Oh, Joe, you are such a kidder
. Something like two years have gone by since the N3 thread raged, and everything I wrote in my post of August 2006 (http://forums.neurostechnology.com/index.php?topic=7189.msg39414#msg39414
) is still true. My predictions have come to pass, hard drive players are near-obsolete now that you can get a 32GB SDHC card for $130 from newegg, or 16gb cards for under $40.
I've personally continued to use my Sansa M260 almost every day til just this week. I finally broke down and bought a Cowon D2 this week, a big favorite of the head-fi crowd. It is almost exactly what I want, except for the damn lithium battery and the video-oriented display. The firmware is awful but a Rockbox port is in progress. It plays Ogg and Flac and it uses a standard USB cable and has an SDHC slot, so I have 16gb of internal memory and a 16gb card, 32gb total, enough for my portable collection for now, and I can always add more or bigger SDHC cards.
Will Neuros ever get interested in making a portable player again? There is still a real need for one. Meanwhile people get by with D2-like players and external headphone amps, computer DAC's, etc. It's just ridiculous.
Here is my current recipe for making the DAP that I think would rule head-fi:
1. Treat the DAP as what it really is: a combination DAC (digital to analog converter) and headphone amp, whose digital input source is internal storage rather than USB or SPDIF. Build it as a DAP per se, i.e. a single media (audio) player rather than as a so-called PMP (personal multimedia player, i.e. audio/video).
2. Keep it simple, build an audiophile quality DAC (USB and SPDIF input) plus a basic UI with good quality hardware buttons (not touch-screen) and control it with Rockbox. There should also be SPDIF output for those insisting on using external DAC's. The player should be usable as a computer audio device (USB/SPDIF in) or playing back from an SDHC card. There should also be some internal storage but that can be a second SDHC card tucked away inside the unit.
3. As before, AA battery power. 3 decades of cassette walkmans using this power source must be doing something right.
4. Although this is an audiophile device, it is best if the price is kept reasonable, like $500 or less. Yes you read that right, $500 is reasonable; as long as you do all the technical stuff right and don't expect to sell in high volumes, don't feel constrained by the limitations of $100 players. Consider that the Headroom DAC/amplifier stack is $600 and doesn't even play music (it's just a computer peripheral). If your player is $750 that is probably acceptable.
I hope Neuros will make something like this, and I'm tossing the idea here in the hope that SOMEBODY makes it.