Colorfly portable music player takes Hi-Fi on the road
By Paul Ridden
November 24, 2011
The smartphone has quickly become an essential part of modern living. It's a powerful portable computer, a high resolution camera, and a mobile communications center. However, if you're of the school who thinks that just because such a device can also play music, there's no need to spend good money on a separate audio player - the Colorfly Pocket Hi-Fi C4 pro may well be the dedicated music player to change your mind. Hidden within a gorgeous walnut outer shell with hand-carved motif and controlled by deliciously old-school physical buttons and sliding volume pot, the black circuit board heart of this music player is home to some top notch tech with one purpose - to deliver audiophile-pleasing, Hi-Fi-quality audio.
Although MP3 players had been around for at least ten years when Michael Wan had his audio revelation while enjoying a Wagner concert, they've made music portable at the cost of audio quality. Even players highly regarded for their audio reproduction like Apple's iPod, Sony's Walkman and Cowon's J3 do not offer the kind of listening experience common to high end Hi-Fi systems, so Wan's team of audio enthusiasts set about trying to right that wrong.
Many portable music players available at the moment make use of a single chip comprising an MPU (processor), DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and an output amplifier - which can serve to strip away some of the vitality and richness of the audio. The audio files handled by such devices tend to max out at the 16-bit/44.1kHz range, well short of Hi-Fi quality.
The Colorfly Pocket Hi-Fi C4 pro on the other hand sends the source signal through eight audio enhancement stages before it's released to the listener - the end result being the first portable player in the world capable of handling 24-bit/192kHz resolution audio files. Wan says that it's the high end CIRRUS LOGIC CS4398 DAC - as used in Hi-Fi systems by Marantz and Chord Electronics - that gives the C4 its incredible decoding prowess, dynamic range of up to 120dB and signal-to-noise ratio of up to 108 dB (many Hi-Fi systems deliver less than 90 dB) for higher fidelity and voice quality and ultra-low distortion.
The DAC is joined by an ADI AD823 chip, the somewhat large SICMIC II Black Gold Hi-Fi capacitors (said to make for a better tone), the 0805 SMT resistor, separate amplifier chips for the left and right earphone signals, and something called the JitterKill circuit. The latter consists of a C4 clock generator, TCXO high-precision crystal Oscillators and - for the first time in a portable player - the CIRRUS LOGIC CS8422 SRC (sample rate converter) that results in a jitter rate so low as to be negligible (well, five picoseconds if you simply must know).
The onboard SRC can take source audio files sampled at 16-bit/44.1kHZ and greatly reduce high frequency distortion by up sampling to 24-bit/192kHZ output.
The ins and outs take the shape of 3U Gilt RCA connections for SPDIF connections, a 3U Gilt 6.3 mm audio jack, a 3.5 mm jack, a USB port and a mini-SD card slot. The C4 can support simultaneous connection of 3.5 mm and 6.5 mm earphones, and with a drive power of 13.3 mW/200mA can run a set of 300 ohm cans. There's also 32 GB of onboard flash memory to store your collection of high quality WAV, MP3, FLAC and APE music files.
The electronics are encased in CNC-machined North American Black Walnut - inspired by the preferences of Rolls Royce and BMW engineers - with a hand-carved engraving on the front, ensuring that no two players will be exactly alike. The somewhat old-fashioned user interface consists of physical buttons, a simple OLED display and an ALPS volume slider (which has been modified to Colorfly specification and shown to have a less than five percent error rate over 1,000 hours, that's 15 percent lower than the manufacturer's own official rates).
First demonstrated at CeBIT 2010, the Colorfly Pocket Hi-Fi C4 pro is now available direct from the manufacturer - or if you live in the UK, Advanced MP3 Players has just announced that the player has been added to its portfolio at a cost of GBP 549 (that's about US$852, although there's currently no U.S. availability shown on the manufacturer's website).