The sound of a DAP is based on pair up synergy with different earphones and headphones. Afterall, you are hearing the sound of headphones connected to the Source. In this section of my review, I will go over pair up differences between P6 and P6 Pro.
Campfire Audio Solaris ’20 – as expected, no difference in soundstage, in both pair ups still being wide and with more out of your head depth, and the signature the same as well, being more W-shaped with bass having a nice deeper impact, mids/vocals sounding natural, layered, and detailed, and treble being crisp and airy, but not harsh. Actually, treble in Pro is just a touch smoother. Still, no hissing at all. Where I do hear the difference is in bass which is tighter and more articulate in Pro, especially the mid-bass punch with a little faster attack and shorter decay where in comparison to Pro the P6 bass sounds a little more relaxed and slower. Overall, the sound is tighter in Pro, giving more precision and speed without changing the actual pace.
DUNU Luna – again, nearly holographic soundstage expansion in both pair ups, and a very good imaging, though not exactly 3D. The overall sound sig remains balanced and tonality is smooth and natural where the bass goes deep with more rumble, mids/vocals are very smooth, soulful, and treble is smooth, well defined, but not super airy. This is pretty much how I described Luna pair up in my original P6 review except I used “laidback” quite a few times. With P6 Pro the pace of the sound changed where I no longer can use laidback to describe the sound since it is faster and tighter. And I actually noticed background to be blacker. Luna uses pure beryllium drivers that have fast response which accurately reflects the changes between P6 and P6 Pro where notes have a lot cleaner and faster transition.
Empire Ears Odin – this pair up is still a perfect example of pushing Odin soundstage and imaging to the max with either DAPs, being holographic and 3D. Also, both pair ups give Odin bass more authority. With mids and vocals, you still have a layered micro-detailed sound, but there is more body and more natural tonality now. And with treble, it is still airy and extended, but its quad EST is a little smoother in both pair ups. But when you listen closer, you going to hear a difference in bass. While sub-bass rumble remains similar and quite deep, the decay of the bass in P6 is longer and slower, making bass more relaxed, even slightly laidback. In P6 Pro the decay of bass notes sounds shorter, which gives the mid-bass more control, more punch, more power, and cleaner edge.
64 Audio A18s – I hear a wide soundstage in both pair ups, with more depth/height in comparison to the width. And both pair ups have a similar full body smooth natural tonality, warmer sound with a deep sub-bass, more relaxed mid-bass, thicker lower mids with organic detailed upper mids/vocals, and smooth natural treble definition. But the bass itself is noticeably different where shorter/slower attack and decay in P6 changes to faster and tighter bass punch in P6 Pro. The sound tonality doesn’t change, but the characteristics and speed of the sound is noticeably different. After your ears and brain adjusts to P6 Pro pair up with A18s, switching to P6 made the sound slower, feeling like it was dragging, completely changing its PRaT characteristics by slowing it down.
Vision Ears Erlkonig – due to Erl sensitivity I had to switch P6/Pro to low gain, otherwise I wasn’t able to raise the volume pass 7-8. Both DAPs yield a wide soundstage with more depth/height relative to Erl width. Erl has more W-shaped sound sig with either DAPs and fuller body natural tonality with a faster punchier mid-bass, natural detailed mids and well controlled detailed treble. There is a difference between P6 and P6 Pro where Pro sounds tighter and the sound has a blacker background, but unlike many other pair ups, the difference here was a lot less noticeable when it comes to a pace of the sound. In many other pair ups Pro gave the sound more speed and faster rhythm which I was able to spot in a blind comparison right away. Here, when switching between these DAPs in front of me I picked up the difference, but failed in half of my blind comparison tests. The background sound blacker, but the speed remained nearly the same.
Oriolus Traillii – both pair up yield a holographic soundstage expansion with nearly 3D imaging of sounds in space. And you should expect the same coherent full body smooth natural tuning with a big bass, organic detailed mids/vocals, and very well defined natural extended treble. But aside from soundstage and tonality/signature being the same, PRaT characteristics between these two DAPs is VERY different. P6 sounds slower, laidback, mellow, and just more relaxed, while P6 Pro picks up the pace with more toe-tapping rhythm, tighter sound, more articulate bass, even sharper details in mids. The change was so noticeable that after switching from P6 Pro to P6 it felt like the sound was dragging its feet.
Looking back at my original P6 review, while I enjoyed the sound very much, I mentioned non-touch screen many times. I do come across a number of my readers who specifically looking for non-Android audio players without a touch screen because they want to have a DAP with the main focus on audio performance and no other interference. After a while of using P6 you get used to the navigation. But once you try P6 Pro, it becomes frustrating going back to non-touch screen interface. As a result, with P6 Pro there is not much to complain except for a hope that one day L&P will implement a proper alphanumerical sorting in folder view, instead of adding newly copied files at the end of the list (DriveSort util to the rescue!).
Still, I don’t know if there is another way to describe P6 Pro but to call it a modern classic. The non-Android simplified interface and all discrete analog R-2R resistor DAC has “classic” written all over it. While the exterior design, powerful 4.4mm BAL output, LDAC Bluetooth Rx to stream audio from your smartphone, variable output Line Out from 4.4mm and 3.5mm, and SPDIF output to use P6 Pro as a digital transport checks many boxes of “modern” requirements. Like I said in my P6 review, P6 Pro follows the yin and yang design philosophy to keep the modern classic balance and future relevance since it doesn’t depend on Android OS or aging DAC chips.
Audio playback is still the main focus of the design where you hear a very natural and resolving analog tonality, and L&P does take into account both sensitive IEMs and harder to drive headphones, trying to please all users. But in P6 Pro the audio playback is taken to the next level with an even lower noise floor and more expanded sound dynamics. Which brings us to the main question, should you upgrade if you already have P6? It’s not a cheap DAP, but if you already invested into original, the upgrade through exchange program will be cheaper than buying new P6 Pro and it will feel like getting a brand-new DAP with a noticeable improvement in functionality and performance.