Last year 2017, we ran an article “Top 5 Best Music Player Apps for Android 2017” – and while it was a good introduction to some of the more popular music apps on Android, we focused primarily on the mainstream audio apps available at the time intended for the average music consumer.
In this article, we will be focusing on the music player apps intended for audiophiles – the UI’s may not be as friendly as you’ll find in Google Music, for example, but what they lack in “cleanliness”, they make up for in features and hi-res audio support. All of the audio players we’re highlighting in this article
- Use custom drivers to bypass Android’s native audio.
- Support hi-res, lossless file playback.
- Are compatible with external USB DACs, or hi-res built-in DACs found in newer Android phones.
So if you’re the type of person who listens to 24-bit/96kHz FLAC audio files on your Android device through an external USB DAC with >$150 IEMs, this overview of Android audio apps is for you. If you aren’t, well, you’re missing out on pure audio bliss!
Poweramp v2 is one of the most popular music players on Android, but one thing you may not know is that it has an open beta program, and you can download the latest v3 Alpha versions straight from the Poweramp website.
Alpha v3 has massive improvements over the standard Poweramp v2 available in the Google Play store, including much better support for hi-res audio files and USB DAC devices.
It also has a built-in visualizer, similar to MilkDrop 2, although that can really drain your battery if turned on.
The most stable version of Poweramp v3 is Alpha 709 – there is a later version available, Alpha 790, but it is not recommended for daily use. Alpha 790 is full of bugs and is intended as a showcase for the new UI that will be introduced in Poweramp v3’s full release, but Alpha 709 is much more stable and user-friendly.
To download Poweramp v3 Alpha 709, you can grab it directly from the Poweramp v3 discussion forums. It comes in two downloads – the “Play” APK version, which ties to your Google Play account (if you purchased Poweramp through Google Play store), and the “Uni” APK, which is for people who bought Poweramp through the official website.
If you’re the kind of audiophile who likes to press a lot of buttons, Neutron Music Player should make you feel like a kid in an elevator. Its certainly one of the most complicated UIs we’ve ever seen in a music player, but once you feel comfortable with it, Neutron Music Player is really quite powerful.
Neutron has an equalizer that supports up to 30 bands, and it claims to be the only audio app that can completely bypasses Android’s format limitation, which means it can broadcast true 24-bit / 192kHz audio to external devices, like Chromecast, UPnP/DLNA, and USB DAC, by using its own in-app HiFi driver that “can go above CD quality”.
Hint: To get the most out of Neutron’s hi-fi playback, here are the recommended settings (if your device supports hi-res output)
- Generic Driver = ON
- Generic Driver -> Hi-Res Codec = ON
- Generic Driver -> Hi-Res Speaker = ON
- DSP Effect (Device) = OFF
- Low Latency = OFF
- 32-bit Output (IEEE 754) = OFF
While Neutron may make a lot of broad claims and fancy audiophile-buzzwords, it definitely is one of the most powerful Android music player apps worth checking out.
jetAudio HD is a great music player, we’re just iffy about it due to a lot of features being locked behind IAP. jetAudio HD comes in either Free or Plus version, and if you purchase the Plus version, you unlock a ton of additional features like a 20-band equalizer, MP3/FLAC/OGG/M4A tag editor, widgets, various themes, etc. Fairly standard practice for an app offered in free and premium versions.
However, jetAudio HD also offers additional “sound effect” plugins (DSPs) such as AM3D Audio, Bongiovi DPS, Crystalizer, etc – but some of these must be purchased via the IAP menu, which is just a little annoying. We’ve been spoiled by the totally free and amazingly powerful audio enhancements found in apps like Viper4Android and A.R.I.S.E, so paying for additional sound effects in a music player seems a little meh. That’s not to say the IAPs aren’t of great quality, because they are, so perhaps we’re just cheapskates.
When the LG V20 phone was announced to have a built-in Hi-Fi Quad DAC, almost no apps out there knew how to take advantage of it. So owners of the LG V20 kind of had a situation where they have a super powerful DAC built into their phone, whilst playing audio through Android’s native (and subpar) audio drivers.
In came BlackPlayer EX, along with a handful of other apps like Poweramp, which added completely new coding specifically to take advantage of the LG V20’s Quad DAC capabilities. And while BlackPlayer EX is not the only audio app which takes advantage of newer, more powerful DACs in recent Android phones intended for audiophiles, it certainly is one of the most customizable as far as the UI goes.
So with BlackPlayer EX, not only do you get great hi-fi audio playback, but you can customize the theme and UI to your liking, which isn’t something commonly found in other advanced music players.
If you play your lossless FLAC music primarily through a USB DAC, then you should definitely check out USB Audio Player Pro, which was built specifically for USB DAC output. It utilizes a custom USB audio driver that can bypass the Android sampling limitations, which means your 32-bit/384kHz files will actually play at that bitrate/frequency (if your USB DAC supports it), instead of being downsampled to 16/48kHz, as many other audio players seem to do.
Furthermore, USB Audio Player PRO can take advantage of some of the latest hi-res DACs being built into newer Android phones, such as the LG V20, V30, Samsung S6/S7, OnePlus 3, Fiio X5/X7, and others.
While these audio players didn’t “make the cut” for in-depth profiling, they are certainly worth checking out for comparison purposes.
- Onkyo HF Player