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-   -   Cowon Plenue D Review (http://www.anythingbutipod.com/forum/showthread.php?t=75448)

dawningistheday 07-12-2016 02:13 PM

Cowon Plenue D Review
 
Cowon Plenue D

Okay, letís start off with my ďcredentialsĒ if you can even call them that. Iím very familiar with Cowonís products as I have owned the following players from Cowon over the years: J3, S9, D3, i9+, X9, M2, and now the Plenue D. I currently own the J3, and still consider it Cowonís best player, and my favorite player of all time. I am a huge fan of the Cowon J3 and it is still my daily driver.
So when I say that the Plenue D is certainly the second-best player from Cowon that Iíve tried, and dare I say, it still has potential to overtake the J3, it should mean something.

Design
The player is essentially a little brick, with sharp corners, a large power button on the top (which also acts as a screen lock/activation toggle), and 5 playback buttons down the right-hand side (Volume Up, Volume Down, Play/Pause, Reverse, and Forward, in that order, from top to bottom). The power button has a cool circular LED around it which lights up white when the player is processing, and shows red while the player is plugged in and charging, and green when it is plugged in and the battery is full.
http://i.imgur.com/l1LuSul.jpg
http://imgur.com/l1LuSulThe playback buttons are nice and responsive, with just enough resistance to avoid accidental pressing, just enough relief to be convenient for blind touch, and are laid out in a convenient manner, with enough space between the play/pause button and the others to quickly find the correct one. The Vol Up/Down buttons are oriented in what seems like the opposite direction as the Rev/FF ones, which is weird at first, but Iíve already gotten used to it. What I mean is that Vol Up points toward the top of the player, and FF points toward the bottom of the player. Just another of those strange Cowon design quirks, I guess.

Screen
Iím giving the screen its own section in this write-up because there has been a lot of negative publicity on its performance. I donít find its performance bad at all. In fact, had I not followed the head-fi thread, I would never have given the screen performance a second thought. Perhaps this says more about me than it does the Plenue D, but I think having my expectations set sufficiently low by various older Cowon models (specifically the M2) and their resistive screens, I find the screen response and scrolling and really the overall ease-of-use to be great. Thatís just my opinion, and others are welcome to form their own. Having said that, scrolling through long lists on the Plenue D is definitely cumbersome, and is much easier on the J3. The Plenue D seems to lack a ďhigh gearĒ when scrolling, i.e. when you do a quick swipe on the J3, it zips through maybe 50-60 entries quickly, then slows down for a bit before stopping. On the D, it does basically the same thing except it will only get through about 20 entries. Of course, there is a small cursor on the right-hand side of the screen that you can use to scroll quickly, and it works just fine, plus there is a search function.
http://i.imgur.com/IUu628C.jpg
But overall I will say that in this regard the D is clearly behind the J3. However, with responsiveness otherwise there is essentially no difference. I have yet to mis-press the screen and wind up in a menu I didnít intend, or go to scroll through a list and end up selecting something instead. This kind of thing happened constantly with the M2 and it drove me nuts.

UI/Interface
It is typically Cowon in its UI. That is, Iím really wishing a Kizune would come along and work some magic on this thing. The Leaf/Sense/Lynx UCI suite improved my experience with the J3 immensely, and if a comparable UCI were to become available on the Plenue D, oh man.
But the UI as it stands now is not bad. Itís typically Cowon, as I said, but it works and does what I need it to do. The aesthetics of the UI reminds me a lot of the i9+, which is fine. It seems that the settings are only accessible through the Now Playing Screen (NPS) though, which I find very strange.
http://i.imgur.com/oCPF5f3.jpg
Admittedly I would prefer this to the inverse: not having them accessible through the NPS, but why they arenít accessible from both locations is strange. In fact, come to think of it, there is no home screen at all on the Plenue D. When you boot it up, it goes straight to the NPS, or to the browser if youíve add or removed items from storage.
The Plenue D give you two options for the NPS. One has a black patterned background and a small inset album art in the center.
http://i.imgur.com/kl5dVPD.jpg
The other gives you a round ďrecord labelĒ artwork in the center. I was one of the few fans of the rotating record label NPS on the M2, so I lament the fact that this time the album art does not spin, so I prefer the first option, which is the default. Both options allow for a press on the album art to go to a display which shows the album art full size and looks really nice, but doesnít have any other useful information such as the time elapsed, playback controls, or access to the settings, EQ, etc. Iíd love to see a UCI that used this screen as the main screen and perhaps worked in the ďmissingĒ options too.
http://i.imgur.com/ZKQBGFI.jpg


Gripes
Okay, it seems like Iíve spent most of this praising and defending the Plenue D, so Iím going to gripe about some things that I donít like. First, and most obviously is the physical design. I like that it is small, but not too small. I like the aesthetics. I donít like the sharp corners at all. It can be quite uncomfortable if it gets turned in your pocket and jabs you with one of its pointy parts. Itís a minor gripe, sure, but a portable, pocketable device needs to have smooth edges. I love the insane battery life (rated at 100 hours), but I would definitely take a Plenue D that had 50 hours of battery life and was 2/3 the thickness of this brick. Itís heavy too (94g), for its size, and Iím guess most of that weight is its gargantuan battery.


Comparisons with the J3
http://i.imgur.com/Q6DiFPw.jpg
Since Iíve already compared the Plenue D with the aging J3, I think a straight up comparison is in order.

Areas where the Plenue D beats the J3:
  • Battery life: Not that the J3 was lacking, but he Plenue D packs a rated 100 hours, compared to 64 hours for its predecessor
  • RMAA results: The Plenue D measures better than the J3. The differences are probably not audible under ordinary circumstances (I would guess theyíre never audible but thatís for a different thread), but the Plenue D does produce a cleaner output, and the biggest flaw from the J3 (and most other Cowon devices), the bass roll off with low impedance loads, has been corrected here. [FYI these RMAA results are found on the ohm-image website]
  • Hi-Res support: Yay? Good for those who love Hi-Res, but for me this is a total non-factor
  • File Limits: Itís about damn time, Cowon!!! The internal file limit is still 8,000 music files (which is plenty for 32GB), but thankfully, the external limit has been raised to 16,000. This makes 128GB microSD cards a realistic choice.
  • Database: The "Songs" database builds instantly (or during bootup after adding or removing items from storage) and you can shuffle all tracks without having to wait for the database to build like on the J3.
Areas where the J3 beats the Plenue D:
  • Scrolling/display: Itís not night and day, but the J3 is still easier to use in this regard. Also, I like the J3ís portrait-shaped screen better. It shows more items at a time in the browser, and allows for a better NPS layout.
  • Design: I like the shape and weight of the J3 better, and the fact that its corners arenít injurious.
  • UCIs: You simply cannot beat the J3 with Kizuneís UCI suite with any UI provided by Cowon. Itís a bit unfair to the Plenue D to expect the significantly diminished Cowon fan community to have rectified this issue already, but hereís hoping.
Conclusions
The Plenue D is a great player. If you are in the market for a DAP, it should be on your list, near the top. If youíre a Cowon fan, or more specifically a former Cowon fan, and you lament the poor choices the company has made in recent years and have ever found yourself thinking, ďTskÖdidnít Cowon learn anything from the success of the J3? Where in the world is the J3+ weíve been waiting for?!Ē then you should look no further, because the Plenue D is the new J3. If it had been released in 2012-13 and called the Cowon J4, Iím sure weíd have all fawned over it then, and even in this era of niche DAPs and ubiquitous smartphones, the Plenue D should still warrant consideration from digital audio enthusiasts.

The DarkSide 07-12-2016 05:43 PM

EXCELLENT REVIEW!!! I so want to sell my NWZ-A17 now,...but I want THIS INSTEAD!!!

skip252 07-12-2016 05:46 PM

I've moved your review from Random Chat to here. It's much too good for it to get buried there.

The DarkSide 07-12-2016 05:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by skip252 (Post 656529)
I've moved your review from Random Chat to here. It's much too good for it to get buried there.

Too bad access to the front page of ABi is restricted. We have quite a few great reviews that are hidden within the forums.

skip252 07-12-2016 05:53 PM

This is the type of review I was talking about pushing a link to from the front page. Give me a day or so and I'll see what can be done.

BruceBanner 07-12-2016 06:17 PM

Lacks lego.

BruceBanner 07-12-2016 06:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dawningistheday (Post 656521)
... Screen
Iím giving the screen its own section in this write-up because there has been a lot of negative publicity on its performance. I donít find its performance bad at all. In fact, had I not followed the head-fi thread, I would never have given the screen performance a second thought. Perhaps this says more about me than it does the Plenue D, but I think having my expectations set sufficiently low by various older Cowon models (specifically the M2) and their resistive screens, I find the screen response and scrolling and really the overall ease-of-use to be great.
...

I think the negativity has most to do with the price vs performance ratio. Remember... you got your PD reduced, it's still not seen a price drop here in Australia at all (retails $430AUD) whereas the M2 is around $200AUD. Initially the people who were buying the PD immediately were also paying full retail price, so I think a few were shocked to see the lag etc. If I paid $250AUD for the PD I too think I would be ok with lag, $430 is a bit less forgiveable, my $99 Xperia E smartphone prolly scrolls better with less lag lol.

Quote:

Originally Posted by dawningistheday (Post 656521)
UI/Interface...
The other gives you a round ďrecord labelĒ artwork in the center. I was one of the few fans of the rotating record label NPS on the M2, so I lament the fact that this time the album art does not spin, so I prefer the first option, which is the default. Both options allow for a press on the album art to go to a display which shows the album art full size and looks really nice, but doesnít have any other useful information such as the time elapsed, playback controls, or access to the settings, EQ, etc. Iíd love to see a UCI that used this screen as the main screen and perhaps worked in the ďmissingĒ options too.
[IMG][/IMG]

Pfft... fan of the spinning art?! Can we trust a single thing this man has to say!? I rest my case! :P


Quote:

Originally Posted by dawningistheday (Post 656521)
Gripes

Okay, it seems like Iíve spent most of this praising and defending the Plenue D, so Iím going to gripe about some things that I donít like. First, and most obviously is the physical design. I like that it is small, but not too small. I like the aesthetics. I donít like the sharp corners at all. It can be quite uncomfortable if it gets turned in your pocket and jabs you with one of its pointy parts. Itís a minor gripe, sure, but a portable, pocketable device needs to have smooth edges. I love the insane battery life (rated at 100 hours), but I would definitely take a Plenue D that had 50 hours of battery life and was 2/3 the thickness of this brick. Itís heavy too (94g), for its size, and Iím guess most of that weight is its gargantuan battery.

Totally agreed, I have made this point before. 24-30hrs is PLENTY battery life imo, anything over is a bonus, but when you go over and it requires a thicker and heavier DAP then that actually becomes a negative. The i9+ was 40g, tiny and managed 24hrs, this was a great performance to size ratio in terms of battery life. A PD that was three times the thickness of a credit card and weighed 50g would be so much more attractive, to the point that if it too managed around 20hrs with the same screen lag 'issue' they would have had my money already. I still feel that Cowon are using a mixed bag of components, some new some old, perhaps it a bid to get rid of old stock (those M2 batteries) or just because they can get them at dirt cheap prices so are choosing that.

I already own a brick, my next Cowon would need to be something different to that, something very light, so I wait with bated breath to see what comes next in the i9+ range.

Quote:

Originally Posted by dawningistheday (Post 656521)
Comparisons with the J3
[IMG][/IMG]
Since Iíve already compared the Plenue D with the aging J3, I think a straight up comparison is in order.

Areas where the Plenue D beats the J3:
  • Battery life: Not that the J3 was lacking, but he Plenue D packs a rated 100 hours, compared to 64 hours for its predecessor
  • RMAA results: The Plenue D measures better than the J3. The differences are probably not audible under ordinary circumstances (I would guess theyíre never audible but thatís for a different thread), but the Plenue D does produce a cleaner output, and the biggest flaw from the J3 (and most other Cowon devices), the bass roll off with low impedance loads, has been corrected here. [FYI these RMAA results are found on the ohm-image website]...

The cleaner output is attractive to me as with both the i9+ and C2 they were hissy as hell, especially when in DSP junkie mode (less when left in normal).
As someone who has been 'born again hiss free snob' I am interested in if Cowon has 'killed' the hiss from their line of DAPs, or if one has to choose the Plenue range for that non hiss feature. I am also curious to see if the hiss is also increased/worsened when applying more and more BBE/Jet Effect options (which seemed to be the case with the C2 and i9) or if it too remains black (very attractive possibility). Because thus far in my life I have not heard mdwright's DSPs configs in a nice black background environment (which is attractive to me).

Great review.

And now some questions >:D

1) I am interested in how the Lyric aspect works. Supposedly the PD supports .lrc files (time stamped) as well as non timestamped ones (tagged lyrics, sometimes seen or referred to as being 'UNSYNCED'). I have a heap of lrc files which is nice (tho many are wrongly time stamped such as live performances etc), but I have many that are tagged, yet devices like the AP100 won't display these.
How does the PD manage this? I am in no hurry for this answer, I can understand if Lyrics are not yer thing then this involves a tad bit of work on yer part, so don't worry if u cbf testing this out.

2) The 4 custom slots for EQ/BBE/Jet Effect. Can you listen to music and toggle between these easily? Could you for instance just leave the screen perma on, and those choices displayed permanently (as opposed to NPS with Art), or do those choices time out if not pressed within 5mins etc and returns to NPS. if the device is in lock/hold, can u use teh physical buttons to navigate those choices and select? Sounds weird but you could with the i9+ (and C2 i think).

Cheers,

Bruce

Mikerman 07-12-2016 08:25 PM

Wonderful review, and giving me player envy, LOL.

Currently available from JetAudio at Amazon.com at US$199.99, for the black and silver version; black and gold version for US$10 more.

BruceBanner 07-12-2016 08:50 PM

If they delivered to oz :'(

dawningistheday 07-13-2016 09:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by The DarkSide (Post 656527)
EXCELLENT REVIEW!!! I so want to sell my NWZ-A17 now,...but I want THIS INSTEAD!!!

Thank you! You're easy to convince. If you liked the J3 you'd like this too.
Quote:

Originally Posted by skip252 (Post 656529)
I've moved your review from Random Chat to here. It's much too good for it to get buried there.

I wasn't able to post directly to the User Review section. I think I remember this being a thing at some point. But thank you very much for moving it.
Quote:

Originally Posted by skip252 (Post 656531)
This is the type of review I was talking about pushing a link to from the front page. Give me a day or so and I'll see what can be done.

Oh, I'm not sure it's ready for the big time right now. I thought of a few things last night that I should probably add.
Quote:

Originally Posted by BruceBanner (Post 656533)
Lacks lego.

Ha ha, yes, I was thinking about this as I snapped my boring photos!
Quote:

Originally Posted by BruceBanner (Post 656534)
I think the negativity has most to do with the price vs performance ratio.

Good point. I agree. For $200 with a one year warranty I think it's certainly a good buy.

Quote:

Pfft... fan of the spinning art?! Can we trust a single thing this man has to say!? I rest my case! :P
Haha, well, perhaps I should rephrase that statement. I didn't hate the spinning art on the M2, but I really could have taken it or left it. I figure if they bothered with the circular "record label" art style, why not have it rotating?

Quote:

I already own a brick, my next Cowon would need to be something different to that, something very light, so I wait with bated breath to see what comes next in the i9+ range.
Just find a used J3! It's as close to your coveted i9+ with a microSD slot as you're going to get from Cowon (so far)!
My J3 still gets close to 50hrs per charge too, so I think the batteries must age fairly well.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mikerman (Post 656536)
Wonderful review, and giving me player envy, LOL.

Currently available from JetAudio at Amazon.com at US$199.99, for the black and silver version; black and gold version for US$10 more.

Thank you! And I wanted the black and silver version but it was $50 more, and I even asked them if I could get it at the lower price and they said no! But the gold is very subdued, as you can see in my photos, and in fact when I first received it I wondering if they slipped me a silver one anyway on the down low. It actually looks really silver in normal lighting anyway.

dawningistheday 07-13-2016 09:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BruceBanner (Post 656534)
I still feel that Cowon are using a mixed bag of components, some new some old, perhaps it a bid to get rid of old stock (those M2 batteries) or just because they can get them at dirt cheap prices so are choosing that.

I'm thinking you're probably right. But it's not like it's unwieldy, but I personally would be willing to lose some of its (overkill) battery life for a thinner, lighter DAP.

Quote:

The cleaner output is attractive to me as with both the i9+ and C2 they were hissy as hell, especially when in DSP junkie mode (less when left in normal).
I am also curious to see if the hiss is also increased/worsened when applying more and more BBE/Jet Effect options (which seemed to be the case with the C2 and i9) or if it too remains black (very attractive possibility). Because thus far in my life I have not heard mdwright's DSPs configs in a nice black background environment (which is attractive to me).
I will have to check this out, but as you know, my hiss detector is much shabbier than yours. But I will check.

Quote:

1) I am interested in how the Lyric aspect works. Supposedly the PD supports .lrc files (time stamped) as well as non timestamped ones (tagged lyrics, sometimes seen or referred to as being 'UNSYNCED'). I have a heap of lrc files which is nice (tho many are wrongly time stamped such as live performances etc), but I have many that are tagged, yet devices like the AP100 won't display these.
How does the PD manage this? I am in no hurry for this answer, I can understand if Lyrics are not yer thing then this involves a tad bit of work on yer part, so don't worry if u cbf testing this out.
I will check. I've never used lyrics but I'll see what I can figure out.

Quote:

2) The 4 custom slots for EQ/BBE/Jet Effect. Can you listen to music and toggle between these easily? Could you for instance just leave the screen perma on, and those choices displayed permanently (as opposed to NPS with Art), or do those choices time out if not pressed within 5mins etc and returns to NPS.
As far as I know, yes. I will experiment with this, but when you change EQ from the NPS (remember that's the only place you can access the settings), it opens a separate menu with the four custom EQ slots and the Normal setting filling the screen (see photo). You can set the screen for always on, and still toggle it on an off with the power button. I am testing it right now to see if the EQ menu times out while playing music with the display on.
http://i.imgur.com/d7DNaWy.jpg
Quote:

if the device is in lock/hold, can u use teh physical buttons to navigate those choices and select? Sounds weird but you could with the i9+ (and C2 i think).
No, not that I've been able to figure out anyway.

BruceBanner 07-14-2016 04:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dawningistheday (Post 656539)
Thank you! And I wanted the black and silver version but it was $50 more, and I even asked them if I could get it at the lower price and they said no! But the gold is very subdued, as you can see in my photos, and in fact when I first received it I wondering if they slipped me a silver one anyway on the down low. It actually looks really silver in normal lighting anyway.

Just like C3P0's lower leg... what... u mean u never knew C3P0 has always had a silver leg?!?! Go check...!

dawningistheday 07-14-2016 05:54 PM

BruceBanner, just an update for you: the EQ screen does not time out, whether you've toggled the screen off or not.

BruceBanner 07-14-2016 10:29 PM

Nice one, thanks for that, definitely a contender!

dawningistheday 07-17-2016 08:11 AM

Cowon Plenue D Review
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by BruceBanner (Post 656544)
Nice one, thanks for that, definitely a contender!



I still need to check out your other questions. Probably in a day or two.
I'll probably address a few other things that I should've placed in the main review too.
[edit: I did experiment with listening for hiss while using jet effects, etc. there is definitely some audible hiss when BBE is cranked way up, but the volume has to be set very high. I will listen some more to this and try to quantify it a little better for you. I think the hiss was a little more noticeable on the J3 but I will experiment a little more before I'd feel 100% sure.]

The DarkSide 07-17-2016 11:08 AM

I will gladly trade a Sony NWZ-A17 64GB Walkman, with a silicone case, an LOD, a charger, and smile, for a Cowon Plenue D,...

Mikerman 07-17-2016 01:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by The DarkSide (Post 656548)
I will gladly trade a Sony NWZ-A17 64GB Walkman, with a silicone case, an LOD, a charger, and smile, for a Cowon Plenue D,...

No, Luke, don't do it, don't go to the dark side!!! �� (Irony noted with your username.)

The DarkSide 07-17-2016 03:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mikerman (Post 656550)
No, Luke, don't do it, don't go to the dark side!!! �� (Irony noted with your username.)

I'm the original DarkSide on this site,...:D

dawningistheday 07-18-2016 07:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BruceBanner (Post 656534)
The cleaner output is attractive to me as with both the i9+ and C2 they were hissy as hell, especially when in DSP junkie mode (less when left in normal).

As someone who has been 'born again hiss free snob' I am interested in if Cowon has 'killed' the hiss from their line of DAPs, or if one has to choose the Plenue range for that non hiss feature. I am also curious to see if the hiss is also increased/worsened when applying more and more BBE/Jet Effect options (which seemed to be the case with the C2 and i9) or if it too remains black (very attractive possibility). Because thus far in my life I have not heard mdwright's DSPs configs in a nice black background environment (which is attractive to me)


Playing around with the hiss issue today and what I have discovered is that most of the hiss is introduced via the Equalizer, as opposed to the DSPs. Neither BBE nor Mach3 Bass add much hiss at all, but if you crank up the EQ sliders you can hear the hiss coming in. And as you change the frequency settings on each EQ slider, the pitch of the hiss changes accordingly. So for me the worst hiss was introduced with the two higher sliders (of the five). Now having said this, I had the volume at max (100), and had a 10 second loop playing (using the "A/B" interval tool thing) on a very well-mastered album that has a long fade-in, and the hiss only really got bothersome to me as the EQ sliders got to maybe 8 or 9 out of 12. I was using PFE 232 iems which I think have a fair amount of impedance for an iem (47 ohms), so I don't know how much impedance relates to hiss, but there ya go. Now I said that the DSPs didn't add much hiss, well that does not apply to the 3D Surround which hisses quite a bit. I've never been a fan of that one so I rarely use it anyway unless very sparingly. MP Enhance adds a little but it's not too bad. Hope that helps a little.

BruceBanner 07-20-2016 03:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dawningistheday (Post 656556)
Playing around with the hiss issue today and what I have discovered is that most of the hiss is introduced via the Equalizer, as opposed to the DSPs. Neither BBE nor Mach3 Bass add much hiss at all, but if you crank up the EQ sliders you can hear the hiss coming in. And as you change the frequency settings on each EQ slider, the pitch of the hiss changes accordingly. So for me the worst hiss was introduced with the two higher sliders (of the five). Now having said this, I had the volume at max (100), and had a 10 second loop playing (using the "A/B" interval tool thing) on a very well-mastered album that has a long fade-in, and the hiss only really got bothersome to me as the EQ sliders got to maybe 8 or 9 out of 12. I was using PFE 232 iems which I think have a fair amount of impedance for an iem (47 ohms), so I don't know how much impedance relates to hiss, but there ya go. Now I said that the DSPs didn't add much hiss, well that does not apply to the 3D Surround which hisses quite a bit. I've never been a fan of that one so I rarely use it anyway unless very sparingly. MP Enhance adds a little but it's not too bad. Hope that helps a little.

Yes that helps heaps. It makes sense, that'll be why my wee Cowon E3 is very hiss free because it has no EQ at all, just a BBE and Mach3 Bass adjustment.
So it seems as tho Cowon's EQ's aren't all that they appear to be. My AP100 adjusts EQ fine, without any change in hiss (and of course at high volumes), this perhaps due to being hardware based rather than software?
I dunno, it seems either Cowon's EQ are quite hissy or perhaps their very expensive range (P, M and S) are less hissy in this regard, either way I'm not paying that much for a DAP!

I think I said in the past that I found the Cowon hiss to be worsened with DSPs applied, and these were my older preferred settings;

7 80 wide
-1 220 normal
5 1.4 narrow
5 3.0 normal
6 11.7 wide

bbe 10
mach3 off
3d surround 3
mp enhance on
stereo enhance 3
reverb off

I would be using mp3gained files to 93db and volume pretty high (35-38/40 on my i9+)

so as u can see, quite a bit of EQ toggling, 3d surround on, mp enhance on etc, it all adds up. And the experience will highlight it more for me with the black contrast of my other DAPs.
With the above settings the Yamaha EPH100's are unusable, tho it sounds great the hiss is very pronounced and annoying, 232's less so.

Secretly I was hoping that with all yer tinkering it still remained black background, oh well. On the one hand I'm disappointed, on the other hand happy that you can hear hiss! It just needed abused to hear it.

If i was serious about the PD I would need to start over, find a compromise between what I perceived as improved sound without the hiss kicking in.

Thanks once again.


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