InnerFidelity's "Wall of Fame" Portable Music Players
Portable Music Players
In the era of the Smartphone, that iPhone or Android in your pocket is likely perfectly adequate to the task of casual music listening...especially when using wireless Bluetooth headphones. But when a superior listening experience is desired on the move, a dedicated Portable Music Player (often called Digital Audio Player or DAP) is the order of the day.
Sound quality and the ability to drive a variety of headphones without tonal compromise are of prime importance in InnerFidelity DAP reviews. However, many other features are important to headphone enthusiasts: supported file formats and data rates; storage capacity; build quality; styling; user interface; operating system; support for third party apps; battery life; and analog and digital wired and wireless connectivity are all covered in InnerFidelity reviews.
The following Portable Media Players have been placed on the Wall of Fame for their excellent performance at various price points.
Sony MW-ZX2 ($1199)|
This is a no brainer. In nearly every categorybuild quality, ergonomics, user interface, battery life, and of course sound qualitythe ZX2 is either at or very near the top of InnerFidleity rankings. It's easily the most well-rounded device experienced to date. Tidal integration plus generous storage size and wide format support means you always have plenty of music on hand, and it all sounds terrific.
The Sony ZX2 has a 4 inch, 854 x 480 display; a thick PCB; gold-plated copper insulation on the chassis; more capacitors in the critical analog circuit; a "super capacitor" for more stable voltage reserves; a larger capacity battery; dual oscillators for native sample-rate playback (the ZX1 had to upsample 44.1kHz material to 48kHz due to its single clock design); and on and on. With spectacular build quality, Tidal integration, and the best battery performance by a substantial margin to date, the ZX2 is a clear winner.
Questyle QP1R ($899)
Questyle's DAP is a favorite in terms of sound signature. It really has very few peers. The low output power isn't a bother in real-world use, especially with IEM compatibility being excellent. The money you'll save buying this thing compared to a twice-as-expensive competitor can be directly funneled into better CIEMs, or just more music. Seems like a fair trade. A quirky, but lovely DAP.
Cowon Plenue 1 ($699)
The fact that Cowon has added newer and more expensive models to the line does nothing to diminish the appeal of the Plenue 1. Since getting a major price drop some months back, the value proposition on this thing went up several notches to the point where it is hard to recommend anything else sporting a similar signature. Yes, you can get warm and smooth sound elsewhere, but the Cowon offers a more complete experience than the rest, and at a compelling price too. Very highly recommended despite its age.
Sony NWZ-A17 ($299)
The NWZ-A17 is small, easy to use, and costs less than most of the competition. I would have liked to see DSD support just because that's Sony's format, and the build is a little underwhelming in some respects, but I still really enjoy this thing. If you can make due without much power, and don't have wacky armature-based IEMs that demand a <1 ohm output impedance, the A17 is an excellent choice for everyday use, and is very easy to recommend.