Based in Beijing, China. Lotoo is a brand under Infomedia, the largest technology supplier for audio workstations and broadcast automation systems in China. The company’s main business lines include broadcast automation systems, management software for radio stations, embedded product development and broadcasting system integration.
When it comes to Digital Audio Players, many would be familiar with the big 3; Sony, FiiO and Astell&Kern. When Lotoo was put forward to me by a fellow Japanese enthusiast whom I regarded highly, I took notice. In November last year, Porta-Fi pencilled a trip to attend the Guangzhou HiFi Headphone & Digital Audio Expo 2017. A meeting with Lotoo was one of the first items on the agenda.
Focusing back on Lotoo, the company was set up in 1999 as a manufacturer for professional audio devices with a vision of supplying the world’s highest professional recording and playback products. Prior to the introduction of the first Digital Audio Player (DAP), Lotoo’s key focus was in palm-sized palm digital recorder and is an Original Design Manufacturer for Swiss-brand Nagra.
Leveraging on its nearly 20 years of experience in developing professional audio products and a strong R&D division, the company translated its competencies to develop and introduce its first DAP, the Lotoo PAW Gold as the company’s flagship in Q4 2014 and the Lotoo PAW 5000 in the following year as its entry-level model.
In August 2017, the company updated the Lotoo PAW 5000 with the Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII, which included not only a software update but also a hardware makeover based on a DAC architecture featuring the AK4490 DAC chip from Asahi Kasei Microdevices, moving away from the CODEC architecture found on its predecessor.
The Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII retained the look and feel of its predecessor, it is not difficult to understand why. Using metal stamping oxidation front and back panel held by an injection moulded frame, finished with slightly rounded edges. The metal stamping oxidation finish on the front and back panel provides a premium feel to the build and is very resistant to dents and scratches.
The Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII has a 2” TFT screen solely for playback display, while it is not the highest resolution screen available in the market, it is above average and provides for good readability even under bright sunlight.
At the top of the device are three tight and secure output jacks which include the regular 3.5mm, the balanced 2.5mm and the line out/SPDIF.
Like its predecessor, the Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII is ergonomically designed. Weighing in at just 110g, with dimensions of 98 mm × 55 mm × 17.5 mm, the light-weight and compact-sized device is excellent in the hand, making it one of the most pocketable fully-featured DAP in the market. The device is designed with a generous spread of sturdy and responsive buttons, switches and a scroll-wheel to aid usability, allowing for single-handed operations with ease.
Unique to Lotoo DAPs is the big scroll-wheel found at the bottom left of all Lotoo DAPs, it features a button in the middle which allows you to play/pause on short press and toggling of display on long. Lotoo’s implementation of the scroll-wheel is, in my opinion, one of the best in the market. I have almost always been frustrated with the scroll-wheel implementation on DAPs, often wishing I had a touchscreen to get back to my comfort level. With the Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII, however, I did not miss my touchscreen at all. The device like its predecessor adopted the layout of the front panel from the Lotoo PAW Gold and having used it for over a month, I can understand why. The layout is very intuitive with a customizable function button, greatly increasing the device’s usability.
Battery life on the Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII is considered its biggest drawback in terms of usability, being compact and lightweight, the product designed can only put in a 1700mAh Li-Polymer Battery providing the device with a playback time just shy of six hours.
Inside, you will find an AKM AK4490 DAC chip, OPA1622 headphone amplifier as well as an ADI Blackfin 514 DSP chip as its processor. Lotoo develops its own operating system for its DAPs and has done so since the introduction of the Lotoo PAW Gold. The proprietary operating system opens up to a playback screen which allows one to enjoy music almost instantaneously and if you were listening to some prior, the same selection will remain in memory to allow one to continue where it has left off by simply pressing “Play”. The system offers three different display modes, one incorporating the VU meter, another incorporating the spectrum analyzer and the last one displaying the album art. It is interesting to note that the Blackfin 514 DSP processor has built-in fixed-point digital signal processor (DSP) functionality, this has allowed Lotoo’s in-house programmers to implement ATE (Acoustic Timbre Embellisher), a proprietary voicing algorithm by Lotoo and the traditional PMEQ (Parametric Equalization) on its DAPs. On the Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII, the ATE offers 7 pre-set settings while the PMEQ has 8 pre-set settings and caters for 6 user customizable settings, one can also choose to off ATE/PMEQ to disable the function. In its current implementation, one can only select to use either ATE or PMEQ as enabling both is not an option.
During the review process, I had a great experience with the Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII firmware, it was smooth without any lag and clearly, the system was developed to integrate with the design of the device and the development team has done a good job. I have also discovered a bug during affecting DSD playback which I shared with Lotoo, the bug was resolved within a month with the release of the 126.96.36.199 firmware which at the same time added the file delete functionality.
The Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII has an output power of 150mW@32 ohm Per Channel, making it adequate to power most earphones with the exception of those with high impedance. Coupled with Gain and Damp switching, the device can be configured to match your earphones even sensitive ones. The Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII has to be one of the quietest DAP I have heard so far.
“The Rain” (FLAC 16-bit/44.1khz) by Melody Gardot, the reproduction of the artiste’s vocals which is interwoven with the piano accompaniment exhibits coherence between the mids and highs. The highs are clear and rounded enhanced by an almost noiseless background, allowing one to enjoy Melody Gardot’s sophisticated, jazz-steeped performance.
“Spanish Harlem” (DSD 2.8M) by Rebecca Pidgeon, the tight and precise reproduction of bass, light percussion surrounding Rebecca Pidgeon’s vocals provided us detailed and dynamic lows that are comfortable to the ears.
The sound signature of the PAW 5000 MKII is one that is neutral and smooth, however to the discerning ears, it is a little bit warm but not significant enough to define it as warm. It has an average soundstage and is rather forward, sounding rather close to the ear. While it exhibits clarity and details, it lacks the airy-ness that will bring it to the next level. Regardless, still one of the better sounding DAPs at this price point.
- Excellent build quality
- Neutral sound signature with clarity and details
- Excellent usability
- Narrow soundstage, lacking in airiness
- Does not support streaming
This review unit is provided by Beijing Infomedia Electronic Technology Co.,Ltd.
- In-Ear Monitors
- DITA Dream
- SIMGOT EN700 Pro
- Unique Melody ME.1
- CPU: ADI Blackfin 514 DSP
- DAC: AK4490EN
- Headphone Amp: OPA1622
- Frequency range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz (±0,2 dB)
- Total harmonic distortion+noise: <about 0.0006%
- Output power (per channel): 150 mW @ 32Ω
- The ratio signal/noise: >114 dB
- Channel separation: >118 dB
- Maximum resolution: up to 384 kHz/32 bit, DSD up to DSD256
- Support file formats: DFF, DSF, ISO, WAV, MP3, FLAC, APE, OGG, M4A, AAC, ALAC, CUE
- Screen: 2″ TFT
- Battery: 1700 mA/h
- Wireless interfaces: Bluetooth with A2DP
- Input: USB 3.0
- Outputs: line/SPDIF, 3.5 mm, 2.5 mm balanced
- Dimensions: 98 mm × 55 mm × 17.5 mm
- Weight: 110g
- Price: USD 350
- Warranty: 1 year
- Website: http://www.lotoo.cn