A Survey of Digital Audio Players Part 2 Consonance Suzanne

DAP2_Suzanne_Photo_Main

Consonance Suzanne ($699)
Opera-Consonance is another veteran audio company based out of Beijing. As far as I can tell the original name is Opera Audio, and they initially liked to use Consonance in North America. Now it seems both names have stuck. Like Cayin, Opera has been around since the early 1990's making all kinds of interesting stuff. Current gear ranges from turntables and associated accessories to tube amps and preamps to rather massive horn speakers, just to name a few. They've also focused heavily on digital, with the Droplet CD player in particular becoming somewhat iconic for the brand. As we all know, portable audio is hot right now, so Opera decided to venture out and make a DAP.

Meet Suzanne. She's a portable player with some unique design aspects, for better or for worse. The name seems to fit the current trend—maybe pair Suzanne with a Chord Hugo, driving a pair of JH Audio Layla or Angie IEMs. Historically the Opera gear used name/number combinations but the personal touch is kinda nice too.

A few years ago I was very interested in picking up the Consonance Reference 8 digital media player as the source for my main rig. I came close, but ended up going a different direction. Despite stunning good looks and expertly crafted analog/digital sections, the Reference 8 fell behind the competition when it came to user experience. Using a simplistic menu-driven scheme is not necessarily bad, it just needs to be really well done to offset the lack of sophistication. Unfortunately that just didn't apply to the Ref 8. Would this experience carry forward to the newest member of the Consonance line?

External Design
The Suzanne is just slightly larger than most other DAPs—including the Cayin and HiFiMAN models—though it still feels good in the hand. This is the heaviest device in the whole comparison thus far at 310g though again it somehow seems more manageable in real life than on paper. The enclosure is machined from aluminum and build quality seems nearly on par with the AK, Cayin, and Calyx products. It's got some interesting curves and angles to keep it from being just a solid brick, and even comes in several colors to keep things interesting. My review loaner is red which is surprisingly good looking, though I might have gone with silver or black had I been given the choice. The front panel is made from some fingerprint-magnet material and is completely smooth. What initially appears to be buttons are actually touch sensitive areas which light up along with the display.

That display is a 2.4 inch TFT of what seems like average quality at best. As I'll discuss later, this particular design probably wouldn't benefit from anything more. Suzanne has exactly one physical button, used for power. Everything else is accomplished using touch and gesture operations on the front panel. In a sense we can call it the opposite of the busy HiFiMAN aesthetic, though any simplicity won by removing buttons is arguably negated in actual use.

Internal Design
The heart of Suzanne is the popular CS4398 from Cirrus Logic. This is the same DAC used in the AK100 II though both units have different implementation and thus their own unique character. Opera has been using this chip in their Droplet player for quite some time, so one would hope for expertise in extracting the full capabilities. Processing is handled by a moderately fast ARM9 CPU which gets the job done but isn't quite as snappy as I'd like—though it's hard to judge if the better solution is raw horsepower or firmware optimization. There's a Wolfson WM8805 digital receiver to accept data as it streams from memory while also reducing jitter thanks to it's elastic buffer design. A Xilinx CPLD also does some proprietary work on the signal, which likely isn't something Opera wants to discuss in any further detail, as is often the case with these things. Output impedance is an excellent 0.2 Ohms meaning zero chance of impedance related interactions.

Despite the slight lack of snappiness when navigating, the Suzanne apparently does have adequate processing power to handle a broad variety of formats. It plays PCM up to 32-bit and 384kHz (for all those DXD tracks you probably have...) as well as DSD of both the 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz variety. Opera makes sure to mention their use of direct DSD decoding rather than PCM conversion, which sounds to me like a dig against some of the competition. Collectively, these playback capabilities are up there with the best in the category, which leads me to believe the processor is not the weak link here.

The battery used is the same one found in the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. It can easily be replaced by the end user which is not something commonly found in these devices. I appreciate this aspect looking towards long-term ownership with heavy use; batteries always diminish over time, so a fixed battery could become a drawback. Replacements for this particular battery are very easily procured and likely to be available long into the future, which is another benefit of using a popular existing model.

Interface
Here is where the Suzanne quickly becomes a love it or hate it affair. And for many folks I fear it will be the latter. The user interface is quite frankly of the old-school variety. No searching by artist or album or genre, no making playlists, and certainly no "advanced features" like equalization or random play. Come to think of it, my first portable CD player (several decades ago!) had more a robust feature set. This is strictly a case of navigate by folder and play. The closest Suzanne gets to advanced functionality is letting us choose between straight play, repeat track, or repeat album. Oh, and there's a sleep timer, so...yeah, that's about it, totally primitive.

And yet, there's a part of me that actually appreciates this sort of thing. As much as I love a pretty interface with tons of options, there's something to be said for simplicity, for just powering up and playing a record from start to finish. No distractions, no worrying about anything else. It takes the focus off the device and puts it back on the music itself. I realize that sort of thing isn't for everyone, but it does have its place, and I've heard from a surprisingly high number of people who want just this sort of experience.

The problem is that Suzanne is not a perfect implementation of the concept. Everything seems fine at face value, but then you look at the buttons and see something unexpected. Up and Down are in the appropriate places, but instead of Left we get a button marked "f", while Right is replaced by a "back" logo. I really do wish Opera had stuck with a simple up down left right scheme instead of needlessly complicating matters as they did. "Back" at least uses a fairly standard logo which I've seen many other places—I'm not even sure what that "f" is supposed to stand for. The center button, thankfully, functions as "Select", just as it should.

My vision for an uber-simple device calls for standard tactile buttons, but after using the Suzanne I'm actually okay with the touch sensitive option. It functions quite well. It's the gestures that cause me confusion. Want to fast forward? Sliding from left to right (technically "f" to "Back" if that makes sense) will skip ahead 10 seconds. Doing the opposite will rewind by 10. Sliding from Up to Down skips forward a track, while Down to Up plays the previous track. It's actually not as bad as it sounds once you get used to it...yet I find myself wondering why Opera felt the need to reinvent the wheel. The Sony A17 and Sansa Clip+ have VERY simple button layouts and those both succeed in their mission. Add in the fact that Suzanne occasionally reacts in a sluggish manner or even misses button "presses" altogether, and it's easy to see my frustration here.

One additional problem caused by the touch buttons: I can't navigate by feel alone. Visibility is a must, meaning pocket adjustments just aren't feasible. Given that volume is controlled via the Up and Down buttons rather than dedicated hardware, this translates to a device which makes higher demands on its user. Again, it seems like the designer wants to push a "set and forget" mentality where I pick an album to play and then just leave the device alone. Which is great, but not always what modern users are looking for in a portable player.

Lastly, I had the occasional bug during playback where the player froze for a moment and then reset to the main screen. This was accompanied by a sneaky full blast boost of volume, which I only discovered once a new track began to play. Here's where the lack of physical volume knob becomes a detriment. My recollection is that every time this happened, I was playing a mixed folder where each song had a different sample rate, bit-depth, and format. The constant switching seemed to be problematic, where playing the same stuff in a row worked just fine. Obviously this needs to be addressed in a firmware update sooner than later.

Connectivity
The Suzanne is again somewhat quirky compared to the alternatives. We get a standard 3.5mm jack for headphone output, and alongside it another 3.5mm jack which I assumed would be line-out. I assumed wrong. Instead, Suzanne gives us digital output which obviously demands a converter cable...which is not included in the package. This isn't a huge deal since they can easily be obtained, but Cayin includes one in their package, as does QLS which I'll talk about in part 3 of this series. So why doesn't Consonance do the same?

Storage is limited to a microSD slot. There's zero usable space on the internal storage, so 128GB via microSD is as high as Suzanne will currently go. Instead of the usual microUSB for charging and data transfer, Suzanne uses a USB 3.0 connection, just like any USB 3.0 capable portable hard drive. I'm not sure if it actually transfers data at the faster rate though, since I don't have any blazing fast microSD cards laying around.

DAP2_Suzanne_Dock_Photo_Main

The most interesting option for connectivity actually comes via the desktop dock, which can be bundled with the DAP for an extra $199. It's a massive hunk of metal that could alternately be used for self defense tool. The dock features ports for power, USB, and Ethernet, allowing Suzanne to play from external USB drives as well as stream to and from the device via UPnP. Despite the UI simplicity, everything works just like it should. I added a 256GB USB drive and had no trouble playing music, even huge DSD and DXD files. I later used a UPnP app to stream music from the Suzanne to a player in the other room, and also to stream from my NAS to the Suzanne itself. The device shows up on my network as "Opera HD" and acts as rendering point or server—either direction seems to work fine. I even got it working as a source to stream DSD files to the AK120 II, playing "Kind of Blue" from start to finish with no hiccups whatsoever. So the streaming option is certainly reliable.

It's kind of clunky to use since the angle for display and controls aren't really ideal—certainly nothing like the AK dock with the adjustable tilt. And you'll need a tablet or smartphone running a UPnP app to control it—the onboard interface doesn't currently have controls built in. The only network function one can do from the player itself is tune in internet radio stations. Opera preloads some good stuff like the Linn Jazz and Linn Classical stations, which broadcast at 320k and sound quite good for internet radio. I haven't figured out a way to add my own stations yet, and it may not even be possible at this stage. I would expect Opera to figure that out in a future update.

Battery
As mentioned, the battery is an easily replaceable model also used by a popular Samsung smartphone. Consonance claims 6.5 hours of playback for the device but I read early user feedback claiming a mere 2.5 hours...that dog won't hunt. Thankfully I didn't find that to be the case—I'm getting very close to the advertised performance which is still not great at all, but certainly usable. Once in a while the thing gives me closer to 5 hours but 6 is pretty regularly obtainable. This is still worse than average but looks great compared to the Calyx M which struggles after the 4 hour mark.

I have fairly high hopes that Consonance can refine the UI and optimize it for increased battery life. I'm not really basing that on anything other than the idea that these are very early days for the device, and thus it should have plenty of room to grow. I certainly wouldn't buy this thing counting on a future 12 hour performance though; anything extra will be a nice surprise, but there's a chance it will never progress beyond the current state.

Sound Quality
The Suzanne is an excellent and fairly unique sounding DAP. It's got a bit of what I'd call a "tube-like" presentation, and I mean that in the best possible way. I'm not talking about the old school stereotype of slow, lush tube gear with severely rolled-off frequency extremes. No, Suzanne is generally neutral overall, with just a hint of euphonic voicing. There's a certain "sweetness" involved which makes vocals sound beguiling while highlighting the decay of strings and piano. Detail retrieval remains excellent; this is a very resolving player which digs deep into the music without being shouty, bright, or obnoxious. No tipped-up-treble trickery here.

This romantic focus can sometimes come off as slow compared to the Cayin or the AK units, and thus doesn't have the best synergy with headphones like the Sennheiser HD650 and Audeze LCD-2—despite what seems like adequate drive from the amp stage. Those headphones just aren't known for their snappy response, and the Suzanne does them no favors. Yet when paired with a more nimble transducer—AKG K812, HiFiMAN HE-560, Focal Spirit Pro—Suzanne seems to wake up and dance. The airy, well defined treble somehow also manages a bit of restraint, lending a helping hand in cases which could otherwise veer into harshness. Suzanne has more treble extension than warmer/darker alternatives like the Calyx and HiFiMAN HM802, but it also manages a bit of pleasing editorialization. It's like a subtle Photoshop job which tames wrinkles and blemishes without fundamentally changing the subject. Do a good enough job and it looks/sounds completely natural. Even the folks who do pick up on it won't usually find it objectionable.

Drive capabilities are quite good—clearly better than the expensive AK models. Apparently all that bulk gave the designer more to work with. The missing line-out becomes less of an issue since the built-in amp does such an excellent job, and I probably wouldn't bother with a portable amp even if I could. I feel like I can comfortably drive most big headphones without missing a whole lot, and I almost think a 1/4" jack should have been added in there somewhere. There's certainly room for it on the big enclosure. I used the DAP plus Dock combo as a bedside rig controlled by an iPad Mini, and it performed flawlessly in that role. The only headphones being off limits in terms of drive capabilities were the usual suspects, including but not limited to the HiFiMAN HE-6, Mr Speakers Alpha Dogs, and though I don't currently own a pair, the vintage AKG K1000. Any sanely-sensitive headphone should do well enough, and at that point I'd worry more about signature matching than pure horsepower.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, IEMs work phenomenally well. The super-low output impedance combined with precision volume control and a clean background make for an uncommonly pleasing experience. I'd like to perhaps see a gain setting added in a future firmware though—even if it just artificially manipulates the selectable volume range. As it stands, the range goes from zero to one hundred. I'll often run in the teens for IEMs and in the 80-90 range for big cans, and it takes more effort to move between those extremes compared to DAPs with physical volume knobs. Seems like this should be an easy fix for Cayin's programmers though.

There isn't any type of sound alteration options to be found here. No EQ, no adjustable filters. Factor in the lack of a line-out or balanced headphone drive, and it seems users are fully reliant on the quality of the internal headphone amp via that 1/8" jack. It's a good thing I find the sonic character very enjoyable because if I didn't there's nothing else to be done. Some users, no matter how they feel about the integrated solution, will simply not tolerate this lack of control.

By way of comparison, I'd say the Suzanne falls just short of the Cayin N6 when it comes to sound quality. Which still places it near the top of my list. Both models are equally enjoyable, and both have potent onboard amplification, but the N6 pulls ahead with its more universal nature. It seems equally happy to drive an HD650 or an AKG K7XX, while Suzanne only excels with the latter. On the other hand, with a fortuitous pairing, the Consonance device could accurately be described as superior. So it depends on your goal: jack of all trades, or specialist?

COMMENTS
Alexander Portnoy's picture

Great work, John.
This project will make a good basis upon which to judge the imminent release of Pioneer XDP-100R and the Geek Waves.

John Grandberg's picture
And yes, I suppose I could go on and on... I suspect next year will bring half a dozen (or more) significant releases. We'll see what happens and what I have time for.
ManiaC's picture

Questyle QP1R vs Luxury & Precision L5 Pro

John Grandberg's picture
the Questyle QP1R here and it's pretty great, certainly in the running for Wall of Fame. I tried the original L5 and it was terrible in build and UI, but the L5 Pro is all different so who knows.
Imusicman's picture

HiJohn, Ive read part 1 and part 2 with great interest and eagerly await part 3. Great review and exactly on point with this growing category. I have narrowed my choice for DAP down to the Questyle QP1R and Cayin N6 after discounting the Acoustic Research ARM2. Having spent time with both which would you recommend? Not sure if this swings it one way or the other but I have the opportunity to buy a demo N6 at £270

John Grandberg's picture
because I like them both. N6 has a significantly more powerful amp stage if you intend to use it with difficult full size cans. Some people might like its up/down/left/right control scheme better too. The Questyle can accommodate a far bigger library thanks to dual microSD slots. It also has slightly better battery life, is smaller, and has a more brilliant, detailed presentation - which may or may not be a good thing depending on your preferences. I'll go more into this in part 3 though.
Imusicman's picture

Thanks for getting back to me John. Much appreciated. There's definitely pros and cons to each player depending on what's important to the individual consumer. I have taken the plunge and ordered the QP1R which hopefully should be with me next week :-) Lets hope my leap of faith is rewarded as I haven't been able to find anyone local who is stocking it to give it a demo which is not ideal.

John Grandberg's picture
I'm listening to it right now, sounding quite nice with a 24/96 version of Paquito D'Rivera's Portraits of Cuba and the Noble Audio K10. It's not perfect - I'll get into the minor frustrations which you will no doubt notice on your own. But nothing I consider a dealbreaker. I do wish Questyle has better distribution though....
Imusicman's picture

Being a newbie to this hobby I am in the very early stages of my journey to find the holy grail of sonic perfection. I am starting from a relatively low base with my iPhone 5 so I am hopeful of larger gains initially but do expect less as my hardware base level improves and the differences become more subtle. If the QP1R fails to impress I will be looking to test out my suppliers returns policy or failing that stick it on eBay. Given the supply/demand situation I can see it selling PDQ so no drama either way.

silverarrows5's picture

Hi John,

How about the Marshall London Smartphone?

John Grandberg's picture
I'm just not sold on that one as being anything other than a lowish-spec phone with minor customization. I'd stick with the OnePlus or another more established phone if you don't want a dedicated DAP.
tony's picture

Well, this is just plain Brilliant. It's certainly the next thing I'll be concentrating on, I have a very good Main System and a equally useful Wireless Headphone System.

I travel extensively and would love a capable & portable "Source" device. I've seen your JA wandering around using an AK240 (I think) to carry his music to "Field" evaluate gear. I thought and still think his little device would give a useful result ( at least for my purposes and probably the vast World of Music lovers ).
A small LapTop is far to big but more affordable. How can a person get a Laptop's functionality in a portable ( shirt pocket ) package and how could a little device function properly with only a tiny screen? Plus, is there a little player offered by a supportive manufacturer?
So, it seems, you are working to reveal these things.

Philosophically, I think we music lovers strive to build our own "Music Hall Venues" to play the music we buy, own and enjoy!
These tiny Players take our personal Venue down to miniature sizes.

If JA's little AK240 is anything to go by, we are about to have our entire HighEnd music system in the "Palm of our Hands" ( except for our Box Speakers, of course ).
Now, if we can organize our music into little SD Memory Cards we might be able to have a Wallet with our entire collections.
This "Pipe Dream" has always seemed so "Distant Futuristic" in concept and nature but you seem to be revealing that it exists now.
I'm all Ears!
I'll be reading every word you have to say on this matter.

Tony in Michigan

ps. Thank You

Rillion's picture

Hi John,

It is great that you are doing this! Reviews like these of DAPs are to find. Even reviews of smartphones generally have very little intelligent commentary on sound quality if they mention it at all.

On the models that have so-so battery life, it would be nice if you could mention whether or not the device can continue running noise-free while charging. I have a 5V Anker battery pack that can add significant extra power.

John Grandberg's picture
I'll certainly check on this moving forward. I can confirm that the Consonance Suzanne works fine while charging in the dock, as do the AK devices, and also the Cayin. Obviously the OnePlus will (same as any phone) but I'll have to try it to confirm it doesn't add any detrimental noise or other issues. The only one I'm unsure about is the Pono so I'll give that a shot and report back.
Rillion's picture

Cool! Thanks!

echineko's picture

I was hoping to see it included, after you hinted it might be in Part 1. There's always part 3 I suppose, would be interesting to see it compared against the AK 240/380 as well :)

John Grandberg's picture
Sony took a while to send it my way, so I didn't have enough time to spend with it compared to these others. ZX2 is definitely in for part 3 though.
zeissiez's picture

Hi John,

I'm an expat based in China, over here I got the chance to audition various Chinese DAPs. To my surprise, many of them are actually very good sounding, and some of them more so than the A&K in sonic performance. I have heard the Cayin N6, Consonance, ibasso dx90, hm-901, Questyle QP1R, Lotoo Paw, Fiio X5 and many more. One brand that stood out is Luxury & Precision. Their L5, LP5 silver and gold edition are the best DAP I heard regardless of price. The entry level model L5 for example is clearly better than the N6 in sonic performance. Now the latest model L5 pro is said to be a much improved model over the previous 3 models. So I think it's good to include it in your reviews.

John Grandberg's picture

Thanks for the perspective. I've only had a chance to mess with the original L5 and it seemed like a prototype (it was a production model though) - poor build, terrible UI, only decent sound. I'll have to see if I can get my hands on the new stuff as it certainly does look improved.

I agree that Chinese DAPs can sound excellent. The HiFi ET MA9 was one of my favorites on sound, but less so on reliability, battery, and UI. Reliability is a big one for me.

whyeme's picture

Please please review the xduoo x3 when you do part 3. It uses the CS4398 DAC chip and Texas Instruments amp chips and sells for only USD110 inclusive of free shipping. Perhaps it could be a budget DAP shootout to get more youth into this hobby.

Cheers!

Bennyboy's picture

It's not a question of age, but of income. Not all of us are loaded enough to drop a grand here there and everywhere on this stuff.

John Grandberg's picture

That makes sense. However - a company saying "we want to appeal to a younger demographic" is a lot more PC than "We want to appeal to poor people" or "people with less disposable info". So you'll almost always see it framed as a "youth" thing.

But I agree, some of these are steep, and I'm glad there are some good options to be had for lower prices.

Bennyboy's picture

Some of these new 'high end' players are just daylight robbery.

I recently bought the Fiio X1 - cost me 95 quid and sounds ACE.

ashutoshp's picture

Thank you for your efforts in scaling the growing landscape of media players. TBH, I have little interest in media players myself mostly from a convenience perspective. But your smartphone inclusion got my curiosity.
Do you think the audio limitations apparently inherent in the smartphone are a DAC or an amp issue? In other words, the DAC is fine but the amount of power it can output is the major limiting factor. The reason I ask is because the choices in amps or amps+DACs are similarly vast and I am confused as to what would work best, an amplifier via the headphone out, or a DAC+amp via USB OTG/Lightning CCK?
Moreover, it seems that (cheaper) DAC+amp 2-in-1s usually trade-off DAC quality for amplifier capacity or vice-versa. If the smartphone DAC is fine then I can go for a high quality headphone amp rather than stick with a compromise, which I feel I'm currently making anyways with a smartphone/tablet. FYI, I only listening to streamed music from TiDAL on an LG G3 and iPad Air. Thanks in advance.

detlev24's picture

IMO there is no definite answer to your question since it depends very much, on which headphones you use. Generally, I would say the amplification circuit around the DAC is the bottleneck of most devices.

Since your question is directed to John, it might be useful for him to know the type(s) of headphones you use and the budget you plan to spend on such a device, since (audible) trade-offs do not necessarily need to be made.

Best regards

John Grandberg's picture

I basically see the amp section of a phone as being the weakest link - on a better phone, the DAC is pretty decent. Not as good as the better dedicated DAPs but good enough to be enjoyable nonetheless. The amp portion, though, is limited in terms of drive (and often output impedance as well) so it becomes the biggest issue.

Having said that, the market seems to focus more towards combo units. So I might go that route anyway. I've had more luck finding good combo units than straight amp-only portables.

The upgrade path will depend on what headphones are being used, as well as your intentions for portability. If "on the go" listening is a must then something small like the Resonessence Labs Herus should do the trick. I also really like the Oppo HA-2. If home use is the goal, you could go for a desktop setup, which then opens things up a little more for separate components.

ashutoshp's picture

I have the Hifiman HE-400i (home use), Sony's XBA-H1 and Ety's HF3 (outside use). Of these, the Etys don't seem to scale with more power but the other two definitely do. the Hifimans are actually too much for the phone, but not for the iPad even though they seem to get limited sometimes.
I was looking at a portable set up not only because of my need for mobility but I can then use it for bedtime listening with the Hifimans. My budget is $300 . I like a fast, clear, hard-hitting sound. But I hate boomy bass or tizzy treble (eg, DT880....ouch). The Sony XBA-H1s are quite boomy in the bass when played through the HP out of my phone but not at home with my desktop DAC/amp set up. The XBA-H1 is also why I started researching amps or amps/DACs like the HA-2 or Alo's new Rx (amp only I think).

detlev24's picture

You can try the two FiiO E12 amplifiers and see, if they suite your needs.

I have listened to the E12 on a HIFIMAN HE-500 (which needs more power than your HE-400i) and for such a small package, it sounded good at my listening levels and with the types of music, I listen (classical music, included). I switched "BASS: ON" but I did not use GAIN, since this made noise audible (you may not find it disturbing during playback, depending on the music genre) and with CROSSFEED, clarity suffered (the latter is useless, anyway - unless thoroughly matched to your headphones and music).

On the other hand, I do not recommend the E12 with IEM, since I had noise using UE TripleFi 10 but for a technical aspect, that was no surprise. For IEM, try the optimized E12A!

I think the HE-400i may sound great using an E12 and for IEM, the E12A could just do it.

detlev24's picture

If considering FiiO, also try the E12A on the HE-400i. Might need "GAIN: H" but depending on your taste, you could like it more.

An there is also a E12DIY around (with swappable op-amps, for different sound signatures), as alternative to the E12.^^

Long time listener's picture

I too would like to see a review of the two players above.

Also, just how well do these players compare to separates? For example, an iPod feeding an Algorhythm solo -R plus a Vorzuge Pure II amp? Do they come pretty close? Thanks

John Grandberg's picture

Both are to be included in part 3.

I personally think the better DAPs give up very little compared to separates. Obviously depends on the models in question... but the small improvement brought from lugging a big stack is typically not worth it (for me) compared to a quality DAP.

I might feel differently if I used the stack for home use with occasional portable listening. With big, difficult to drive cans, the dedicated amp could make a more significant difference.

zobel's picture

Been awhile since he has written anything. Thought he might offer a wrap-up on the last project. Hope he is feeling good.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Went to RMAF, I'll be posting the Big Sound 2015 wrap posts this week.
Broman's picture

I played with a OnePlusOne and thought it unexceptional compared to HTC One 9. The new phone I want to try is the LG V10 with ESS DAC. Thank you for including a phone in this survey. I go for long walks in cities and the less I carry the better.

John Grandberg's picture
I like the OnePlus One slightly better than the HTC One M8. Not sure about the latest HTC though. I already have an email in the LG about the V10, I've been keeping an eye on that since I first saw the ESS DAC (and headphone driver) being used. Not sure many big phone companies are actually willing to participate though, we'll see.
elfary's picture

If one take a look at gsmarena frequency plot of the OnePlusOne one can discern that output impedance it's headed to the 10 ohms range. (They measure with AKG headphones that have an impedance bump at the 50Hz).

Hence i was wondering what headphones have you used. I don't think balanced armatures earphones can play as nice on the OnePlus as they play on HTC, Apple or Samsung flagships.

In any case is nice to see smartphones tossed in since their ergonomy is killer.

Just my 0.02

John Grandberg's picture

I use a matched pair of resistors soldered to a Neutrik jack, rather than a headphone as dummy load. I'm fairly certain that my results are accurate for my particular OnePlus One. Can't speak for any silent revisions or manufacturing variability that could explain a different result, nor can I say GSM Arena didn't make some mistake somewhere. In my case I do enjoy IEMs with the OPO, with certain limitations of course. My UM Merlins (which drop into the single digit ohm range at some frequencies) are not a good match, but many other IEMs are.

It makes sense that performance would be on par with the top LG and Samsung models, as they tend to use very similar hardware.

I will say the HTC flagships seem to have the advantage driving full size headphones. More output voltage, more drive, more authority. I personally don't have much use for that but some people might.

elfary's picture

If i have to trust your measurements or gsmarena ones i'll go with yours i heartbeat. In gsmarena they so 't know very well what they are doing. An i know that on certain smartphones z changes from region to region (m8 had 9 ohms in the China market. In Europe it has just 1.

veggieboy2001's picture

This is a really comprehensive survey of DAPs...I'm looking forward to part 3. I'm currently researching a replacement for my Fiio X3 (1st gen) so this is timely indeed! Have you had any experience with Shanling? I've read some good things about both the M2 & M3 and I was hoping they were on your radar...there are so many people getting into the DAP game these days it's hard to keep up. Thanks for taking on this task...I'm excited to hear your final results!

Ranstedt's picture

Any idea when part 3 will be available?

I'm about to get my first great pair of headphones and would like a nice, not very expensive, DAP that has a very good price:quality ratio.

Thanks.

X