The part you notice first is the analog volume wheel on the top right side (encoder plus professional volume control chip CIRRUS CS3310). In the beginning it was a little harder to turn but it now is very smooth. Next to it on the left side are the three main buttons of which the two on the left can be programmed to your liking. The third button is the lock/unlock screen button. I myself went for the “now playing” and “explorer” functions for the programmable buttons.
The 3.5” touch screen (800 x 480) is made from low-temperature polysilicon glass material and displays 16.7M colours. It has ONCELL touchscreen crafts and protective glass. It’s nice but it isn’t a touch screen where you can slide and swipe lists or track position. You basically have to tap the buttons on the screen and that can be annoying. In example if you want to go to an artist named Lizard you have to tap the screen a lot of times to get there. You can’t quickly skip to a certain time in a song and the only way to get there instead of listening is by holding down the next button on the side. The screen size and the colours are nice but it’s basically only the album art that is coloured, all the rest is mostly displayed in a grey, red, white and black kind of way. The screen always displays the bitrate, the artwork, the gain setting, the EQ setting and the battery level.
On the right side of the player there are three buttons. On top is the Play/Pause button followed by the previous and next button. More on this in the usability part below. At the bottom of the player you will find the 3.5mm headphone out on the left and the Line Out/spdif right next to it. The micro USB port is next to that and on the far right side there is the microSD slot. Some people might complain there is only one expansion slot as DSD files take up a lot of space but we do have 200GB microSD cards now. It was selling for only $99USD just last week. There also isn’t a balanced 2.5mm TRRS output in case you’re wondering. I kind of miss having that option but this isn’t the only DAP by far that doesn’t offer a balanced output.
Of all the DAPs I have in my collection I find the AKs and the iBasso DX50/90 to have the best user interface and lay-out.
I quite like the L5Pro’s lay-out and all the buttons are easily accessible when using your right or left hand. Even when the L5pro is in your pocket or when operating it in the dark, you won’t make any mistakes (no matter if it is in or out its leather case. The only thing that button-wise to me isn’t as good as the AKs, is the volume wheel. I find it to be easier to turn on the AKs where it is located on the right side of the player. I just can’t manage to turn the volume wheel with just one hand as easy as I can on the AKs.
Battery life on the L5PRO is pretty good. I seem to be able to easily get about 10 hours out of one charge, I never ran out of juice when on the go. Charging the L5Pro takes a while but the latest firmware (.5) should have speeded this up, I haven’t been able to test that yet though.
Now this is where it gets interesting. Let me start of by saying the Firmware (FW) and User Interface (UI) of the L5Pro are still a work in progress. This review is based on version .5 of the FW which has been available for a week now. On the previous firmware, I didn’t feel the L5Pro was mature enough to write about it. There still is a lot that needs to be improved but we’ll get there in a bit.
L&P keeps working on the FW and John is transferring our remarks to L&P. I’ve seen some other reviews of the L5Pro but a lot of the issues with the FW/UI mentioned there have been fixed in the meantime. Do pay attention when reading reviews on what FW the unit was, as this might completely change the outcome of the review.
Starting up and shutting down the device is extremely ease and very fast. The Logo and company name just show up or disappear and that’s it. (Eat that Fiio X7) The L5Pro never hung up on me with the newer FW versions, not even when updating the media library.
The L5Pro offers most of the options all DAPs offer. I’m not an EQ user but I do have to warn you the EQ comes pre-set as in “you can’t create your own setting”. The EQ settings L&P pre-programmed aren’t that spectacular either, but they might be of use to some of you. Something I do find interesting is the digital filter setup the L5Pro offers. You can choose out of three different levels: fast, slow and super slow and they depending on the headphone used and the type of music you’re listening to can be very useful. I most of the have it set to fast attenuation. L&P recently added the super slow attenuation but I find the bass to become a little too loose for my taste on that setting.
Like with most DAPs, one easily gets used to the interface. To me the L5Pro’s user interface is basic but easy to use. All the functions are very straightforward and the most difficult thing is switching back to English after having loaded a new firmware on the device. The L5pro on FW .5 has come a long way already, yet its UI wise isn’t by far at the level of say the iBasso’s, Fiio X7 or the AKs. There still are several things to improve or correct:
For some reason the L5Pro doesn’t always show all files from a particular artist, even if they are visible via folder mode. L&P has been informed about this. I, like so many people, am a big fan of Random/Shuffle play and for those users it is important to mention that skipping back to the previous song played will not result in playing the previous track (again). The L5Pro shuffles the play list again when clicking back, so gone is that previous song. I, together with some other people on Head-fi, have also noticed that the L5Pro seems to regularly pick out the same songs and folders when in shuffle mode. To me that’s fine as I love all my music but it do is remarkable how often it selects the same artist and song.
For some reason the L5Pro doesn’t do gapless playback. Playlists? Nope. The touch screen is tap only, there’s no swiping possible. Unfortunately for L&P this isn’t a priority and I personally don’t get that as this is one of the basics of a touchscreen DAP. The USB DAC functionality hasn’t been unlocked yet but L&P is considering that as a priority. Personally I’d like to see them focus on the other stuff as I hardly ever use a DAP as a DAC.
The guys on Head-fi are doing a pretty good job in keeping everything listed (yes, there’s more). If you’re interested in keeping track of the updates you really should subscribe to the L5Pro thread. I will be updating this part of the article each time a new update has been done and something gets scratched of the to do list.