We liked the Pioneer XDP-100R, even at £500. Can the XDP-30R fill us with similar joy for less money?
Digital audio players (DAP), to some, might seem like a regressive move. We had portable cassette players, portable CD players, portable MiniDisc players and then MP3 players. But then we had smartphones.
So, why go back to carrying a phone and a music player?
Some of the more recent phones can play high-resolution files and even pack a decent DAC (digital analogue convertor) or two.
The thing is, most specialist DAPs will leave the average smartphone dead in the water.
Pioneer XDP-30R design
The angular 2.5- x 3.7- x 0.6-inch (WxHxD) aluminium frame is reminiscent of other portable DAPs, which is no bad thing.
The front is dominated by the 2.4-inch touchscreen display. Whereas, around the rear, well – curiously, they have gone for a white plastic back on the silver version. The black version is all black, except for the gold bits.
It looks nice, feels nice and doesn’t weigh a tonne, tipping the scales at a mere 120g.
Pioneer XDP-30R performance
As you would expect from a specialist DAP, the XDP-30R will play PCM files up to 32-bit/192kHz and double speed DSD. Also, thanks to an August update, it will even unpack your MQA files and play them too.
As with the XDP-100R, in-built storage is a tad stingy at only 16GB. Sling a few FLACs on there and you’ll soon be out of space.
However, thanks to those two mini-SD card slots you can boost the capacity by another 400GB of memory. That should be enough for most music-lovers on the go.
Plug the player in to your PC via the USB port and it appears as a mass storage device.
If you want to plug the player directly in to an amp, you can.
You can even bypass the integrated volume control so that the amp becomes the master.
Just, if you decide to do this, make sure your headphones are no longer plugged in.
De(a)finitely ensure you’re not wearing the headphones.
… and here is where the magic happens.
Under the hood are the tasty twins – SABRE ES9018C2M DACs. They are accessorised by a right lovely pair of ES9601 amplifier chips. The channel layout is kept symmetrical to help stereo imaging.
Pioneer obviously cares and has gone to the trouble of specifying two clocks: one for the 44.1kHz family of sampling rates and the other for 48kHz and its multiples.
According to those in the know, this reduces jitter errors. For the likes of me, this should result in better sound.
Other mention-worthy stuff
The 1630mAh battery gives around 15 hours of use before needing a recharge. Naturally, this will be plus or minus depending on headphones and volume levels used.
If you want to keep the Pioneer in your pocket or bag, there’s an app for that. This dedicated app allows the unit to be controlled from your phone.
Controlling the volume with that lovely wheel is precise and enjoyable.
The 2.4-inch touchscreen is big enough, just about. Its 320 x 240 resolution handles song titles and the like well. Album art is a little blocky, but it’s not bad enough for it to be a deal-breaker.
The important thing is that the screen is responsive. It reacts well to scrolling and selecting.
You see, you have to select the letter and then hit the shift key. I’m sure it’s in the instructions somewhere but, I’m a bloke.
The XDP-30R offers a number of filter and EQ settings to play around with. None of these dramitcally hassle your audio, but you may find having a quick play worthwhile. At least Pioneer realises that we all have slightly different expectations from our audio.
The gain setting is a useful touch, especially if you wear, let’s say, full cans in the home and IEMs when out and about. Using the gain enables you to get better matching between the XDP-30R and your headphones.
If you find that the output isn’t loud enough, head here first.
‘Money’ from Pink Floyd was on first, totally randomly. The cash register rang through crisp and sharp, but not harsh. Then, Roger’s bassline slinked in. Expressive, round with plenty of air around it.
Selecting Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ and the clear and crisp attitude continues..
The pocket Pioneer does a great job in retaining detail. The player has good musicality with instruments allowed their own space whilst remaining in concert. keeping a steady hold of the song’s various instrumental strands.
Vocals are equally looked after. Whether its Clutch vocalist Neil Fallon growling through ‘Blast Tyrant’ or Kate Bush taking us through a summer’s day in Aerial.
Most noticeable in rockier and punchier tracks is the XDP-30R’s almost laid-back personality. This isn’t always a good thing.
There seems to be an almost lack of urgency in some tracks. I’m not saying that it doesn’t sound nice. In fact, that’s exactly how it sounds. Nice.
It’s not lacking in dynamism, it just seems to smooth the edges a little bit too much for some of the music I listen to.
I moved between Oppo PM-1 (open back full headphones), Oppo PM-3 (closed back full headphones), Noble Savanna IEMs and the player was able to drive them all remarkably well. The amps in this little unit do really well.
Pioneer XDP-30R review conclusion
I have really enjoyed my time with the XDP-30R.
It does perform really well, looks great and has all the right kit. The player is easy to use and, typing aside, intuative to navigate.
For me, the XDP-30R might be too nice. Saying that, if clarity, emotion and smooth delivery are top essentials, you really should check out the XDP30-R
Pioneer XDP-30R price and availability
You can buy the XDP-30R right now for £350.