I wanted to thank @bluestorm1992
for convincing Mr. Wan/L&P to send me their new W2 to share some quick impressions on. I believe it’ll be readily available within the month. Price hasn’t been finalized yet but the price has increased by ~$15 USD-equivalent in China from the original W2, for reference. Let me know if you have any questions!
No Reason to Feel Blue, 131 is Here
I get PTSD when I think about W2s, because here in the US, it reminds me of taxes. But Luxury & Precision has helped me mostly shed the negative association with its’ own brilliant little L&P W2 dongle.
As many of you may know, L&P is no stranger to prioritizing sonic performance. Therefore, it is no surprise that the W2 took the dongle world by storm by providing excellent sonic and power capabilities in tiny form factor. I have shifted through a myriad of DAPs ranging from $300 (DX160) to $1500-1800 (M8/R8), all the way to $3600 (SP2000), and the best-value
dollars I’ve spent in the hobby has easily been the W2. Is it better than all those DAPs? No-but it honestly comes quite close to the likes of the Shanling M8 at nearly 1/5 of the price.
Plus, the synergy it had with my favorite IEM, the Oriolus Traillii, had me constantly raving about how awesome the little beast could perform. Its’ ability to layer in a black background with nice micro-detail mirror technical feats that only upper-tier DAPs tend to pull off.
So when I heard that L&P was “updating” the W2 due to DAC shortages, I was a bit concerned, but also intrigued. Between their P6Pro, LP6 and W2, I trust their ability to make something sound ****ing good. Waiting on a R2R dongle, Mr. Wan
*For the purpose of these impressions, I’ll refer to the original carbon-fiber W2 as the OG (because the OG acronym will always be OG), and the new blue w2 as the 131 (because of the CS43131 DAC chip difference).
There’s a saying, don’t fix what isn’t broken. And to me, the OG W2 was definitely not broken [damn you chip shortages]. Sure, you might not enjoy its default tonality, but that’s where the variety of spice kicks in for life. And lucky for us, to my ears, the 131 does offer another flavor
to play with IEM synergy. But before we go into sound impressions, below is a non-technical person’s attempt at trying to explain the key differences between the two dongles…for dummies
-The OG uses the Cirrus Logic 43198 chip, whereas the new W2 uses CS43131
- Despite different DAC chips, the two dongles shame similar DAC function-the 131 simply has an added AMP function.
-The 131 has a reported increase in driving power of 260mw at 32ohm versus OG’s 235mw.
-Both have similar features, including 3.5mm, 4.4mm balanced, two tuning options, low and high gain, etc.
The 131 has a near identical build to its older brother, however it instead sports a classier, sexier dark-blue exterior with a mirror glass finish. The OG proudly wears a matte, carbon fiber back with a less glossy front. Weight feels the same and both are tiny. 131 will be more of a fingerprint magnet, so I would recommend considering a dongle case (which is what I did with the OG regardless). Gotta wrap the little fella up. I also felt the screen text was a bit more crisp/HD-like on the OG versus the 131.
One of my biggest quips with the OG was how fast it drained my smartphone battery. I often overlooked my iPhone’s battery health due to the banging sound I was getting out of it, but it did limit my use cases…especially when out and about with no access to a charger. (Sorry girlfriend, couldn’t pick up my phone because my phone died. Because of a dongle).
So is the OG portable? Yes. Truly efficient? Not really.
Fortunately, instead of just adding a shiny, new blue coat, 131 is also a slightly friendlier companion for our smartphones. L&P states that the battery drain of the 131 is 10% less than its predecessor. While I was not able to run any official tests to confirm, I did notice an anecdotal difference when streaming MQA from Tidal. Looking forward to seeing if it’s also noticeable for other users.
Sonic Performance: 131 vs. OG
Tuning 2; Fast; High Gain:
The 131 has excellent soundstage width and height, with solid overall depth. It seems that the depth is reigned in a bit more than the OG to bring a fuller
presentation to the table. This slightly compromises layering and the overall black background. 131 mids are thicker, adding a bit more presence in the vocals and instruments. The OG opts for a more upper-mid centric presentation, portraying more upper treble to add sparkle and emphasize female vocals. There is more air/upper-treble on OG. 131 has a more balanced mid-range, particularly lower mids.
These are both fun bass dongles. OG has a touch more subbass over midbass emphasis, meanwhile 131 opts for a more balanced midbass inline with the subbass. Treble is a bit smoother on the 131, adding a more organic tone; whereas OG doubles down on its digital presentation with a fun, clarity and energetic top end without being harsh.
Tuning 1 goes for more of a V-shape presentation than tuning 2, to my ears. Vocals are pushed back and treble and bass are brought forward a bit with more bite and energy.
I can see the appeal in this depending on which IEM you are listening to, but I am a mids-guy and always will be, so lock me into Team Tuning 2.
I actually struggled to enjoy EVO on the OG W2, mainly because it was upper-mids overkill at that point. However, the 131 adds a touch more warmth and balance into the upper frequencies to give the EVO a more organic tonality. I genuinely enjoy the 131 + EVO pairing and comes to show that these two dongles are complimentary for the right IEMs.
I prefer the subbass punch of the 131 a bit more because it feels more controlled versus the boomier OG.
To beat out the OG W2 for me with Traillii was going to be no easy feat, and as excellent as 131 is, I still preferred OG for this pairing. Mainly, I feel the OG excels in areas that accentuate
Trailii’s greatest strengths, mainly airiness, layering, emotive upper-mids and sparkle. The 131 was a pleasant pairing (I mean, what doesn’t pair well with Traillii?), but the staging depth did not cut it for me with overly smooth transients.
Plus, the carbon fiber back of OG matches my bird’s cable and faceplate to the bone. Maybe I am a bit biased
Before the TOTL headphone folks send me scathing PMs questioning why I paired a $4500 headphone with a $299 dongle instead of a $10k AMP + DAC stack, I want to thank @bluestorm1992
(again) for the suggestion. It seems Audeze has done an excellent job with its’ planar driver efficiency, and I was surprised
to note that the OG and 131 both drove the LCD5 impressively well.
Technicalities took a large drop versus my iDSD Pro Signature, mainly in soundstage depth and imaging, but the more forward, energetic sound was rather pleasant and helped engagement for times when I wanted more intensity in my sound. Sometimes being too technical
Putting the OG/131 volume at around 75 on high-gain provided solid headroom with still impressive clarity and dynamics.
Simply put, these are some powerful little dongles!
I tried to not riddle these impressions with too many cliches, but going to do it anyways…L&P W2 dongles provide excellent value for the buck.
The OG has proven itself, and as we face a world with tricky supply-chain issues including chip shortages, L&P has successfully pivoted to provide the 131, which I think will successfully resonate with many.
131 sports a few changes versus its OG brother. It adds a more versatile and friendly tonality that I think will pair easier with most IEMs at slight expense of technicalities and clarity. Balanced, warm, smooth and full-sounding with solid technicalities…all for ~$299 and less battery drain. 131 is here.
Rather than make a OG W2 sonic replacement, L&P created a complimentary tonality which opts for warm, balanced, and organic versus OG’s more energetic, sparkle, and layered sound. 131 sacrifices some technicalities for a more pleasant tuning. Slightly less battery drain is always a huge win for 131 as well.