Source pair up here is very important due to higher output impedance which going to affect tonality of some IEMs. I tried different combinations, using BAL output, 3.5mm adapter, and balanced iEMatch.
64 Audio U18t – from BAL, wide soundstage expansion, neutral revealing tonality, more neutral bass impact, revealing layered mids with slightly more forward presentation, crisp well-defined treble. Nearly black background. With iEMatch in BAL, I get more bass impact to balance out the signature, and mids are still revealing and now more balanced. Switching to SE makes a big difference in bringing back the sub-bass rumble, adding more body to the upper mids, and smoothing out the treble.
CFA Andromeda – from BAL, very wide soundstage expansion, neutral revealing tonality, more neutral bass impact, revealing micro detailed mids, more on a brighter and harsher side, very crisp treble. Hissing is present but not overwhelming, mostly noticeable during pauses or quiet passages of the song, but not too much during the playback. With iEMatch, you get back the bass (rumble and mid-bass punch), smooths out mids, and gets treble under control (no longer harsh), while also completely remove the hissing even with volume down to zero. Switching to SE – brings the bass back, keeps mids very detailed and adds a little bit of body, making them sound more natural, and fixes the treble by attenuating down sibilance peaks. From SE output there is a little less hissing in comparison to BAL, but I can still hear it. In this pair, it’s a toss between iEMatch or using SE output.
VE Zen ZOE – from BAL, very wide soundstage expansion (probably the widest I heard Zen), and surprisingly the signature is very neutral, still smooth and organic, but more revealing now, with a better retrieval of details in the upper mids. Bass is there, I can hear the rumble and punch, but it’s rather neutral in quantity. Treble is clear, detailed, and controlled. I wouldn’t say you get higher level of resolution or better layering/separation, but the sound is brighter and more revealing now. Also, very dark background. This is probably the most revealing I heard Zen to date. This is high impedance earbuds, no need for iEMatch. Switching to SE didn’t change the tonality either.
iBasso IT04 – from BAL, wide soundstage expansion, very neutral tonality, tight punchy linear bass, neutral revealing and still natural mids, crisp well-defined treble. Very coherent sound with a flawless transition from lows to mids and to treble. I was afraid L6 will push it brighter, but the pair up is decent. No hissing what so ever. With iEMatch the sound signature is more balanced (less neutral) with a little more bass impact and more natural mids. Overall you get a subtle transition from neutral to more balanced where there is a little more emphasis on lows, mids, and highs. Switching to SE – brings up a little more sub-bass rumble, but the most noticeable difference is mids having a little more body, sounding even more natural, and treble being a little smoother.
Oriolus Mellianus – from BAL, very holographic soundstage expansion, balanced revealing signature with a very transparent tonality. Surprisingly good sub-bass extension with a nice rumble and decent mid-bass punch. Neutral revealing mids with a natural tonality. Crisp well controlled treble. Zero hissing. Excellent pair up. Due to 36ohm impedance, Mell doesn’t need iEMatch, and SE output connection sounded identical.
Empire Ears Legend X – from BAL, very wide soundstage expansion, L-shaped signature with a rather hard hitting mid-bass and a nice sub-bass rumble (thought sub-bass is slightly attenuated). Mids are very clear, detailed, natural. Treble is also very crisp and well controlled. Absolutely zero hissing, perfectly black background. This pair up will put a big smile on bassheads. Not much difference with iEMatch or from SE output.
Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd gen – from BAL, very wide soundstage expansion. Very balanced natural sound. Bass is more neutral though it does have a nice sub-bass expansion and a tight fast mid-bass punch. Mids are smooth and natural, very detailed, and treble is crisp and revealing, and still well controlled. It was a good pair up, but to my ears there was a little bit of modulation artifact in mids, especially audible in vocals. I can hear it both with and w/o iEMatch and from SE output too. IEMatch is not necessary in this case, this is a full-size Tesla driver cans, output impedance of the source is not a big deal. Overall, it was ok pair up, but I wasn’t too crazy about it.
Audeze EL8C – from SE, wide soundstage. Very bright revealing sound, but without metallic sheen. Bass is neutral in quantity, lower mids are a bit thin, while upper mids are bright and very revealing (on analytical level), and treble is very crisp and bright. I do hear a good sub-bass extension and tight mid-bass punch, but the lower quantity of the bass brings up upper mids more upfront, making the sound brighter and a little thinner. It was OK pair up, just wish there would be a little more body in sound.
Audio-Technica ATH-R70x – from SE, very wide soundstage with an open sound, as expected from these 470ohm open back cans. This pair up scales up R70x performance like I have never heard them before. While typically having a more natural smoother tonality, here R70x was transformed into a more balanced revealing signature with a harder hitting bass and a deeper sub-bass rumble, more transparent naturally-revealing mids, and a crisp well controlled treble. This was the best R70x pair up I heard to date, or perhaps it was different from all other typical source pair ups, and I really enjoyed it.
Unique Melody Mason V3 – from BAL, very wide soundstage. Without iEMatch sound signature is more mid-forward and has a brighter tonality with crisper treble. When using iEMatch, the signature is more balanced where upper mids sounds more natural and a little less forward, while treble remains crisp but becomes less harsh. I found it to be an excellent pair up with iEMatch. Plus, w/o iEMatch there is a little bit of hissing, which is taken care of by iEMatch. In line with iEMatch improvement, switching to SE yields exactly same results with a more balanced signature and a more natural and smoother upper mids and less harsh treble. Using SE output is more practical here, but if you want the blackest background, you can try iEMatch.
Westone W80 – from SE, wide soundstage with more out of your heard expansion. Balanced signature with more revealing and slightly more forward mids. Since I can’t use iEMatch or UE impedance adapter with SE port on L6 (and didn’t want to switch Epic cable), I was only focusing on direct connection in this pair up, and it works quite well. While W80 is usually smoother and with lusher mids, here the bass is a little attenuated, mids are more transparent and more revealing, and treble is crisper. Also, to my surprise, considering 5ohm impedance, there was absolute no hissing. But overall, I wasn’t too crazy about this pair up.
Oppo PM3 – from BAL, very wide, nearly holographic soundstage, nicely balanced signature with a natural tonality. Again, another big surprise for me since PM3 usually has a warmer thicker tonality and could sound a bit muddy and congested in some pair ups. I never heard PM3 bass punch so tight and fast and sub-bass extend with a velvety rumble like this before; lower mids were neutral without muddying the sound and upper mids have a lot of natural clarity, along with a crisp and airy treble. I certainly rediscovered these planar headphones again, for sure the best PM3 pair up I heard to date.
Here are the various L6 analog and digital connections for external DAC/amp pair ups.
Line Out (tested w/FiiO E12A) – I hear a similar sound sig/tonality from a direct BAL output versus LO connected to w/E12A, just a touch warmer with E12A which I consider to be a very neutral portable amp. This suggests to me that L6 internal amplifier possibly brightens the tonality of internal DAC output, maybe not by a lot but it’s noticeable in this testing.
Digital Coax Out (tested w/iFi Micro iDSD BL) – In this test I had to use RCA digital coax cable with 4-ring 3.5mm connector (like the one used with FiiO daps). I was using Mellianus in this testing and found L6 to drive micro iDSD BL pretty good, very transparent pair up. I usually prefer iDSD BL to be driven with optical rather than coax, due to more transparency in the sound, while here coax connection yielded excellent results, on par with a typical optical connection.
USB DAC (tested w/ThinkPad T430s) – There was no need to install any additional drivers, USB Audio drivers were installed on Win7 automatically. Both my Win7 and Win10 laptops have security issues installing Thesycon drivers, so I was happy I didn’t have to deal with it here. Used as USB DAC the sound is identical between playing the same song from my laptop vs internal storage of L6. And, I was also able to use L6 volume wheel during USB DAC operation. I typically not so crazy about using DAPs as USB DACs, but here it worked perfectly.
USB OTG DAC (tested w/Samsung Galaxy S9) – L6 was recognized by Galaxy S9 right away, and I was able to control the volume from the phone and L6. I found the sound to be more neutral in comparison to a direct listening from L6 or in comparison to using L6 as USB DAC connected to my laptop. In additional to playing music from my phone (Neutron), I was also able to stream Spotify to L6.
The fact that in my comparison section I put L6 against top flagship DAPs, such as SP1000, WM1Z, LPG, and DX200Ti, can give you an idea of how much I value the sound performance of this DAP which cost less or in some cases a fraction of the others. I also hope it’s an indicator that Luxury & Precision is making more effort now to be competitive with other commercial flagship releases. I still consider them as a boutique brand, but they do have a lot of potential to move forward.
The sound quality is already very impressive. And while 4.4ohm impedance of BAL output is high for some low impedance multi-BAs and hybrids, it’s not a show stopper if you switch to SE output which has as wide soundstage and as detailed tonality as BAL output. Or you can use iEMatch, though in general I would like to see a lower output impedance in the future. One improvement that I wish L&P would implement is horizontal touch swiping to fast forward through the song and maybe swipe between the tracks. I know, their DAPs are not using Android interface and touch controls use up the resources, but it’s my wishful thinking.
And seems that after the latest L6 flagship, followed by L4, the next stop is LP6 with R2R AD5790 + FPGA!