REVIEW – Lotoo PAW 6000 – Portable Music Player
Website – Lotoo
Website – Lotoo
Price: U$D 1200.
The PAW 6000 unit here was kindly arranged by Lotoo company in collaboration with MusicTeck for the full review.
Available from MusicTeck
The design of the PAW 6000 is simple yet elegant, competing well with modern portable players that feature touchscreen as part of their main interface. It may not look as unique or eye-catching as what other companies like A&K, Fiio or Shanling tend to offer but it is not plain either, and I can like the more discreet look and well organized layout with the added gold color for the control wheel at the top. Build quality is excellent, one of the best built portable players I’ve seen so far, and build quality doesn’t get much better than this. The main chassis is made of CNC machined aluminum, rather thick and smoothly finished. It consists of a single metal piece in all black color with more comfortable curved sides. Front and back sides have thick Corning Gorilla glass panels which stick out from the main metal body. The glass panel on the back doesn’t have any particular function but probably meant for a better wireless signal over metal as the PAW 6000 supports both two-way Bluetooth function and WiFi (for FW update only). The included leather case seems a must for this player so it doesn’t matter much anyway as the whole back side will be covered. Overall, it is more compact than most of the Android based rivals (if just a bit thicker) as there is no need for a best quality screen on the PAW 6000. The weight is just a little above 200g, so about average for portable use.
The layout is well organized. On the right side are the power button at the top, which also works for screen on/off, and below are the three playback buttons. The play/pause placed in the middle is very slightly larger than the others and has a very tiny dot that barely works to differentiate it. The back and forward buttons can be swapped through the Player Settings menu; also, if pressed and held it is possible to forward and rewind through the current playing track (even when the screen is off). The four buttons are very slightly elevated out of the main player side, though won’t matter much if already set to have the case applied anyway.
At the bottom side there is the USB Type-C (3.1) port in the middle for charging, data transfer and USB DAC in/on functions. The micro SD card slot is placed to the right. The PAW 6000 has no internal memory, but at least, the system detects the micro card immediately.
At the top of the player, to its left, there are the two audio out ports, 3.5mm and 4.4mm, both equally surrounded by wide gold colored rings. They both work for headphone-out and Line-out, set from the Output settings. The Line-out volume can be set to a fixed volume with up to 3 voltage gain options or to a variable volume which is set to the same volume level as the Low gain. ‘High’ gain won’t work when on LO, so be aware that if the headphone out was set on high gain it will return to that higher volume when switching back from the LO. When switching from phone-out to line-out, if there is a headphone connected to the player it will first show a confirmation message.
The other half of the top side holds the large volume knob with its unique design, and again, all gold color painted. It is a digital control, not analog, so can rotate infinitely changing one volume level at each small turn. Also, it is possible to change the direction of the volume adjustment to clock/counterclockwise from the settings. There is the ‘breathing’ LED light just underneath the volume knob which can be turned off to save a little more battery time. Not a needed feature but yes a cool touch to the design. While the volume change is very accurate, my main complaint would be that the wheel is not tight enough. All the buttons can be set to be ‘off’ during screen off from the Settings as well, while the volume wheel can set on ‘Hold’ from drop down menu, though I wish there was a physical ‘hold’ switch like on the original PAW Gold (non-Touch) or some Sony players.
The touch screen is a IPS Retina LCD display of 3.77” size with 800x600 resolution occupying most of the front glass panel. The quality is decent for a non-Android device, serving well its purpose for a clear text and nice album artwork, though a bit limited in its maximum brightness.
There is not much info regarding the inner hardware, mainly that it utilizes a AKM single AK4493EQ DAC chip. It supports all the common lossless audio formats, and DSD limited up to DSD256. A single AK4493EQ at this price point may sound very limited considering there are players that already use at least dual AK4493 and above chips at lower prices, however, it is the correct implementation and final tuning that ultimately makes a good sounding player, and the PAW6000 is a good example.
User Interface & Software
The PAW 6000 runs on the own Lotoo OS, specifically developed for specific audio usage. No fancy colors or background options, only simple color themes to choose, all under a fixed black background and grey fonts. It is a dedicated audio device that keeps a tidy, easy to understand visual interface.
The boot up is incredibly fast. Although advertised as 2s time, from my tests it takes like 4s, so yet the fastest on any portable player ever. It will always start at the main home screen which holds 6 options at the upper half, Play list, Album list, Songs, Folders, Artists and Settings, and current playing track display with playback controls at the lower part. A single touch to this display will direct to the full playing screen. A short swipe up from the bottom of the screen will return to the main screen (it works from any screen). This is the only shortcut gesture the PAW 6000 supports at the moment; it is fine but more gestures would have been more helpful, like left/right swipe to go back to a previous screen or such.
The upper bar shows the song number from the current playing list, the play sequence, battery time (in both percentage and image), the output being used and its gain, and Bluetooth and EQ setting (PMEQ or ATE) if they are on. A swipe down from this bar reveals another menu with the options to change the playing sequence, Bluetooth on/off switch, volume hold and both 4.4mm and 3.5mm gain switches. At the upper part there is a Search function and at the bottom the brightness bar.
From the main screen the Album, Songs and Artist icons give access to their corresponding files sorting. The Album menu can show either large album cover images or a simple list. On these three menus there is an icon at the upper right part that presents a very convenient feature to list the files by a selected sampling Hz rate quality.
The main playback screen is simple yet informative enough. The upper half is occupied by album artwork (if available) or by default Lotoo logo. Swiping through the screen will change to lyrics, file info and audio spectrum bar visualizer for each right and left channels and current EQ used. There is an icon at the upper right corner to access the playing list and another one to file handling. The lower half shows the album, song name, file type, a time playing bar, the 3 playback controls, an icon to change the playing sequence to left and another one to right to access the EQ options for PMEQ and ATE.
Sound wise, the PMEQ presets give a sharper change in the sound presentation while the ATE are more subtle. For a much finer and accurate tuning of the sound, it is possible to set any user defined parametric EQ by various values. It is the most complex feature of the Lotoo players and may take time to get used, but worth a try.
Back to the main screen, the Settings menu holds all the options arranged by Basic, Sound, Bluetooth, file data and system info. The Basic is also divided: ‘Play’ for playing sequence, timer, lyrics and extra playing effects for gapless or fade out; ‘Output’ for all the analog 3.5mm and 4.4mm settings (including Gain and Balance) as well as Bluetooth and USB outputs; ‘Player’ for buttons, screen, keyboard language (for the Search feature) and theme colors. Under the Sound settings it is possible to manage the EQ options as well as adding new ones, and changing the audio filters supported by the AK4493 DAC chip.
The system itself is very stable and fast. The touchscreen response is quick and the navigation smooth. Adding the screen protector affects a little bit the touchscreen response speed but it is safer; otherwise you can apply another thinner or better quality film.
Wireless & DAC functionality
For wireless connectivity the PAW 6000 supports Bluetooth 4.2 version; standard for any portable player. It has bi-directional Bluetooth, working both as transmitter and receiver. As a transmitter the supported codecs are SBC, AAC, AptX (not HD) and LDAC, but not sure how it works as a receiver as it is not shown on the screen. The quality is decent when used as a transmitter, nothing different than any other audio or smart devices, and fortunately you can still use the EQ options over BT. Still, the main advantage is when used as a receiver working as a wireless DAC. In this mode the volume can be normally adjusted through the PAW 6000 as well as the low and high gain. Moreover, all the EQ effects are available by the EFX menu. Likewise, it can operate as an external wired DAC through the USB Type-C port. When connected it will prompt whenever to be used for PC or Phone. Again, EFX EQ options are also available. Either as wired or BT DAC, the playback control may depend on the source and the audio application used.
As mentioned before, the Wi-Fi is only for firmware update not for streaming or file transfer.
Battery performance is quite good for such a large device. With a large 5200mAh battery time can run up to 15~16 hours, of course depending on the volume, gain and screen use. On the other hand, the charging time is rather slow, and quick-charge does not seem to be supported.
The PAW 6000 should easily classify as a reference sounding audio player with a very neutral and well balanced presentation. The sound is not majorly emphasized at any frequency region and adds no coloration. It doesn’t lean towards either a warm or cold tonality, not it is too rich or too dry. It is probably the most transparent sounding player I tried yet, capable to be well paired with almost every good sounding gear, from small IEMs to full size over-ear headphones. The PAW 6000 excels in its technical abilities. It is not a too analytical or sterile type of sound, and just presents a slight bright tone that avoids it from being completely flat, not untypical for its ‘reference’ tag. It also shows incredibly overall control and very equal weight on each part of the sound.
The bass is presented with great definition, resolution and superb control. The separation is excellent making it very easy to discern the finest layers. Dynamics are the best I’ve heard so far, and without a doubt one of the best characteristics of the PAW 6000. It has good speed, too. And it is not about just being faster that can break the natural flow of the sound. Rather, it is the greater agility, effortlessness and precision where it stands out more, with a more natural paced decay. With its neutrality the low-end is obviously more about pure quality over quantity. With most gears used I cannot find it light at all in its bass response as a ‘neutral’ description may lead to think, and it is not missing in impact either. That said, for bass heavy sets the mid-bass will not be very appealing in sheer power. On the other hand, it won’t make neutral-to-bright sounding sets to sound lighter on their bass. Extension is very good, reaching the lowest sub-bass registers with more ease. While it may not emphasize the mid-bass area, the PAW 6000 brings a more substantial sub-bass impact for a better balance to the whole low-end.
The midrange is the most transparent among all the DAPs tried so far. Linear and very neutral with zero coloration or added flavor. Balance from low to up mids is perfectly harmonic, neutral positioned to so very slightly forward depending on the paired headphones; more v-shaped sets may sound less distant, more balanced. The lack of warmth does not lead to a lean or thin presentation, and it is not dry either. What the PAW6000 brings is a more natural and realistic tonality with well weighted instruments and excellent clarity. Vocals – I don’t find them ‘sweeter’ in texture, but yes more natural and detailed. The sense of air and separation is impressive, and the positioning of each element is much more accurate. For those seeking a richer, warmer, thicker midrange, the PAW6000 will not be the right match, but clarity, coherence and precision is where it stands out maintaining an overall smooth character.
With the ‘reference’ approach, the highs are pretty much neutral with a very slight bright tone. Not much emphasized on already brighter ear/headphones but more noticed on dark or warmer sets where the treble becomes a bit more lively. The treble extension is excellent and sounds more effortless and articulated. Despite the neutral-to-bright tilt, it surprisingly remains smooth and fairly linear and the control is superb; sibilance or harshness is less of an issue. Treble dynamics too are of high quality and there is better layering and precision. That said, the PAW6000 can be very revealing on files’ quality and less forgiving on low quality treble tuned earphones, but with those of good quality it simply shines.
More into the technical characteristics. For soundstage the PAW6000 doesn’t stand out much for the $1K+ price, at least not in terms of stage dimensions, width, depth/length or height. Close or narrow it is not, but rather offers a more natural timbre over a more artificial stage width. More accurate imaging with finer layering and very precise placement of elements. It is easier to discern the distance between principal and background instruments. The presentation is very spacious and airy, with a very high level of micro detail.
The PAW6000 is also a very capable device, able to drive most sensitive, low impedance IEMs with no signs of hiss and a completely black background. Low gain will be more than enough even with more demanding IEM or earbuds, though for practical and safety measures, I keep it on High gain on both outputs and lower the volume. The more demanding headphones tried with the player were planar sets like the Hifiman Sundara and Sendy Aiva, which while not hard to drive, clearly benefit for extra power, and the PAW6000 is enough for them and highly improves the dynamics range. Even earbuds with high 300+ ohm of impedance (e.g. VE ZEN) were no issue here, sounding wide, lively and open.
Now, regarding the single vs balanced outputs. As seen from the technical specs both outputs rate the identical numbers, both as PO and LO. And in practice, they are also the same. There is no volume jump when switching to the 4.4mm output, and in terms of sound differences, there are practically no changes or improvements worth noticing either. The balanced output may still be useful when adding an extra amplifier.
iBasso DX220 (AMP1 & AMP9)
The DX220 with the stock AMP1 module is pretty much neutral sounding, though with a iBasso kind of signature being full and rich. The DX220 offers a larger soundstage impression. It is less noticed with in-ear earphones or closed headphones, and more obvious with open-design headphones. The PAW6000, on the other hand, is more spacious and airier and has a more 3D effect, creating a more accurate image. The bass is a bit fuller, more bodied on the DX220, with a slight more weight on the mid-bass, while the PAW6000 being lighter is also more agile and precise, and more effortless in the lower bass area. The PAW6000 sound is slightly more forward in the midrange, while the DX220 is just neutral. The DX220 has a more relaxed character and a bit richer texture on the mids, while the PAW6000 offers more transparency and more natural timbre. Treble is a bit brighter on the Lotoo but also more linear and refined, and so far the best in pure quality. The DX220 is not less energetic but can be more forgiving with the files’ quality.
Switching to the AMP9, the differences are already easily noticed versus the AMP1 and the same applies to the PAW6000. Despite the very small tube amps on the AMP9 is brings their usual presentation. Richer sound, thicker through the lows to the mids and smoother, more laid-back at the highs. The details are kept but in a less forward manner. Pretty much a different tonality than that of the PAW6000, and with the AMP9 the soundstage is narrower with a more intimate approach, whereas the PAW 6000 is not just wider but much airier and spacious.
The M15 puts more contrast to the PAW 6000. The M15 has more body and a fuller texture from lows to mids, if a bit more ‘dry’ midrange (not unlike the M11 & M11 Pro take), with a larger stage performance, mostly noticed with larger open headphones. The level of detail is not less than the PAW 6000, though it focuses less in showing the tiny micro details. The PAW 6000 is tighter, more forward in mids to treble, and more transparent and revealing. The dynamics and imaging are similar on both, though the M15 is weightier while the PAW6000 more agile. On paper, the M15 is capable of greater output power, though it will be more relevant when using very demanding headphones. If the M15 presents a wider soundstage, then the PAW 6000 gives priority to little details capable of showing even smaller nuances, especially when paired with very detailed oriented IEMs or headphones (ProMission X, Sendy Aiva). Taking the M11/M11 Pro, the PAW 6000 can be a more natural upgrade than the M15 is.
If starting with hybrids, both Dunu DK-3001 Pro and iBasso IT04 make good reference as mid-tier models. The DK-3001 Pro is something I generally find to be neutral to midrange forward with very good treble quality and controlled bass. Out from the PAW 6000, the midrange on the DK-3001 Pro is more forward than the rest of the sound with shier bass quantity but better dynamics, speed and precision. Midrange is more forward and transparent; vocals are very detailed, but less smooth and sweet. Treble is a bit brighter but still quite inoffensive.
The IT04 is more balanced out of the PAW 6000. With the DX220 it has a stronger low-end response with a lift on mid-bass region. With the PAW 6000 it just sounds more even and clearer. Midrange is more forward detailed and airy. The best effect is on the upper-mid and whole treble area as it gains a greater control, smoothness and refinement, less ‘shouty’ and less prone to show signs of sibilance with upper vocals and a more natural timbre.
For a multi-BA in-ear, the CustomArt Fibae 3 is still a great pick for detailed oriented sound under the $1K range. Despite the ‘Fibae’ tech inside (which supposedly maintains a same impedance regardless the source output and the very low 7ohm impedance of the IEM), the Fibae 3 is one of the most picky earphones I’ve tried; not because the power variation, but simply because it doesn’t sound best from every player, sometimes light and limited in bass and usually very bright in treble. The PAW 6000 would not add extra bass quantities, but the quality is excellent when pairing the Fibae 3. The sub-bass is particularly good, more natural and extended. The midrange is clean, and yet more importantly the treble is bright but very controlled.
Raising to a higher price and simpler driver setup, the Dita Audio Fidelity is good example of what single dynamic drivers can achieve. While with other sources I usually may prefer the Fealty, the Fidelity pairing is much better with the PAW6000. The Fidelity sounds more even, neutral but also more natural, with enough bass punch, more forward mids and more rounded treble. Soundstage is not particularly larger, but the imaging and air is greater.
Lastly, for Top-tier Flagships there are the qdc Anole VX and InEar ProMission X, both multi 10 BA earphones and super detailed. They’re both very transparent and revealing, with a soundstage that scales very well according to the used source. The Anole VX in most cases sounds great with anything, whether or not using the switches (which I usually keep ‘off’). With the also high detailed PAW6000 the Anole VX results even more detailed, with better dynamics range, extension and more natural timbre.
On the other hand, the PMX demands a better sounding source to extract its best results. It is mainly in the treble area that not only is bright but also picky. The PAW6000 provides the best synergy for the PMX so far; better than the DX220, M15 or M11 Pro. The PMX goes brighter but impeccably refined and clean. I already mentioned on the PMX review that the VX has the upper hand in terms of bass speed, and it is clearly shown with the PAW6000. The presentation is really open and airy on both, worth their ‘TOTL’ tag (price aside…).
Starting with a recently released model, the new version of the iBasso SR2 with a large dynamic driver and open-back design. These are quite easy to drive over-ear headphones but do benefit from better sources and driving power. With just the PAW 6000 the SR2 offer a plenty amount of bass, fast and extended well to the low sub-bass. Mid-bass control is very good as expected, just less emphasized, which is good as it balances better. Midrange is neutral and a bit cold while the highs take more presence and forward detail than their laid-back character when driven by the DX160 or DX220. Well-rounded stage too.
Last part will be for the Sendy Aiva planar headphones famous for its impressive detail and clarity. One area that can be an issue with the Aiva is the bright treble, and here the PAW 6000 works very well providing greater control and smoother, more comfortable listening. The bass quantity will depend on personal taste, and while I can find the Aiva a bit light, the PAW 6000 gives better dynamics – some of the ATE EQ can actually work nice here, adding a little touch of warmth and richness to the low and mids, and smoothness to the treble. The sound is more detailed, tighter and more controlled.
In pure sound quality, the Lotoo PAW 6000 player stands out with its great transparency, dynamics and very impressive level of detail, resolution and accuracy. Strong in technical abilities without missing a touch of musicality. Set on the $1000+ price range it is less about pure ‘value’ and more about the improvements in sound performance and listening experience, and the PAW 6000 is a clear example of that. Any portable device has its limitations, and in this case they may lay on the non-internal memory and smaller screen (and for some, the lack of streaming support – which I personally do not care). The user interface is easy to use and the system is very stable and fast – best boot time ever – and battery playing time is also above the standard. The PAW 6000 not only offers a nice variety of EQ options and the extra finer ATE tunings, but also the more complex Parametric EQ choice, and all of them working over Bluetooth, too. Build quality is excellent and the (relatively) more compact form factor makes the PAW 6000 a great portable player.