High-res audio? Count us in
$399 From Pioneer, pioneer-audiovisual.com Features Twin DACs, Up to 192 k Hz/32-bit audio, normal and balanced outputs
Music fans are getting very excited about high-resolution audio, which delivers sound that’s vastly superior to CD quality or standard downloads. There’s just one catch: high-res audio players are incredibly expensive… or at least, they were.
Pioneer’s XDP-30R is a pretty thing, black aluminum with a touchscreen, a copper volume knob, transport buttons, and twin micro SD slots: high-res audio files are big, and you’ll fill the 16GB internal storage in no time. Cards up to 256GB apiece work. There’s a 3.5 mm headphone jack, and a 2.5 mm jack for balanced headphones, plus Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB. PC users get management software, but on the Mac you must drag and drop in Finder.
The XDP-30R has two DACs (Digital Analog Converters) and supports audio files of up to 192 k Hz/32-bit (CD is 44.1 k Hz/16-bit), or DSD 5.6 mhz. The controversial MQA format isn’t currently supported, but is promised.
Radiohead’s OKNOTOK, the newly remastered and high-res anniversary edition of OK Computer, sounds extraordinary on this player. Listening to densely layered songs such as “Climbing Up The Walls” feels like an adventure, things you’ve never noticed before coming in and out of focus.
The player’s talents aren’t limited to high-res prog rock. 44.1 khz FLACs sound fantastic: Bowie’s “Life On Mars” feels brand new, while the boxy drums, swooping synths, and the strange noises of “Sound and Vision” appear to be coming from all around you. Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” is jaw-dropping, Chic’s “Le Freak” is gloriously funky, and the bass in Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” makes your brain vibrate.
The XDP-30R can up sample such audio to 192 khz, but the untouched audio sounds perfectly good to us: the upsampled audio feels a little wider, more spacious, but it’s a subtle difference. Our only real niggle is that the maximum volume is a little low; switching to line-out mode boosts it.
This is a superb music player, but while it offers 16 hours of battery life we suspect it’s not going to leave people’s houses very often: outside means battling ambient noise, which tends to kill musical subtlety. You’ll get the best results in quiet rooms with good headphones.
the bottom line. All the excitement of high-res audio without a terrifying price. A treat for your ears. Gary Marshall