Picture Sunday – Cowon Plenue L

Today, we take a look at the Cowon Plenue L, the latest player from the korean brand.  Their Top Of The Line player cladded in gold, sexy! The Plenue L is available for 1990€ and you can get more information and the list of retailers on the official Cowon website. As Canjam is approaching fast, we wanted to at least give you a preview before the show.

Cowon Plenue L – The design

“Outstanding”, that’s the first thing I thought when I unboxed the Cowon Plenue L.

Even if you already own the previous Plenue 2 like me, you have to give credit to the Cowon designers : together with Astell&Kern they offer the best looking players out there, in my opinion. If the previous Plenue displayed edgy sides and sleek design, the new Plenue L leans the other way. The rounded sides, combined with the awesomely smooth aluminium, push the player on top of my list in the “exquisite craftsmanship” category. It’s a polarizing design : some might find the brass-gold toned finish bling-bling, whereas others like me completely fall for it.

In the hand it really feels like a jewel, the brand carefully took their time to smoothen every edge and everywhere you can touch, it feels… perfect. If you slide your finger from one side to the other, you won’t find any bump or gap, even where the screen meets the case. If you ever owned or played piano, this is the same sensation as running your fingers on the cover : it’s just lacquered wood but your whole body feels how far it is from simple wood.

Apart from this, the Cowon Plenue L retains the same visual features from the previous models :

– two scroll-wheels on the upper side, one for the volume and the second for switching between modes.
– one power/sleep button,
– three buttons for pause/play, forward/backward navigation
– one micro-USB port, even if Cowon should seriously move to USB-C now…

The biggest I/O difference comes from the balanced output. Goodbye 2.5mm TRRS headphone ports, welcome 4.4mm 5 port headphone output. Thankfully, my Meze Empyrean comes with a 4.4mm cable, but apart from that all my other headphones are still in the plain old 2.5mm…

Cowon is even kind enough to provide a Dignis case with the Plenue L. It’s a bit rigid but it’s still one of the best cases you can find out there. It fits the DAP perfectly, there were no flaws in the conception, it’s light-weight and a classy metal plate is embedded in the back-cover of the case. The only question remains : why is there no case in the A&Futura SE100 box… (or SR15)

Cowon Plenue L – The specs

So, now Cowon has the Plenue 2, the Plenue 2 MKii AND the Plenue L, this sounds more and more like a car company line-up. Still, each one of those players offers unique characteristics but we’ll focus on the Plenue L.

At the core of this player, we have an ARM Cortex A9 CPU combined with a Sabre ES9038 Pro DAC. This is, to date, one of my favorite chips, from one of my favorite companies, put in a majestic player. Dynamics are phenomenal, soundstage is ultra-wide and it’s one of the smoothest players out there. The pairing with the Meze Empyrean is perfect, and I would suggest the Plenue L over the A&Ultima SP1000 if you were to choose one DAP for this headphone.

The upgraded Dual TXCO precision clock doesn’t feel like a massive improvement from the previous model. On the contrary, the balanced output is much more powerful and wide than before. It’s so impressive that I can confidently tell you to stick to the 4.4mm headphone output on this player.

As always, it can decode almost any type of files but… still no streaming ! I mean, come one ! The player has 256Gb of built-in memory, can support micro-SD, and no Wifi ? Sure, some of my colleagues would say local storage is the safest choice, but as a big Spotify/Qobuz/Tidal user I would have loved toosten to my favorite playlists.

Apart from that, it’s one of the best DAPs you can get today : amazing design + smooth and wide sound + massive storage, the Cowon Plenue L ticks (almost) all the boxes…

Full review soon on HFN! And don’t forget to go check it out @Canjam!!

4/5 - (20 votes)

A nerdy guy with a passion for audio and gadgets, he likes to combine his DAC and his swiss knife. Even after more than 10 years of experience, Nanotechnos still collects all gear he gets, even his first MPMAN MP3 player. He likes spreadsheets, technical specs and all this amazing(ly boring) numbers. But most of all, he loves music: electro, classical, dubstep, Debussy : the daily playlist.


  • Reply January 27, 2019


    Nice, your photos are better than the ones on the Cowon website!

    Tell you what, since the Plenue L and SE100 are the only daps using the ES9038Pro at the moment, it would be great if the full review could include a comparison of the two. Obviously the sound is about more than the DAC but if this is the highest Sabre DAC available in a portable player I’d love to know how the sound signatures compare, either in terms of differences or how similar they are.

  • Reply June 29, 2019


    Conviene spendere 300€ in piú per questo cowon pl rispetto ad un cowon plenue 2 mark ll?

  • Reply August 7, 2019


    I too would like a comparison between cowon PL and AK SE100

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