LOTOO PAW Touch, first impressions – Mimouille

HEAD-PIE EXCLUSIVE 

LOTOO PAW Touch, first impressions 
– Mimouille

 

1. Introduction

As some of you may know, I am quite the Lotoo fanboy, as I think the Lotoo Paw Gold is one of the best DAPs out there, if not the best for my tastes and usage. So when I heard they were developing a new touch DAP, needless to say I was jumpy like a 5-year old who just ate all of his Halloween loot. I tried to contact Michael Xiao to get more information, but he left the company, so I tried other avenues. When I learned there was a press conference to announce the DAP in Beijing, I thought jackpot, but it was only for the press, and already full, and apparently Head pie is not press (are you going to let them say that Damon!).

After harassing their guys on Taoabo, I finally got the WeChat of the marketing guy, who suggested I come to their office (which is on the other side of town, you guys can thank me for spending 200 RMB of taxi for the cause). I was welcomed at the Infomedia office (the company behind Lotoo) by Wang Lin and Hang Xu, both from marketing, the latter being an engineer and quite knowledgeable on the technical aspects.



According to him the philosophy behind the Lotoo Paw Gold was to be a reference player, inherited from their background in sound recording (Infomedia is the OEM for NAGRA). They had no background in the music industry per say. 
They realized this meant the player was, in their opinion, more suited to classical music than to more modern genres. Based on this, they tried to develop a new player, still close to their “reference” house sound, but more “musical”. As you will see in my impressions, I would not qualify the sound of both players as they do, but that was their goal. 
This also means that both players will continue to be co-TOTL, it is not one replacing the other.

The Lotoo Paw Touch will be out in China at the end of May / beginning of June at the price of 
17 999 RMB (2850$ roughly) and international price is not yet know, but I did (strongly) suggest that staying under 3k would be a good idea…).

2. Build and ergonomics:

I have to say I have always loved the build of the Paw Gold, and the Touch is also very impressive. The design is simple and functional: they are not trying to copy A&K or other similar players out there. They are going for robustness and ease of use, with a more neutral look than the Paw Gold (black instead of bling, even though the volume wheel remains gold). The finish seems excellent, all in black metal, with metal buttons that feel durable and responsive, and are well placed. The player is larger than the Paw Gold, but quite smaller than the WM1Z, and very handy (although thicker than most DAPs).










The player has a single ended 3.5mm jack and and balanced 4.4mm jack, as well as a USB-C port for transfer and charging. The player will come with a nice black leather case (the one I saw was already good, but the production version will be better).


3. UI and functionality:

The player has lightning speed startup. It turns on in two seconds, and is immediately ready to operate, and that is after I put in a new card (with only 1.5g of music, let us see later how it behaves with 200g). 

You can see the video here:


In terms of functionalities, the UI is super-fast and convenient. It sometimes crashes, but this will be solved in the production version, and these crashes are solved in 2 seconds by rebooting. It happened maybe three times in two hours of testing. 

You can see just how reactive it is here on basic functions. At this stage, the UI doesn’t recognize embedded album art, but will in a future FW update.


You can access several features through the play screen. Otherwise there are several useful settings, like the possibility to change the 4.4mm from headphone out to Line Out. Both 3.5 and 4.4 have low and high gain settings.






Other key points: 
The player will support USB DAC function in a future firmware updates
Two-way blue tooth will be supported as well, for Bluetooth earphones for instance, using LDAC
WIFI features will be added, included FW update, but it is almost sure that streaming through Tidal and Spotify will NOT be implemented. There are two key reasons for that :
o It is not very popular or even well known in China, the product manager heard about it two month ago at a show for the first time. QQ Music should be possible
o The UI is their own development, does not use Android or Linux, so implementation of third party apps is very difficult
Transfer speed through USB C is very fast (UHS-II, up to 300mb/s)


4. Sound Impressions:

Preliminary note: the Lotoo Paw Touch I have tried is not a final production version. The tuning is supposedly final, but there will be some further improvements on gain and noise floor, mostly on the 3.5 single ended side. 
PLEASE TAKE ALL OF THESE WITH A GRAIN OF SALT, I HAD ONLY 90 minutes OF LISTENING SESSIONS WITH THE TOUCH.

I wanted to compare mostly on the SE5u, because it is hard to compare if you change too many parameters, but I also brought and tested more briefly the VE8 (for noise, as it is much more sensitive) and synergy, and IE800s for control and synergy. All listening is done with Redbook or high resolution FLAC.

Lotoo Paw Touch vs. WM1Z on SE5 Ultimate, 4.4mm balanced jack, high gain:



My WM1Z is on the latest firmware 2.0, so it has a balanced sound, closer to neutrality than it did at first, but still with warm tonality, full mids and smooth sound overall.

Here are some points :
The Lotoo Paw Touch seems to have deeper bass rumble, the bass has more echo with the stage
The mids are warmer on the WM1Z
The Touch is faster, with shorter attack and decay, suited to fast music
It can more easily sound harsh than the WM1Z, as it is still thinner and more reference sounding despite bass body, so it will be less forgiving
Female vocals are equally transparent, a bit more engaging on the WM1Z 
The stage seems equally wide and airy more or less, but it feels as if the Touch has a denser presentation more front to back layout than the more “stereo” on the WM1Z
Cords have more visceral texture, sound more raw on the LT (more realistic as a consequence), smoother on the WM1Z
Highs don’t seem peaky, I tested my ear torturing tracks, but it is clearly not the smoothest player out there. Lotoo’s idea of natural and musical is not the same as Sony’s
On high gain sound increments on volume are quite large,  but you don’t have enough control (even though the SE5U needs a lot of juice. And was at 60-65 /100 on high gain)

This first impression is good, but not incredible, the player sounds great, but the synergy with the SE5U is capricious, it needs really good mastering. My feeling is that the synergy will be better with smoother, warmer IEMs.

Lotoo Paw Touch vs. WM1Z on VE8 Ultimate, 4.4mm balanced jack, high gain:


The player is quite silent as far as I could tell on the VE8, which is a good sign as the VE8 is a hiss fest with noisy sources (QP2R for instance)
The synergy is MUCH better than with the SE5U, the pairing sounds actually wonderful, maybe the best I have heard the VE8 sound. You get the raw resolution of the Lotoo Paw Gold with more space and air

Lotoo Paw Touch vs. WM1Z on IE800s, 4.4mm balanced jack, high gain:

The player seems to have the necessary power and control to drive the IE800s cleanly
The synergy is not as good as with the WM1Z, as the IE800s have a raw quality to the sound, and so does the touch, so raw + raw = sushi indigestion. Don’t get me wrong, it still sounds good, but could be fatiguing in the long run

Lotoo Paw Touch vs. Lotoo Paw Gold on SE5u, single ended jack, low then high gain:


On low gain single ended, need to crank the volume 90/100 but you get  nice control over volume
The sound is close to that of the LPG (the amplification section is the same) but with more width and air, which is at the expense of the some of the raw, deep sound of the LPG
Presentation is a bit different, the vocal tonality is different as well, but honestly, my ears were starting to get tired at that point to say more precisely. Overall,  it is obvious that there are differences, but you can tell both players have the same creator


5. Conclusion:

I was very impressed by the Lotoo Touch on build and functionality. The player feels great and is very easy to use. How Infomedia was able to develop their own UI from scratch and make it so efficient from the start is mind boggling.

At first, I was expecting SO MUCH from the sound, that I felt slightly disappointed. Then I remembered that I didn’t like the Lotoo Paw Gold the first two times, and it is now one of favorite pieces of gear. This comparison showed me the importance of synergy at this level. 

If I look at what I compared today:
Best pairing for SE5U might still be LPG
For IE800s it certainly still is the WM1Z 
But with the VE8, the Lotoo Paw Touched had the perfect balance and really shined


All in all, this is a very promising player that stands up to the best sounding players in the market. It will certainly prove to be a great all-rounder for people who want a top performing touch DAP, with a quite reference sound. I am wondering if I will buy it at least for the VE8, and maybe for the Hyla Nerva X (should pair super well)

6. Bonus: 

Lotoo Paw Gold vs. Lotoo Paw Gold 2017 (Lotoo Paw Gold 2 in Japan)


I was curious to compare my first version Lotoo Paw Gold (right) with the new Lotoo Paw 2017 (left). The differences in sound are supposed to be minimal, mostly on the noise floor. The casing has a different, prettier color (in my opinion of course). The PCB is supposed to be new and improved, but measured performance is apparently the same.

Comparing for a few minutes on my VE8 and SE5U, I could not hear any significant difference on low gain with the volume matched. 

I still want the new one because it is prettier and I am vain.








Specifications:

Body:

- Dimensions: 119mm x 68.6mm x 21mm
- Weight: 275g

Screen:
- Touchscreen
- Size: 3.77" IPS Display
- Resolution: 800 x 480
- Gorilla Glass (Std 5)
- DLC Coating for Added Strength
- AF (Anti-Fingerprint) Coating

Battery:
- Playback Time: 10+ Hrs
- Capacity: 5500 mAH

USB: 
- USB-C with upto USB 3.1 protocol
- USB DAC Functionality
- USB Charging

Wireless:
- Bluetooth 4.1 with LDAC support
- WiFi b/g/n (Purpose Still Unknown)

Memory:
- SD Card
- Support Upto 2TB UHS II

Software:
- Lotoo OS (Not Android or Linux)
- PMEQ II with 5 Filters Per Setting
- ATE

Audio:
- DAC Chip: AKM 4497EQ
- Support upto PCM 768kHz and DSD512
- Headphone Out - 4.4mm Balanced& 3.5mm Single Ended
- Line Out - 4.4mm
- Output Power: 500 mW per Channel at 32 Ohms

4.4mm Balanced Headphone Out:
- Frequency Response: 20 - 20,000 kHz (+0.008/-0.34 dB)
- THD+N: 0.00015%
- SNR: 127 dB
- Channel Separation: -126 dB
- Dynamic Range: 127 dB
- High Gain: +14.4 dBu
- Low Gain: -10 dBu

4.4mm Line Out:
- Frequency Response: 20 - 20,000 kHz (+0.008/-0.34 dB)
- THD+N: 0.00015%
- SNR: 127 dB
- Channel Separation: -126 dB
- Dynamic Range: 127 dB
- Gain: +14.4 dBu

3.5mm Singel Ended Headphone Out:
- Frequency Response: 20 - 20,000 kHz (+0.006/-0.38 dB)
- THD+N: 0.00045%
- SNR: 123 dB
- Channel Separation: Unknown
- Dynamic Range: 123 dB
- High Gain: +16 dBu
- Low Gain: -9 dBu


3 comments :

  1. Awesome! If only I could afford such toys.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for your review! I'm looking forward to auditioning it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great impressions! Looks like a DAP worth auditioning.

    ReplyDelete