– USB Source: PC via Intona USB galvanic isolator
– Focal Elex, Sennheiser HD800S, Sendy Aiva, Hifiman Arya, HarmonicDyne Zeus Headphones
– Pentaconn to XLR adapter by Skedra ([email protected])
– L&P included USB C cable
The L&P W2 is a fairly affordable ‘dongle’ DAC and headphone amp from Luxury and Precision, who are well known for their high end, portable R2R DAPs.
The W2 is small, flexible, with more features than you’d normally see on a product this size, including custom tuned EQ profiles for specific IEMs.
This unit was kindly loaned to me for review by TheTalbotHound.
The aesthetics are fantastic. It’s quite petite, with a theme that reminds me of a retro/cassette sort of approach. Not trying to be hyper-modern or something that will look outdated in a year’s time. Instead taking a path that means it holds a somewhat ‘timeless’ aesthetic.
Also something minor that caught my eye: The carbon fiber on the back of the unit has a very nice matte finish, rather than the overly shiny finish that many headphone connectors with carbon fiber (fake or real) have, meaning they end up looking cheap and tacky. That’s not happening here.
The quality of the build is just as good, buttons that are incredibly clicky and responsive with short travel but good actuation force required, a sharp, bright display, and not the slightest hint of plastic creak or other issue that might be present on a ‘cost saving approach’ design.
When it comes to features the W2 leaves the user wanting for little.
Integrated volume control with two gain settings, various DSP/EQ presets to suit any user’s preferences (measurements of these are available here: https://goldensound.audio/2021/09/08/luxury-and-precision-w2-measurements/ ), and even some EQ presets aimed specifically toward popular IEM models.
It features balanced and single ended output, and USB-C input, rather than micro-USB, and can additionally act as a USB to optical SPDIF converter if needed.
The only thing that’s potentially missing is power. With a max output of 235mW on the balanced output at 32 ohms, you won’t be driving susvara or other current-hungry, low impedance planars with this. But for IEMs, or high impedance dynamic headphones, the W2 is ideal thanks to the incredibly low noise floor, excellent dynamic range, and high output voltage capability compared to other dongle/portable solutions.
I’d summarise the W2 as a smoothed-neutral sound. Microdynamics and outright resolution are very good for a product of this size and form factor, but macrodynamics feel somewhat softened.
It retains a neutral tonality and does not come across as ‘warm’ or ‘dark’, but does sometimes leave me wanting a bit more speed and impact.
Listening to Meowingtons remix of ‘when the summer dies’, the kick drum feels pushed back and a tad blunted. This was definitely not a power issue given as it occurred even on easy to drive IEMs.
Interestingly, this is one of the first products I’ve seen where the linearity graph shows that higher level signals are lower than they should be relative to lower level content, so this could potentially explain this or be indicative of something else causing this subjective effect.
The W2 has two main modes ‘Tune 01’ and ‘Tune 02’.
Tune 01 sounded slightly more intimate, ’rounded’ and warm. Whereas 02 was a bit more analytical and forward sounding. I found myself swapping between the two a fair bit depending on the track, but overall would say I preferred 01 more. I do wish that I could get the apparent resolution of 02 without the slight dryness that comes with it though. A mix of these two tuning modes would have been my preference.
The measurements do show some differences between these two tunings. Slight, but still differences nonetheless.
There are slight differences in the harmonics, but what I’d imagine is contributing most to the change in sound is the difference in IMD, with the outright level of IMD being mostly the same, but the pattern of it fairly different:
In any case, I was able to correctly discern which tune mode was which in a blind test 20/20 times, what that difference might be caused by I’m not sure.
Spatial presentation is a mixed one, size of stage is ok, but not amazing. Likely not an issue for IEMs though where the bottleneck will be the transducers themselves in almost all cases, and other factors such as resolution, timbre and separation will be more important.
Separation is very good, with different elements occupying their own space and rarely encroaching on eachother or making other elements harder to hear clearly, as can happen on some poorer sources.
Imaging is again good. Left to right imaging is smooth and consistent but direction isn’t too precise and can often be a little bit ‘diffused’.
Centred vocals often came across as coming from somewhere generally in front of me, or in my head, rather than a specific direction or point in space. However in relation to other products both portable and desktop at this pricepoint, it’s doing I’d say slightly above average.
Resolution and retrieval of low-level information was surprisingly impressive for a dac of this size and price.
In Fourplay’s ‘101 Eastbound’ everything from the subtle reverberations within the piano to each rattle of the hi-hat strikes are clear and precise.
Microdynamics and timbre are handled very well, with a difference between the tune 01 and tune 02 modes being that tune 01 offers a slightly darker, more forgiving sound at the cost of giving up some sense of ‘air’ and space, whilst tune 02 is more open, forward sound, but slightly more prone to sibilance.
Timbre of woodwind, brass and vocals were generally very good, however drums did come across too soft, and other transient-heavy instruments like plucking of guitar strings did not have the immediacy that they should.
This meant that overall the W2 was excellent for a lot of classical, orchestral, and acoustic music. With plenty of resolution, separation, and wonderful handling of instrument timbre. Or indeed rock where that ‘toning down’ of some of the more aggressive masters is actually something of a blessing.
However for electronic, and percussion-heavy genres where immediacy and ‘slam’ is important, it did fall short.
Overall I’d say the W2 doesn’t really have any faults, but does have a somewhat distinctive tuning. It’s an excellently built, great sounding product with a lot of flexibility thanks to the inbuilt tuning and eq options. It falls short in sheer ‘impact’ but does just about everything else very well or excellently and for the price I strongly recommend it, with the caveat that it may not suit listeners of more ‘lively’ genres quite so well.
It’s an excellent source for IEMs and offers tremendous 50mv performance, but those wanting to power hungrier cans such as planars may need something with more power.