The following Top Reader Voted DAP scores are assigned by the readers, (Score) and apply only to all reviews where a slider voting system exists. This list includes all types of DAPs new and historical.
Please note the list will change dynamically as readers continue to vote. Higher scoring DAPs will automatically replace lower-scoring DAPs. They will also continue to change as we progressively work our way through historical reviews and add a voting system.
These lists are not to be confused with our forthcoming Editorial scoring lists which are the top gear as reviewed and scored by our review team. Those lists will form the basis of our Awards at the end of the year. Once the year is completed the Editorial scores will be deleted and the ‘annual top lists’ will start over again.
The combination of tech and sound tweaking is dangerously addictive. More importantly than that it's almost perfect for sensitive monitors with its transparent, hyper-detailed reference sound signature.
The iBasso DX300 MAX is an utterly brilliant-sounding DAP and handily knocks the DX220 MAX off its award-winning 2020 perch. It is faster, more powerful, cleaner, and more resolving than the older version.
The N8 rightfully takes its chair at the TOTL digital media player table. Not because it is one of the best sounding players out there but simply because they dared to do something different and something that has not been done before in a DAP.
The Luxury & Precision P6 DAP is a truly world-class sounding media player. On sound alone, it's sumptuous, rich-sounding, beautifully detailed, and with an impressive black background for sensitive gear. It does wonders with note texture producing a natural sound that makes it so easy to pair with and listen to without fatigue. Probably the best sounding DAP I have heard in 2020.
Kudos to HiBy for bringing out an R2R DAP on the Android platform. The RS6 presents a nice alternative to the Cayin R01/N6ii and a different sound signature also which can only benefit the potential buyer in the end. Definitely, a worthy introduction for those analog lovers whose wallets simply will not go as deep for the excellent LP P6 Pro.
The DX300 has a natural tone, a tube-like quality yet still with a very black background. It is easy on the ear with beautiful texture in both instruments and vocals as well as excellent staging to flesh it out properly.
The FiiO M15 has a neutral to natural sound with a whisper of treble brilliance, an exposition on detail where articulation is key. This is a reference sound that, to date, is about as mature as it gets for FiiO.
The Cayin R01 is easily the most likable and natural-sounding motherboard Cayin has produced to date. It is not just a timbre 'love-in' either, technically it is competitive with an excellent low noise floor performance making it perfectly suited to a wide range of monitors out there today.
The N6ii is very much a long-game digital media player. As of right now, the A01 motherboard taps into Cayin's house sound or preference for something slightly richer, sweeter, and an all-round performance that will appeal to a very wide audience indeed.
As a pure music player or for quality audio in a compact portable form factor, nothing can come close to the performance of the P6 Pro. It takes everything magical and wonderful about the R2R sound of the P6 and injects greater urgency, a slightly more accurate harmonic balance, and a big upgrade in dynamics.
The Shanling M8 tuning is the kind of sound that is deep and calming for night-time listens. With distinct resolution, excellent headroom, a strong dense mid-bass character that does not compromise dynamics, the M8 is the most expressive DAP based I have heard so far.
At the time of writing, the DX220/AMP1 MKII combo is the best sounding DAP for under $1000. No question iBasso has doubled-down on the already excellent value DX200 from 2017 and produced a stellar sound signature update for a minimal increase in price in 2019.
I still think the HiBy R6 Pro is a 'bang for buck' king for DAPs under 1k. The new tonal tuning gives it a more powerful sound and more pleasing timbre than the original R6. That lowered output impedance makes it much easier for sensitive IEM matchups.
Considering its stylish design and excellent form factor to carry as well as its easy-matching sound character that sounds sweet and dynamic with almost any IEM and small cans I plug in, the M6 Version 21 is a solid recommendation that I believe is well worth the asking price!
The E02 is easily the most dynamic sounding and Cayin's most powerful motherboard to date for the N6ii. Those looking for a balanced LO or PO solution and trying to work some good quality headphones into their daily listening habits should get plenty of reward from the E02/N6ii pairing.
I am really impressed by how much of the flagship Lotoo was able to retain inside the more affordable PAW 6000. This is nothing like the older PAW Gold/PAW 5000 product pairing. The gap between the Touch and the PAW 6000 is much closer than those two and you can expect an excellent level of audio quality out of the box for those who like neutral or reference tuning.
The M11 Pro is shortlisted into my 2019 favorites. The comprehensive experience combining great connectivity, fast UI, great build quality, and refreshing "Hifi tuning'' marks a milestone for Android-based DAPs. This the most attractive and enjoyable package at this price point I have experienced thus far.
The M6 Pro 21 is a top-notch player with a great balance between performance and design, whilst retaining their dense, powerful signature tuning. This is a highly completed and elegantly tuned design with great value for the price.
Shanling is not randomly changing some chipsets to lift the price, but to offer truly enhanced performance. The M6 Pro offers a higher degree of detail retrieval power, better tonal balance, and dynamics along with a lot more power in its output.
The iBasso AMP3 really delivers a natural analog-type sound and it is super hard to believe that this is a Sabre DAC delivering the signal. Its almost tube-like response and even harmonic bias remind me so much of those older Wolfson DAC chips floating around a few years back only so much more resolving and dynamic sounding, like the best of both old and new worlds.
The HiBy R6 2020 design, size, overall performance, and set of features makes it a real all-rounder perfect to be carried around. It is more complete than any other DAP at this price point in terms of OS experience. It has awesome matchability pairing with entry to mid-tier IEMs, delivering excellent detail.
If you are looking for a nicely designed 4.4mm ready DAP, the R5 Sabre is like an audio Swiss Army knife packing in very up-to-date features with a big sound under its small hood that may surprise you!
Pardon the use of a meme here but the HiBy R5 is a bit of a pocket rocket and has excellent value for $399. I am sure the competition will catch up but Android 8.1, MSEB, 0.5mW of output power, and a very low noise floor tick plenty of boxes for the avid DAP user.