One thing that Colorfly advertises heavily is the fact that it would be the first player with 24/192 capability. So, I went to test its playback capability with 24/96 files, both in WAV and FLAC format. Surprisingly, the Colorfly was not able to play those files. Short communications between me and my buddy Sem reveals that with all three Colorfly players that’s been tested among us, none of them was able to play 24 bit files. I don’t know if this is a mistake by Colorfly, but it seems that their 24/192 capability is not native 24/192 capability, but rather, the ability to take 16/44.1 files and upsample it to 24/192 through the CS8422 chip. Looking at the CS4398 chip data sheet reveals that it has a native 24/192 ability. So far I’ve only tested the Colorfly with its internal memory, but according to Colorfly, 24-bit playback should work with .WAV files on the internal memory. That is clearly not the case with this C4.
The S/PDIF in and outs enables you to use the Colorfly as a transport feeding to an external DAC, or as an upsampler between a transport device to an external DAC. I really don’t think that this feature is really needed, as the main reason that people buy a $700 player is to be able to enjoy high quality digital to analog conversion, right on the device. Anyway I went to test the Colorfly as an upsampler, using the Onkyo ND-S1 dock as the transport, and output to the Grace m902 DAC. The upsampler works very reliably, as the sample rate indicator lights on the Grace m902 indicated that proper 192kHz sample rate is accepted from the S/PDIF input. I personally think that missing the USB DAC feature is a bigger loss than what the upsampler feature provides, as everybody wants an external DAC to use with their computer these days. The USB charging feature, however, is very much welcome, and is a big improvement over the mammoth charger that came with the HM-801. Although Hifiman did release a smaller charger for the HM-801, but it’s still more convenient to be able to charge from a USB port.
One nice thing about high end players like the HM-801 is that you can use it as a proper source that rivals big desktop sources. And indeed we have found in many desktop sources fall short of the HM-801’s beautiful ambiance and micro details. Unlike every other portable player in the market, however, the C4 has none line-out options. At first I thought that the two RCA plugs are analog line outs, but they turn out to be S/PDIF connections.
The built in EQ is quite good, giving you usable options to make better music with one set of headphones. “Normal” is of course the default, and has a fairly neutral tonal balance. Although comparing the Colorfly to the Hifiman HM-602 and HM-801, the Colorfly is quite brighter in the tonal balance, with less mid and less low end body. Changing the EQ to “Rock” surprisingly gives a nice Grado or Audio-Technica like sound through my HD800. “Pop” gives a mid-centric sound, boosting the midrange and upper bass, while toning down the treble areas. I don’t find the midrange to be too clear with this setting though, unlike the mid-centric sound on the HM-602. “Classic” gives a small boost on high treble and low bass, making a mild V-shaped curve. “Bass” will give you quite an increase in bass, perhaps up to 8dB. The sound becomes quite muddy, with the bass getting in the way of the rest of the frequencies. I never thought I’d associate the HD800 with the adjective “bassy” and “boomy” until now. “Jazz” gives a nice boost in mid treble to upper midrange, the two areas that cover vocal and instruments on most Jazz recordings (actually, it seems to lower the rest of the spectrum, while keeping the mid treble to upper mid intact). Out of all the EQ options, I mostly use “Normal” and “Jazz”, while “Rock” can probably be used by Grado fans.
With the HD800 headphone, my listening level with mainstream recordings is around 70-80% on the volume slider. While on classical recordings, I find that maximum volume is not a tad less than what I’d like the loudness levels to be. My friend Peter who uses the HM-801 with his HD800 complains about the lack of gain on the Colorfly, as he listens to music at a much louder level than I am. With an IEM like the JH16Pro, my listening levels are around 20-30% on the volume slider.
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