Audio Opus isn’t a popular manufacturer, and has only recently gained prominence as a producer of high-end audio equipment. However, unlike manufacturers such as Fiio and Cayin which are based in China, Opus comes from South Korea. Like those manufacturers though, the company started out as an OEM and technology supplier, and has now expanded its business to its own brand.
The Opus #1 is a portable audio player that’s just like a good old iPod at its core. However, with the focus on high-resolution audio and high-fidelity playback, the device has a lot more to it than just playing music. Priced at Rs 39,999, it’s a premium device with top-spec hardware under the hood, and can even function as a standalone digital-analogue converter when you plug it into a PC. Is this expensive bit of kit worth it for audiophiles? Find out in our review.
Opus #1: Design and specifications
Unlike what you’d expect from a good smartphone, the Opus #1 isn’t slim, light, compact or any other synonym for those words. It’s got a 4-inch touchscreen, which makes for easier controls, search and navigation. There are also physical buttons at the top, left and right sides for power, volume, play/pause, next and previous. There are also two microSD slots on the right, the micro-USB port at the bottom for charging, data transfers and DAC connectivity, and the 3.5mm and balanced-out port at the top.
Notably, the two microSD slots allow for up to 200GB storage in each slot, giving you up to 400GB of expandable storage on the Opus #1, over and above the 32GB of space on the device itself. The player itself is built and designed interestingly, with sharp lines and a geometric shape that has multiple sides and surfaces. The device has a 4,000mAh battery that keeps it going for a claimed 10 hours on a full charge, which might sound a bit low until you take note of the fact that it runs on a highly customized version of Android. ALSO READ: Cayin N3 Digital Audio Player Review: Audiophiles, listen up
The key advantage of the operating system is its customization for touch-screen use, thus making the device very easy to use when it comes to navigation. It’s designed around the music of course, with a simplified pull-down toggle menu and settings menu. At the heart of the Opus #1 is a Cirrus Logic 4398 chip that serves as the digital-analogue converter, and supports a wide range of lossless and compressed audio formats, including DSD, AIFF, FLAC, MP3 and more. It comes with a charging cable and a faux-leather cover, and looks and feels good. However, the key behind this device is performance, which we’ve detailed in the next section.
Opus #1: Performance
I listened to an assortment of music on the Opus #1, using my Sennheiser Momentum on-ear headphones. The headphones are known for a lively sonic signature with a strong low-end, and the Opus #1 played to the strengths of the headphones. I also tried the audio player with some other affordable options, and it stuck to the strong points of those as well. Focus tracks were Todd Terje’s Strandbar, and Astor Piazzola’s Suite Punta Del Este,
Starting out with Strandbar, I was a bit hesitant because this isn’t one of the high-resolution audio files I’d used for the review. However, the Cirrus Logic DAC in the Opus #1 is capable enough to offer good performance even with compressed audio files, and I particularly enjoyed the strong beat and bass of the track. There was a defined kick to the sound, which was particularly enjoyable. The strong tone and drive in the track was also felt, and it’s safe to say the Opus #1 has enough drive and attack in it to keep lively music going strong.
Moving on to Suite Punta Del Este in DSD format, this is one of the best tracks I have in terms of definition and file quality. The Opus #1 gets the stereo separation, timbre and tonality of the track spot on, although it doesn’t feel quite as powerful as what I’ve heard on other premium high-resolution audio players. This has more to do with getting the tone and signature right, and also with the headphones in use. What’s clear is that the sound is clean, defined, detailed and comfortable. Depending on the headphones you use, you can expect the sound to tweak its signature accordingly. It’s suited well to jazz, classic and electronic genres, depending on the kind of files you use.
I even used the Opus #1 as a standalone DAC. This can be done by setting it to DAC mode through the settings, and then connecting it to a PC and routing audio to your headphones through it. It offers comparable performance to when you’re listening to audio directly on the device itself, and its superior DAC and amplifier will also let you drive high-impedance headphones fairly easily. DON’T MISS: Opus #11 USB DAC Review: For quick and easy improvement in sound
High-resolution audio and audiophile equipment still sits in silly money territory for now, but for buyers that can spend and want to take the step up into audiophile-grade listening, there are plenty of options available. At Rs 39,999, the Opus #1 isn’t affordable, but it offers serious quality for anyone looking for a decent high-resolution audio player and DAC. With excellent tone, definition and drive, the device works well with most good headphones, and supports practically all audio formats. It’s definitely worth an audition if you’re looking to buy a good high-resolution audio player. DON’T MISS: Portable audio has changed the way we listen to music: Eric Denise, Sennheiser