The Quest for the Best Hi-Res Music Player Under $100
This article is the 2022 audiophile list of the best HD audio players under $100. We list the best models and give tips on what to look out for when buying cheap audiophile DAPs.
So you don't want to break the bank? You have a tight budget. However, you still value sound and want to buy the best sounding Hi-Res music player or MP3 player for under $100. Let me tell you that it is possible to have audiophile quality high definition music for little money.
Top 5 Cheap Hi-Res Music Players for 2022
Hiby R2: A feature-rich portable music player
The Hiby R1 is a compact and affordable music player that supports high definition playback.
Very feature rich
colored touch screen
excellent sound quality
The operating system is a bit clunky due to the size
Hiby has always received a lot of praise for its ability to deliver excellent feature-packed high-resolution audio players for people on a budget. The company's R6 players have been a huge hit with the audiophile community, and Hiby has passed many of the high-end features to this more affordable model.
While it might not be able to match the all-around performance of more expensive devices, it's an incredible sounding player that far exceeds its weight.
I love the design of the R2 with its clean lines and simple touch interface. It is well made and so small that it fits in your pocket. The hardware is excellent as the ES9218 DAC can handle a variety of modern music formats. In addition, it uses state-of-the-art Bluetooth codecs such as Aptx and LDAC to ensure high quality sound when using wireless headphones.
The audio player R2 is small and weighs only 85g. It's well-made and extremely portable with a magnesium alloy body and 2.45-inch touchscreen. Battery life is a solid around 10 hours and it has USB-C connectivity for charging and use as an external computer DAC. Oh, and if you're worried about storage space, peace of mind knowing that the R2 supports micro SD cards up to 2TB.
If money was at stake and sound quality was a priority, I would choose the Hiby R2 as my sub-$100 player of choice.
Sony NWE394 - Better battery life
Ultra-portable design fits easily in your pocket
Classic Sony sound with Xbass
35 hours of battery life
The internal memory is small and cannot be expanded
There's a lot to love about this device, and it's hard not to start with the super clean looks. The style is on point despite being a few years old. Sony packed quality components into a small package to make the NWE394 feel like a premium device. Then you will see that the price is often well under $100.
Features are solid but not as advanced as some of the other digital music players on the list. Battery life in our tests showed an impressive 32.5 hours at 70% volume, with a full charge taking just under 2 hours. That's crazy at this price and size.
The sound is good as long as you use easy-to-drive headphones. It has a fun and energetic voice that is typical of Sony consumer devices.
If you are just looking for an easy to use player with good battery life, then this is for you. If you're looking for the latest and greatest in file support, the other options we'll discuss here are more appropriate.
FIWWAT music player
fiWWAT player is old school cool with great battery life.
Excellent battery life (20 hours)
State of the art file support
The boxy body is awkward to drive.
The FIIWAT is a strange little beast. I had never heard of this cheap music player, but when I took it to the office for a full review I was blown away. It seemed to have more than enough power to drive my headphones and handled a lot more lossless files than I expected. Take a look at this list as FIIWAT DSD64, DSD128, DSD256 (.dff and .dsf), FLAC (up to 192kHz/24bit), ALAC (up to 192kHz/24bit), APE (up to 96 kHz/24-bit), WAV supported (up to 192 kHz/24-bit.
The body also caught my attention as it was very small but made from armor-like materials. The buttons were nice and responsive with the simple but functional operating system. Oh, and I love the fact that they include a physical volume control that you can use to make fine adjustments.
There are two versions of this player and if you only spend a little more you can get the version with bluetooth audio so wireless headphone lovers can also use this DAP.
It supports 256GB micro SD cards and performed well in our 17-hour battery drain test at 70% volume. A limitation for some is that it doesn't work well with Apple computers, but that's not a problem if you put your files on the micro SD card.
Sansa Clip Sport Go - The Myth, The Legend... Continued
Cult following and a strong supportive community.
Powerful with balanced sound
well refined design
Some features are missing
The old standard of budget audiophiles and avid MP3 players for many years before the DAP market really took off. When MP3 players were full of junk hardware and distorted sound, the Sansa Clip stood out with its wonderfully flat and balanced sound. your music player.
The new Clip Sports Go is the evolution and not just a cheap MP3 player for running. Instead, it's an overall more refined version of the original that does everything a little better and sounds fantastic.
It works well with most headphones and earbuds and plays many high-resolution formats out of the box.
You'll also find MicroSD card support, multiple playlist features, and equalizer settings to tweak your sound.
The Clip is the cheapest music player on this list, and it sounds good for starters.
Xuelin Audio Hifi790 - Best Budget DAP with Balanced Output
Huge file support, including DSD
Balanced 2.5mm headphone jack
The screen is very small.
Balanced headphone jack...need I say more. This is a powerful little device and the only budget player with a balanced output that I can recommend this year. if you use headphones or headphones that need a little more juice (Like the timeless 7Hz)
This little player might look a bit odd with its small screen, but in a range of colors and a metal body, I think it's a really nice design and has gained a cult following with its incredible list of features and sound quality.
It offers amazing codec support and can handle DSD64, DSD 128 and DSD256 as well as other lossless music standards like FLAC, ALAC and WAV. You also get that physical volume slider that lets you seamlessly make adjustments while playing.
Did you know that you can turn your phone into a Hi-Res music player with an external DAC and amplifier?
Ok, these aren't DAPs, but a lot of people don't even know these products exist. Most people probably carry their cellphones with them everywhere, but with the disappearance of headphone jacks, they feel like they've lost the ability to use quality wired headphones. That's no longer true, and some audio companies are producing tiny audiophile dongles with DACs and amp chips inside that can turn your smartphone into a Hi-Res audio player.
My favorite external DAC actually has Bluetooth and a balanced jack so you can use it untethered from your phone.
The Audioquest Dragonfly (Original review here) is one of the most popular of all time and is a thumb drive sized amp/DAC unit that greatly expands your phone's audio capabilities. Similar,Nextdrive hat die X spectrum, jCozy has the bar-C. These are all great options that improve the sound tremendously while still allowing you to use Spotify and Tidal.
Not compatible with any decent audio player under $100Spotifyand tidal playback, so using your phone as a transport device is a huge benefit. Of course, the other big benefit of this method is that these DACs use the excellent ESS Saber DAC, something found in daps over $400. Sounds great and costs nothing.
Tips before buying a cheap DAP!
Your priorities need to be in order, there are steps you can take to get better sounding music, and there are multiple pieces of the puzzle that go into creating good sound.
Use well-mastered music
Start with quality master tracks. Music produced to a high standard will always sound better, and no amount of money spent on headphones or MP3 players will improve poorly mastered music. In cases where the source material is bad, a good pair of headphones really shows how bad the music is.
Upgrade your music file formats to improve sound quality for free
Next, it is always better to have high quality source music files. That means choosing file formats that degrade the sound of the original recording as little as possible. For example, low-speed MP3 files compress music files so much that the music loses much of its detail and nuance. Our suggestion is to get high quality files like high bitrate MP3s in FLAC and even DSD. Lossless or near-lossless music formats are important here, which greatly improves the result when combined with other audiophile components. We suggest that you read aloudList of the best music formatsto better understand your options.
Why is it worth buying cheap HD music players?
In the two areas above, you'll get 60-70% of your sound improvements in a portable audio setup. Despite what some people profess to believe, the real improvement in sound is when you switch from one of these budget audiophile DAPs (digital audio players) listed below to one of our bestHi-Res-Music-Player-Listit is relatively low.
Budget DAPs are amazing and have come a long way in the last decade. Although they lack some of the features of more expensive units, they usually have solid DAC and amp sections and that's what counts most at this price point.
You'll see a more dramatic jump if coming from something like a cheap cell phone or MP3 player. Switching to one of these dedicated music players designed for sound quality will make a significant difference.
There are also some additional benefits to using a dedicated audio player to listen to your music on the go and being able to handle a wider range of formats compared to more basic devices. Also a dedicated independent unit with increased drive powerHigh impedance headphonesit can also be a significant benefit for some. Don't forget that using a separate audio player saves your smartphone battery on the go.
Many factors go into making a great-sounding, full-featured DAP, and these are my top 5 picks when money is a little tight. The best portable audio player solutions are currently under $100.
What is a DAP? Digital Audio Players are electronic devices capable of storing and playing high-resolution music or media files. Many digital formats, resolutions, and encoding exist. Most DAPs can comfortably play most digital files. DAPs are designed to play high-resolution or “lossless” digital files.What is a good cheap reliable MP3 player? ›
- 01 SanDisk 32GB Clip Sport Plus MP3 Player. ...
- 02 Sony NWE394/B 8GB Walkman MP3 Player. ...
- 03 RUIZU Bluetooth MP3 Player. ...
- 04 AGPTEK Curved Screen Portable Music Player. ...
- 05 BERENNIS 16GB Portable Music Player. ...
- 06 Hotechs Music Player.
A lossless audio file format is the best format for sound quality. These include FLAC, WAV, or AIFF. These types of files are considered “hi-res” because they are better or equal to CD-quality.Where can I listen to audiophile quality music? ›
- Tidal—Where exclusive video meets spatial audio.
- Qobuz—Own your music in the highest fidelity possible.
- Deezer—90 million tracks and CD-quality flow.
While DAPs have built-in integrated amplifiers, desktop DAC players require a separate amplifier device to amplify its signals. Amplifiers are completely analog, and require DAC or DAP players to provide its signals.Should you get a DAP? ›
If you plan to stream music over the Internet, then we strongly recommend buying a DAP with Wi-Fi. It will make your life so much easier. You'll certainly spend a little more for the privilege – the top Wi-Fi enabled DAP at the moment is the $450 FiiO M11 – but it's definitely worth it.What is the difference between DAP and MP3 player? ›
A DAP digital music player is a portable device designed to provide quality audio. Its performance surpasses that of any old mp3 player, iPod or smartphone. They have technical specifications that allow you to play music with very low distortion and better balance.Which MP3 player quality is best? ›
- iPhone SE. Best for die-hard iTunes users. $450 at Best Buy.
- Apple Watch. Music on your wrist. $197 at Amazon. Price alerts on for Apple Watch.
- Mighty Vibe. Screenless Spotify option. $120 at Amazon. Price alerts on for Mighty Vibe Spotify Music Player (gully blue)
The MP3 format can range from around 96 to 320Kbps, and streaming services like Spotify range from around 96 to 160Kbps. High bitrates appeal to audiophiles, but they are not always better.Can you use too much DAP? ›
DAP stimulates fermentation rate, so if too much is added at once, the yeast may ferment too fast and too hot.
To clear the air, a simple test called phosphate fixation capacity can indicate whether the soil requires phosphorus fertilisation every season. The argument by extension officers that the NPK fertiliser is superior to DAP because the latter does not acidify soils is highly debatable.What is difference between DAP and NP? ›
The key difference between DAP and NPK fertilizer is that the DAP fertilizer has no potassium whereas the NPK fertilizer contains potassium as well. The term DAP refers to diammonium phosphate, and it is a phosphate fertilizer; the world's most common phosphorus fertilizer.What is the most high quality way to listen to music? ›
If sound quality is your top priority, your best bet is to listen to vinyl records through high-fidelity headphones. This way, you'll experience the most accurate depiction of the waveform through a truly immersive channel that gives you the full experience of a stereo mix.What is the highest quality music source? ›
The highest quality MP3 has a bitrate of 320kbps, whereas a 24-bit/192kHz file has a data rate of 9216kbps. Music CDs are 1411kbps. The hi-res 24-bit/96kHz or 24-bit/192kHz files should, therefore, more closely replicate the sound quality the musicians and engineers were working with in the studio.Is sound quality better on CD or streaming? ›
They deliver uncompressed audio, whereas most streamed music uses data-compression formats that entail removing some digital information to make song files small enough to stream.
Audiophiles play music from a variety of sources including phonograph records, compact discs (CDs), and digital audio files that are either uncompressed or are losslessly compressed, such as FLAC, DSD, Windows Media Audio 9 Lossless and Apple Lossless (ALAC), in contrast to lossy compression, such as in MP3 encoding.How can I listen to master quality music? ›
Master quality is available with a HiFi Plus membership on iOS or Android devices, the TIDAL desktop app, and connected devices. When you are in the TIDAL desktop application, go to “Home” and scroll to “Master Quality Authenticated Albums” or “Master Quality Authenticated Playlists" and click “View all.”Do CDs have the best audio quality? ›
These digital files are so highly compressed, you don't get the full rich sound experience — and they're prone to distortion. So if you want your music to sound its best, you have to put it on CD.Do Daps sound better? ›
Short answer: no. I have a DAP, I use it all the time, can recommend it, note that it has a similarly priced successor with more output, but that is not a big concern to me. However, if the only question is sound quality, that dongle is about as good a performer as any reasonably priced portable device.Do I need both a DAC and amp? ›
DO I NEED A DAC/AMP? Yes, you absolutely need both! But chances are pretty high that the DAC and Amp in your phone or PC are totally fine. All consumer headphones are designed to be used with portable devices and desktop computers.
In most cases, the answer is no.
Unless your audio is suffering from jittering or hissing, a DAC isn't going to do much for you. It's generally better to invest the extra money you'd otherwise spend on a DAC into getting better headphones. For most people, built-in DACs offer enough to enjoy perfectly fine audio.
- ASD Music and Video Player.
- MiXplorer Silver.