Review : Cowon Plenue D2 – Back to the future

Disclaimer: The Cowon Plenue D2 was sent to us free of charge by Cowon directly. Cowon already sent us the Plenue L previously, their TOTL DAP but today we look at the new entry level player from the corea.


About Cowon

Founded in 1995 by Park Namkyu and Jung Kaewook, Cowon is a South Korean consumer electronics and software corporation. In 2000, the brand launched the iAUDIO CW100, their first DAP and since then, the company continued to develop new products for audiophiles and prosumers.

Recently, Korean DAPs were more associated with Astell&Kern/iRiver but Cowon can give their contenders a run for the money. You can already check the Plenue L review from Linus or bear with me to discover the newest version of the D series : the Plenue D2.

The Plenue Series

Cowon Plenue L

Top of the range, the Cowon Plenue L is the best DAP the brand offers at the moment. Sabre ES9038PRO DAC, 32Bit/384kHz Playback, a whole new circuit with Ultra-Low Noise LDO and, of course, off the chart performances. It’s a bit pricey at 1999€, but nothing shocking for a high-end players. Visually, you love it or hate it, like a luxury watch. Personally I found it superb and I’ll send you back to my old picture Sunday of the Cowon Plenue L.

Cowon Plenue L

Cowon Plenue L

It packs 256Gb of storage in a beautiful glossy, hybrid metal case, surrounded by two massive glass panels. It’s a superb device all in all and to quote Linus :

“ …you’ll gain a musical sounding and enjoyable flagship DAP that won’t drag your pants down with weight. It’s the most pocket friendly high end audio player I’ve seen, and for the performance the MSRP is spot on.”

Cowon Plenue 2 (MKII)

The Plenue 2 (Mark II) is a revisited version of the Plenue 2 from Cowon. Visually, the difference isn’t striking but it’s what inside which matters. Ok, there is a new “glamourous Jupiter Gold” finish, but apart from that there isn’t much more to say regarding the case. Nonetheless, I think it’s still one of the nicest DAPs out there, all thanks to Cowon’s amazing craftsmanship.

You can find the great AK4497EQ DAC in both versions and the brand raised the balanced output power from 2Vrms to 3.24Vrms and the stereo crosstalk from 139dB to 143dB. Cowon also doubled down the memory, going from 128Gb to 256Gb, plus the classic micro-SD slot.

If you need top of the line performances, the Plenue L is still the best choice out there. But, if you don’t want to invest as much as two grand in a player, maybe you should look for the Plenue 2 MKII.

Cowon Plenue R

Like a small Plenue 2, the Cowon Plenue R retains some visual gimmicks found on its biggest brothers. The touch-screen surrounded by the aluminium case, the led ring under the power/sleep button and of course the geometric-shaped edges. The back is made of rubber instead of glass, to make the player easier to grip and hold, if not as classy.

The Plenue R comes with a Burr-Brown chip, a PCM5242 capable of playing PCM files up to 24bit/192kHz and DSD 64/128. Power output is limited to 1.6Vrms un balanced mode, but thanks to that, the battery life is almost 4h longer than your usual DAP.

Cowon Plenue J

Perfect opposite of the Plenue L, the Cowon Plenue J is a sleek little player almost twice as thin as the TOTL DAP. Even if it looks like the FiiO M7, it’s still a little more portable and as a daily driver, the Cowon is also lighter.

Battery life is outstanding with 53h of continuous play with MP3 files and 27 hours straight with HD files. That’s more than you’ll ever need. Compared to the others Plenue players, it lacks a balanced output, but that doesn’t mean the unbalanced one is bad.

With 64Gb of memory and a SD-Card slot, you can carry a whole lot of music on the go. Output power is rated at 1Vrms though, so don’t expect it to drive big cans, IEMs will be best. Of course, you get the Jet-Effects and BBE+, which remains my favourite DSP up to this day.

The review continues on Page Two, after the click HERE or by using the jump below.

4/5 - (71 votes)

A nerdy guy with a passion for audio and gadgets, he likes to combine his DAC and his swiss knife. Even after more than 10 years of experience, Nanotechnos still collects all gear he gets, even his first MPMAN MP3 player. He likes spreadsheets, technical specs and all this amazing(ly boring) numbers. But most of all, he loves music: electro, classical, dubstep, Debussy : the daily playlist.


  • Reply April 15, 2019

    Bo T.

    Funny, I almost never use the BBE Mach3Bass on my Plenue 1 because of its bloated bass.

  • Reply April 16, 2019


    I own the questyle Qp1r
    Do you think that, soundwise, the Cowon is equal, better or not quite as good as the Questyle ?
    I’m wondering to sell the Questyle and buy the Cowon…

    Thanks a lot !


  • Reply April 17, 2019


    As a self-confessed Cowon fanboy, it’s great to see their players getting more coverage in English-speaking markets these days. It seems that unlike Fiio, iBasso, A&K, etc. they’ve been behind in their marketing and international outreach until late.

    I had the Plenue V which is a very similar player – same screen and UI, just with one CS43131 chip instead of two, and only 3.5mm out. It’s a fantastic player, and I only sold it as got a hankering for going back to a larger screen Plenue with it’s snappier UI. With the PD2 released I’m very curious to hear the differences in the single vs dual DAC format, but probably never will.

    I agree start up times with Plenues are superb. Personally, Mach3 bass is a bit too much for me, mainly as I use bass-heavier cans like the B&W P7, Momentum 2 or HD58X. My go-to settings are BBE or BBE MP; it’s not just the EQ but change in soundstage they bring which lifts the sound to be more gripping and immersive 🙂

    Thanks for the informative review!

    • Reply September 24, 2020


      I’m honestly thinking of getting this player but.. what about the reliability?

      I wanna be able to use it for 3-4 years without software/hardware issues.

  • Reply May 5, 2019


    This one, or the Hidizs AP 80?

  • Reply October 29, 2019


    How is the sound compared to plenue 2 ?

  • Reply December 9, 2019

    Gary Bou

    I tested my D2 with 15 different headphones
    Like Sennheiser 4, AKG 3, Byer 1, Sony 1, Audio Tech 2
    Koss 2, Hifimann 1, KZ AS16

    Best sound with ALL AKG headphones!
    AKG Q701 Way better then other brands

    • Reply May 27, 2020


      Is the D2 able to drive the AKG712pro? And not just so, but very well?
      I got the D1 for super cheap but my desktop DAC died and now I’m debating if I should get the D2 or a portable dac/amp. I don’t necessarily need a dac for my PC but I want to drive the AKG712 with my Cowon Plenue D or Plenue D2.

  • Reply December 30, 2019


    How does the D2 compare to the HIby R3 Pro? I can’t find any direct comparisons online, which is weird since they both use the same DAC set. The Hiby has more modern features than the D2, AND it’s over $100 cheaper. However, if Cowon has a better overall implementation of the DAC that yields better sound quality and power, I might be able to sacrifice the extra features and lower price tag of the R3 Pro. Anyone else?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.