PAW6k has plenty of power to driver some of the demanding full-size headphones and at the same time take care of high sensitivity IEMs without any noticeable hissing. Here is how I hear PAW6k pairs up with a selection of headphones and earphones.
64 Audio U18t – wide soundstage expansion with a little more depth than width. The signature is balanced with a neutral natural tonality. Bass goes deep and has extra impact. Lower mids have extra body and upper mids/vocals are very detailed and natural in tonality. Treble has a great definition and extension, and overall sound has zero hint of brightness. This pair up delivers a very natural detailed sound with a nicely balanced sig. No hissing.
Campfire Audio Solaris – wide/deep soundstage expansion. The signature here is balanced with a slight hint of a mild v-shaped due to a little extra impact in bass and extra sparkle in treble. Bass impact is quite powerful, not L-shaped elevated, but has an extra dynamic-driver punch that cuts right through the mix, very articulate and fast. Mids are a little more on a leaner and more revealing side, nicely layered with a very good retrieval of details. Treble is crisp and airy, not harsh at all, but has a well control sparkle. The overall tonality here is neutral-revealing with additional fun factor, thanks to quality of bass. There is a very mild waterfall hissing when idling. Very hard to detect, and not audible at all when playback starts.
Campfire Audio Andromeda – wide/deep soundstage expansion, actually even wider than Solaris in this pair up. The signature is balanced for sure, and tonality is smoother and more natural. Bass sounds like it is coming from a dynamic driver, not BA, and bass is smooth, rounded, not as fast as with Solaris. Mids have a little fuller body, sound more natural, smoother, clear and detailed, but not as layered. Treble has nice definition, not as much sparkle, just very natural and detailed. The overall sound is neutral, natural, and smooth. There is a very faint waterfall hissing when idling, but hardly detectable when music is playing.
Fir Audio M5 – wide soundstage expansion with a little more depth than width in this pair up. The signature is slightly v-shaped due to extra impact in low end and more sparkle in treble. Bass has a powerful dynamic driver impact, going deep with a nice rumble and punching hard in mid-bass, fast, articulate, and layered. Lower mids are a little leaner and upper mids/vocals are clear, micro-detailed, layered, a little brighter, and with a slight out of your head presentation. Treble is crisp, airy, extended, and with a fun sparkle. No hissing here.
Empire Ears Legend X – the soundstage here is actually reaching a holographic level due to a wide left/right expansion and the depth expansion. The signature is L-shaped, your typical LX sound, but there is a very interesting phenomenon here. The bass is powerful and goes deep, actually more sub-bass rumble than mid-bass punch, but mids/vocals take the front row, grabbing the main focus of the sound presentation, while the bass is more in the background where you feel the rumble more than you hear it. And the same with treble, being crisp, airy, and well controlled, coming through clear and detailed, along with mids/vocals. Very interesting pair up, and kind of surprising since I don’t think I heard LX to have their bass pumping more in the background like I’m hearing here. No hissing.
VE Sun Dice – the soundstage is close to holographic in this pair up. PAW6k had no issue driving these 180ohm earbuds, and I only needed about 50/100 of volume in HG. The overall tonality is smoother and more organic in this pair up, with a balanced signature. Bass has a nice fast punch, mids/vocals are very detailed and a little more forward, smooth, organic. Treble is crisp and has a good definition. Personally, I liked the pair up of Sun Dice with LPGT, and I think these earbuds pair up better with more revealing sources, while PAW6k is a little too smooth for Sun. It’s not a bad pair up at all, just smoother and more laidback.
Final Audio A8000 – closer to holographic soundstage expansion, in both width and depth. The overall signature is a little v-shaped with a more revealing tonality. I’m hearing a deep extended sub-bass rumble, fast mid-bass punch, a little north of neutral bass quantity, fuller body lower mids with more organic upper mids/vocals tonality, crisp airy treble which I find to be brighter. Upper frequencies are more revealing and brighter with a slightly colder tonality. No hissing.
Audio-Technica ATH-R70x – open sound with a wide/deep soundstage expansion; of course, you would expect that from open back headphones, but it was also nice to hear that PAW6k wasn’t limiting this performance. The signature is balanced, and the tonality is very natural and quite detailed. I was expecting it to be a little smoother, but the retrieval of details here is very impressive, suggesting that PAW6k has no issues driving these 470ohm open back headphones. Bass is not the fastest, but it goes deep with a nice rumble you can hear and feel, and mid-bass has a nice average speed punch. Mids/vocals are natural, detailed, high level of clarity while still sounding organic. Treble is well defined and has a well-controlled amount of sparkle and natural airiness. I really enjoyed this pair up, definitely brings the best in R70x.
Meze Audio Empyrean – open sound with closer to holographic soundstage expansion. The overall signature is balanced and the tonality is neutral and natural, actually quite an organic sound. Bass goes deep, but has more neutral mid-bass punch, and overall low end is slower and smoother. Lower mids have a fuller body and upper mids are very detailed, smooth, natural, soulful. Treble is crisp, well extended, and well defined, has a natural sparkle. I have seen Empyrean sound a little faster and more revealing in some other pair ups, but with PAW6k it had a different, more natural and still quite detailed sound. I actually enjoyed the pair up with these planar magnetic cans.
Wired and Wireless Connections.
In this section of the review I will go over various wired and wireless connections I tested and verified with PAW6k.
Bluetooth DAC – the pair up was effortless, though I didn’t see an indicator of BT codec. In BT DAC mode you can use PMEQ and ATE effects. Also, I was able to adjust the volume from my phone (S9) and from PAW6k. Plus, I was able to remotely control my phone (S9) playback with Play/Pause/Skip buttons from PAW6k – verified with HibyMusic app and while streaming with Qobuz. I hear the tonality of the sound to be nearly identical when playing the same track from PAW6k internal storage vs using PAW6k as BT DAC.
According to Lotoo, it doesn’t support LDAC in BT DAC mode, only SBC, but they are working to add it soon. Still, as I mentioned already, the sound was close enough between local storage and wireless BT DAC playback.
Bluetooth (w/Senns HD1 M2 IEBT) – hassle free pair up, codec was indicated in BT list. Full dynamic crystal-clear sound, similar to what I’m used to with these from my S9. I can control the volume from PAW6k and from Senns, and I can control playback (Play/Pause/Skip) from Senns remotely. Was able to use headphones about 50ft away from PAW6k in open space with a solid connection. PMEQ/ATE could be used during wireless connection without problem as well.
USB DAC – (S9) fast connection, was using Neutron – the sound was nearly the same as playing from local storage. (T480s Win10 ThinkPad), within minutes device was setup in windows and ready to be used. I was testing with Qobuz on laptop, and to my surprise tonality had a little more transparency and soundstage was wider, noticeable change. ATE effects can be selected when used as USB DAC. While I enjoyed using PAW6k with my phone as BT DAC, I preferred a wired connection from my laptop, not the phone.
USB Digital Audio (as transport with iFi micro iDSD BL) – once connected and even before I turned micro iDSD on, PAW6k recognized USB-OTG cable and asked me if I want to enter USB Audio mode. When I turned micro iDSD on, playback started without a problem. Using PAW6k as a transport and micro iDSD BL as external DAC/amp, the sound I’m hearing now has a more typical tonality of iFi with narrower soundstage and a little thinner mids.
Line Out (w/FiiO E12A portable amp) – Line Out has to be selected as output, depending if you are using BAL or SE external amp. Also, you have the option of either Unfixed LO where you can use volume on PAW6k to control the output in addition to external amp vol control. Or you can select either 0.77Vrms, 1.2Vrms, or 2Vrms fixed LO output where you can control volume from the external amp. This is very convenient, depending on the gain of your amp, so you don’t saturate the input and allow wider range of volume change. Plus, with some portable amps without volume control, Unfixed option will allow to control volume from PAW6k.
One interesting observation since I consider E12A to be very neutral, the sound was a little more transparent with less body in mids. This suggests that PAW6k internal head amp adds more body to the sound.
When I first heard of PAW6k, I was a bit skeptical based on my experience with PAW5k. Doesn’t mean PAW5k was bad, but I clearly remember a much bigger gap between build and sound quality of LPG. PAW6k turned out to be a nice surprise. LPGT is a flagship, and people often ask me if that makes PAW6k to be its mid-fi level counterpart. I honestly can’t say that, and just like I mentioned in the Intro of this review, calling PAW6k a cutdown version of LPGT would be insulting.
Of course, we have to be realistic. No company is going to release a lower model close to their flagship at a fraction of the price because it will kill the sales of the flagship. But Lotoo managed to preserve a nearly identical build quality and functionality, only changing the sound performance. Yes, relative to LPGT, PAW6k doesn’t have as wide soundstage or as high resolution and retrieval of details. But at the same time, PAW6k can go head to head with other higher end models and hold its own.
I actually talked to a number of my readers who found LPGT to be too revealing and analytical for their taste, preferring something smoother and more musical to pair up with their already revealing IEMs. The same people didn’t care about DSD512 support and had a stronger preference for micro SD over SD and for longer battery life. Those are the people who don’t have to give up on their dream of owning LPGT because they can get the same build quality, the same fast OS, the same PEQ and ATE effects, and most of the same bells and whistles of the original Touch at a fraction of the price.