Review: Lotoo Paw 5000 (Serious bang for buck DAP)

Firstly I would like to thank Mark at HifiHeadphones for lending me this sample to review, I had it for approximately 3 weeks, and used it as my daily DAP. I always try to write honest reviews. I don't believe in solid state burn-in, but this unit has been used before my review.

Gear Used:
Lotoo Paw 5000 > InEarz IE-P350 / Dunu DN2000j / Fischer Audio FA-003ti with wood cups

Tech Specs:
  • Display: 2" colour OLED (220x176)
  • Supported formats: DSD (DFF/DSF/ISO) / FLAC / WAV / APE / OGG / AAC / ALAC / MP3 / WMA / M4A
  • Max. sample rate: PCM 96kHz / DSD 2.8MHz
  • Max. output: 1V rms (headphone)
  • Processor: ADI Blackfin 514 DSP
  • USB: Super speed USB 3.0 Micro-B
  • Dimensions: 98x55x18mm
  • Weight: 110g
  • Battery 1700mAh 3.7V Li-polymer
  • Storage: micro SDHC / micro SDXC (up to 2TB)
  • MSRP £329.99 

Headphone Output
  • Frequency: 0.5dB (20Hz - 20kHz)
  • Total harmonic distortion: <0.002% @ 1kHz (20Hz - 20kHz, A-weight)
  • Max output: 75mW (16 ohm / channel)
  • Signal to noise ratio: >100dB (20Hz - 20kHz, A-weight)

Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality:
The packaging is simple and effective, a outline drawing of the Paw 5000 is on the front with specifications on the back, most of the text is in Chinese but you can make out some of the specs. I would like to see a worldwide version with the box in English as I think it would attract more sales, but most people will have read before buying this DAP. The box separates in to 3 parts, the front lid, the bottom with a foam in tray which holds the Paw 5000 securely, and the middle box which houses the accessories. Simple but effective, I like the way the box comes apart.

Accessories are not too bad, it comes with a short USB 3.0 cable for transferring music to it, a manual and also an arm band for sports use, an odd accessory for an audiophile DAP, I would have rather seen a normal leather case instead of the sports armband. But handy for those who enjoy running I suppose.

Build quality feels very good for the price, a nice blend of aluminium and plastic, with good tension sockets all round and the buttons also click nicely. The scroll wheel is a little loose but does not cause me any issues during usage. I could not find any faults with the build quality and I feel like it will last a long time with a little care.

UI, Usability and Key Features:
I find the UI to be good in general, it is easy to get used to and to find your way around after a short amount of time, I noticed no real lag and found it to be responsive, I would like there to be some sub categories in Music however, as folder, playlists and all was not enough really. Artist with the ability to play all from one artist would be a good feature in future firmware updates.

Usability is good overall, the slightly recessed on/off button that acts as a hold button is good, as it is hard to accidentally press when it is in your pocket. But I do not think there needs to be a dedicated EQ button, the rest are well placed and easy to use once you get used to the layout.

Key features are High/Low Gain, High/Low dampening (but acts as gain too), Balanced 2.5mm TRRS output, optical/line out, and high resolution DSD support. It also has bluetooth which I don't use often, but did find it comes in handy every now and again.
The EQ on this includes a parametric EQ for those who like to use it, I personally don't find the need to use it.

High gain helps drive full size cans, high dampening increases volume too, but I didn't notice much of a difference in the sound to be honest.

I don't have any balanced cables unfortunately, otherwise I would have tested the balanced output.
The optical output is great for using with a larger desktop setup.
MicroSD support up to 2TB is great, means it is future proofed anyway.
Optical output is great for if you have a home HiFi system that you want to plug the Paw 5000 in to.

I am reviewing this device based on it being a portable DAP, straight to headphones.

I found the sound of the Paw 5000 to be very accurate and detailed but also a little musical, there is a pleasant smoothness to the sound. Going back to my iPod classic I found the iPod to sound very dull and boring in comparison.

The Paw 5000 is very engaging and fun to listen to without having any sense of bias to any particular frequency range. The lows extend well in to the sub bass, the mids maybe a tiny bit forward with a very natural tone, and the highs are smooth and they never come across as clinical.
It doesn't quite have the crispness of some high end dedicated DAC's but it does have a slightly smooth sound, which works very well for what it is for.

I do find that with all the outside noise for on the go use, you wouldn't hear the difference in fidelity so why not enjoy the music a little more than analyze it.
Then if you want pure fidelity, you can hook it up to an external DAC for home listening if you wish to do so.

I have tested a few DAP's and have wanted to upgrade from my iPod for quite a while, but either they are too expensive to justify the purchase for an everyday DAP, or the UI and functionality hasn't been up to the standard I look for.
The Paw 5000 is on my list to buy in the future, the UI could be a little better, but that's what firmware updates are for. The button layout is fine in my mind, just takes a little getting used to, and the sound is balanced, engaging with a very pleasant natural tone without masking the finer detail.
It also has high gain if you need it, but I leave my big power hungry headphones for home listening.

All in a great sized package, with some killer features for the price, I would say this warrants serious consideration if you are in the market for a budget audiophile DAP.

Sound Perfection Rating: 8/10 (some UI improvements, and minor button rearrangements would make this killer)