When the Hifiman HM-801 player was released, I think everyone was quite skeptical on how “hi-fi” can a portable player from a relatively small Chinese manufacturer be? Fast forward a few months, and by know it’s been pretty much acknowledged that the HM-801 is a game changer, as it opens the way for other higher quality players (check out our Hifi DAP shoot-out, if you haven’t read it). Then, a buzz started brewing on a new high end player by the name of Colorfly that seemed to have a pretty good shot at challenging the established HM-801. It’s got 24/192 capability, big name Cirrus Logic D/A and resampling chip, an ultra low jitter clock, and a vintage looking design to wrap everything up. If you visit Colorfly’s brand story, you’ll read all about how Mr. Wan went at length to design his version of the next best portable player. Everybody was highly intrigued. Is this going to be another game-changer? Will the Colorfly turns out to be the new reference player in the market?
Last week, as Jaben Network puts it, “the ‘Fly’ has finally landed”. I’d like to thank my good friend Peter who has provided the Colorfly unit for this review.
Upon first impression, the Colorfly C4 is a pretty impressive sight. The wooden enclosure, the vintage finishing on the faceplate, the pro-grade ALPS slider for volume control, to the medieval-gothic emblem on the back. Just looking at the physical design of the C4, I get the impression that the designers had a really unique concept, one that is different than every other player in the market. The slider style volume control is different, and yet it works very well (hopefully we’ll see more of these around). The quality of the potentiometer quickly shows itself as I tried it with the JH16Pro IEM. This is one of the few analog pots that has totally zero channel imbalance from dead quiet to loud listening levels (about 35% up) on the JH in ears. The player is slightly bigger than the HM-801, but it’s also lighter and felt better on your hands. The wood surface is less slippery than the HM-801′s, and there is better weight distribution unlike the bottom heavy HM-801 player. The screen is also bigger than the HM-801 (biggest among the hi-fi grade players, I believe), and a digital simulation of a classic VU level meter enhances the high end feeling. On the back side, the laser-engraved logo is faultless. I don’t see a single notch of defect on it. On the bottom part, you have two headphone outs, a 1/4″ and a 1/8″, a Micro-SD card slot, S/PDIF in and out interfaces, and a USB port for charging and data exchange. I think everything has been designed very well, and I particularly like the 1/4″ headphone jack as it enables me to plug in big headphones directly with no converter.
The UI of the Colorfly is quite decent. The four directional arrows is used for navigating through the folders and menu options. There is an “M” button for accessing the system settings, and a reverse arrow button that works similar to a back button on your browser. Very worth mentioning is the two buttons on the lower left corner. The music note symbol button gives instant access to the EQ as each press on the button flicks through the available EQ: Normal – Rock – Pop – Classic – Bass- Jazz (As far as I know, the Colorfly gives no options for custom EQ). This feature is priceless for people like us, as it gives a very easy access to tune in the EQ as you’re playing through different music recordings. The SRC button gives you instant access to different resampling options (performed on a Cirrus Logic CS8422 chip): 16/44.1, 24/88.2, 24/96, 24/176.4, and 24/192. Very impressive indeed. One thing that we still have to take with these Chinese players is the slow response time from the time a button is pressed to the actual screen change. In this respect, the Colorfly is slower than Hifiman’s player. A big unconvenience, but I can still live with it. Another more annoying bugs that I’ve found with the Colorfly is that with .WAV files, everytime I change tracks, a screen prompt saying “Play Error” is displayed, although the playback is running just fine. This doesn’t happen with FLAC, but only with .WAV files.
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