Cowon Plenue R2 Review

Cowon Plenue R2

JetEffect 7 + EQ options

 

 

One thing I found unexpectedly impressive about the Plenue R2 is its impressive EQ suite and JetEffect AI technology. A ten-band EQ is offered, allowing for precise user-control to match preferred sound-signatures and for tweaking with individual headphones. In addition to being able to create four user-made settings, 50 JetEffect 7 reference settings are included, using BBE+ digital phase-correction technology for some sound tweaks that amount to nothing short of digital ‘wizardry’. Unlike simple EQ-ing, the BBE presets have an uncanny ability to boost frequency response without seemingly going into clipping – they seriously need to be experienced to be believed. I have to say that ‘BBE Mach3Bass’ was somewhat of a guilty pleasure that I switched-on from time to time, but for the most part I tend to enjoy the individual characteristics and tunings of individual headphones, so tended to leave it off. Tinkerers and eq-ers among you will love this, however. 

Cowon Plenue R2 + optional leather case.

For a final touch to sound personalisation, four DAC filter roll-off options are available, Fast/Low-Latency, Fast Phase-comp, Slow/Phase-comp, and Non-oversampling. I’ll let you try and work out the difference between these – I generally leave DAC filters alone for the most part. 

Conclusions

Spending a month or so putting the Plenue R2 through its paces revealed a couple of interesting things. Firstly, consider me to be a newly-minted DAP-covert. I don’t know what’s taken me this long, but in a way, the Plenue R2 is perhaps the best DAP choice for a DAP-novice like myself to jump-in and reap the benefits of having both my library and a terrific playback device on-hand at any given time. 

Next, consider me hugely impressed with the Cowon Plenue R2 as a complete package, and what it represents. From end-to-end, it’s a quality experience, and frankly, terrific value at $549. This is a seriously decent option for not only the mobile IEM user, but full-size headphone users and desktop / two-channel users alike. The added DAC / digital connectivity options are hugely useful and given just how well the Cirrus Logic DAC chips are implemented, the Plenue R2 can operate as both a source and as your primary digital to analogue converter. If you have a decent library of digital music, or are looking to grow one – the Plenue R2 is a terrific choice. If you’re a streamer or are looking to add apps, well, you’d best look elsewhere. 

Cowon Plenue R2 + Grado GR10.

All-in-all, the Cowon Plenue simply made being outside a joy. I don’t think it got quite near the claimed 20-hour battery life, although it did seem impressively long for me not to ever worry about it during daily use. Being able to cart-around my entire FLAC-collection and play-back so superbly via a simple, well-put-together device with a bullet-proof UI made me want to play music more often. And that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day…right?

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Matty's a musician, music-fan, and 'gear-phile' from Sydney, Australia. Outside of his day-job in creative advertising, Matty enjoys live music, lawn bowls, craft beer, and spending far too much money collecting vinyl.

    13 Comments

    • Reply February 3, 2020

      Booker

      As a long time Plenue fan, it was great reading this and seeing a new convert emerge over the course of the article 🙂

      By the way – there’s four User custom EQ settings shown by default, but in the settings you can switch this to show 16. Presumably all 16 aren’t shown upfront to save scrolling through unused presets.

      I haven’t got the R2 as it’s not available here yet. I’ve already owned the Plenue 1, M, M2, R, S, P2 mk2, V, D and D2 – been doing a bit of a tour 😉 My experience of them is they all exhibit slightly different variations in sound signature but with similar Cowon house sound characteristics. More expensive hasn’t necessarily meant I’ll like the sound more either. So R2 is certainly on my list to check out as I loved the sound of the V and D2 using the same CS43131 DAC/amp chip. The larger screen players all have the same functionality (UI, EQ options, USB-DAC function), with the difference of R/R2 having Bluetooth. So if you’re smitten with it, I’d say there’s little to gain in upgrading up the existing Plenue line as you’ll lose Bluetooth only for a change in sound signature, which may not tickle your ears any better either (and maybe also lose some power/balanced out).

      Surprised to see the mocha case, the photos on their website show a much darker hue.

      On a completely unrelated note, hope you and friends and family are doing okay with the fires over there 🙁

      • Reply February 3, 2020

        Ken

        FYI I switched to the R2 from P2 mk1 for its portability, and turn out I like the R2 better, just because its neutral sounding pairs better with my slightly-warm IEMs (the P2 is still a very very good player though)

      • Reply February 4, 2020

        Matty Graham

        Hey Booker, thanks for taking the time to read – it sure sounds like you know your Plenues! Thanks for asking regarding the recent natural disasters we’ve had over here. I have a lot of friends and family who’ve had close calls (and singed gardens!), but thankfully no loss of life nor home.

    • Reply February 4, 2020

      Negleh

      All these “high end” dap’s are just overpriced cell phones with less features. They’re all junk. Just get a cheap cell phone with a good sound chip and an app capable of playback with your selected file: Done.

      I don’t even k ow why I keep seeing these ads for these players. I once bought the Pioneer something something DAP, and that was the worst experience I’ve ever had. The battery life was terrible, it was glitch, it underperformed more than even my cheapest phone.

      Just get a phone as a DAP, stop buying these overpriced, under performing devices.

      • Reply February 6, 2020

        Mark

        Sorry but I don’t want a sales call half way through my music. Phones are for communication. Music players are for music.

      • Reply February 7, 2020

        Saurav

        This is true. The sound quality of a DAP won’t be audibly better than a smartphone at the same listening levels. However, the main reason people buy daps is for the novelty and experience of having a device engineered to do one thing, play music.

      • Reply February 10, 2020

        Matty Graham

        Hi Negleh, thanks for stopping by. That’s certainly one way of looking at it…if you’re looking for a phone. For a similar budget, a DAP ought to be any comparable phone for usability and SQ. Plus, no one can call you on a DAP.

    • Reply February 10, 2020

      Nicola

      Would you recommend upgrading from Cowon Plenue J? I listen to many songs in flac but also 320 mp3s; classical, jazz, songwriters. As headphones I use JVC HA FX 850 wood and Musical Fidelity EB50, Sony R1..the difference would be perceptible? Thanks

      • Reply February 10, 2020

        Matty Graham

        Honestly, it’s probably not worth it Nicola. If it’s powering your headphones just fine, and Bluetooth isn’t important to you, then enjoy your current set-up.

    • Reply March 31, 2020

      ERIC TREMBLAY

      Which one has the best sound? Plenue R2 or Fiio M11?

    • Reply May 27, 2020

      Matt H

      When using the optical out is it making the dap a pure audio source? I would think it doesnt go through the dac or amp since optical is still digital. I would like to buy this to use for travel then, at home, as a pure source and get away from using my old PC. Then optical out to a higher end desktop dac/amp set up. But i do not want it to process anything before sending to the desktop set up.

      • Reply May 27, 2020

        Matty Graham

        Hi Matt, it should be a bit-perfect hand-off to another DAC using optical, therefore making it a pure digital transport in your desktop set-up.

    • Reply June 12, 2020

      Andre

      Hi, congrats for the review, i do like the idea of keep it simple / music quality first.
      still, streaming no-go (on Plenue) is a difficult one to deal with… that said, to what sound quality is concerned, how would you rate this Plenue R2 vs a Shanling M6 ? (or similar competitor, like Fiio M11 / iBasso DX160)

      all the best!

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