Pros: touch screen, hw playback controls, top level sound quality, balanced output, optical output, up to 432GB of combined storage, impressive battery.
Cons: fw is almost there, usb DAC not enabled yet, EQ is not in real time.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
Are too many choices a bad thing? Maybe not if we are talking about selection of headphones because we all have a different sound preference and it takes awhile to find a pair of monitors or full size cans to match our personal taste. But lately with saturation of DAP market, I get overwhelmed with all the new DAP releases. The idea here is to find a single best source you can afford to pair up with your different portable and not-so-portable headphones, and perhaps to be able to use it on the go without a need for additional amp stack up. Another problem, a few years back there was a clear separation between mid-fi and summit-fi DAPs, not just in price but also in sound quality and supported features, while now these lines are blurred and higher price doesn’t mean a better product.
With so many DAP choices, I can only imagine how frustrating it’s for consumers trying to decide which one to buy. You can no longer differentiate one being better than the other based on the DAC or opamp selection, and quite often have to start with a priority list of what you value the most. Do you want a smartphone style touch screen interface? Do you have a lot of DSD files in your collection requiring extra storage capacity? Do you need streaming or internal storage only? How about balanced output or maybe a coax/optical to use your source as a transport to drive another dac/amp? Don’t forget the sound quality which should always be at the top of your priority list, though lately I have seen many manufacturers upping their game where the sound difference ends up being marginal.
Now, here comes theBit (the Best Internet Technology) – a Korean manufacturer who has been in business for over a decade and had a successful line of portable MP3 and Media Players sold at Best Buy, as well as recent releases of Personal Navigation devices and E-learning tablets. Maybe these guys are newcomers to the world of Hi-Res DAPs, but they are definitely not freshmen when it comes to manufacturing of personal audio products. I never really heard of theBit Opus#1 until being asked by their US distributor, Extreme Audio, if I’m interested to test it. I almost turned down this review opportunity, but after using Opus for the last 3 weeks I found it growing on me, to the point where it reached the top of my dynamic food chain of favorite DAPs. Here is more about it.
Unboxing and accessories.
Arrived in a compact black box, you are greeted with a plain “Opus#1, Hi-Res AUDIO Ver. 1.0” at the top and “the bit” at the bottom. I noticed that original www.thebir.co.kr website hasn’t been updated since the last year, and all the effort is focused now on their new www.audio-opus.com domain, which makes me wonder if they are trying to distant themselves from “the Best Internet Technology” to “the best audio technology” with Audio-Opus rebranding, something that would make more sense. Also, when you visit their website you will find a mentioning of 6 additional products, all labeled as Opus# with different index number. Looks like Opus will be their new hi-res audio platform for various Android based DAPs, dacs/amps, and even a car audio unit.
On the back of the box you will find a detailed General Specification and Audio Performance list which paints a rather impressive picture, though you will not find the picture of the actual DAP on the packaging. Continuing with a mystery, there is not much to find once you slide the exterior packaging sleeve to get to the packaging box with another “Opus#1” print. Not until you take the box cover off, you will unravel the mystery and will be looking at a small rectangular DAP with a large touch screen dominating its top surface.
After removing the DAP, the only included accessories you will find are the usb to micro-usb quality charging/data cable and a screen protector, while if I’m not mistaken the glass back of the DAP already has a protector applied to it. When it comes to DAPs, I don’t expect too many accessories, but one must-have accessory was missing in the packaging box.
The leather case.
I don’t recall ever dedicating a separate section in any of my DAP reviews to a single accessory, such as the case, but in this “case” I decided to make an exception. Along with the DAP I also received another Audio-Opus branded box which contained a leather case for Opus#1. I was told that this leather case will be sold as a separate $50 accessory. To my surprise, when I look at Opus#1 listing on Amazon – it mentions the DAP being sold together with a leather case, included in $599 price. I’m not sure if this is for a limited time only as part of a new product introduction, but I really hope that moving forward they will continue to include it together with Opus#1.
So what is so special about this case? For starters and even though it has Opus branding inside and outside, this is a genuine leather case by Dignis. Perhaps sharing the same country of origin, they decided to collaborate with Dignis who makes some of the best genuine Italian leather cases for many popular DAPs. While dealing with ABS solid plastic body and tempered glass back panel, as well as slightly wider than average footprint, grip enhancement is important and that’s exactly what this case offers without masking the details of the design.
The case has a full opening at the top where the DAP slides in, allowing full access to the power button and both headphone ports. At the bottom you get an access to a generous opening around micro-usb port, and you will also notice that bottom corners hug the shape of the DAP with a few openings on each side. The micro-SD access will be permanently covered and protected, and you will have to remove the case to replace these cards. Btw, for easy removal of the DAP, I recommend using a pencil with an eraser tip pushing up through micro-usb port opening at the bottom. The volume and transport control buttons on each side are completely covered.
In their usual Dignis fashion, the shapes of these buttons are imprinted and perfectly aligned with physical buttons, and very easy to press. The functionality print of these buttons is stamped on the leather, but due to their small size a bit hard to see. As a matter of fact, due to a very small size of the buttons, the imprint of their round shape on the leather is not very easy to feel when you slide your finger across without looking. It’s a little easier with volume buttons since you are dealing with only two and can blindly figure out which one is up or down, but it becomes a bit of a hassle when dealing with 3 transport buttons without looking at them up close. I still appreciate the fact that I don’t need to turn on the display every time I want to pause or skip a song, but here it would have made more sense to offer a cutout for buttons instead of covering them up.
When it comes to a design, I found it to be very straight forward and clean. The main focus of this 112mm x 72mm x 18mm DAP is a large 4” TFT touch screen display with 480×800 resolution. All the edges around the sides are beveled, creating a more unique look with a slight resemblance to A&K DAPs, especially the asymmetric design with a wider edge on the right side. Don’t be surprised, there will be more A&K references in my review since it looks like that theBit drew some external and internal design inspiration from their Astell & Kern neighbor. With a front covered by a tempered glass touch screen, there is no other visible controls until you turn the unit to look around the sides. The back of the DAP also has a tempered glass plate.
On the right at the top you will find 3 transport control buttons, rather small, not rotating (to make sure printed label functionality icon stays aligned), and nearly flush with a surface with maybe less than a mil which sticks out just enough to feel the tactile response when you push it. Also keep in mind, the button arrangement also follows A&K with Play/Pause in the middle and Skip next/prev around it. Not everybody follows the same arrangement, and often I get a bit confused when switch to L&P DAPs where Plays/Pause is at the top. But nevertheless, those familiar with A&K DAPs will feel right at home.
On the left side at the top you have Vol+/- buttons, exactly the same size and shape as transport buttons. Down at the bottom on the left side you have a tight cover over dual micro SD stacked slots, similar to those used in DX80 to save the room so you don’t have to use 2 separate card slots side by side. Each micro SD slot works fine with 200GB flash card, where along with internal 32GB of flash storage, you can have up to 432GB of space to store your music files.
Bottom of the DAP has a standard micro-USB connector for charging and data transfer, and the top has a Power button (a typical long press power-on or power-off with onscreen confirmation), 2.5mm TRRS balanced HO (A&K wired), and 3.5mm TRS single ended HO shared with optical mini-toslink output. 3.5mm HO shared with optical output is also exactly the same as used in A&K DAPs. You don’t have coax SPDIF output, but can drive any external DAC/amp (like iBasso D14 or Micro iDSD) with optical output which I often find superior in sound quality to coax cable output.
Under the hood you will find a dual CS4398 DAC along with filters and amps which hasn’t been disclosed by manufacturer. Opus#1 is a prime example of a design where selection of internal DAC components doesn’t mean it will sound exactly the same as AK120ii or DX80, both of which use the same dual DAC config. Unique amp section architecture and other fine tunings will make it stand out from other designs. Considering Android OS running in the background, I was also not surprised they used ARM Cortex-A9 1.4GHz quad-core CPU with 1GB of DDR3 – plenty of power for smooth responsive touch screen operation and native DSD support where I tested up to DSD256 without a single hiccup.
Of course, you can also look into SNR, THD, and Crosstalk specs, but what I typically care about is output power and impedance. Opus guys didn’t go into too many details, but did mention that Balanced 2.5mm 4-pole output is rated at 1 ohm output impedance and 2.3Vrms which translates into 330mW @ 16ohm. For Single Ended 3.5mm TRS output the rating is 2 ohm output impedance and 2.1Vrms which translates roughly into 275mW @ 16ohm. These are all decent output power numbers for most IEMs, efficient full size, and even some not so efficient high impedance and harder to drive cans – all of which I will cover in my Pair up section of the review.
The 2 ohm 3.5mm output is pushing it a bit when it comes to multi-BA driver IEMs, and perhaps it was just a placebo effect where I preferred a sound from 1 ohm 2.5mm balanced output (especially bass being a bit tighter). I assume that Opus team tried to reach a design compromise in order to appeal to different types of headphones. Spec numbers aside, I use my ears to judge the sound, and across a broad range of my different headphone types I found the sound performance to be on par with a number of my others DAPs that use
Another important factor is the battery, where Opus design team used 4000 mAh/3.7V li-polymer type. When I first got this DAP and after upgrading the firmware to one of the earlier releases, I wasn’t able to get as much of a battery life as it was advertised. After a handful of charge/discharge cycles as I was burning in both HO ports and the update to the most recent 1.10.23 fw, now I’m able to get a solid 10.5-11 hrs of continuous playback with most of my IEMs, regardless of balanced or single ended output. Furthermore, it has an impressive deep sleep mode with an instant on feature where I could leave Opus#1 without shutting down for days, and I see a very slow battery drain. I mean, it drains after awhile, but I didn’t expect that Android based OS will be optimized to such efficient level.
Overall, I was very pleased with a design. It’s not 100% perfect, like for example volume and playback buttons could be bigger, and the DAP itself is a bit on a wider side in comparison to many of my other DAPs. And there is also a question of using ABS plastic body versus metal. With Dignis/leather case it really doesn’t matter, and the plastic itself is actually enhanced and has a high quality. But plastic body will also result in a slightly inferior EMI isolation where right next to my phone I can hear an occasional interference, while 3-4 inches away everything was fine. Opus#1 has great one-hand use ergonomics, solid build, and a feature packed design. The performance was very smooth, regardless if you through at it lossy or lossless files, and as I mentioned before – it went right through DSD256 like a butter, handling DSD support without a single glitch while I was touch swiping through my 2GB files.