Cowon Plenue P1 Media Player Review
Portable media players have come a long way since they became mainstream with the release of the Apple iPod, launched in 2001.
Cowon has held position in this market since those early days, with the iAudio CW100 released just before the iPod, in 2000, and a multitude of product releases since. Cowon's latest offering, the Plenue 1, is certainly packed with features which just don't exist in a lot of players.
The svelte buttons located on the side of the unit give control over track forward/back, play/pause and volume up/down, and there is a large button on the top edge for power on/off and lock. The unit has quite a square hard-edged feel due to the machined aluminium housing, but nonetheless feels like a quality piece - especially with the hard leather cover fitted.
With its 93mm (3.7”) AMOLED touch screen, micro USB and MicroSD card slot, it's not a small unit when compared to some other players. It's not particularly a large unit either, at 66 x 120 x 17mm (Including leather case), but it is just a little larger than palm-sized. Weighing in at just under 200g, it has a decent feel.
The excellent quality DAC and support for so many different audio file types certainly makes up for any sense of a lack of portability. It has 128GB built-in memory, (and takes up to another 128GB on the MicroSD), and a dual-purpose 3.5mm analogue and Optical Digital audio output, just in case you want to connect it to your favourite external DAC.
Accessing the internal file system for uploading music is very simple. The Cowon is recognised by Windows as a mass media device with the name “Plenue”, and so the files can simply be dragged over, or copy/pasted from your NAS drive.
According to the specs, the Burr Brown PCM1792A DAC is only configured for 192kHz/24 bit or DSD/DXD playback, and in playing higher resolution tracks, they are down-sampled to 24 bit resolution. It's not mentioned in any of the documentation, but it is likely that lower resolution tracks would be up-sampled automatically, to reduce noise and jitter in the final playback.
In listening tests, the Plenue 1 played all but one file from my “High Resolution” test suite, a DSD64 Multi-channel track. The 2.0 channel version of the same track, David Elias' “Morning Light Western Town” played just fine. With deep controlled bass and fine highs, this is a very high resolution player with no hint of harshness, and no detail lost due to over-smoothing by analogue filters.
All the formats on-hand played seamlessly, from FLAC, WMA, WAV (384kHz/32-bit) and AIFF. The rich and clear mid range is very pleasant to the ears, I almost forgot for a while that I was wearing headphones at all.
For those who like to modify the sound of their music, there are 48 built-in sound effects, 4 programmabe 10-band EQ settings, and “Flat”, which I chose. The only negative I could find in this player was a very occasional click between some tracks.
With a RRP of $1399.00, it's not the cheapest player available, but the build and sound quality of this unit will certainly not disappoint.
The P1 Media Player is available in three colours, black, gold and silver.
Cowon is distributed in Australia by Minidisc.