Test 4 Sound quality
The key attribute for HRA players
All five players deliver superb sound, but some moreso than others. While all five did fantastically well with crisply produced pop and funk, in other areas there were noticeable differences in bass, clarity and stereo staging.
The Opus#1 has nicely defined bass, but lacks clarity on busy mixes and can be a little harsh. The Pioneer is more involving, but upright basses sounded a bit elastic-band-y and rock guitars a bit fizzy. The FiiO is fizzy too, but for pop, electronica and jazz it’s great.
We loved the Astell&Kern and the Onkyo best. Both are as happy with intimate, close-miked jazz as they are with Muse’s overkill, and both made Radiohead more unsettling than ever. But we’d give the gong to the Onkyo: there’s something about its warmth and detail that makes it the high-resolution player we keep coming back to.