While I prefer to describe DAP sound through a comparison to other DAPs and often find an audio player sound analysis turning into a description of a synergy with a pair of headphones, I still try to find a common denominator with a specific sound characteristics unique to the DAP under test.
With that in mind, I find Opus#3 to have a neutral-revealing sound signature with tonality skewed more toward a brighter (yet still natural) coloring. It doesn’t have an analytical or the reference type of sound, instead you can hear a natural smoothness that gives body to the sound while still pushing it closer to a neutral-revealing level.
Soundstage expansion is above average, not exactly holographic but above average with a little more intimate feeling due to more width than depth. But even with a more intimate space, it still has a relatively accurate imaging and a convincing placement of instruments and vocals. I also find its slightly brighter signature and treble airiness injecting some air between the layers, making separation more pronounced and the sound more dynamic, more energetic.
Furthermore, while comparing Single Ended (SE) vs Balanced (BAL) HO, the only noticeable difference I hear is blacker background and cleaner transient of a sound on/off. In term of power and soundstage expansion they are quite similar.
All the comparison testing below was done using U18 with its stock 3.5mm TRS cable.
#3 vs #1 – both share a similar soundstage expansion, but #3 has a little brighter and more revealing signature with a blacker background and improved dynamics of the sound. Upon closer listening, I find #3 bass to be tighter and a little faster, with a better control, mids to be a little leaner and more layered, with improved resolution, and treble to have a little more sparkle and airiness which contributes to improvement in layering and transparency.
#3 vs #2 – while both have a similar soundstage depth, #2 width is more expanded. In terms of the sound, while I think #3 is closer to #2 than #1, #2 still feels a little more layered and transparent, and with some improvement in dynamics of the sound. I can also hear a little more rumble in sub-bass with #2, while #3 mids have a little more body where in comparison #2 sounds more neutral. Treble in #2 also had a touch more airiness, but not by too much. While #2 has some improvement over #3, the gap is not as wide as between #3 and #1.
#3 takes a solid position between #1 and #2, more toward #2. In a way, I would imagine that’s what #1 Metal was going for. I still consider #2 to be a flagship in theBit line up of DAPs, but if you are looking to save some money and don’t have the patience to wait for the next #2 FW update to enable streaming, #3 is a good alternative which is available right now.
Other DAPs comparison.
#3 vs X5iii – #3 has a wider soundstage expansion, and a more revealing signature with better transparency, layering, and dynamics; all this doesn’t add up to a night’n’day difference but upon close listening with more revealing IEMs you can hear it. With X5iii being closer in sound to #1, these differences are expected, where #3 has a tighter bass, a little leaner lower mids, more revealing upper mids, and crisper treble. Also, X5iii has more hissing.
#3 vs Plenue M2 – while both have a similar soundstage expansion, the rest of the sound and technical performance are very like a comparison between X5iii and #3, where #3 still has an advantage in better layering and separation, and better sound dynamics, with overall signature being more revealing, bass being tighter and faster, mids having a better layering, and treble having a little more sparkle and airiness. Of course, the sound improvement with Plenue JetEffects is a whole different story.
#3 vs i5 – here we got a lot of similarities. While perhaps #3 is a touch wider, the overall signature and sound tonality is very close between these daps. Maybe with i5 being just a touch smoother, but other than that both have a very similar level of transparency, layering and separation, and sound dynamics.
#3 vs ak120ii – #3 soundstage is a little wider, while depth is the same. Overall tonality has a lot of similarities, though ak is a touch smoother. They do have a similar level of layering and both have great sound dynamics. One noticeable difference is in bass where #3 has more sub-bass rumble, tighter and more authorative mid-bass, and better control and separation from lower mids.
theBit Opus family picture (#2, #3, #1).
For a pair-up test, I set Opus#3 in medium gain, and in every case noted a volume level.
UERR (v100) – nicely expanded neutral detailed sound with a natural tonality; the signature is nicely balanced with a neutral laid back bass, very detailed organic mids, and well defined extended treble with a nice touch of sparkle.
VEGA (v81) – expanded soundstage, warm laid back sound with a v-shaped signature, powerful low end impact, organic detailed mids, and crisp airy treble.
Xelento (v85) – very nicely expanded soundstage, balanced detailed signature with a natural tonality, deep sub-bass rumble with a fast and punchy articulate mid-bass, layered revealing mids with a natural tonality, well defined crisp airy treble.
W80 (v79) – nicely expanded soundstage, balanced smooth signature with a natural tonality, nicely extended sub-bass and moderate speed mid-bass, full body detailed organic mids, well defined moderately crisp treble.
Zeus XRA (v73) – zero hissing; very nicely expanded soundstage, neutral balanced signature with a revealing natural tonality, great sub-bass extension and punchy mid-bass, layered detailed mids with a natural tonality, crisp airy treble with a nice sparkle.
Zen earbuds (v134) – expanded soundstage, natural organic tonality with a balanced signature, neutral extended bass, natural smooth detailed mids, well defined crisp treble.
W900 (v84) – expanded soundstage, balanced smooth signature with a natural detailed tonality, deep extended sub-bass rumble, not too fast mid-bass punch, full body detailed natural mids, and well defined crisp treble.
U18 (v79) – very nicely expanded soundstage, natural revealing tonality with a perfectly balanced signature, great bass extension with a nice sub-bass rumble and fast mid-bass punch, neutral revealing layered mids with a natural tonality, well defined crisp treble with plenty of airiness and a nice sparkle (maybe just a bit too crisp).
T5p2 (v113) – nicely expanded soundstage, natural smooth tonality with a balanced signature though leaning a little more toward v-shaped due to mids being pushed a little back, warm extended bass with a slower mid-bass punch, spilling a little bit into full body lower-mids, organic natural detailed upper mids, little nasal vocals, and a well-defined treble.
EL8C (v135) – expanded soundstage, revealing balanced signature with a brighter more analytical tonality, neutral extended bass, lean lower mids and analytical revealing upper mids that has a little metallic sheen but no sibilance, treble is very crisp and airy, a bit too much sparkle.
PM-3 (v118) – nicely expanded soundstage, smooth balanced signature with a warmer tonality, good low end extension with a nice mid-bass punch, full body clear detailed organic mids, well defined crisp treble.
R70x (v141) – very nicely expanded soundstage, smooth balanced signature with a natural warm tonality, extended neutral low end with a nice mid-bass punch, neutral organic detailed mids with a little warmth, and well defined extended treble with a natural sense of airiness.
Other wired/wireless connections.
Taking advantage of all the available connections while using Opus#3 as a source, here is what I found.
#3 vs #3 + iDSD Micro (optical) w/T5p2 – a great pair up with a sound being a little more neutral where you also get a little more transparency thanks to Micro iDSD. Optical connection is flawless.
#3 vs #3 + E12A w/T5p2 – another great pair up which also gives you a better idea of how the internal DAC sounds by itself due to E12A neutral transparency. Like iDSD Micro testing, the sound is a little more neutral and you get a little more transparency and clarity when bypassing internal amp.
Bluetooth – easy and fast pair up. While testing with Sennheiser HD1 wireless Momentum in-ear, I get 45ft of open space coverage and the sound quality is no different than with my Note 4 which supports aptX.
Streaming – I only have access to free Spotify, and found it to work and to sound great. I had an opportunity to compare Ed Sheeran “Shape of you” streamed vs local FLAC playback, and I do hear loss of some transparency with a touch lower resolution, but that’s expected. For a true audiophile experience – local playback of high-res files is what you want. But to discover a new music and to be able to have access to streaming services – you can give your smartphone a break and use Opus#3 instead.
Also, you can use Opus#3 as USB DAC, but unfortunately all my laptops are loaded with Win7 Home Edition which has several security limitations, including blocking the install of unsigned drivers. This has been an issue with many other DAPs I’ve tested, and only related to my Win7 setup. As far as I know, others can use Opus DAP as a dedicated USB DAC without a problem.
I probably starting to sound like a broken record in many of my recent DAP reviews, bringing up the current state of saturated DAP market and so many choices that can drive both seasoned audiophiles and fresh audio enthusiasts crazy. With so many new releases, I think that many manufacturers are relying on the loyalty of their returning customers. The original Opus came out of nowhere and quickly built a fan base around Opus#1 which I still consider to be as one of the top price/performance ratio DAPs (especially at the current discounted price). Opus#2 raised the bar with an impressive flagship sound quality, and at the same time shocked quite a few with its “flagship” pricing that wasn’t as bad relative to other flagships, but was a considerable jump from Opus#1 (even with a current #2 discounted price). Now with a release of Opus#3, I found this DAP to take a solid position between their previous #1 and #2 releases.
I know some people were a bit confused with Opus#1 Metal edition, but there is no confusion with #3 since it’s a brand-new design with an updated neutral-revealing tuning, all metal construction (except for the backplate), support for Bluetooth wireless headphones, and WiFi streaming with is enabled by side-loading 3rd party apps. You still get both 3.5mm Single Ended and 2.5mm Balanced HO, Line Out, Optical Out, a responsive touch screen interface, hw playback controls, a new (ak jr style) volume wheel control, and a top quality Dignis leather case. I’m sure many have been waiting for Opus#2 fw update to enable streaming, and I have a feeling the implementation will be similar to Opus#3 fw. So, if you were impressed with Opus#1 and ready for an upgrade while staying with theBit family, Opus#3 is definitely a good option to consider.
Available for Sale on MusicTeck and Amazon.
7 thoughts on “theBit Opus#3”
Great review, i have Opus 3 incoming and will pair it with Andromeda.
Can you give some impression with those pair up?
just tried it, a really good pair up. Andromeda sounds a little more mid-forward. Not sure what source you are coming from and how it pairs up with Andromeda, but in this pair up bass is a little more balanced and mids are a little more forward. Very natural sound. I like it!
Excellent review, I really like your comparisons. One thing I am not sure is that #3 having a Line Out. Please correct me if it is having one and how to enable it.
Look under my review, on the 2nd page among GUI pictures. When you pull down the notification bar to reveal shortcuts menu, one is Line Out to enable it.
thinking of swapping out my mojo/ipod 6 ”brick” out for either the opus 2/3 or ibasso dx200…..decisions….
Any idea how this one compares to the Pioneer 300R, battery wise using Spotify? I used to have the #1 but wanted something with streaming so I switched to the Pioneer which is good but streaming Spotify kills the battery fast unfortunately. I did love the sound of the #1 so I’m sure I’d love the #3 even more. I don’t mind CL sound vs the Sabre sound.
Sorry, don’t have any pioneer/onkyo DAPs for sound comparison. And, Opus#3 battery does go down when you are loading apps, like Spotify, due to wifi radio being on and also because Opus #2 and #3 don’t have open Android OS.