Review: Cowon Plenue L – Romance

Cowon Plenue L

Pairings:

The Plenue L offers two different output modes. One for headphones and one for In Ears. You can set it on the now playing screen by tapping the settings button. Enabling headphone mode will boost the output gain, to put more juice into the headphones.

No matter what mode is currently activated, the Plenue L will always be dead silent and free of hissing with any gear.

In Ear Monitors

No DAP should have problems when driving IEMs. The real task sometimes though is to drive hybrid monitors to their potential, that’s where some products fail. Getting the dynamic drivers in some hybrid constructions to sound right, seems more difficult than driving a single DD or all BA design.

Empire Ears – Zeus XIV

The Zeus is my stress test to find hissing in a DAP and the Cowon passes it with flying colours, as the first DAP ever. Zero background noise, even during quiet passages in songs. The Zeus is known for its incredible amount of details and a forward and emotional midrange.

Paired with the Cowon you will get a luxuriously rich and full bodied sound with a wide and deep sound stage that reaches out of your head. The Zeus’ treble presence is something not everyone likes about it, and with the Plenue L that tuning gets tamed a bit, yet it doesn’t miss out on energy and sparkle.

Bass goes deep with the typical light body of Zeus. It has good resolution and a smooth texture. Midrange has an organic and smooth sound, with excellent emotions and body. Instruments sound as real as it gets and each and every musician is separated with precision.

There is good speed and accuracy in the sound, with incredible layering and transparency. If you are into acoustical pieces, this pairing should be on your to-demo list. It’s out of this world.

Cowon Plenue L

Cowon Plenue L

JH Audio – Layla

Layla. The monitor I come to appreciate more and more after each listen. It’s a spectacular IEM and clearly one of the very best.

The pairing with the Plenue L is relaxed and musical with a very high PRAT factor. Tapping your toes will be the minimum you’re doing. For me it has been tough not to bring out my dance moves. Fortunately I can hold back when I’m riding the subway though.

Bass is well controlled with good air and texture. It has a natural sound to it, which is mostly found only in dynamic drivers.

Layla sports a romantic and emotional sound on its own, but with the Plenue L this gets to even new levels. You get a full and harmonic sound signature, where every musician sounds very realistic. Vocals are a notch denser than on other DAPs, but it’s still on a very good and listen-able level. There is good body in every note.

Treble is slightly laid back and could maybe use some more energy and brightness for my taste. It’s still packed with details in the very fine areas. Resolution is top notch and the same goes for layering and instrumental separation. Layla’s imaging is one of the very best out there and with the Cowon it’s no exception either. Pin-pointing each instrument is easy in the well constructed and organized room they’re playing in.

Full Sized Headphones

When it comes to driving full sized headphones to their potential, or even remotely close, it gets much harder for portable players. It takes a proper amplifier to get the big cans to sound right. It’s not about the volume, DAPs can deliver that too, but it’s about handling the drivers right, giving them the correct amount of Amperage to unlock their real sound. That’s where they fall short against a nice desktop system.

With over ear headphones I tend to rely on the 4.4 mm output for its almost double Voltage compared to the single ended.

Meze Audio Empyrean

Meze Audio Empyrean

Meze – Empyrean

The Empyrean is by no means a headphone that craves power, but it certainly scales with it. It’s an easier to drive over ear, that can get to good levels even with DAPs.

With the Plenue L you will get a very nice and pleasing sounding combo, that will deliver on emotions and body. Bass is not the fastest, but the texture and control is very good indeed. Empyrean is a neutral to mildly warm sounding headphone, that brings great resolution, sound stage, imaging and layering to the table. All of that finds its way into it through the Cowon. However, where it misses out is darkness of the background, speed and precision.

The midrange is filled with blood and body, has good texture and resolution. Transparency levels are nicely done and the same goes for tonal accuracy. If you’re on the lookout to make the Empyrean’s treble stand out a bit more, the Plenue L won’t deliver, as it brings slightly laid back highs to the Meze.

Sennheiser – HD800S

That’s a surprisingly well working combo right there. Good body and precision, a wide spread sound stage for which the Senn is known for and a dynamic low end, that’s what you’re looking at with this pairing.

For my taste, the HD800S is missing body and blood, it’s too clear and analytical at times. With the Plenue L it suits my taste a little better. It’s fuller and more organic than on other DAPs. There is good speed and precision in each note. Weight and body wise there still is room for improvement, but as said, it handles the Sennheiser probably better than any other DAP of mine.

The final page is about Comparisons and Conclusion.

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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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