Pros: Resolution, clarity, power, transparency, musicality.
Cons: Small screen, non-customizable display for titles, no MTP support
I was looking for a new DAP a few months ago when my Cowon S9's power slider stopped working properly. I was considering the HiFiMan 601, HiFiMan 802, S:Flo2, and a few other DAPs. After fixing the power slider problem myself, I stopped looking for a DAP because I was content with my Cowon S9.
Recently, I was browsing the forums and came across a promotion by HiSoundAudio involving their new player: the RoCoo P. I did not know much about the RoCoo P nor HiSoundAudio, but I did remember hearing the word "RoCoo" thrown around the forum sparingly over the years, so I decided to read more. Eventually I took the plunge and bought the RoCoo P through their tiered auction (even though I did not need a new DAP). Little did I know this player would completely surprise me. What follows is my review on the RoCoo P DAP.
After my initial order, the RoCoo P arrived at my doorstep in less than a week (in exactly 4 days from East Asia to NYC—that's fast!). The player was well protected in three boxes and arrived unscathed. This is what I received with my package:
- RoCoo P DAP
- Pair of earbuds (model: PAA-1 from HiSoundAudio)
- Wall charger (that does not appear to be for North America)
- USB cable for transferring music and charging the player as well, and the RoCoo P
- VIP Card (for future purchases from HiSoundAudio)
I also received the promotional IEM, the POPO IEM from HiSoundAudio (I will be reviewing these IEMs in another review). The items included were very well packaged and presented. I was very surprised at the size of the player—it is small but incredibly well built. The brushed metal looks fantastic on the player. The weight of the player also seems very good for its size—not too light or heavy.
User Interface and Specifications
The RoCoo P is a very intuitive player to use. There are only five physical buttons on the player, which are all responsible for navigating around the menus and selecting music, changing volume, etc. The screen is reminiscent of high-end 90's CD Players, with its small 1" OLED monochrome display. However, the screen is actually very clear and fits the overall aesthetics of the player. I do wish the screen was a bit larger to fit song titles, or that there was a setting to make it so that song titles displayed without having the artist constantly displayed before the song title.
Transferring music onto the player is as easy as dragging and dropping the files into the player. The player comes with 4 gigabytes of storage, but is expandable via MicroSD. I have 4 gigabyte MicroSD inside my player, giving me a comfortable 8 gigabytes of space.
Here are the specifications for the player according to HiSoundAudio:
Frequency Response: 10Hz-21kHz
Sensitivity (dB): 105dB
Impedance: 32 ohms
Memory capacity: 4G＋expanding SD card slot.
Card Compatibility: MicroSD, HCSD
Battery capacity: 600Ma rechargeable Li-ion battery
Battery continually playing time: > 10hours (volume @ 3)
Proprietary Power Saving technology: EMA Techonology (Energy Management and Admeasurement Technology)
Compatible formats： MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC, OGG, AAC
Screen: 1 inch OLED
Color available: Brushed black
UI Operation: Mechanical key button operation (one-hand and blind operation capability)
USB type: mini USB 2.0
Dimension: 81.85mm L x 50mm W x 20.65 (MM)
Input/Output Jacks and Size Comparison with Cowon S9:
One thing that HiSoundAudio did not include in their specifications is that this player has a Class A amplifier inside of it. They wanted to make a player that did not require an external amp, and so they included a very good amplifier inside the player. The amplifier has an output of 50 mW, which is incredibly strong for a player of this size. And as you will read later, this powerful amplifier really helps the player's audio quality sound that much better.
It is important to note that this player focuses on audio quality as its selling point. It does away with features such as radio, games, and other capabilities. So it is essentially a "no compromises" audio player. And it delivers on that point.
The part that you've all probably been wanting to read. Let me start by saying that this player blew me away when I first listened to it. What blew me away even more was that this player was so small. Prior to listening to this player, I had heard the Cowon S9, a bunch of high-end desktop setups at head-fi meets, and run of the mill players (iPods, Zunes, Creative Zen, and more). However, this player still surprised me with its clarity, power, and transparency.
Although the player has a few EQ settings, it is clear from HiSoundAudio's philosophy that they did not put much effort into their EQ settings. The default EQ setting (which is basically the "Off" setting, is called "Nature") is the best sounding out of all the others—and is what I have the player set on all the time. I will be using the JH16 Pro in-ear monitors as my IEM for assessing sound quality.
The highs on the RoCoo P are very clear and full of energy. For some, the highs may seem a bit accentuated compared to the rest of the frequency spectrum—but I feel that the highs have just the right amount of accentuation. Sparkle and shimmer are there, with a good amount of decay. The decay is natural sounding, leaning towards a short decay rather than a long decay. The highs contribute to the overall fast, energetic, and PRAT sound of the DAP. Additionally, the highs have superb extension regardless which genre you are listening to—something I feel the strong amplifier inside the player is partially responsible for.
In Pop music, highs are the second layer of the music, with the mids dominating the first layer, followed by the highs and then the bass. The highs have nearly as much accentuation as the mids, allowing for a good synergy with Pop music. The presentation works very well with Pop music. In Rock and Metal music, crash cymbals and high-hats sound crisp and very, very clear. The clarity blew away my Cowon S9's ability to portray cymbals and high-hats. Drums sound amazing on this player. In Hip-Hop and Rap music, highs create the overall "atmosphere" or ambiance of the music very well. The clarity of the highs really helps contrast with the emphasized bass in Hip-Hop music, and made me hear things I did not hear before. The extension of the highs is superb in Hip-Hop music.
In Classical music, highs really help create the ambiance of the stage. The overall distance of the stage is very well reproduced through the highs. The highs can be a bit emphasized on some instruments, but blend in with the rest of the frequencies very well. The energy of the highs may be a bit too much for Classical music, but it still sounds very good with Classical music. In Jazz music, highs are just perfect. The decay and speed of the highs have outstanding synergy with Jazz music. Just a wonderful balance with the other frequencies.
Overall, the player has outstanding pace and timing with highs. The highs are some of the best that I have heard on a portable player. The energy produced in the highs requires a very powerful external amplifier—but with the powerful amp inside this player, that is not necessary. The highs may be a tad bright for some people, but for me it is just right. The highs are airy but not too airy—it creates just the right amount of space between instruments. Again, the highs are very well done on this player.
Power is the word to describe the lows on the RoCoo P. An authoritative slam and impact from the low frequencies. For me, this is what bass should be. The lows have such power that in certain songs, I heard rumble whereas my Cowon S9 could not reproduce that rumble without having an external amplifier connected to it. Certainly, the Class A amp inside the RoCoo P must be responsible for such power and authority associated with the bass.
The JH16 in-ear monitors have 8 bass drivers. Although they are a very sensitive IEM, they still require a good amount of power to sound their best. The RoCoo P delivers on this aspect. Not once did I feel my JH16's were "hungry" for more power when listening with the RoCoo P. The power delivered by the RoCoo P allowed for the bass frequencies to sound their best. This meant bass impact, extension, and quantity—without masking the other frequencies.
I have absolutely no qualms on the lows with this player. This player exceeded my expectations with bass performance. The control and impact of the bass is superb for a player of this side. If I blindfolded you and made you hear some bassy songs with this player, you would think you were hooked up to a desktop setup. Not because of the impact only—but because the bass is so well controlled that it does not interfere with other frequencies—something that is usually hard to reproduce in players costing a few hundred dollars.
Lows are fantastic on this player, period.
I saved my favorite quality about this player for the last. I adore the midrange on the RoCoo P. There is just enough forwardness and accentuation, without being too forward like some Shure IEMs. The clarity of the mids is unprecedented—I heard new subtle details in vocals that I did not hear either on my Cowon S9 nor other players. Additionally, mids sound very natural. For you Rock lovers, you'll love how electric guitar sounds on the RoCoo P. You can hear the grunt of the guitar in this player and feel the power of the instrument because of the mids.
In J-Pop music, the mids really make the music sound alive. Actually, this is true for almost any genre. The mids have amazing resolution. The ability to extract every last nuance from the mids is the RoCoo P's ace-card. The clarity of the mids is breathtaking.
Additionally, the layering of the mids with the other frequencies allows for both detailed, analytic listening as well as just rocking out to your favorite music. The player has this "hybrid" sound making it easy for someone to analytically listen to music, while at the same time just diving into the music and enjoying it. The RoCoo P is a musical player, that still retains the ability to be analytically dissected.
Overall, my favorite part of the RoCoo P is the mids and the resolution of the mids. It blows my Cowon S9 out of the water in this respect. Additionally, since most of our music is in the midrange, I think that this was a good move by HiSoundAudio to focus on a good midrange presentation. Excellent work, HiSoundAudio.
Soundstage, Resolution, Transparency, and L/R Balance
The RoCoo P has a very wide soundstage, with an above average amount of depth (more depth than my Cowon S9). The soundstage takes advantage of high-end IEMs and headphones, and made the soundstage of my JH16's slightly larger as I moved up from the Cowon S9.
Instrument separation is superb. Instruments do not encroach on each other. Air between instruments is maintained while still preserving the cohesive sound of all of the instruments. This leads to transparency of the player. This player has the best transparency that I have heard on any DAP. There is simply no "muddy" overlapping over instruments. Everything sounds pristine and crystal clear. Instruments can be extracted from the music and focused upon, and you can dive back into the music whenever you want. The transparency is unmatched with other DAPs (at least at this price point and among the DAPs that I have heard).
Another thing that I wanted to mention is the L/R Balance of the player. I was surprised to notice that the L/R Balance is extremely accurate in this player coming from the Cowon S9. Vocals that come from both Left and Right are emitted at the exact same time, with the same dB level. The center channel (pseudo-center) is produced very well, and is more "centered" than my Cowon S9. My Cowon S9 leaned towards the Right in this respect. Not with this player. The L/R Balance is fantastic and I did not expect a player of this size and price-point to have such a good L/R Balance.
Cross Comparison (A/B) with Cowon S9
For this section, I will do a cross comparison with the Cowon S9, which I feel is a strong competitor for the RoCoo P at this price point. All files used are at least 320 kbps MP3 or FLAC if stated. I will also try my best to select music from a variety of genres to show the strength of the player with multiple genres. I will be using the JH16 Pro in-ear monitor as my IEM. The setup will not include an amplifier in order to keep the comparison as close to the source as possible (the DAP). I will write my thoughts as I am listening to the song, to preserve accuracy. The player that I list first is the player that I listened to first (I tried to switch in the middle to avoid a bias).
BoA - I Did It For Love
RoCoo P: very transparent. Excellent balance among all three frequencies. The mids have just the right amount of forwardness. Extension of highs is superb. Bass is punchy. PRAT is excellent.
Cowon S9: most immediate difference—highs are not as pronounced as the RoCoo P. Highs sound thinner and not as sharp as the RoCoo P. Bass is boomy, not as punchy as the RoCoo P. Mids are very well presented. Good energy and clarity on mids. Transparency is not as good as the RoCoo P. Just not as energetic sounding as the RoCoo P.
Conclusion: The RoCoo P definitely wins on this one. There is more detail in the song, and transparency is much better than the Cowon S9.
UVERworld - Colors of the Heart
RoCoo P: amazing instrument separation. Mids are very clear. Cymbals sound fantastic and crisp. Drums are not overpowering, but maintain their power. At the breakdown of the song, ambiance is beautifully portrayed. Acoustic guitar sounds very musical. Also sounds clear even with multiple instruments playing at the same time.
Cowon S9: sounds muddier. The highs are not as clear and pristine as the RoCoo P. Guitars sound muddier. Almost everything sounded better with the RoCoo P. At the breakdown of the song, ambiance is portrayed, but the acoustic guitars are not as clear or "musically" presented as the RoCoo P.
Conclusion: Although the Cowon S9 sounded decent with this song, the RoCoo P's instrument separation and energy with this song is much better than the Cowon S9.
As I Lay Dying - Collision
Cowon S9: very wide soundstage. Highs sound a bit subdued on the cymbals. Bass sounds punchy and fast. Speed of the song is very good. Overall presentation is very good.
RoCoo P: Drums sound more clear immediately. Guitars have more grunt. Overall energy of the drums is much better. Cymbals come alive. Takes what the Cowon S9 did and adds another 20% to it.
Conclusion: The RoCoo P definitely wins on this one. It appears that the Cowon S9 struggles with Rock music and instrument separation. The RoCoo P sounds fantastic with metal.
Far East Movement - If I Was You (OMG)
Cowon 9: very good bass impact. Highs sound a bit muffled. The mids are well presented, though they can use a bit more energy. Overall, sounds pretty good.
RoCoo P: bass impact is more powerful, greater extension. Mids are well presented, though not as forward as the Cowon S9. I hear more detail overall with the highs. Sounds less muddy compared to the Cowon S9.
Conclusion: I would say that both players have good performance with this song. I would lean towards the RoCoo P because of the bass authority, and because it sounds cleaner overall.
Kanye West - POWER
RoCoo P: amazing resolution on Kanye West's voice. The bass is very impactful, mids are extremely clear. Excellent PRAT. I can't get over how detailed Kanye West's voice sounds here. The resolution is outstanding.
Cowon S9: the decay of the highs/mids sounds better than the RoCoo P. Bass is definitely boomier and muddier than the RoCoo P. The resolution Kanye's voice dropped, now the mids are not as fantastic as the RoCoo P.
Conclusion: The resolution of the vocals on the RoCoo P, paired with the tight bass makes the RoCoo P a clear winner in this song. The Cowon S9 sounds pretty good, and the decay of the instruments and drums are better than the RoCoo P, but the overall sound is not up to par with the RoCoo P.
Sergei Rachmaninov - Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18 - I. Moderato
Cowon S9: the ambiance of the music is fantastically portrayed here. Highs could sound sharper and clearer. Resolution is fantastic. Piano could be more forward and have more detail. Overall, very well done.
RoCoo P: hiss of the player makes the intro a bit hard to focus. Highs are more prominent and make overall sound better. Lows sound more accurate than the Cowon S9. Piano sounds more clean and clear. Overall sound is slightly better than the Cowon S9.
Conclusion: both players excel in this song and it's hard to choose a clear winner. Although the RoCoo P has a background hiss, it sounds better than the Cowon S9. Keep in mind that I am using JH16s which are very sensitive and most IEMs may not hiss on the RoCoo P. I believe the original RoCoo (RoCoo D) is tuned for sensitive IEMs, not the RoCoo P. Hence why the RoCoo P hisses with my JH16s. Perhaps some will prefer the Cowon S9 here because of less hiss. I say this is a tie.
Keiko Matsui - A Great Romance
RoCoo P: Wow, amazing resolution. Details, transparency, and layering of music is phenomenal. Breathtaking power of the bass. Clarity is making my jaw drop. PRAT is fantastic. Piano has superb detail. Everything sounds so musical. This is amazing, I don't want to stop listening.
Cowon S9: High decay is better than the RoCoo P. Not as much detail as the RoCoo, but still very very good. Piano sounds more alive. Bass is not as impactful or powerful. Although the resolution is nearly as good as the RoCoo P, instrument separation is not at the same level. The Piano still sounds better here. Ambiance is well presented, but the overall sound is still not as musical as the RoCoo P.
Conclusion: very close to a draw here, but I have to hand it to the RoCoo P. It just sounds like you are transporated to another world on this song. The ambiance is more realistic and natural. Although the Piano sounded better on the Cowon, the RoCoo P wins here because of it's resolution, layering, instrument separation, and musicality. Although this is very close to a toss-up, to be honest.
Brian Culbertson - Hookin' Up
Cowon S9: very clear highs. Mids sound gorgeous on the guitar. Bass is nice and punchy. Saxophone sounds organic, natural. Piano sounds superb. Very musical presentation.
RoCoo P: highs are not as clear as the Cowon S9 here. Saxophone is definitely more alive. Piano sounds much better here, very real sound. Bass hits hard, good impact. Decay of the cymbals is better sounding than the Cowon (I don't even remember the cymbals decaying on the Cowon now that I think about it). Very good transparency of all instruments. Saxophones sound gorgeous, again.
Conclusion: again, very close to a draw. Both players really seem to be well suited towards Jazz. The Cowon sounded amazing. However, the RoCoo P wins on the piano and saxophone as well as the cymbals on the drums.
One thing I wish the RoCoo P had is MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) support! This is so I can sync the player with my last.fm profile. I can do this with my Cowon S9 and a bunch of other players, but I cannot do it with my RoCoo P because it does not have MTP. I would love it if this could be added in the future (I don't know if it requires a physical change or can be done by updating the firmware, but I would love this feature).
Another thing that I wish the player had is a customizable viewing function. This is so I can choose to see title of the song only, or Artist + Title, etc. It is very annoying to wait for the artist's title to scroll before I know what song I am selecting. I would love it if this were included in a future firmware update.
The RoCoo P is an amazing DAP. Its price (MSRP $179), size, and most importantly, its sound quality make for one of the best values in audio today. The DAP sounds powerful, clean, and transparent. It has a wonderful, balanced sound that is not overwhelming on any frequencies. The soundstage is wide. Instrument separation is the best I have heard from a DAP. The midrange is gorgeous, and is my favorite aspect of the player. The control that the RoCoo P has with lows is also a feat of its own (probably due to the powerful amp inside). I have even tried the RoCoo P with my AKG K702 straight out from the player, and it sounded very good. I have to say again, this player is powerful—don't let its size fool you.
For anyone looking for a new DAP, or a better sounding DAP and doesn't want to break the bank—look no further. The RoCoo P is an amazing bang for the buck. I honestly think you can't do any better than this for (>$200). You can visit HiSoundAudio's website at www.hisoundaudio.com (though I believe it is down right now for an upgrade). You can also order through their other site, here. They are having a special Xmas Promotion where every product is 50% off. For more information, check out the promotion thread here.
Thank you to HiSoundAudio for creating such a good sounding player for an affordable price. I am extremely satisfied with my RoCoo P!