Dark Mode On / Off

Lotoo PAW S2 Dongle DAC AMP – Equalized Presentation

Lotoo PAW S2 Dongle DAC AMP – Equalized Presentation

The Lotoo PAW S2 is a 279 USD portable DAC AMP with an AKM4377 DAC inside, and up to 150mW at 32 OHMs of power over the 4.4mm Balanced Output. Given the price which is higher than most dongle DAC AMPs, Lotoo PAW S2 will be compared to Qurstyle M15 (250 USD), Hiby FC5 (159 USD), Shanling M3X(279 USD), and Khadas Tone 2 PRO (250 USD). 

 

Introduction

Lotoo is a well-known company from China, part of the big creators, as they make not only products for audiophiles, but also recorders, iems, earphones, DAPs, DACs, and so much more. They even announced a new product recently, a large desktop-class DAC/AMP, that I am hopeful I’ll get to hear and review eventually. Lotoo offers long support for their products, they also offer proper support, with warranty being covered properly, and they also do offer firmware updates for their products, such updates usually bringing noticeable improvements to an already well working device. 

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Lotoo. I’d like to thank Lotoo for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with Lotoo PAW S2 Dongle DAC AMP. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it. The purpose of this review is to help those interested in Lotoo PAW S2 find their next music companion.

 

Product Link

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3K4F1I3

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/3dHVBl3

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3psh2ZR

 

Build Quality/Aesthetics/Features

At the start you see the unit, which in PAW S2’s case is rather small and ergonomic, with buttons on the side, and with an OLED display and a Type-C USB input. It has two headphone outputs, one in 4.4mm balanced mode and one in 3.5mm single ended mode, both of them rather powerful and dynamic. The display is used to navigate the rather simple menu, but PAW S2 has something that no other portable DAC/AMP/Dongle has right now. 

I’m talking about EQ, which is both in the same of PMEQ or Parametric Equalizer and ATE, a special EQ setup design by Lotoo. You have a wide selection of EQ profiles to choose from, and while most EQ implementations aren’ worth the hassle, and are quite hard to use, I find myself often enabling the EQ on PAW S2 to get some extra bass with some headphones, or some extra treble sparkle with others. 

Lotoo PAW S2 works well with Android, Windows, and even iOS, iPhones, so as long as you have the proper cables, you’ll be able to use it with any source. It has no delay, and after noticing that minor USB DAC delay on DX320 I test all DAC/AMPs for delay, to see if there is any. While I haven’t tested it, Lotoo states that PAW S2 is even compatible with xBOX, PS5 and Switch. All of this is plug-and-play, no drivers needed. 

You can use the single play/pause button for navigation, one click for pause / play, two clicks for the next song, and three clicks for the previous song. I found myself often using this while out and about, as my Xiaomi Black Shark 4 recognizes the input natively. Speaking of which, Lotoo includes a much needed shirt clip case with PAW S2, which makes usage super comfortable and neat. 

Delving deeper into PAW S2’s internals, it has a maximum output of 150mW per channel at 32 OHMs, which sounds rather low, but is actually quite good because you can keep it running at max with zero distortion. The THD is -109dB or 0.0003%, which is superb. We don’t quite know what DAC is used inside of PAW S2, but we do know that it supports MQA up to 4X, DSD up to DSD128 and PCM up to 32Bit / 384kHz. 

 

Sound Quality

To judge the overall sonic performance and signature / tuning of Lotoo PAW S2, I’ve been using a selection of IEMS and Headphones, including RAPTGO HOOK-X, Periodic Audio Beryllium, Sivga SV023, HeartFiled Acoustic Deer, XENNS MANGIRD TEA2, IMR DARK MATTER and HIFIMAN Edition XS. LOTOO PAW S2 is easily able to drive all of them to satisfying volume levels, and in a good way, with no distortion and with no struggles when it comes to delivering a full and impactful bass. Even better, PAW S2 has shown superb control with IEMS, with no audible background hissing or noise, being better at having a quiet background than most dongle DAC/AMPs. 

The overall tuning and signature of PAW S2 can be described as clean, impactful, with a full and satisfying bass, deep and low-reaching bass, with a slight emphasis on the upper bass / lower midrange, giving male voices a nice natural resonance, and with a smoother, cleaner treble that’s non-fatiguing, but which still provides outstanding imaging and soundstage to PAW S2. 

Starting with the bass, Lotoo PAW S2 is super capable in the lows department. In fact, it somehow has such a good bass performance that even if you keep it running at maximum with a harder to drive headphone, and if you enable EQ to bring in more bass, it still won’t distort, and the whole sound will be satisfying, clean and impactful. There’s no particular coloration in the bass, although PAW S2 does have a slight tendency to emphasize the lower midrange and to give an extra thick, deep presentation to male voices, guitars and bass guitars. 

Speaking of the midrange, PAW S2 has an outstanding performance when it comes to dynamics, punchiness and overall clarity / resolution. PAW S2 is super good for both rock and metal, having the right dynamics and impact for it. It is interesting that for certain headphones, including Crosszone CZ-8A, the EQ of PAW S2 does a superb job at giving CZ-8A better vocal presentation, and more natural sound. I’m actually surprised by the staging and instrument separation of PAW S2, which is better than most DAPs in the price range like the Shanling M3X. PAW S2 also has a smoother treble texture which is pleasing and musical, perfect for both well and poorly recorded music.  

The treble of PAW S2 is slightly smooth, and this makes it good for entry-level and even pricey chifi IEMs that can be quite aggressive and bright. Surprisingly, though, you can make S2 fairly bright and sparkly, airy and bright, if you engage an EQ profile with a stronger treble. PAW S2 is versatile and great regardless of what music style and IEMS you’re using. The treble extends as high as 20 kHz, and as long as the IEMs and Headphones are able to play that high, you will hear it from PAW S2. 

 

Comparisons

Lotoo PAW S2 vs Questyle M15 (279 USD vs 250 USD) – This one is going to be hard, because M15 is commonly agreed to be one of the best sounding DAC/AMPs ever created, and it is easily recognizable for its super intense dynamic and punchiness. The ability set is not very similar, and S2 has EQ which M15 doesn’t have, and S2 has a smoother, more natural analogue sound. M15 wins when it comes to dynamics in particular, but S2 has better control, lower distortion in the bass, lower distortion at high volumes, and lower background noise / hissing. Also, M15 tends to always start at max volume, while S2 has its own volume control so you never risk your ears or IEMS when using it. M15 is an outstanding DAC/AMP with super good sonic performance, while S2 is an upgrade in ability, for a small price increase. They have about equal detailing, and soundstage size, both of them being classed as DAP killers. 

Lotoo PAW S2 vs Hiby FC5 (279 USD vs 159 USD) – We’re starting to be courageous here, because FC5 is quite a bit less pricey than PAW S2, but at the same time I did say in its review that it is a killer DAC/AMP with superb overall punchiness, strong colorful sound, and a good price / performance ratio. Well, with all that being said, PAW S2 has a much better control when driving hard to drive headphones, with lower distortions at maximum volume, it has better control with IEMS, with lower hissing and lower background noise, and it is generally more musical and pleasing, with a more analogue sounding signature, while FC5 has more digital glare and a slightly unnatural brightness. While S2 is more pricey, it has on-board EQ profiles, which you can also disable, and it also has its own volume control, which I find to be nice while out and about. 

Lotoo PAW S2 vs Khadas Tone 2 PRO (279 USD vs 250 USD) – Tone 2 PRO is a desktop DAC/AMP, but the proximity in pricing when compared to PAW S2 makes the comparison all the more relevant. We have two units with balanced outputs, but PAW S2 has EQ profiles too, and it also has a smaller, more ergonomic shape. Despite this, PAW S2 has better driving power, better control and a lower distortion at maximum volume when compared to Tone 2 PRO, although Tone 2 PRO has the advantage of having RCA outputs at the back, which can be used for a stable desktop setup. The overall sonic performance is actually comparable, both having a slightly warm-ish sound, with a slightly smoother treble, but PAW S2 has a fuller bass, deeper impact, and a stronger overall sound in general, with lower distortion and better control. 

Lotoo PAW S2 vs Shanling M3x (279 USD vs 340 USD) – We have a dongle DAC/AMp vs a full sized DAP, but it is a good comparison to get a better perspective of what Lotoo PAW is and can be. I think it can very well be the end of entry-level DAPs, with its superb sonic performance, driving power, superb overall versatility, and even EQ profiles. Usually, lack of EQ was a big reason why you wouldn’t want to go with portable DAC/AMPs, but so was the limited driving power, Lotoo PAW S2 proving that those can both be achieved by a portable Dongle DAC/AMP. Now, when we’re taking a better look at what S2 and its sound, the sonic performance is quite different, with S2 having a stronger, more natural low treble and upper bass, a fuller bass and impact, and a smoother, more natural treble presentation. By comparison, M3x sounds more sparkly and airy, but also has a shallower less impactful sound that edges on being fatiguing at times. Both are good purchases still, but Paw S2 sounds a bit more natural, even and also a bit more detailed, all while being less pricey than M3x. 

 

Value and Conclusion

While Lotoo PAW S2 is arguably the priciest dongle DAC AMP I reviewed on Audiophile-Heaven and which I know exists in 2022, it is also the most feature-rich, and has many key advantages that actually make the price tag of 279 USD an actually good price for PAW S2. We have not only EQ, but also a SE and BAL output, Type-C input, and physical volume control. 

Lotoo PAW S2 is so good that I’m actually going to add it to Audiophile-Heaven’s Hall Of Fame as one of the best DAC/AMPs ever designed with superb impact, dynamics and EQ, and it has a fair price tag too. 

At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a super capable dongle DAC AMP, with EQ profiles, individual volume control, a 4.4mm balanced output, through which it can drive both IEMS with no background noise, and full sized headphones with superb impact, and depth, and if you want it all to be affordable, at 279 USD, Lotoo PAW S2 is a fully recommended purchase and DAC/AMP. 

 

Product Link

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3K4F1I3

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/3dHVBl3

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3psh2ZR



--- Please remember to stay safe, and always have fun while listening to music!---

 - If you have a dime to spare, and donate, to help us with electricity and work expenses, it would make my day much brighter, as it would help me improve things around the website and increase the frequency of my posts - 


Full Playlist used for this review

We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature.  PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality are all revealed by those songs. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music!

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/embed?listType=playlist&list=PL_cjBXGmwSHSdGcwuc_bKbBDGHL4QvYBu[/embedyt]

 

--- Contact Us ---



1 Comment

  1. […] such as iBasso DX170, TempoTec V6, and Surfans F20. I also went for portable DAC/AMPs, including Lotoo PAW S2, iBasso DX06, Aune X1s GT, Questyle M15, and even Jade Audio FiiO KA1. AM850 MK2 is fairly easy to […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Astrotec AM850 MK2 IEMs - Renaissance In ACG — Audiophile Heaven

George Dobrescu

Hello, and welcome to Audiophile-Heaven! I am George, the Creator of Audiophile-Heaven, and I love music! I will be sharing insights and comparisons of audio products with you. I invite you to join me in the exciting journey of discovering joy through music!!

― More Reviews ―

Copyrighted (C) to www.audiophile-heaven.com