Opus #1s: Little Bro goes to the gym for a toning session…

Written by ngoshawk

Pros – Excellent, honest sound.
Simple UI, basic Android to me is a huge asset.
Ease of operation.
Dual SD slots carry a lot of music.
What I call the “clarity of sound,” Opus-style.
Battery life

Cons – Simple Android, seems dead to most…
Basic, basic, basic…
Nothing really, except no WiFi, BT, streaming, but who cares!

thebit Opus #1s-$399, paid for with my own sweat and labor, and the plastic, which pays for that…

Audio-Opus #1s webpage: http://www.audio-opus.com/?page_id=17532

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Intro: Many of the latest DAP’s promote a multitude of features to draw a potential customer in…WiFi, BT streaming, dual SD card slots, which can hold 1000TB cards, 80,000W of power, the latest greatest Android OS, all for less than a mortgage payment!! Etc, etc, blah, blah, blah. It is in this regard, that I became interested in the #1S simply because it eschews most of the above, if not all of them. While it does have some fantastic specs as listed below, it does so bucking the trend of BT, WiFi and Giga-based power ratings. Where the #1S shines, is in the enhancements of the most excellent Opus #1. The #1S does come with dual chips one running each channel, dual card slots so you can take most of your songs along, and dual headphone jacks (which can be used simultaneously, one SE the other 2.5mm Bal). It hits the right audiophile buttons. And I will state up front, pretty darn well. This is evolution, not revolution. If this is the evolution, I cannot wait until thebit “improve” the Opus#2. The #2 has recently supplanted my beloved Shanling M5 as my reference DAP, and it took something of the quality of that #2 to do so, in my humble opinion. Good stuff, so please honor me and read on…

(Stolen from below, but more grammatically correct…) The Opus#1s is based on an Android operation system compatible with the ARM Cortex-A9, up to 1.4GHz with a Quad-Core CPU DDR3 1GB to express the best possible sound one could expect at this price, providing bit to bit decoding and supporting a wide variety of audio formats. Dual CS43198 DACs released by Cirrus Logic in 2017 grace the DAP (https://www.cirrus.com/products/cs43198/), each managing the left and right channels separately to produce excellent sound characteristics with higher resolution and a wider spacious soundstage. This is excellent stuff, putting it ahead of its competitors, such as the Shanling M3s (more on that in a bit), and the Cayin N5ii.

Four Ben F’s is a lot to spend on something, which doesn’t stream, connect to another BT device, or have WiFi. A big risk, but again swimming against the stream is kind of how thebit rolls. I guess we will see if it is worth it…initial impressions point the arrow toward yes.

Specs/History:

  • 24bit / 192kHz High Resolution Sound
  • Cirrus Logic CS43198 x 2EA Dual DAC
  • ARM Cortex-A9 1.4GHz, Quad-Core CPU DDR3 1GB
  • SNR 123dB, THD+N 0.0007%, Crosstalk – 140dB, Output 3.1Vmrs (Unbalanced)
  • SNR 125dB, THD+N 0.0005%, Crosstalk – 142dB, Output 3.4Vmrs (Balanced)
  • Low-clock-jitter sensitivity: 50ps(Typ)
  • 4inch TFT Wide Touch Display (480 x 800), IPS Panel
  • WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, DSD, WMA,
  • MP3, OGG, APE (Normal, High, Fast)
  • Internal Memory 32GB
  • External Micro SD Card Memory 256GB x 2EA
  • Enhanced ABS Solid Body and Tempered Glass
  • Ultra-Power Saving Mode

New Cirrus Logic CS43198 X 2 Pure Dual DAC

Opus#1S has two CS43198 DACs released by Cirrus Logic in 2017. Each DAC manages the left and right channels separately to produce the best sound with the higher resolution and wider spacious feel.

Optimized sound through sophisticated tuning by audio expert

Opus#1s is based on Android operation systems compatible with the ARM Cortex-A9, up to 1.4GHz with the Quad-Core CPU DDR3 1GB to express the best possible sound, providing bit to bit decoding and supporting wide variety of audio formats.

Opus#1s maximizes the advantages of the CS43198 DAC performance while retaining the sound of the audio-opus series praised by users, enhancing ultra-low range and high range sound compared to the existing Opus#1.

You can enjoy more dynamic sound.

Powerful output of 3.4Vrms

The powerful output of 3.4Vrms, which is not comparable to other DAPs of the same grade, enables you to enjoy powerful sound anytime and anywhere. Unbalance output also has enough 3.1Vrms to enjoy perfect sound with any earphone / headphone.

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Initial impressions:

I must say, upon arrival of the Opus #1S, I was taken aback at how similar it was to its big brother the #2, albeit smaller and lighter. The same familiar Opus feel in hand and operating alleviated any qualms/fears I may have had (OK, there weren’t any fears, but trepidation of whether it would match up to the #1 and #2…). I had previously heard @nmatheis #1, in fact I borrowed it for a bit (twice I’ve done that…) and thoroughly enjoyed it. Knowing at the time the Opus was significantly above what I wanted to spend, I found a “gently used” Shanling M5 in Russia and watched its journey across the globe. Pretty cool, to be honest. But, when an opportunity arose to purchase the #2, I could not resist. Especially since I had heard @PinkyPowers previously.

So, it was with great anticipation I awaited the arrival of said #1S from Andrew at @Musicteck. We reached an agreement, to which I ended up purchasing the #1S for my own consumption. Again, Andrew was nothing but perfect to deal with, absolutely top notch and I again thank him and Musicteck. So, all of that formality out of the way…how did the critter sound?! Color me impressed that a company could make an improvement upon a near-legendary product and not only make it better, but also not make it cost an arm and a leg more as that “improvement” would beget.

While I considered it a more neutral sound than my Shanling M3s/M5, I also consider it a bit (did it again…) more “honest.” A truer representation is what I would state off the bat. Not more detailed, but closer to what was intended. Not in the way of the #2 mind you, that is superb; but clearly cut from the same cloth.

Package/Fit-n-Finsh:

Coming with a recycled cardboard sleeve surrounding the red box of two halves (top/bottom), there is not spectacular regarding the package, just the right amount. When one considers the #2 comes in a sterile-white container, this is far more “entertaining.” With specs listed on the back, you get what you need, no more. Listing all, including purported “Audio Performance,” the back is quite informative. With a built-in 32gb of memory, you can store your streamed content, should you load it onto a card, first.

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Under the critter itself, you would find the case, should you order one (I recommend it even though I did not, the one on the #2 is fabulous) and the USB micro charging cable. That is it. thebit means business on the sound end, not frilly, froufrou packaging.

And that simplicity carries over to the unit itself. Tight fit corners, no mismatched seams, solid push buttons, and a solid colored plastic highlight the #1S. It is built very well. With a cover over the dual SD card slot, and volume +/- on the left, the right balances with FF/play-pause/REW on the right. An on/off switch graces the top as well as the SE/Bal headphone jacks, and the ubiquitous (although less so, and some argued why thebit still uses this…) USB 2.0 on the bottom. That’s it…no more, no extras, no frill, no mess. Simple, clear straightforward. I am beginning to think thebit put their money elsewhere…I do wish that there was some differentiation in the buttons on each side. No matter how many times I look, I still have trouble with the three buttons…call me old, but it is a minor annoyance.

Overall fit and finish are top notch, just like the other products from thebit. Just excellent.

Moving on to the actual critter, a simple push of the button on top awakens the #1S from slumber. Presented with a simple to read/use touchscreen (one upping the M3s…), the bottom third is taken up by rewind/play and fast forward buttons along with the song/progress bar. The upper two thirds contain album art, and a drop-down menu for changing all music. A single tap in the upper left, takes you back to the previous screen from whence your song was chosen. With the top ¼ reserved for choosing the sub-menus, it is efficient as simple Android, albeit a bit (again!!!) touchy for my tastes. I found myself babying the maneuvering on this menu. This could be problematic when commuting if one likes to change music often. I prefer shuffle, and rarely manipulate this menu unless I am looking for a specific song/artist. A minor knock, but the touchscreen in the song menu was finicky.

As with Android/iOS, there is a pull-down menu accessed from the top of the screen. A simple swipe down, and one is presented with six options and “settings.” Line Out, Equalizer (customizable), sleep (a FABULOUS feature), repeat, and shuffle. That’s it. Simple, straightforward and nice to see. From the Settings cog, one accesses all of the Opus’ features/settings. Everything from screen brightness, to Audio (equalizer access, too), to a Timer and others can be had here. An Update tab is included for those who do the updates by SD card. Easy to use, too.

All of this and one still hasn’t gotten to the actual sound characteristics…Enough of semantics, on to the good stuff. The #1S is typical Android, and even this iOS dolt figured it out in about 2 minutes. Nothing to hide, unlike the #2. Nice to see.

Gear used/Compared:

Shanling M3s
Shanling M5

Aune B1S
iBasso PB3

Magaosi K5
Lypertek Mevi
Hypersense Hex02
Tin Audio T2
Unique Melody Maestro V2
Focal Elear

Songs used:

Too numerous to list, but as one would guess plenty O’ Bob, Ziggy, Jimmy, Dave & Stevie, along with Coldplay, and twentyonepilots. Like I said, my usual.

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Sound excellante:

With increased power over both the #1 & #3, one would expect the #1S to sound more powerful. You will not be disappointed. A big push here was on the balanced front, and I can say that the improvements made definitely show using my Maestro and Effect Audio Ares ii cable. A very pleasant combo, but with the power of a freight train to boot (OK it seems that way….). And I will state up front, this was my favorite combination. Even against the VERY good Aune B1S, on high gain. Supple would be an apt description of the Maestro/#1S combo. Not having heard my Maestro’s in a good bit (!) of time, I was drawn back into the sound, with Magic Slim’s gravelly voice resonating through my ears, with much pleasure. With an increased S/N ratio, this is about as black a background as one could ask for. Silent, it is.

No matter what IEM I used or headphone, I was brought back to what I would call that typical Opus sound: Clear, concise, detailed and expansive. The #1S is certainly cut from that same cloth. It is all of the above, but when comparing to a warmer DAP such as the M3s, falls short of what I would call that “rich, full” sound. To me a trademark of Shanling players, as much as clear and concise is to Opus’. Both of which I very much appreciate and like. I do prefer a warmer more full sound but having a DAP such as an Opus in which to compare is certainly the Yang of the Shanling Yin.

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This is a very good DAP. A good one, indeed. Rolling through Bob and Stevie, I hear details. The crisp cymbal clash and snare hit of Chris Layton’s drums of SRV, to the deep melodious voice of Bob, the #1S delivers in such clarity that one would think it on wings…almost. Not as clear and concise as the #2, but of the same lineage.

Soundstage/Separation:

As stated above this is a pretty doggone clear sound. As a result, instrumentation is quite clear. Everything neatly in place, with a fairly wide stage, and good height. Depth is there, too. Overall, I would consider this slightly out of head, but not inordinately so. This is not of stage where you think chasms of expanse. It is adequately wide, deep and high. Very good qualities and worthy of this sound produced.

One could certainly find a DAP with a “bigger” soundstage. One could most certainly find a DAP with more clarity and detail (look in-house for the superb #2, first of all…). One could find a DAP with many more features than the #1S. One could find a more powerful DAP than this, too. But when you consider all of the qualities brought to the table in the Opus #1S, you are hard pressed to find any one DAP better suited to this price point, mid-fi. Just as IEM/Headphones have moved up the chain of what would be considered “Mid-fi,” so have DAPs. +/-$250 would have been considered mid-fi not too long ago. Now, those same critters, with better expectations and experiences go for $400, such as the #1S. It is the way the markets have progressed. Better quality components, also driven by market demand for features and “bling.” Thankfully here, thebit and the Opus #1S has focused that dollar on what matters to audiophiles…sound.

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At this point, I would be hard pressed to recommend a better mid-fi DAP. Crowded and getting more so, the Opus falls back to what matters most, sound quality and reliability. Stories abound about the latest iterations from well-known companies, struck with problems. Fine DAPs they are, but if one is having issues, how fine is it? I know of no such issues with the Opus brand (limited data of mine, of course…), and this should be a major point to consider. After all, if the critter of choice fails our walk, then of what good is it on that walk? the Opus wins here. I liken this to when soccer cleats first went to carbon footbeds…my son of course wanted (and yes received…) the lightest cleats he could have, since he was a forward. We fell for it. Only by sheer dumb luck did we find that he had broken one of those footbeds clean through, because he HEARD the other break on a hard tackle from an opposing defender. So, between State Cup soccer games, we had to hurriedly find him another pair. Thus endeth the what we call “Stupid-light” experiment with cleats…unless he ponied up his own dollar… And example would be the hype around carbon bike frames, wrought with destruction, breakage and carnage…now though, the bicycle industry has it down. I certainly didn’t want to be a test mule for carbon, so stuck with steel, which I still ride today. The same holds with audio, to me. I don’t really want to be the companies test mule, unless I am paid to do so…and I’m not. So, when one ponies up their own dollar, it had better be good, and be reliable. Such as the Opus #1s here.

I won’t get into each of the subscreens/menus, as others have beaten it to death, and if one is looking at the Opus #1s, you are most likely familiar with Android-driven DAP’s. There is no need in my book. Suffice to say, the menus/screens function, and function well. No surprises, no frills, efficient, simplistic Android at its best.

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The Finale:

I will close with a couple of thoughts. I prefer my Shanling M3S. There I said it. While the sound of the #1S is considered of more detail and clarity, I LIKE the Shanling sound, a LOT. It is the sound of which I choose. That said the Opus is a very, VERY good unit, of which one would be remise in not considering, especially if you savor that clarity and detail laden sound. It is a bit thin of sound overall to me, and what I would consider of delicate sound nature, but to some this is the nail on which they want hit. While behind the Opus #2 (and hence why I will keep it and not the #1S), this is a very good DAP at a very competitive price point on the market. One you should consider if you want a straight up “don’t mess with me” DAP, which only wants you to enjoy your music as it was meant…without coloration, and with adaptability of most IEM’s and headphones. It is good. You want more power? Purchase a balanced cable and sit back to enjoy that wonderfully clear, concise and clarity-driven sound. You want straight-forward honest sound, go with the SE, it is so good. You will not be disappointed with this critter.

Many thanks again to Andrew and Musicteck for the agreement we reached. It is fair, and a true commitment to the audio community. Now go enjoy your music.

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