Audiophile-grade Streaming From Auralic Aries Mini – For about $550 the Chinese-made AURALiC Aries Mini comes in black plastic or white, hooks up to an existing DAC or amp and pulls music from the cloud or home-based data storage. There’s an optional low-noise linear PSU for $299 additional. The Aires Mini is also free to work with Bluetooth or Airplay. It is a Wi-Fi-cable NAS drive and plays lossless hi-res streaming from Qobuz and Tidal. Tidal Hifi is even an added free bonus for U.S. buyers for a year. John H. Darko in REVIEWSSOURCES thinks it’s analog outputs even sound better than the much more expensive Sonos system. See his review if you have an iPhone or iPad and are into hi-res streaming.
Onkyo Has New DP-X1 Hi-Res Audio Player – It follows the Android system, sports separate DACs and amps for each channel, handles up to DSD and the new MQA formats and is only $899. It has 32GB built-in storage and can support up to 432GB. You have access to the Google Play Story and can plug into most any hi-res streaming system out there, including Tidal and Onkyo’s own OnkyoMusic. The main difference from a typical smartphone is the absent camera(s) and cell connections. It promises up to 16 hours of continuous playback, and has a 4.7” 720p display panel.
Pioneer XDP-100R Rated Best of Three by TechHive – The Android $699 Pioneer hi-res DAP was compared with the cheaper Astell&Kern AK Jr. and the more expensive Questyle QP1R and found superior. Navigating is effortless, it will support MQA in a future firmware update, and if you have trouble reading small font sizes, only the Android OS provides font-size options. TechHive suggests you always look for players that support, at a minimum, ALAC, DSD and FLAC files – since those are the most common codecs used by hi-res download sites. The location and size of the volume controls are also important, as is the way a DAP handles copying music files to its internal storage – some are quite complicated. They also recommend looking for players whose DACs will support at least 24/192, which enables decoding a digital signal with up to that maximum sampling rate. Not all DAPs come with Wi-Fi adapters, and fewer are integrated with streaming services, so be sure to get one that can connect to Wi-Fi networks. If the DAP doesn’t have it’s own analog volume control, it won’t work with in-line headphones, so if that important to you bear it in mind.