A Touch of class runs in the family!
PROS: neutral natural tonality, Lotoo optimized OS with 2sec boot up, duplex Bluetooth, Parametric EQ II, solid build quality, SE and BAL Line out, high level of config in Settings.
CONS: no internal storage, WiFi only for fw updates.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
It has been almost 2 years since I covered Lotoo Touch (LPGT), and it became my reference source which I use in most of my reviews. Today, many DAPs become obsolete within 4-6 months, replaced by newer updated versions with beefier spec. But the relevance of LPGT hasn’t faded away yet, thanks to its super-fast proprietary OS which doesn’t rely on Android and its build like-a-tank design with lots of pro features.
It is clear that Lotoo put a lot of thought into LPGT to guarantee its longevity, and instead of releasing the new updated version, they decided to follow their own footsteps from the days of the original LPG. Back then, LPG got PAW5000 (PAW5k) as a sidekick, a cutdown budget friendly version with a similar functionality. This time, the cutdown version got reincarnated as PAW6000 (PAW6k), except to call it a cutdown will be an insult.
Of course, you can’t release a budget friendly version of a flagship without cutting some corners, but you also will be surprised to find out how much PAW6k inherited from its big brother. Here is more about it!
Unboxing and Accessories.
Unboxing experience of PAW6k was nearly identical to LPGT. While there was no golden sleeve box cover, PAW6k cover sleeve was black with a golden outline of the DAP. With a sleeve off, the rest was the same as Touch, a giftbox quality storage box with a foam cutout under the cover to keep DAP secure during transport, and accessories organized in separate boxes underneath.
Inside you will find all the essentials with a manual, a pair of tempered glass screen protectors (one included as a spare), a cleaning cloth, and a premium USB/USB-C braided cable. The premium leather case was also included.
This leather case fits PAW6k like a glove, enhancing the grip, and protecting from scratches and minor drops. I actually found it to be an improvement over the Touch case. With a large opening at the bottom, the micro-SD card and USB-C charging/data port are now fully open and you no longer have to remove the case to replace the card. Also, the case covers the playback and power buttons on the right side with an easy to feel indented outline/shape around the controls. The top of the case is open, giving full access to Headphone/LO ports and the golden volume wheel. And the actual material had a better-quality leather which felt more premium in comparison to Touch’s softer leather feel.
It was a big step for Lotoo to transform their original non-touch LPG into a touch-screen version. While the PAW6k overall design looks like a slimmer version of LPGT with a thinner volume wheel, the rest of the exterior remained very similar. Relative to Touch, the size of PAW6k is a little smaller, measuring 112mm x 65mm x 18mm (vs 119x69x21) and the weight is down to 224g (vs 310). You still have the same 3.77” IPS Retina LCD touch screen (with 800×480 resolution), and the volume wheel above it in upper right corner with a secure guard around it.
The golden wheel is a signature of PAW design, but PAW6k has a slimmer version which doesn’t protrude outside of rectangular DAP outline like it is LPGT. And just like in the original (LPG and LPGT), you can configure its direction to change volume either clockwise or counter-clockwise. The level of configuration and customization in PAW6k is identical to LPGT, and you can still configure to double tap the screen to wake it up (love this feature!).
Bottom of PAW6k hosts micro-SD card, held inside with a spring-loaded mechanism. There is no internal storage, and that’s all you get, though capacity of flash memory has been going up while price is dropping down. Next to it is USB-C port for charging of the DAP, data transfer, and USB DAC connection.
Nothing is on the left side, and the right side has 4 round metal buttons with their functionality etched on the surface. 3 playback control buttons (play/pause and skip) are grouped a little closer while a power button (also used for screen on/off) is a little further away. Unlike LPGT, play button here doesn’t have a bump identification (for a blind id), assuming Lotoo realized that PAW6k users will have the case on anyway. Buttons have a nice tactile response, with or without a case.
The top of the DAP, besides already mentioned volume wheel which also has optional “breathing light” underneath, also has 3.5mm single ended and 4.4mm balanced outputs with a flexible dual configuration of either Headphone output or Line Out. As HO, you can set the gain to high/low and have independent L/R balanced adjustment of either of the ports. As Line Out, you can set the output to a few fixed voltage settings or variable output to control it with a volume wheel.
Overall, PAW6k feels as solid as LPGT with a similar aircraft aluminum alloy chassis and Corning Gorilla Glass (std 5) display with anti-fingerprint and DLC coating. The one noticeable difference is that LPGT has a metal back panel while PAW6k is glass. Aesthetically, it really doesn’t make a difference since many will be keeping this slippery DAP in a case. Functionally, perhaps a glass back will allow placement of some internal antennas.
Under the hood.
Obviously, Lotoo had to cut some corners so that PAW6k wouldn’t overshadow the flagship LPGT. So, in the heart of PAW6k you will find the AKM AK4493 DAC (down from AK4497 in Touch), and there is no AKM AK4137EQ up-sampling chip or ADI BF70x DSP. While up-sampling on the fly was a cool feature, I end up turning it off on LPGT to extend battery life. Also, according to Lotoo design team, the functionality of DSP in Touch was for DSD512 support and dual PLL clocks. The PEQ and ATE effects were running on the main Freescale iMX6 processor with everything optimized around Lotoo’s own OS with a super-fast boot up time.
PAW6k, just like LPGT, supports all the popular lossy and lossless formats up to and including DFF, DSF, ISO, FLAC, APE, WAV, AAC, ALAC, MP3, WMA, M4A, and OGG, with PCM sampling rates 32kHz-768kHz. It also supports DSD64, DSD128, and DSD256 with corresponding sampling rates of 2.8MHz, 5.6MHz, and 11.2MHz. I didn’t notice any lag or glitches when switching between different file formats or during Gapless playback (which usually buffers ahead), thanks to its multi-processor architecture which handles multiple tasks in parallel.
Regarding the internal design, Lotoo mentioned about the implementation of TI OPA1622 SoundPlus opamps, though more details were not provided. And similar to LPGT, both ports have the same output power, except PAW6k is rated to 300mW (down from 500mW), and I confirmed the output volume level to be the same when switching between SE and BAL headphone ports. Each of these ports can be selected as Line Out as well, to drive external amplifier in either Single Ended or fully Balanced connection.
USB DAC is supported without a problem when you connect PAW6k to computer or smartphone. You also have 2-way Bluetooth (BT4.2) support, though BT DAC doesn’t support LDAC yet, but you can pair it with LDAC enabled headphones. But in general, duplex BT will allow you to either pair up with wireless headphones and speakers or to connect PAW6k as a wireless Receiver to your Smartphone or Tablet/Laptop to stream audio.
No need to worry about proprietary charger like in LPG. You are charging from USB-C port and PAW6k 5200 mAh battery should yield a playback time of up to 16hrs. Of course, that is an ideal case with display off and at average volume level. There also a nice feature of when connecting USB DAC to either select “computer” so you charge the battery or USB DAC Phone, so you don’t drain your phone battery.
WiFi interface (b/g/n) is available, but only implemented for over-the-air (OTA) download and update of the firmware which I verified to work without a problem.