In this test I was using PAW6k with 64 Audio U18t while playing the selection of my favorite test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana” to analyze the sound of this DAP. Also, I had about 100hrs of playback burn-in prior to starting the sound analysis.
I’m sure the first question on many people’s mind is how PAW6k compares to LPGT. My readers always ask, which one is better? In terms of tonality, one is not better than the other, they are just different. When it comes to technical performance, LPGT will have the upper hand and I will cover it in more details in Comparison section of the review.
PAW6k has a neutral signature with a more natural tonality and a fuller body sound, including a little more weight in lower end. While I have been trying to analyze the sound of PAW6k on its own, I still have Touch in the back of my mind due to its neutral reference tonality which I compare everything to. Thus, I would consider PAW6k to have a stronger impact in lower end, more natural fuller body mids/vocals, and smoother treble response with a modest level of airiness. As a result, while LPGT can bring out more flaws in a poorly recorded audio, PAW6k is able to smooth out the sound and render it in a more natural and musical way.
From a perspective of technical performance, the sound has good dynamics with a decent vertical expansion of the peaks. As a result, the sound never felt compressed or congested. Again, relative to LPGT, the transient response of note on/off is a little slower, giving the sound its natural smoothness. The background is relatively black, hardly any hissing even with very sensitive IEMs. The soundstage expansion is definitely above the average with a good depth, and it also has a good imaging with a relatively precise placement of instruments and vocals.
As already mentioned, 4.4mm (BAL) and 3.5mm (SE) headphone ports have identical power out. And I also found the difference is tonality to be nearly identical. But if I would to split hairs here, 4.4mm balanced output is a bit more transparent with a little wider soundstage. But overall, these ports sound very close.
In this section of the review, sound comparison was done using LPGT 4.4mm headphone balanced output, with all the effects off, while using 64 Audio U18t with EA Code 51 balanced terminated cable and Pentaconn pigtail 4.4mm adaptor. In every comparison I made sure to match the sound level between DAPs. Also, I only going to cover the sound difference as I hear it. Obviously, every DAP has their own set of features and functionality differences with Android DAPs having direct access to streaming services. I used 4.4mm in every comparison except for N6ii w/E01 where I had to use 3.5mm
PAW6k vs Cowon Plenue L – this is a very interesting comparison because after going many times between PAW6k, LPGT, and PL, I came to a conclusion that PL fits right in a middle between these two Lotoo models. For example, starting with soundstage expansion, while I found LPGT to have a wider left/right spread in comparison to PAW6k, PL is a touch wider than PAW6k but not on the same level as Touch. The bass extension and impact, relative to U18t pair up, is very similar between PAW6k and PL; I would say it’s nearly identical to my ears. When it comes to mids/vocals, PL is also somewhere in the middle due to lower mids being a little leaner and upper mids sounding more revealing when compared to PAW6k, but not on the same level as Touch. Treble has some similarity as well, except PAW6k has a little more sparkle. Both have a very dynamic and layered sound.
PAW6k vs FiiO M11 Pro – relative to U18t, I hear PAW6k to have a little wider soundstage expansion, though not by a lot. M11 Pro bass is closer to neutral relative to PAW6k which has more impact and deeper extension. Also, I hear PAW6k bass to be more articulate and faster, while M11 Pro bass sounds a little more laidback. With mids/vocals, PAW6k has more body and the tonality is smoother and more organic, while with M11 Pro I hear lower mids to be leaner, and upper mids more revealing, more transparent. Treble is very similar. M11 Pro is definitely a noticeable improvement over their original M11, but still when you are analyzing the sound with higher res IEMs or headphones, you can hear in this comparison that PAW6k sound has a better vertical dynamics expansion and better layering, making M11 Pro sound a bit compressed in a relative comparison.
PAW6k vs iBasso DX220 w/AMP8 – I didn’t realize how similar these two will sound! But there are still a few differences, like for example I found DX220 soundstage to be a little bit wider. And PAW6k has more mid-bass impact and the bass sounds faster than with DX220. But the rest of the sound, in mids and treble, is very similar in quality and presentation. Maybe DX220 having a touch more sparkle/airiness in treble, but not by whole lot. Both have a very dynamic and layered sound. I tried this comparison in a blind test, and after going back’n’forth multiple times, soundstage width was the main difference to my ears.
PAW6k vs Hiby R6 Pro – If PAW6k and DX220 sounds similar, in a comparison of the sound performance between PAW6k and R6 Pro relative to U18t I hear them being even closer in tonality. Other DAPs were not able to match PAW6k bass impact at the same level, but R6 Pro was able to keep up without a problem. Mids/vocals performance was also very similar, with fuller body more natural tonality and a layered detailed sound. And the treble performance was not too far off. But the blind test comparison was easy since PAW6k is dead quiet with U18t, while R6 Pro has a noticeable hissing. That was really the main giveaway during the blind test.
PAW6k vs Cayin N6ii w/E01 – N6ii soundstage expansion is a little bit wider, even when comparing its single ended output to PAW6k balanced; it’s not a huge difference, but noticeable. Both have a deep low end extension with a nice elevated rumble, but in mid-bass PAW6k has more impact and faster attack/decay, making its bass sound more articulate and faster, while N6ii w/EO1 bass is slower and a little more laidback, more analog. When switching to the default A01 card, N6ii has bass response which sounds closer to PAW6k. Mids of PAW6k are a little thicker and more organic in comparison to more layered and more revealing mids of N6ii w/E01 (in Class AB mode). Treble is similar, though I find PAW6k to have a little more sparkle. The tonality of A01 card will be closer to PAW6k.
Of course, I saved the best for last (with a relative volume matched setting in high gain from 4.4mm).
PAW6k (vol 38) vs LPGT (vol 36) – Touch has more expanded soundstage where the sound has a wider left/right spread. Overall sound sig is more neutral revealing with a greater level of transparency in Touch while PAW6k is more neutral natural with a slightly warmer tonality. Relative to U18t, when you break down the sound you will hear PAW6k to have more sub-bass rumble and slightly elevated mid-bass analog impact, while Touch bass has less sub-bass rumble, bass is more layered, and more articulate. With mids/vocals, Touch is leaner in lower mids and more transparent and more layered in upper mids, while PAW6k has more body in lower mids and smoother and more organic tonality in upper mids. The treble response is a little smoother in PAW6k. Overall, Touch presents sound in a more neutral, transparent, analytical way, while PAW6k gives you a more fun flavor with a deeper low end impact and a smoother and more organic presentation of mids/vocals. Both have a very dynamic and layered sound, though you can hear a bit more air between the layers of the sound when paired up with LPGT.