The company Cowon has always released unusual players, but with the novelty of the Plenue V, it surpassed itself – the device caused a sensation at the April HiFi Show, and primarily due to a unique design. Now, when the model went on sale, let’s look under the bright cover and find out whether it corresponds to the content.
Cowon Plenue V Technical Specifications
- DAC: CS43131
- Display: TFT 2.8 “(320×240)
- Memory: built-in (64 GB) + microSD (up to 128 GB)
- Signal to noise ratio: 126 dB
- KGI + H: <0.0004% (1 kHz)
- Output Impedance: 0.5 Ohm
- 140-step volume control
- Equalizer JetEffect: five bands, 48 settings (four of them are custom), BBE + processing (BBE, Mach3Bass, 3D Surround, MP Enhance)
- Dimensions: 93x53x17 mm
- Weight: 100g
- Supported loseless-formats: APE, FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, DSD
- Supported lossy-formats: MP3, WMA, OGG, WMA
Packing and equipment
In a small box of black cardboard, there was only space for the hero of the review and the USB cable. Initially, this asceticism is confusing, because the consumer is already used to “compliments” like free cases and adapters for quick charging. However, all this can be bought separately – or do not buy and save. Nobody thinks that the rich bundle is due to the altruism of the manufacturer?
At first glance at the gadget you experience a cultural shock from its design. Nowadays, players are more like smartphones, so any model that does not resemble touch “brick” seems to be something incredible. By the way, besides the silver coloring there is also a red one for absolute nonconformists.
The case of Plenue V is wedge-shaped and consists of two parts: an aluminum frame and a backrest made of something resembling rubber. The manufacturing quality is impeccable, the materials are pleasant to the touch – the device does not want to be released from the hands.
The player is surprised not only with the form, but also with the power button hidden in the logo. Unexpected solution, however, does not cause any inconvenience, except that when you first turn on it will have to search for it.
Contrary to fears, Plenue V falls well into the palm of the hand, not sucking at it with a beveled lower end. The company did everything to make the player comfortable to use on the go: the sloping backrest with the soft-touch coating is quite “tenacious”, and thanks to the tiny dimensions and low weight, the gadget fits perfectly into the pocket of even narrow jeans.
Firmware and features
The model runs on its own firmware, based on the Linux OS. On the main screen there is a list of files and several sorts of audio library (artists, albums, genres). There is also a search string with a QWERTY keyboard, it is opened by clicking the icon on the right side of the display. In the same way, the curtain of settings from the playback screen is also opened.
The built-in equalizer is called JetEffect and offers 48 preset presets. They not only change the frequency response, but also recreate the reverberations of different rooms – the club, the stadium and others.
It is also possible to manually adjust the sound in five bands. And for each band the specific frequency, amplitude and nature of the damping are specified.
Another “feature” is the BBE + mode. In it, the player is able to compensate for the physical distortion of the headphones, adjusting the electrical signal for them. In theory, this gives the best phase and transient characteristics of the entire system (player plus headphones). More information about the technology can be found here.
Despite the rich functionality, the firmware is loaded very quickly: the inclusion and scanning of the memory takes a few seconds. However, the display responds to touch with a delay, which can slow down the interaction with the device. However, for purely “player” tasks (switching tracks, scrolling through the media library), super speeds are not required, which means that you can get used to such things.
In terms of additional functions everything is simple – nothing superfluous, only music.
The basis for Plenue V was the new audio chip from Cirrus Logic – CS43131 with a 24-bit DAC and its own amplifier. This solution is notable for its compactness and low power consumption, which is especially important in conditions of limited power supply. At the same time, the audio chip gives the SNR at the level of 126 dB, and the nonlinear distortions do not exceed 0.0004% – not worse than the expensive devices on discrete DACs and amplifiers.
To assess the sound used overhead headphones Audio-Technica ATH-SR5, as well as in-channel reinforcement Audio-Technica ATH-IM02. The test playlist included lossles-records of different styles, from jazz to hip-hop and metal.
With both models Plenue V played well. However, in the case of the ATH-SR5, it was necessary to tinker with the equalizer to give their lightweight pitching more thoroughness in the bass area – good, the player gives a wide range for tuning the sound. But with more sensitive and neutral ATH-IM02 everything was excellent from the very beginning. Comfortable loudness was achieved at a value of 30/140, so its stock is just deafening.
The sound quality of Plenue V is thick and solid. The player does not divide the music into components, as audiophiles like it, but give out a driving sound that absorbs the listener entirely. Therefore, I do not want to catch certain nuances in compositions, despite the good level of detail.
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With its density and solidity, the sound owes a bit to the bass. At the same time, the accent is made carefully, so that low frequencies do not harm the middle, but even vice versa, give it warmth and bodilyity. Such a pitch is perfectly combined with Louis Armstrong’s chamber jazz, and with modern electronic music from Massive Attack.
The middle frequencies are given emotionally, with pronounced and detailed vocals. In addition, voices are enriched with a low-frequency component, from which they win in depth. Especially from this win the songs with the technical male vocals – the splitting of Tomi Joutsen from Amorphis can literally “examine” in all the details. Women’s voices are also well-developed, with sufficient voicing, but without excessive clarity. Well can both the academic vocals of Tarja, and the variety manner of Flor (both soloist Nightwish). Instruments sound natural and with good separation. The player does not slide into dry analyticity, but plays warmly and musically, which will be appreciated by most music lovers. At the same time, he does not make a frank gossip, whether it is an artificial extension of the “scene” or additional singling out of the vocal parts.
High frequencies also do not present surprises (in a good way). They are slightly smoothed in favor of a comfortable feed, but they are very clean and do not allow the player to slide to the “dark side”.
The nature of high frequencies varies depending on the digital filtering mode of the DAC. In FAST mode, they are closer to cold and refined, in SLOW softer and more distant.
The DAC CS43131 also supports NOS digital filtering mode (without over-sampling). In it, the sound becomes “warm and tube”, reminiscent of the old analog channels. Great for listening to jazz, digitized from vinyl records. By the way, about genres: Plenue V perfectly copes with any styles of music, and the wealth of settings allows to achieve a satisfactory result in each case.
The stated working time of Plenue V is 41 hours when playing MP3. For Hi-Res formats, this indicator is 27 hours, which is close to the results obtained in the course of testing: the player lasted about 24 hours while continuously playing FLAC 24/96 at a loudness of 50%. With daily listening to music for about three hours the device will last almost a week, and with sensitive in-channel headphones, it can last longer.
Cowon Plenue V refers to those times when digital players were not like smartphones, but stood out with design, ergonomics and autonomy. However, the novelty is equipped with a modern audio chip and an advanced equalizer, so it does not sound like MP3- “zero”. So it turns out a device, convenience and sound which will appreciate almost everything.
- unique design and quality assembly;
- thoughtful ergonomics;
- an abundance of settings;
- fascinating sound;
- outstanding autonomy.
- sluggish sensor;
- no USB-DAC function.