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.
Top 30 DAPs as voted on by our readers
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 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.
No question the DX220 MAX is the most accomplished media player iBasso has ever made and puts the already impressive DX220 (AMP1 MKII) firmly in the shade in terms of sound quality.
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 R8 is possibly the most complete DAP on the market at the time of writing. That will mean different things to different people, it just depends on what you want your DAP to do.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 DX160 completes what I now call the triumvirate of killer mid-fi DAPs that I have heard this year including HiBy's R5 and FiiO's M11. Importantly, each DAP offers something unique and they all differentiate themselves from each other quite easily. Together, they set a difficult bar to overcome for new entries sub-$500.
I still think the 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 FiiO M11 is not the best sounding DAP out there but the comfortable tuning with fantastic hardware performance makes this DAP an excellent multimedia player and streaming machine.
The R3 Pro is a steady evolution of an already proven platform, the excellent R3. The main improvements are in the output power and overall tuning. The tone is now a shade more natural, smoother, and richer compared to the R3. The bass hits harder, the instruments fuller sounding and overall you are going to get a better level of PRaT from such this tiny DAP.
Well, I am very impressed with the sound quality of the DTR1 Prelude. Dethonray has really extracted a lot out of this old DAC and cured it of some ills I tended to hear in quite a lot of other sources that use this chip.
The R6 is a truly excellent digital media player with an insane price for the features and hardware inside. I have been saying this all year and the R6 really caps off what I think is a stellar year for getting the price to performance ratio just right in the sub-$1000 category.
Pardon the use of a meme here but the R5 is a bit of a pocket rocket and excellent value for $399. I am sure the competition will catch up but Android 8.1, HiBy MSEB, 0.5mW of output power, and a very low noise floor has got to tick plenty of boxes for the avid DAP user.
ColorFly's U8 is a slick, powerhouse of a DAP with excellent sonic capabilities, a fantastic EQ system, and a great set of features that range from Wi-Fi all the way to a touch volume sensor.
This is much more exciting and unique compared to making yet another Android machine. It is stylish, compact, balanced in sound and performance, and doesn’t harm any fiscal kidneys. I wish I had such a DAP back in highschool so thumbs up to HiBy, this will now be my entry-level DAP recommendation to anyone who asks.
The Cayin N3Pro DAP is a budget-friendly fresh spin on the original flagship N8's groundbreaking use of tubes inside a DAP. It is priced at $479.
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.
I stated that the X5iii was the benchmark for mid-fi DAPs in Feb 2017. Standing by that assessment is easy after hearing the N5ii because anything that gets a thumbs-up in my book has to beat that benchmark. The N5ii gets a thumbs-up in a lot of areas.
I have to admit I am in love with my DX90. Perhaps the HM-901 is the more mature and natural-sounding DAP and the FiiO X5 has a better battery life but the DX90 has just the right type of tonality to make it a great match for my Merlin's and pretty darn good on the rest of the gear.
Last year this DAP was king of the hill in many people's eyes and in some respect this year the same is true but now with the advent of the AK240 from Astell & Kern at almost double the price and capable of native DSD playback you have to wonder if Hifiman can keep pace given how long it took to get the HM-901 to the market.
At such an early stage the R3 shows plenty of promise and a very rewarding sound signature. It is by far the most advanced non-Android based 'entry-to-mid-fi' DAP at this price point. It also allows HiBy Music to show off their technical ability in how they have expanded the OS into a touch-capable connected OS that can run really well on a fairly modest processor.
In terms of sound quality, the DX150 is probably one of the best sounding mid-fi DAPs out there right now. No DAP under $500 has the same 'open-ended' potential. iBasso's existing amp card system offers potential users a whole host of very refined amplification options.
At $339 the T01 is no mere accessory and it sits comfortably beside the A01 as an alternative motherboard for those who prefer something a little more open sounding, a bit lighter in tone, or more neutral in timbre.