Cowon Plenue R2

Round 2!

PROS: JetEffect 7 (applicable to local playback and BT wireless), solid build, responsive touch-screen, neutral revealing tuning, customizable GUI (skins), 20hrs battery life, Bluetooth w/aptX, 128GB internal storage, DSD256 support.

CONS: no wifi, no 2way Bluetooth, leather case is optional.

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.


Intro.

While a letter naming of Plenue DAPs is still a mystery, after working on half a dozen of various Cowon audio player reviews, I’m finally starting to notice a grouping pattern which makes sense to me.  From the original Plenue 1 and through the evolution of S, 2, 2mk2, and now L, I find the Plenue L to be their current summit-fi model.  Many already accepted Plenue D, which evolved into D2, to be their solid entry level model.  And after stepping through M, M2, R, and now R2, I think that Plenue R2 makes sense as their very capable mid-fi level model.

When you narrow it down to D2, R2, and L as their current entry, mid-fi, and summit-fi audio players, choosing Plenue DAP becomes less confusing, and I hope Cowon will continue with this trend, only bumping the corresponding model number index.  Fortunately, one thing that’s still very clear and unchanged about Plenue DAPs, especially mid-fi and summit-fi models, is them still featuring Cortex A9, 1.2GHz dual-core CPU, 3.7″ AMOLED Touch display with 480×800 resolution, JetEffect 7, nearly the same GUI, and the same Linux based OS.

Cowon is focusing on the audio performance of these DAPs as their top priority, instead of going after the latest Android OS, streaming apps, or high res wireless.  This has been their focus ever since the company started its business in 1995, and to this day they still trying to perfect the DAC/amp section of every design, making sure they are competitive in today’s saturated DAP market.  And while Plenue L flagship had a more subtle improvement over the previous P2 mk2 flagship release, R2 took a bigger step forward when compared to R.  Here is more about it.

Unboxing and Accessories.

The unboxing experience of R2 is very straight forward with an all black very compact box which arrived with a traditional silver ribbon around it.  The back of the box has a detailed spec in silver, though print is very small and not easy to read.  When you lift the cover up, R2 is in a secure form fitted cutout on top of a few accessories underneath of it.

Cowon doesn’t spoil us with a lot of accessories, especially when it comes to mid-fi models.  The only thing included is a good quality USB-C cable, used for charging, data transfer, and usb dac connection.  Quick guide and warranty card could also be found at the bottom of the box.  I also received as a bonus a film screen protector and a leather case, both of which can be purchased from Cowon as optional accessories.

Leather case (optional) (available on Amazon).

Due to R2 being a mid-fi budget-oriented DAP, almost a quarter of PL price, 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 R2 chassis to be sharp and not as comfortable, digging into the palm of my hand just like R model, so I found handling of R2 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 contour of R2 shape.  The quality of the leather is softer to the touch, the same as original R leather case, pretty much identical.  It has a soft inside lining to make sure R2 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 R2 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 usb-C and both headphone ports.  Right side also has one generous opening for the 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 accidentally press it while in a pocket.

Page 2 – Design, and Under the hood.
Page 3 – GUI.
Page 4 – Sound analysis, and Comparison.
Page 5 – Pair up, Other Connections, and Conclusion.

20 thoughts on “Cowon Plenue R2

  1. Hi

    You mentioned the Opus#1 in the review. When I go to the “The Bit” website, there hasn’t been and firmware updates for about 18 months. Are they still trading?

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  2. Thank you for the excellent review. I bought the original Plenue R based on your recommendation. I really like that player it has some firmware issues and the Bluetooth was nonexistent. But the sound was amazing and music was easy to load on the micro card. However I use a lot of Hi-Res files. They say you can use a 252 GB micro card. I found that not to be the case it really only takes a 128. That’s just not enough space if you use a lot of Hi-Res files. So again based on your recommendation I decided to go with the I Basso DX 160. After reading this review I think I made the right decision. The 160 has weak Bluetooth and you have to be sitting right on top of a Wi-Fi spot for the Wi-Fi to work. However the sound is absolutely amazing better than the Plenue R. So I was really curious when I heard the R2 was coming out if that would be worth the extra investment. The main thing I notice is that the memory capacity for the micro card is not changed. So it even if it really does take a 252 card in the I Basso I’m using a 512 GB card with no problems. And while I actually use my streaming more with my LG style 5 which has great sound by the way. It’s nice to have the option with the I Basso and if the sound is just the same and the price is $150 cheaper. I think the I Basso is a no-brainer. Thanks again for the great review.

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    1. What brand of micro SD cards are you using? Typically Sandisk is my go to since it works universally with any DAP. Also, did you format it fat32? I read many comments on head-fi and many do use 256GB cards with Plenu daps, some even 400GB. I think the issue with Cowon is that you can browse higher capacity cards by folder, but something in their fw prevents it from indexing higher capacity (indexed when you search by artist, genre, etc). But either way, there are SO MANY choices now in mid-fi DAP market sector, glad you found what you like. DX160 is one excellent DAP as well!!!

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  3. Thank you for your reply. Yes I was using Sandisk a 256GB card. The first one worked great. The next couple had a lot of problems. Some things would load some things some would not. So then I tried some other 256 GB micro cards. The exact same thing happen. No I did not do that formatting to fat 32. I’m not sure how to do that. So I tried to contact Cowon. I never heard back from them. So then I contacted the seller. Jet audio I think. They told me to use a 128 GB card. Once I did that I never had a problem. So I think the issue is I need to do that formatting and I’m not sure how. In any case I’m really happy with the DX 160. I recently picked up the Noble Falcon wireless. Best sound I think I have heard out of a wireless headphone. Sounds really good from a LG phone sounds way better with the DX 160. it doesn’t even work with the R hopefully the R2 has better Bluetooth.

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    1. I heard you can get original P2 at a killer pricing now, the same price as R2. So, if pricing is the same, I would go for P2. Otherwise, R2 is really good!

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  4. Great review as always , I have been using a good old Plenue D and an AP80 since quiet some time. Looking for an upgrade. I am confused after sleepless nights comparing R2, P2, DX 160 and Dethonray DTR1 ( or anything other better brand model if m missing) I don’t care much about streaming. I am looking for a dap with the best sq. I am sucker for Soundstage, imaging and details. Your help would be much appreciated. Keep up the good work.

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    1. the key words you just said “not much streaming, best SQ, soundstage/imaging, and details” – that spells out DX160 🙂 Though you can also stream with it, and Mango app has a killer regular EQ and parametric EQ.

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      1. DX 160 has better sq than DTR 1?? Are there any other options that I shud take a look at, if I stretch my budget a bit?

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      2. This is not a simple comparison. Dtr1 has a great sound but it will depend which iem or headphones. If it hisses really badly with half of my iems and can’t be used without iematch, but it can drive better some other demanding headphones, how do really do a true a/b comparison? Dtr1 has a great sound, but it will dependent on pair up and if you can tolerate its button clicking for navigation instead of touch screen. If you can stretch your budget, my favorites are LPGT and N6ii w/E02. But we are talking about much higher pricing.

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  5. What I liked about DTR is how simple and basic it looks . But the hiss issue might create a serious problem for me cuz I use a wide variety of chi-fi iem’s at the moment. As much as like the looks and old boxy feel of DTR 1, I won’t get a dap just based on that. Sq is my first and most important preference. Battery is the next but I’m willing to sacrifice a bit on that part (coming from plenue d) and focus only on sound. My budget is 600$ and I usually listen to a lotta fast music like metal and sometimes even jazz, ambient, ost. So detailing, separation and Soundstage is a must. LPGT and N6ii is sitting on a place where I can’t reach now 😔 I really enjoyed reading your N6ii review of both the dap and the module. Thankyou for your reply. It really helps a newbie like me and I have to say, your reviews are the best among all the others on internet.

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    1. I can sacrifice my love for old school buttons and designs for better sound. If it gives me great sound, I don’t mind touch screen or streaming or less battery life ( hoping I would atleast get 10hrs lol, is that too much to ask?) so going forward beyond all the look and features and functions, what is the best available option in my budget?

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  6. Vruksha I am also a regular reader of these columns. And I corresponded with him a few months ago. You can read my post. I think you would be happy with the I Basso DX 160. It’s definitely not perfect. But I think it’s going to give you everything you want detailing, separation and soundstage are all done extremely well. There are some minor problems I have the screen seems to freeze up quite a bit but it seems to restart right away. You mentioned battery life the battery life is just okay. It says 10 hours I don’t think you’re really going to get 10 hours, however it charges quickly once you get down to about 25% of battery left recharge it within an hour your back 100%. The touchscreen is very sensitive. So you have to be a little careful with the Mango player as your scrolling through the albums if you accidentally touch it it pops right up. More importantly the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are not very strong the Wi-Fi you have to be right on top of a signal and the Bluetooth you basically get about 5 feet no more than 10. You even have trouble if you put in your pocket with trying to stay connected. However these are all minor quibbles I think what you’re looking for you’re going to get it at $400 you can use the extra 200 to put into some new IEM’s.

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    1. i think it is the same color as original R case… Cowon sent it to me, and I thought it was the only case they sell for R2. Maybe the picture on Amazon is incorrect?

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