Digital Audio Players

Like the rest of my audio gear, I have too many of these things, although some are effectively obsolete. At the moment, I tend to play most of my music off my Acer 571G, which is being used as a glorified music player till the 5755 dies and needs replacing. When I am listening to music off a DAP, it’s either the iPod Touch, the Sony NW-A25, or the FiiO X5.

If I could send myself a message through time, it would be to advise myself to buy the best kit in an acceptable price range rather than waste time on the stuff that only plays MP3 or AAC files.

My other piece of advice would be to use the right device for the right job. A phone is not a DAP and is a second-rate substitute for one, although phone manufacturers seem to now be producing devices which will play better quality music. My Huawei Honour 9 at least plays CD-quality music.

Aigo F008

This was my very first DAP, which cost (if I remember rightly) about the same as my RAR P3s. It’s a capsule-shaped thing with a red body and chromed ends, although it’s possible to make it all red by replacing the caps. There’s a monochrome LCD display and relatively sophisticated controls. It has all of 256Mb of storage, but that was in the days of 128Kbps MP3s. Still works perfectly well, but was one of the reasons why I ended up renaming MP3 files because it wouldn’t organise albums by folder.

Aigo a5

I probably bought this in about 2007. It had 2Gb of storage, and cost… I forget, but it was far less expensive than the F008. It’s shaped like a small, slightly curved rectangular tablet with a black control panel. That was the downfall of this device because once the display went off, it was impossible to tell where the controls were. Also, like its predecessor, unless I renamed the files by composer and album, it put them in alphabetical order, thus jumbling everything up.

Sony Walkman NWZ-E453

In spite of having 2Gb of storage, the Aigo a5 got replaced after I got to Wuxi with this device, which had 8Gb of memory and a display which was much easier to use.

Sony Walkman NWZ-E475

As my music collection expanded, it became clear that I needed an MP3 player with a greater capacity, and this has 16Gb of internal storage.

iPod Nano

Because of the burgeoning size of my music collection and because it was a nuisance to keep removing and replacing music on a single device, I decided to buy some more MP3 players so that I wouldn’t have to keep changing the music. I wanted some more Walkmans, but they seemed to have entirely vanished, which sent me in the direction of Apple for want of other familiar sources. But even with four of these, there wasn’t much room for expansion by the time I’d put all my music on them, which led me to buy another Apple device – the iPod Touch.

In 2017, Apple ceased production of this model because streaming services have made proper music players irrelevant for many people, who like having money perpetually leached from their bank accounts. I’d also say that models like this, which are unable to play a range of formats, especially non-proprietary CD-quality formats and higher, are redundant because they are too limited in what they can play.

iPod Touch

This was the DAP I should’ve bought in the first place rather than the Nanos. It’s like an iPhone (which I don’t want), but has all the extras, although it’s still principally for listening to music. I can connect it to the Audioquest Dragonfly or my FiiO K1, and even the E17K, provided I switch off USB charging.

The rumour is that iOS 11, which is coming this autumn (2017), may enable the Touch to play FLAC files, although I can’t see what the point would be if it merely recognises them as music files. The issue with the Touch, like the Nanos, is a limited range of files, either MP3 or Apple’s proprietary formats. While it is possible to convert FLAC to ALAC, it’d be much better if the Touch (and the Nanos) simply played CD-quality files without the need converting them from one format to another.

Unlike the Nanos, the Touch still survives, but is only available in 32Gb or 128Gb versions, and, it would not seem unreasonable to predict, is probably going to eventually vanish from the Apple lineup. It seems unlikely that the company will bother with an audiophile-grade music player since, let’s be honest, it seems more interested in manufacturing pretty things for shallow people.

Sony Walkman NW-A25HN

I have plenty of MP3 players, but they only play MP3s, WMA, and similar audio files. I wanted something that played CD-quality music, and this fitted the bill nicely when I was first beginning to buy FLAC albums. It had 16Gb of on-board memory and an expansion slot.

FiiO X5 Mk. II

This was a piece of pure indulgence, but again, the number of FLAC albums was increasing, and the need for something with a large storage capacity pushed me in the direction of this device. It was a nuisance to have to buy a couple of SD cards, but combined with the NW-A25, I have plenty of space for all of my FLAC albums, at least at the moment. It’s a decent piece of kit (although annoyingly [?] the 3rd ed. model came out not long after I bought this one) and doubles as a DAC. Unlike the newer version of the X5 or the iPod Touch, it’s not a music player pretending to be half a phone.

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Life and whatever in the imperium sericum.

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