Pioneer XDP-30r

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Pros: Really good SQ (considering the size of the player).
FLAC support.
Giant capacity with 2x card slots.
Balanced output.
Decent support for higher impedance headphones. (Three levels.)
Low output impedance on the player (~1 ohm?).
Great clarity even at ridiculously low volume (e.g. #3). (I normally listen to music at very (!!!) low volume.)
No noise. Sound floor is pitch black.
It's small and light.
The touch screen feature works surprisingly well.
The mechanical "don't let stuff in my pocket change any of my settings" switch is great.
Battery life is really good. (Note that I don't use Bluetooth or WiFi or any of the fancy stuff.)
The EQ functionality is pretty good, but most of the time I keep it off (since it's an extra step in the pipeline, and I generally like to reduce the steps in the pipeline).
It's NOT Android. (That is a HUGE "pro".)
Cons: It's got stupid stuff printed on the front in a row of white marketing bubbles, like "Twin DAC", "16GB" "2Slots" ... these look like the stupid crappy stickers on a Dell notebook or something.
The material used for the front of the player is so soft that you can scratch it just by looking at it. Seriously, this thing scratched up so fast after I got it that I didn't have a chance to put the protective film (included) over the screen before it was already more pock-marked than the back side of the moon.
The decoder/player will suffer spurious software errors from time to time. Not 100% reproducible. It's pretty rare, but I'll be listening to a song, and suddenly it stops in the middle, and then the next song starts. Sometimes, if I rewind, it will make it through that same song with no problem.
I've had this player for a long time. It has a ridiculous number of features, including Bluetooth and WiFi and Tidal and remote apps and MQA and so on ... but I don't use any of those. What I do use is a massive amount of storage on a micro-SD card, and the balanced output. So my review won't be a very good reflection of the capabilities of this player, but just the tiny slice of stuff that I actually use.

The funny thing is that I have almost no complaints about the player. Sure, it's not a tube amp, but on the other hand it fits in my pocket and the battery lasts and lasts.

(Writing this while listening to Aretha Franklin on the Pioneer XDP-30r over Laylas on the balanced out, bass turned way down.)
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Grimbles
Grimbles
Those things that look like stickers are stickers and you can pick them off! I did...
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cpurdy
cpurdy
I swear I tried and couldn't get them off! I even gouged the screen (see "cons" list) trying to get them off!
Grimbles
Grimbles
So they were on a very thin film - i got it off by just gently scratching the edge of the screen with a nail. Unfortunately have sold now so dont have a photo :/
Pros: Price, Balanced output, two micro sd card slots (each 200gb), small
Cons: nothing against my wants-needs
I am not a pro. I just wanted to have a player, not too expensive, with 2 micro sd card slots, more than 10 hours playing, relative simple and fast UI, balanced out put, volume wheel, small... In the and I bought this piece and I am really happy with that.
Pros: Tiny size
Good SQ
Potentially capacious Storage
MQA compatible
Easy to use
Good pricing
Balanced and unbalanced outputs
Great battery life
Cons: Laid back sound may not be to everyone's liking
Quick Read Conclusion

The Pioneer XDP-30r ("XDP-30r") is an entry level, MQA capable DAP with capacious storage options, a simple and effective user interface, flexible output options (including 2.5mm trrs balanced) and most importantly great (if a little laid back) sound quality. It absolutely nails everything you want a DAP to be, and even manages to look great while doing it! With no meaningful faults, I absolutely recommend this player.

Introductions and General Bumf

Test Kit: I have tested the XDP-30r with Shure SE215, SE425, Sennheiser HD600, Ultimate Ears UE900s and KEF M500 headphones/IEMs. I also ran the line out through a Schiit Vali 2 to compare against the Modi 2, and ran USB out into both the Modi 2 and ifi iDSD Nano BL.

Preparation: I have given the XDP-30r a shade over 50 hours of burn-in (unsure if I believe in burn in, but figured this should help for people who do) and I did not start any critical listening without giving it at least an hour to warm up (I think warm up of DACs does help, and have read a couple of papers on this, but given this is a mobile DAP I don’t think real world use will involve having had this thing plugged in for 24 hours before listening).

Me as a listener: I am not a pro by any stretch of the imagination. I have always enjoyed my music, and my tastes are pretty broad. I go to live music ranging from rock and pop concerts to orchestra and opera. I would not describe myself as having a trained ear, but I am attentive and my ears are in pretty good nick for a 34 year old (my hearing cuts off around 17.5 kHz per my frequency generator).

My tastes: neutral to warm, but I do like good punchy bass and I love to hear decent instrument separation.

Test tracks: I've tried to keep it broad and I have cited my music sources below, so (where possible) people can download the tracks themselves.

1) Wiz Kalifah – On My Level (320k MP3, Google Store)

2) Norah Jones – Turn Me On (24/192 FLAC, Qobuz)

3) John Williams – Throne Room from Star Wars performed by Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (16/44.1 FLAC, Qobuz)

4) The Verve – The Drugs Don’t Work (16/44.1 self-ripped FLAC)

5) Ed Sheeran – Castle on the Hill (320k MP3, Google Store)

6) JS Bach – Brandenberg Concertos, 1 (allegro) (16/44.1, self-ripped FLAC)

7) Hilltop Hoods ft. Sia – I Love It (256k m4a, iTunes)

8) 30 Seconds to Mars – Stronger (Radio 1 Live Lounge Cover) (16/44.1, self-ripped FLAC)

9) Pearl Jam – Yellow Ledbetter (320k MP3, Google Store)

10) Rage Against the Machine – Wake Up (292k m4a, iTunes)

A bit of context: I want to start this review with a confession. I love gadgets. There, I said it; I suspect I am not the only frequenter of these forums with that confession to make but nevertheless, it is pertinent in the context of this review (which is written following my review of the Hidizs AP200 (here) and real disappointment in a gadget which promised so much, was a lovely thing to behold, but sadly, for me, terminally flawed). The AP200 is not the first gadget I have purchased which filled me with buyer's remorse – my drawers are full of them (an iPhone 5 projector I have barely ever used, a remote control light bulb that is too dim to be useful, a cycle computer that is so fiendishly complicated it is unusable, the list goes on). From that, you may draw the fair conclusion that I don't really learn my lesson... however for every failed gadget, there are some wonderful successes... the Logitech Harmony Ultimate, Nest thermostat and Schiit Stack to name a few. So, I plod on, make (and occasionally repeat) my mistakes and try to learn from them.

I bought the XDP-30r as a direct replacement for the AP200 to serve as my main mobile listening source. The lesson I learnt from the AP200 was that the key things I need from a DAP are:

1) sound quality;

2) ease of use (drop in a pocket, on shuffle and never touch again); and

3) battery life.

I realise that, at my price point, I genuinely can't have it all, so the list above summarises what I really need a DAP to do well. I was therefore less concerned with (amongst other things) the need to operate as a USB DAC (I have a DAC for that), Android (I have a phone for that), WiFi and internet connectivity, hi-res screens, output to DAC (I have a phone and computer for that)... and so on.

Finally, back in the late noughties, I was quite into my car audio (and for any Brits who fancy a chuckle at my expense, I put a dual voice coil JL audio sub-woofer into a first generation Ford KA, and popped the back windscreen out!). I had a couple of Pioneer head units (including one which took mini discs, remember them?!) over that time, and both were very good. I therefore had some high expectations for the XDP-30r.

So, on to the main event. [/General Bumf]

Unboxing

Having had some pretty impressive unboxing experiences recently (in particular, the UE900s and AP200 were packaged beautifully) this was a little underwhelming. The XDP-30r sits on a flimsy, white, cheap feeling plastic tray, with a usb a to micro cable and a few manuals underneath. Notably absent is that compressed foam that I’ve seen a fair bit of recently, and that makes the unboxing experience that bit more premium. I’ve set out photos below so you can see what I mean.

UB1.jpg UB2.jpg UB3.jpg

Practicalities

Ignoring the various notches, by my measurements, the unit is 62mm x 94 mm x 13mm. So it is small – about the size of a deck of cards - and therefore properly pocket portable. Indeed, thin enough to carry in a breast pocket without spoiling the line of your suit. On the left of the unit are a play/pause, skip forward and back physical buttons and two micro SD card slots each compatible with cards up to 200gb (see below). On the bottom is a micro usb port. To the right a very tactile volume control that rolls in reassuring steps and a hold switch. On the top, the power button, a 3.5mm unbalanced output and a 2.5mm trrs balanced output. Pictured below next to a Samsung S8 to give a feel for size.

v S8.jpg

In terms of storage, the XDP-30r only comes with 16GB built in, but with up to 400gb in total, in the micro SD card slots, I don’t think this is a problem.

Battery life is pretty impressive too. Using the balanced output and volume at about 12-15/60, I'm getting about 14 hours (so for me, a couple of days of use in the office).

The XDP-30r is also capable of a number of other handy features which I set out below:

1) USB out to a DAC – no problems outputting to my Modi 2 Uber or IfI iDSD Nano BL, some thoughts and sound comparisons below. Worth noting it only outputs DSD though;

2) Line Out – no problems into my Vali 2; and

3) Bluetooth Out – again, no problems into my Samsung soundbar or my JBL Flip 2.

The XDP-30r can also be controlled by a smartphone (other reviewers have commented this is great, I got this to work fine with my Note 8 and S8, but didn’t really use it!).

The XDP-30r does NOT work as a USB DAC.

My last, non-audio comment is on the screen. It is low resolution (esp. when compared to the current crop of smartphones and the old AP200) but, it was never a problem for me. The screen is completely clear, easy to read, simply organised and easy to understand. I don’t feel the need to experience album art in high resolution on the screen, so the slightly blocky pictures and visible pixels were no concern. I suspect this also helps with the excellent battery life. Customised android implementation is hard to get right, and can create a complicated device. Pioneer's own OS for the XDP-30r means that there are no redundant or hard to understand menu options – everything in its place and a place for everything.

In terms of output power, XDP-30r comfortably powered everything I threw at it, including my HD600s. With high gain selected (from the options of high, mid and low) pleasant listening volume for me, for the HD600s was 30-35/60 from the unbalanced port, and for all my iems in the balanced port (SE215, 425, UE900) and also the Kef M500s from the unbalanced port, 20 was absolute tops required to clearly hear quiet orchestral tracks on busy trains and more typically my iems sat at 10-15/60. In short, it should have the beans to push most cans reasonably comfortably. I did not notice any hiss from the XDP-30r on any gain setting in either port with any of my iems. I don’t own anything mega sensitive, but hopefully this is encouraging for those of you who do.

The Sound

I have stuck with the tried and tested format of highs, mids, lows and soundstage. I will also focus a little on separation, as it is something I enjoy hearing.

Highs

The best word I can find for the highs on the XDP-30r is "relaxed". They are clearly presented, with that upper end "tingle" noticeable, and never recessed. This said, I do feel that the XDP-30r does not have the same attack at the high end compared with some of my other sources. Percussion in particular, is not the tightest, with less pronounced staccato at the front and rear edges of the sound. To exemplify, the harpsichords in the Brandenberg Concerto track above are delivered with clarity and sparkle, never lost in the busy mids and high mids from the strings. Equally, the guitars in the Drugs Don’t Work and Yellow Ledbetter keep that metallic quality which you absolutely want to hear. Conversely, the percussion in Hilltops Hoods' I l Love It does not stop and start with absolute impact, flowing and "bleeding" together, rather than having a clearly delineated beginning and end.

What this means, and whether this constitutes a criticism is a matter of personal taste. For me, it creates a unit whose sound I can listen to 7-8 hours on the trot, with absolutely zero fatigue. I suspect the relaxed presentation up top is not going to be a treblehead's dream, but for everyone else I think you will find the XDP-30r delivers clarity in treble, without overpowering.

Mids

Mids are forwards and clean on the XDP-30r, with no sense of veiling or lack of clarity. I particularly like the way that the XDP-30r deals with string heavy orchestral music such as Throne Room from Star Wars. On the KEF M500s, which are mid and bass heavy, the strings are section clear (i.e. you can pick out the violins, cellos etc. clearly) without losing detail in the overlaying brass. From other sources (esp. smartphones) the M500s can lose some detail in this sort of performance, but the XDP-30r keeps them true. The XDP-30r also does a great job of acoustic guitars – The Verve's Drugs Don’t Work never losing a note as Ashcroft delivers the vocal. Female vocals too, are well provided for, with Norah Jones sounding velvet smooth through the HD600s.

Lows

Lows are an interesting bag on the XDP-30r, and I think consistent with the sound signature evident in the highs. On a consistent bass line (Wiz Khalifa's On My Level for example), the bass is clean, with suitable impact right down at the bottom. Indeed, the XDP-30r creates a sense of real rumbling bass through the M500s and HD600s, and even creates good bass impact with the SE425s (which I can find a bit bass light through unamped sources).

Much like my comments re/highs, I do think the attack of the XDP-30r is a little light, when compared to some other sources. Where you have a thumping bass line (I appreciate not in the track list above, but a good example is the early part of Rudimental's I've Been Waiting All Night where the bass starts to kick in) the XDP-30r does not deliver each thump with the impact of other sources (the Nano BL being a notable example).

As with the treble, this makes the XDP-30r a little more laid back and relaxed, but on balance, I would prefer more impact and definition both in the lows and highs.

Soundstage and Separation

Soundstage on the XDP-30r is reasonable, packing in far more width than my smartphone, but not as much as my Schiit Stack or particularly the Nano BL. Separation is good, especially with busy orchestral tracks and layering. Ed Sheeran's Castle on the Hill in particular, lacking the "compressed" sound I sometimes hear from other sources when the layering has really built.

Comparisons

I struggled to describe the XDP-30r without making some comparisons which you will see above. Compared to my Nano BL and Schiit Stack (Modi 2 Uber, Vali 2) there is less attack and gentler decay. As I have said, this creates a far more relaxed sound than some other sources, and I am listening to mine for 8+ hours on some days without fatigue. I do though, think that this means the XDP-30r is much better set up as an everyday listening device rather than being used for highly critical listening. But this is exactly what I bought it for and for me I don’t mark it down.

Other thoughts

The wedge shaping and choice of materials (brushed aluminium with a tactile matt plastic rear) mean the XDP-30r is a real joy to hold. As said before, it is properly pocket portable with the notches making it much more ergonomically successful. The decision to place the headphone ports at the top was also, to my mind, sensible – any straight jacks (such as on my cheap Fiio 2.5mm balanced cable below) run far less risk of damage. Pioneer have really thought about the user experience of the XDP-30r and it shows, as it is a joy to hold and simple to use in one hand.

Fiio Cable.jpg

Pioneer have taken a slightly different approach to a number of other DAPs which sit in this sort of price point. Rather than running a customised version of Android, they have instead opted to utilise their own operating system. This was a brilliant decision and is part of what makes the XDP-30r so good at what it does. The small touchscreen is super-responsive, with no noticeable delay. Track skipping, including between tracks with different bit depths and sampling rates (which would cause freezing on my old AP200 and can even sometimes make my Samsung Note 8 and Galaxy S8 have a bit of a paddy) is seamless. I have not yet had the device crash once, and I have been using it for a couple of weeks now.

The XDP-30r is also MQA compatible, with a software update. The process for this was dead easy (hook up to wifi, say yes when asked, unit does the rest) and as you can see from the below, it recognises and plays MQA files. I'm not convinced I have noticed a giant difference between MQA and standard FLAC, but I thought worth mentioning if you have invested a fortune in MQA tracks and will only accept a compatible player! Shown below playing MQA.

MQA.jpg

Niggles and Solutions

Literally none – from the moment I took it out of the box it has worked perfectly. I'll update if I come across anything!

Conclusion

As an ultra portable, MQA compatible DAP with compatibility for vast amounts of storage and both balanced and unbalanced outputs, it is hard to find fault with the pretty little XDP-30r. A cracking battery coupled with sound quality that is great – if a little relaxed –mean this is genuinely a DAP you can listen to all day. As a package, the combination of size, ease of use and real world hassle free listening, means the XDP-30r comes highly recommended. It is my player of choice.
Grimbles
Grimbles
@miguel.yarce not as far as I know. Might be worth droppin Pioneer support a line to see if they can help.
miguel.yarce
miguel.yarce
@Grimbles I have already talk with them, and they said that I need to ask to the seller to change it for the non Japanese version jejeje ¬¬
miguel.yarce
miguel.yarce
@Grimbles MQA just sound great! on this device Im very happy with it. Very Good Review

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