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WavPack support in hardware devices?

I think it would be nice to have a thread dedicated to the hardware support of WavPack. Virtually everything plays FLAC, and I've seen $30 devices that play APE, but finding WavPack in a list of formats is like winning the lottery, and you generally have to have won the lottery to afford the player!

If anyone has first-hand experience with a device doing WavPack playback or recording, please share a short review here. I'll start with two devices I have purchased in the last year or so that provide really great WavPack support.

Re: WavPack support in hardware devices?

Reply #1
Cowon Plenue R 128GB High Resolution Audio Player

Cowon has been providing WavPack support in products for a long time, going back to 2008 with their A3 and O2 Portable Media Players, both of which also played video and were rather large. Today Cowon provides WavPack support in the more expensive offerings of their Plenue line of “high-end” portable audio players, starting with the Cowon Plenue R, which I will describe here.

I gotta say that the WavPack support in the Plenue R is pretty amazing. It plays all the PCM formats and bit depths (including float), plays any standard sample rate (I tried up to 384 kHz), handles downmixing from 5.1 channels, and even handles the correction file for hybrid lossless playback! The only files from the WavPack test suite that it had trouble with were the DSD file and the non-standard sampling rate test (36 kHz).

Additionally, it handles embedded cuesheets (automatically opening them as a new folder) and displays all the embedded artwork I tried. And even without cuesheets, the playback is perfectly gapless and seeking is instantaneous.

The biggest disappointment is the lack of WavPack DSD support, especially since it plays uncompressed DSD and I think they're using native libwavpack which includes DSD decoding basically for free. I know there's plenty of CPU power for this, based on what it can easily decode.
 
More generally, the player is nicely featured. It's got 128 GB of internal storage (plus a MicroSD slot) and it features Cowon's JetEffect 7 with BBE+ which is a collection of EQ and other enhancement tools including headphone 3D effects. The headphone amp drove even my Sennheiser HD580s to a good volume, and there's never any hiss audible with my IEMs. It's also got a balanced output (which I've ordered a cable for my HD580s to try out) and an optical S/PDIF output which is handy for hooking up to a home stereo (although it's always resampled to 44.1 kHz and is unfortunately never bit-perfect).

Finally, it has Bluetooth output with aptX which works great with my Bowers & Wilkins P5 headphones at home, but I found that when I had the Plenue in my pants pocket I got dropouts when walking outside. I don't have enough experience with Bluetooth to know whether that's typical, but hopefully that's something that Cowon has fixed with the newer R2 replacement.

With smartphones offering a lot of this by simply running an app it's not obvious where exactly a product like this fits into a busy lifestyle, but I enjoy having dedicated devices for certain things (I also use a dedicated GPS in the car) and with its brushed metal case, solid feel, and bright 3.7” AMOLED touch screen, the Plenue R just comes across as a luxury product that's a joy to use.


Re: WavPack support in hardware devices?

Reply #2
Lotoo PAW Pico 32GB Portable Audio Player

The Lotoo PAW Pico is a very tiny music player designed for sports. It has no provision for external storage and it doesn't have a display so you have to navigate by listening (folder and track) but it does have a real rotating volume control and it has a motion sensor and GPS for keeping track of your steps and distance. The thing I like is that it's so small and light (< 1 oz!) that you can run with it in your shirt packet without even feeling it, and if you prefer no pockets it also comes with a clip and arm band setup. There is Bluetooth (BLE), but it's not for audio so you do have to use wired phones, which is okay because it has amazing output power for its tiny size.

It's actually a little weird that the PAW Pico supports WavPack at all because none of Lotoo's earlier (and larger) models did and I was a little worried that I would get it and find out that something just got mistranslated. But no, it does support it and does a really good job! It's not as complete as the Plenue (as in no correction file or cuesheet support), and it also doesn't play WavPack DSD (although it does play uncompressed DSD formats), but it does play all reasonable files I tried, up to 32/192. When I tried a multichannel file it hung and needed to be reset, and I found that files over about 800 MB just played silence, but obviously these are both easy situations to avoid (and may have been fixed in later firmware releases).

Since it has no display it can't show the battery charge state, so there's a button you press to have it “tell” you the battery percentage remaining. When I got the unit this worked fine (i.e., English), but at one point I deleted some music folders and put on some new ones, and suddenly it was only speaking Chinese. I searched everywhere and tried everything, including restoring all those deleted folders, but could never figure out how to get English back. So I found a website where I could learn Chinese but decided that was going to take weeks and now I simply don't use that feature. Fortunately, the unit warns when there's 10% left and that leaves well over an hour of playback, so I've never run out of battery on my runs.

I tried the Sport feature and once the GPS had locked onto my location it informed me every few minutes via voice prompts how many kilometers I had traveled and steps taken. Since I go the same path every day, and since elevation change is not reported and is the most significant part of my workout, I didn't feel the need to try this feature again, but some might like it. Of course, that feature also changed to Chinese during my mishap, so it's even less useful now, but again no big deal for me.

The Lotoo PAW Pico is a unique player. It's so small that you can take it anywhere and not even notice it's there, and yet holds up to 32 GB of audio files and play them at decent volume even into difficult headphones. It's got some quirks and you're pretty much on your own if something goes wrong, but it's fun to own and use, and it's the least expensive device I know of that natively plays WavPack. Hopefully Lotoo will include WavPack in all its future products.


 
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