Disclaimer: Cowon directly sent the Plenue D2 seen in this article for the purposes of review both here and at Headfonics.com. I paid nothing for it. Cowon are not an advertiser at ohm (by the way, I’d like to open advertising, so if you’re interested, by all means drop a line). The Plenue D shares much of the DNA of the original, including size, screen, interface, and basic layout. It even keeps the single micro SD slot. Shame that. It currently goes for ~320$ USD from various outlets. You can find out all about it here: Dual DAC HiFi: Plenue D2.
For three years I have both recommended and castigated Cowon’s original Plenue D. It has great battery life. It is small. It is robust. It plays loads of files. But its interface, abstruse from day one, got worse. And, through sensitive earphones, it hissed a lot more than most of the competition; in fact, it hissed more than some late-model Minidisk players and recorders. It held signal well under load, but lost quite a bit of stereo separation under loads both meagre and highly resistive. My mate, Ryuzoh, offered to mod mine. I can’t tell if it sounds better, and neither can he, but my unit is super unique. And it’s one I’ve kept because the plusses I mentioned above really bowled me over.
Onkyo’s DP-S1 sounds better, but is also a bugger to use, and is both larger and has worse battery life. FiiO’s M6 is tiny, but almost too small- with fiddly, canting touch controls, and audible hiss. Despite its Hi-Res badge, its output is only barely better than 16-bit. Still, I love how it sounds. The Fiio M3, hisses even more, is plastic, and measures worse than the M6. But dear God do I love its warm sound signature. The short is that in my experience, the Plenue D, however flawed, was and is one of the best compact DAPs on the market.
And the D2, while yoked to as fiddly a GUI, is better in almost every way. Even the super-sensitive Hidizs MS4 is hissless - or as close to hissless as possible- when plugged into the D2. And, surprise surprise, the D2 generally outperforms my current metric-based benchmark DAP, the Onkyo DP-S1. That is, it beats it in all RMAA tests except for unloaded stereo crosstalk, and only by 4dB. But plug an earphone or headphone in and the Plenue D2 nets ~10dB better crosstalk performance across the board. And, it does ~20dB better than the original D almost across the board. To that, it adds 2,5mm balanced output (for which I will soon add measurements) a lot more power, ending up roughly as powerful as the DP-S1, which by this time, I am sure is square in Cowon’s sights. And in case you’re wondering, it is better than the Plenue J in every way possible and even stomps all over the AK70 MKII. It’s good.
I’m still testing battery life, and have yet to suss its sound signature, but so far, it looks to be a very solid upgrade to a DAP that showed much promise.
RMAA: Cowon Plenue D 24-bit
RMAA: Cowon Plenue J 24-bit
RMAA: Onkyo DP-S1 rubato 24-bit
RMAA: Onkyo DP-X1 24-bit single-ended and balanced
RMAA: Pioneer XDP-100R 24-bit
RMAA: Fiio M6 24-bit
RMAA: FiiO M3 24-bit
RMAA: Sony ZX300 24-bit
RMAA: Sony NW-WM1Z 24-bit
RMAA: Sony NW-ZX2 24-bit
RMAA: Astell&Kern AK70 MKII 24-bit
RMAA: Astell & Kern AK70 Kai (Ryuzoh mod) 24-bit
RMAA: Astell&Kern AK70 24-bit
RMAA: MS-AK100 24-bit new
RMAA: Astell&Kern AK380 24-bit
RMAA: GloveAudio A1 24-bit
RMAA: HiFiman Megamini 24-bit
RMAA: iPhone SE 24-bit
RMAA: Apple iPhone 6 24-bit
RMAA: The Bit Audio Opus#1 24-bit
RMAA: Venturecraft Valoq 24-bit
RMAA: Shozy Alien Gold 24-bit
Source: Dual DAC Hi-Fi Cowon Plenue D2
ADC: Lynx Studio HILO LT-TB
Computer: 2012 27" iMac
Cables: 1,5m Hosa Pro 3,5mm stereo to dual 3-pin XLR (around 8$); bespoke y-split 2,5 TRRS to dual 3-pin XLR made by Musashi Sound Technology.
NL - no load
SM2 - Earsonics SM2
ES7 - Audio Technica ES7
DT880 - Beyerdynamic DT880/600
24-bit VOL (Full) @+6dB - all targets
24-bit VOL (Full) @+6dB - summary
24-bit VOL (Full) @+6dB - NL VS D VS DP-S1
I’m really looking forward to completing my reviews of the Plenue D2. It is solid, both physically, and in the expectational manner a hardware sequel/update should be. Once I finish balanced measurements and battery life tests, I’ll paste them in here before providing a quick but hopefully informative YouTube video, and a long-form review at Headfonics.