Lotoo PAW 6000: Trickling Gold – A Digital Audio Player Review

Sound Impressions

Lotoo’s PAW 6000 is a DAP that, to my ears, comes across straightforward, natural and unexaggerated, but with a slightly saccharine, musical tilt to it as well. The latter comes from the player’s slightly enriched low-end, which gives instruments wetness and oomph. And, it lends a lovely kick to bass-driven tracks and sections as well. The drop on Snarky Puppy and the Metropole Orkest’s The Curtain is a particular treat. Again, it’s a pretty subtle colouration all-in-all, and the only worth noting within the device’s sig. Linear, balanced and smooth is the 6000’s tonal MO, with a hint of body for good measure. Otherwise, it’s a balanced sig that should work with most monitors nicely, whilst imparting the qualities I mention below.

Spatially, it’s a DAP that slightly encourages cohesion and engagement over clinical, surgical separation. Instruments can mingle a tad more, which I personally enjoy with ensembles like Snarky Puppy or Yanni. With a clean, well-separated IEM like the Vision Ears ELYSIUM or the JH Audio Jolene, instruments are less isolated and bigger in size. It also stems from its enriched bottom-end infusing a bit of smoke into the stage. But, at the same time, the PAW 6000 isn’t congested or veiled either. A black background and dynamic range allow those tinier details to pop through. And, its notes aren’t rich enough to ever congeal anyway. So, while not as clinical as the Touch, the PAW 6000 will still serve great detail with its musicality, and it’ll be a treat to those who want a live-concert-like image, where instruments coalesce to form a great wall of sound.

The bass is where I think the PAW 6000 really finds its groove. It’s got a sub-bass lift that injects a good verve – a bounce – to tracks of any genre. Whether the timpani on Jennifer Hudson’s And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going or the kick drum on Anomalie’s New Space, this player uses the low-end to inject drama and dynamism, and it works especially well with IEMs that have dynamic drivers for their woofers. At the same time, though, it’s also a fairly quick bass that droops towards its upper-bass, so it doesn’t bleed into its midrange one bit. Again, there’s really no excess richness congealing instruments together. So, all it really contributes is a drive or a pump. I feel it’ll also benefit more middle-of-the-road in-ears that do not quite display flagship-tier extension down low. So, it’s a fun, gutsy, wholesome bass that’s kept in check at the same time.

This PAW 6000 possesses what I’d consider a clean, linear and unexaggerated midrange. Its delivery of vocals, horns and pianos tend to be – for lack of a better word – passive or impartial. It doesn’t boost the lower-mids for added smoke, nor does it cut them to boost clarity, which is what you want if you’re after an honest, transparent source. They’re not dull or blasé either, though. There’s a light glow or spread to them that comes from this player’s slightly more-intimate imaging. It lends the midrange a touch of pull when it comes to immersion. It imparts a bigness to them too, which contributes to musicality, even if it means it won’t separate as cleanly or layer with as much depth as its bigger brother. Still, this 6000’s main priority isn’t tube-like warmth or euphonic richness. It’s balancing resolution with integrity, which it does quite well.

In the highs, the PAW 6000 achieves the same level of refinement and grace that I described on both their S1 and Touch. It’s a smooth, sufficiently-gentle treble that nevertheless cuts and articulates with superb clarity, because of this source’s crisp, clean background. That blank canvas comes from the 6000’s palpable high-end extension, affording its capacity for air as well. Listening to Snarky Puppy’s cover of Don’t You Know, you get a clear overview of the space with nothing lost to roll-off. Then, the hi-hats and cymbals, though on the gentle, lightly-feathered side, cut through with ease. Again, it is not a player that emphasises or colours for energy. But, what it does do is facilitate that natural-sounding treble with a clean slate underneath, so it doesn’t come off veiled. In stereo separation, depth and tactility – how high rim shots and hi-hats leap off the screen – it’s a ways away from the Touch. But, for the price, the PAW 6000 is as close as you can get to studio.

Balanced vs. Single-Ended

Between this device’s single-ended and balanced outputs, Lotoo have again done an admirable job minimising any sorts of differences or contrasts. If I were to nitpick, I wanna say there’s a smidgeon more treble sparkle on the 3.5mm output, while the balanced circuit is a tad more measured and relaxed. And, there’s perhaps a bit more vividness to instruments as well, while the single-ended output’s less dynamic. But, again, this’s all small enough to count as placebo. So, whether you’ve got a single-ended or a balanced cable, you should not be concerned about getting the best out of the PAW 6000.

EFX

PMEQ

Lotoo’s players have always been renowned for their effective EQ’s, but their most recent iterations in the Touch and the PAW 6000 have been particularly excellent. They allow for palpable tone-shaping without any audible artefacts, which is already a step above most of their competitors. They have high specificity as well, allowing you to determine not only the frequency and amplitude, but the bandwidth and filter type too. Finally, as someone who’s worked with a fair number of professional-grade EQ’s in the past, this interface Lotoo’ve gone with to present PMEQ is instantly familiar as well. Bravo.

Image courtesy of Lotoo.cn

Now, I do have a few issues with PMEQ. The first of which is its ease-of-use for non-audio-professionals. There’re a good number of terms in there that may be confusing to your average consumer. For example, its filter types are abbreviated to HPF, LPF and BPF, instead of High-Pass Filter, Low-Pass Filter and Band-Pass Filter. I’ll attempt to summarise them briefly:

  • The HPF (High-Pass Filter) cuts out all the low frequencies. The frequency (Hz) you set will determine where that drop-off begins. And, the Q (or Q-factor) you set will determine how steep that drop off is.
  • The LPF (Low-Pass Filter) cuts out all the high frequencies. The frequency (Hz) you set will determine where that drop-off begins. And, the Q (or Q-factor) you set will determine how steep that drop off is.
  • The BPF (Band-Pass Filter) creates either a hump or a dip anywhere in the frequency range. The frequency (Hz) you set will determine the centre of that change. And, the Q (or Q-factor) you set will determine how widely or narrowly it’ll spread.

Both the high-pass and low-pass filters are what I’d consider really strong filters. I don’t see any practical uses for either, unless you’re using the player for music production or experimentation. For most users, the band-pass filter would likely be the go-to. That is a more gentle, controllable EQ that, again, does its job without any significant artefacts or distortion.

Thankfully, PMEQ shows a visual representation of all the changes, so you should get an idea of how most of it functions just by tinkering around with it. But, it would definitely hand users more confidence (and inform them too) if these terms were explained on the DAP beforehand. Maybe, they could add a small button next to each setting that summons a pop-up screen explaining what it does. Again, like every change I’ve suggested so far, Lotoo could add that in a future update.

Accessing PMEQ is a bit of a mixed bag for me. Switching between EQ presets feels incredibly intuitive. All you have to do is click the rightmost, EFX button (the one with faders on it) on the bottom of the Now Playing screen. It’ll bring up a list of the default EQ presets, the ones you’ve already made, as well as OFF at the very top. One can even create what Lotoo call “schemes” consisting of only a specific group of presets, so you can determine which to have at your beck-and-call at any time. For example, I put the factory presets in a scheme called STOCK, then all the in-ear ones in a scheme called IEM, etc.

Now, my issue with PMEQ’s accessibility is when you want to create these presets in the first place. In order to do so, you have to head to Settings, then scroll down to EQ Settings, then go to PMEQ, then press the List icon on the top-right, then – finally – press Add. That feels very long-winded and convoluted to me. If it were up to me, instead of all that, I’d just have an extra option at the bottom of the EFX list called Add New… That way, you’re only two steps away from the Now Playing screen from adding a new, custom EQ preset. And, you can immediately return from it to the Now Playing screen as well.

ATE

ATE (or Acoustic Timbre Embellisher) is a form of DSP that’s not dissimilar to presets or filters. They’re quick fixes should you need to tweak this PAW 6000’s sound, but without going through the intricacies or specificities of PMEQ. You’ll get a total of 7 filters with the PAW 6000; the same as the flagship Touch. Here are quick descriptions of what each filter does:

Image courtesy of Lotoo.cn

Brighter: This filter cuts the upper-bass and low-mids for a cleaner, crisper, tighter tone; less warmth for a leaner sig. It doesn’t up the treble in any way, though, so it’s great if you wanna thin out your richer monitors without adding sparkle.

Sweet: Sweet creates almost a u-shaped response by pulling back the centre- and upper-mids. As a result, you get more distant-sounding instruments, which is ideal if you have IEMs that are too intimate-sounding or in-your-face. As I said on the Touch review, what’s hugely impressive here is this preset only alters the positioning of instruments, without turning them incoherent or unnaturally-toned. Again, I think it can be an extremely useful filter that’s seamless at the same time.

Dental: The – again – vaguely-named Dental works somewhat like a low-pass (or high-cut) filter. It shelves down the highs for a smoother, more relaxed sound, which, could be great if you have IEMs or tracks that feel hot or bright. It’s crucial to note that shelving down the treble is different from rolling it off. It isn’t this exponential fall that entirely removes all cut. It’s an even toning-down that sits this treble a tad further back, but with all its air intact. Again, it’s very tasteful and viable.

Style 701: This filter, as I theorised on my Touch review, was modelled after AKG’s legendary K701 headphones, and you can certainly hear its influence here. It’s essentially a mid-bass cut, and it noticeably drops warmth and punch. So far, it’s the least natural or linear of the filters I’ve tried, but it could be good if you have an in-ear with a specific mid-bass bump.

Style 990: Now, the Style 990 could very well be the Beyerdynamic DT990 equivalent of that filter above, and the timbre it brings could be summarised as muffled. It flattens everything above the mid-bass, allowing that lower-end to truly shine. But, similar to Sweet, it’s done in a way that’s natural and un-invasive; surely less coloured than the Style 701 filter. I really enjoy it with JH Audio’s Jolene if I want to hand it a tube-like tonality, and I can see this one pairing well with neutral IEMs.

Diffuse field (near-field): This filter tightens the stereo image, so it doesn’t span as deep or wide. It’s far from becoming mono, but the image does narrow noticeably. It is likely gonna be a filter only engineers will use, or nostalgic audiophiles who wanna emulate systems of the past that weren’t as spatially-capable. Still, this’s a nifty feature to have if you need it.

Diffuse field (far-field): The far-field type of this filter seems to simulate the proximity effect to some degree. It pictures the listener took a few steps back, which reduces mid-bass warmth and centre-mid density. It falls into the K701 camp to me. I feel it’s less natural or viable overall. But, who knows? Someone may own an IEM that it pairs with surprisingly well.

Noise Floor and Power

Empire Ears Phantom

As usual, the in-ear I’m using to test this PAW 6000’s noise floor would be Empire Ears’ incredibly-sensitive Phantom, and the DAP’s performance here is nothing short of exceptional. On low gain, hiss is virtually non-existent, and it betters the Touch’s noise floor by a notable margin. That’s true in both balanced and single-ended modes. The Touch does do better in high gain, though. It’s quieter than the 6000 through both outputs here. But, you’re probably going to use the low-gain mode with sensitive in-ears anyway. So, even with your most hiss-prone gear, this PAW 6000 will soar with flying colours.

64 Audio A18t

With an “average” load like 64 Audio’s A18t, this PAW 6000 pushes without breaking a sweat. A volume level of 35 out of 100’s all I need to get decent listening loudness. And, as I alluded to in the Sound Impression above, I find the 6000 gifts a calmness to it, complementing its often-stimulated tone, with very little knocks (relative to flagship DAPs) to imaging too.

Vision Ears ELYSIUM

On the farthest end of the spectrum, Vision Ears’ ELYSIUM is the benchmark when it comes to this PAW 6000’s power. To my surprise, it actually performs decently well. It gives the monitor great punch and dynamics, especially in its acclaimed midrange. This player’s slightly sweeter, warmer tilt also makes it a stronger match than the PAW Gold Touch to my ears. A weakness I’d cite would be in image size. It doesn’t get as out-of-head as the Touch, nor does it come close to the depth or height of an amp like SMSL’s SP200. But, for a device at its price, at a volume of 47 out of 100, it does surprisingly well.


Page 1: Introduction, Unboxing and Accessories, Build and Physical Controls
Page 2: GUI and Presentation, Navigation, Connectivity and Storage, Battery Life
Page 3: Sound Impressions, EFX, Noise Floor and Power
Page 4: Select Comparisons, Verdict

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Deezel

Deezel

Church-boy by day and audio-obsessee by night, Daniel Lesmana’s world revolves around the rhythms and melodies we lovingly call: Music. When he’s not behind a console mixing live for a congregation of thousands, engineering records in a studio environment, or making noise behind a drum set, you’ll find him on his laptop analysing audio gear with fervor and glee. Now a specialist in custom IEMs, cables and full-sized headphones, he’s looking to bring his unique sensibilities - as both an enthusiast and a professional - into the reviewer’s space; a place where no man has gone before.

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