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 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 FiiO M17 is a huge DAP but with a huge sound. It is also probably one of the most complete portable audio devices I have reviewed to date. Both headphone and IEM users will find the M17 has both the deftness and the sheer grunt to satisfy both. DC Mode is a pure joy to use for demanding planar headphones in particular.
The iBasso DX320 a deeply engaging DAP with a very competent internal ROHM DAC design, updated OS, and an excellent stock AMP card. It takes a dash of the original smooth tuning and mixes it in with the typical detail-orientated iBasso house sound. The package might look familiar but the sound is fresh and interesting and will work just fine with a wide range of gear.
The HiBy RS8 is one of the most complete DAPs launched to date. It has the most advanced operating system, a unique architecture evolved from the RS6, and quite obviously packs in my DAC of choice, R-2R.
Not just R-2R for the sake of it but desktop decoding levels of R-2R and a level of audible quality that competes with the gold standard, the P6 Pro from Luxury and Precision.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 Astell&Kern A&ultima SP3000 is a luxuriously designed DAP with an impressive sound performance that is neutral, crisp, and detailed.
If having superior vocal performance is your thing, then the Astell&Kern A&ultima SP3000 will satisfy your groove.
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.
The TempoTec V6 is a very good DAP for this competitive price with decent battery life and modern design quality. It will not break the bank at its current price point but will offer a very enticing upgrade path for those on older non-Android DAPs struggling to find something new under $400.
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.
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 Hidizs AP80 Pro-X Red Copper Edition treble is stunning. The build quality is absurdly great, the output power is getting close to negating the need for portable amplifiers, and the UI is ungodly fast and potent compared to the past models that feel much more sluggish and slower.
Overall, the highly responsive and feature-rich UI plus the hardware features come together as an enjoyable product experience, marking the M11 Plus ESS as one of the most versatile players in sound with a modern and appealing design to go along with it.