Review: Cowon Plenue L – Romance

Cowon Plenue L
Settings

The settings menu can only be accessed via the now playing screen, so if you’re looking for it somewhere else, you won’t find it.

By tapping on the settings button you get access to some quick settings. You can add the current playing song to a Favorite list, access the JetEffects, set the output mode (Headphone mode), enable/disable to remove silence, set the skip interval and play around with the themes and images.

When you tap on the screwdriver button, you will be forwarded to a more advanced settings menu. Here you have the following options:

– JetEffect7: to use one of the 66 pre-sets or to create your own EQ/BBE/SE settings
– Music: different playback settings also found on the now playing screen and DAC filter settings
– Display: language (chose between 17 languages), brightness, number of user presets (JetEffect) and show song change
– Timer: set values for screen time-out, automated turning off and sleep timer, as well as setting the system time of the Plenue L
– AI Audio: enable/disable different AI Audio settings

– System: here you can change the purpose of the secondary wheel, set what the Multi button (bottom end of the screen) is doing, enable/disable hearing protection (volume cap) and many more settings.

Cowon Plenue L

Cowon Plenue L

JetEffect7

Two features that are unique to Cowon are JetEffect and AI Audio. Both have a distinctive purpose and offer the user individual features.

JetEffect is Cowon’s own sound processing engine. Here you have a big number of different settings which all alter the sound a bit. You can also set your own, by applying a ten band EQ and adding BBE+ and Sound Effects to it.

BBE is designed by BBE Sound Inc in California. It’s said to bring back lost in the entire signal path. It is made to restore dynamics and to correct distortions and phase delays. In BBE+ you can set different values for BBE, Mach3Bass and 3D Sound settings. All of which will alter the sound you are hearing.

In SE you can add some Sound Effect to flavour your sound even more. You get eight different Chorus effects, as well as nine different Reverb modes. These were not suited for my taste though, as they laid a very unnatural effect over the music which I did not like. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Cowon Plenue L

Cowon Plenue L

AI Audio

Artificial Intelligence. Two words that have been on our minds since the first Terminator movie. Cowon is not up for world dominance, but rather learning the usage behaviour of their customers. AI Volume works similar to a normalizer, but unlike the latter, it doesn’t cut down on dynamics. It’s one of the nicest implementations of this kind I have yet seen, and I had it turned on ever since I discovered it.

You can also set smart settings for AI JetEffect, where it applies a suiting effect to different songs. I don’t like a system messing with my sound, so that one was disabled. On top of that you can also enable or disable AI Shuffle, Shuffle by preference and Shuffle by time.

AI Shuffle: Analyses your playback pattern and arranges the playlist based on the preference level.
Shuffle by preferences: Arranges the playlist based on the priority level set for preferences.
Shuffle by time: Arranges the playlist based on the priority level set for current time.

USB DAC

To use the Plenue L as USB DAC, you have to set it to do so in the system settings. Then you can easily hook the Plenue up to your PC and use the Windows system drivers. I didn’t find any drivers on Cowon’s site for the Plenue L, but since I’m using a Linux machine, it doesn’t matter in my case, but since 98% of all computers run on Windows, this should be of your concern.

At home I’m using Roon for playback from my computer, and it tells me that the Cowon supports PCM up to 24/192, but no word on DSD.

When I connected the Plenue L to my OpenSUSE 15.0 machine, it got found immediately. You can use the volume settings of your Cowon, so you don’t have to use the Windows system volume to adjust the loudness to your comfort.

Before the most recent update to version 1.12 the USB DAC function didn’t work properly under MacOS, Linux and Windows. For Windows there was a workaround though. If you’re still running on firmware 1.11 I suggest you update to 1.12 in order to use the full functionality of the USB DAC.

Something interesting, is that the Plenue L turns itself off after you disconnect the device from your PC when using it as a USB DAC.

Cowon Plenue L

Cowon Plenue L

Issues

There is no way to fast access the library other than using the breadcrumb navigation and going back one step at a time through each layer (Song/Album/Artist). This isn’t really a bug, but still annoys me every time I have to do it. You could set the home button to direct you to the library though, so there is a way…

Also, if you tilt the screen you will see your library in form of album covers. If your cover doesn’t get picked up, you won’t know which album you’re looking at, since Cowon replaces it with a pre-set thumbnail (see second photo in the second row in the picture above).

How does it sound? Find out on the next page!

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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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