Colorfly C4: The New High End Player

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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  • Dave.

    Please be careful people. There are FAKE CK4′s out there already. An example is a listing on eBay U.K. This can be confirmed by Colorful – Colorful Technology Europe GmbH Habichtstrasse 41 22305 Hamburg Germany.
    Do not however confuse this with the C4 also listed on eBay U.K.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the solid info, Dave.

  • Dave.

    The posts here are all well and good, interesting and thought provoking but (and including some of mine) are tending to go off topic – Colorfly C4. Am I alone here, does anyone else have the C4? I’d like to read the thoughts and comments from at least one or two other users of this player.
    In the meantime here’s a question. Is it realy worth worrying about higher resolutions than 16/44 especially on a portable device ? How many can honestly hear a difference anyway (loads of blind tests only give a 50/50 result at best – much like tossing a coin). And another, am I the only person here who can hear a difference between Wav and Flac?

    • Anonymous

      Okay,
      I’ve only had the C4 for the period of the review so you probably know more about it now than I do. But on the topic of Wav and FLAC, I’ve heard more than one people say that WAV gives you a weightier sound.

    • Chris Hotte

      I’ve purchased two iPods. One was the 160GB classic. It was reviewed as a good performer. Within a couple minutes I had clearly decided it was missing presence, sound stage. The sound was basically flat and tinny compared to my old Creative Zen 60.  I promptly returned it to Future shop.

      Fastforward ~2years. I bought an iPod Touch 4g 32GB. I was blinded by Apps, Wifi and more tools than I could shake a stick at. WONDERFUL device. Loved the interface! As the night neared its end, I remembered that I had purchased a music player.  Transferred some loss less recordings to it and plugged in my Shure SE500′s.

      I shit you not, 15 seconds flat, I heard the worst garbage amplifier ever. I ripped the headphones off and threw them in disgust.  Nothing wrong with the player I’m certain, it’s just that I expect a heck of a lot better from a “Music Player”. I couldn’t stomach it.
      Returned it today.  Apple makes crap portable audio and that’s all there is to it.

      So as you say, can you hear 16/44 vs 24/96 or 24/192? How the fuck can you not?  I have year to actually hear acceptable portable audio. I’m still searching.  Hoping products like these will deliver.

  • Dave.

    At long last the CK4 I ordered has arrived. First impression… not good, it rattles like hell !
    The seller says that this is normal, all CK4s’ rattle ????? WHAT!  O.K. anyone here know how to open it up without damaging it? I think it could be the battery. Sounds o.k. but not up to my C4, no S/PDIF but then I did know this before buying, battery life seems fine (so far about 8hrs).
    In short, not fair to compare with C4 but maybe value for money, mass market product that might appeal to those on a tight budget and who are happy with mp3, 8gig not nearly enough for quality Wav files in 24/192 ! Or even 24/96 ! Can’t really see the point on a machine like this, bit of a gimick, sales point I guess.  I shall do some long term tests and comparisons. Probably end up selling it on – anyone interested?
     

    • Anonymous

      That’s what I’ve heard on the CK4 too, not quite the same audiophile-grade player as the C4.

      • Dave.

        Glad you agree. In fact after listening some  more today with my T50s’ not even sure I like the sound. Early days, but to be fair a big difference in price and for those who want MP4  maybe a good buy. Having said that, not if they rattle about like mine does! I think/almost hope the seller in my case is full of bull s**t. I’ll email Colorful in a day or so and see what they have to say. Perhaps this player will at least stir up the market a bit. A challenge to the god that is Apple? Very brave and good luck to Colorful, the C4 has opened up a whole new world of pleasure for me and I for one am grateful for that.

  • khubmai

    Mike.
    Can I find colorfly c4 at Jakarta audio store?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Not that I know of, sorry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Victor-Halgaard/1269871108 Victor Halgaard

    Any chance of a DX100 review in the near future? :)

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Victor,
      A few friends of mine has the DX100 and I’ve used it on a few occasions.

      UI wise, I think this is the most complete, most mature audiophile player so far. Likewise on build quality.

      Sound wise, I don’t think it’s quite up there with the HM-801 and Tera Player. But again Hifiman is our sponsor, so..

      Full review, I don’t have a plan for it, but if you have any questions you’re free to ask.

      Headphone out is incredibly powerful, BTW. I was able to drive the HE-6 though at maximum volume level and gain.

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  • amuryo_rei

    Hi Mike. What will be the outcome of pairing these with HD650 which has darker tone and more bass. WIll it synergy to each other? And I also has Vulcan+ amp which has bass heavy slam tone. WIll it synergy each other? Thanks

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      I’m using it right now. The so called HD650 veil isn’t there at all and the Theorem makes the HD650 less warm. Pace is good. Bass isn’t that big. very clear and airy sound. The HD650 clearly misses the tubes.

      It’s an ok combo but not the best of synergy

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Phew. Colorfly C4 with HD650? Tonally should work. I just don’t enjoy the lack of depth on the C4.

      Vulcan+ amp should help warm things a little bit.

      • amuryo_rei

        So, which DAP is better for HD650? Currently I’m using Teclast T51. It sounds great. But I’m looking for an upgrade. Should I buy DX50, DX100, AK100, or something else?

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          The best is still the HM-801. It’s just that it’s big and not so sexy.
          The AK100 is the one I’d go for.