The world of high-end portable music players seems to be set up like a tiger pit with many companies vying for attention, the ultimate prize of which would be reigning over all others with an iron fist.
The DAP Wars of 2011-2015 really spouted off some serious contenders and upped the level of quality in the portable experience to fiercely competitive levels. Can Luxury and Precision compete with the other big boy toy portable players?
Luxury and Precision – A brief rundown
The creators of this company originated with Colorfly and those who worked on the C4 and CK4 portable music players, both of which I’ve owned and reviewed in the past.
Back then, I wasn’t impressed with Colorfly in the slightest and gave the C4 low marks, so I am beyond elated to report that Luxury and Precision took what they learned from Colorfly’s shortcomings and improved their game.
Before continuing, I wanted to thank John Yang for bridging the gap between Luxury and Precision and me, what a great fella. I wanted to say thank you for your always lightning-fast response times and helpful incite, constant updates, and overall stellar public relations capabilities. You deserve accommodation for doing such a great job.
This DAP could very well offer one of the heftiest and solid constructions in a portable music player that I’ve ever experienced. There also is little doubt in my mind that it is on the top end of the list when it comes to aesthetics and I’ll be damned if this isn’t one of the most beautiful exterior designs in a DAP that I’ve ever handled.
The rear plate is a thin cut of rosewood with aluminum surrounding the entire sides, top, and bottom of the unit. Well played, Luxury and Precision, taking what everyone loved about the C4 and bringing it over and into a more portable chassis.
The L5Pro also comes with a hard leather case that is custom cut to fit the player’s exterior measurements, thankfully it isn’t just a rectangle and that they’ve cut the leather to spec with the odd top area’s curves of the L5Pro’s design.
At the top of the unit lays the horizontally tuned volume knob, which feels plenty hefty on its own. It isn’t exactly a precise piece for tuning loudness, but more on that later in the UI area of the review. For what it is, it feels good and inspires a clash of retro and modern design.
I actually prefer manual control like this, opposed to the fully digital touch control for volume via current-gen DAP’s, or even those with a small one-click button that most other DAP’s utilize. 3 preset hotkey buttons adorn the immediate left-hand side to the volume knob, which are: screen off, custom hotkey 1 and custom hotkey 2.
I must say, coming off the iBasso DX90 and the nightmare placement of its own screen off button (which is located underneath the protective case and on the units left side) the L5Pro has gifted me no bitterness when it comes to free form functionality and tactility.
I really hate having to flip over my DX90 case and thumb down the lock screen/screen off button while the unit is on, especially so when Rockbox’s UI is enabled.
With that active, the screen is more sensitive and I’ve often found myself fumbling menus and subsets that I don’t ever want to touch, menu’s that mess up the settings of the DX90 easily. This isn’t a problem with the L5Pro and it is simple, little design elements like this that are well thought out that make me smile.
The L5Pro comes with 32gb onboard storage and only one micro SD slot. I feel like for these prices that near a grand, DAPs should be designing and taking a page off of Calyx’s M, which is a DAP that had onboard storage, a micro SD card slot, AND a full-size SD card slot.
I can’t complain, but it looks like iBasso’s new DX80 is one of few of the newer generation DAP’s to house a dual micro SD slot feature. What a shame the L5Pro doesn’t also have that feature, darn.
For $809, Luxury and Precision should have opted for a full-size SD card slot as well, as 512gb cards right now cost the same as 128gb micro SD cards and I’d much rather has the full-size SD card in there than the currently overpriced 200gb Sansdisk micro SD card.
With that in mind, storage isn’t really a problem for me on a personal level until my DSD collection comes into play. Those with large amounts of DSD files in their lot are going to run out of space before they can blink, often at times with 1gb+ albums in DSD64 file types.
Ouch, I am running into this problem at the moment and truly only the Calyx M is capable of saving me from being forced to make sacrifices and actually…oh jeez, dare I say it…manually picking and choosing albums to add or delete from my collection.
Good God, that brings me back to 12 years ago and having to be stuck with 50 songs on my Samsung Yepp player…nothing bothers me more than having to sift through gigabytes of my music collection and tell certain albums to walk the plank. “No room for ya, mate. Off with ye!”
The L5Pro also has physical Play/Pause, Fast Forward/Track Forward and Reverse Track/Last Track buttons on the right side of the unit. All the buttons feel of solid quality without any plastic-like feel, looseness, or jiggle.
Truly, from top to bottom this L5Pro screams high quality on the front panel side, even more so on the gorgeous wooden rear plate area. When the sun shines on this player’s rosewood backplate, I grow weak at the knee.
As most of you know, woodies are my Kryptonite and I simply find myself staring at the wood grain for no reason outside of how stunning it looks. I get that the cut of wood might not be as thick as I some prefer it to be, but the weight of the player is already on the border of being too high for me.
For something so small, 195gs feels just right for that quality to actual heft ratio that most of us want: we really wouldn’t want something super heavy, nor would anyone want something that feels hallow at $809. Thankfully, the L5Pro feels dense enough to justify itself and exudes high-quality physicality in build materials used.
The screen is also subpar for the price and Calyx really knocked it out of the park and became untouchable with their OLED screen. By comparison, the L5Pro looks dull and lifeless, low res, and severely lacking compared to the Calyx M.
It really isn’t important, but I would rather see OLED’s take over from here on…if you have seen the Calyx M’s insanely beautiful screen, you’ll understand what I mean.
If they produce any future models, I don’t ever want to see a low res screen like this. But then again, that applies to every DAP company out there. No more low res screens please, OLED is the future.
The UI – My gripes
Oh boy. Well, the L5Pro is missing some functionality right now but I’ve been assured that new firmware updates are coming.
Currently, the USB DAC function is locked and I have a list of gripes that need to be addressed. But, before I do that, I want to make it clear that the L5Pro still sounds bloody fantastic. It simply needs some tweaks here and there and the developer-coder is working to fix these gripes sometime in the near future and with an update.
Support Playlists soon hopefully. Creation of playlists, deleting playlist and an easy way to add tracks into a Playlist need to appear ASAP. Potentially support .M3U? Right now, Playlist’s aren’t a thing and the L5Pro can only be used as a file browser to play a track, or a randomizer of tracks if Shuffle is active. Luxury and Precision have confirmed Playlists will arrive soon, so I expect that by the time you read this, the firmware will have updated to include a Playlist function.
Disable Preset Gain selection. When you switch to Low gain for example, then shut the unit off and turn it back on, it will reset to high gain automatically. I want this feature completely removed and to stay on whatever I select after shut down. IEM users should be very cautious.
I want to be able to see the albums and tracks I’ve added recently. I would like a new bin menu that lists recently added albums/tracks. Right now, the primary folder sort of showcases this already. However, I want a totally separate bin for recently added folders. The primary and first bin folder lists everything either on your TF card or the Internal Storage; however it is not alphabetically listed and will generate the list view in the order of the files added.
Much faster Fast Forward speeds. Some DAP’s have an option to select the speed in 10 second, 20 or 30 seconds at a time. I listen to a lot of long, single-track audiobooks that are 11 hours long and it’s near impossible to fast forward to the last point I listened to on the L5Pro. The Rockbox iBasso DX90 has a very normal fast forward function for the first 2-3 minutes of the track while you hold down the fast forward button. After that, the speed increases dramatically. Meaning, when you hold the FF button down for an extended period of time, the track will fast forward faster and in larger time increments. This is good for long tracks. In Rockbox, I can forward through an 11-hour track rather quickly and without much stress. Let’s try to get the L5Pro UI to support this as well.
While using Shuffle mode, you cannot cycle back to the previous track. The L5Pro shuffles backward AND forwards. I would like the backward shuffle completely disabled. I do not want the unit to shuffle backward. If I am shuffling through tracks, I want to be able to normally track skip backward to the previous song that I may have accidentally skipped over.
Library update seems to not work properly for me. I power the unit off after library update starts, then turn the unit back on, the library update isn’t needed and all the tracks I’ve just recently added appear and function normally. I would like a library scan to be optional in settings. It doesn’t at all matter anyway, as all tracks appear on the player without fault even if you power the unit off during a library update. It kind of makes the library update completely unneeded.
More EQ settings presets. I am told that custom EQ is coming in a future firmware update.
Album Art and the currently playing track will not change if you leave a track playing and active, shut the screen off with the dedicated button for it up top, let the next track come into play or track skip, then turn the player’s screen back on. The original and first track Art and Info that was playing prior to the screen shut off will remain on screen and despite a completely different track playing. It isn’t until you track skip with the screen that the album art and track title information will alter to the correct and currently playing track.
L5PRO Sound Impressions
Bass is lacking depth, but that is directly due to the lack of EQ presets that make sense and sound nice in my opinion. Jazz and Normal are the only two presets that my ears can handle, everything else sounds pretty bad.
Those two presets sound very nice, but they are both lacking Bass quantity to do a vast array of my headphone collection any justice. Sure, clarity is prime and probably the purest in a DAP that I’ve heard outside of the AK240, but I would have expected the “Bass” preset for EQ to not flat out suck.
That EQ is so bad, that I avoid it like the plague and hoping I don’t accidentally click on it while cycling from Normal to Jazz by accident, all the while fearing the thick haze and muddy signature that comes with Bass enabled. Ouch.
Headphones like the Ultrasone Edition 5 sound excellent through this L5Pro while using Normal or Jazz presets! Yes, I think the L5Pro is plenty clean and dynamic enough to do the $2699.99 headphone justice in a portable sense of the word.
The L5Pro does very well with the Noble K10, my Grado GH1/PS500, and AKG N90Q. Truly, nothing sounds bad down below in any headphone I’ve been able to test with, I just find the quantity lacking for usage with headphones that have a lot to offer on the bass end.
However and when used with sets like the very bass-heavy Noble K10 customs, the L5Pro feels shoulder shrug worthy to me. I’d very much prefer to use the iBasso Rockbox OS with my K10’s, due solely on the fact that I can entertain myself with a supremely sensitive and customized EQ. Rockbox lets me crank that bass up and custom tailor the treble along with it if need be and I am physically pained by the fact that I can’t achieve that with the L5Pro just yet.
The L5Pro feels right below the border of “acceptable” in the bass. The Nighthawk, K10, or similar bassy headphones are going to feel let down with regard to quantity.
Quality is another story, as it matches the Calyx M and exceeds my DX90 to an audible degree. Texturing is very pure and reminds me of a lot of the Astell and Kern house sound. The Calyx M sells for a few hundred dollars more than this L5Pro, yet it just isn’t as pure sounding.
I would call the L5Pro a purists delight and something opposite of the more lush and exaggerated Calyx M. It really isn’t for me and doesn’t reflect the type of sound I prefer but damned if it isn’t extremely clean sounding and vividly crystalline in setup. Purists out there will adore it, musicality chasers like me won’t.
Beautiful! I consider the entire midrange exceptionally clear and clean, so clean in fact, that I’d dished out intolerable amounts of money on DSD64 files just to see how far the overall clarity could go. Not sure if the DSD files are any different than the higher-res Flac albums I’ve got, but there are certainly some excellent remastering.
Vocals are not what I would consider lush, if you want thicker density in your midrange, you’ll have to drop $300 more on the Calyx M or $500 less on the iBasso DX90. Both of those offer more substance and a thicker, more weighted, and solid sound vs the L5Pro. If you like Astell and Kern’s sound signature overall, you’ll love this L5Pro. It isn’t at all lacking in solidity, but it is somewhere before what most would start to consider a “lush” sound.
Clarity is sublime and again, absolutely on par with my Calyx M. If not for the stark contrast in sound signature and the varying quantities of bass, mids and treble between the two, I’d not be able to tell which DAP sounds cleaner.
I’d previously considered the Calyx M a nice value at that $1100 price tag, but there is no question the L5Pro compares and ultimately trumped it in price to performance. Hey, by the way, the Calyx M can’t handle DSD.
The L5Pro is not vividly forward, nor is it what I would consider lacking engaging qualities. The realm of physical placement that the midrange sits upon is one that is of a more linear appeal: it isn’t truly forward, but it also isn’t at all recessed.
Midrange DAP Comparisons
By comparison, the DX90 is more recessed feeling, but the Calyx M is ever so slightly more forward when I tried my best to equalize the volume between the three, all while using the exact same track. Using my Pathos Aurium via triple RCA outs, I am able to swap between all three DAP’s quickly with a press of a button.
The results of that test proved the L5Pro is the more rounded of the trio. Jazz lover will adore this, especially those who enjoy the older recordings from the 40s to the 60s with intimate recording styles being the focus of the experience: the sound ends up being just right and not overly forward, or at the very least slightly annoying in vividness.
This DAP does justice to my Noble K10 and I’ve found myself just talking short walks and sitting outside much more often than I have all year long. So far, no DAP has been able to swindle me out of discontinuing my marriage to the DX90 Rockbox experience, but the L5Pro handles things on a higher level to my ears.
As good as I thought the Calyx M was, I shelved it and went back to the Rockbox DX90. Clarity is absolutely a few steps above the DX90 (the reason I use the DX90 so often here in this review is due to my feelings towards the DX90 being the best overall DAP between $300 and $999) and I’ve shelved it too for a short time.
I’ve not done that for a long time. It does bug me not being able to EQ to my heart’s content, but hopefully, in the future, that will change with some firmware upgrades.
The upper end of the L5Pro is without question the most beautiful in a DAP that I have yet heard lately. It is an audibly more clean and dense feeling than the Calyx M and is roughly on par with the Astell and Kern AK240.
My old RWAK AK120 is left in the dust and that is a stock Astell and Kern AK120 original that is heavily modified and costs an insane amount of cash. My SR71B portable amplifier is not clean enough to be paired with the L5Pro and the experience is audibly deteriorated when the two are combined and my headphones are plugged into the 71B.
That really goes to show just how nice portable music players have become lately when prior to the latest generation of DAP’s, I’d considered the 71B amp to improve every DAP on the market. Now, the DAP’s seem to trump one of the best portable amplifiers of the last 5 years.
On Jazz, normal, and sometimes with Rock EQ enabled, the treble is stunning and never sibilant unless the track is terribly rendered. I do not want more treble than what is there and I don’t think it would be improved with custom EQ.
In contrast, I do think the bass could be altered and improved, but not the treble and it is gently brightened in the most elegant sense of the word. Without being overly bright and vivid, somehow the treble experience is able to obtain an engaging snap all while never sounding annoying. There isn’t harshness in the slightest, which is something I have to manually tune into the DX90 to achieve a similar silkiness with.
Not quite as aired out as the Calyx M, but generally on par with the AK240 and absolutely exceeds the DX90 in every way. This player puts out such a nice tonality, one that is swaying me into enjoying the more natural texture and tone types out there.
As most of you may already know, I prefer warmth and musicality over purity and accuracy. With that in mind, I’ve found myself really taken aback by the combined clarity of the L5Pro and the good sound staging qualities that are offered.
While not exceptional in height, weight or depth, the overall shape is immaculately well formed: everything feels so naturally coherent and right, which are qualities I felt the DX90 and the Calyx M to lack severely.
It isn’t a titan of imaging, but what is there is much like the Beyerdynamic T1 vs some other Flagship models: you can instantly spot the well-formed bubble of naturalness when you A/B compare it with some other models out yonder.
I think the L5Pro offers mostly good everything and very little lacking, and when all qualities are good and nothing is really obviously flawed, the entire experience is just that much better as a whole.
I don’t feel the large and spacious sound of my K10 to be at all lacking when paired with the L5Pro, but I do notice that my Pathos Aurium far exceeds the depth vastness of the L5Pro with certain headphones like the Ultrasone Edition 5. Expect very nice sound staging, airiness and plentiful width, height, and depth in the L5Pro.
Would I recommend this right now and before the firmware updates are released? No, it is too basic in features, and having the DAC locked is only hurting me on the inside.
The truth is that I’ve no clue how the 4490 DAC inside this model sounds as a source via the PC, I’ve also no clue what the extent of clarity or tonal balance can be due to the fact that the EQ presets are really awful for the most part. Once these features are updated and unlocked, I’ll be able to grasp just how far the rabbit hole goes with this L5Pro, and from there, I’d recommend this DAP in a heartbeat.
For now, I rate it very good, but not great. With just a few of those UI elements addressed, my final verdict would change from very good to great in an instant. Despite not having a good EQ set, the L5Pro still sounds great on certain EQ presets, the player is very well built and gorgeous to boot, it also has onboard storage and a fast, snappy UI that basic and fast.
I can’t spot any negative qualities that revolve around sound, despite my not liking the tone of the player. Luxury and Precision seems like they have a bright future if they keep on this path, so if you are interested in a sub $999 player and need DSD capabilities, I wouldn’t recommend anything else once these few tweaks are made. I really don’t think there isn’t much competition out there that satisfies as many checkboxes as the L5Pro does for this price tier.
She is beautiful, fast, and promised to improve in the near future with firmware updates. Great job Luxury and Precision! I really enjoyed the raw clarity of the L5Pro and hope to see more great products from you in the future.