Pros: Soundstage, great driving ability, plays any file type, solid design, "fun" sound with bass-emphasised IEMs
Cons: Basic UI, some firmware bugs, no hold slider, bit 'fussy' on best IEM pairing, longevity
NOTE; I am an audio appreciator, not an audiophile. The follow is my thoughts and not based on some of the crazy in-depth tests that some do. This is a layman’s review for a layman. =)
BACKSTORY AND DISCLAIMER;
I spent some time browsing the forums of head-fi and looking over the DAP lists before ordering this product. I almost bought a Cowon Z2 (since I’m in Korea, I can get it locally) but in the end decided that $280+ was a bit much to spend when I have an iPod/iPad for all apps and all I wanted was a pure and powerful music player. The Rocoo P seemed to be what I was looking for, and it has received good reviews here and elsewhere. I contacted Hisound and got a quote. They also told me that I could get a free pair of in-ear headphones if I wrote a review. I told them that I would, and they included a pair of headphones with my purchase. I’ll make a brief comment on those at the bottom.
I’m quite happy with this player. It has its flaws and areas that could improve in, but for the money it’s a great value and what it does it does well! For pop/rock, I think it shines. It has a good feeling of spaciousness for most music, especially classical, and overall the sound is quite good for me. There does seem to be a bit of a smoothing -off in the very high end treble, and a bit of a dropping the low-end bass, but with the right in-ears, it actually makes many songs sound better. My Shure 535s sound quite nice on this player, whereas my more neutral Westone 4Rs seem to highlight some of the ‘smothing’ of the sound that the player gives.
This is probably one of the strongest points of this player. Which is good, as it bills itself as a powerful DAP that focuses on music! (To the expense of a few other things, such as the UI.) The sound is spacious and good. I did notice a bit of hissing at first, but I haven’t really noticed it since. I didn’t think that DAPS actually had anything like a ‘burn in’ time, but I left the player playing music all night, and after a few days, I swear it actually sounded better to me. Strange but true.
Highs: The highs are great, but there is a bit of smoothing at the top end. This can remove shrillness or dampen the high notes depending on the song or your take on what it’s doing.
Mids: Delicious. That is to say, really nice.
Bass: Good bass, decent punch, but it does seem to soften the very low end to my ears. I think IEMS that have a bit more bass emphasis get more out of this player for bass.
Decent. Not great not terrible. Decent. It would be really nice to see a Rocco P with the battery life of their own Studio V.
Solid! It feels really durable. It’s pretty small, all the buttons are easy to reach, and all the plug ins are in logical places. It looks a bit 60s-ish, but overall the design is good.
Driving ability. I tried this DAP with my Sennheiser HD650s, and it could drive them decently, though I had to up the power to almost max to do so. On most mid-range headphones, I think this player would have no trouble driving them.
It can read most(all?) file types. It reads everything I put on it. Including iTunes-bought mp4 files. Flacs sound great. I have not tried putting an Apple Lossless file on it yet, however.
No hold switch. I think what I’d like more than anything else on this player is a ‘hold’ slider. Even my Creative Zen from circa 2004 had a ‘hold’ slider. One of the reasons I stoped using the Fiio E7 (and really like the Fiio E17 now that I have it) is due to the ‘hold’ slider. One of the first times I walked around with the Rocoo P, something in my pocket hit the volume button and I my ears were getting blasted.
NOTE: If you have the case for the Shure 535s or one of those line, the player fits snugly inside that. You can actually zip it close and it will act as shell to prevent accidental button presses.
Firmware. I also had an issue that stems (I think) from removing the Rocoo P without ‘safely removing hardware’ from windows. The folders got all mixed up, and the player insisted that there were no files on my SD card. Windows said otherwise. I had to re-install the firmware to fix the problem.
No auto-stopping of playback on headphone removal. When you remove your IEM/headphone, the player does not detect this and stop playing the music. If you do not notice this, your battery can be drained while you are doing other things.
This reminds me of my Creative Zen from 10-odd years ago. It’s really simplistic. It IS easy to navigate, but some of the things you might expect a player from 2012 to do might take a bit of work on this DAP. Making playlists for example. The UI is simple, gets the job done, but the bigger your SD card and the more music you have, the more you’ll need to plan in advance how to set things up.
I give it 5/5 3(1/2)/5 for the money you pay for it. It’s a great player. There are things I’d definitely like to see on this DAP in the future, and things that could use improvement. For it’s price, and for what it proposes that it will do, however, this DAP is a great price. I have yet to try it with a custom IEM, but with my Shure 535 and Westone 4Rs over the last week+, I’ve been able to get a decent feel for this player.
EDIT 2012/11/06: Value reduced to 3 1/2 stars due to problems listed bellow.
After having these for several months I have lowered the value I give this by one and half stars and overall rating by a star for the following reasons.
The bottom button (volume down/go down) on the player stopped working unless pressed ~extremely~ hard. It is not a real bother to quickly adjust the volume after turning it up.
Random shutoff with a loud static pop;
Occasionally the player has shut off mid-song with a loud static pop in my headphones. This is not a friendly experience. It has made me hesitate more than once when I consider using it. This issue has happened while walking, while sitting down, with movement and with no/minimal movement. It happens maybe once every few hours.
Sometimes I hear a funny sort of warble over my headphones while using the Rocoo P. This happens most frequently on the subway. My best guess is that the inside is unshielded and it's picking up some sort of electrical signal/static and transmitting it to the headphone. It's hard to really describe it, but it sure ain't music.
Note on the bonus in-ear Hisound ‘popo’ headphones;
They are the first ‘bass-head’ IEM I’ve ever heard. I really liked them, but I already have some high-end IEMs, and my Korean co-worker here is a bass-head so I gave them to him. When he tried them he said “They tremble my head.” (Hahaha…) He agreed that the treble is clear the bass is impactful. IMO, it makes a great combination with the Rocoo P for rock/pop. I actually found myself looking for a pair when I was at a local store, in the hopes that I could snag another pair to play with. They are pretty IEMS to boot. (With the slight detraction of the bright red cord.)