Cowon P1 Hi-Fi HD Sound 192kHz/24-Bit MP3 Player 128GB (Black)

General Information

PLENUE 1 is proud to introduce the best performance figures for listening HD sound. It has the highest performance figures even among first-tier devices in the category. Specification such as SNR(120dB), THD+N(0.0006%), Crosstalk(-134dB) are most important criteria in acoustic devices. Also the device has outstanding output power(2Vrms) to support high impedance Hi-Fi headphones without separate headphone amplifiers. By adapting a high precision TCXO and exceptional phase Jitter of 1.0ps, PLENUE 1 can perform flawlessly under any circumstances.

Latest reviews

Wailing Fungus

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Robust build quality, effortless natural sound, 128gb internal memory + micro SD card, wide file type support. Fast start up and scanning of files.
Cons: UI can be counter-intuitive at first, battery life “ok” at 8 hours, lack of wifi / streaming / Android may be an issue for some (not me).
So I’m a mid-30’s guy who loves his music, having had some form of portable audio since my first Walkman back in the early 90’s. After going through a few iPods, I came across the iBasso DX50 on another forum and from there found my way to Head-fi.  For which my wallet has never forgiven me

Up until quite recently, I was a contented DX50 owner, pairing it with some InEar Stagediver SD3’s and a Vorzuge Pure II amp. Having lost the DX50 and SD3’s in Schiphol airport in September, a replacement setup was needed. I decided that I would go for a budget setup to tide me over and which I could use for future travel instead of taking more expensive gear. So I jumped on an open box Fiio X1 and got some VSonic VSD3S to go with it.
So, the DX50 replacement/upgrade conundrum. The problem I – and I suspect a lot of other Head-fiers – is actually being able to audition these DAPs before you buy them, so I tend to do a lot of online reading and hope that what I end up buying will match my tastes.
So while I was drooling over high-end DAPs like the Sony ZX-2, the AKs (100ii / 120ii / 240 / 380) and the Lotoo PAW Gold, I came across the Plenue 1 (henceforth the P1) and added that to the list of aspirational DAPs I would be unlikely to own as I can’t justify spending that much money. Instead I was looking at the iBasso DX80, duly keeping an eye on the release ready to put in an order. The day before the DX80 was available to buy, an open box P1 came up at a substantial discount (around £470 versus usual price of £740). Cue some research and a few calming rum and cokes to help the justification process and that was that. P1 ordered!
Which brings us neatly to the point of this review, talking about the P1. Before we start, one disclaimer – this is my gear with my ears, so please bear that in mind if my thoughts don’t match with yours!
Reviews of the P1 on the net are scarce, there is a single thread on Head-fi but no reviews either, so hopefully my review will be of some use if you are thinking of getting the P1 or give you another DAP to consider if you weren’t aware of it.
(full list here:
64.5mm (W) x 13.4mm (D) x 116.4mm (H). 173g
Burr-Brown PCM1792A DAC / Dual Core ARM Cortex A9 CPU
128gb Internal Memory + Micro SD Card
Plays DXD/DSD/DSF/FLAC/WAV/AIFF/ALAC/APE/MP3/WMA/OGG/WV/TTA/DCF. Will also play SACD ISOs via Cue Sheet.  Note that I only tested FLAC and MP3 file playback
Custom Linux OS
I think it’s fair to say that if you are not a fan of minimalistic, monothlitc slab-esque DAPs machined from a single block of aluminium, then the P1 might not be your cup of tea. For those of you who are, oh boy, this thing is freaking awesome. It feels really great in the hand, with a reassuring heft to it.  
The main focus is the 3.7” AMOLED touchscreen, with a decent 480x800 resolution. A power button sits on the top with a LED underneath it (red for charging, green for charged and flashing blue for playing), and there are some physical buttons on the side (FF/RWD, PLAY/PAUSE, VOL+/-) which do work when the screen is off (there is a software lock in the settings that disables the buttons when the screen is off).
The P1 also comes with a nicely made leather case (brown) which fits very snugly round the P1. There is no danger of it falling out, in fact it takes far more effort to remove it than insert it. You can see that the opening around the headphone jack is fairly small, so any larger headphone jacks will foul on the case. Dignis also make a case which has a larger cutout, or you could carefully mod the supplied case if you wanted to. As I am using a Linum Bax cable with a small jack this is not a problem. The P1 also comes with a screen protector fitted.
The one (slight) disappointment is the door on the bottom of the P1 which covers the micro USB port and the micro SD card slot. It is a plastic strip held in by an elastic/rubber plug (my Sony Xperia Z3 Compact has a similar setup on its waterproof flaps) which you then swivel out of the way.  The door then flaps around while you charge the P1 etc and could get damaged if you aren’t careful.
The P1 has a combined 3.5mm Headphone Jack / Optical Out, so can be used as a digital transport. It doesn’t have a dedicated line out per se, but the P1 has a Headphone and Earphone mode setting, which adjusts the output voltage to 2vmrs and 0.65vmrs respectively. Cowon advise you to set to Earphone mode and volume to max and use that as a Line out.
Battery life is rated at around 8 hours, not great but not too bad either. As I only tend to listen for a few hours in one go this isn’t a big issue for me. Still, it would have been nice to have a bit more.
While I haven’t been able to compare this to other high-end DAPs, I think the build quality is very good and mostly in line with the P1’s retail price of £740 – just wish they could have done something better with the flap on the bottom.
This is my first Cowon DAP, but from reading online it seems that Cowon GUIs have their own little quirks that you need to get used to. On the P1 (and other Cowon DAPs) for instance, the settings screen can only be accessed when music is playing, although this doesn’t take long to adapt to.
Power on the P1 and it performs a very quick scan of the internal and external memory. At present I have about 80Gb of files on the internal memory and this took about 10 seconds for the initial scan. For testing purposes I took the full 64gb card from the Fiio X1 and put it in – this took maybe 20 seconds for the initial scan. Once it has done the initial scan, subsequent power-ons are quicker, about 4 seconds or so, regardless of how much music you have on there.
You can view your music by folder / favourite / all / artist / album / genre and once you select a track you’ll move to the now playing screen with album art and track info.  Cowon provides 5 skins which show this in different ways, they all tend to have a visual representation of the track, in the form of analogue / digital VU meters. The P1 will also let you add a sixth skin, I am using the Oblique skin from Cowon’s website (there are three others available to download). Worth noting that some of the text is very small on this skin.
From here you can return to the music selection screen (top left), or enter the settings (top right). Note that this is a customised settings screen for the Oblique skin, so you will see another settings option which then takes you to the player settings screen. You can also choose Repeat / Shuffle and Playback (All / One / Folder) options here.
I am not using the Jet Effect 7 / BBE effects, I personally prefer to keep the sound flat, but having played around with them there is definitely a lot of potential there if you like to EQ. There are 3 pages of settings, including 4 custom profiles.
Overall, the UI is fast and intuitive – subject to a small learning curve – and miles better than the DX50 and X1. The Jet Effect 7 / BBE gives you a lot of flexibility in fine tuning the sound to your preferences.
Unlike some of the other high-end DAPs, there is no wifi or Android (it uses a custom linux OS), just a single-minded focus on wringing out as much sound from the P1 as possible. I applaud this approach as I personally don’t want to have to deal with superfluous features that I will never use, but that’s me. You may be different.  
I am using the P1 with a pair of In Ear Stagediver SD4s (bought as the result of yet another open-box deal!) with Spinfit tips and a Linum Bax cable. As stated above, I use the “normal” (or flat) setting on the P1.
I am not going to trot out a load of hyperbole about the sound as I’m simply not good at describing sound in this way (but I sure do enjoy reading reviews by those who can : )). Firstly, I did some A&B with the P1 against the X1 – an unfair contest really. Other than battery life and price, the P1 was superior in every area by a significant margin. Then I compared with the X1 and Vorzuge combo and here I was struggling to tell the difference.  To me this speaks volumes about the ability of the Vorzuge. I also briefly tried the P1 as a line out to the Vorzuge, but couldn’t really hear any benefit of using the Vorzuge.  For me, the better build quality, UI and reduced footprint of the P1 far outweighs the increase in cost of the X1 / Vorzuge stack. 
So, in terms of the sound: I would say that it sounds very natural and smooth, there is no digital harshness that would sometimes be apparent on the X1 or DX50 (unamped). Everything just sounds right and it is really easy to listen to. The bass is weighty and impactful, but not overblown (bassheads hit up the BBE Mach3bass setting, oof!). Vocals are clear, treble is nicely balanced and I have not noticed any sibilance. Soundstage has good width and depth.
To me, it is clear that Cowon have focussed their all in making the P1 sound good – and it shows. Near-perfect build quality and a fast UI help make this easy to use and a pleasure to listen to. As I mentioned at the beginning I haven’t been able to compare this to other high-end DAPs such as the AK range, ZX2 or PAW Gold, so I can’t advise whether the P1 is a hidden gem punching above its weight or lost in a sea of choice. What I can say is that having spent some quality time with the P1 I would happily pay full retail price (£740) for it, and urge anyone in the market for a high-end DAP to take a look at the P1.
Things I didn’t test:
All other file format playback
Optical Out
USB DAC Function
JetEffect 7 / BBE
Nice! I have the M.
Great review => enjoyed reading it! For me the JetEffect7 user presets (16 with the latest fw) on the P1 are one of the biggest benefits of it. You can adjust it to multiple hps and iems that way, to get the preferred sound signature out of them. Sorry for your loss on Schiphol (I wasn't there :wink: I've had the SD2 and liked it => the SD4 should really sound amazing.
Btw, optical out works fine (and sounds great) with a Chord Hugo.
I have the P1 also now and when set to Headphone Off and you change the EQ to even +1 it lowers the volume. Very strange on latest firmware v2.15.
Besides that, it's a great sounding DAP.


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