LOTOO PAW 5000 Review - A very versatile portable player

Technical Specifications:

  •  Display: 2" color OLED (220x176)
  •  Supported formats: DSD (DFF/DSF/ISO) / FLAC / WAV / APE /
  • OGG / AAC / ALAC / MP3 / WMA / M4A
  •  Max. sample rate: PCM 96kHz / DSD 2.8MHz
  •  Max. output: 1V rms (headphone)
  •  Processor: ADI Blackfin 514 DSP
  •  USB: Super speed USB 3.0 Micro-B
  •  Dimensions: 98x55x18mm
  •  Weight: 110g
  •  Battery 1700mAh 3.7V Li-polymer
  •  Storage: micro SDHC / micro SDXC (up to 2TB)

Headphone Output:
  •  Frequency: 0.5dB (20Hz - 20kHz)
  •  Total harmonic distortion: <0.002% @ 1kHz (20Hz - 20kHz, Aweight)
  •  Max output: 75mW (16 ohm / channel)
  •  Signal to noise ratio: >100dB (20Hz - 20kHz, A-weight)

Price (MSRP): U$D400

Inside the box you'll find the USB 3.0 cable, an armband and cradle for sport use, warranty and quick-guide. The full manual is not included and it really should have been to cover all the player's features. A carrying case or bag would have been nicer as well.


The Paw 5000 looks very nice with a 'high-end' look on it. With a dark gunmetal metal front and back, and thick gray plastic side frames it feels very solid. Size is about average; still 'more compact' in dimensions next to other similar priced DAPs, such as the Fiio X5 or Hifiman HM650, similar to the iBasso and Fiio X3 (2nd) options. The Paw 5000 is also relatively light in weight, both on hands and in a pocket.

The controls, buttons and connections are well placed. At the front panel are the playback controls, previous/backward, next/forward and jog wheel together with the OK/Play/Pause button, on the left side, while Power, EQ, settings and folder buttons on the right side.
On the bottom part there's the Micro SD slot. There's no internal storage, unfortunately.
On the right side there's the micro USB 3.0 port. It's also possible to use a regular micro USB 2.0 cable.
The volume controls are placed on the left side, together with the Gain and DAMP (damping) switches.
Lastly, on the upper part we'll find the 4 different output options: PHONE for regular (and mic'd) 3.5 plugs, BAL for 2.5 TRRS balanced plugs, Line Out/SPDIF output, and the wireless BT at the upper right corner.

NOTE: This was not mentioned in the manual, so it's worth noting that it's possible to use both PHONE and BAL at the same time. Whether using a real 2.5 headphone or just a 2.5 to 3.5 connector, it's possible to listen with 2 sets together. The volume is just a bit lowered but quality seems to remain unaffected. A nice feature nonetheless. Haven't tried this with a BT set yet, but will report if ever get a set on time.

Firmware, Battery and Storage:

Very solid firmware. Haven't tried to update it yet, but it's very stable, never freezes or crashes, and has a fast response as well. The only thing I'd mention is the volume raises/lowers a bit slower than what's shown on the screen.

Battery is also really good. I think it gets at least up to 10 hrs on full power when LineOut is used with external amplifier, and theoretically even longer on low gain sets. The battery remaining percentage indicator is pretty accurate and it doesn't suffer from a 'sudden drain' like the Sansa Clip or HM700. Charging time is good with the 3.0 USB connection but not as fast as expected.

The PAW 5000 has no internal storage and only counts with just one micro SD slot. It's not possible to handle files or folders with the current firmware.

UI & Navigation:

Probably the less favorable part of the PAW 5000. Not going to cover all the controls and features as the manual already does, but just will mention some functions and the pros and cons.

First, the power button, it needs some extra force to be activated which might be seen as a good thing for some. It's also used to turn the screen on/off.

The wheel control is quite fast, but a bit loose and lacks some accuracy. It's used to scroll through folders, and to set the user defined PMEQ. Also, when rotated during playback it'll enter to the current playing list. When music is paused it'd used to scroll back and forward on the current song. On Sport Mode it's used to set the speed. The small button in the middle is for OK/accept and play/pause.

The Music/Fn. Button is for going back to Folders if single pressed, and to turn on/off the Fn. (Function) feature.

Here's where it gets annoying and cumbersome. To go back to the playing screen you need to press the Music button or long press the Back one. Similarly, the ATE/PMEQ button will access to the different EQ options. It is not possible to access the ATE/PMEQ menu from the Music one, first it's necessary to get back to the playing screen; same thing from Music to ATE/PMEQ. What's more, it's impossible to turn the Fn. on/off or to get to Settings unless you're currently on the playback screen.

Now, on 'screen off', the front controls are 'locked' and only the left side ones work; Gain, DAMP and Volume. The only change is that the volume also work as previous and next controls when long pressed, so if you want to raise/lower the volume you'll need to click several times, caring not to long press by mistake; a bit annoying too.

As an extra, it's possible to switch between 3 different playing screens (as shown below): (1) the Default full info screen, (2) the freq. response screen, and (3) Album cover screen. To change the screen simply long press the OK button. It's a nice feat. nonetheless.

There's a "Sport mode" option. The 'Sport' naming is misleading, actually. This option is simply to set the playback speed from normal (100%) to either slower (up to 80%) or faster (120%). Another cool option, but lacks refinement, as when getting under 90% or above 110%, some distortion and incoherence are noticed.


Power, Gain, DAMP(ing), Hiss:

Power and Gain:

The PAW 5000 offers two gain modes. Most tested gears had enough power on Low Gain, even 150ohm earbuds like the VE Asura and HM Compact, and Senn HD25 or HD600 full size, or RE-0E in-ear (64ohm), but almost reached the 30 volume steps. That said, some extra improvements were noticed on High Gain. At the moment I don't have anything less sensitive, but it doesn't seem the PAW 5000 has too much power, as the H Gain only requires about 10 steps less to reach a similar volume. The HM700 needs just 20/40 steps to drive the above gears to a comfortable level.


This is a very interesting feature on the PAW 5000. Before getting the manual, it seemed like some extra/different type of gain or EQ option. But while trying different headphones it became obvious that wasn't the case. Some gears showed zero results, or just a 1% difference, while with others the difference was literally like 'day & night'. It's difficult to point out which type of gear benefit from the damping, although everything seems to indicate the closed or more sealed are the ones that take a real effect. Open sets like earbuds or open back headphones don't even care about the DAMP switch (though, the High gain surely does affect them). On the other hand, with CIEMs it's really a must. What the DAMP actually does? On Low mode the low end is more emphasized with almost 'off' highs with smooth, warm and darker response. High mode is the opposite: upper mids and the whole treble are highlighted, taking a bit tighter and mainly much brighter signature. Volume seems to be a bit louder this way, too.


With both switches on L mode no hiss or noise were perceived, even on more sensitive IEMs. On DAMP H mode there was just a bit of noise, and on H Gain background wasn't totally silent; then again only on sensitive stuff.


The Lotoo PAW 5000 offers two types of EQ options: Parametric EQ (PMEQ) and "Lotoo’s proprietary ATE (Acoustic Timbre Embellisher) voicing algorithm", as so described in the manual.
The PMEQ includes 8 presets and 6 user defined options. The presets ones are the usual ones in many other players. The sound signature changes noticeably from each, but I can't say all of them are well done; personally, I found the 'Rock', 'Techno' and 'Headphone' the better ones, even over the off/default option, while the rest sounded a little more muddy and thick. As for the user defined PMEQ (which can also be renamed), the PAW offers a lot of customization options to set the sound response in almost any way, but it's quite hard to understand even with the Manual explanation.
As for the ATE, it's quite interesting. There're only 7 options, but the sound results is more accurate to each one naming. Unlike the PMEQ, with ATE the overall sound is very slightly changed from the default setting; what it really offers is some nice changes in bright/darkness, positioning and stage. Unfortunately it's not possible to use both ATE and PMEQ together (at least not on the current firmware version).



Part 1: PHONE output

The gears used for testing are too many to list, but they go from low $20 up to multi driver BA CIEMs ($500+), dynamic based, balanced armature and hybrid, earphones and full size headphones; they include some of my favorites, RHA MA750, Senn HD25, HD600, and Rock-it R-50, to mention some.

The PAW 5000 music player presents a rather neutral sound with a slight extra emphasis on the midrange section, very little colored without being too forward, and not too sweet, and actually might be found a bit dry.

Bass & Treble:

Bass has a very warmish tilt on it. It is very quick and tight, with great control but softer in impact, something easily noticed when using either V-shaped or warm/bassier sets. On high DAMP set, the low end gets even tighter and more detailed but also thinner as result. While the whole bass is rather effortless, sub-bass extension is somehow limited, more than expected for a mid-tier DAP at this price range; probably the first disadvantage I'd find on the PAW 5000. Nonetheless, it has a clean and refined bass response.

Treble is well balanced, not too bright but enough for most genres. Even on Bright ATE EQ setting it remains 'safe' in terms of sharpness and sibilance. Similarly to the sub-bass (but to a lesser degree), upper treble extension doesn't reach too far. The energy is more focused into the lower treble region, mainly to give a better midrange resolution, rather than on the high frequencies alone. Where the PAW 5000 treble really stands out is in its more elegant presentation mixing air and smoothness.


Probably the nicest part and true strength of this Lotoo PAW DAP. The whole midrange is forward from low to upper parts. Mids can go from slightly forward to very frontal and intimate depending on the headphone/earphone in use; even V-shaped sets would be perceived as more 'flat' in a certain way. Regardless the positioning, the midrange is very open, clean and highly detailed. It's still no match for my AMP-S with its superb airy and micro detailed presentation, even on its 'warmer' set (Mode 1), but the PAW doesn't intend to be really analytical.
Between instruments and vocals, the latter feel more prioritized, usually thrown a bit more forward for a more intimate/closer presentation. They're among the 'sweet' category, although there's a slight sense of dryness at times. lower vocals might feel a bit soft, lacking in some weight, while female ones are nicer carrying more energy and emotion.


Soundstage dimensions are not too large due to the both ends limited extension. Even so, thanks to the well done midrange balance, the sound of the PAW is actually big, spacious and very articulated. For the price, speed is about average but the PAW shows no issues handling more complex tracks with little effort, very good layering and natural decay and attack.
Detail retrieval is very good, especially when matched with more analytical sets; all my TWFK based IEMs were taken to a higher level (and even had their extra treble heat controlled down a bit more).

Part 2: Amplification - LINEOUT output

Main tested gear for this part: Panda AMP-S, Fireye HDB, Cayin C5 (2nd unit), Audinst AMP-HP.

Firstly, it's worth noting that the PAW 5000 offers a "lineout level switch" under the play setting options. This way it's possible to either have a fixed full max volume level (when Off) or simply control the lineout volume level (On). The default option is set Off, but personally I prefer to have it On.

The PAW has a very dominating personal sound signature that is well shown when using extra amplification. Not being a very transparent DAP, its slight coloration and limits can be perceived in different ways depending on the amplifier in use (and the above listed ones are rather different from each other). While this DAP may benefit well from extra amplification, not just in driving power but also in dynamics, speed, extension or detail, it will also mix some coloration to the overall sound. It doesn't act as a sole 'source' that gives the amplifier almost total authority, but rather has its own sound improved in certain ways. An interesting result, yes, but also needs to get used to, unlike previous music players I've tested.

Panda AMP-S:

With the ultra detailed, pure and super clean, tight and also very bright sound of the AMP-S, the PAW 5000 may be taken to a higher (almost, but not there) epic level. The AMP-S usually tends to improve anything it's connected to it. The bass is tighter and also fuller and faster. Mids are really, really nice here and treble while strong and more open it's still kept under control. Soundstage is where things start to get better, although it's not as big sound as the FA HDB can offer.

Fireye HDB:

The FA HDB is quite the opposite amplifier of the AMP-S (check the review for further details). A slightly fuller overall sound than the amplifier always offers, although the nicest change is on the midrange region; the combination of the HDB smooth and warm mids together with the more forward PAW, result as a very enjoyable 'musicality' new experience.


Conclusion & Value:

While I can't give a final conclusion until fully testing the remaining features, so far it's easy to say the Lotto PAW 5000 player is very versatile portable player when handling any kind of output, from earphones to full size headphones, amplifiers and balanced plugs. The battery and the firmware are very solid, and the PMEQ, while a kind of difficult to handle, it's a very interesting feature. As for what pure SQ goes it has certain limitations but it offers a clean and overall detailed sound. Neither the best DAP or a bang-for-buck, as the $400 retail price places it against some of the current favorites DAPs, but the PAW 5000 has its own strong points, nonetheless.

Build quality; Solid Firmware & Battery; Output Versatility; Clean and very detailed Midrange; EQ options

Not all-arounder sound; Limited extension and Stage; Lacks power; No internal storage; UI & Navigation; Wheel; No file handling