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Onkyo, Pioneer announce MQA-equipped XDP-100R DAP

  • Readers following not only digital audio, head-fi or vinyl playback but all three will have noticed that Pioneer is on a bit of a roll this decade. Their successes might be spotty but when they hit, they really hit.

    Exhibit A: the SP-BS22-LR standmounts, designed by TAD’s Andrew Jones, re-defined what was possible from a street price of US$129, sometimes less.  Since their 2013 release, Pioneer’s home AV business was all acquired by Onkyo.

    Meanwhile, from their DJ division…

    Exhibit B: the PLX-1000 is possibly the finest SL-1200 clone to come to market since Technics discontinued the goto DJ ‘table of the vinyl era. Pioneer pick up where Technics left off with few compromises. It’s heavy, its direct driven platter turns on a dime and from an audiophile perspective, it aces the sound of comparably-priced units from Rega and Pro-Ject.

    This week sees Pioneer (Onkyo) announcing what could become Exhibit C, potentially netting them a hat-trick of awesome.

    On the back of a presumably fresh injection of R&D from Onkyo comes the XDP-100R Digital Audio Player (DAP) whose feature list is as long as your arm.

    Firstly, the Pioneer unit will handle PCM up to 24bit/384kHz as well as single-, double- and even quad-rate DSD. If the latter is your bag, you’re gonna need plenty of storage space but at first blush the XDP-100R’s 32Gb on-board memory appears embarrassingly small. Fortunately it’s user-expandable to 288Gb via a pair of side-mounted SDXC memory card slots.

    D/A conversion comes via the standard-for-2015 ESS Sabre 9018K2M. But did you know that ESS Labs have diversified into headphone output chips? Pioneer have dropped a new SABRE 9601K into this DAP.

    Care has been applied to the internal board layout too. For specifics we’ll defer to the press release: “All functions within the XDP-100R are blocked off in a closed loop construction to eliminate any extraneous noise.  The audio board and CPU board are separated internally, further isolating sources of noise, using the same approach as separating an amplifier from the playback device in a component stereo.”

    More interestingly, the XDP-100R runs native Android Lollipop 5.1.1. That means access to any app sitting in the Google Play Store: say an immediate hello to Tidal, Spotify, Deezer, Pandora, Qobuz, rDio et al. This feature alone renders the Sony ZX-2 as the Pioneer’s closest rival.

    Next to the chunkier, heavier Sony, the XDP-100R’s 10 hour battery life will look a little lean. However, in the context of its 4.7″ 720 x 1280 touchscreen and slimline chassis, it’s more than reasonable.

    Wireless connectivity combines with DLNA streaming capabilities (only recently added to Astell&Kern units) for deployment as main rig digital audio streamer, outputting to one’s amplifier or DAC via a 3.5mm headphone/line-out socket or OTG-routable micro USB port respectively.

    Oh – Bluetooth support drops in with aptX compliance.

    However, Pioneer’s trump card is full MQA compatibility. It’s the first DAP to go all in on Meridian’s new codec, compatibility for which is slated to arrive via an over-the-air firmware update once the Pioneer unit’s official mid-November launch is out of the way.

    For the uninitiated, Meridian’s MQA codec can compress hi-res audio files into Redbook-sized containers (cool huh?) but it’s currently too early to make a call on MQA’s long-term potential. Much rides on the extent of industry take up, including recording studios.

    Price on the Pioneer? Not as much as you might think. Early reports point indicate the XDP-100R will sell for 499GBP. That’s a more than reasonable US$770 and is sure to throw some shade in the direction of Astell&Kern’s Jr. And if you think the XDP-100R looks like Astell&Kern’s top-flight AK380, you’re apparently not alone.

    Of course, none of these fancier specifications mean a darn thing unless the XDP-100R sounds good with good ole Redbook. On that, we must reserve judgement until we hear one.

    Further information: Pioneer Onkyo

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. It’s still way too expensive! Good sounding DACs/ DAPs etc should be much cheaper if they expect the industry to survive. By comparison a 32 GB ipod Touch is $249 and Apple historically has been expensive. Not much difference but a couple of bling parts.

      • I always keep an iPod Touch around to keep things grounded in the DAP department. Its biggest shortcoming from a specs POV is lack of hi-res support. Most audiophiles won’t go near a DAP, no matter how good it sounds, if it doesn’t do 24/192 (or whatever). I’m the exception to that rule. Gimme a kick ass sounding unit that ONLY does Redbook and I’ll take that any day if it sounds better than the Astell&Kerns of the world. The closest I get to the best of both worlds is the Pono Player – US$399. Unfortunately, it has a face only a mother could love.

        • My point was about the cost of making a DAP vs. ridiculous retail prices of these things because they play hi-res. This DAP is an Android device which are a dime a dozen. I mean a 7 inch screen device can easily be gotten for under $100 US. They have a free OS. Now add a couple audio chips for high res. DACs and DAPs which play hi-res should be coming down in price but even Japanese companies are trying to capitalize on the audiophiles instead of selling products to a wider market. The Pono player which was developed in the USA, has been out for a year, And there doesn’t yet seem to be an Asian designed and made product which competes with it. What’s up with that?

          • I think that the Fiio players compete at that price point.
            There’s no question that certain manufacturers are milking this ‘hi-res’ schtik for all it’s worth. You don’t have to dig far to get an idea of the costs of chips and processors, even the ‘best’ ones.
            Well, good luck to ’em; I’ll stick to my Apple devices till reality bites.

        • Not just the Toblerone face, but it doesn’t run iOS (duh) or Android – so no streaming. Which rules me out.

          The Sony DAPs are far too expensive. This Pionkyo thing is STILL too expensive.

          Apple obviously have the money and talent to develop a great analogue component for the iPhones and iPods without contracting a company, like Pono did with Ayre. Foxconn obviously have the means to manufacture the product.

          2015 has shown that Apple don’t consider sound quality a priority: Apple Music went for Spotify, not Tidal. The audio component of the 6S (afaik) remains the same as the 6.

          I think that the reasonably priced, great sounding DAP/phone is still waiting to be made, and it could do very well when/if it ever gets made. Samsung definitely won’t make it. I doubt HTC, Motorola et al would either.

          The Fiio X7 could have been the one, but it also looks like it’s going to be too expensive.

          I think OPPO could make a really great sounding and reasonably priced DAP or phone if they wanted to – they have experience across the board, and price their products quite well.

          • Edit: Almost forgot about Taiwan. If not OPPO, then Asus. Their phones and tablets can often be pretty good value. Just add Xonar?

            • Good market overview there, Mr Based. In time, one of those companies you mentioned should click to your (and our?) market logic. Will any company with appropriate R&D capacity bank on real profit/returns once such a product is released, given shelf life (and digital product attention spans) diminishes by the day? (Interestingly Asus Android phones and tablets/phablets are still not officially distributed in Oz. Imported several directly from Taiwan. Affordable buy-outright mobile phone offerings in Australia remain lamentable. On-line or SFA.)

            • These are expensive compared to smartphones because it’s a very small market. Very few people care enough about audio on the go, to pay for a dedicated device instead of getting a phone with half-decent audio.

              So, R&D and other sunken costs is spread across relatively few units sold, making these appear unfairly priced when compared to smartphones, which sell by the millions.

          • I exhaustively auditioned the Oppo HA-2 and found there was little if any discernible improvement over an old iPhone 5.
            But then Jim Rockwell took the time and trouble to thoroughly evaluate the 5’s SQ and the results would surprise many…

    2. What is the purpose of the huge hook-like thing at the top? Aerodynamics? Style for Style’s sake? Otherwise very nice….

    Think about the future: an *active* KEF LS50 loudspeaker?

    Properly affordable audio announced for RMAF 2015