High def digital audio players.

Started by Captain Ron, April 07, 2015, 16:58:45 pm

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Captain Ron

April 07, 2015, 16:58:45 pm Last Edit: April 28, 2015, 15:53:46 pm by Captain Ron
A couple of days of extended listening on my ipod touch using my trusty shure 530 in ear buds is making me realise the shortcomings of the ipod as a playback device.

Consequently I have been looking at dedicated high definition portable audio players and researching them.

This little gem looks like it could be the ticket. The iBasso DX90. Anyone here have one and care to comment?

[urli]http://www.ibasso.com/products-detail.php?id=182[/url]
"I was brought up to believe" (but never to leave beer)

Dave64K

April 07, 2015, 18:11:52 pm #1 Last Edit: April 08, 2015, 09:02:43 am by Dave64K
Some review here Ron if that helps  http://www.head-fi.org/products/ibasso-dx90-portable-digital-audio-player

I don't know if you've read this authoratitive piece on HD audio but it might save you some pennies  ;D  http://www.jamesgibbon.com/the-high-definition-audio-con/

Having had a play with some high quality streaming and got one of these http://www.homehifi.co.uk/S/tc-7533.htm for the bargain price of £65 I have to say I agree with the blog above (at least by my ears)

While taking pieces of music up the bit depth/sampling ladder I've noticed that the most noticeable imrprovement is going from the tyoical compressed world of 160-192kbos to 1141kbps CD quality. I'd liken this too looking through a window that needs cleans and then looking at the same view without realising the glass is there.

I was surprised that going from 160-192kbps to 320kbps didn't seem to yield a 2x improvement (ie I found it harder to notice) and in the same way going from 320kbps to 1141 didn't seem to yield a 3x improvement (again my ears my perception)

As for higher values......well I couldn't hear anything different.

So my inclination would be to find a great CD quality player making sure that the components used are high quality....not just the dac but the other components on the analogue side (also the storage, battery like and GUI you need).....and then indudge yourself with the cans that make the music the best fit with your ears.

This is all good news for me as I can keep my current hifi going for years to come and probably downgrade in style as my ears get older.

Good debate though  :D
How could you expect me to live without you? One cannot become accustomed to the loss of happiness.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away

Slim

Agreed that a different sampling rate / bit depth can't provide an improvement and it's not actually an argument if you know how it works, but some portable audio players are definitely better than others nonetheless. I normally loathe Apple products but must admit that my 80G iPod Video does sound really good, probably by virtue of the fact that it uses the highly regarded Wolfson audio chip.

I've run out of space on that one though so it's something I've been thinking about myself. I love my music and take it with me a lot. Something that had the space for my FLACs would be nice but that would take up about 350G as things stand, and that's a growing figure. Will settle for MP3s for the foreseeable future, but I need something that sounds really good and will take a 128G micro SD card.

You definitely do see diminishing returns after 128k or so. I encode at 256 VBR which is thoroughly decent, even if you pipe it through a HiFi. FLAC would be nice, maybe one day.

Dave64K

April 08, 2015, 09:00:48 am #3 Last Edit: April 08, 2015, 09:59:23 am by Dave64K
Looks like you can load some software called Rockbox onto Ipod Classics if you want to listen to lossless music  http://www.head-fi.org/t/532426/ipod-classic-rockbox-its-happening

They have the advantage of good storage and battery life too.....assuming you can live with 160Gb max?

Makes for a rather retro solution but looks like one that's liked by quite a few users (esp those that want to bypass iTunes  ;))

Here's a list of user reviews for DAPs from Head-Fi http://www.head-fi.org/products/category/digital-audio-flac-mp3-players  Am sure there are other websites too

Also another review of the DX90  http://headfonics.com/2014/07/the-dx90-by-ibasso/

This is quite a funny video rant on Hi Def Players from 2013  https://youtu.be/_EKAp1yZDhM 

The author updated the comments just a week ago with the following......." since I first published this video the DX50 UI has been improved to the point that most people now say its stable, mine still sucks though. The AK stuff is pricey but works quite well and CalyxM is a good player too. I should know I own both the AK120 and the CalyxM. Still, none of them are like the UI king, the iPod, but at least they're stable enough that they work. Just for your information, as good as they sound and although stable I'm now selling both players. Reason, I'm to paranoid to take them out for fear of losing them because they're both pricey. I've gone full circle the other way and have started looking into investing more into a good desktop setup"
How could you expect me to live without you? One cannot become accustomed to the loss of happiness.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away

Dave64K

How could you expect me to live without you? One cannot become accustomed to the loss of happiness.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away

Captain Ron

You can definitely tell it's early market days for the high def portable DAP. To try and find consistent reviews that are objective is truly difficult. Clear sign of a market in infancy. The iBasso DX90 has mixed reviews. The Cowon Plenue P1 gets good reviews and with the latest firmware can be used as a USB DAC as well but it's not exactly a trivial purchase at over £700! Methinks I will leave it a year and let the market mature a bit.
"I was brought up to believe" (but never to leave beer)

Slim

Quote from: Dave64K on April 08, 2015, 09:00:48 am
Looks like you can load some software called Rockbox onto Ipod Classics if you want to listen to lossless music  http://www.head-fi.org/t/532426/ipod-classic-rockbox-its-happening


Yes, I did that to mine years ago actually - it will work with FLAC, but I haven't tried that due to space constraints. What's nice though is that it allows gapless playback, especially nice to have for live albums. I think the sound is a little bit better than the regular Apple firmware as well, though there's not much in it.

Captain Ron

I do like the idea of hacking old ipods to give them a new lease of life. New DAC for higher resolution support and a Rockbox interface. Pimp my PMP if you will. :)

Found a few more reviews on the Plenue P1 and there appears to be some consistency of opinion on that one. Lots of "sounds great" positive comments and some negative battery life (8 hrs) comments. Considering the electronics in the device I wouldn't expect it to have a long battery life and anyhow I seldom do more than two to three hours of headphone based listening per day anyway. I am tempted but oh there's that price. (ouch!)
"I was brought up to believe" (but never to leave beer)

Dave64K

That Cowon P1 looks nice but as you say....at a price.

I still probably have my phone with me more often that a audio player so nor sure how I can make that experience much better (esp as it's a Blackberry.....don't laugh!)

I've downloaded a 3rd Party player for my Q10 called Neutron which can play lossless formats so will give that a go with a 32gb card I think. That matches the capacity of my Sony NWZ-1060.....which shows you how far back I am in the DAP game  :) Still an nice sounding player though
How could you expect me to live without you? One cannot become accustomed to the loss of happiness.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away

Slim

Quote from: Dave64K on April 08, 2015, 09:55:24 am
Interesting custom job on your iPod model James  :)

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Black-480Gb-Apple-iPod-Video-Classic-5th-Gen-Wolfson-DAC-High-Capacity-Battery-/111622332704?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item19fd35a120


:)

If I could find a reasonably priced way of upgrading the hard drive on my iPod to a larger SSD that didn't involve me hacking it to bits myself, that would do me nicely. At the moment it looks like my best bet might be an Android phone with nice audio hardware that takes 128G memory cards.


Valen

Try living with a 16g player.......

If your focus is on the sound quality, have you considered using a headphone amp?

Recent Sony players have had their sound crippled by a volume lock imposed by the EEC. I managed to get round this with a portable amp, which actually sounded better than my older Sony models before the volume block was imposed.

I've got the Fiio E5 (now E6) and the E11 and they both work wonders, giving you more volume if you need it but without compressing the sound the higher you go. (I rarely go beyond 3 out of 10), but also adding more depth to the bass and added clarity to the treble. They're small enough to easily attach to your player, either via a clip or by heavy duty rubber bands supplied with the E11.

You'll also need an LOD cable - if you use the jacked cable that comes with the Fio, you'll still have to balance the volume between the Fiio amp and the Ipod's in-built amp. However, if you use an LOD, it cuts out the signal from the player amp, and the music goes directly through the portable amp. Sounds way better, and it means you can turn the player volume to zero and save on the player's battery.

Your Shures will love it - I have the old 425s, and they really came alive once I added the amp.

Captain Ron

It's my Shure 535PTH's that have sent me on this quest. Startlingly revealing little in ear headphones.
"I was brought up to believe" (but never to leave beer)

Captain Ron

The Cowon Plenue P1 has a little brother coming soon. The Plenue M. Initial reports would seem to indicate that it's exactly the same as the P1 only with half the onboard memory and it looks like around £200 less than the P1. Considering a 128GB class 10 SDXC card is only around £80 it seems a more logical choice. Been reading more reviews of the P1. Seems to be a very high level of consensus on the sound quality of this unit and a strong thumbs up for the ability to drive larger 3ohm headphones well.
"I was brought up to believe" (but never to leave beer)

Beebop

Have you considered the sony players? Flac etc .

http://www.sony.co.uk/electronics/walkman/nwz-a-series

Worth trying before spending too much on a higher end player?

Valen

Quote from: Beebop on April 20, 2015, 16:25:27 pm
Have you considered the sony players? Flac etc .

http://www.sony.co.uk/electronics/walkman/nwz-a-series

Worth trying before spending too much on a higher end player?


john Lewis are on a Sony push at the moment and have the new NWZ-A15 player set up for you to try with your own headphones. Didn't sound too shabby, and that was with MP£ tracks on it. the FLAC tracks sounded even better - shame about the choice of music....