Luxury & Precision LP6 Series

General Information

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Luxury Precision LP6​

Features:

1, Intel large-scale FPGA and two ultra-high linear industrial grade R2R decoder chip

2, Discrete desktop system power supply ideas, decoding, op amp, amp power supply is completely independent

3, High driving power while still maintaining low background noise

4, Very low distortion and ultra-high dynamic range

5, Two output mode and custom professional-grade EQ 6, 3 hours off can be charged full

6. RCA interface SPDIF IN/OUT multiplexing, the only portable player supports up to 24BIT/384KHZ sampling rate receiving and transmission.

Specification

Product model: LP6 (gold version)
Display: 3.5 inches, IPS screen, OGS structure
Resolution: 480*320
Body material: brass gold plated
Master: 1812C
DAC: 2 ultra-high linear industrial grade R2R DACs
Crystal: Ultra low phase noise -160dB active crystal
Operational Amplifier: EXCELS V-O
Amp : EXCELS EP-A
Auxiliary processor: Intel large-scale FPGA
Power Management Wafer: AXP216

PCB: 6 layers 3U immersion gold matte black
Inductance: Ultra-low internal resistance high current metal alloy inductor
Analog Circuit Filter Capacitor: Silver Military Tantalum Capacitor
Button: ALPS
Capacity: 64GB 24 BIT ECC FLASH
Maximum support for expanded capacity: 256GB micro SD card (TF)
Type of battery : Lithium battery
Battery capacity: 4800mha

Use charger specifications: DC voltage input range 4.8-5.5v, power adapter maximum output current is recommended to use 2A and above adapter (compatible with fast charger)
Life time: 9 hours (off the screen normal volume non-high bit rate file single-ended output)
Adapted headphone impedance: 8-1000ohm
EQ adjustment: 6 style adjustments and custom EQ
HP output: 2 mode adjustments
Dop SPDIF: Support
Digital filter settings: 6 filter modes
Output phase setting: 0 degrees / 180 degrees

USB connection mode: MSC mode / Audio mode
USB DAC: Current firmware supports up to 96kHz/16Bit
USB Audio delay setting: long delay mode / short delay mode
DSD decoding settings: Native DSD mode / DSD to PCM mode (in order to accommodate a decoder that only supports D2P)
Line output part performance parameters
Distortion noise: < 0.0005%
Signal to noise ratio: >121.5dB (single-ended)
Dynamic range: >121.5dB (single-ended)
Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz +/- 0.5dB
Channel separation: > 98dB 10K load
Line output level: 2.8Vrms/1.8Vrms/ switchable design

Output power description
LP insists on the release of meaningful output power, although our amp has made perfect overcurrent protection, but we do not recommend exceeding or using the critical value of our published output power, especially some low resistance earphones, volume Excessive damages the hearing.
Support audio format: APE AAC ALAC FLAC WAV MP3 WMA DFF DSF AIFF SACD-ISO
Button: Switch on/off screen, play pause, forward/backward, volume knob
Audio interface: 6.3mm earphone interface, 3.5mm line output (LO) interface, 4.4mm balanced earphone interface, USB-TYPEC interface (data mode / USB DAC mode)

Package
LP6
USB-TYPE-C data cable

Latest reviews

bigbeans

500+ Head-Fier
Big things come in small packages
Pros: The best sound quality, evenly matched with DMP Z1
Outstanding build quality, best in class hardware (runs cool)
Portable and pocketable
Non-Android, Custom OS (Great battery life)
Cons: High price of admission
Custom OS can be challenging to use
Requires extra steps from end user to assume basic functionality (can require computer scripts)
Volume Control/Buttons not easy to use
Preface and Disclosure
I would like to thank @bluestorm1992 who very generously loaned me his personal LP6 Platinum and made this review possible. I would also like to extend my appreciation to @ActuallySparky who was patient enough to guide me in the scary world of photo editing software. This review is framed around my personal preferences, these are subject to change over time. If you have any questions about this review or my preferences, please drop a comment below or send a PM. Disclosure, I have been on an ‘advanced interest’ list for the LP7 Ti pre-orders (via Musicteck) since April 2021. After experiencing LP6 Platinum, I put plans to acquire a DCS Bartok on hold (which I have demo’d). This is probably an indicator for what’s to come…

Review Equipment:
Headphones: MDR Z1R, HarmonicDyne Zeus, Verite Closed (Stabilized Edition), Hifiman HE560
IEMs: Moondrop Illumination, Unique Melody Mason Fabled Sound, BLON B03
Comparison Systems: Cayin A02+Cayin C9, Shanling M8, Sony DMP Z1


Setting the Stage
Throughout the years, we’ve noticed the rise of audiophile class digital audio players (DAPs). While Sony may have pioneered audio players, with the first release of the Walkman in 1979, most audiophile DAP offerings we find on the market today are supplied by Chinese firms, mostly powered by Google’s Android. While there are exceptions, particularly at the higher end segment such as Sony or Astell & Kern, most of us likely own a DAP from brands such as iBasso, FiiO, Shanling or Hiby. I am grateful such companies have pushed relentlessly forward, outcompeting each other, seemingly with a new product reveal every few months. The result of this competitive landscape has left the end user with excellent options at nearly every price segment. Over the past few years there has been an expansion of products in the summit tier space. Personal audio companies such as Astell&Kern have kickstarted the summit-tier DAP market several years ago with the AK240. Fast forward to now, with the release of Sony’s DMP Z1, personal audio companies are beginning to address the emerging need of space efficient cost-no-object personal audio systems. Some have raised the question why such products are needed in the market. For those unfamiliar, property prices in cities such as Jakarta, Hong Kong and Seoul are quite high. So much so, that modest speaker systems or even large tube amplifier headphone systems are essentially unfeasible even to those with high earning power due to living space constraints. It is no coincidence population dense areas such as China and Singapore represent the main growth centers of the personal audio industry. To that end, competition in the burgeoning summit-tier DAP space has taken shape in Shanling’s M30 platform, FiiO’s M17, iBasso’s DX300 MAX and Luxury & Precision’s LP6.

Within this lens, perhaps it becomes easier to understand why products such as DMP Z1 or LP6 have a place in the audio world, particularly in Asia. Such summit-fi DAPs are made for those who can afford speakers systems that may cost double or triple that of a flagship DAP but ‘settle’ with gear such as Unique Melody Mason Fabled Sound + LP6 due to its convenience and portability. Other headfier’s may prefer DAPs as it serves an appeasement to the wife, a subtle alternative to flashy speakers in the living room serving as a constant reminder to our SO and/or progeny of how far down the rabbit hole we have gone. Or just maybe it’s easier to ‘sneak’ a DAP in a drawer and lead a double life as a headfi hobbyist. Regardless of the use case, there is a growing demand for this segment, and one should expect this market to expand over time.

Luxury and Precision

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L&P has its beginnings in 2014, when it was cofounded by Peng Wan (aka Mr. Wan) a former GPU Product Manager of AMD China. Prior to cofounding L&P, Mr. Wan served as a Lead for Colorfly’s audio/hifi department and had a hand in developing the Colorfly C4. One can observe Mr. Wan’s aesthetic influence already in the Colorfly C4 and would serve as a design blueprint for future DAPs under his direction. While L&P is known for its R2R range of DAPs, it has an extensive product range listed on the website (L5, L5 Pro L6 etc), most of which employ AKM DAC chips. However, at the very pinnacle of the L&P product family stands the LP6 line (at the time of writing this review). The LP6 family of products represents the best of L&P, a result of no expense spared engineering and craftsmanship to achieve the very best high-end audio experience Mr. Wan can envision. The LP6 family consists of a few variants of LP6 devices. This includes the ‘base’ model LP6 Gold, the limited edition LP6 Platinum (which I am covering today) and the LP6 Titanium. LP6 Gold is the standard LP6 model, whereas the LP6 Platinum is a Japan only release with 40 units made. The LP6 Gold and LP6 Platinum share the same electronics and differ only in aesthetics. The LP6 Titanium (also a limited edition) however doubles the amount of R2R chips from two to four and has a more powerful headphone amplification stage which was explicitly optimized around the Sennheiser HD800. The LP6 Titanium is designed to replace desktop gear for those who either do not want or cannot accommodate larger amplifier units. Whether LP6 Titanium delivers on this premise is something I’ve yet to verify. Only 199 units of LP6 Titanium were ever made and retail price was $5980 USD. For LP6 flagship series of DAPs, Mr Wan has chosen to implement R2R. To appreciate this choice, I will briefly cover this technology.

Climbing the ladder
To enjoy digital music, DAC systems are necessary to convert the source file from the digital domain (music file) to the analogue domain (sound waves for our ears). On the DAC market today, you will find two types of DAC technologies, delta sigma (DS) or resistor ladder (R2R). DS DACs today contain chips from either ESS Sabre or AKM AK series chips. These chips are ‘off the shelf’ and are readily available to manufacturers due to the modern miracle of large-scale chip manufacturing. Since these DS DAC chips are premade, manufactures such as SMSL or Topping simply design a circuit around whichever DAC chip they choose and manufacture these boards at a larger scale. This allows for DAC manufactures to provide high performant DAC systems at nearly every price segment imaginable. However, there are some compromises with using DS architectures. Even if well measuring, DS systems share a common ‘flaw’ due to digital filtering processes native to the DS signal path, such as oversampling, demodulation and noise shaping. There is a great article which goes into more detail about how these processes can alter sound (https://sw1xad.co.uk/delta-sigma-vs-nos-r2r-dac-designs/). In short, the real-world effects of digital signal manipulation can negatively impact musicality by introducing oversampling artefacts such as ‘ringing’. Such digital processes are integral to a signal being processed in a DS DAC; a user is forced to listen to music with these extra steps in the signal path which can detract from the listening experience. In the DAP world, much like smart phones, economies of scale are crucial to be able to cater to lower price points. Therefore, nearly all DAPs on the market employ DS chips. This is not to say nearly all DS DAPs are of poor audio quality, in-fact one of my favorite DAPs of all time is the Shanling M8. However, from a technical point of view, there is room for improvement with an opportunity to eliminate the excessive digital filtering processes found in DS devices. To achieve the ‘purest’ audio playback (sans digital filtering), one needs to look to a non-oversampling (NOS) architecture.

This is where R2R steps in.

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R2R (R/2R) refers to a resistor ladder configuration of two values, R and 2R. A ladder of resistors consisting of R and 2R is constructed, either as discrete surface mounted resistors or within a silicon wafer chip. It works by the principle of superposition, where switching on binary (digital) inputs adds more voltage (analogue) at the output. A key feature of R2R is the audio signal going through a R2R pathway isn’t subject to the mandatory digital filtering processes used by DS DACs. In this way, R2R in NOS mode can be considered ‘better’ than DS DAC architecture. While modern favorite R2R DACs employ discrete surface mounted resistors such as Kitsune’s Holo May or Denafrip’s Terminator, there are some of us who are familiar with classic R2R wafer chips such as Philips TDA1543 or Texas Instruments PCM1704K series found in older hi-fi gear such as Magnavox or Krell KAV CD Players respectively. L&P offers both types of R2R implementations. The P6Pro is L&P’s implementation of the surface mounted discrete ladder DAC, while the LP6 series employs a silicon wafer R2R architecture.

Industrial Design
The LP6 Platinum is defined by hard edges, liberal use of wood and exposed screws. Picking LP6 up, this device is as dense as it looks, seemingly packed to the gills with advanced hardware. It seems no expense was spared in this design, as expected for a product which occupies the flagship slot in L&P’s lineup. In the hand, the LP6 feels similar to the Hiby R8, one of the heaviest DAPs I have used recently. The LP6 is not a device you would want to run around with. One will appreciate the LP6’s tight tolerances as there are no panel gaps between the wood and metal to be seen. Upon closer examination however, this narrative of careful design intent begins to unravel, revealing some user interface oversights.
If we look at the side buttons (right side of the device), we can see chunky sized media control buttons. These actuate with shallow satisfying clicks due to the high-quality ALPS switches. However, these media buttons are labeled quite poorly. Even when photographed in optimal studio lighting conditions, it’s quite difficult to make out the engravings on these side buttons. A user will likely need to memorize these functions as these buttons aren’t concave or convex to allow a user to ‘feel’ these functions.

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Moving to the top of the device, we notice an array of headphone ports consisting of ¼ inch jack (PO), 4.4mm jack (PO) and a 3.5mm jack (LO). It’s quite unusual to see a full size ¼ inch jack on a portable player, the last time I saw this was on the Colorfly C4, another of Mr. Wan’s designs. The 3.5mm jack does serve as true LO, an interesting choice for a modern flagship DAP. I suspect the next generation will move the LO function to the 4.4mm. For those who prefer to use 4.4mm as the LO, one can use the 4.4mm PO as a pseudo LO for devices like the Cayin C9. Mr. Wan states the LP6 generates such a low distortion at maximum volume on 4.4mm, double amping in this fashion can be used without noticeable distortion. Having used this combination across many of my gears, I can testify there was no noticeable distortion in any music I tested. Adjacent to the trio of sockets, you’ll find a volume control. This volume wheel turns as smooth as butter as L&P implemented a high-quality ALPS volume pot. Furthermore, this volume control is unique as it’s entirely analog. However, there are some quirks with this, notably it is impossible to determine your volume level via the software as the volume control mechanism functions entirely in the analog domain. This may not have been an issue if it were not for the lack of adequate labeling on the volume controls. First, there is no visual aid to tell the user in which direction volume is increased or decreased. Second, there is no indication on the wheel itself to communicate to the user how loud one is listening. If you perform frequent volume adjustments, this can become a tricky exercise. This becomes even more pressing as LP6 uses one of the most aggressive amplification systems I’ve encountered in a DAP, any erroneous turn of the wheel may cause intense discomfort or worse. I have accidentally blasted my ears on more than one occasion.

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My comments so far can be applied to LP6 Gold and LP6 Titanium. However, there are a few aesthetic differences with the LP6 Platinum that sets it apart from other members in the LP6 family. First, the LP6 Platinum is coated in Platinum instead of Gold. This lends itself as a more subtle looking DAP rather than the Rolex-inspired Uber Yellow 24k Gold which a few of my Persian friends would be proud to own :wink: Moving to the rear of the device is where one can appreciate the main distinctive feature of the Platinum model, the Echizen lacquerware treated wood. Echizen lacquerware is a traditional Japanese craft and has its origins in approximately 1500 AD from Sabae City (Kawada area). This technique is adored for the luster and rich color schemes it produces. As with much of Japanese artisanship, one must be trained for many years to specialize in one step after which the artisan will receive a title corresponding to what technique they trained in. Such titles include kiji-shi (woodworking specialist), nuri-shi (lacquer application specialist), and chinkin-shi (inlaid gold decoration specialist). One can imagine the kiji-shi who spent time meticulously coating the wood to create a rich and highly polished appearance one can observe on the LP6 Platinum. It’s a shame only 40 of these were made, and only for sale within Japan. From what I’m told there is very strong demand for the LP6 Platinum in the Chinese secondhand market, so perhaps L&P would consider a wider release for future special editions.

In summary, we have observed a few points. L&P has crafted a device which clearly communicates a no expense spared approach to DAP design. From case materials and artisan craftsmanship to physical components such as ALPS switches and the volume pot, one can appreciate the ToTL vision L&P’s design team has. However, there are some design oversights which detract from the user experience such as lack of adequate button labeling and confusing volume controls. Such shortcomings are not something I would find in a DAP in the $1000 range let alone one that commands approximately $4000.


Internal Hardware and Electronics
Product model: LP6 (gold version)
Display: 3.5 inches, IPS screen, OGS structure
Resolution: 480*320
Body material: brass gold plated
Master: 1812C
DAC: 2 ultra-high linear industrial grade R2R DACs
Crystal: Ultra low phase noise -160dB active crystal
Operational Amplifier: EXCELS V-O
Amp : EXCELS EP-A
Auxiliary processor: Intel large-scale FPGA
Power Management Wafer: AXP216


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As covered earlier, this DAP utilizes two R2R silicon wafer DAC chips to achieve a natural sound. There is little information on the R2R chips used in this player, upon asking Mr. Wan directly he answered, “it is secret :wink:”. I pressed further and he mentioned “We have the ability to design our own chip. However, the amount is too small, the investment is high, and given the chip shortage situation it is economically inappropriate to manufacture and design fully custom chips”. LP6’s marketing material indicates R2R chips are off the shelf R2R chips which are then customized by L&P to their specifications (via laser and PVD), instead of fully custom chips.
However, the R2R wafer chip is just one part of the LP6 system architecture. Most curiously, the package of LP6 comes with an Intel sticker. When was the last time your DAP came with the same CPU sticker as your gaming PC? It turns out L&P worked with Intel to design a FPGA specific for the LP6 family to serve several key functions:
  1. R2R DAC performance multiplier
  2. Digital Filter
  3. Advanced custom EQ
  4. Lossless DSD PCM conversion
  5. Low jitter SPDIF OUT
  6. Large bandwidth bridge chip
  7. Precision clock source
The custom nature of the LP6 exclusive Intel FPGA highlight L&P’s design intent with the LP6 line. Every decision and specification are in service to attain the best audio experience possible. For example, the FPGA is designed to operate within a specified power range, so the CPU does not interfere with other electronic systems. Furthermore, L&P have separated the power supplies to both the digital block and analog block to improve noise isolation. The power supply system for each block have been further discretized to each of their subsystems. For instance, the analog circuit power supply is separated into three separate servo power supply subsystems, designed to mimic a desktop DAC decoder, desktop preamplifiers and power amplifiers respectively. This extensive approach to power supply design highlights thoughtful circuit design to deliver the best audio quality possible. For instance, L&P have installed the analog power supply on the reverse side of the circuit board to improve noise isolation.
Moving to the built-in memory, we can observe more evidence L&P’s approach to no expense spared design. Built in memory is expected, however the onboard 64GB is quite low considering competing devices such as Astell&Kern’s S2000 is offering 256GB. What caught my eye was the type of memory used, error correcting code memory (ECC). This memory spec is generally found in workstations, mission critical servers and other professional equipment. As I’ve never seen the inclusion of such a high-grade component in a DAP before, I asked Mr. Wan about this and included his direct response below.

Question: Why use ECC memory in LP6 and only provide smaller capacity such as 64GB, whereas A&K S2000 include 256GB built in?
Answer: Generally, NAND flash has ECC mechanism. The newer process flash requires the higher the number of ECC bits, otherwise it may not be able to be read. Contrary to most people’s intuition, the smaller number of ECC bits translates to better stability and quality of the flash memory. For instance, 24-bit ECC flash is better than 40-bit ECC flash. You mentioned A&K, well this is generally implemented as EMMC. This can be understood as flash with an additional card reader chip, instead of using the ECC mechanism of the machine's main control SOC. This additional card reader chip compatibility and larger capacity flash support will be better, but it will increase more power consumption and electromagnetic interference. The general design philosophy of our products is to maximize sound quality for our customer. The pursuit of this necessitates us to minimize the interference and power consumption caused by additional chips, so we prefer to support small memory capacity to ensure best sound quality possible.

Such well thought out design excites me and reflects thoughtful engineering one would find in this price class. When looking at the power supply diagrams, Intel derived custom FPGA and high-quality components such as ELNA SILMIC II Caps, one can see where the R&D has been spent.
Moving to the amplification stage, LP6 utilizes EXCELS-VO op amps with the EXCELS EP-A amplifier to provide the most aggressive power delivery I’ve ever experienced from a DAP. This introduces the first drawback to the ‘over the top’ approach to electronics. For instance, when I use Moondrop’s Illumination via 4.4mm (Low Gain) I only need 4-5 millimeters of volume movement to get to my listening level. I’ve noticed some IEMs require an inch of volume pot turn, others require just 10 millimeters. In the Illumination’s case, it can be tricky to achieve a comfortable listening volume without encountering channel imbalance due to how little the volume pot needs to be adjusted. My MDR Z1R headphones require slightly over an inch of volume wheel turn to reach loud listening levels. While the LP6 is a powerhouse, I have found the power delivery curve too aggressive, especially for iems that use 4.4mm connection. Using the unbalanced port does help things, however my cables are hardwired to 4.4mm, and I would prefer not to use adapters (as this introduces a conversion step in the signal chain). One should note, the Titanium LP6 introduces an extra gain level, akin to Turbo mode found on the Shanling M8 or Hiby R8. This extra gain level allows LP6 Titanium to drive headphones such as HD800 with ease, which the LP6 Titanium was designed for. As a temporary measure, I use Cayin C9 with LP6 to create a usable volume range with more efficient gear. This arrangement works quite well due to LP6’s low distortion at high volumes, the THD is less than .0005% at full power. I did not detect any audible distortion when running LP6 via 4.4mm to C9 during my many hours of listening.

In summary, the electronics and system architecture of LP6 demonstrate L&P are not leaving any stone unturned with their implementation of discrete power systems, customized ultra linear R2R chips, Intel derived FPGA, and an amplification system that allows maximum volume PO with minimal distortion. It is impressive to see what lengths Mr. Wan have gone to create a truly flagship device, its quirks not withstanding. This LP6 is clearly a passion project, drawing on L&P’s years of expertise to create the most sophisticated portable audio platform I’ve encountered (save for perhaps DMP Z1).

GUI And Operating System

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L&P eschews Android for their own OS. Some may prefer Android, but for a device as specialized as this, I prefer a non-Android option. Without the ‘bloat’ of Android, the CPU can be tuned directly for the OS to allow for a software experience which will not degrade over time. Those of us who use Android DAPs grow nervous with each successive Android OS release, waiting for the inevitable moment when the apps are rendered obsolete or slows down to becoming unusable. Such problems do not exist with LP6, as these products can be used for as long as the hardware remains viable. Instead of needing to upgrade constantly, users can hold on to devices for longer. This contributes to less e-waste which helps the environment and our wallets. I sincerely hope more manufactures consider the environmental impact of their products and factor product longevity into the device lifecycle.

Boot time takes only a few seconds and takes us to the main screen. At first, one may be dismayed to see the screen is bordered within the glass portion. However, this is a clever UI feature. Ordinarily, swiping from the top edge of a screen can be tricky especially if the screen reaches the borders of the device with a case framing the edges. For example, if a leather case is used with Hiby R8 or Shanling M8, swiping the Android drawer from the top becomes a delicate dance of the fingers with inconsistent results. With L&P’s bordered screen implementation, achieving full swipe down gestures occurs with better consistency than on my iPhone or Android DAP. I appreciate LP6’s bordered screen implementation, this is subtle and very useful.
The main menu offers standard options to access your music and clicking in and out of menus are quick and responsive. However, this is where I ran into a snag with L&P’s OS. Out of the box, the file system does not sort music correctly, even if tracks are numbered. For instance, if your music has numbered prefixes (1 – xxx, 2-xxx etc), the OS will not sort it according to numerical order. To ensure music is sorted in the correct order, one will need to download and run a script (Mac or PC) which tags every song on the SD card so the player can sort the files correctly. All music must be numerically labelled for the script to work, others music cannot be sorted. For a player not to have such a basic feature in the box is a significant oversight and running the script will need to be repeated whenever new music is added to the SD card. In addition, 1TB cards are not officially supported but have been reported to work by users.
At the home menu, one can access the pull-down menu which contains useful shortcuts to key features of the player. Due to the CPU being partitioned, with most of the CPU reserved for audio playback and EQ, OS GUI animations such as bootup logo and swipe down control panel will stutter in a slideshow like fashion. The control panel offers most functions are user would want to quickly access including NOS toggle, USB DAC toggle and Gain function among others. When accessing the file system and playing music, the OS is responsive. During music playback, swiping right on the album art reveals detailed song information. The advanced settings menu (from main menu) allows system level customizations such as sleep timer and media key map flipping. I do wish the panels on the main menu were customizable with function and placement, however like the players physical design, the software is utilitarian and just about gets the job done.

Disclaimer, LP owners have had issues pertaining to metadata, track sorting, with features such as track search or even gapless playback not yet available. The current state of the OS is the latest in a string of releases taking the LP6 from extremely limited functionality at launch to almost having basic functions we take for granted. Adding to this, CPU bottleneck becomes more apparent on lower tier devices such as P6 Pro, which many owners prefer to use in USB DAC mode due to poor software performance.

In conclusion, it seems clear from that L&P still has work to do with their OS. While the player can play music with some added steps, the end user software experience does not match the level of quality and attention L&P has given their hardware. While LP6 family of devices offer the ‘best’ L&P software experience due to the Intel FPGA, there are still some kinks that need to be worked out. I’ve observed several owners of P6 Pro and LP6 use them in USB DAC mode to bypass outstanding software issues. At this class of device, end users shouldn’t be subject to performing additional work (running scripts for instance) to accommodate poor software. There is some good news on the horizon. I inquired with Mr Wan about L&P’s priority with software and OS performance. Mr. Wan has noted software is the first aspect they approached to revise with the next generation of players, which are due early next year. The OS and CPU will be redesigned from the ground up to deliver a premium software experience befitting of a flagship.

As I was examining the design, electronics and software up to this point and taking tally of the number of the pros and cons of the LP6 there was a nagging thought in the back of my mind. What exactly does this DAP do that makes owners keep coming back to it, and even use it in dongle mode most of the time? In eager anticipation, I took out my gear and began my sonic adventure with LP6.

Sound Impressions
Demo Music
  • Fall on Me by Andrea Bocelli
  • Paganini 24 Caprices: Sueye Park
  • We Are One by Yao Si Ting
  • Sonorite by Tatsuro Yamashita Sonorite, Track 4 (忘れないで)
  • Sugar by System of a Down
  • Mozart Piano Concertos by Murray Perahia
  • Essential Yo-Yo Ma by Yo-Yo Ma

General Signature

Thunderous.

The first thing to notice is the full, meaty and sheer power of the sound. This characteristic may be due to the amplification stage LP6 is using. At first listen, this thunderous and musical sound signature dominates everything. The sheer energy LP6 offers is somewhat similar to HiBy R8 in Turbo mode. However, R8’s Turbo mode increases treble energy and makes the music sound a tad ‘brighter’. This results in a presentation (relative to non-turbo mode) that swings closer to brighter side of ‘analytical’. The LP6 however manages to take the bass, midrange and treble, turn them each up to 11 and retain absolute control, a masterclass in density. This is a lively rendition and will give the listener a highly energetic and musical presentation. The sub bass in particular will impress, some may say it’s too sub bass emphasized, however LP6 balances this energy to other frequency bands to create a smooth yet highly engaging listening experience that makes other gear feel lacking. When evaluating the mids, I turn to a favorite song of mine, Fall on Me by Andrea Bocelli, a father-son duet. This song demonstrates how LP6 keeps the mids smooth and rich while presenting a level of energy that sounds natural and lifelike. Treble doesn’t stand out unpleasantly, details are effortlessly presented but without the edge of sharpness I get from this song with other gear at higher listening volumes. With string decay on Paganini Caprices, there is a sense of airiness but still retains overall highly energetic signature while LP6 works to extract every last detail from the music. LP6 is in service of natural sound decay, not just raw resolution. The key takeaway from LP6 is how dense yet natural and well balanced the sound is without fatiguing treble.

Pair Ups and Comparisons

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Unique Melody Mason Fabled Sound
The Fabled Sound uses a Bone Conduction driver, which is dependent on the source gear. On 4.4mm, I can say Mason FS is the best match I’ve heard with LP6. LP6’s richness and musicality add just the right touch the Mason’s neutral tuning and complements it perfectly. What stood out immediately was the power to the sub bass and more engaging mids. While the treble on FS is still natural and restrained yet highly resolving with R2R air. The bass slams the out of the LP6, with added sub-bass even when comparing to Cayin C9. The midrange is where the FS varies in presentation according to the source gear, and LP6 injects enough energy into the midrange that squeezes every last drop out of the BC driver. The BC driver seems to be participating more in the music, this can be appreciated when listening to violin solos such as Paganini Caprices by Sueye Park.
Mason FS and LP6 is the most popular pairing amongst audiophiles in China with many purchasing LP6 specifically for Mason FS. This may seem excessive at the outset (it probably is haha), but after hearing this pairing I do understand why folks are doing this. It seems these two gears have a synergy that can only be compared to the MDR Z1R + DMP Z1.

Moon Drop Illumination
This is an efficient IEM and unfortunately is subject to one of LP6’s weaknesses. The volume pot only needs to be turned a few millimeters to achieve enjoyable listening levels, any further actuation may cause hearing damage to some. If the volume pot isn’t actuated enough however, there will be channel imbalance, so achieving the right positioning can be tricky. When dialed in, I cannot sense any tangible benefit of using LP6 with Illumination versus more affordable DAPs such as Shanling M8. While the Illumination is dead silent with zero hiss, the technicalities LP6 offers does not seems to translate effectively as the Mason FS. Given the issues of volume control and lack of synergy this is a combo that I cannot recommend.

MDR Z1R
This is an excellent pairing (requiring only 1/4 of volume pot turn), only beat out by the DMP Z1. The LP6 builds upon the Z1R’s characteristic bass boost, giving it excellent sub bass rumble while imparting the high energy on the signature. The result is a headphone listen that is even more fun than before, Track 4 on Sonorite by Tatsuro Yamashita showcases the LP6 giving the Z1R an edge in aggression with high density midrange and more rumble in the bass. DMP Z1 does almost the opposite, focusing on refinement instead of turning all the sonic characteristics to 11. LP6 is a showcase in in brute force and turns Z1R into a headphone I can headbang to rather than melt in my chair. These differences are quite subtle but are enough to push a song like Sugar by System of a Down, over the edge. The attributes LP6 brings to Z1R may be a negative for some, but if you wanted to know what ‘sixth gear’ of Z1R is, LP6 will squeeze every drop out of it. DMP Z1 on the other hand, gently guides Z1R into a sonic profile preferred by the engineers at Sony. This is a difference of philosophy, and I happen to prefer the DMP Z1 with the MDR Z1R. However, there is a strong case to be made for LP6 pairing as well.

Cayin A02+C9
Switching to other source reference gear such Cayin A02+C9 illustrate LP6’s unique sonic characteristics. Cayin A02 is neutral but doesn’t come off sounding linear either. This combination is a careful balance of Cayin house sound and neutrality. Music has a very slight emphasis in the bass with forward midrange and non-fatiguing treble. Compared to LP6 however, music sounds almost one-dimensional due to the lack of musicality and emphasis on detail retrieval. The A02+C9 is similar to the DMP Z1 in technicalities but without the smooth Sony house sound or the refined effortless airy treble. These are flavor differences, however when compared to players like LP6 or DMP Z1, A02+C9 seems robbed of engagement, instead offering a straightforward, no nonsense presentation. After listening to LP6 for a few hours A02+C9 in comparison sounds laid back, flatter with a ‘digital etch’ present throughout the music.

DMP Z1
Comparing to LP6 to the arguably the best DAP on the market, Sony’s DMP Z1 proved to be an interesting comparison. The DMP Z1 in comparison offers a very similar tonal character to the LP6 yet is restrained in delivery. DMP Z1’s superior volume control allows it to present the best dynamics I’ve heard across the spectrum of lower volume ranges. After close comparison, there is still a slight ‘digital’ character with DMP Z1 when compared to LP6. LP6 has a denser presentation, in contrast to DMP Z1 which seems to produce a wider, diffuse sound field. Note there is a difference between dense and intimate. Like DMP Z1, LP6 is not intimate. It will grow effortlessly with the music, but due to the high energy of LP6 (particularly in the mids), the music will appear to be closer. However, playing Murray Perahia’s Mozart Concerto’s will reassure the listener the technical staging of the LP6 is not to be put into question. Rather, due to the high energy nature of LP6, it will take a little while to get used to the staging if you’re coming from reference DS gear.

I do prefer the DMP Z1 technicality if only for the top-of-the-line dynamics for low volume listening. If the next generation L&P players addressed the LP6 limited volume range and aggressive power delivery, I would have a challenge picking one over the other. L&P did a tremendous job with LP6 tuning. The resolving nature and presentation of thunderous bass, energetic midrange and resolving yet natural treble trades blows with DMP Z1. I would call this a tie in the tonality department, but DMPZ1 gets the win with technicalities due to its superior dynamics across a lower volume range.

Conclusion
If I had to summarize LP6 in one word, it would be ‘potential’.

From the the Platinum exclusive Echizen lacquerware treated wood, to the advanced hardware, it is clear LP6 is designed for enthusiasts with a penchant for luxury. A portable player that can power full size headphones with absolute confidence, providing a desktop quality reference R2R DAC for external amplifiers and a world class USB DAC, a feature proving more useful than I surmised. LP6 provides a summit class audio experience, but the path to get there will require some work. What many DAP companies (not just L&P) need to realize is that software represents half of the product, as software is a major factor determining the quality of the user experience. I hope DAP companies learn that patching software to address basic issues after a customer takes delivery of a product is not acceptable (looking at you, Shanling M30). To this day LP6 doesn’t perform gapless playback and requires computer scripts for tracks to be sorted correctly.

There is a lot of potential in LP6, there is nothing else in the portable player market approaching this level of performance or level of hardware present in LP6. LP6 even trades blows with DMP Z1. LP6 can even be considered a better value proposition when compared to a DMP Z1 (which isn’t pocketable). The question you need to ask yourself, is it worth paying $4000 USD for ‘potential’? For those who desire the best portable audio quality and can look past the shortcomings, it is. For me however, I don’t mind waiting for L&P to get it right with the LP7 generation (early 2022). Until then, competition is coming with firms like Cayin looking to debut R2R players on the market soon. One can only speculate how these offerings will stack up to L&P’s new generation of devices. At long last, we’ll be able to witness the R2Renaissance in the headfi space and I’d like to extend my deepest thanks to our Asia-based headfi brothers in particular for driving the market to this point.

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Reactcore
Reactcore
One thing i missed was the (measured) play time on full battery charge..

Note: still enjoying my 2013 AK120 1st gen with non android (quirky) os driving HD800's😁
Chimmy9278
Chimmy9278
Could we be getting a tour with this any time soon?
bluestorm1992
bluestorm1992
@Chimmy9278 you can reach out to Andrew from @MusicTeck and see if he has a demo unit. He is in NJ so you may even be able to drive to his place to do an audition.

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