Hello readers. Today we’re looking at the Mrobo C5 V2 DAP. It has so much going for it but is let down by a couple of design decisions that make it another mediocre budget player.
Disclaimer: This sample was sent to me for the purpose of an honest review. All opinions and observations here are my own based on my experience with the product. I have no affiliation with the company and do not benefit financially from this review. The Mrobo C5 2.0 is available from Penon Audio and is priced at $49.90.
When I learned that I would be reviewing the M5 2.0 I thought I’d be able to just copy the V1 review with some amendments. Well, it turns out that the changes are many and quite drastic and a full separate review was in order for the 2.0.
Looking back at my review of the original model I might have been a bit harsh when it came to scoring but that was how I rated it at the time. My biggest gripes were it didn’t support all the specified file formats and the default sound setting (EQ Off) which had a +1dB lift on the upper mids and treble and a massive bass roll-off beginning at about 1KHz. That issue was probably about the extent of what I expected the changes in the revised model to be but it turned out to be a lot more than that.
I’ll just state right now for the sake of the reader that those problems have been fixed but there’s still a lot more to cover. With that said, let’s get on with it and see if the C5 2.0 is worthy of your consideration in the budget DAP segment.
Color: Dark Gray
Screen size: 1.8-inch display
Screen features: dot matrix 128 * 160 display
Language: support multiple languages, default Chinese
Audio format: MP3, WAV, APE, FLAC
Charging time: about 5 hours (using 5v / 1000 mAh charger)
Play time: about 60 hours (headset volume 30 screen protector to play lossless music)
WAV: support 64BIT 192KHz
AIFF: support 32BIT 192KHz
APE \ FLAC: Supports 24BIT 192KHz
DSD: Supports 1BIT DSD64 3072KHz
Play Settings: Normal, Random, All, Single Loop Playback Mode
EQ: rock, pop, soft, jazz, classical, electronic music (sampling rate below 48KHz only support EQ settings)
Breakpoint playback: support breakpoint playback
Signal to noise ratio: ≥ 99db
Volume control: 100 digital volume control mode
Headphone output: 10mW + 10mW (320hm)
Only support expansion memory: up to 128GB SD card
Transmission interface: MICRO 5PIN, USB2.0
Operating temperature: -545 degrees Celsius
Dimension: 86mm x 54mm x 14mm
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
(The package and accessories are the same as they were with the original model so for the sake of ease this section has been copied from the V1 review.)
The C5 comes in a simple retail box that for some reason doesn’t have any images of the great looking player on it at all. Inside we find an accessory box, underneath which is the player itself.
Accessories include a USB charge/transfer cable, complimentary earbuds, warranty card and a user manual. The included earbuds look great at first but it turns out they’re probably the worst I have ever used. They’re made of a cheap feeling plastic with very sharp edges and they sound awful. *
* The earbuds provided with the 2.0 look and feel the same (they still sound awful) but these ones don’t have the sharp edges. Whether this is luck of the draw or an improvement in the manufacturing process I don’t know but you’re likely to never use them anyway unless you have literally nothing else available.
On the outside the 2.0 is unchanged from the V1 except that the buttons on the front of the player now have labels and the button labels on the right side have been changed to represent their new functions.
So what you get is a beautifully crafted and very solid feeling enclosure, crafted from all metal and weighing in at 145g.
Starting at the bottom there’s a headphone out and a line in. Only thing is the line out has been changed to a secondary headphone out but for some reason, the label wasn’t updated. It seems that as a result of having dual headphone outs the output power of the unit is now lower. This means the DAP is good for IEMs but won’t be sufficient for anything with high impedance. The output power is stated as 10mW + 10mW (320hm).
On the left side (from top to bottom)_ are:
Micro SD card slot
Micro USB charging/transfer jack
The button lock is a handy feature. It disables all buttons but the volume can still be adjusted using the intelligent wheel. When turning it on or off you see an animated icon locking or unlocking. Nice.
The right side has (from top to bottom):
Here we see some of the changes that have been made since the V1. The volume button used to be the + volume whereas now it simply takes you to the volume screen where you can make level adjustments with either the Rew (rewind) or FF (fast forward) buttons or the navigation wheel. There are 100 volume steps so precise playback levels are easy to achieve.
What used to be the – volume button is now Back/Previous for navigating the menu.
Finally, there is the Power button that used to be the A/B button which was used to loop audio sections (useful for studying language).
On the front of the unit is the 1.8 inch TFT screen featuring a dot matrix display with a resolution of 128 * 160 pixels. Below the screen is:
The DAP sits well in your palm and the buttons are fairly easy to access using left or right-handed navigation. The control wheel, on the other hand, is a little awkward to use unless you’re holding the DAP in your left hand and I feel it might have been more intuitive at the top of the unit.
Apart from the firmware which will be covered in the next section one of the major internal changes was the removal of the 8GB of built-in memory. Whether they did this to make room for hardware changes or to reduce cost I don’t know as it is difficult to find any information about the C5 (either version) and my attempts at communicating with the company didn’t result in any answers.
Okay, let’s get into the UI of the 2.0 where there are major differences in virtually every area compared to the V1. To turn the device on you just hold the power button for a couple of seconds and it will boot up. This takes you to the main menu (which later can be returned to from any screen via a long press of the Back button). I’ll make a table of the various menu lists in a table below. For now, I’ll just talk about the general user experience.
The UI is fairly snappy and responsive with no discernible lag when navigating the system. The intelligent control wheel comes in handy when scrolling through lists or you can also use the Rew/FF buttons. To play a song you can search via the folder view or the music view which lists all songs, albums and genres etc. When choosing a song to play you press the Play/Pause button and then you’re taken to another screen that has Play and Delete. I don’t know why it’s done like this as it seems to me to add another unnecessary button press to play a song.
When on the Now Playing screen if you press the Menu button you get a screen with 3 options: Add to playlist, Play mode and Delete. There are a few annoyances like this in the menus but for the most part, it’s fairly straightforward.
The screen is fairly clear despite the low resolution and it can be seen in all but the brightest direct sunlight. The player now supports Album Art but because of the screen’s low resolution, the album cover appears as a tiny square in the middle of the screen which makes it difficult to see. While we’re here I’ll talk about the Now Playing screen. It has a lot of useful information including (from top to bottom):
Track number/Total tracks
Current EQ setting
Playback position (with progress bar)
Bitrate and file type
The player supports break-point resume but it has the same annoying implementation as on the NiNTAUS X10 whereas you power on the unit you’ll see a notification asking if you want to resume playback. After pressing yes you’re taken to the Now Playing screen and then have to hit the play button to resume. In my opinion, it should just be a global option in the main settings that can be turned on or off so when you turn on the device it automatically picks up where it left off. Of course, some people might like it how it is and as is the way with all things YMMV.
There seems to be a problem with creating playlists as adding a new song to one of the playlists will just make all the songs in that playlist the same as the last one added. For example, say I have five songs on my playlist and then I want to add another song, in this case, I’ll call the song #3. After adding #3 to the playlist when I go to that playlist now I see six copies of the #3 song. So I think it’s fair to say the playlist function is completely broken unless you only want to add a single song to it which is fairly useless unless you find it faster than browsing for the file through the folder view.
Although there’s an option in the settings to do an Auto upgrade I haven’t been able to find any information or download of any firmware versions.
It might sound like I’m being negative here but in fact, in general use the player is quite a pleasant experience. I personally always use the Folder View to find the song or album I want and the C5 2.0’s interface does this perfectly well. Now, let’s take a look at those menus.
(20 languages available)
(Off or 10-120 minutes)
(Up to 99 minutes)
Just like with the V1 the C5 2.0 has a ridiculously good battery life. In normal use you can get upwards of 50 hours of playback on a single charge. I find it really refreshing when compared to my higher end DAPs as the battery life is something you simply don’t need to worry about. Unless you’re really careless you should never find yourself in a situation where you run out of power.
Some readers might find this section a little on the “lite” side after seeing other reviews that wax lyrical about how their DAPs sound with various headphones and IEMs but in my personal opinion that essentially breaks down into a series of mini-reviews of those headphones and IEMs… A DAP will have a basic signature (hopefully close to flat) that carries across to whatever you connect to it so while I will cover some pairings and comparisons below, this section will be a very brief description of how I hear the Mrobo C5 2.0.
Anyone who read my review of the C5 V1 will know there was a problem with the default EQ setting (EQ Off). I’m happy to say that’s no longer an issue with the C5 V2. As you can see in the graph below, the 2.0 has a much closer to flat frequency response across the board.
Loaded test using the Moni One triple hybrid IEM (1DD + 2BA 16 ohms)
What I’m hearing from the C5 2.0 is fairly neutral and slightly warm with average soundstage for a low budget DAP (highly dependent on your IEMs). It’s not the clearest or detailed sound but it’s fairly consistent with other players in this price segment. Thankfully the bass extension is much improved over the V1 and the sound is now full-bodied and no longer anaemic or drastically deviates from neutrality.
The high frequencies are missing some of the air and definition of more expensive DAPs (the Jazz EQ preset improves this nicely) but again it’s in line with what I’ve come to expect in the low budget range. That’s not saying the sound is bad at all. For the price, I think it’s really good and directly competitive with other similarly priced DAPs I have on hand.
Unlike the V1 there’s no custom EQ available. It might be a little disappointing for some but I generally prefer to not use EQ, especially when reviewing so this is no biggie for me. Having said that the EQ presets do a good job of altering the sound without any noticeable loss in audio quality and in some cases improving it depending on your preferences so be sure to give them a try as you might prefer some of them over the default setting.
As mentioned in the main part of the review the sound of the 2.0 is improved over the original. For the most part I find the firmware changes and new button assignments are an improvement except for break-point resume which in my opinion was done better on the V1. On the V1 the player would open at the last playback position of the last played track and from there you can just hit the play button to resume. On the V2 you get the annoying popup screen asking you if you want to go to the last played song every time you boot the device. The V1 also has 8GB of built-in memory which has been removed in V2. This shouldn’t be a problem for most as it supports SD cards up to 128GB so as long as you have an SD card available should be a moot point.
When it comes to sound there’s very little separating these two and their power outputs are practically identical. I tested the outputs using two identical IEMs (KZ ATR) and with both players, at 50% volume, the sound levels sounded the same to my ears with maybe less than a 1dB difference in SPL. Both players have some advantages over the other and it will depend on which features are more important to you as to which one you prefer since there’s really no separating them from the sound quality. The NiNTAUS has a proper line out while the Mrobo has dual headphone outs. The X10 has a 10 band equalizer while the 2.0’s is 5 – neither DAP has a custom EQ setting.
For construction and build, both are really good. The 2.0 feels a lot more solid and premium in your hand but at the same time, it’s much heavier. I find adjusting the volume much easier on the V2 with the control wheel compared to the cumbersome method on the X10 where you first have to press a button to activate the screen, then press the volume button, then adjust using the wheel. The screen on the NiNTAUS is superior (300 * 240 vs the V2’s 128 * 160) making album art actually useful and the screen layout is more pleasing (in my opinion). Both have exemplary battery life.
Benjie X1 ($25 USD)
X1’s soundstage is slightly wider and sound has more air and sparkle with slightly better transparency and detail retrieval. The screen is superior on the X1 even though it has the same dimensions and resolution but is in portrait configuration. Album art looks far better on the X1, is larger and the screen seems clearer overall but because of its orientation text is very short and slow scrolling making it more difficult to find the songs you’re looking for or reading the Now Playing song’s information. Build on both is fantastic but the X1 has very sharp corners making it feel less comfortable in your hand. I actually prefer the simple + and – volume buttons on the X1 for adjusting listening levels. The X1 has a 5 band equalizer and there’s also a custom setting available. As with the other DAPs compared the X1 also has a stellar battery life of 40+ hours.
From left to right: Mrobo C5 2.0, NiNTAUS X10, Benjie X1
Rather than go through the IEMs I tested separately I’ll just say that they all sounded good and retained their individual sonic characteristics. Ones with lower impedance gave the best results as the power output is fairly low meaning you’ll often find yourself pushing the volume to near maximum with harder to drive earphones. Even with sensitive IEMs, I haven’t heard any hissing or background noise.
It’s amazing what is on offer in the budget segment of DAPs these days and the C5 2.0 is no exception. It has immaculate build quality, surprisingly good sound, a responsive interface and incredible battery life. It’s far from being perfect but manufacturers have to make concessions when you’re offering products at such a low price.
The button layout could be more ergonomic and the screen quality is below average but you can literally listen to music nonstop for days on end! File transfer speed is also above average and this thing is built like a tank. With the changes and improvements, this player has had over the original the M5 2.0 is really worth taking a look at if you’re buying a DAP in the sub $50 bracket.