So May ended, which, alas, did not pamper us this year with warm sunny days. Well, hopefully, a new review on Audio-ph.ru will be able to warm the frozen hearts of audiophiles.
But for starters, our little everlasting prologue. Recently, we met with a whole galaxy of miniature devices from iBasso (DC01 / DC02) and xDuoo (Link), etc.. which can turn any smartphone into a full-fledged audio player and give a lot of pleasure from listening in good quality to your favorite music. This time we were visited by an extremely interesting DAC / AMP - PAW S1 from the well-known and beloved Lotoo brand, beloved by many audiomaniacs. I won’t let the fog in and I’ll say right away that this kid was able to impress me not only with its compactness and prominent exterior, but also with the main thing - the sound. Honestly, I did not expect such a sound level from such a tiny portable device.
Well, let's talk more about the PAW S1, it definitely deserves it.
Text: Alexey Kashirskey (aka Hans Barbarossa)
Thanks to Lotoo for providing the test sample.
Dac chip: AKM437
Supported Format: PCM 32K-384KHz DSD64/DSD128
Max Output: 3.5mm:70mW/ch @32Ω
HP Port: 3.5mm Unbalanced
Freq. range: 3.5mm: 20-20KHz..+0/-0.017dB
USB Port: USB Type C
Noise Level: 3.5mm: -118dBu
Screen: OLED 128x32
THD+N.. Low gain: -106dB(0.0005%)
High gain: -108dB(0.0004%)
S/N: 3.5mm: 123dB
Appearance and kit
Lotoo PAW S1 comes in a small stylish black cardboard box. On its front side there is a photo of the device, the name of the model, a round sticker indicating the presence of a balanced Pentaconn connector, as well as the “profession”: portable USB DAC amplifier. Detailed specifications are painted on the back. Inside, in addition to the PAW S1 itself, we find a short USB type-C / USB type-C cable for connecting S1 to a smartphone (the smartphone, as you know, must have a type-C connector), a USB adapter from type-C to type- A (for connecting to a PC), warranty booklet and user manual.
Externally, PAW S1 resembles a tiny rectangular MP3-player with a neat elongated display and three buttons on the side. The design is rigorous, clearly Nordic, but we’ll find out later what our device character - restrained northern or rugged southern - will be later revealed. In the meantime, we return to the inspection. The sleek black case made of anodized aluminum has dimensions of 66 mm x 22 mm x 13 mm and weighs only 27 grams.
On the front side is located, as already mentioned, a monochrome OLED display. Under it is the brand logo. The back side contains a sticker with a barcode and serial number, model name, information about the plant and the country of manufacture.
At the top there is a USB type-C connector, into which we insert a cable at one end, and connect it to the smartphone with the other. In addition to this cable, Lotoo manufactures its proprietary USB-C / Lightning cable (purchased separately) for PAW S1 communication with the iPhone. The bottom end contains two headphone outputs: 4.4 mm Pentaconn (balanced) and 3.5 mm (normal).
Three buttons are located on the right side of the device: “Fn” - switching the menu, “+” and “-”, which, in addition to adjusting the volume, are responsible for moving around the device’s menu.
Lotoo PAW S1 does not have a battery, but it doesn’t need it, since it is powered by a sound source: a smartphone or a computer. The device does not require the installation of special drivers and in Plug & Play mode it easily connects to devices on any OS (Android, iOS, Windows or macOS). Personally, when I connect S1 to my Huawei P20 Pro smartphone, I use the USB Audio Player PRO (UAPP) software player, and when I connect to my laptop I use foobar 2000.
It also has PMEQ / ATE, an equalizer with many presets (Jazz, Rock, Classic, Game, Movie, Radio, etc.) and switching the power level of Gain: High / Low. Just press the "Fn" button and select the settings you need. In general, if you like to lose with ready-made equalizer settings, then there is something to occupy yourself with. But personally, I always turn off all such features.
Built S1 on the AKM437 DAC chip from Asahi Kasei Microdevices and the OPA1622 op amp. If I'm not mistaken, then PAW S1 is the only device in such a tiny, "nano" -size, which in addition to the DAC chip also uses a separate operational amplifier. The rest, as I recall, have on board combined chips "two in one": DAC / amplifier.
Power S1 is 120 mW at 32 Ohms (per channel), which allows it to easily cope with any IEMs and most full-size headphones, with the exception of high-impedance models, and very "tight", magnetically planar models with low sensitivity. However, with such a difficult task, rarely does a powerful DAP cope, not just such a kid.
Summing up the first part of the review, I note that Lotoo engineers never disappointed me, and this time again I see how much effort and effort has been put into the product, and the task in this case was seriously complicated by the miniature size of the device. But no, here we do not see any compromises - S1 is packed in full.
And now it's time to figure out what exactly in terms of sound can offer us a small DAC / AMP with such a cool "stuffing".
Listening was conducted with IEM/Headphones: 64 AUDIO A18, 64 AUDIO A12t, Vision Ears VE8, Vision Ears VE4.2, FIR M5, BGVP DMS, InEar SD-2, PP8, ProMission X, Beyerdynamic DT1350 & Phonon SMB-02.
Sources of digital signal: Huawei P20 Pro smartphone, ASUS VivoBook Pro laptop, xDuoo X10T II digital transport.
With all the IEM/headphones, the device played more than worthily, without experiencing any difficulties with the variety of music genres offered to it.
The sound of Lotoo PAW S1 is well balanced, smooth, with good detail, without pronounced peaks and dips, excessive aggression or distortion. The sound has a natural "skin tone", where each sound has its own weight. The musical picture is drawn in a neutral manner, with a harmonious and proportionate rendering of micro and macro nuances.
The virtual sound stage is medium in size, quite spaciously built in width and slightly less in depth. Sound sources are precisely placed in space. S1 has a good tonal balance, delivering all the sound material cleanly, with proper expression, comfortable, but honestly, without too much coloring.
The bass is neutral, biting, calibrated and well controlled. Here, just a little lacks massiveness, but in general, everything is very good. Quantitatively, it is not much, but there are no complaints about the quality of mining. Here there is an exact hit, and relief, and decent speed characteristics, and a good, taking into account the device class, texture transfer. In fact, for these sizes, DAC / AMP is an amazing result. The midbass area is neatly forced, which allows us to talk about a comfortable, slightly warm, plastic and very musical manner.
The mid-frequency range is presented cleanly, distinctly and smoothly, with good detail and decent resolution. Sincerity is above all, and this gives the result in the form of incredible melody. String instruments sound very naturalistic, where each pinch and touch of the strings are clearly drawn. Vocal parts sound lively and expressive.
Here, a balance so pleasant to me has been reached between refined emotionality and a reasonable neutral manner. Any musical genre will sound as comfortable, detailed and very melodic as possible.
High frequencies do not excite the ear with excessive sharpness, they are transmitted very accurately, neutrally, legibly and in detail. There are not many and not few, as many as needed. They are not rude, everything is served quite cleanly, smoothly and comfortably. Yes, there is a slight simplification in this register, but for a budget device of such a small size, this is quite good. In general, Highs have a good resolution, served tactfully, adding contrast and airiness to the overall sound picture.
PAW S1 has wonderful “aristocratic” manners: it doesn't add anything extra to the sound and allows your IEM / Headphones to show their own voice.
Only really cool audio sources can boast of such quality. By the way, it is worth noting the complete absence in the sound of dirt and any distortion.
So, I can confidently say that Lotoo PAW S1 was a success. To this kid, by and large, there is nothing to complain about, and there is no reason to. The device immediately captivates with its “mature” and pleasant sound, lays out the sound palette cleanly and skillfully, has a stylish, concise design, and its size allows you to put S1 in your shirt pocket, or take it with you for a run, go in for sports, anywhere. Do not forget about the presence of two headphone outputs: balanced 4.4 mm, regular 3.5 mm, as well as compatibility with all OS without any problems.
And the development of modern streaming services (Tidal, Spotify, Deezer, etc.) makes such “plugs” an ideal addition to a smartphone or laptop. In my opinion, the PAW S1 is the best miniature device I have ever tested.
The price of the novelty is also pleasing. Lotoo PAW S1 will be available for $ 165.
Responsibly declare that this is one of the most profitable options for converting money into high-quality sound.
Sound, design, size, price.