-Beats Audio/SMS Audio/SOUL by Ludacris/House of Marley/etc other artist sponsored brands (please avoid these)
-Skullcandy (please avoid)
-Logitech/Razer/Corsair/Roccat/Steelseries/Astro/etc gaming brands (Logitech is ok, the others are usually way overpriced)
-Apple/Google/Dell/Microsoft/Lenovo/Amazon/etc tech brands getting into audio (usually ok, but lacking) –Samsung (usually partnering with AKG for headphones)
-Monster (their non-cable stuff is actually decent value)
-Sony (good at every range, but midrange is the best)
-Sennheiser (good at every range, but midrange is the best)
-Apple/Google/Dell/Microsoft/Lenovo/Amazon/etc tech brands getting into audio
-Samsung (usually partnering with Harman Kardon for speakers)
-LG (usually partnering with Meridian Audio for speakers)
-Bose (entry level is better value than their high end)
-Sony (good at every range, but midrange is the best)
As people who read my blog know, and who watch my youtube, I’m a semi-audiophile, and I’m a musician. I care alot more about audio than most people do. I don’t care that much about having super high resolutions on my displays, and I think 1080p is fine for me. I still export a lot of my youtube vids in 720p still because of the space requirements of FHD. I can’t fathom making any 4K videos. I’ve always thought the display technology (IPS, IGZO, OLED etc) was more important than the resolution.
Anyways, I’m in the market for a new digital audio player (DAP). Most people just use their phones to play music these days, but I long for the days when I had a Creative Zen Vision M and people had their iPods and stuff to play music… what happened to those days? Those players were dedicated audio players, and they have discrete DACs to play music with. I feel because I play FLACs and lossless files a lot, I am best served getting a stand alone audio player.
Note that I already have a Soundblaster E5 DAC/Amp but thats more for home use… the device is kind of bulky to carry around in my pocket.
I’ve also upgraded to a pair of Denon MM400s over my Sennheiser Momentums for home use, and Fender FXA6 over my Master&Dynamic ME03s for portable use.
I’ve been using my Sony Xperia Z3C as my audio player up until now, and that is actually better than most phones due to high res / flac capabilities, but I’m about to retire that phone soon as its getting some technical issues.
So I’ve been shopping around with DAPs as there is a lot ranging from $100 – $1k+ and I’ve been looking for one around the $500~ mark. Here’s my considerations.
–Shure SHA900 – is a portable DAC/Amp, but is not a player in itself. Its probably the best portable Amp out there, but its really expensive ($1k) and I would have to carry an extra device in my pocket.
–Astell&Kern – have a strong lineup of dedicated audio players which sound great and are nicely designed, but most of them have a steep price, and I prefer having an Android interface so I can access my music apps. (DAC: Wolfson WM8740)
–Onkyo DAP-X1 – is pretty nice, runs Android lollipop and has dual DACs/Amps and a balanced out and 2 microSD slots, but a bit expensive considering I don’t even use balanced headphones. (DAC: 2 ESS Sabre ES9018K2M)
–Sony Walkman ZX2 – is now much cheaper online due to its age, but its still a good one to think about. Sony has always been renowned for its products and I am a acknowledged Sony fan, but to nitpick a little here – the Android OS version Jellybean is kind of outdated and it lacks some features the other DAPs have like having a DAC, and for the price, there could be better.
–Colorfly C4 – looks hands down the coolest DAP I’ve ever seen, complete with built in RCA inputs and switchable SRC, but is a bit bulky and the controls while very retro, don’t look the easiest to use. Runs its own OS as well. (DAC: Cirrus Logic CS4398 the exact same one as my Soundblaster E5)
–Acoustic Research M2 – looks great, slim, runs Android, etc but price point is a bit high, and only available in Europe it seems. There are cheaper players with the same specs. (DAC: Burr-Brown PCM1794A)
–Hifiman HM802S – having a balanced out is nice, as well as a retro clickwheel and has a modular amplifier card that can be replaced. However the bulk and lack of Android means this suffers from the same issue as the Colorfly C4. (DAC: Wolfson WM8740)
–FiiO x7 – FiiO has always been a brand for good value, affordable yet good quality. And I was really drawn to this player. It’s got everything the expandable storage, good price, slimness, running Android lollipop, and swappable amp modules. (DAC: ESS Sabre ES9018S)
–Pioneer XDP-100R – this is basically the Onkyo DAP with one less DAC and amp chip and no balanced out and as a result its slightly cheaper. I like this one a lot too, it runs Android lollipop, slim enough, has a speaker surprisingly, and has 2 microSD slots for expansion. (DAC: ES9018K2M)
In the end, I was deciding between the FiiO x7 and the Pioneer XDP and the Pioneer won by a hair. The speaker and 2 microSD slots made the difference. You never know, I might need to show my friend some youtube videos and the speaker comes in handy. They are both at the perfect price points since I don’t use balanced headphones.
Anyways, can’t go wrong with any of these, they all have microSD for expansion, some form of DAC to make the music sound a lot better, and support for high res formats like DSD, DXD, PCM, MQA etc although I really only care about FLAC. I think MQA has a good future but it needs more support and if it was widely available I’d use that more.
And.. in other news I got Lasik Surgery in Korea!
My time in Korea is becoming short and I wanted to do surgery here since Korea is world class in experienced surgeons and most Koreans get it done more than other Asians. Maybe 90% of Korean girls wear contacts or did Lasik. Plus, its cheaper, only $1500 for me compared to $3k/$4k/$5k in USA/Canada.
I highly recommend this site Dream Eye Center the staff can speak English, its located in Gangnam, and the doctors and staff are very professional and helpful. Alot of Kpop stars did it there too so you know that have good credentials.
I was a bit nervous at first, but it was ok.. there was no pain, but it was slightly disturbing because I can see the blade come down and cut a flap in my cornea, and theres a suction cup placed on my eye and that was slightly painful for a second. That was about it… and now my vision is a bit blurry especially in my left eye, and I have to use 3 different eye drops a day. But it will get better within a week I heard. Anyways, through the miracle of technology I don’t need glasses anymore after wearing them for 10 years!
This is my main / entertainment laptop now. I’ve ditched my X240 and Yoga 14 for this basically. A light, convertible laptop, weighs only 2.8lbs (substantially lighter than the Yoga 14 which I previously had), docks with a one link dock connector and wireless dock, has that traditional Thinkpad robust build quality and great trackpoint keyboard, and is convertible which means I can watch movies in 4 different modes, and comes with a gorgeous 1440p OLED screen to boot. Just perfect. It replaces my Thinkpad Yoga 14.
Asus ROG G751 (2015) – replaced my 2011 HP Envy Beats, 2015 Thinkpad Yoga 14
This is my main gaming laptop since August 2015. I hook it up to my Creative T4W speakers, Shure MV51 mic, Asus ROG Gladius mouse and Aorus K1 mechanical keyboard to do some serious gaming and video editing work. The GTX 970M graphics card just screams and it has GSync and cool afterburner LED lights in the back as well courtesy of XoticPC. It is quite heavy though, being a 17 inch gaming laptop, so it basically stays on my desk unless I have to move out.
Vaio S (2016) – replaced my ThinkPad X240
My main travel laptop now, it has everything you want. Only 2.3lbs, 13″ screen, 9 hr+ battery life, VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, 3 usb ports in such a slim and light package, etc the businessman’s laptop for traveling. It replaces my Thinkpad X240.
Mac Mini (2012) – replaced my 2012 MacBook Pro 13
My main multimedia / programming computer.
Tablets/Phones iPad Air (2013)
The iPad Air is my go to tablet for surfing, gaming, music or reading.
iPhone SE (2016) – replaced my 2013 iPhone 5S
The iPhone SE is my main camera and video recorder. No other smartphones can beat the combination of its camera + shutter speed. Plus love the small size which is what cameraphones should be! light and small. It replaces my aging iPhone 5S.
Sony Xperia Z3C (2014)
The Sony Xperia Z3C is my main Korea phone, mp3 player and messenger device as it has been since late 2014.
Blackberry Priv (2015)
The Blackberry Priv is the phone I use in Canada/US and its a great phone for web browsing/surfing, and document editing as well. It replaces my Blackberry Passport.
For playing retro Windows games
For playing DOS games
New Nintendo 3DS
For playing Nintendo Games
Sony PS Vita
For playing JRPGs
Nvidia Shield Portable
The Nvidia Shield is my emulator console and also doubles as a game stream capable tablet for my Asus! Video here:
These have replaced my old earphones (Klipsch X12i, broken) and my now broken Bose Quietcomfort 25s (warranty expired) as my travel headphones. Because they are in-ear headphones they are also easier to carry, and block out some noise passively which is nice.
Denon Music Master MM400 (2016) – replaced 2014 Sennheiser Momentum
Absolutely the best over ear headphones I’ve ever had, these now have replaced my Sennheiser Momentums which were falling apart as well.
These have replaced my Bose Soundlink Mini as my new portable speaker, sounds great and comes with a variety of features like mp3 player, voice recorder, USB DAC etc
Creative T4W (2015)
Its my 2.1 speaker system I use to connect to my Asus, but can also be used for bluetooth, PS4, Mac Mini, record player etc alot of things it has traditional RCA analog input as well as optical in.
Nikon D5100 (2013)
My DSLR camera for serious video making. I usually pair it with my Samyang T1.5 24mm cinema prime lens.
Sony Music Video Recorder (2014)
This camera is mainly used for casual recording video blogs, music videos and video reviews. Basically my youtube camera now.
GoPro Hero3+ Silver (2014)
My camera for action shots like biking, scooter, hiking, swimming, etc
DJI OSMO (2015)
My go to camera for taking cinematic walking shots, party shots, basically it simulates having a DSLR + stabilizer + tripod + glider which is amazing
DJI Phantom 3 (2015)
My drone which is useful for taking aerial footage, personal cameraman, and hooks up to the autopilot app for more modes like orbit, cable cam and follow me.
All of this equipment can be seen in my camera equipment video here:
25 most awesome gadgets I own:
1. Sharp Zaurus C1000 (2004) – Clamshell Linux PDA
2. Sony Clie UX50 (2004) – Clamshell Palm OS PDA
3. Sony Vaio UX (2006) – Slider UMPC
4. Vulcan Flipstart (2007) – Clamshell UMPC
5. Nokia N95 (2007) – Dual slider Symbian smartphone
6. Archos 7 (2008) – Linux based PMP
7. HP iPAQ 210 (2008) – One of the last Windows Mobile Pocket PC
8. Nokia N810 (2008) – Linux based internet device
9. Sharp Netwalker (2009) – Pocket Smartbook
10. MS Zune HD (2010) – Touch controlled MP3 Player
11. Fujitsu UH900 (2010) – Pocket Netbook
12. Onkyo DX (2010) – Dual screen Netbook
13. Toshiba Libretto W100 (2010) – Dual touch screen Netbook
14. Sony Tablet P (2011) – Dual touch screen tablet
15. Blackberry Porsche (2011) – Ltd Edition Blackberry
16. HP Pre 3 (2011) – Last Palm & WebOS smartphone
17. Open Pandora (2012) – Linux based gaming console / umpc
18. Nvidia Shield Portable (2013) – Android gaming handheld
19. Apple iPhone 5S (2013) – the last great small Apple phone
20. Razer Edge Pro (2013) – most powerful standalone gaming tablet
21. Nokia Lumia 1020 (2013) – 41mp Windows smartphone
22. Sony PS Vita Slim (2014) – current gen Sony handheld
23. Neptune Pine (2014) – Smallest Android device
24. Blackberry Priv (2015) – Touchscreen / Slider Android smartphone
25. Lenovo X1 Yoga (2016) – First OLED Convertible laptop