The Cowon Plenue P1 is full of features but also lacking of some of what most of the many players on the market have but most of those emissions are not what this player is about, and that is pure musical fidelity and for that reason it is stripped of those features which are not seen as beneficial to sound quality or ease of use.The feature list on this player is rich but the highlight is theBurr-Brown PCM1792A DAC which offers world class performance and is what makes this player so good at what it does, it also offersExtensive file support with - DXD, DSD, FLAC, AIFF, APE, WAV, MP3, WMA and OGG all supported by this DAP, it can alsoplay SACD ISO's when mounted by cue file which is a brilliant feature and means you can rip your SACD's straight to the player.
It also has a massive 128Gig of memory on board but if you need more you can up that to 256Gig which is a huge amount of storage space, the battery is a 3,000mAh Li-Polymer Battery which should give around 8hrs of playback time.When the P1 was designed Cowon did not stint on components. The P1 features a top of the line OP AMP, high performance capacitor and high precision resistors in order to be able to support high-end headphones and earphones perfectly. The 2Vrms output power covers high impedance headphones without the need for a separate headphone amplifiers.
The player also supports optical out for a lossless output option, allowing you to connect it to a wide variety of devices and receivers.The player is housed in a full metal unibody with a clean cut and minimalist finish. The high quality aluminum has been cut from a single block using CNC machining and diamond cutting, resulting in a solid and precise finish. The surface has been anodized making it hard wearing and beautiful, it also comes with a leather case which the player sits in nicely but you can buy another case for it with a cover that goes over the screen, this will set you back another 50 but it does look really beautiful and well made.
Its specs and recorded figures are impressive reading for audio specifications,with a Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) of 120 dB, Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) of 0.0006% and Stereo Crosstalk of -134dB.It offersJetEffect 7 - Professional Sound Control,Featuring both JetEffect 7 and BBE+ software, the P1 gives you ultimate control over the sound output from the player. With a 10 band EQ filter, BBE+ which compensates for phase and amplitude distortion, restoring the brilliance and clarity of the original content material, reverb controls to maximise the live presence of the sound and 3D surround to create a surround sound effect through headphones. Whatever your preferred set up the P1 can deliver with its settings. Which is fun to play around with and gives some real different effects to the sound when used and can be of an advantage on some recordings.Below is some diagrams which shows screen shots of what it looks like on the P1 when using the BBE and EQ controls.Usage
For my listening tests with the P1 I am using Audeze LCD-2 Headphones and also my B&W P7 Headphones which are both superb and offer brilliant sound quality from my Musical Fidelity Headphone Amplifier, but I thought that the P1 might struggle with the Audeze Headphones but it powers them with no problems whatsoever.Using the Plenue P1 is very easy as the software it uses is not Android based but rather a custom Linux based coded software which works extremely well and to work with the player you just plug it into your PC or MAC and it opens up straight away as another HDD and then you just drag and drop your music files into the Music designated folder.To update the firmware which is what I had to do when I first received my player, you just download a zip file unzip it and transfer the contents to the root folder, then you unplug from the PC and power up the unit, it will then say upgrading firmware and reboot when finished it is that simple, the latest firmware is 2.11 which seems to be faultless and the P1 works so well and is very fluid when operating the different menu's on the touch screen, you can select your albums or folders just like any other streaming device you may have used in the past and play music, the difference is that this device can really make your music collection sound stunning.Performance
This is where the fun starts and for me getting to grips with this player has been an absolute pleasure, I have listened to quite a few DAP's over the last year and ranging from very high end to the low end where I reviewed the Sony NWZ-A15 DAP which is a great sounding player and hits higher than its price tag suggests tbh, but listening for long periods with high end players you get to notice and hear differences in players which makes you appreciate the quality of higher priced items, and the P1 is certainly one of them, it is one of the most music focused players I have used and listened to, with no nonsense or messing around, just pure fidelity rather than trying to connect to Bluetooth devices, this player begs you to listen and that is all it requires!With the emission of Bluetooth you might think that this player is missing a trick but it is not as it focuses purely on the music and Cowon did not want to interfere by putting anything that might degrade sound quality, just plug in you favorite headphones and sit back relax and be amazed at what sounds can be produced from such a high end product as the P1 does, my Audeze Headphones have a wonderful open sound which is very natural and with terrific bass response which sounds so realistic that you can forgive yourself for looking like you have 2 huge cans attached to your ears, but the P1 makes good use of the Audeze headphones and gives such a grandscale soundstage that it makes you feel immersed in music which is all around you rather than just to the left of right.My music collection has been growing fast and I have been listening to a lot ofAl Di Meolawho is simply brilliant and one of the best guitarist around with some terrific music that sounds simply sublime through the P1 and Audeze combination, an album which I have on SACD, I ripped to the P1 as an ISO image and it is as if I am listening to the SACD but through the P1 but it is the best I have heard theAl Di Meola - Consequence of Chaosalbum sound, the P1 has so much power to drive the headphones that you really feel the dynamics of this music through them.
Each instrument in every track is so distinguishable from one another and the timing is near on perfect that it is more or less faultless in how the music is presented with layers appearing and the depth of the music really does shine through, I have listened to this album on my old KREISEL system and the extra layers of detail that is there is so much more apparent now, with the number of effects that Al di meola is adding to his electric guitar he is lightning fast and the P1 and Audeze combo does not miss any of it, just stunning!
Moving on and now this combo may be OK for home listening but on the move the Audeze Headphones do not quite fit the task as they are quite a large pair of Headphones to be carrying around so I switch to my B&W P7 Headphones for this and on the move I find that this is a great combo as they look and feel a lot less than the mighty Audeze LCD-2 Headphones, but are more manageable but still have a great quality of sound.Pat Metheny Unity Group 24bit 96Khzis another favorite of mine since owning the P1 and his album KINis a brilliant piece of jazz fusion that just sounds superb and through the B&W P7 Headphones I lose some detail that the Audeze had but keep the good bass response and timing which is all intact with the pairing and the Plenue P1 shines giving great resolution to this album and again the depth and clarity is astounding from such a small device, Rise Up which is track 2 is so complex as any recording could be but the separation of instruments and spaciousness that the P1 delivers it in spades, it is meant for the true Audiophile as it plays back exactly what is on the recording in Hi Fidelity, Pat Metheny is one of those artists of which his music needs to be replicated from a device that can handle his musical genre and the P1 is right at home with his take on jazz.
Listening to different albums with the BBE+ software sounds good through my Audeze Headphones and I am still playing with it but I am not going to disregard it as just a gimmick but as an enhancement to what is already an excellent sounding DAP, BBE Headphone is the one I like the most out of all of the settings but it is work in progress with these settings, as I will more than likely just leave them alone with the HD recordings but if I have some older recordings that might need some work on then I think they would be more useful as it is quite an extensive software suite this Jet Effect 7 and BBE+ software so from what I have read it is quite a powerful tool to have and future firmware updates might improve on features too.ConclusionsI must admit that this was somewhat of stab in the dark for me in the beginning when choosing which High End DAP Player to review but now that I have it I am utterly blown away by its performance and its sheer musicality, I have listened to Astell&Kern players which are excellent and I also listened to the Acoustic Research M2 Player recently but I would not hesitate to recommend this playerif you are looking for a dedicated DAP Player that plays every format on the planet and then some, but it is in the sound department where this player really shines and what it lacks in other areas it sure makes up for here as it is just sounds so good.The only slight negative point I could possibly make about this player is the battery life in that it seems to go rather quickly, but then again it could be also because I am enjoying listening to it so much that I can't put the damn thing down.Priced at 740 this could be the best of the bunch when it comes to value for money and performance, In the High End DAP Market.