Upgrade which should be considered
Does the V6 makes the Playmate perfect? Nope, but it does widens the horizons of the Playmate.
Last time I reviewed the Playmate I was slightly thin on options, now I have a couple more options to compare.
VS EARMEN TR-AMP ($250):-
TR amp is a very similar sounding DAC/AMP which has the same DAC chip coupled with an TPA6120 amp. There are some basic differences in the specs, the smaller DAC/AMP has Native DSD support of 128 times only where as the Playmate has DSD 512 support and the PCM support is half of Playmate at 384khz. The Playmate is around 5 times more powerful than the TR-amp. The biggest difference is input options, the TR-amp has only USB input and has a battery life of around 10hrs. Both the headphone sockets can be used at the same time. There is no Mic option.
With the V6 the Playmate is much closer to the TR-amp’s sound signature, the only difference in signature is with the notes weight and dampness of the V6 vivid. The TR-amp is slightly more agile and sharper. The bass region is bigger with volume and marginally faster with decay. Mid range is much closer to the 5532 than V6, sharper and more analytical, same goes for vocals too. Instruments have more attack and sharper finish to them. Treble region is not as expanded or holographic as the Playmate. The layering and separation is not as good either. Both are very technical but the slightly sharper notes presentation of the TR-amp gives a sense of better transparency.
The stage size of the Playmate is considerably bigger than the TR-Amp, it is nearly 60-70% bigger with the V6 vivid. Where the V6 has deeper stage with very good width and height the TR amp is taller, compromising on depth.
It is tough to pick one, the Playmate is much more capable with imaging and stage size, both have similar amount of details but the notes presentation is different. The Playmate X V6 vivid is not very contrasty where the TR-amp has better contrast, closer to the Playmate with NE5532.
VS CREATIVE E5 ($200):-
The E5 is my oldest DAC/AMP. It is not a very technical sound DAC/AMP anymore, the Playmate with V6 vivid takes it down fair and square when it comes to details and technical abilities. The sound signature of the E5 is more colored too but the E5 is a lot more versatile, it can work as an USB host, use it in line-in mode, as a DAC/AMP, turn on the BT and stream your music or use it for gaming without any additional hardware and the 3000mah battery is good for 10 hours of usage.
. What the E5 has on its side is the musical touch, the bass is much more voluminous, there is more air and the rumble and slam are more enjoyable. Decay speed is slower. Mid bass is more prominent too. Mid range is less detailed and micro details are not in par. Vocals are slightly blunt and lush, the bite with instruments is gone too. Upper mid is lacking forwardness and energy and the clarity is not there. Treble region doesn’t feel as defined or resolving either, the spark and energy is missing with higher frequencies. The stage size is nearly half in size of the Playmate.
The dynamic range, sonicality and technical abilities are good but belongs to a league few notch below the Playmate. The micro details have the same situation.
The stock NE5532 dual channel op-amps are not bad at all but it restricts the playmate in a few ways. NE5532 lacks extension at both the ends, the bass sounds clumsy and less dynamic and same goes for treble. The treble region feels very limited when it comes to stage presence.
The V6 vivid is not a very analytical OP-amp but a much more neutral and a more musical one. It unleashes a few tied ends of the Playmate. It is a very good add-on to the already fantastic sounding Playmate, upgrades the sound without breaking the bank.
Is it flawless? No, it can be better but I barely have any complains about the sound quality now.