Review: Cowon Plenue L – Romance

Cowon Plenue L

Sound:

The Plenue L comes with two individual outputs and both have their distinctive sound characters. The balanced and the single ended do sound different, and using the 4.4 mm does have some advantages other than almost double the output power.

One thing the Plenue L does better than any other of my DAPs is the noise level. It’s absolutely silent even with the most sensitive monitors of mine. The background is pitch black and there’s zero hissing going on. That is thanks to the ultra-low-noise Low Drop Out regulators they are using.

Single Ended

When I first listened to the Plenue L I immediately noticed the well bodied and smooth vocals it transports. The Cowon has a touch warmer than neutral signature, that has excellent body throughout.

The Plenue L goes low down with good definition and speed, it has a finely tuned bass response, that has very nice texture. It however sits at a north of neutral position and that certainly adds a layer to the sound. There is an emphasis on mid and upper bass, rather than sub-bass.

Cowon Plenue L

Cowon Plenue L

The dynamics of the Plenue L are very nice, and at many times I found myself toe tapping along to my tracks. The Cowon displays notes with a bit more thickness than what I’m used to from other players, but that makes the Plenue a very nice alternative in my inventory.

Mids are well constructed and have superb body for a seductive listen. I guess you can say that the Cowon at times even sounds romantic and sexy, where the focus is on body and emotions, rather than microscopic precision. Not that the Plenue L is missing details though, quite the contrary, it manages a nice split between a lush and organic sound and a detailed and sharp sound.

The midrange is wonderfully rich and doesn’t come close to sounding dry. There is always this appealing extra on top.

Treble is where the Plenue L gets really interesting in my opinion. With a base sound that’s already warmish, highs often tend to fall slightly behind. Not the Cowon. Treble is fast and precise, just as a like it. It’s surprisingly clean of sibilance, even with monitors that can produce an uncomfortable amount of treble.

Cowon Plenue L

Cowon Plenue L

On the technical side, the Cowon manages to bring out great resolution, texture and layering. It has a well organised sound stage where musicians all find their spot. The venue isn’t overly large or majestic, but it’s realistic and enables you for very good imaging.

One thing worth noting is, that the Plenue L does impressively scale up with higher resolution files. Especially 24/192 and DSD files sound a lot better. That’s something the AK380 also was known for, so it doesn’t come as a big surprise that the Cowon behaves like that.

Balanced

The difference between a single ended and balanced output can vary from being marginal to significant. Some products have a more obvious change in sound than others, but a balanced output does not automatically mean excellent sound. It’s all about the implementation and the structure of the signal path in the end. I have heard bad sounding balanced outputs and superior single ended ones. The same goes vice versa too.

The Plenue L has a quite apparent difference when switching from Single Ended to Balanced. The sound changes to a bigger venue, with enhanced width and depth. You will get better layering and superior transparency and a more spacious sound overall.

On the balanced output the Plenue also doesn’t sound as warm as before, yet it still retains its romantic character. It’s a more balanced and neutral sounding DAP with emphasis on body and meat. Though the single ended output has definitely more body on the notes than the balanced.

What I especially like about the balanced output is the superior structure of the sound stage. It appears more organised than on single ended. Musicians stand out cleaner from a darker background.

The review continues 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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