You’re probably streaming music right now and listening to it through less-than-stellar earbuds. And while MP3s and your Spotify playlist are starting to become the norm, it means you’re missing out on fully hearing your favorite songs. Luckily, a crop of manufacturers offer new devices that deliver high-quality sound worthy of an audiophile, without the fuss of complicated, huge equipment. Take advantage of better-than-MP3 files (and streams) with this sparkling new hardware.
The Premier HRA Player
For serious audiophiles, there’s no denying the appeal of high-resolution audio (HRA) files, which have much better sound quality than MP3s. The best way to play HRA files right now is with the Sony 128GB Walkman Hi-Res Digital Music Player, a gorgeously engineered unit that can output your upgraded tunes to both speakers and headphones. [$1,200; store.sony.com]
The Personal High-Res Player
Though it can’t push audio directly to receivers and speakers, the Astell & Kern AK Jr is our pick for anybody who plans to listen to high-resolution audio tracks through headphones only. Its onboard storage of 64GB can be doubled via its microSD slot, and you can plug it into a Mac or PC USB port to play files through the computer. [$500; astellnkern.com]
The (Really) Hi-Fi Speakers
Just hook up the KEF X300A Speakers to your computer via USB. Though they also work with non-HRA files — they’re great general-purpose speakers, in other words, for watching movies or listening to music — these are one of the best options for playing high-resolution audio from a computer without intervening gear. [$800; kefdirect.com]
The High-Res Speaker Amp
Many amplifiers don’t have the digital code or components to handle HRA files. Along with being one of the best compact amps on the market, period, the NAD D 3020 Hybrid Digital Amplifier can play high-resolution audio on standard speakers — assuming they’re good enough to take advantage of the improved clarity. [$499; nadelectronics.com]
The High-Res Headphone Amp
Headphone amps may be the best-kept secret in audio gear. Music routed through them is cleaner, with more separation between instruments and less distortion. Sony’s rechargeable Hi-Res DAC/Headphone Amplifier not only plays HRA files from a computer, it also can boost the quality of standard MP3s. Better still, hook it up to a high-res player, and surrender to pure audio bliss. [$1,000; store.sony.com]
For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!