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APP- READY: The player comes with links to several music apps that help deliver content, including Spotify and Tidal.

Music to your ears

Onkyo delivers its first portable music player.
Jul 16, 2016 5:50 AM

Onkyo DP-X1

Price: $999

Specifications: Dual Sabre DACs and amps, Standard Balanced and Active Control Ground (ACG) modes, 2.5mm 4-pole and 3.5mm 3-pole output, physical buttons for quick music control, storage of up to 432 GB

JAPANESE audio brand Onkyo is the latest hardware company to board the high resolution audio bandwagon, but rather than just offer something that is already available in the market, the company has crammed several new features into its first portable music player.

The Android-powered device offers dual Sabre digital-to-analog converters from ESS Technology, with each powering one audio channel.

There is a 2.5mm 4-pole output slot, as well as a 3.5mm 3-pole one, for those who use different types of headphones, as well as dual microSD card slots that support up to 432 GB of storage, to supplement the built-in 32 GB provided.

Physically, the 4.7-inch device looks and feels like an Android phone, except for the volume scroll wheel on the left side of the device, and the playback controls and microSD card slots on the right side. It does not have any GPS, camera or gyro-sensor either.

The biggest addition though is the support for MQA, or Master Quality Authenticated, audio - a new audio storage format that stores high resolution audio into a small file size for easier streaming or downloading.

For the uninitiated, digital music can be stored in lossy compression, which discards part of the data, to keep file sizes small. Audio formats such as MP3 and AAC are lossy, and are shunned by audiophiles.

Lossless formats, such as FLAC and ATRAC, or uncompressed formats such as WAV, offer a higher sampling rate and retain all data from the original recording, though these files can be several times larger than their lossy counterparts. This is known as high resolution audio and requires a dedicated music player, and in some cases, high-res headsets as well.

The DP-X1 is capable of playing multiple high resolution files, of up to 384kHz/24-bit audio, with support for WAV, FLAC, ALAC and AIFF.

With high resolution audio though, the level of appreciation depends on the individual. What the DP-X1 offers is the ability to play the various hi-res file formats, and the audio sounds great when paired with the Sony MDR-1A BT hi-res headphones.

But to be honest, it also sounded similar when used with the regular Marshall Monitor headphones. Aside from the differences in sound stages present in all headsets, there was not much of a noticeable difference in audio quality, so it could be that headphones play a smaller role in hi-res audio.

The player also has a real-time Direct-Stream Digital conversion feature that converts traditional MP3 files into a higher quality format, for those who still have a library of regular music files.

The player comes with links to several music apps that help deliver content, including Spotify and Tidal. There is also a link for Deezer but it actually brings users to the Deemote for Deezer listing instead, so subscribers should just get it straight from the Play Store.

The player should also come with access to the Onkyo Music store, which allows users to browse and purchase high-definition audio files in 24-bit lossless FLAC format, but the store is not available in Singapore, so the built-in music service tied to the device is actually not an option.

At S$999, the device is cheaper here than in the US, where it is retailing for US$899.