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Personally I could never convince myself to spend the cash on this (I decided on a Japanese Sony ZX2 for almost a third of the retail price of this). Recently there are also new relatively lower-priced players from Onkyo and Pioneer that are interesting to the budget conscious.
Having said that, those that do have this (and pair it with appropriately high end gear) sing its praises, and I have literally never seen a new unit selling this low. Based on that criteria, and if you have the resources to be in the market for one, this is a hell of a deal.
Just not for me :p
I wouldn't say that this is an issue of budget conscience, but that this is an absurd amount of money to be paying for a portable audio system. I know what the engineering and parts cost of this stuff is and even so, the best that this could do is be a companion for the JVC-DX1000 or D1000.
Dude, don't buy Sony, seriously. You'll be paying for brand mostly, not for the sound. Buy FiiO x7 (functionality) or Luxury&Precision L5 Pro (sound) instead.
Well, as I said, it's not for me. There are diminishing returns in this hobby in general, but I think AK take it a bit too far. Fact remains this is still a great deal for anyone who is in the market for this, and are willing to pay the AK "tax" :p
Edit: also for anyone just starting out in discovering better sound, a quality DAP might not be the ideal starting point. I'd suggest looking at the Hifiman HE-400S instead as a first purchase, an incredible, efficient planar headphone that retails for $299, can be had for less during occasional sales, and makes even an iPod/phone/tablet sound much better. Got one for a friend recently, and it was amazing to see their reaction
Have you compared the Sony side by side? The sound quality is on par with this, to me, especially with a TRRS (balanced) terminated cable, and it has the added benefit of supporting Tidal (and Spotify, but then it's not lossless). I tried and wasn't impressed by either of those you mentioned, Hifiman's HM-901S is better (especially for full-sized headphones), but doesn't have the connectivity of the ZX2