Astell & Kern AK120II High Resolution Single DAC Audio Player
Without getting into dry, mind-numbing tech speak and fancy lingo to explain what's so excellent about the AK120 II, I'll keep it simple and basic. Yes, the player costs an inordinate amount of money but there are plenty of specific reasons it belongs on our list of the best MP3 players overall.
Obviously, it brings all of the bells and whistles that the other guys have, has insane functionality, supports the most file formats, including MP3,WAV, FLAC, WMA, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, and more, but what this all really boils down to is sound quality. Why else do we buy MP3 players? Because we love our music and must have it with us at ALL TIMES. That kind of dedication deserves superior audio quality that even the most casual pair of untrained ears will recognize at first listen.
Astell & Kern uses Dual Digital to Analog converters to carry sound to your ears. What that means is the player sends balanced audio output to each ear separately instead of using just one to split it up between the right and left ear. The result is a lush, vivid, weighty sound that really gives you the truest sound reproduction of your music down to every track, every instrument and every spoken lyric.
This balanced output also reduces external noises and outside interference you might get from unbalanced output that lacks a "ground" line along with the left and right channels. That ground line acts similarly to the ground of an electrical wire or component of any power source. This is high-resolution audio at its very finest.