Opus#1
Headfonics 2016

The Opus#1 DAP By The Bit

Sound Impressions

Tonality

The Opus#1 tonality actually took me quite by surprise as I was expecting something very analytical for some odd reason but instead I find myself listening to something that’s far more smooth, fairly flat and neutral in many respects but with a hint of warmth down below. All of this is wrapped in a very wide open and spacious presentation that yields excellent detail.

It is not an aggressive musical signature like the Cayin N5 and whilst both the IEM module of the X7 and the Opus#1 are both similarly flat the X7 IEM module doesn’t have the same smooth tones of the Opus#1 particularly in the low end thus sounding a bit more digital and clinical. It’s only when you switch to the AM2 module of the X7 do you get a more aggressive low end and enhanced dynamics over the Opus#1 at the cost of a slightly raised noise floor on very sensitive IEMs.

The Opus#1 also extends well with good presence and a full sounding but linear bass response, a neutral but slightly thinner mid-range and a smooth but slightly laid back, treble signature that coveys excellent detail but very little peakiness. It doesn’t have the same level of sparkle and clarity as the X7 (AM1 module) or even the Cayin N6 but instead offers a more forgiving almost analog tonality that makes it a little bit more musical and forgiving than either of its competitors.

Bass

If you want added oomph and mid-bass destruction there are more colored options out there. The Opus#1 is a little too linear and ‘polite’ for that unless you start fiddling heavily with the EQ option or throwing on a ‘dyed in the wool’ bass head earphone. Having said that bass is not lacking in depth or sub-bass presence, early roll-off is kept in check in that respect. However, mid-bass is largely uncolored and linear meaning it doesn’t provide a large slice of bass head slam. Bass performance though does have a decent turn of pace and articulation despite that hint of warmth. Texture and detail are also very good actually and there is an overriding fullness to the sound that gives it decent gravitas.

Mids

This is a clean, clear and very open mid-range though slightly on the thinner side than the warmer tones of the bass response. Instrumental separation and imaging are excellent with no lack of detail. Lower mids have a touch more body compared to the upper midrange but otherwise, it is a largely neutral presentation across the board. Vocals are clear and sibilant free, very smooth actually but not as forward as some other DAPs and lack a little texture or character as I like to call it due to that slightly thinner upper mid-range.

Treble

The Opus#1’s treble extends reasonably well though it is not as edgy or bright as say the Cayin N5 nor it as forward sounding as the Cayin N6. This is not a brash peaky signature, perhaps a little laid back but in no way lacking in detail or sounding syrupy. Resolution is solid on the Opus#1’s treble performance. Percussion does sounds natural and thankfully lacking in any unwanted splashiness. I really can’t detect any naughty or unwanted peaks in the lower treble which is a blessed relief.

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Matchability

IEMs

Efficiency

115dB SNR should be sensitive enough for most IEM’s to be free of unacceptably high noise or background hiss. The likes of the Oriveti Primacy, Shure SE846 and Campfire Audio Jupiter were very quiet indeed in single ended mode at around 70-73 steps on the Opus#1 digital volume. Less efficient IEMs such as the Westone W4 pushed the Opus#1 a little harder with the digital volume all the way up to around 85-87 steps unbalanced whilst the RHA T20 went 90 steps and higher. On balanced mode with lower efficiency IEM’s 30 ohms and upwards the Opus#1 offered better dynamics and clarity though volume adjustment between single ended and balanced was not as huge as you might think, maybe dropping around 5 steps.

Tonality

Smoother sounding musical IEMs such as the Oriveti Primacy didn’t connect quite as well as more energetic mid centric IEMs such as the Jupiter. Given the Opus#1 has a relatively flat sounding and at times transparent tonal quality it feels more at home paired up with energetic IEM’s or those that flesh out the midrange a bit more with excellent vocal capabilities. If the vocal staging is already neutral or recessed in your IEM, the Opus#1 will not give it a huge lift. Dynamic IEM’s such as the RHA T20 sounded excellent paired with the Opus#1. Throwing on silicone tips and the T20 reference filter. this pairing offered a punchier and more forward sound than either the Primacy or the W4.

Headphones

Planar Cans

The Opus#1 has decent enough power actually for more efficient modern planars. Though not as optimal as a full desktop setup and requiring around 125 digital volume steps on the Opus#1, the MrSpeakers Ether Closed sounding actually quite smooth and flowing. The only thing lacking for me in this pairing was that razor sharp imaging and dynamics you can achieve with the Ether C when combined with world class DACs such as the Hugo. Nevertheless, the Opus#1 did reasonably well, certainly no clipping or distortion before hitting decent volume levels.

Two more efficient planar cans, the Hifiman HE400s, and the PM-3 were driven with a bit more authority out of the Opus#1. Unsurprising really given their higher levels of efficiency, but unlike the N5 the better pairing was with the PM-3. Whilst the HE400S sounded slightly more spacious the PM-3 had a bit more sparkle and energy in the upper mids and treble that felt more engaging and cleaner especially with hard rock.

Dynamic Cans

For more efficient dynamics headphones, the Opus#1 has no such issues though things become less optimal the higher up you go in the power or ohm scale. Headphones that are mysteriously power hungry like the K501/500 from AKG have way too little bass response to convince when paired with the Opus#1. Flat sounding headphones such as the TMA-1 studio, stayed, well rather flat so perhaps not the most inspiring of pairings. Much like the IEM testing, if you have a dynamic headphone with a slightly more colored midrange (energetic) and a sparkle in the treble it does seem to sound more engaging with the Opus#1 flat signature.

Mind you sticking with AKG I actually enjoyed the pairing with the K812 with the odd caveat. Certainly it’s a much more forgiving sound than the razor sharp and edgy N5 which killed the K812’s already nervy treble response. The Opus#1 does quite the opposite in calming down the K812 a little on the top end. It also takes advantage of the K812 stellar and very coherent staging qualities. Imaging is excellent, razor sharp and very accurate with the Opus#1 pairing. It doesn’t mask that slight hard edged sound of the K812 vocals, that’s the caveat, but it one of the easier going DAP pairings much like the Lotoo Paw Gold in many respects.

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Select Comparisons

* The Opus#1 retails for around $600 and there are a fair few DAPs that retail for a similar price that competes squarely against the Opus#1. The selection below is primarily a snapshot and should not be taken as the only potential competitors or worthwhile comparisons.

Cayin N6

The Cayin ying to The Bit yang in a nutshell with the N6 looking positively antiquated beside the smaller, sleeker touch sensitive Android-fueled Opus#1. Once side-by-side you do though wonder if locking down Android to pure music and nothing else represents a missed opportunity by The Bit, given how much faster and easier it is to operate the Opus#1 over the N6. Just a few more options would be great during playback such as on the fly playlist creation, some sort of gain mode maybe, filters. It is Android after all.

Tonally both adhere more to the neutral side of things but the Opus#1 trades in the N6’s achingly analytical qualities for a slightly smoother sound, slightly more low-end warmth and perhaps a little less treble presence.

FiiO X7

Android versus Android, well yes, but no, well yes. X7 is the full unbridled open Android platform meaning apps, WiFi, streaming, OTG and BT. It’s a techhead audiophile mid-fi dream and fully taps into the modern generations perceived needs, aka wants unlike the Opus#1 which in the end just plays music. Both are touchscreen naturally though the X7 IPS screen puts the Opus#1 TFT screen firmly in the rear view mirror. Expandable modules give the X7 plenty of options and legs but at a higher total cost of ownership than the Opus#1 and don’t forget Opus#1 already comes back with balanced output unlike the X7 which you will have to pay extra for.

Tonally it a hard one to nail due to the differing modules. Compared to the IEM module the Opus#1 has a more natural sound with a more pleasing and engaging tonal quality and better staging qualities to the slightly sterile IEM amp. Throw on the AM2 module and the Opus#1 has some challenging competition with increased dynamics, more aggressive low end and better vocals. The Opus#1 still has the staging edge but it’s otherwise flat tonality can at times be caught napping by the AM2 module.

Sony ZX1

Another Android pistols at noon and although the ZX1 is also fairly open compared to the Opus#1 it’s very sluggish in comparison. Give me music only if the end result is a patient wait for media to load, lists to load, well anything to load really on the ZX1. The Opus#1 is by far the faster of the two. Granted though the Sony can WiFi and add apps but it is not the user experience you would expect from the X7 or regular Android phones.

Tonally the ZX1 one is more colored than the Opus#1 with a heftier low end with some good impact compared to the Opus#1 flatter but more spacious sounding signature. The ZX1 though feels less efficient than the Opus#1 with higher levels of noise and background hiss on super sensitive earphones. The ZX1 also lacks a little power in comparison to really get to grips with planars that the Opus#1 had more success with.

Final Thoughts

The Opus#1 is a solid first DAP from this erstwhile unknown Korean R&D specialists. Yes, it does ape the AK look a little and its flavor of Android is very locked down but in its defense it’s a speedy little OS that is very stable. There are some learning curves as ever with proprietary OS such as the odd icons, the slightly disconnected settings menu and the advanced EQ system that might alienate some beginners but otherwise after a few minutes you will be up and running without much bother. Feature wise it’s solid with balanced, optical and headphone out. The missing DAC functionality from PC’s will be a welcome addition but otherwise dual microSD slots, 8-9 hours battery life and a cushy little leather case should distract rather nicely.

Tonally The Bit have played things a bit safe with a very flat natural sound that doesn’t push the envelope in any specific direction but nevertheless remains very detailed with good levels of transparency and above average staging. Its musical enough to enjoy but not overly musical or colored to take you down any specific genre route. An all-rounder you could say. Decent low noise levels, balanced and unbalanced outputs with decent power makes this an agile little DAP for IEM’s and more than a respectable performer with headphones. My money’s on energetic headphones or IEM’s with a bit of spice up top as the best match.

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There is potential still with firmware updates to further polish the Opus#1 OS, nail that DAC feature, play with filters if possible, load some more EQ presets so I look forward to seeing what The Bit can do. Certainly frequent updates are coming out so there is commitment. If I thought the Opus#1 was pants I would not prattle on about things I want to see in the future but I do think it is a good little DAP at a very fair price for what you get.

Technical Specifications

  • 24bit / 192kHz High Resolution Sound
  • 32bit processor core
  • Cirrus Logic CS4398 x 2EA Dual DAC
  • ARM Cortex-A9 1.4GHz, Quad-Core CPU DDR3 1GB
  • SNR 115dB, THD+N 0.0007%, Crosstalk – 130dB, Output 2Vmrs
  • Low-clock-jitter sensitivity: 50ps(Typ)
  • 4inch TFT Wide Touch Display (480 x 800)
  • WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, DSD, WMA,
  • MP3, OGG, APE(Normal, High, Fast)
  • Internal Memory 32GB
  • External Micro SD Card Memory 200GB x 2EA
  • Enhanced ABS Solid Body and Tempered Glass
  • Ultra Power Saving Mode
  • Crosstalk 130dB @ 1KHz,Unbalanced / 135dB @ 1KHz, Balanced
  • Output Impedance Balanced out 2.5mm(1ohm) / PHONES 3.5mm(2ohm)
  • Output Level Unbalanced 2.1Vrms / Balanced 2.3Vrms(Condition No Loa
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