I would like to thank Lotoo and Andrew from MusicTeck for providing the LPG in return for my honest opinion.

Lotoo made quite the introduction in the portable audio industry with the Lotoo Paw Gold (LPG), a unique player with a relatively compact, but particularly robust body. The LPG quickly became a critically acclaimed player despite the lack of a touchscreen, which was slowly becoming the norm. However, the responsiveness and speed of the UI, and most of all its sonic ability of course, was sufficient for most audiophiles to overcome the miss. In fact, when switching between different albums or tracks the LPG’s UI was quicker than that of the Astell & Kern AK380 Cu, my other player at the time.

The choice not to include a touchscreen encompassed a variety of key aspects, such as keeping the software relatively simple, quick, and stable. But one of primary reasons was most likely in order to keep the price down, which might sound ridiculous for some with an introductory price of roughly $2K. Nevertheless, it was a grand success at the time. But in an evolving market where consumers are increasingly demanding and even in lower segments the vast majority of the competition integrates a touchscreen in their design, Lotoo probably realized that a touchscreen was inevitable.

Subsequently, the all new Lotoo Paw Gold Touch (LPGT) not only features a touchscreen, but proudly incorporates it in its name. The LPGT has grown slightly in its dimensions, as well as matured in its sound. For while the general tone of its predecessor still resonates in the new LPGT, it’s a somewhat different sound in a number of areas, especially when it comes to its forwardness and (treble) energy. Where the LPG’s charm perhaps lied in its somewhat explosive character, especially compared to the relatively laidback AK380cu I owned, the LPGT retains the LPG’s more or less neutral tonality, while evolving into a smoother, more elegant variant.

Build and UI

If you ask an owner of the original LPG to summarize its build in one sentence, chances are it will be phrased as ‘built like a tank’. To say it was sturdy was an understatement. I unfortunately dropped it once or twice; unfortunate for the floor that is, as both times resulted in a dent in the floor, and zero impact on the player. The LPGT again is built formidably. It might not have the suave of my A&K Ultima Cu in terms of elegance, but it doesn’t make any attempt to do so. The design is simple but functional, and especially durable. It’s somewhat heavy in the hand, but it’s a reassuring weight that demonstrates solidity. The gold volume wheel up top is a singular frivolous ornament, in tradition of its predecessor.

Another characteristic that has remained is the lightning quick speed with which the LPGT starts up: roughly 2 seconds after firing it up, it’s good to go – by contrast, I feel my life slowly draining away while waiting for the SP1000 to wake up; it takes roughly ~15 seconds, which feels endless by comparison. The LPGT also powers down pretty quickly during inactivity to save energy, but this can be configured in the settings. Overall, the UI is relatively simple to figure out and adjust to. The start screen provides six options to go to playlists, albums, tracks, folders, artists or settings. For people that sort their music properly the menu will work flawlessly, but I have to admit that my library is not as meticulously organized, as I have simply always ordered and navigated through my music via folder. However, I can attest that making playlists is fairly intuitive. In its essence, the UI is pretty much as you would expect in terms of overall ease, and more importantly, has been extremely stable and flawless so far.

Even so, I still find my SP1000’s UI a bit more effortless for several reasons: the LPGT does not have a home button to instantly return back to the playing track, nor a drop down menu to quickly adjust options or navigate to them. The second is that while the 3+1 configuration of side buttons is slightly better to use blindly than the Sony WM1Z’s 5 buttons in a row, which was simply impossible to operate blindly, it is still fairly difficult to do so. As I most commonly listen to music on the go, the player is nearly always in my jacket pocket. So for me personally this is a relatively important design feature for players, but users that primarily listen within the confines of their home will probably not notice it. Another important and somewhat surprising characteristic is that the LPGT still does not have any on board storage space, but solely works with full size SD cards.

EQ

Finally, an essential feature to discuss is the LPGT’s EQ. I personally don’t use EQ very actively, although I occasionally do find it useful. But for those that do EQ is potentially an extremely important feature, and can even be a top priority when choosing a player. Being able to precisely adjust frequencies can aid engineers with fine-tuning a track, or even the design process of IEMs. But for the majority of casual audiophiles it is mostly a practical aid in perfecting an iem with a final touch, such as smoothing out a slightly harsh treble, adding some body to the midrange, or providing an extra little kick down low.

The original LPG’s EQ was of outstanding quality, perhaps even one of the most effective of in its range. Its parametric 5-band EQ allowed the user to precisely select a certain frequency along with the desired gain. Its main issue was that its effectiveness seemed to be matched by the tediousness of the process – this was one of the areas where a touchscreen seemed inevitable.  The LPGT’s EQ seems more or less carried over from the LPG. It offers a wide variety of presets, both PMEQ and ATE, which clearly affect the output and can be advantageous for different genres.

The downside however is that manually altering frequencies remains cumbersome to use: you still have to go through a manual and serial process of selecting the frequency with arrow buttons instead of just adjusting a chart, which is more intuitive and quicker to use. This implementation hinders the ease of use, which is a bit of a miss. But for those that know what they need to adjust to fine-tune a sound it remains a particularly effective tool.

Sound impressions

The original LPG was a unique player in all kind of regards; not only due to its form factor, screen size and UI, but especially its excellent sound – at least in the opinion of its fans, myself including. Lotoo presented the LPG as a ‘reference’ player designed for professionals in the audio industry, but it was quickly adopted and adored by the audiophile community. Be that as it may, I never viewed the LPG as reference; its sound signature was pretty far from flat. In fact, I would argue that that’s exactly what made it so exciting.

Personally, I would describe the LPG’s signature as a pronounced ‘W-shape’. Down low, it had a little boost in the sub-bass region, which granted a certain authority to its bass region. But its most characteristic features were the forwardness of its (lower) midrange and mid-treble peak. The LPG’s lower to center midrange was particularly forward, which provided a significant amount of body and density to vocals. In addition, it resulted in a particularly deep rather than wide stage. As a result of the mid-treble peak in turn, its overall sound resonated with great clarity, while a pronounced touch of sparkle gave it an exciting touch. This gave the LPG two special features: it worked especially well for iems that were either lean or warm.

The reason for going into detail about the original LPG, is to describe where the LPGT is coming from, to where it ended. To summarize the LPG, I would have liked to use the word ‘combustious’: an explosive concoction where a lot of energy seems to be compressed into a compact form factor. But much to my dismay, such a word does not exist – yet. But in the cumbustiousness of the LPG equally lied its weakness. The LPG was a bit of an unpolished diamond for sensitive listeners due its treble presentation, while its separation was not as effortless as the premium A&K players or Sony WM1Z. With the new LPGT, Lotoo seems to deliver on its original promise: this is a true reference player in optima forma.

Lotoo’s intention for the LPGT shines through from the initial moment of listen: a linear signature that provides minimal coloration in tone, and an especially smooth treble reproduction. Down low, the LPGT seems to have sacrificed a little bit of the LPG’s sub-bass rumble for a neutral bass presentation that neither under- or overemphasizes the IEM’s natural bass inclination. In other words, the LPGT will output a nice sense of impact with bass-heavy IEMs as the Legend-X, but will not necessarily give an additional boost to lighter IEMs as the NT6. Of note is that the quality of bass is relatively high. In terms of speed, definition and separation of bass lines, the LPGT performs more than adequately. In addition, the tone of the mid-bass is relatively neutral, rather than warm.

Accordingly, the midrange itself is not particularly warm. The lack of brightness seems to implicate a sense of warmth, although this really isn’t the case. The midrange is especially smooth, but simply lacks any form of coloration. This doesn’t mean it sounds sterile by any means, for there is an overall sense of accuracy in its instrument tone, as well as naturalness in its vocal presentation. Similarly, the upper midrange allows for a lively reproduction of acoustic guitars and synthetic melodies, while retaining a smooth character. The primary difference with the LPG however lies in the forwardness of the midrange. Where the LPG put vocals in the spotlight by adding a significant amount of body and density, the LPGT’s midrange remains very linear. It sounds neither lean nor forward, but proposes a balanced solution that remains close to the IEM’s signature.

The overall smoothness of the LPGT’s presentation can be traced back to its treble: the second area where the LPGT diverges most clearly from its predecessor. One of the charms of the LPG was that it could shine: it had a delightfully crisp touch of sparkle that really brought the treble to life. That is, for those that didn’t have any problems with it. The downside however was that it could be a little too much for our treble-sensitive friends. I remember back when Zeus-XIV was launched two of my closest associates, who both used the LPG, were complaining about Zeus’ top-end; but I maintained the LPG’s treble was just as much the culprit as Zeus’ 12 KHz peak. Lotoo ‘fixed’ this issue with the LPGT; it will tolerate a bit of sparkle, but there’s a clear sense of maturity in the way it is presented. It’s a well-defined and detailed treble, but the emphasis is centered on control and quality, rather than brightness.

Finally, the LPGT delivers a technical performance that matches its price tag. For when looking at its resolution and transparency, the LPGT doesn’t make any concessions to its premier competitors; the WM1Z and SP1000. In terms of staging, the LPGT is competitive, though not extraordinary. That is, its overall dimensions have improved when compared to the LPG, especially in width, although I might give the slightest edge to the WM1Z and SP1000. Even so, its imaging for instance is more precise than that of the SP1000 Cu, as is the stability of its background blackness. Especially in balanced mode, the LPGT constructs a precisely demarcated, three-dimensional stage with a relatively effortless separation. So even if the A&K might have a slightly larger stage, the LPGT’s is greater in quality. As a sidenote, I have been listening mostly in balanced mode. The difference with its single end is not as great as with the WM1Z for instance, although it does provide a slightly larger stage.

Comparisons

I’ve always been a man of few daps, so I unfortunately do not have a lot in my arsenal to compare. I would definitely recommend taking a look at Twister6’ review of the LPGT for a wealth of information on technical specifications, pair ups and comparisons, as well as a different point of view of course. In addition, our own Deezel will be following up with his own perspective of the LPGT shortly. In this section I will focus on a comparison with my alternate player, the SP1000 Cu. In addition, I will make a brief comparison with its other main competitor, the WM1Z. This will be from memory unfortunately, so take it with the necessary grains of salt.

Astell & Kern Ultima SP1000 Copper
Love or hate them, the A&K players remain unparalleled in their design. I’ve yet to see a player that remotely resembles the class of the high-end A&K players, at least in my opinion. The AK380 and SP1000 are both stunning players to behold, and feel sturdy in the hand. Even so, that sturdy feel does not necessarily translate to build quality, as enough people have experienced technical deficiencies throughout the years, including myself. The LPGT’s design does not exude much ambition, but it can fall back on the stellar reputation of the LPG when it comes to durability. And personally, I value its simple design over a failed attempt of something trying to be grandiose.

In terms of practical use, the A&K and LPGT each have their respective pros and cons. As mentioned in the introduction, two major advantages of the LPGT are its quick start-up time and effective EQ. The A&K’s EQ is easy to access and adjust, but its effectiveness is marginal at best. It can make minor adjustments to the sound, but fails to make a significant impact when required, and often leaves me wanting. Its ease of use however should serve as an example to the LPGT, which is quite a pain to manually adjust, but can have a profound effect. In addition, the LPGT offers a variety of presets, so it’s not at a complete loss in terms of usability. Another important factor is battery life, but I couldn’t point at a winner with any certainty. I’d say both are more or less even, but I have to admit I haven’t paid much attention to the exact duration.

Their most important feature of course is their sound. In short, in overall performance and enjoyability I have come to appreciate the LPGT as an equal – I can take either on the road without missing the other. The primary difference between the two is their tone. I have a preference for a slightly warmer tone, and the SP1000 Cu delivers with excellence. The SP1000 Cu’s tone is exceedingly natural, and simply beautiful to my ears. Even so, the natural tone, resounding from an enhanced and warm mid-bass, affects the SP1000’s transparency. In addition, the midrange itself is slightly laidback, while its imaging is not very precise. So from the start, it’s always produced a somewhat polarizing sound for me with major strengths and weakness; its technical performance in terms of transparency and imaging leaves something to be desired.

By comparison, the LPGT is decisively more neutral in tone. The SP1000 Cu has a beautiful coloration, but coloration nonetheless. The LPGT seems to remain truer the original production of the track, as well the IEM’s signature. Even so, it does so in a tasteful, enjoyable manner. For example, even though the SP1000 Cu is warmer, it isn’t smoother – I would classify both players as particularly smooth. So the LPGT will resonate closer with listeners that prefer an uncolored sound. In addition, its staging is a little bit more precise, while it improves in transparency. The relative strength of the A&K in turn lies in the extraordinary way it reproduces the timbre of say, an acoustic guitar.

Sony WM1Z
The philosophy behind Sony’s design is somewhat similar to the LPGT: straightforward and functional, excluding any unnecessary curvatures. Its gold-plated exterior however out-blings the LPGT’s simple design, although most people will keep theirs in a protective case. Due to the WM1Z’s heavy weight, it probably feels even sturdier than the LPGT; but I would consider them both to be exceptional in solidity when it comes to build, and similar in terms of design. Where the WM1Z is a certified ‘brick’, the LPGT’s lighter weight makes it a bit more practical.

The WM1Z’s main practical advantage is its extreme battery life: Sony players reside in a class of their own in that regard. The LPGT has a fairly standard battery life, which of course is no comparison. In terms of EQ, the Sony has its own qualms. The EQ is relatively effective and easy to use, but is severely limited by its non-adjustable 8 bands. In addition, boosting a certain range has a broad effect on its neighboring frequencies, so the EQ is not particularly precise. From memory, I would say its overall UI is as stable and intuitive as the LPGT’s.

The WM1Z of course has its own unique and rather pronounced sound; due to its enhanced mid-bass it is emphatically warm in tone, combined with a very black background. Accordingly, the WM1Z has often been classified as having a natural, ‘analogue’ sound. The WM1Z’s sound is certainly natural, and one of its primary strengths is its ability to make even bright iems as the DITA Dream and Rhapsodio Galaxy sound relatively smooth and natural. Even so, I personally found the dominant warmth in its tone limiting when it came to versatility over a wide range of music; it simply didn’t work for genres as pop or EDM that required a more lively upper-mid and treble presentation, at least for me.

Compared to the LPGT, the WM1Z’s mid-bass is more pronounced, resulting in a larger vocal and instrument presentation. In addition, its tone is significantly warmer. The LPGT has a more linear signature, bringing greater balance between the bass, midrange and treble. Accordingly, it is a more versatile all-rounder for a wide variety of genres, where the WM1Z can really shines for specific genres or certain IEMs. In terms of staging, the two are fairly similar. Comparing exact dimensions is a little bit tricky from memory (the WM1Z’s balanced mode might be a touch larger than that of the LPGT), but both convey a great sense of precision in their positioning, and overall high quality of focus and imaging. Their resolution may be roughly similar, but I would give the edge to the LPGT for transparency.

Conclusion

A few years back Lotoo made a grand entrance in a compact size. Despite its high price and lack of touchscreen, the LPG impressed with superior sonic ability. It sounded powerful, bold and energetic. Lotoo’s definition of ‘reference’ at the time. Although that specific definition didn’t align with mine, their take on sound reproduction did; the LPG was a perfect companion to my smoother, warmer, and calmer AK380 Cu. Its forward midrange and treble sparkle gave it specific qualities that could make various IEMs perform at their best.

The LPGT is the next step in its evolution: it shares similar DNA, such as the way its EQ is programmed to function, and the speed with which it turns on and stops. And in a more general sense, its overall tone. But at the same time it has grown, both physically and sonically. It’s larger in size, and finally has the desired touch screen. In addition, its sound has clearly matured. Where the LPG was energetic and in your face, the LPGT is controlled and reserved. It’s a refined sound, that impresses with its balance and performance. The LPGT’s sound is smooth yet engaging: a near-perfect execution of neutral.

So if one were to ask me whether the LPGT a clear step above its predecessor, my answer would be yes: over the board, the improved interface and refined presentation puts it ahead. But as often is the case, it comes with a caveat. How big this step is really depends on how much you value a touchscreen, and what kind of sonic character you’re looking for. I have to say, as much as I have grown to appreciate the LPGT, the LPG remains a guilty pleasure of sorts, and a treat to listen to. When looking at the bigger picture, the LPGT positions itself firmly between its main competitors. Its neutral but smooth tonality will be highly appealing to those valuing an uncolored sound, with its effective EQ as special weapon. If you really need one player to do it all, while averaging preference over all listeners, the LPGT is going to be hard to beat.


Lotoo Paw Gold Touch
MRSP: $3199

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