Digital Audio Players (DAPs) are all the rage these days, perhaps in spite of Apple’s dominance in the pocket rocket space. I mean, come on — if Apple had stopped dicking around, there would be no room for companies like [insert tiny DAP company here] to come in at all, much less prove the market segment as viable, which caught the eye of a couple of giants.
Like Onkyo, for example.
I got hands-on with the DP-X1 ($899), an Android-based un-phone hand-held that looks slick as all hell. Sporting a dual ES9018K2M DAC chip and 9601K ESS amp chips, and supports DSD and MQA. The DP-X1 also has a 2.5mm balanced TRRS jack and a 1/8″ mini for outputs. From the site:
Balanced 2.5mm 4-pole output supports the more standard Balanced (BTL) drive as well as the more esoteric ACG (Active Control GND) drive.
ACG drive gives greater stability: increased S/N ratio; greater spatial dimensionality, and clean sound; greater delineation for lower frequencies in hi-res audio, and overall robust and taut sound. BTL drive supplies increased power.
Power gains and increased sound separation associated with balanced output are repurposed to create increased stability for a clean signal and greater sound clarity, especially compared to unbalanced drive.
No word on power output A post over at Head-Fi has the power at 150mW/channel balanced and 75mW via minijack, but that storage is pretty sweet — 32GB internal with two microSD card slots, for a supported total of 432GB. Did I mention that it supports TIDAL streaming over WiFi? Yes — just load up the app. DLNA and aptX Bluetooth support are also included. And perhaps most importantly, we can expect up to 16 hours of intensive playback use between charges.
Oh, and for those of you wondering? Yes, the little Onkyo sounds dynamite.
But wait, there’s more.
Pioneer also is launching a DAP! Why mention it here? Well, because it not only shares more than a passing resemblance — it also shares a parent company (Onkyo now owns Pioneer’s A/V division — DAR has some details here).
The Pioneer version, called the XDP-100R ($699) which apparently comes from an entirely distinct design team, nonetheless also features a (single) ES9018K2M DAC chip decoder and 9601K ESS amp chips, and it too supports DSD and MQA. Storage on the two is the same, and the Pioneer carries a 10 hour battery.
Also shown with the Pioneer player, the SEMaster1 headphone ($2,500). A dynamic driver ultra-premium can, the SEMaster1 features a ceramic-coated, 25µ aluminum thick diaphragm. The headphone was extremely comfortable on my oversized melon. To that end, there are two tensioning rods that come with the headphone — think: small and large. I say: brilliant! The headphones ship with a single-ended cable; a balanced 4-pin XLR cable is available for an additional $350.
The sound coming out of this system was effortlessly elegant, with real drive and impact, unusual for a headphone. Sensitivity was a moderately-low 94dB, with a 45Ω impedance, so expect to have best success with a “real” headphone amplifier.
Which is probably why they brought the for-the-Japanese-market-only U-05 (~$1,000).
At this point, it may be too late for anyone to shut the door here. In the meantime, (pocket) rockets are being shot across the bow of personal audio, and I for one am not only taking notice, I’m holding on to my wallet with both hands.
Okay, one hand — the other is reaching around inside.