We’re back with another DAP review, this time of the new flagship by Cowon – the Plenue L. How does it fare up against the current competition? Let’s find out.
Disclaimer: Cowon provided the Plenue L free of charge. I only had to pay for importing it from South Korea. Cowon is not affiliated with Headfonia and not a site advertiser. Many thanks for the generosity and opportunity to review the Plenue L.
Cowon is a South Korean manufacturer of digital audio players, earphones, multi-media players and dash-cams. They originally started out developing software and microelectronics in 1995. Back then, their main focus was on their multimedia playback software JetAudio, speech synthesis and speech recognition. It was in 2000 when they first explored the audio player market with the CW100. Since then it has become their core business.
When looking at their history of being software developers, it doesn’t come as a surprise that they have developed their own sound enhancement technology with Jet Effect and AI Audio. Both of which are implemented in their products. Jet Effect brings an EQ, BBE Effects and special sound effects like reverb or stereo enhance. AI Audio is an automated software that learns from the user’s behaviour.
Their Plenue line of products is where the audiophiles are most interested in. Cowon has received good reputation for their previous models, like the Plenue 1, the Plenue D or the Plenue S. Nathan also reviewed the Plenue J last year.
Today, we will be looking at their latest flagship model. The Plenue L.
About Plenue L:
The Plenue L is Cowon’s latest addition to the high end DAP segment. It has an eight core ESS9038 Pro chip in there, which decodes PCM up to 32bit/384kHz and native DSD256. To give you enough space for your high resolution files, Cowon has opted for a 256GB on board memory. If that’s not enough there’s always the option to add more memory via the micro SD card slot. Cowon states it works with cards up to 256GB, but I’ve been successfully using my 400GB card as well.
The AMOLED display measures 3.7 inch and comes with a resolution of 480×800 pixels. The built-in CPU is a dual core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex. It handles the software pretty well and guarantees a smooth and almost lag free operation.
The file limitation of the Plenue L is very slim, as it decodes pretty much every file out there. Though MQA lovers won’t be satisfied, as this particular format is not on the list of the Cowon. I myself don’t care much for MQA, but I know others like the small file sizes it brings with it as a supposedly lossless file format.
Plenue L has two separate headphone outputs. A single ended 3.5 mm and a balanced 4.4 mm Pentaconn output. I’m really growing on the 4.4 mm connection, as it feels very sturdy and robust. Both outputs measure differently in terms of SNR, THD+N, Crosstalk or Output Impedance. The single ended also moonlights as an optical output.
The single ended output has an impedance of 0.9Ω while the balanced doubles that. The measured Signal to Noise Ratio is 125dB (SE) and 128dB (Bal). The balanced output is rated at 4V RMS, while the single ended comes to 2.1V RMS. There is no dedicated line output for both, but Cowon suggests switching to Headphone mode and turning the volume all the way up. This way there is no damping applied and the signal is untouched.
The battery life of Plenue L is said to be approximately nine hours using low resolution MP3 files and 8.5 hours for 24/96 FLAC files. Though in my review time I got around eight hours on the Plenue L before I had to recharge the battery. The battery has a capacity of 3,050 mAh.
Recharging is done via a micro USB port on the bottom of the unit. This port is also used for data transfer. In today’s standards, I feel Cowon missed out on not including a USB C port, which offers much faster transfer speeds and gives the option of quick charging the battery.
Updating the firmware has to be done old-school. You download the file from Cowon’s website and place it on the internal memory of the Plenue L. It then installs the new software and after a reboot you’re good to go. I have been using the fw version 1.11 during my review time.
A full list of technical specifications can be found here:
The Plenue L retails for 1,999€ or 1,999$ and can be purchased through one of their dealers.
The review continues on page two!