Time for an update!
PROS: more power, blacker background, wider soundstage.
CONS: higher price, leather case is optional.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
Two years ago, when I was asked to review the original Opus#1, I agreed because the spec looked great on paper. I never heard of theBit and had no idea what to expect, but it turned out to be a nice surprise. Later, I was pleased to find enhancements in the sound and the functionality with every new fw update, and noticed the sale price to go down which also improved its price/performance ratio. theBit also stayed consistent with their follow up Opus#2 release, still a great flagship DAP to recommend. Opus#3 was an interesting release that paved the way for side-loaded app support which ended up in Opus#2 as well. But I think the value of Opus#1 was too good for many to justify upgrading to Opus#3.
Now, theBit decided to go back to their original hit release and update Opus#1 with a new Opus#1S model. 2nd gen updates are not uncommon, but not all of them focus on sound improvements, and often have a new exterior design along with a new DAC. theBit decided to approach #1S by leaving the exterior design untouched, keeping GUI nearly the same, and mostly updating the internal components, including the DAC. It’s probably a bit of a gamble, but did it pay off? Let’s find out in this review, which is going to be a short write-up mostly focusing on comparisons.
Unboxing and Accessories.
While the packaging box (in red) and the outside sleeve (in light grey) have been changed from the original colors, what drew my attention the most was an updated spec on the back of the sleeve. This is a very detailed General Specification and Audio Performance spec, something I wish all manufacturers would provide with their products.
Inside, you will find Opus#1S in a secure foam cutout, users guide, screen protectors, and usb cable. Keep in mind, the available leather case is optional, though it’s still Dignis designed pure leather case. The good news, if you are upgrading from Opus#1 and already have a leather case – Opus#1S exterior design is identical and the original leather case fits #1S like a glove.
I know plenty of people who still use their original Opus#1 without a leather case. For me personally, I prefer a case to enhance the grip of the DAP. Besides, this Dignis case is high quality and doesn’t “cover up” the unique lines of the chassis design, so definitely gets my recommendation.
As I already mentioned, exterior design between #1 and #1S remains identical to the point where you can easily take Opus#1 leather case and use it “as is” with Opus#1S because it’s not only has the same dimensions but also the same layout of all the buttons and ports. The only exterior difference are two new colors, blue and purple. My review sample arrived in purple color, and I found it to be dark enough to look like black.
You also have the same 32GB of internal storage and dual uSD card support to expand the storage up to 800GB. Still expect to find Volume +/- buttons on the left side, and Play/Pause/Skip hw playback buttons on the right side. Balanced 2.5mm port is at the top, and 3.5mm single ended port is next to it and still shared with Line Out and Optical out.
Here, you will find all the differences under the hood. At first, I thought there was a typo when I read CS43198 dual DAC, considering original DAC was CS4398. But it’s not a typo, this is Cirrus Logic Next Gen https://www.cirrus.com/products/cs43198/ new DAC with Master-HiFi features. Furthermore, internal headphone amplifier section was beefed up with a more powerful output.
For example, considering #1S balanced spec of 3.4Vrms vs #1 spec of 2.3Vrms, under 32ohm load that means approximately 165mW (#1) vs 361mW (#1S), which is still higher than #3. Furthermore, SNR spec was improved as well, and it’s quite audible where you can hear a lot blacker background (#1S), hardly any hissing, and improved dynamics.
As a quick comparison summary of the specs, here is how #1S stacks up against #1 and #3:
- DAC – Cirrus Logic CS43198 x2
- Output – BAL 3.4Vrms, SE 3.1Vrms
- SNR – BAL 125dB, SE 123dB
- Storage – 32GB, 2x uSD
- WiFi/BT – no
- DAC – Cirrus Logic CS4398 x2
- Output – BAL 2.3Vrms, SE 2.1Vrms
- SNR – BAL 115dB, SE 114dB
- Storage – 32GB, 2x uSD
- WiFi/BT – no
- DAC – Burr Brown PCM1792A
- Output – BAL 3.0Vrms, SE 2.5Vrms
- SNR – BAL 114dB, SE 114dB
- Storage – 64GB, 1x uSD
- WiFi/BT – yes
Another difference that stood out for me was a display quality. While you have the same 4″ display size and the same 480×800 resolution, #1S stepped it up with IPS screen which has a much wider viewing angles and richer/deeper colors. Even #3, which suppose to have the same display with IPS screen, had duller colors.
Here is how Opus#3, #1, and #1S (all the way to the right) displays look like side by side:
User interface in all Opus DAPs is nearly identical, regardless if it’s #1, #2, #3, or #1S, thus I found no surprises here, except for one. In Opus#1 you had to select “B” from a pull-down notification menu to enable Balanced Out output, while #1S has Balanced port enabled automatically. I found it to be a very convenient change because on many occasions with Opus#1 I used to forget to enable BAL and then wonder why I don’t have any sound.
Everything else is identical with the same main playback screen which displays embedded artwork (if available, or default one from theBit) at the top, and shortcuts to add currently playing song to Favorite or Playlist when you tap on the screen, scrub bar to fast forward/back through the song underneath, and a golden Play/Pause round button and Skip Next/Prev at the bottom. You still get 10 Band EQ with 5 custom presents, gapless playback, and 3 levels (low/mid/high) of gain control.
Notification bar menu comparison #3, #1, #1S – no need to select “B” in #1S: