Cowon Plenue 2

FOR In­cred­i­ble lev­els of in­sight; sturdy build AGAINST Awk­ward to use; lacks punch; no stream­ing

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

We shouldn’t be­grudge Cowon de­scrib­ing the Plenue 2 as the “world’s finest DAC”, but these things must al­ways be taken with a pinch of salt: af­ter all, for ev­ery ABBA Gold there is a Best Of Vanilla Ice.

Let’s also not for­get that the Plenue 2’s pri­mary func­tion is as a hi-res per­sonal mu­sic player, with its al­ter­na­tive use as a por­ta­ble DAC more a wel­come bonus.

It’s a weighty unit, so tighten your belt be­fore putting it in your pocket, but that's be­fit­ting of the amount of tech­nol­ogy Cowon has man­aged to fit in­side.

Weighty is­sues

Beginning with that DAC: it’s a pre­mium AKM model (AK4497EQ) in­cor­po­rat­ing ‘Vel­vet sound’ tech­nol­ogy, which is said to re­duce any noise and dis­tor­tion and, work­ing along­side a Sound­plus am­pli­fier, is ca­pa­ble of sup­port­ing play­back of up to 24-bit/192khz PCM files as well as DSD.

The Plenue 2 com­bats jit­ter by us­ing an Ul­tra Pre­ci­sion Dual Tem­per­a­ture Com­pen­sated Crys­tal Os­cil­la­tor (TCXO) Clock and also wel­comes Jet­ef­fect 7 & BBE for Eqing, tone ad­just­ment and per­sonal sonic tweak­ing.

Weigh­ing al­most 200g, the Plenue 2 feels like a high-end prod­uct, and the gen­eral build and tac­til­ity doesn’t dis­ap­point. Two ana­logue wheels on the top con­trol vol­ume and menu nav­i­ga­tion, and are as pleas­ant to twiz­zle as they are use­ful.

Be­neath buttons for power and play­back on the Plenue 2’s side, protected from dust and the el­e­ments by a leather case in­cluded in the box, is a mi­cro SD card slot, which al­lows you to dou­ble the already fairly gen­er­ous 128GB in­ter­nal mem­ory.

Once we've turned the Plenue 2 on, how­ever, we don’t find it to be the most user-friendly prod­uct we've ever tested. Aside from its nine-hour bat­tery life (8.5 hours if play­ing hi-res) not be­ing overly im­pres­sive, given that it takes around three hours to charge to full power, the whole in­ter­face could be a lot more in­tu­itive.

Menus aren’t al­ways the eas­i­est to lo­cate, and the vol­ume in­creas­ing in steps of 0.5db means a lot of scrolling to reach the heights we’d like it. It all feels just a bit clunky, some­times to the point of frus­tra­tion.

It’s also worth men­tion­ing that the Plenue 2 has no way of con­nect­ing to the in­ter­net, so if you’re look­ing for a hi-res player to ac­cess Tidal as well as store the 12 mu­sic you’ve already bought, your only op­tion here is to use this as a USB DAC along­side your phone or lap­top.

How­ever, when we fi­nally man­age to fill the Plenue 2 with our mu­sic and hit play, the ini­tial re­turns are im­pres­sive. There’s a class-lead­ing level of de­tail in Óla­fur Ar­nalds and Nils Frahm’s col­lab­o­ra­tive EP Loon, ex­pos­ing tex­tures in the syn­the­siz­ers that other per­sonal mu­sic play­ers sim­ply wouldn’t be able to dig out, and set­ting them in oceans of space.

A tight grip

The bal­ance is spot on as well. There’s plenty of depth to the low end, but it re­mains taut and lean, re­fus­ing to forgo any of the lev­els of de­tail im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent through the midrange, while the tre­ble is quite happy to stretch its arms to­ward the ceil­ing with plenty of room to spare. Es­sen­tially, the Plenue 2 just feels com­fort­able pick­ing out notes wher­ever in the fre­quency range they may lie, not both­er­ing to overdo or roll off any part.

Ma­tu­rity is a word that comes to mind when de­scrib­ing this Cowon’s per­for­mance, as is pre­ci­sion. Again, the Plenue 2 keeps time with ease, let­ting in­stru­ments come, go and in­ter­twine as they please, in­tro­duc­ing each with care as and when they want to con­verse.

But that ma­tu­rity comes at the ex­pense of a lit­tle fun. The per­for­mance could do with some ex­tra punch, a greater level of ex­pres­sion that could take it from be­ing ex­act to be­com­ing truly musical. It isn’t that the Plenue 2 is dy­nam­i­cally flat – there are swells as there are leap­ing crescen­dos – but it’s all done with a tight grip. We’re never quite im­mersed in the mu­sic the way we might be if the Plenue 2 were to let it­self go once in a while.

Con­vinc­ing ef­fort

The same is true when us­ing it as a DAC. By plug­ging it in via USB and se­lect­ing the DAC op­tion when it pops up, we gain ac­cess to ex­tra in­sight our lap­tops can­not re­veal. It isn’t quite the world’s finest DAC – if you’re af­ter a por­ta­ble DAC rather than a per­sonal mu­sic player, the Chord Mojo at £400 is still the way to go.

Over­all, we’d be more than happy us­ing the Plenue 2 as our main source of mu­sic on the move. It doesn't have the drive some lis­ten­ers might want, but it more than makes up for that with in­cred­i­ble lev­els of de­tail and in­sight. For any­one scep­ti­cal of the tal­ents of hi-res au­dio, this ef­fort from Cowon should be more than ca­pa­ble of con­vinc­ing you.

The Plenue 2 is pri­mar­ily a hi-res mu­sic player, the DAC func­tion is a wel­come bonus

It feels high-end and the sound is im­pres­sive, but the Plenue 2 isn't par­tic­u­larly user-friendly

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.