Cowon Plenue R

More than just All-Round DAP!

PROS: JetEffect 7, solid build, responsive touch-screen, neutral revealing tuning, customizable GUI (skins), 17hrs battery life, Bluetooth w/aptX, 128GB internal storage.

CONS: leather case is optional, power output more suitable for IEMs and efficient Full size.

The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.

Manufacturer website: Cowon, Available for sale on Amazon.


Cowon has been on a roll with Plenue releases that include both updates and brand-new models. When it’s an update with incremental number, you have some idea what to expect, though Plenue 1 (P1) to Plenue 2 (P2) had a few surprises. But when we have a brand-new model, it becomes a guessing game, just like when Plenue R (PR) was announced as being “all round player”. When you hear that marketing reference, many will probably assume a “jack of all trades” with an average performance. But once you read the full spec, you’ll quickly realize it’s going to be something else!

I’m sure many Cowon fans already noticed a trend with every new Plenue release having some new design teaser which going to appear in the next model. The transformation from boxy P1 and PM to sexy PD set the design tone for future PS and PM2 chassis. The balanced output of PS, though a less common 3.5mm TRRS, paved the way for 2.5mm balanced in P2 and the latest PR. The LED light of P2 appeared as a new Sound Source LED in PR. And now, PR introduced Bluetooth with aptX, which I have a feeling we probably going to see in future flagship models.

What I’m trying to say, Cowon likes to push the envelope one step further with every new release, building on a legacy of their previous models. Ever since 1995, they continued down this path, evolving with every new model and trying to stay relevant and competitive as a pure audio player with world class JetEffect dsp effects. Plenue R is another fine example of this progress, which I found to be like a lovechild of PM2 and P2. Now, let’s find out more!


As I mentioned in my previous Cowon reviews, this company takes a lot of pride in presentation of their products, and I always found the unboxing experience to be rewarding. Here we have a traditional Plenue all black formal dressed box with a silver ribbon. When you lift the cover up, you see PR in a secure form fitted cutout to make sure the DAP arrives safely to its destination.

Unlike P2 unboxing where the analog volume/control wheels got my attention from the start, here it was a more traditional looking slim DAP with a display occupying the entire top view.


Cowon usually doesn’t spoil us with too many accessories, but the one you get are well thought of. You get a warranty and a manual printed on a premium paper, and if you want you can always download a full manual in many different languages directly from their website. The manual is detailed enough to give you a good idea about the DAP and its operation prior to purchasing it. They also provided micro USB cable, used for charging, data transfer, and usb dac connection, and I found it be of high quality. And that’s about it.


Leather case (optional).

Due to PR being a more budget oriented DAP, almost half the price of P2, leather case is optional here, but I highly recommend it. I will cover this more in Design section, but I found the lower right edge of PR chassis to be not as comfortable, digging into the palm of my hand. Not sure if it’s a pre-production sample quality, but I found handling of PR to be more enjoyable with case on.

The case is pure leather and fits the DAP like a glove, doesn’t easily slide off, and doesn’t hide the beauty of PR shape. The quality of the leather is different from P2 case, softer to the touch, nearly the same as PM2 leather case. It also has a soft inside lining to make sure PR doesn’t get scratched. On the outside, it has a neat red stitching and a stamped Plenue logo on the back.

The top is fully open, that’s where PR slides in. Left side is solid, covering uSD slot as well; if you need to remove/exchange the card, you will have to remove the case. Bottom has one generous opening for micro-usb and both headphone ports. Right side also has one generous opening for the whole cluster of volume and playback buttons. I prefer it over being covered because you can easily slide your finger to feel every button, and the cutout makes buttons recessed so you don’t accidently press it while in a pocket.

I’m sure the idea was to trim extra accessories to keep the price at $599, thus a leather case is optional, but in my opinion, it worth every penny.


Like previously reviewed PM2 and P2, PR feels very solid in my hand, has a brushed aluminum chassis, a rubbery non-slip back panel, and 3.7” AMOLED symmetrically positioned touch screen with an assignable home button at the bottom (like in other Plenue models). The footprint of the DAP is very compact, measuring 61.5mm x 112.9mm x 13.8mm and only 154g in weight. It is more compact than PM2 and P2, smaller than majority of my other mid-fi and flagship DAPs. Since there is no volume wheel to worry about, you can just drop it in your pocket with HO connectors facing up toward you.

The only negative here is a sharp lower right edge which makes it not very comfortable to hold in my hand without a case. I’m not sure if it’s only with my review unit or intended by design, but I felt a lot better when I got leather case on, feeling a lot more comfortable to hold it. Plus, as mentioned before, the leather case is of a high quality, like premium Dignis cases (but this is Cowon own design).

Upon closer examination of PR, you will find on the left side at the bottom a slot for microSD card which can accommodate 256GB card and I think the latest 400GB should work too. At the bottom, you have micro-USB connector for charging, data transfer, and USB DAC connection, 2.5mm TRRS balanced headphone output, and 3.5mm single ended headphone output which also doubles as optical digital out.

At the top in the upper right corner, Cowon has a unique looking power button in a shape of a camera shutter-release. This specific power button design, including its physical placement, is now common among the other Plenue DAPs, such as PD, PS, and PM2. But what’s different is Sound Source LED indicator (like in P2) inside of the upper left corner cavity of the chassis, underneath of that power button. It changes its color according to the sound source. Teal color whenever it’s a normal lossy playback, magenta color when it’s HD sound with lossless file playback, and Yellow color with its DSD/DXD playback. Nice eye-candy feature, though I have it turned off to squeeze more battery life without causing extra drain.

Identical to PM2, on the right side you have transport control and volume buttons. Volume up/down is placed logically at the top and it’s a combined rounded button, adjusting the volume in 140 steps, 0.5dB at a time. Play/Pause is a separate button below it with similar rounded corners, just shorter. And then you have track skip next/prev, a combined button in the same shape as volume, also multi-functioning as rewind/fast forward when you press’n’hold it. All the buttons have a clear marking on the top, very nice tactile response, and absolutely no wobbling. They are accessible to control volume and playback with screen either on or off.

The back has a ribbed non-slippery rubbery/plastic material, making it safe and secure to place on any surface. It feels nice and helps with a grip of PR, but as I mentioned before – I still prefer to dress this DAP in a leather case.

LED light.

 Under the hood.

PR makes a comeback with Burr-Brown PCM series DACs, using PCM5242 model. Even so it’s not as common as 1795 or 1792A models, judging by its sound performance, this is not a cheap entry level DAC. Also, like in other Plenue DAPs, you have a low jitter dual clock precision TXCO oscillator. In the heart of the DAP you still have ARM Cortex A9 1.2GHz dual-core processor since we are not running a demanding environment requiring high level of processing power. But it’s plenty of power to easily decode and process any lossless or lossy audio formats, such as DXD, DSD (DFF, DSF), FLAC, WAV, AIFF, ALAC, APE, MP3, WMA, OGG, WV, TTA, and DCF. Just keep in mind, it only supports up to DSD128.

Display has 3.7″ AMOLED touch screen with 480×800 resolution and deep rich colors. PR has 128GB of built-in memory and microSD card expansion to add another 256GB (and probably 400GB) of storage. In addition to 3.5mm single ended HO which doubles as optical digital output, PR also adds 2.5mm balanced HO. Per spec, the balanced 2.5mm port is rated at 1.6Vrms with output impedance of 1.6 ohms, and the unbalanced 3.5mm port is rated at 1.4Vrms with output impedance of 0.8 ohms. It’s below 2Vrms like in P2 and PM2, and I noticed that when trying to drive higher impedance more demanding headphones. But it had plenty of power for iems and efficient headphones, and 1.6 ohms output impedance wasn’t an issue with multi-BA iems.

The rechargeable battery is a nicely sized 3,000 mAh li-po @ 3.7V which you can charge in under 3hrs using 5V/2A charger. In my testing with occasional screen on, I found hi-res (FLAC) file playback to be around 16hrs, while 320kbp mp3 playback lasted a solid 17 hrs. This is a very impressive battery performance for a touch screen DAP packed with so many features. The battery performance is better than PM2 and P2, though nothing can beat PD.

Page 2: GUI.

Page 3: Sound analysis, Comparison, Pair up, Other connections, and Conclusion.

55 thoughts on “Cowon Plenue R

  1. Great review, I really like your informative and spot on reviews.
    Silly question, with Bluetooth, will the PR hook up and player with the BT audio player in the car? Thanks, God Bless, Wayne


    1. Good question, Wayne. It will depend on BT protocols supported by your car stereo. For example, if you can connect your phone to stream audio from a phone to your car speakers, by the same token using PR as a your source – I don’t see why it can’t stream audio to your car stereo, if it’s supported.


      1. Thanks!
        I have the PM2, love it. Do you think the new 400 GB microSD will work in it?
        God bless,


  2. One more question! I’ve been looking at other DAPs and I came across the AK70 MK2. Thoughts on that? Which would you go for in terms of audio performance compared to the Plenue R. Thanks again!


  3. Sorry, I have another question! Going through your review again, I noticed you didn’t mention anything about sorting songs by playlists. Was it overlooked? Is there an option to access playlists that I’m not aware of? Thanks again!


    1. PR gui is identical to PM2 and P2, and I literally nearly copy and paste it, but maybe something got lost. Yeah, you can tag songs as favorites and also create custom playlists.


    1. I don’t have access to ZX300, but that thought crossed my mind, would be a good comparison. Maybe after I’m done with WM1Z review, I can ask Sony for ZX300 review sample. Or perhaps, in a few month when I attend CanJam NYC, I will take a listen to ZX300 to evaluate it there.


      1. Thank you very much for your feedback. I’m torn between PR and ZX300. For design and battery strength, ZX300 is superior, but for performance I’m not so sure. I have tested ZX300, the sound is natural, clear with bright sound stage but somehow I found it quite flat. I currently have PD so I want to move up. The sound of Cowon always gives me pleasure instead.


  4. I have PR myself. I tested ZX300 not long ago. From my memory, ZX300 is bright with good sound stage, bringing the feeling like “sparkling”. I’m familiar with the sound of Cowon (here is the D) which is warm and smooth to the ears. Actually I tested Cowon P2 and got jaw drop =)) . P2 is heaven but the price is … hell. So I think of getting PR instead of P2. The problem is: I have not tested the PR yet.


  5. My Plenue R arrived today and yeah, you are right with the sharp edges on the corners. Gladly i also ordered the leather case which will be delivered soon.

    Do you know the exact dimensions for the screen protector? I think i will buy a larger one and cut it myself to fit it on screen but it would be great if i don’t have to cut it. I don’t find the protector or screen dimensions on the official products.


      1. Thank you, well i guess i will wait for the case to arrive^^
        I transfered all my music collection and have he following issue:
        When using the matrix browser (with album cover arts) most are not visible. I use this order structure: Artist -> album title -> song name. Files are either mp3 or flac for each album. In my flac albums I stored the cover art as cover.jpg to make sure its correctly shown and when i choose from one of the albums that have no art in matrix bowser the cover art is still shown on the music screen itself…
        I owned a J3 before so i thought having a cover.png in a flac album folder would be enough, what am i doing wrong?
        I restarted the player and also toggled the db update in system settings but its still the same. I will check my files again.


      2. I only browse by folders, not even paying attention much to proper sorting or album art. So, I wouldn’t be the right person to ask about it 🙂 Try to ask this question on head-fi in Plenue R or any Plenue threads. The gui and os is identical across all their Plenue daps.


      3. Hey 🙂 I wanted to let you know that i fixed the problem myself and want to let you know about the solution so others who might read your review get it too.

        The solution is to embed the cover art into the flac files themselfes (as a tag) with programs like mp3tag.

        So they changed the matrix browser using the cover.jpg of the same folder to Tags-only.


  6. Hey it’s me again 🙂
    Last week i got my new pair of headphones, the sennheiser momentum 2 wireless and now i face a little volume issue: Once connected via bluetooth the volume is so much lower than compared connected via cable. Do you face the same problem?
    My guess is, that the “headphone mode” on plenue r is not working on bluetooth. Even if i toggle it nothing changes volume wise.
    And before you might ask: yeah i raised the headphone volume to max^^
    Oh and my case arrived today after 2 whole months. Very good quality and it came packaged in a black box like the plenue does. Time to take the dap out! 😀
    Greetings Ratchet ^-^


  7. Hello!
    I’ve just purchased this player and was unpleasantly surprised of it’s power output. I used Sennheiser HD380 Pro Audio-Technica ATH-700 and M50X and the sound volume was too quiet in any mode. I’ve increased it to maximum and could hear people talking.
    Fiio X5 and Cowon X9 didn’t have that problem.
    Do you have any ideas how to fix it?


    1. though PR is not the most powerful DAP, it still has a ton of power to drive even demanding headphones. If you can see from my review, on 3rd page, I have different pair up examples and the volume level I had. Do you have any of these headphones to confirm it? Another thing, make sure Headphone Mode is on (it’s the high gain mode). Plus, if you bought EU unit, they sometime add a volume cap to make it quieter. I think when you first start the DAP it ask you about your region? Double check all that. But as an example, my hardest to drive headphones (open back 470 ohm ATH-R70x) – I was able to drive it with volume set to 120/140 without a problem.


      1. Thanks for a lead! I’ve resetted the device and chose Non-European English and it works as I thought it should!


      1. Thanks for the reply. Currently looking at a few daps the space is quite competitive at the moment.

        The dx200/x7ii are being considered atm as well. From reading your comparison of those they seem to be similar with the dx200 to have the slight edge in sq. Although the dual card slot of the x7ii is a big selling point for me at moment as i don’t use streaming services on portables.

        Will become less of an issue with the 400gb cards become more common and come down in price i suppose. My preference would be similar to yours in gravitating towards neutral daps with the addition of large soundstage.

        Currently using the ak t8iemkii, it03 and pm-3 and while i feel the opus1 pairs great with these my opus1 is faulty unfortunately.

        Either way i’d assume all of the above would be decent upgrade. I’d say i more looking for good synergy with my current earphones/headphones. Decisions, Decisions.


    1. Pm3 will be harder to drive and the sound is a little more veiled, Xelento and IT03 pair up great, with a sound more V-shaped, PR gives them a good low end emphasis.


  8. Hey Twister6, didn’t quite know where to ask this so thought I’d post it here. I was wondering if you’ll get the Plenue V to review?

    I’ve had the Plenue R a few months now (purchased partly thanks to this helpful review), and just picked up a Plenue V after curiosity got the better of me. The SQ is impressive. I’ve previously owned the D, P1 and M, and so far after a few hours of listening I’d rate it as the best Plenue I’ve heard. I don’t think it’s just ‘new toy syndrome’ talking either! I haven’t heard the P2 or S.

    So I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the V if you’re getting one? Obviously I still have plenty of burn-in to do on mine, but will put a review up on head-fi after a few weeks of familiarizing myself with it better.


    1. Sorry, I have no plans to review Plenue V, was hoping for their next flagship, but haven’t heard anything about it yet. But here is a thing. If you have both PR and PV and hear them the same – that’s all that matters! We all hear things differently due to a different hearing level, not everybody has a golden ear, and also it will depend on IEMs/headphones you are using. If you have a warmer/smoother/bassier headphones – they are not going to pick up details or soundstage cues as good as more reveaing headphones. I probably won’t get a chance to test/review PV, but if you are enjoying it – you are the final judge of it! 😉


      1. Great, thanks for the reply. I’m hearing the V as more detailed and with a fuller low end than the R, wish I had a P2 to compare. So yeah sounds great to my ears and puts a grin on my face 🙂


    1. Not a big fan of x5-3, too warm, smooth, and flat dynamics of the sound. So, PR is definitely an upgrade. Plus, you gonna love Jeteffect DSP effects in PR, awesome transformation of the sound.


  9. Hi T!
    Thanks for your review which helped me to make up my mind for R 7 months ago. Since you’ve mentioned that P2 leads R in different respect but the gap is small, do you think it’s wise to upgrade to P2? I don’t have the opportunity to listen to P2 but the price of P2 has dropped quite a bit after the birth of MK2.


      1. That’s what I was wondering, too. I will just wait for the next version of S then.
        Thanks again for the advice!


  10. Hi Twister,
    Thanks for such detailed review!
    Can you tell, how about synergy with Westone’s Universals like UM Pro 30/50 and W60?


    1. It has a great synergy since its signature is more neutral revealing which brings up more details from a smoother tuned Westone’s. Though it works great single ended, I personally have a preference for PR balanced output with Westone’s to push soundstage a little wider.


  11. I have the R partly based on your recommendation. I have been happy with it however it has one major flaw. It does not take a 256 GB card. When I first got it I picked up a 256 GB card and it work just fine. After that I bought four more, none of them work. I tried to contact Cowon they were completely unresponsive. So I tried to contact the seller they did get back to me they told me to use a smaller gigabyte card. So I purchased a 128 GB card it works just fine. I’ve since bought six other 128 GB cards they have all work just fine. I bought five 256 GB cards and only the first one work. The others would not accept the file or if it did many times it would just shove it into a unknow category not able to read the artist name or track name or album name. So because of that I am thinking of getting the Hiby 5. Have you heard this player yet and how would you compare it to the R. Thanks, love your reviews.


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