All the res­o­lu­tion, ev­ery­where you go

FOR Re­fined de­tail; big sound; file com­pat­i­bil­ity; stor­age; build AGAINST Ri­vals of­fer greater sonic sub­tlety

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

The Pi­o­neer XDP-100R is the com­pany's first high-res­o­lu­tion por­ta­ble mu­sic player. It's also the world's first hi-res player to sup­port MQA tech­nol­ogy (Mas­ter Qual­ity Au­then­ti­cated), a new codec that pack­ages hi-res/loss­less files in a very ef­fi­cient way. So now you can stream or down­load hi-res files with­out tak­ing up as much space as cur­rent for­mats. Great news for those who want their mu­sic por­ta­ble and in a high-qual­ity for­mat.

Im­pres­sive file sup­port

This £500 player is An­droid-pow­ered, has im­pres­sive file sup­port and stor­age space and comes loaded with mu­sic-stream­ing apps such as Tidal – which is also due to start stream­ing MQA hi-res files in 2016.

But there’s a catch: the MQA com­pat­i­bil­ity isn’t ready just yet. A firmware up­date in early 2016 will make the Pi­o­neer player fully Mqa-ready. Seems like we have to wait a bit longer to try the new tech­nol­ogy.

Fu­ture MQA com­pat­i­bil­ity may be the head­line act, but the Pi­o­neer XDP-100R is a fea­ture-packed hi-res player as it stands. It will play any­thing – from stan­dard MP3S to hi-res 24-bit/384khz FLAC, WAV and AIFF files. It also sup­ports the ma­jor DSD for­mats.

Pi­o­neer’s stor­age se­cret

You’re go­ing to need a lot of stor­age space to carry all those mu­sic files around, and Pi­o­neer has taken this into ac­count. The XDP-100R has two mi­crosd card slots, each of which can sup­port up to a whop­ping great 200GB. That means, cou­pled with the 32GB on­board, you’re look­ing at a po­ten­tial max­i­mum of 432GB of stor­age. That’s a huge amount of space for your loss­less li­brary, com­fort­ably beat­ing ri­val Astell & Kern AK Jr’s com­bi­na­tion of 64GB stor­age with 128GB ex­pan­sion.

The player comes with some use­ful ex­tras too. Pi­o­neer has its own mu­sic player app, which has help­ful fea­tures such as a drop-down menu that dis­plays the file for­mat, size, and sam­pling rate of each song file – so you know ex­actly what you're lis­ten­ing to.

We like Pi­o­neer's app. It's slick and neat, de­spite con­tain­ing so much in­for­ma­tion. The crisp text is easy to read; you can even dim the al­bum art­work if the de­sign gets too hec­tic. It’s a nice al­ter­na­tive to Google’s own mu­sic player.

Mu­sic-stream­ing apps such as Tidal, Spo­tify, Qobuz and down­load store app Onkyo Mu­sic are pre-in­stalled on the XDP-100R, mak­ing it clear that this player is aimed at the se­ri­ous mu­sic lis­tener.

Pi­o­neer XDP-100R

Por­ta­ble mu­sic player

£500 There are two mi­crosd card slots, each of which can sup­port up to a whop­ping 200GB. That means, with the 32GB on­board, you’re look­ing at 432GB

Else­where, the Pi­o­neer XDP-100R is also a straight­for­ward An­droid de­vice. It runs on An­droid 5.1.1 Lol­lipop which, while not the lat­est Marsh­mal­low OS, is no slouch. The de­vice is smooth, speedy and nicely re­spon­sive in use. The 4.7in screen’s 1280 x 720 res­o­lu­tion won’t be com­pet­ing against flag­ship smart­phones, but it’s a clear vis­ual that dis­plays al­bum art­work with good con­trast and ap­peal­ing colours.

As it’s An­droid-pow­ered, you can down­load all the usual apps from Google Play Store – but we would rec­om­mend keep­ing the Pi­o­neer au­dio-based. That smooth per­for­mance re­mains con­sis­tent only if you don’t glut the player with loads of games, videos and so­cial me­dia apps.

De­cent bat­tery life

That ap­proach will also help pro­long the bat­tery life. The XDP-100R will re­port­edly last for 16 hours (on 24-bit/96khz play­back). That num­ber will, of course, change de­pend­ing on how much you use it, but we did find the Pi­o­neer last­ing around two days with medium use be­fore we needed to top up.

It also packs Blue­tooth, wi-fi and DLNA, so stream­ing to wire­less speak­ers is on the cards. You can also plug the player into your hi-fi sys­tem us­ing the line out.

Re­fine­ment and body

From the off, the Pi­o­neer XDP-100R gives an im­pres­sion of re­fined de­tail, an even bal­ance and a full-bod­ied, solid sound. Ben­jamin Cle­men­tine’s Neme­sis at stan­dard CD qual­ity sounds sat­is­fy­ingly solid and de­tailed – his voice is won­der­fully tex­tured and in­ti­mate, the pi­ano clunks along with depth and au­thor­ity, and there’s no un­due bright­ness to be heard. It’s a big-sound­ing per­for­mance, too. In­stru­ments and vo­cals are well placed in an airy sound­stage, giv­ing am­ple space for that re­fined and clear sound to flour­ish.

We could do with a bit more punch and wal­lop to the low end, though. While the smooth bal­ance is com­mend­able, we want that funky bassline in Ste­vie Won­der’s Su­per­sti­tion (FLAC, 24-bit/192khz) to be more, well, funky. A tauter, more pre­cise

han­dling of tim­ing, and crisper def­i­ni­tion of the stop and start of notes would make a world of dif­fer­ence.

Play­ing the same track on the Award­win­ning Astell & Kern AK Jr (£400) con­veys that at­mos­phere of funk, with the punch in dy­namic shifts more ap­par­ent and ex­cit­ing. The AK Jr is sub­tler, too, and doesn’t hold back from de­liv­er­ing a ballsy, up­front per­for­mance – the Pi­o­neer sounds a lit­tle re­strained at times.

Com­fort­ably done

That slightly po­lite ap­proach is present across all mu­sic: this makes the Pi­o­neer a com­fort­able lis­ten, and means it doesn’t turn up its nose at low-qual­ity record­ings or Spo­tify streams. How­ever, it does mean Adele’s croon­ing sounds just as smooth and lis­ten­able as a Me­tal­lica track. We want the XDP%100R to let its hair down a bit more and show off the at­ti­tude be­hind each piece of mu­sic. The AK Jr is that bit more dis­cern­ing and has more im­pact.

If you want to tweak the Pi­o­neer’s sound, there are plenty of set­tings you can ex­per­i­ment with. Our guide? Try the three dig­i­tal fil­ters to find out which one suits your tastes (we liked Sharp best), don’t use any of the Club Sound Boosts as they add noth­ing of value to the chunky bass per­for­mance, and turn on ‘stand-alone mode’ to get a cleaner au­dio sig­nal path.

Chunky de­sign

This is a big, chunky de­vice, but don’t let the Pi­o­neer’s blocky de­sign fool you: the edges are ac­tu­ally smooth to the touch. Those with smaller hands might find the wide player dif­fi­cult to grip, and de­spite ap­pear­ances, it’s ac­tu­ally rather light and more com­fort­able to hold than you’d ex­pect.

Next to the more slim­line de­signs of the Astell & Kern AK Jr and flag­ship smart­phones, the Pi­o­neer isn’t ex­actly the most fash­ion­able de­vice. How­ever, the metal de­sign is sturdy and we can’t find any fault with the fin­ish.

We also like that there’s min­i­mal brand­ing. The Pi­o­neer looks neat in both black and sil­ver fin­ishes. We al­ways cheer when man­u­fac­tur­ers add a proper vol­ume wheel in­stead of but­tons – it’s sim­ply nicer to use. The XDP%100R’S vol­ume wheel feels in­tu­itive in use, and while it has up to 160 steps, the player doesn’t go as pow­er­fully loud as the A&K Jr.

The re­spon­sive con­trol but­tons on the right side are nicely fin­ished, and we like that the two mi­crosd card slots are la­belled. We’re not sure about the bumpers at ei­ther end, though. The top bit is there to pro­tect the 3.5mm plug, and to hook it to your belt or bag with a cara­biner. We wouldn't – it's an ex­pen­sive hi-res player! You can de­tach both bumpers, al­though we have to ad­mit the de­vice looks less dis­tinct with­out them.

Hi-res re­sume

The Pi­o­neer XDP%100R ticks all the right boxes for a hi-res player, from ex­cel­lent com­pat­i­bil­ity to mas­sive stor­age ca­pac­ity. The re­fined and bal­anced sound will ap­peal to many, as will the £500 price tag – a more af­ford­able op­tion than the £900+ play­ers such as Sony's NW%ZX2 or Acous­tic Re­search M2.

It’s a shame we can’t test the MQA side of this Pi­o­neer player just yet, but con­sid­er­ing there’s no MQA con­tent read­ily avail­able at the mo­ment we’re not miss­ing it too much.

Pi­o­neer’s first hi-res player is a great ad­di­tion to the mar­ket, and while it doesn’t oust the Astell & Kern AK Jr from its top spot in terms of sound qual­ity, we’d still urge you to try it out if you’re look­ing for a ded­i­cated mu­sic player.

We ap­plaud the choice of a wheel to con­trol vol­ume – so much eas­ier and in­tu­itive than fid­dly but­tons

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.