The XDP-100R DAP By Pioneer
Build & Functionality9
Value For Money7.1
7.2Our Score

Portable music players are all over the map these days. Sometimes, I just can’t figure out what the hell is going on, which one to buy for myself and which ones are worth reviewing. I’m not happy with how Pioneer has designed this 100r music player, so let’s just get right into it.

Build and Design

The screen is beautiful, as is the aluminum casing for the unit. I’ve no gripes at all when it comes down to how this player feels and it definitely puts out a high-quality vibe from top to bottom. I’ve just got to ask… What is up in the weird top and bottom edges? Both of these metallic pieces can be unscrewed and removed, so why are they there in the first place? This is, in fact, the most intrusive exterior design for a portable player that I’ve ever seen. I cannot stress how not pocket-friendly this thing really is. The unit itself with these pieces unscrewed is already too large, having the rest of it attached just makes it all that much more unbearable. It does not fit well in my hand either. Despite that, the screen is very responsive with its touch sensitivity, very fast and unlikely to hang or get stuck while typing quickly on its digital keyboard.



Oh boy, another expensive player that can only meet maybe 5 to 6 hours of nonstop play. Seriously, I just can’t take it anymore. I have an old $25 Sansa Clip that offers me roughly 9 hours. How is this justified in today’s market? The truth? It isn’t and only a select few audio reviewers are okay with it. Yes, the player is powerful in output, but just like the Cowon Plenue M that I reviewed a short time ago, this Pioneer also gets quite hot in a short amount of time.

This has to stop. How is it that the Cowon Plenue D can shell out the player that has 80 hours of battery life that only costs about $180 now (the Plenue D) yet so many other manufacturers of very expensive portable players have garbage quality batteries? How does that work… more importantly, why is this at all a thing that we have to deal with?


User Interface

Nothing was given love and care here, this is a literal copy and paste of Android UI for music folders…because this player runs on an Android platform. Thankfully, the UI is good, not great, though, just good. But, I’m marking off points because Pioneer didn’t touch the UI to make it their own type of unique experience here in the 100r. It is basic but very functional. Bins and folders are laid out very well and I love the top area scrolling tabs that let you shift through Albums, Artists, DSD tracks and other specific types of bins for file type browsing.

This is okay stuff, everything else bugs me. Thanks to Wifi and full access to the Droid market, you can download music apps to your heart’s content. For now, the stock UI Droid Music folder is still lacking any personal touch by most products that use it. I want a new, unique experience, something tailored by human hand at Pioneer. Instead, I got a copy and paste of the stock Music app for Android phones. Yep, Pioneer has their own music app…but it’s not branded by Pioneer, it is actually Onkyo-branded. If you hadn’t heard, Onkyo bought Pioneer a few years ago…

Album Art

Not going to lie, I hate the method the stock Android Music app uses for Album Artwork. I can’t get it to stop zooming in and cropping the image, and it is always blocked by some text, or some other nonsense on the screen. This is one thing Cowon does better than anyone, they make sure Album Art is front and center, vivid and without anything to deter you from looking at it.

That experience is the complete opposite of how Android does it on the 100r. I can’t stand it. I’d prefer to not mod the UI and download another app entirely just to get a decent viewing experience, but it seems that is what they want you to do so I am recommending you ignore Onkyo completely and get Foobar’s beta app instead. It is still incomplete, yet still infinitely more user-friendly and enjoyable.



The 100r sports an ESS 9018K2M DAC…which is severely outdated…I’m talking iBasso DX90/ outdated by a few years. The DAP also uses a 9016K intended for amplification needs. I am having a very hard time here believing someone sat at a table somewhere in an Onkyo meeting room and told everyone the 100r should be using a years old DAC inside this $700us player, the same DAC used in the $299 iBasso DX90…oops wait, there are two 9018’s inside the DX90, not just one. There is only one inside the Pioneer 100r and it costs more than the price of the DX90 that is now obsolete.

Implementation is more important than the DAC choice and this is a rare case where there is a bit of a clarity boost between my old Rockboxed DX90 (superior to the standard Mango OS in clarity for the DX90’s software) and the 100r. Marginal, at best. This was a very poor design choice and this DAC has no business being at the forefront and core of a $700 unit. No business at all. The only real benefit here is that Onkyo and Pioneer managed to squeeze just a bit more sound stage out of it vs the Cowon Plenue M (1794A DAC).

This means little to me because the EQ system on the 100r isn’t noteworthy. It is pretty much an average EQ without anything special going on and Cowon’s Jet-Effect, as well as Rockbox on the DX90 so sublimely destroys the 100r across the board, that I cannot go into further detail without actually getting very upset. Truly, the experience is garbage on the 100r by comparison. Worse yet, it isn’t very responsive even with high levels of bass or treble added on either end.

Sound Impressions

Bass and Midrange

At this price, it isn’t a value product. The quality of the audio is superseded by the price of the unit, so the price to performance is low and there just isn’t any getting around it. Does it sound bad? Absolutely not. I think the DX90 sounds great, I think the Cowon Plenue M sounds very good as well, but this product came out after them, used the same general components and ended up sounding almost the same to the Cowon Plenue M. If I don’t boost the treble, I can’t tell them apart.

Fiddling with the upper end always yields a better result on the Cowon, but as far as midrange goes? Nah, it’s identical in my book. I didn’t like the way the Cowon portrays tone and texture, it is flat and neutral and so is this 100r. Objectively, I cannot fault it for that because that is a sound preference and entirely subjective. Objectively, the sound quality is very nice in literal quality.

I am not at all a fan of how this 100r exudes bass either. Sadly, it falls into the same trap that I fell into with the Plenue M: it just doesn’t want to respond much to bass boosting via its own EQ system. I can raise it +5dB and hear and feel almost no change. I just tested with the most responsive to EQ headphone I’ve ever experienced, the Focal Elear, with an end result that was unsatisfactory and unjust by comparison to what I know the Elear can achieve through other sources, especially down below in the bass range.

With Foobar’s music app, I can achieve more, but still not on par with the level of deepness I can gather with the older DX90 from iBasso that is running a modded firmware called Rockbox. I can get the Elear to dig so deep on that, I cannot do so on the 100r. Quality aside, which is nice enough, the response,dynamics and deepness factor are all lacking. This is a linear sounding portable player, no doubt about it.


Similarly to the low-end, I cannot EQ up the treble and expect much of a difference. When I attempt the same with the Plenue M from Cowon, I can achieve a brighter, more enjoyable sense of air, dynamics, and brightness. There really are no qualities that stand out in this player, I’m afraid. I yearn for more up top and I am actually quite treble sensitive. I refuse to use this DAP with my Noble K10c, which has excellent treble experiences pretty much on any source I feed it to…except the Plenue M and the 100r it seems. This Pioneer 100r lacks what I’d call a beautiful top end and portrays itself in a more flat, uninspiring way. I detect very little sparkle and luster on levels that I would call audiophile grade on most of my headphones.

When treble tests are needed, I revert to my Grado GH1 these days. Sadly, the 100r takes away that gentle bite and sparkle that I liked very much in my GH1, something that the DX90 from iBasso (but only with the Rockbox firmware) is capable of achieving with proper EQ. My K10 is not done justice at all, nor my Audeze Sine or TFZ S5. This really bugs me, because the quality is not the problem. It has good quality just like the Cowon does. It is a question of style and dynamics that I find extremely unappealing, boring and forgetful. Being too flat from top to bottom is not a good thing in my book.


As mentioned, Pioneer squeezed a bit more staging property over the Cowon Plenue M, which doesn’t sound that much different from the iBasso DX90 with proper EQ via Rockbox’s immensely detailed EQ system. If I leave both players on a flat EQ, I can’t tell them apart even with a two-way switch out to the same headphone. It only becomes clear that I am listening to the 100r when I EQ treble a bit, which results in a more effortless, aired out appeal after +4dB up top gets added to the 100r. I guess that is a good thing, but still…+4dB is what it took to alter the sound enough to hear a difference? I’m not cool with that. Why bother even have an EQ then if this is the case? With that boost comes noticeably more air up top and in turn, you can sense a larger spatial field around you in the sound stage.


Our Verdict

Man…what went wrong here? This player’s build quality and access to the Android market is really all it had going for it. Sure, Wifi and Bluetooth work very well on this player, but the battery life drains faster than my tub after I take a bath. Never mind if you are using .DSD and Bluetooth at the same time, you’re going to drop that battery off to 0% so fast you’ll not know what hit you.

There is no reason to make this player like it is when the Cowon can reach the same loudness factor and push with their little Plenue D and it’s immense 80-hour battery life. Cowon’s Plenue S and M (lol) also have issues here, so what’s the deal? Pioneer should have known that most players at the time of this product’s release had this problem, yet they still implemented it into their 100r.

Look, I really disliked this player. It is immensely obvious this is a source DAP with features first, quality second. It was piggybacked by what was already designed into the Android platform, Pioneer and Onkyo added nothing to it of their own. The UI is just okay and the build quality is superb. I really enjoy using the player via Bluetooth and being able to play with Android apps on this player is great.

Beyond that, I don’t see a valid excuse for making this player like it was when the year just prior to release, Cowon released their Plenue M with similar problems. This is the red flag that consumers should be aware of, when other consumers are okay with these problems and still rate it high, when they don’t talk about the very obsolete and old DAC used in this product and when hardly anyone wants to talk about its poor battery life. Pioneer is just taking the first steps into Hifi sources, so I hope they can do better than this with future products. I am not impressed, especially not for $700.

Price: $699


Technical Specifications

plays MP3, MQA, FLAC, WAV, ALAC, Ogg Vorbis, AAC, and AIFF

  • plays Direct Stream Digital (DSD) files (.dff and .dsf formats up to 2.8MHz resolution)
    • DSD files are converted to PCM for playback
  • ESS Sabre® 32-bit/192kHz DAC for bit-perfect playback of high-resolution audio files
  • built-in headphone amp
  • Bluetooth with aptX audio coding for high-fidelity streaming with compatible devices
  • built-in Wi-Fi
  • Android™ OS 5.1.1. with Google Play™
  • com Direct Download high-resolution audio files
  • streams Internet videos from sources like YouTube
  • built-in Internet browser
  • 32GB internal flash memory
  • dual microSD card slots for cards up to 64GB
  • 7″ color touchscreen
  • analog volume wheel provides fine level adjustments
  • built-in rechargeable battery provides up to 16 hours of playback
  • high-speed USB interface (cable included) for drag-and-drop file transfer and battery charging
  • cast aluminum casing
  • output impedance: 16-300 ohms
  • total harmonic distortion: 0.006% (1kHz)
  • detachable protective bumpers
  • 3″W x 5-3/4″H x 1/2″D (3″W x 5″H x 1/2″D without bumpers)

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  • Sally Mae

    Okay, just so’s we’re quite clear here…did you like this DAP or not…?

    • 24bit

      I did not like it and found it too overpriced. Subjectively, I did not enjoy the sound qualities offered, the tone of this player is not enjoyable to me. Objectively, I found the EQ to be too unresponsive and not sensitive enough to be used with a wide variety of different sounding headphones and only marginally better than the now $299 iBasso DX90 with regard to literal audio quality and overall fidelity.

  • Krzysztof Nowaczyk

    I think you’re not being fair. DX90 is great sounding DAP regardless the price. And yes, XDP-100 is better sounding, So 7.2 score? Way too low.
    I would never have bought it looking at specs alone. I mean, come on – ES9018K2M + 9016K? They put that in some smartphones. But someone I trust recommened it to me and I bought it.
    To me it’s one of 3 best sounding DAPs and I’ve had many. Easily beating X7AM1&2, HM901, AK120, Pono, dx90, Opus #1 and many more.

    Right now my favorite is QP1R but for example PFE232 has better synergy with XDP100, R2pro sounds best with TEAC HA-P90 and Harmony 8.2 are great with Questyle (even though hiss is present).

    I’m listening to XDP100 with TFZ S5 gen. I (per your recommendation – thanks for that, because they’re simply awesome) and the sound is amazing.

    Furthermore I can easily get more than 10h streaming music via Tidal HiFi and never got less than 8-9 hours with DSD. So something’s wrong here.

    There are of course some flaws: I have european version with limited volume. I can bypass it by turning the variable line-out mode but than all non-stock apps have very audible distortions. And with volume limit there’s not that much driving capabilities.
    I’m hearing distortions on non-stock apps even with variable line-out off but only on very sensitive IEMs/CIEMs.

    • 24bit

      I disagree, but I fully respect your view on the sound quality. It is certainly possible the unit I was sent had a battery issue, I wouldn’t ever count that out. But, my sample was already sent back, so I can’t retest it. If I ever get another for testing, I’ll update the article with new info. I am not sure how others are defying physics here, but I am perfectly happy to take another look at it in the future.

      DX90 i9300 replacement Pescan 2100mah battery on steroids, 2.0vrms MEDIUM gain, 7-8 hours, no BT, no DSD, no Wifi. On High Gain at 2.8vrms, 5-6 hours, maybe.

      Pioneer 100r 1630mah battery – 2.9vrms one gain mode, high quality oled screen, wifi, streaming, bt, dsd. Somehow, this gets 10+ hours? The Math and physics of the batteries don’t add up here.

      A few users on Head Fi were blasting my review here, I disagree with them as well. The player is over an inch larger and wider than the AK240, has large bumpers on it that aren’t pocket friendly in the slightest, but they say giant bars top and bottom are fine. I say otherwise. It’s like saying a semi truck is a compact truck and having others agree with them in a serious manner. Chef8487 in post 1170 said I was wrong about SD information, yet nowhere in my article did I mention storage outside of the copy and pasted specs sheer from Pioneer, so he is actually just making up stuff to gripe about that I didn’t even say. A quote from him:

      “Yep and some of his information is quite incorrect such as the amount of memory the sd slots can hold or what the bumpers are actually for”

      This is actually, 100% a fabrication that so far two other users agreed with him on, despite him actually just making it up. Never spoke or storage, never spoke about anything other than the bumpers being very obstructive and not at all pocket friendly. His view on the EQ is subjective, as is mine.

      He said as well that “he hears a ton of change after playing with EQ”…on a basic Android platform? That is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone say that the Android EQ stock system isn’t vastly inferior to Rockbox…which has the most in-depth, responsive and ridiculous customization options of any software based EQ system on the market that I am even aware of. The amount of customized options is absurd in Rockbox, there is virtually nothing in stock android music app by comparison, even Foobars beta app doesn’t even come close.

      This dap does not sound bad. As I mentioned, the DX90 shot over the moon and still is the best over mid tier DAP in my opinion and that is the benchmark. If this 100r costs more than double in msrp and also only uses one 9018K2M instead of 2 in the much cheaper DX90…how is this a good value? As I said, the DAP sounds fine. It just isn’t a good value at this price and I was unhappy with the EQ performance.

      • Krzysztof Nowaczyk

        Well Cayin N6 has 5600mAh 3.7V and still doesn’t last more than 7h…

        Just like I’ve said by looking at specs alone I wouldn’t have bought it. But to me it’s one of best implemantation of the mobile ES9018. Now, I don’t care whether it’s single or dual DAC config – I care how it sounds. Besides those DACs (mobile version) are somewhat cheap so they don’t affect the price. Pioneer however has quite good hiRes screen, Android platform, Snapdragon 800, two microSD card slot, great bulid quality and can be used for streaming….
        They optimized energy consumption pretty well, not only does it last around 10h, the standby time is great too.

        To be honest I’ve bought it for around 500€ in Pionner brand store. DX90 when it was still available went for 400-450€ in my region… So given that, perception of value changes.

        I never use EQ or any DSPs – so I trust your judgement that it’s not good. I’ve also unsrew the bumpers because GR07 has too large jack and wouldn’t fit.

        Anyhow… I think it’s very good DAP (specs aside). Very good soundstage (though a bit distant), it has neither beautiful analog sound nor cold digital one -but it’s somewere in the middle in the neutral zone – which is valuable to me a:) and a good compromise.

        • 24bit

          Yea, I understand where you are coming from. It is just that the Fiio X7 has the full 9018, has roughly all the same features and still costs less than the 100R.

          Snapdragon 800 is a flawed base that was only put on 4 phones, of which the actual designers said they refused to continue onward with because they felt it was absolute garbage. The Calyx also had one micro and one full size SD, as well as on board 64gb storage, so you can actually get a lot more storage out of that than the 100R and the Calyx M is almost three years old now and also uses the full size 9018 as well. It has an even nicer screen than the 100r and even more power output. There is no reason the 100r should cost what it did when Daps 3 years ago had superior components.

          The retail price of the 100r is around $568-699us, $299 for the iBasso Dx90, $800 for the Cowon Plenue M and $900 for the Calyx M.

          Used, the 100r seems to go for $500 or so, the DX90 about $225, the Plenue M around $300 an dthe Calyx M around $500-600

          As mentioned, I never said the 100r sounds bad. It just doesn’t sound like $700 daps, such as the Fiio X7 to my ears. The Fiio has superior everything on paper and I don’t see how the mobile version can ever be implemented to sound better than the full size 9018. But, this is great that you love it. That’s all that matters.

          I didn’t like it, I thought the Dx90 and Cowon Plenue M were roughly on par, the X7 superior sounding and the Calyx M from 3 years ago still better to an audible degree.

          • Krzysztof Nowaczyk

            Ok, first of all Snapdragon 800 was not flawed and it was used in best Android phones at the time. Times were different back than and top SoCs were usually only used by HTC, LG, Samsung and Sony. Snapdragon 810 was flawed. And 800 is way more powerful than a DAP would need.

            “The Fiio has superior everything on paper and I don’t see how the mobile version can ever be implemented to sound better than the full size 9018.” FiiO has only better DAC on paper… And if someone with your experience says something like that… It is obvious that full size 9018 can be implemented to sound worse. In fact in is way harder to implement it in mobile device than in case of mobile version of this chip. That’s why mobile version was created. To me both X7 and HM901 sounded worse than XDP 100 and I know many experienced “audiophiles” and reviewers who agrees with me on that. Specification does not play music. There is no simple math here – add ES9018S, large battery and best TI amps and it should sound better than anything else – no it would not.

            Sound quality is largely subjective thing but still…

          • 24bit

            I respect your view, mate 🙂

  • Pixelicious

    Clearly you know little about the XDP-100R. Each microsd slot can support up to 200GB cards (so far). The DAC chip is nothing to scoff at, it’s capable and reliable. Having Android, albeit an older version but catered to the Pioneer/Onkyo, is an excellent feature. Yes you can download music player apps to your hearts content but there is speculation that ONLY the Onkyo Music app has access to the ES9018. The top bumper serves as a handle as well as provides protection to the headphone jack connector. Battery life, I play mostly FLAC, is actually quite good and really should be used in Stand Alone mode for full benefit. I don’t use or believe in EQ and DSP and the XDP sounds fantastic with my Westone & FLC8S IEMs.

    The only criticisms I can find with this player is the volume level range. 0-70 is pretty much useless. ‘Normal’ listening for me tends to be around 90/95 which is ridiculous considering the incremental level is from 0 to 160. Pioneer is also slow on firmware/software updates.

    Pioneer offers this hi-def DAP at an extremely sensible price. It competes with other daps in in the $1k range and wins on many aspects.

    • 24bit

      That’s cool, mate. I respect your view. The specs sheet was copied direct from Pioneer some time ago, they’ve since updated it to say 200gb. Good catch and I’ll update that.

      Also, you are incorrect on the Dac used in here. You said it’s the 9018. It is not the 9018, it is the 9018K2M, a totally different an far lesser Dac intended for portable usage. The Fiio X7 is the same price as this 100r and uses the actual, full size and significantly superior 9018 circuit.

      I am waiting on an expert to reply to me on the subject of what components get locked out and disabled when you steam music through certain apps, which is what is causing that 10+ hour battery life some people experience. Once she responds, I’ll be able to talk about exactly what Pioneer did here. Pioneer locking the amp section unless you use their app? That is horrid, if I had known that, I’d actually drop the final score and the Functionality down 2 whole points. Whoa…that’s atrocious. Nobody should lock anything like that in such an expensive device! I guess using a single old DAC, a very old copy and pasted Android UI and similar wasn’t seedy enough for them, they had to go lock features from you as well with certain apps…ouch.

      The bumpers actually block medium sized 3.5mm adapters. Want to see pics of Grado’s 3.5mm adapter on their PS500/GH1 and similar headphones look like when used on this DAP?…wish I could show you, but they actually can’t fit on it because the top bumper actually blocks it from connection. This is a large and bad design that is not friendly to different types of connectors.

      That’s great if you are cool with no EQ. I like EQ and so do a lot of others who have bassy headphones who want to justify and experience great bass, or those with something like the Elear with amazing treble. Using a flat EQ on these headphones is just about the worst thing you can do, similar to putting standard tires on an off road truck. A lot of us don’t buy musical, bassy or treble happy headphones so we can use it on a linear and flat sounding source. If a company is lazy about UI and EQ, then they get points off. Cowon’s Plenue D is $199 now and has 10x the features of the 100r and it’s not even Android based, it is a custom, hand crafted experience top to bottom. The 100r is a literal copy and paste from a generations old version of Android. It also uses a very old 9018K2M Dac…just one of them, the iBasso DX90 has two.

      I didn’t like how Luxury and Precision did it with their L3/L5 and criticized them harshly, I’m going to do the same with Astell and Kern for their AK300 if I can get my hands on it for review and for also using a 4490 Dac in an $899 player in 2016.

  • Guy Lamaar

    It seems, to me at least, that all the current DAPs are based on ‘outdated’ DACs; AKM4490 and ESS9018K2M are some of the ‘newer’ offerings at 2 and 3 years old respectively. I guess it’s a result of the protracted development cycles of these products. It could have been worse though; Pioneer might have gone with the prehistoric (11 year old) CS4398 or (12 year old) DSD1794a …

    • 24bit

      Correct. I wasn’t fond of the recent Luxury and Precision L3/L5pro’s UI nor the choice of DACs, once again didn’t find them much different at all from the DX90 in my A/B testing. I failed A/B testing with certain DAPs and them as well. AK’s new AK300 was at a mini meet I attended, also didn’t like that either. These are old, cheap DACs that have no business in modern gear in my opinion. I give Cowon more points here because you don’t see a 17xxA series in a Dap, also because they have a great hand made UI and some of the best EQ features outside of Rockbox.

      I wish DAP makers would stop doing using these DAC’s, but they’ll be around for a while because people are buying them still and not talking about how old they are. lol

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