Pros: Great sound, great flexibility, one box solution
Cons: Quirky UI, battery life, pricey
Until recently I would have said stay well clear of this player. I bought mine in June from a fellow Headfier. Sound was good but the UI was poor. Worse, the player app crashed regularly (read daily, virtually every session) and it had a couple of very frustrating flaws - most importantly if you changed track manually, the sound for the first second or so would be quiet, ruining the start of many songs. Buggy would be a polite way to describe it. I tried a whole range of fixes but nothing worked.
But, the sound was good, very good actually. It had obvious potential and brilliant flexibility so I've stuck with it. I almost reached the point where I'd had enough, but didn't feel I could inflict it on anyone else when they released the latest firmware (1.2.7 I think but don't quote me). It was that close to being consigned to my cupboard of failed equipment.
But the firmware upgrade saved it. Amazing transformation. Now completely stable, sound even better and the quiet start (almost) eliminated - apparently it's something to do with the way the chip is implemented. It's still a little quirky and the UI could be better, but you quickly adapt.
The sound is outstanding, very natural and organic. It has excellent resolution and I'd describe the overall sound as neutral without being clinical in any way. Using the headphone out I'd put it a notch or two behind my desktop rig (Meridian 588/Macbook Pro -> Audio-gd reference 5.2 -> Icon Audio HP8mk2), but for a portable it is excellent. I had Frank from Toxic Cables make me a silver interconnect and happily use it via the analogue line out jack to my amp and feel I'm missing very little. I take it to work every day, using it to drive my Westone 4Rs and, when I come home, I just connect it to the HP8 if the Mac is in the other room. I have my classical music on the external card and everything else on the internal memory, I mix and match files of different resolutions seemlessly. The ability to use it with the built-in amp (a good performer with three gain settings – it drives my Senn 6xx fine although obviously a decent desk top amp is superior), analogue, optical, coaxial and USB digital outs gives amazing flexibility and I find the sound consistent across all the plugs.
I use it so much I almost wonder whether I need my other DAC/sources sometimes. And with the ongoing development that seems to be happening, I reckon it's got a good future. I'd been round the houses with ipods, portable amps and tried the CLAS a friend owned. This is so much better and comes in one box! They just need to make the battery life a bit longer - I recharge most days.
In a word - recommended.