can’t have a more robust solution. Downsides: Not too many actually. However power is limited by the impedance of headphones and overall they are not going to drive large headphones optimally. Sound quality wise I am consistently impressed. If you have any specific questions let me know.
There’s definitely still a place for the iPod series in audio. I still own 2 iPod Touches one a gen 2 I got on my 40th birthday from wife and kids (engraved) so it will never get sold and a gen 6 and both are still great. Granted not a patch on the new generation of Daps but still relevant.
Quick update on this as promised. Purchased the Shanling M6 Pro and have had for a few days now. No problems loading music, the interface is really easy to use and most importantly the sound makes me want to listen as much as possible. Had just one album I know really well loaded for a day and enjoyed listening over and over again to new parts of the music which I’ve never really heard before. Also customer service from Shanling was great when there were some initial problems updating the firmware.
I very often have to listen to music for my study related to Alvin Lucier so I have some DAPs that I’ve bought during the years.
Recently I had the chance to buy an Astell&Kern SR25 at a very good price and added this one to my collection.
The main reason to add it has been the 21 hours of battery life that’s really important to me. Being in university libraries for study it is often a problem if I have to recharge my DAP and this unit allows me to have no brain about it.
The SR25 is way smaller than my iBasso DX200 and than my Pioneer XDP 300 R.
It doesn’t have all the functions that the two above have but has all the essentials.
I mostly buy my music from Bandcamp so I don’t need much more than charging my music on an SD card and put it in.
I sometimes stream music through Tidal and Qobuz. I have two lifetime subscriptions because of my work but I find much more ethical to pay fairly musicians and buy their music from Bandcamp.
If I have to listen to a new purchase on the go I found I can just download it in my Android phone and copy it to a USB key with a small USB C adaptor and then pop it in the SR25 that will see it as an external storage.
The SR25 is very simple and I love it because of this.
Sound is very good, almost neutral. Not as good as from Pioneer XDP 300 R but it’s a small trade to pay for the massively extension of battery life.
Operations are simple and intuitive and the interface is smooth and efficient.
I can use my Mojo and Dragonflies Red and Cobalt with it with a small OTG interface and it is a good plus too. Anyway both the 3.5mm and 2.5mm exits are powerful enough to drive most headphones with no power issues. But it’s great to have the possibility to add some extra power “just in case” in a simple way.
Unlike as with my phone or other DAP you just pop in the dongle and you’re done, it’s immediately relevated and ready.
I love it for real.
I love the design that follows functions too, very “Dieter Rams” like (the legendary designer behind many Braun products).
In a small pack you have a powerful source with a good battery life.
I’m positively impressed by this unit and I highly recommend it.
Stay safe and enjoy.