Sound – Basics
The W2’s bass section impresses with a good amount of body and the bigger kind of impact. But the W2 is not only about quantity. You actually get a good level of detail with excellent depth and layering. The W2 reaches really low and the sub bass presence is a pleasure to listen to. The bass presentation is slower and always full with a smooth and warmer presentation. Bass never overpowers in my opinion, though it isn’t always the most tight.
The mids share a lot of the same characteristics: full bodied, smoothness, warmth but also excellent detail, timbre, depth and layering. The mids are super musical and natural and I absolutely like the way the vocals blend in to the whole. Especially female vocals are super impressive. If you like fuller mids with a high technical level and a natural, warmer presentation, then the W2 will be your best buddy.
In the treble section there – as said – is enough energy but it’s the softer and rounder kind of treble that will never offend anyone. The treble section is smooth and easy on the ear, even if it extends well (but not as much as on the low-end). There’s just enough treble energy to keep things exciting and deliver a good overall balance, but it certainly isn’t a treble focused unit. Relaxed and easygoing are more appropriate ways to describe it.
Sound – xDuoo X10TII
I was asked by our readers to try the L&P W2 with the excellent xDuoo X10TII as digital source. I really like the X10TII but I have to be honest and say it’s not a device I use a lot. I am always running around with a DAP for testing and at home I just don’t have many use cases. But when I do use it, I am always impressed with it.
Connecting it to the W2 was easy and flawless and you only require a USB-C to USB-C interconnect cable. Surprisingly the signal/sound was even cleaner with the X10TII as source, lifting up the energy and making the presentation more lively and lighter, aka more digital.
Sound – Conclusion
The Luxury & Precision W2 DAC/AMP dongle has a fun and musical sound, but it’s more than that. You get plenty of body, great depth and layering, excellent timbre and a good level of detail retrieval in bass and mids. The overall presentation is ultra-clean, smooth and musical with a good hint of warmth. From the X10TII there was a higher level of energy and clarity compared to my phone and laptop.
As the Luxury & Precision W2 offers both a single ended as well as a balanced output, the first dongle to compare the unit to has to be the EarMen Sparrow. The Sparrow is selling for $199 which is quite the discount from the W2, and it renders MQA on top of that. The DAC chip used is the ES9281PRO.
Sound-wise the Sparrow shares the fuller body type, but it’s a bit lighter. Same goes for the bass presence, which is less pronounced on the EarMen. They both score excellent in layering and timbre, but the W2 goes lower (sub bass). Same story for the mids: less body, excellent timbre, great layering. The vocals here are a little more to the front. Treble wise they perform similar. A big difference can be found in clarity and cleanness, where the W2 performs better.
All-in all both are great units, with a comparable yet different tuning. If you want to have MQA rendering, the Sparrow is the way to go and if that doesn’t matter it depends on your preferred tuning. Purely looking at price, the $199 Sparrow is really hard to beat though.
The EarMen Eagle only has a single ended output and it sells for only $129. It has a classic USB-connector, unlike the USB-C of the W2. It’s powered by a ESS ES9280 C PRO. Sound-wise the Eagle doesn’t come near to the performance of the L&P W2. Less clarity, less detail, smaller sound stage, lower layering, more simple timbre & note extension. Basically a technically less strong performance, but it’s also almost only 1/3rd the price of the W2. The Eagle’s bass probably is the most impressive and the vocals – like in the Sparrow – are presented more to the front. I do like the energy level of the Eagle, which is higher than that of the W2. The Eagle has more neutral mids and the treble section is more spicy. It’s an exciting sounding DAC/AMP with a focus on bass (deep and full yet not as detailed and layered), clean (neutral) mids and lively treble. Again an very different presentation from the 2 previous mentioned USB dongles.
The AudioQuest DragonFly Black V1.5 is selling for $99,99 and it sports the 32-bit ESS 9010 Sabre DAC. It like the Eagle only has a 3.5mm single ended output, decodes MQA and it has a classic Type A USB-connector. Sound wise the Black is more like the EarMen Eagle and it’s not really close to the performance of the W2 in a technical way. The Black sounds more simple, less dynamic, less refined. Bass compared to the L2 is lighter with less detail, depth and layering. The mids are ligthter in body and more neutral but they don’t have the naturalness, and spaciousness of those in the W2. Vocals here are more to the front, but they don’t sound as realistic. The Eagle’s treble is clean, but not as detailed as that of the W2, even if they both are easy on the ears in this region.
The DragonFly Red sports a 32-bit ESS 9016 DAC chip and sells for $229,95 USD. It like all other DFs renders MQA and it has a classic USB connector and a 3.5mm single ended output. The Red is technically stronger then the Black and it is closer to the technical performance of the W2. The latter however still is quite a bit ahead compared to the Red. With the Red you get lighter bass, less depth, less layering. It overall is lighter and more neutral with a higher energy level. It’s not as natural, full, smooth or warm as the W2 is. The Red is flatter, more neutral, lighter and more vocal forward sounding.
The latest DragonFly Cobalt is the best DF if you ask me. It is selling for $329,95 which makes it more expensive than the W2. Like with the other DFs, you get the classic USB connector (Type A), a single ended 3.5mm output and MQA rendering. The Cobalt features an ESS ES9038Q2M chip. The Cobalt’s sound signature comes the closes to that of the W2. The W2 however is fuller sounding in general but especially in the lows. Both of these dongles are spacious, layered and very detailed. The W2 has bigger bass in presence, but the quality and depth is about the same. The mid spaciousness, layering and depth is excellent in both of these units, but the vocal presentation on the DF is more forward. The treble presentation of the Cobalt is more extended and energetic. Overall the AQ has a more neutral tuning, where the L&P W2 is warmer, fuller and smoother. Both great units, both technically strong, but differently tuned. Here it’s purely about personal preference.
As said the L&P’s signal is very clean and you get a very silent background, but the W2 also packs a nice punch. Driving IEMs of any kind is not an issue at all and it can easily drive a lot of the full-sized headphones on the market.
It’s not a unit I would recommend for a Susvara, HD800 or HE-6 but it easily drives many of Hifiman’s SE models and Meze’s just to name a few. I have even been using it to listen to the brand new Audeze LCD-5 to, which is extremely picky when it comes to amplifiers. The LCD-5 to me needs a full bodied amp, and let that be what the L&P W2 is. You have to “up” the volume quite a bit, but it’s a nice and enjoyable combo, though it of course can’t compete with a LCD-5 & desktop setup.
But yeah, the Luxury & Precision W2 is not only limited to IEMs, that’s what I want to make clear. But it of course has limits.
The Luxury & Precision W2 is one of the better USB DAC/AMP dongles I have tried and the price/quality ratio is very nice. It also offers a whole lot of tuning options and it has a nice little screen on top of it.
If you like a full bodied sound with a high level of technicalities as well as bigger bass and easy treble, and that delivered in a smoother and warmer way, then the L&P W3 dongle will be perfect for you.
For me personally I would like to see a little less bass body (though needed by some headphones) and a bit more treble energy/extension, but it might be completely different with you.
Version W3 coming up?