Review : Cowon Plenue D2 – Back to the future

Now, let’s see how the new Plenue D2 fits in the Cowon range.

Design & Build Quality

Casing

History has shown us how nice Korean DAPs can look and feel. The Cowon Plenue D2 makes no exception : from top to bottom, it’s absolutely faultless. The two-tone palette is subtle and yet remarkable, as if the upper level was floating in the dark. If you look closer, you’ll spot how far Cowon has gone to complexify this silver panel. Depending on how the player stands under light, this needlessly complicated angle can be invisible, or visible. I like that.

CNC milling is as good as it gets, every edge being smoothed so we can grab the D2 with ease. Strangely, the player is not made of one piece but three different pieces : the top, the case itself and the back panel. Screws are visible on each side panel and around the micro-USB plug, classic Philips, a strange quirk but this should help if you have an after-sales inquiry.

The touch-screen takes up about 70% of the front panel, a good score compared to other players in this category. There is no gap between the screen and the glass, another good point for the Plenue D2. You have black borders on every side, yet this is not much of an issue as you won’t use this player for video playback.

Last but not least, let’s talk about the power button. Like many players, the Plenue D2 got a led-illuminated power button, they just did it better. The power button is circled by the Plenue motto, neatly carved onto the aluminium : “Plenue High Definition Sound”. Look closer and you’ll see the fine circular line that add grips to this button, not,mandatory but still a feast for the eyes.

Layout

For a player this small, I wasn’t expecting much of the layout. Fortunately, Cowon didn’t have the same expectations I did and they gave us a very clean layout.

Apart from the power/lock button, the upper side of the Plenue D2 is also where the headphone outputs are located. It’s a classic pair of balanced/unbalanced headphone jacks, one in 3.5mm TRS and the other is a 2.5mm TRRS jack. Obviously, there is no 4.4mm Pentaconn Output, this is reserved for the Plenue L, but a balanced output is always welcome, whatever the type.

On the lower part, you got the old micro-USB input. It’s a shame Cowon didn’t integrate a USB-C plug, it’s more reliable and easier to connect thanks to the reversible design. This is a flaw, in my opinion, for a 2019 DAP. USB-C should be mandatory.

The right side of the Plenue D2 integrates all the playback/volume controls. From up to down, you have :

Volume up/down. You have 140 steps and two modes, earphones or headphones (low or high gain)
Play/pause. No explanation needed.
Next/previous, fast forward/reverse. Very useful on my daily drive as I put the player in shuffle mode.

It doesn’t matter if you’re left-handed or right-handed, the player feels equally comfortable thanks to its small form-factor. Overall, it’s a very well-built player. It reminds me of the iBasso DX120, in its own way, with absurdly complicated design quirks that will never matter to most users but subjugate nerdy guys, like me.

Screen

The screen of the Cowon Plenue D2 isn’t bad all things considered. The contrast is good, even in well-lit areas, vision angles are excellent and if not for the small size, it could be very useful. Colors are mostly accurate and my album covers didn’t look wrong, when tracks were correctly tagged.

Where the D2 falls short is in the screen definition. Put it next to the FiiO M9 and you’ll notice how crisp the texts look on the FiiO compared to on the Cowon. For covers that’s not a real issue but honestly, I had a hard time each time I looked at the screen… to paraphrase Calvin Harris’ famous song : “this was acceptable in the 80’s”

Touch-sensitive, the Plenue D2’s responsiveness is very good. Everything answers quick and fast, the only drawback remains the laggy menu but this could be fixed with a software patch by Cowon.

Bundle

Inside the box

Cowon is giving us a very dire bundle with the Plenue D2. The box is nice and is well-arranged but on the inside you only get :

  • the Cowon Plenue D2
  • a micro-USB cable
  • some documentss
  • and… that’s all folks!

I know I always say “great things come in small packages” but small doesn’t means this empty. Of course, you can get an additional case and screen protection, but I think Cowon could have put a a simple silicon sleeve, at least.

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

Review : Cowon Plenue D2 – Back to the future
4 (80%) 44 vote[s]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.

    4 Comments

    • 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

      crepy

      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 !

      Richard

    • Reply April 17, 2019

      Booker

      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 May 5, 2019

      Dan

      This one, or the Hidizs AP 80?

    Leave a Reply

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