Luxury Precision W2

DAC Chip: Cirrus Logic CS43198 (Dual)
PCM 32bit – 384kHz DSD256, SNR: -131db, Power: 230 mW, USB Type-C Female, 4.4mm BAL & 3.5mm SE (Microphone: NO), Metal Chassis & 2 USB Cables


LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING


💚PROS

  • Reference grade, pristine balanced neutral flat timbre
  • Vibrant, coherent dynamics, full bodied, very smooth airy presentation
  • Exceedingly well nuanced Micro and Macro details, very transparent
  • Balanced Mids with detailed textures and definition, naturally toned Male/Female vocals
  • Rich sparkly Treble with smooth decays, great extensions
  • Smooth impactful Mid-Bass, tight, fast with crisp decays
  • Sub-Bass with deep seismic response, natural decays.
  • Crisp and realistic guitars, piano, percussions (chimes, bells) and drums and taps
  • Great holographic spatial imaging with sharp precise placement/layers
  • Amazing speed and dexterity on complex passages and transients
  • Super clean background, zero floor noises
  • Super clean layers, razor edged separation lines
  • Drives Magnetic Planars and BA at 75/100 volume, great fidelity
  • Does not heat up easily
  • Superb EQ, SPDIF, Filters and User Selectable Gain
  • Very useful and refined volume adjustments

💔CONS

  • Driving power for great fidelity maxed out at 91db sensitivity.
  • Not forgiving on Lo-Fi sources or recordings, super revealing
  • Officially the heaviest Dongle tested so far
  • A bit tricky to get it work properly on iPhones, may distort
  • Single Ended output not on par with the 4.4mm performance
  • Lean sounding driving demanding Magnetic Planars compared to top 3 performers

VERDICT

Luxury & Precision W2. This is a flagship DAC/Amp Dongle designed from the ground up destined to be a fine bespoke specimen. Everything about it shouts quality and precision. Simply beautiful. There’s a wealth of options that will make any mid-tiered DAP blush. SPDIF, EQ, Filters, Gain Selection etc. Not forgetting the intricate power circuitry that individually serve the dual CS DACs and Amp stage. This is a micro DAP any which way I looked at it. The sound is utterly natural and neutral with great fidelity that is definitely reference grade. W2 is an upgrade over Lotoo PAW S1 assuredly, PAW S1 losing it by being a bit more laid back and lean sounding in contrast. Compared to Astell & Kern PEE51, W2 made PEE51 seemingly colored with that super euphonic signature and energetic timbre. But then I don’t really see this as being a negative as they are meant to cater for different tastes and varying synergies. There’s no right or wrong.

W2 passed the FOSTEX T40RP MK3 91db Magnetic Planar brutal test (Balanced, High Gain) . It does need the volume to be cranked all the way to 75-80/100. But once desired loudness has been set, the output is great. However it is not as meaty and wholesome as how it was with Ovidius B1, Hidizs S9, S9 Pro and hiliDAC Audirect BEAM 2S. While fidelity is great and refined, vibrancy was mildly laid back compared to the other 4 top performers. Timbre coherence and stability is top notch, devoid of any signs of distortion or jitters even subjected to very heavy load. This is a great option for those preferring smooth neutral output from their planars.

Etymotic ER4SR (Balanced, High Gain). My favorite BA sounded truly Hi-Fi with W2. That polished smoothness complementing ER4SR technical characteristics exceedingly well. The best part, despite being highly resolving, both the source and IEM does not sound sterile and dry as how I heard it when paired with some ESS or Cirrus based DACs (HiBy FC3, Hidizs S3 Pro, Zorloo Ztella, JM20, Cayin N6ii E02, Topping D10s). W2 was able to strike a true neutral output with ER4SR to make any Diffused Field Sound fans proud.

VE Asura 2.0 (Balanced, High Gain) on the other hand is almost like a contrast to the performance exhibited by ER4SR. While both being highly technical and fast, audibly the overall tone is warmer on the Asura especially with very lush and rich mids. I can literally feel Diana Krall’s sexy voice engulfing me with velvety sensation. This is a super combo to enjoy Mids focused presentation. It is just breathtaking, silky smooth yet still very technical and with agility. W2 and Asura does seem to be a match made in heaven.

Moondrop Aria & HZSOUND Heart Mirror (Single Ended, High Gain, FAST Filter). I was taken aback by what I heard from Aria. Bass responses were audibly slow despite being well controlled and textured. This may appeal to those who prefer their Bass indulgence slow-cooked, but not me. The rest of the spectrum are just okay-ish, I have heard the best performance of Aria when paired with Zorloo Ztella. Similarly the normally fast and sparkly Heart Mirror exhibited mildly subdued output. There’s smoothness and refinement but I have heard better from Heart Mirror paired with a dozen other Dongles. If I am to draw conclusions on this, I think W2 is not as highly optimized for Single Ended use because the Balanced Port definitely sounds a lot better to my ears. And all these were done with the fastest filter profile available for W2.

Ultra-Critical Tests #donglemadness Top Performers

IEM: ETYMOTIC ER4SR (98db, 45Ω )
Source: Windows 10, Native Windows USB Drivers
Ovidius B1: (Single Ended 3.5mm) Adaptive Gain
L&P W2: (Balanced 4.4mm) High Gain
ZOOAUX: (Single Ended 3.5mm) Fixed Gain
EQ: Always Off

ZOOAUX vs L&P W2 vs Ovidius B1 (6 passes for each Dongles)


DIANA KRALL – “CALIFORNIA DREAMING” (24BIT/48KHZ) FLAC

  • W2 (Vol 52/100), ZOOAUX (Vol 32/100), B1 (Vol 14/100)
  • Micro Details W2 equal ZOOAUX. B1 slightly more pronounced
  • Crisper Piano tone on B1, W2 and ZOOAUX equal
  • Shorter decays on ZOOAUX, Slightly longer on W2 and B1
  • Intimate Mids on ZOOAUX & B1, W2 slightly spaced back
  • Overall timbre: W2 & B1 slightly warmer, ZOOAUX neutral
  • Timbre coherence equal on all three
  • Background on silent passages equal for all three

ALISON KRAUSS “GOODBYE IS ALL WE HAVE” (16BIT/44KHZ)

  • W2 (Vol 56/100), ZOOAUX (Vol 32/100), B1 (Vol 14/100)
  • Overall timbre W2 and B1 equal, ZOOAUX very slightly brighter
  • W2 Mids spaced back 1 step, B1 & ZOOAUX equally intimate
  • Timbre coherence equal on all three
  • Everything else performed equally (timbre, transparency, details, speed, soundstage, imaging & extensions)

In addition to my own tests, I decided to extend it further and asked the help of two members from ChiFi Audio Reviews FB group. Edmund Chan and Syazwan. Edmund being a seasoned Audiophile highly respected in the Malaysian Audio scene, He is a crew of AudioMonsta Malaysia. Syazwan on the other hand, is a freshly made Audiophile and I opted to ask him to share his impressions as well. This way I am able to gauge the perspective from both end of the spectrum = seasoned and fresh perspective.

Luxury & Precision W2 is undoubtedly a stellar performer. The sound is well within reference grade quality. However to fully enjoy W2, it is a must to use the Balanced 4.4mm port. I am not impressed with the subdued performance of the Single Ended option.


⭐⭐⭐⭐½ ($300.00)

Best Pairing: Flexible for anything with no less than 91db of sensitivity.

Back to #donglemadness

4 Comments

  1. Hi, Andy. I wonder why W2 can’t join the five-star group. Price? Drive? Or is it not your preferred neutral sound quality? Thank you.

    Like

    1. W2 is a great neutral sounding unit. But then so does Ovidius B1, E1DA 9038SG3 and S9 Pro. In fact it was audible to my ears in my extensive test that Ovidius B1 and S9 Pro offered better technical prowess compared to W2. On the other aspect of it, W2 does not perform as great when subjected to heavier load like the rest of the 5 stars. The tuning optimization for W2 seems to only focus on an already highly efficient IEMs between 8-32 Ohms. When I used it for more demanding Balanced Armatures or Magnetic Planars, the sound was leaner compared to the top 3 contenders. So all this considered I do not see W2 as a 5 stars performer

      Liked by 1 person

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