Why Do We Need A Digital Audio Player: An Audiophile's Perspective!!
Audiophile as a hobby or our love for audio started in our childhood days. Back then we used to have Sony Walkman systems where audio cassettes were used. Slowly technology evolved and we got our hands on Discman systems, a portable audio player that instead of using audio cassettes used Audio CDs. That main problem with them, we will have to carry a lot of stuff with us as the storage capacity of those Cassettes and CDs was quite low. They were here for quite a long time, but over the past few years, technology has taken another step towards advancement. Now everything is digitalized, now we have got Digital Audio Players(Also called DAPs as a short form). A portable device that doesn’t need any audio Cassettes or CDs, simply allowing us to take our entire collection of music in a small memory stick with us. Digital Audio Players are here for some time now. We have seen several advancements in this department too, we have got Linux-based players, we have got Android-based players. We have come far from small monochromatic OLED displays to bright & colorful displays like our smartphones on the audio players.
But the main question that comes to every beginner’s mind is why do we need an audio player? Obviously, it’s a common question all-around, after all our smartphones are more than capable of playing any music file format or media format just by installing media applications. But what makes the DAPs beneficial over today’s smartphones? We are going to answer all these questions today with the help of this blog. So, without any further ado, let’s begin.
What Is A Digital Audio Player?
Isn’t the name saying it all? Digital Audio Players, as their name states are devices that can play digital audio files/streams. These are smartphone-like all-in-one devices are designed from the ground up for the sole purpose of music and media playback(Mainly Music we would say). Basically, something that can play digital audio be it in any format, Mp3, Flac, DSF, WAV, or any other, can be considered as a digital audio player. Yes, Yes we know your smartphones can also play music, but they are not dedicated only to music right. The digital audio players have a dedicated DAC(Digital To Analog Conversion) chipset that may have more than one DAC chip too. There’s also an amplification chipset for a powerful output thrust producing enough power to make your headphones and IEMs shine. If you check out the HiFi audio market today, you will notice there are many and many digital audio players available across different price segments. Beginner-level digital audio players start at around 80-100$ price range. As you go up the price ladder, you will notice improved, feature-rich players.
Some famous digital audio players in the market today:-
And many more.
There are different types of digital audio players available in the market today, mainly being the Android Music Players, and the other being with Custom OS. Android DAPs are similar to our Android phones, they have open/closed Android OS where users can install as many apps as they want(mostly in Open Android ones). If you notice the market today, most of the DAPs today are Android-based. Similar to smartphones, on Android DAPs, we can easily install any media application from the playstore(open Android devices). Even some of the Android DAPs with closed or highly customized OS support the side-loading of APKs. Linux-based DAPs are designed only for the sole purpose of music enjoyment. Brands install a proprietary or self-developed music player on these devices. Some brands have also designed Digital Audio Players with Windows operating system, but they are very limited. As of now, we know mainly of YinLvMei to design and market Windows OS DAPs.
Famous Android DAPs:-
Famous Linux-Based DAPs:-
Windows Based DAPs:-
What Makes A Digital Audio Player Different To A Regular Smartphone?
There are many things that make a DAP stand out on its own against a smartphone. Mainly smartphones are like a jack of all trades, you get calling, media, gaming, everything packed in a single package for you. But a digital audio player is designed to be a master of a single thing, to provide you with exceptional music and audio performance. Surely you can run media apps too on an android DAP but when it comes to functionalities, they are designed specifically for delivering quality sound performance. They even have pure music mode, where you skip over the Android and just get a pure music experience. At the very heart and core of a Digital Audio Player, priority is given to high-performance Digital-to-Analog decoding chips, amplifier chipsets, high-performance capacitors, resistors, all that help in bringing the best audio experience for the users. A digital audio player has multiple headphone output ports too including both single-ended as well as balanced ports. If you use Android-based digital audio players, you get access to the entire play store library of applications.
Why Use A Digital Audio Player?
We started this blog as to why one would prefer a digital audio player when today’s smartphones are easily capable of media playback. There are a few options regarding the same. Let’s get on to them.
Pure Music No Interference:-
With a digital audio player, Android or not, you don’t have to worry about any interference of any kind. Audio is the main task here given to the operating system here. They prioritize Audio playback over other tasks. There are no notifications or sounds that would interfere with the playback. Pure music mode on Android daps also skips on any other application.
An Authentic High-Resolution Audio Experience:-
As we mentioned earlier, A digital audio player is equipped with top-quality audio decoding and amplification chips. They ensure we get nothing else but high-quality audio performance with ultra-low distortion and high SNR ratings. The output via a DAP is much cleaner and more powerful when compared with smartphones in the market. They are designed for true high-resolution audio decoding, most DAPs in the market today support Hi-Res 32-Bit/768kHz PCM and native DSD512 decoding. A truly remarkable high-resolution experience awaits you with a Digital Audio Player.
Multiple Headphone Connections Including Single-Ended & Balanced Ports:-
While all the smartphone manufacturers are dropping even the single-ended 3.5mm headphone output port on the smartphones, Digital Audio Players offer multiple headphone outputs. Even the entry-level models now have both single-ended and balanced headphone output ports. Commonly found ports in a DAP are 3.5mm(single-ended), 2.5mm(balanced), and 4.4mm(balanced). Some players even have all three connections like the FiiO M11 Plus ESS, some have 3.5mm and 4.4mm connections like the Shanling M3X.
More Storage With High-Capacity Memory Cards:-
Smartphone manufacturers have also dropped MicroSD memory stick support in the latest smartphones. They have got an internal memory of up to 128GB or some top models to have even 256GB. This is good for a smartphone, but when it comes to high-resolution audio files, you need all the storage you can get to store a huge collection with you. Latest Digital players support up to 2TB of memory sticks allowing you to take your entire collection with you anywhere you go.
True Lossless experience with Apple Music:-
Apple Music recently launched Hi-Res lossless music streaming. The service is available worldwide, it runs on most smartphones. But are they technically equipped to deliver the true high-resolution lossless decoding? NOOOO, for this, a digital audio player will help you out with its high-resolution DAC chips that tend to bring out the best sound quality wherever possible. Be prepared to listen to your music in all-new clarity with true lossless music support.
Line-Out Support To Powerful Amplifiers:-
One can use their Hi-Res Digital Audio Player as a DAC(Decoder) providing line-out function to other amplifiers in the chain. These can be desktop-grade headphones or speaker amplifiers. Do note that for this, an appropriate line-out to RCA/XLR cable is required.
Any Issues With DAPs?
Well, there are no big or concerning issues with DAPs. If at all, they just make our life easy with their outstanding audio capabilities. But one has to carry them as an extra device with them(apart from smartphones). Ergonomically, DAPs have similar dimensions to that of a smartphone, just a little bit bulkier. But in weight, they are quite heavy. A common issue with Android DAPs is their Android updates. When our smartphones are now having Android 11 as base OS, some famous DAPs are still on Android 7. Brands are now moving on to Android 9 and above support too. There are no in-built speakers with DAPs, obviously good speaker systems will increase their price by a huge difference. Apart from these, we just can’t think of any other issues while using a DAP.
We as an audiophile wants nothing more than just an authentic and pure Music experience. We want to explore our music with the best quality possible in every different use case scenario. A digital audio player is something that can be used in different scenarios, use it as a portable standalone music player or simply connect it to other desktop-grade amplifiers creating a Hi-Res desktop solution for your headphones and speakers. Digital Audio Players solve most of our issues in day-to-day usage, after all, we can’t carry around our heavy desktop chains anywhere we go, these portable devices allow us to enjoy our music with high-quality performance while being portable. We hope this guide solves any questions you might have regarding digital audio players. For any further questions or queries, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.