Review: Cowon Plenue L – Romance

Cowon Plenue L

Package:

Plenue L comes in a rather small cardboard box. The DAP itself is presented in it like a piece of jewelry, and I was really stunned by the beauty of the Plenue L when I first unpacked it. You will first be notified, that due to the buffing process of the brass body there might be some scratches.

Supplied with the DAP itself comes a micro USB charging and data cable, a quick start guide, a warranty card and what has to be the best stock case ever. Cowon gives their customers a hand-made red Dignis leather case. It fits the Plenue L like a glove and looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve read about some customers saying that their case tarnished very fast, which wasn’t the case with mine. I got lucky I guess.

Cowon Plenue L

Cowon Plenue L

Build Quality:

The Plenue L measures 67.9 x 119.1 millimetres width times height and has a depth of 16.5 mm, this gives it great dimensions to become an everyday carrier, especially with the low weight of only 199 grams.

The body is made of polished brass and is held in a golden colour, though it’s more rose gold than the advertised brass gold. The overall design of the Plenue L is stunning. I would have never thought that I could enjoy a shiny product like this. Though I hate the fact that I am leaving finger prints on the housing every time I take it out of its case.

The right hand side of the Plenue L is rounded, to mimic the looks of a trumpet. On the bottom of the unit you’ll find the headphone outputs and the micro USB input. None of the outputs are labelled, but the size difference of them makes it easy to not mistake single ended from balanced. The outputs are slightly extruded, so you won’t scratch the surface of your Plenue L with your headphone jacks.

On the left hand side you’ll find the hardware buttons. Play/Pause, next, previous and on/off. Even the buttons are beautifully finished. On the top there are two rotary wheels. The left one can be user defined for its purpose, while the right wheel is to adjust volume. Both wheels have a bit of feedback when pressed, but there is no action assigned to this. The tactile feedback is very nice of both, but at times it misses out on some clicks.

Cowon Plenue L

Cowon Plenue L

Personally, I don’t understand why Cowon has put the wheels on top and not on the right side. When you’re running around with the Plenue L in your pocket, it becomes a bit frustrating to adjust the volume. With other DAPs I have I can blindly use it in my pants, but the Cowon I have to take out to lower or raise the volume.

Control:

As mentioned before, the Plenue L has four hardware buttons on the left side of the unit, three of which are for playback control. The two control wheels on top are for volume and Jet Effects (I set mine to that). Volume increases counter-clock wise and the Plenue stores levels for both headphone outputs independently. So you can set the 4.4 to 80 while the 3.5 is set to 40 for example. The volume has a total of 140 steps for you to fine adjust the loudness.

A full manual can be found stored on the Plenue L or on Cowon’s website here:
http://dn2.cowon.com/data/C09/PLENUEL/PLENUEL_manual_1.2_EN.pdf

With 15 seconds boot time, the Plenue L is decently fast when starting up. Though it can’t match the hyper speed of the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch, it is still ahead of the 27 seconds of the SP1000.

The Plenue L is the only DAP that lets you rotate the screen. When you put the Cowon on its side, you will see the albums you have stored on it. However, there is no naming of the album, and if the Cowon doesn’t pick up the album art, you’re left alone with guessing what album that might be.

Cowon Plenue L

Cowon Plenue L

Playback screen

Once you have hit play you’ll get rerouted to the playback screen. It’s a very easy to navigate system. Half of the screen is occupied by the cover art, below you’ll find the software buttons for play/pause, next and previous. Under those buttons you have basic playback settings for Repeat, Shuffle and Boundary. Boundary sets if you want to repeat the entire playlist, a folder or a single song.

Right below the album art you can see the progress bar for the song. You can drag the time to a desired position and the audio will jump to it in an instant. That’s very smooth and fast, even for bigger files such as DSD or single-track live albums.

The notification bar on top gives you information about the set playback mode (shuffle/repeat), the set JetEffect, the time and the battery status in %. Below that you have the system settings (right side button) and the database (left side button). Between those buttons you also have a digital VU meter.

If you press on the song title in the bottom area, you will see the current playlist too. You can also change songs by swiping left or right on the album cover. By tapping on the album art you get to see more information about the file you’re currently playing.

Cowon Plenue L

Cowon Plenue L

Database Management

The Plenue L offers you database management by sorting your tracks by Artist, Album, Genre or Playlists. You can also navigate through Folders or a selection of Favorites and of course have all Songs displayed.

When going through the Artist view, you will see that the Plenue L uses a multi-layered structure, which follows a Artist/Album/Songs scheme. This is how it should be in my opinion, as you have to see the database as a CD or LP collection, which also is broken down the same way.

Playlist Management

The Cowon does support user created m3u playlist files, when you do that, you have to make sure that all directories are correctly named, otherwise the Plenue L won’t find your tracks. Additionally to that, you can also add songs to playlists you create with the Plenue.

To do that, you have to go into an album and tap the second button to the top right. Then tap on the star button and pick your songs. The arrow in the bottom right brings you to a selection of Favorites. Here you can also create new ones and name them as you wish.

I’m a person that likes to create different playlists on the fly. I start out with either one track or an entire album and then go through the database adding song after song to the current playing selection. This unfortunately is not supported by the Plenue L, and I hope this function will be added in the near future.

More about the Plenue L after the jump.

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A daytime code monkey with a passion for audio and his kids, Linus tends to look at gear with a technical approach, trying to understand why certain things sound the way they do. When there is no music around, Linus goes the extra mile and annoys the hell out of his colleagues with low level beatboxing.

    10 Comments

    • Reply March 28, 2019

      Ali Arghavan

      I know it’s not the main focus in DAPs but 480p screen on 2K$ device? It’s a shame for such a beautiful looking device.

      • Reply March 28, 2019

        Linus

        Hi Ali,
        thanks for your comment.
        Yes, indeed Cowon did not put the highest resolution screen available in the Plenue L, but that’s because they focussed on sound rather than a screen, or WiFi or Bluetooth. For them their highest priority is sound, which is a good thing.

        • Reply March 28, 2019

          Berkhan

          And maybe for the battery life too.

          Sony WM1 series also utilize a screen with similar resolution.

          • Reply March 28, 2019

            Linus

            Maybe that too, but the Plenue L doesn’t really have a battery life that good.

    • Reply March 28, 2019

      solary

      How about the pair up review of those popular IEMs like Solaris, Tia Fourte, U18t, etc? Also the comparison between Sony WM1Z and Plenue L?

      • Reply March 28, 2019

        Linus

        Hi Solary,
        thanks for your comment.
        I don’t own a WM1Z so I can’t compare them, sorry.
        The A18 and Fourté both match well with the Cowon, but I prefer them on other setups to be honest. The Fourté gains a bit of mainstream-treble tuning with the Plenue L, making it a bit less direct and taking away some speed of it.

    • Reply July 28, 2019

      Alessandro Sabatino

      I already own an AK SR15, I would like to make a quantum leap in audio without frills and that’s why I was thinking about Cowon PL, my concern is to take something that comes close to what I already have. What do you think about it? I for the moment with AK SR15 and the audiotechnica ath sr9 with balanced connection I am great. Give me some advice, thanks.

      • Reply August 28, 2019

        Steven Zore

        I upgraded from the SR15 to the SE100, and loved it!

    • Reply August 7, 2019

      Alessandro Sabatino

      I’d like a comparison between cowon PL and AK SE100

    • Reply September 12, 2019

      Qiang

      Hi HFN does this PLENUE L support DAC with Phone (ios or android)? thank.

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