I first became aware of the Lotoo PAW Gold high-res digital audio player (£1,499) some time ago when online discussion threads began suggesting the Lotoo might be a strong (and more cost-effective) competitor to Astell & Kern’s expensive top-tier players. But now that I have spent some time with Lotoo’s flagship player, which is the subject of this review, I’m prepared to say that it is anything but a copycat, ‘me-too’ product. Rather, it strikes me as being a player methodically designed to do a great many things and to do them all well. While Lotoo’s PAW Gold is by no stretch of the imagination an inexpensive product, I think a careful survey of its capabilities, which I hope to provide here, will demonstrate that it offers very good value for money.
The footprint of the PAW Gold is surprisingly compact; if you place it atop the screen of, say, a Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone, you will discover there is a bit of screen surface showing all the way around the perimeter of the player, which will give you a sense for its pocket-sized dimensions. Even so, the Lotoo does not register on the mind as being truly ‘small’ owing to two factors: first, it is relatively thick (25.4mm or about one inch from front to back), and second, its beautifully machined solid Duralumin casework feels somewhat like a solid block of billet aluminium in the hand. Rather than offering slimline styling in the vein of players from Acoustic Research, Astell & Kern, Questyle, and others, the Lotoo comes across as a decidedly purposeful (indeed, almost military-grade) chunk of a player—an impression further reinforced by the PAW Gold’s handsome two-tone, dark silver and even darker grey anodised outer surfaces.
Lotoo also marches to the beat of a different drummer when it comes to the PAW Gold’s user controls. Where some manufacturers prefer minimalist, but therefore perhaps inscrutable, multifunction user controls that rely heavily upon extensively branched pull-down menus, Lotto takes a different approach. Instead of fitting one or two cryptically labelled ‘mystery controls’, the PAW Gold takes the old-school approach of providing a number of clearly labelled pushbutton switches, each of which pulls down its own tightly constrained set of control menus.