Build & Functionality9
Value For Money9
Our Score

October of 2015 was a sad month for me…it was around that time that my Cowon J3 finally kicked the bucket after years of strenuous usage. Despite owning numerous higher end DAP’s at the time, like the Astell and Kern AK120, I’d still considered my J3 as the primary portable music player of choice. Odds are great that if I still had it and if Rockbox were never released for the iBasso DX90, I’d still be using my J3. Recently, Cowon and JetAudio over in Korea have released a few higher end and very expensive portable music players, as well as this incredibly adorable and more middle tier Plenue D.  Gosh, it is so adorable, that I just want to crochet it a little sweater to keep it warm in the winters!

The Build and Design

The Plenue D is unusually heavy at 94g for such a tiny device, looming at roughly 3 inches x 2 inches by 0.5 inches thick. My goodness, when my Mom saw this Plenue D for the first time, she burst out laughing (in a good way) at how cute it was, also raving about how impressively built it felt for being that small. Surely, the Plenue D has excellent tactility factor and does not feel cheap in the slightest. In terms of an all aluminum body and as far as good build materials go, I’ve no complaints. It feels a lot similar to my old Hisoundaudio Studio V for size and overall density, which was a damned fine DAP in terms of build quality way back when it was released…like 50 billion years ago in audiophile years. Normally, Cowon used to use a plastic body for the most part, but one with some aluminum parts here and there. This time and as far as I am aware with their newer generation, they’ve stepped beyond plastic cores and exteriors.



Okay, look, I just can’t go into every single thing this DAP is capable of…or else this article would be 20 pages long. Cowon has always been about great UI and features included first, with a moderate focus on good sound quality second. However, this is the first Cowon in the middle tier ($300 or so and under) that seems to have more of a balanced approach to sound quality vs User Interface and features. Best I can say for now is that the Plenue D is jam packed full of useful options and toggles, so much so that I question why the last generation of higher end DAP’s from other Korean companies have completely ignored what I even consider a half decent UI setup. Hell, I just reviewed the Luxury and Precision L3 ($400) and was chastised on certain other forums for my thoughts on it’s poor UI functionality. I was even called “selfish” for asking for a better UI and Playlist support. I know, right?! Releasing a product that is actually not in desperate need of a few firmware fixes? I’ve simply crossed the line, how dare I ask for such things!


Thankfully, Cowon’s Plenue D doesn’t have any issues with the firmware or anything included inside of its software system. Everything works perfectly, it doesn’t currently house anything I’d consider problematic and it simply functions as I expect it to. If I had one gripe though, it would be the lack if support for a 200gb micro SD card at the moment, as it seems to be hard locked for a 128gb micro SD card for it’s maximum capacity.


This is fixable, so I hope they release an update soon to include that. But, in all seriousness, that is the only “problem” I’ve encountered in the Plenue D. She booted up perfectly, my tunes played wonderfully (no .DSD support of course) and oh my goodness, would you look at that! Playlist support! FIVE PLAYLIST FOLDERS already there for you to add songs into, shuffle only forward (this is a great thing, I don’t want it to shuffle backwards too) and a slew of other useful functions that weren’t broken on release day. There is even a manual A-Z search function window that lets you scour the memory for a specific file via a little digital keyboard that pops up!

JetEffect EQ

The Plenue D has a ton of EQ options that actually function and sound very different from each other, just too many to name at the moment or even remotely touch on, as I could write multiple articles just on Cowon’s JetEffect EQ features alone. So simply put, if you want a specific type of tone or sound setup, odds are great that the stock EQ presets already include something for you and if not, you can custom EQ a bit as well to achieve the desired effect. No DAP should be without at least a basic type of feature system in a custom EQ option. If Sansa can do this in their now $25 Clip, everyone can do it in audiophile grade DAP’s that cost multiple hundreds and even nearing a thousand dollars. No excuses anymore. This isn’t the Dark Ages!


There are a few user-controlled options for customized EQ, as well as more than a two dozen presets developed by Cowon. Oddly enough, I find myself using the Funk preset more than anything else. It is the only preset that greatly increases the low-end bass, as well as physical slam quantity, but also does not force the midrange to take a hit and become overly V-shaped. Most of the presets are great and well setup for certain genres out yonder, some are pretty awful and should never be used and that can degrade the sound quality severely. All in all, JetEffect is the best EQ system I’ve ever come across in a portable player that wasn’t modified by Rockbox, or one that might be able to use Foobar2000’s portable app via the Android market.

Page 2: Sound Impressions

68 Responses

  1. Marco

    I realized to have missed many useful informations
    I would use it as main home player together with an Okyo CD player.
    The DAP will be linked by a RCA to jack cable to a Meier Jazz and a Darkvoice amps
    My headphones are : Sennheiser HD600, Monolith M1060, Hifiman He400i and Grado Sr80e.
    So oHm are not an issue my budget is around 300 so I was also considering (that i missed in my list) a FiiO X5 2nd gen.
    So is the Cowon still the best option?

    thank you

    • 24bit

      Subjectively, I would take the Plenue D over the X5 for tonality and musicality needs. I would choose the X5 if you want purity and clarity. The Plenue D is very musical and has a great deal of EQ potential. So, it is possible to route great rig pairing (headphone and amps) with the Plenue D and end up with a positive result. The odds of that are higher on a subjective level for your enjoyment, I think.

  2. Marco

    I’ve used for years a Fiio X3 2nd gen and I liked it, I tried for a bit to use a Fiio X3 Mark III but it’s somehow worse than the 2nd Gen, can you help me with better options please?
    I was considering a Cowon Plenue D , a Shanling M2S, Docooler XDUOO x10 HIFI
    I care mainly about sound quality.
    would you raccomend this one?

    thank you

    • Marcus

      Probably the Plenue D out of those choices. The M2s is excellent but lacks touch capability as well as having a 4.8 ohm output than can skew your low impedance IEM sound a little.

      • Marco

        I forgot to mention that I would use it as main player for home music, I ‘ve a Darkvoice and Meier Jazz amps, connected to a passive amp and the DAP and an ONKY cd player as players.
        I would use just my headphones : Senn HD600, HifiMan He400i, Monolith M1060 and Grado Sr80E.
        so is the cowon still the best option or a Fiio X5 2nd gen could be better?
        thanks alot

  3. Smackdown

    Hi, maybe i missed it, but no mention if this has aptX Bluetooth? I have two Cowon players, an old S9 and a X9, one with 2.0 Bluetooth one without. Seem they are a bit hit and miss on what devices get it.

  4. Matt Wreford

    Thanks for all this info, an amazing resource! I’m looking to get my first DAP (other than iphone…) and am looking at the Plenu D vs iBasso DX80. What would you recommend/advise? Thanks.

    • Matt Wreford

      ps I am using a Dragonfly Black with my iphone at the moment but don’t have enough space on there to be my main music player.

    • 24bit

      Plenue D is musical and fun, lots of exaggeration.

      DX80 is neutral, not intended for musicality. DX80 definitely has better sound quality overall, but it is also bigger and has far less EQ functionality.

      This depends on your preferences. :)

      • Matt Wreford

        Thanks for the feedback. “Not intended for musicality” sounds a bit negative somehow. I think the extra space available on the DX80 is attractive and better sound quality has to be the key thing I think. Paired with a warmer set of headphones do you think the sound would be more “musical”?

      • headfonics

        Hi, I actually reviewed the DX80 and its tonal bias is not unlike the DX90 but a bit more space on the vocals and more linear bass, not as dynamic sounding perhaps. Personally, I think if OS is not an issue for you, but functionality and sound are, then there are superior options to these older lineups such as the Shozy Alien+, Cayin N3, FiiO X5iii and top of the tree DX200 from iBasso. Just my 0.002.

      • Matt Wreford

        Hi, thanks for the review and advice. DX200 is way out of my budget and X5iii is a bit more than I would like to spend although I can see the credit card taking a hit there maybe! Someone else recommended the Cayin N3 to me and I was a bit worried that you get what you pay for and it’s a good bit cheaper than the other offerings but I’ll check out your review and see what’s what. Thanks again for taking the time to reply.

  5. Fritz van Rhijn

    Can you tell anything about the screen comparing with the J3?
    For instance, when I’m walking outside in the sun I can’t read anything on the screen of the J3.

    • 24bit

      It is better outside than the J3, but still not great. It is certainly readable, but still lacks good brightness factor.

    • 24bit

      No, sadly. Nothing controlled via a headphone (like touch buttons or Bluetooth) will function with the Plenue D.

  6. Bulld0g

    Hi there,
    Does The Plenue D have a Shuffle option when playing, I have a Podcast folder & Music folder & I like the player to shuffle between them & others for variety.
    Can anyone fill me in on this PLEASE.

  7. Gee Coc

    Dude sorry but i can play dsd64 for this dap, i did not try dsd128 because i dont have a sample file for this.

  8. Fontiac

    Hi! I’m searching for my first DAP after my Ipod died, and wanted an upgrade. I’ve been looking at the Plenue D and the FiiO X3 II.

    I’m currently at 70% Plenue D and 30% X3 but I want to know if this is a good entry player into this world. Your review helped but I would appreciate if you could tell me if it plays Heavy Metal nicely (Rock too).

    Many Thanks

    • 24bit

      The Plenue D plays everything nice, with that hefty EQ functionality you can set it up to your liking. I’d recommend that over the Fiio. The Cowon has significantly better battery life and a better UI.

      • 24bit

        It isn’t likely, but lets hope not haha ;) The positive red flag here so to speak is that you were looking for a genre specific experience that you feel is good. That is significantly more likely to be found in the Plenue D’s very plentiful EQ options. It is less likely to be found in the more basic Fiio system. If you do get it, let me know what you think, I love hearing about that stuff.

    • Vitor

      I have the Plenue D and I’ve heard X3 II. I recommend the Plenue D without doubt. Outsite factors EQ and batery life, the sound of Plenue D I liked more.

      • 24bit

        It is wonderfully musical, isn’t it. I wish it had the resolution of the Plenue M and DSD capabilities. Maybe Cowon will actually make one like that instead of going full on neutral and dry as a bone in their more expensive Daps. I want a Plenue D scaled up so bad :[

  9. Seler

    Hey, thx for the great review! Will Audeze Sine pair well with this DAP + Aune B1 combo? Cheers!

    • 24bit

      In theory and on paper, absolutely. But, I couldn’t say if you would enjoy it or not. Qualities between them would be well justified, at least in my opinion. But, you could end up hating it or loving the end result. Totally dependent on your preferences here. The Sine scales up a bit and gets better with good sources and amplifiers, but I think your combo is a good one for the Sine. Not too boosted and not too neutral. Just right for the Sine and ideal actually in terms of tone and setup.

      • 24bit

        The Plenue D’s EQ is strong enough to suit a linear amp and headphone combo, or a bassy one, or a treble happy one. I don’t really think it at all matters what amplifier you get to pair with the Plenue D and the Sine, so long as that amplifier is clear and clean enough to justify the Sine.

      • Seler

        I think B1 should be perfect then. It’s by far the best portable amp (Class A!) I came across.

  10. xxx

    Great review, thanks 24bit. Gives me all the information i was looking for. I’d just love to know how does this little plenue D pair with the tiny r2 from Flare Audio, as they are a bit demanding and before pulling the trigger i want to know if i’ll find enough juice for them on the cowon. The Flares sound great coming form my Ibasso dx50 but absolutely dead coming from my weak Sony A15 (which would be the sacrificed for the korean option) They are my daily iems because of your enthusiastic review, by the way…So, if it’s not asking too much, would you mind to try them together?

    Thanks in advance!!

    • 24bit

      Thanks mate!

      Ah, you’ll be reaching high volumes on the D to output good volume. It doesn’t have the voltage to drive the R2A or Pro proper, you’ll achieve sufficient loudness but you’ll miss out on the bass depth that comes with actual amping. It’s fine really. The musicality factor on the Plenue D is very nice and it paired well with the Flares in that regard. I would expect a slightly better experience with a D vs A15. I’ve not heard the A15, I’ve reviewed the A17 though and it is also too weak for the Flare iems. Testing with my A17 and the Flares results in a sound I am not happy with, but with the DX90 and my Plenue M, the result is better to my ear.

  11. Hélder

    I have the same problem Vitor has, but even with the songs in the micro SD. All my files are flac 16/44.1 and some records aren’t gapless in the D (in my sony a15 the same records are gapless). It’s annoying especially in live records. It’s a shame because the resto in the player is great.

    • Vitor

      What earphone do you use?
      I tried to format the micro SD card (FAT32 file system with an allocation unit size of 32 KB) and copy the songs again. It seemed to me that reduced the noise.

      • 24bit

        Tried to investigate this for you guys but wasn’t able to come up with anything. Cowon hasn’t responded since you first asked about this so I’m afraid I can’t help at the moment. How does EQ affect that sound? Could it be certain EQ presets or your custom set produce that noise? Can you disable or normalize them, maybe also try a custom eq with all levels at 1 just to see if there is noise.

      • Vitor

        I was using the preset “normal”. I switched to “user 1 ” and not
        change anything, not activating any feature. The noise continues. And I
        noticed that it is stronger in the internal memory than the micro sd

    • Vitor

      Finally found the problem! Is firmware problem. I did downgrade to
      firmware 1.10 and the noise stopped happening. When I returned to
      firmware 1.13, the noise returned.

      • Vitor

        I wrote in the global Cowon site this message reporting the confirmation of the problem (firmware) as I wrote here and finally Cowon gave me an answer!
        “Dear Vitor,

        I am sorry to reply you late. Thank you for your kindness.

        I delivered your Q&A to the related team to check out the latest firmware.

        It is under testing to find out the problem.

        It might be inconvenient for you to use the downgrade firmware, but
        before the problem is solved, please use the other firmware version.

        Thank you for using Plenue D.

        I hope you enjoy listening music with Plenue D.

        Have a good day.”

    • Vitor

      The noise problem disappeared completely with the new firmware (1.14b1)!

      • Hélder

        Thank you for the information. I sent back the PD because that problem was annoying me. If you say the issue is solved maybe i’ll get another one because i liked the player very much. Sorry to ask but did you tried a live record and screen off? No issues between two consecutive songs?
        Thanks in advance.

      • Vitor

        I tested with Diana Krall Live in Paris album, I listened to the track 1 to track 8 and did not hear any noise, totally clean sound. Everything was done with the screen turned off, direct playing without pause.

      • Hélder

        Again, thank you for the information. With no issues, probably i’ll get a new PD soon.

  12. Vitor

    I’m having a problem with Plenue D. The songs of the internal memory of the player (not the micro SD) during the exchange of track to another track are showing noise (very low), but this only happens when the screen is off.

  13. Anon

    Looking to upgrade to this from an iPod Video 5th gen. Will there be a noticeable improvement in sound quality?

  14. Vitor

    read the review of Cowon Plenue D and what I saw
    was a heavy criticism as the bass, midrange and treble, and even the
    imaging. Only at the end the player was praised as the UI and battery
    life. I’m not understanding why so much criticism about the Plenue D
    because I’m loving it with my JH5 + cable Effect Audio Ares.

    • 24bit

      Praised for sure for Battery life and UI, but as far as sound quality goes I think it just a “good” player. Plug out of the D and into the DX90 and you are met with noticeable improvements across the board. But, I enjoy the D much more than pretty much any other DAP in the price tier! I think it is absolutely a good sounding player and justified for the price without a doubt, but compared to the competition at $300 or so, it lags a bit behind in raw quality. But, it doesn’t need to be supremely clean to enjoy at all, because I enjoy the Plenue D so much more than the L3 for example, which is absolutely more clean and spacious. I’m a musicphile, I prefer to enjoy the music much more than enjoy the cleanliness or purity and if you love the combination, that is effin’ great and makes me so happy! I enjoy the hell out of it as well despite the DX90 sounding more clean, despite the L3 sounding much more spacious and pure and so on. I tried to draw lines between what I felt to be subjective and what I felt to be objective.

      It is so hard for me not to use the Plenue D despite having the other top tier DAP’s in the tier as well nearby. It is extremely musical and fun to use, which is what I am personally all about in my music listening preferences! :)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.