- Chassis Material: Aircraft grade duralumin
- Display: 1.8 inch colour OLED 160x128
- Supported Audio Formats: DSD (DFF/DSF/ISO) / FLAC / WAV / AAC / ALAC / MP3 / WMA / M4A / CUE/ APE / WavePack
- Sample Rate: PCM 8kHz - 384kHz / DSD 2.8MhZ - 5.6MhZ
- Output Level: +9dBu to +15dBu
- DAC: BB PCM1792
- Headphone Driver: Ti LME49600
- Core Processor: ADI Blackfin 514 DSP
- Input: USB 3.0 Micro-B
- Outputs: 3.5mm (headphones/line-out)
- Dimensions: 60 x 104 x 25.4 mm (WxHxD)
- Weight: 280g
- Battery: 6000mAh, 3.7V, Li-Polymer Battery
- Storage: SDHC / SDXC (up to 2TB)
- Clock Jitter: 5ps (Typ)
- Feature Enhancements: Firmware Upgrades
- Output Power: 500mW / 32 OHMS per channel
- Frequency Response: 5Hz - 50kHz
- Total Harmonica Distortion: 0.00058%
- Dynamic Range: 121dB
- Signal to Noise Ratio: 120dB
- Crosstalk: -119dB
- Frequency Response: 5Hz - 50kHz
- Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.00036%
- Dynamic Range: 121dB
- Signal to Noise Ratio: 120dB
- Crosstalk: -119dB
- Output: 2V RMS, +9dBu
- Reference level portable music player designed for audiophiles
- Supports DSD, FLAC, WAV, AAC, ALAC, MP3, WMA, M4A, CUE, APE and WavePack music files
- Advanced performance Blackfin 514 digital signal processor
- Powerful amplifier and DAC chip configuration
- USB 3.0 high-speed port offers fast file transfer
- Supports SDHC and SDXC memory cards up to 2TB
- User-friendly and highly adaptable user interface
- Up to 11 hours playtime even with the maximum power output
- Full metal chassis machined from aircraft grade duralumin
- 24k gold plated elements
- Scratch-resistant Sapphire glass screen
Customer Reviews (1)
- Can you handle the Truth? The Truth of Golden Reference!Review by Twister6
When so many budget DAPs get a treatment of a unique premium packaging, where does this leave a real premium DAP? The bar has been raised, and Lotoo answered the "packaging" challenge with a rather original solution. From outside, you have a shiny silver box, very minimalistic in looks and with a basic outline print of LPG. The surprise comes when you unwrap this fortune cookie to discover inside of it a sturdy thick gift box with an "open here" invitation. When you flip open the magnetic thick cardboard cover with a nice soft protection foam lining, you reveal the jewelry of this gift box - LPG inside of a form fitted top tray, shinning with its gold-plated treasure wheel.
At this point, after taking LPG out of the box (its aluminum housing and 280g of heft felt very solid in my hand), I was a bit puzzled what to do next since the box had plenty of height to it and I've only "scratched" the surface when revealed a top shallow tray with LPG. Like a caveman I was shaking it, pulling on the sides, and even tried "open sesame" which didn't help, until I pulled the front of the box out toward me to reveal a three tier box design with two additional trays underneath of the top one. They swung open revealing included accessories and documentation. I was glad I exercised my patience which paid off with a rewarding unboxing experience.
Inside of these trays, I found a high quality flat USB3.0 cable (with an extended micro-usb connector, though LPG is also backward compatible to use a regular 2.0 micro-usb cable), a draw-string felt pouch (nice soft quality), a very detailed quick start and user guide (among the most comprehensive English manuals I've ever seen), and AC adapter with a selection of international power plugs. I was a little disappointed to see a dedicated AC adapter instead of a typical usb connector. LPG design requires 12V/1A charging, and you will need to carry with you a separate AC adapter when away on a trip, though the good news this is not a proprietary charger. It uses a common DC tip, and I would recommend getting a spare charger (from eBay or Amazon) to keep one at home and another one when away. I did confirm that USB3.0 connector is for data transfer only, not charging.
Also I was a bit surprised a screen protector was not included, until I touched the glass of the display to realize how thick and solid it felt, and later learned Lotoo used a hardened sapphire glass! Another comment is about draw string pouch. It's great for scratch protection, but not a substitute for a real case. At the price of LPG, I would have expected Lotoo to provide a form fitted leather case and maybe even a carry case. The design of LPG is not slippery and has fantastic ergonomics to fit comfortably in your hand, not too mention that cold aluminum feels damn good! But I do have some expectations when looking at a premium product and felt that LPG falls a bit short in this regard [of accessories].
I already brought up a reference to PAW5k, and want to mention it again in relationship to LPG design. A lot of manufacturers recently introduced a scaled down versions of their popular flagship DAPs, often noticeably smaller in size. When I received PAW5k, I was very surprised by its compact footprint, but didn't expect LPG to be just a little bigger. Measuring 104mm x 60mm x 25.4mm, LPG is a little bit wider and taller (especially due to a volume knob) and about 1/3 thicker, and of course weight difference is noticeable, but overall it felt very similar in my hand, even down to controls layout relative to the display. I actually find this to be very impressive considering LPG has a more advanced amp section with more discrete filtering components, as well as stepping up from uSD to full size SD card support.
According to Lotoo website, the chassis of LPG is machined from a solid piece of aircraft grade duralumin, which is an alloy of aluminum and copper with magnesium to improve the strength of the metal. You can definitely feel the quality of the material in your hand, no flex what so ever. Non-slippery sandblasted finish with appropriate side grooves also makes a handling of LPG feel secure, though I would still prefer a leather case for an extra enhancement of the grip due to its weight.
The front of the DAP has 1.8" Color OLED display at the top half (under a sapphire glass panel), 5 plastic control buttons (high quality solid material, no rattling, and a nice tactile response), a gold plated power button with optional "glow" light ring around it, and the centerpiece of the front panel - a gold plated D-Pad control with another control button in the center. Unlike PAW5k where the control is a plastic scroll wheel, here it's a directional control pad with Plays/Pause at the top, Stop at the bottom, and Skip Next/Prev and fast forward/back on the right/left. The middle button is Enter/Select key (in the Setup menu) while in the main Playback screen can be customized to function as either Play/Pause or Screen mode switch.
The right side has a reset pinhole at the bottom, the left side has USB3.0 connector for high speed data transfer (not charging), also backward compatible with any regular micro-usb cable. Below that is 12V/1A DC port for a power adapter to charge LPG. At the bottom you will find a full size SD card with a tight plastic dust cover - excellent idea since it allows access to a higher capacity and cheaper full size SD cards. The top of the DAP features a separate Headphone and Line Out ports, and from what I gathered there is no SPDIF or optical outputs. Coincidentally, due to a lower quality DAC/amp section, PAW5k offers both SPDIF and optical output for a connection to an external DAC/amp. With LPG, Lotoo had enough confidence to omit that.
Above HO and LO, you can find a Gain (high/low) switch and a hold (to prevent accidental button push) switch. Switches itself are not easy to slide which is good to prevent an accidental gain change, but also when headphone jack is in - it makes access to a gain switch a bit harder due to a close proximity to the headphone port. It wasn't a show stopper for me because I kept it permanently in low gain even with my most demanding headphones - LPG got a lot of power. Analog Volume knob is gold platted and protected from the left/right/top sides, leaving it only exposed on the front and the back for a quick access to adjust volume with a thumb only (or index finger from the back). Volume knob has an acceptable resistance, not too loose or too tight, and you can feel adjustment with a very subtle click as you turn it. Also, as part of a custom configuration, you can change volume adjustment to be either clockwise or counter-clockwise. I ended up selecting a volume knob adjustment direction to align visually with a horizontal on-screen adjustment - counter-clockwise to increase the volume.
Overall, the design is a bit minimalistic but also straight forward and efficient for one handed operation. I don't have big hands, thus the ergonomics of using a DAP by only moving my thumb without readjusting the hand is very important to me. The layout of controls is efficient and works perfectly for either left or right hand operation where my thumb can easily reach D-pad control and other buttons surrounding it, while my index finger has a clear access to volume knob from the back. I'm sure a lot of people might have a question which control is better, the wheel of PAW5k or the D-pad of LPG? It might come as a surprise, but I actually found D-pad to give me a better control of using just a thumb without moving to other buttons. LPG D-pad has a nice tactile response with a good feedback and a large round surface for a thumb to comfortably glide around. One thing to keep in mind, if you are dealing with a big list of songs or folders, scrolling wheel has an advantage. I personally don't have a large organized library of songs, thus usually deal with a smaller list of test tracks partitioned in directories.
At the same time, 280g of weight packed in a small brick is not going to be exactly pocket friendly for everybody. YMMV, but I would probably prefer to use it at home or in the office at work rather than carrying it with me in the pocket while walking or using public transportation or while exercising (though you can exercise with it as an add-on weight ;)). Don't get me wrong, despite its extra weight - LPG compact size is very easy to grip. Also, you can probably get one of these compact camera cases you clip on your belt if you choose to carry it with you on the go.
The only gripe I have is the same one as with PAW5k, where with a screen off there is no way to control playback until you turn the screen back on. Actually, with PAW5k you are able to skip tracks by holding down volume up/down buttons, but play/pause wasn't available either. Here, LPG has no way to skip or play/pause when screen is off. To preserve a battery life, even considering a phenomenal 11+ hrs of endurance I was getting with such a powerful DAP, you still want to keep your screen off. Volume control is already easily accessible, but in order to Skip to the next/prev track or simply to pause playback you have to turn the unit on first (power button is also screen on/off with a short press) and then proceed to playback control. If there is a concern about pressing buttons accidentally while in your pocket, you already have Hold button to prevent this. I really hope that Lotoo in their future fw updates will consider allowing the use of D-pad or maybe combination of other buttons to enable playback control with a screen off.
Under the hood.
Similar to PAW5k, the heart of LPG is a powerful ADI Blackfin 514 DSP which handles different audio formats and processes digital audio to condition it for DAC input. Here you get a support of most lossy and lossless formats, including native DSD and SACD ISO support, covering everything from ISO, DFF, DSF, FLAC, WAV, MP3, ALAC, OGG, CUE, APE and M4A, and sample rates 8kHz-384kHz (PCM) and 2.8MHz/5.6MHz (DSD).
With so many manufacturers jumping on the latest DAC bandwagon, here we find a good old PCM1792 DAC paired up with a powerful LME49600 headphones amp driver, not necessary the latest but still highly regarded. In reality it doesn't matter what's inside of the "black box", and this is another example which demonstrates that it all comes down to how you implement the design and not necessary the latest "buzz" component selection. It's all about design architecture, proper layout, isolation of digital and analog domains, and power filtering. At the end, I only care about the sound, regardless of what's inside of the box. Here, sound results speak louder (500mW @ 32ohm per channel loud!) than any marketing hype.
What's "under the hood" will definitely give you a performance boost, but not necessary will make your ride as enjoyable. So, let's take a closer look at the GUI, Setup, and the whole Interface.
GUI and Setup.
From the moment you power LPG up (very fast start up, thanks to a custom optimized OS) you are greeted by an efficient all-in-one color display layout with everything on a single screen. Starting with a status bar, you get a repeat mode icon in the left corner and battery icon in the right corner with either % or the remaining time indicator (customized in the setup). Bellow that you can see which DSP effect or PMEQ preset is being applied and a horizontal bar graph with L/R channel level, assuming it's calibrated by Red Book standards from -50dB to 0dB. You also get song’s time duration and current play position, a file info with a file number within a folder, and a file format with an exact sampling rate.
Below that you can see a scrolling file name. While playing you can fast forward or skip the song with corresponding D-pad click, and you can do the same in Pause or Stop. I'm so used to Play/Pause only, it was refreshing to see a Stop button (the bottom of D-pad). The center button of D-pad could be customized to either function as Play/Pause (always easy to access it), or to switch between display views to show a dynamic Spectrum Analyzer of currently played track and with another click to show an album art. Not every album artwork was displayed, so I assume the firmware is a little picky about embedded artwork, and the one it did display was rather pixilated. With low 160x128 resolution of the display, I had no high expectation for it, and for me personally artwork display is not the highest priority anyway, just a bonus.
Above the D-pad, you have File and List buttons to help you view, select, and manage your songs. Pressing File button brings up a folder view of your files on a flash card. This is usually my preferred way of browsing since I have a few album folders and the rest are various tracks in the root directory. Keep in mind, when you have a lot of albums and files - partitioning into folders will be the best way to speed up browsing since you don't have a scrolling wheel for a faster navigation. Pressing and holding up/down D-pad will enable a faster scrolling through the list. And speaking of the List, the button next to File, in there you will find a Play List selection that will list all the files within a current folder or if you are in the root. Next, you have 3 custom List1/2/3 playlists where you can easily add files by tagging any song when browsing (click the D-pad right and select which custom playlist you want to add the song to). The last choice in the List is "ALL" which lists every single song on your flash card, probably the best place to scroll through when you are tagging files for custom playlists.
Setup button is in the corner, and provides you the access to Play settings, System settings, and Custom settings. Play settings allows you to select Repeat mode (sequence, single repeat, repeat all, and random), Time display (current playback back time or the remaining song time), DSD gain (in increments of 6dB from -12dB to +12dB), Lineout level switch (to adjust or keep fixed LO level, think of it as an adjustable pre-amp gain), and Channel Balance (L/R balance adjustment). Custom setting is a unique way to customize some of the settings. You get a chance to assign a specific functionality to FN key (a button located above Power), I usually assign it to Mute. Also, customize Center key (inside of D-pad) for either Plays/Pause or screen change, as I mentioned before. Furthermore, you can change Volume knob direction between CW and CCW, and Lock volume enable when "hold" is activated.
In System setting under Setup you get Power off time (w/timer switch and power off timer), Auto power off (time), Language selection, Display extinction (timeout), Breathing LED (light ring around power button, enable/disable to save power), Battery display (choice between remaining time or percent indicator), Brightness level (low, mid, high), Battery info (battery level in % and remaining time), Database update (refreshing song list), SD info (showing total capacity, and free and used space), SD speed test (pass/fail to make sure flash card meets 3Mbps requirement), Format (for Fat32 format of flash card), Factory settings (to reset to factory defaults), System info (fw, hw, loader, and boot version, and S/N), and Firmware update option.
Just like with PAW5k, before I get into sound analysis of LPG, there are two more important features I would like to discuss - Parametric EQ (PMEQ) and Acoustic Timbre Embellisher (ATE), accessible from a dedicated ATE/PMEQ button located between Setup and FN.
I have tested a lot of DAPs, some without any EQ and others with Graphic EQ where you have certain amount of bands each at a fixed center frequency and fixed bandwidth. With a graphic EQ you get a nice "graphic" representation with a visual feedback of which band you are adjusting and the amount of the adjustment, but you have no control over selection of a specific frequency or the bandwidth of that frequency. Parametric EQ gives you all these controls where you can customize F0 (center frequency), Gain (level adjustment), Type (Low Shelf, High Shelf, or Band Pass filter), and Q (bandwidth of the filter band). I'm glad that Lotoo recognized importance of PMEQ where you get 8 quality presets covering different music styles and 6 Custom User presets where you can dial in your own settings. Each custom setting gives you an access to modify F0, Gain, Type, and Q, and you can also export and import PMEQ presets to share with others.
Also under the same menu selection, in addition to PMEQ you have ATE digital effects giving you a selection of 7 distinct DSP effects to customize your sound. I actually found some of these ATE effects to be quite usable, especially "Brighter" which works great with warm/dark headphones and "Sweet" to warm up a sound of bright headphones. One thing to note, you can only select one specific ATE effect or one PMEQ preset, but not both at the same time. Depending on your ATE or PMEQ selection, the main playback screen will display the choice right below status bar.
I started my review with a very bold statement of LPG being the most neutral and detailed DAP I heard so far, and this is an honest truth. LPG has a very neutral and transparent sound with a high resolution where you get an excellent retrieval of details and smoother reference tonality (very revealing but not harsh or grainy). The sound has a great layering effect with an excellent separation of instruments. Also, it has a great soundstage with nearly holographic effect with above the average width, depth, and height expansion.
In more details, Low end performance brings up the best in bass with a nicely layered sub-bass texture and fast mid-bass punch where low end is tight and well controlled. Lower mids are clean and on a leaner side, still with plenty of body but not as much warmth. Upper mids are very detailed, revealing, more of analytical quality but not grainy. Vocals sound great, but missing a little bit of the natural organic smoothness. Treble is crisp, extended, well defined, and airy, but not harsh or fatigue.
Lotoo calls it a Reference Audio Player, and that's exactly how I hear it with a perfect combination of digital reference quality and analog smoothness. Though LPG is among the most neutral DAPs I heard to date, it could go both ways when it comes to headphones pair up. It pairs up great with warmer and neutral sig headphones, allowing them to improve in detail retrieval without making sound bright or harsh, and even with some bright headphones it pushes detail retrieval and analytical quality to the next level. But it could also raise the energy of upper mids and treble to the level where it's overwhelming and crosses sibilance threshold, thus making headphones not as enjoyable during extended listening period.
In my opinion, any evaluation of a sound is based heavily on a relative comparison. What we hear as a warm, bright, or neutral should be relative to some baseline sound. But how do we know for sure the headphones sound warm and it's not the boosted lows of your source, or the other way around where headphones have too much treble energy which could be contributed by a thin bright source? Lotoo PAW Gold takes all this uncertainty out of the equation by providing what I hear as a perfect neutral reference quality source with a high level of transparency and resolution and enough power to drive even demanding headphones. So is this the end-game TOTL DAP? I'm sure it could be for a lot of people, but not for everybody. If you have a collection of bright analytical headphones, the revealing "truth" of LPG can push it over the limit, or if you take a pride in a large collection of songs and albums accumulated over the years - scrolling through a sizeable list of songs could be frustrating where you might prefer a touch screen or some other mechanical scrolling interface. And of course, if you have a large collection of your songs stored in the cloud or a frequent user of streaming services - this won't cut it for you either. But if you fancy the reference quality neutral sound with the top notch transparency and retrieval of details, with an efficient minimalistic all in one display, with top quality DSP effects and access to professional Parametric EQ, a very impressive 11+ hrs battery performance even with high power output, customizable keys, and the bulletproof build quality (aircraft grade duralumin, sapphire glass, gold plated components) - this DAP is definitely Golden and in my opinion worth every penny! (Posted on 1/25/2017)
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