Test 2 Software
Pure player or simplified smartphone?
There are two schools of thought here: there’s the pure music school, where the underlying Android operating system is skinned to present an audio-only device; and there’s the app-friendly school, where Android is largely left alone so that you can run apps such as Spotify and Tidal. Astell&Kern and Opus#1 take the former path, but the Opus#1’s use of tiny, thin typefaces on its low-res screen is a schoolboy error. Astell&Kern’s device is much better, and its software looks as good as the hardware.
We prefer the audio-only approach – we’re not big fans of Android – yet the FiiO, Onkyo and Pioneer do provide control of things: FiiO with its Pure Music mode, and Onkyo and Pioneer with their Stand Alone modes. The former boots the FiiO into a music-only version of the OS, while the latter turns off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the LCD for a clearer signal path.