This photo shows how the M2 Pro has grown to Questyle QP1R proportions; and how its matte finish avoids the reflections and fussy finger prints of its competitor's all glass front. With no cover art support for alac/aiff—how Apple embeds art work doesn't extricate outside their own OS—that of flac files can be shown full screen or partially inside the brushed calligraphy circle. In play mode, tapping the top of the wheel shuttles between both views. Tapping its bottom runs through repeat 1/all/shuffle modes. With the display blacked out via quick press on the power button, the wheel disables but the ± volume buttons on the side remain active. Blackout obviously prolongs play time. Activating 'pure line out' mode, I ran a 3.5mm stereo to 2 x RCA Zu leash into my active Eversound Essence computer speakers whilst Soundaware's USB cable kept the player charged at 100%. Running so for quite a few work-desk hours encountered zero misbehaviour. Like its stablemates, the M2 Pro plays indefinitely in charge mode without any distortion. Plus, line-out mode into a pair of active boxes sounded great, had unexpectedly high output and demonstrated excellent current drive, not always a given for portables in such employ. Though not openly advertised for a stationary position, this DAP makes an excellent foreman for the immobile job.

Esther M1 Pro, M2 Pro, QP1R, with Campfire Audio Lyra driven off the M2 Pro's 2.5mm balanced output.

With tunes on the run as the main course of today's menu, HifiMan's RE2000 with their standard 3.5mm leash became the referee for my M1/M2 match of siblings. Here the newcomer acted as though its noise floor had been pushed even lower. Esther played it a bit softer all around, hence not quite as articulated and keen of outline. Esther also was a bit warmer. This manifested as that intangible 'something' across the backdrop and in-between/around sounds to contrast over against the M2 Pro's black emptiness. That produced higher contrast or image pop. Relatedly, Esther's gait felt more leisurely, M2's more taut and tensioned. In standard hifi terms, one would consider the M2 Pro's resolution and drive both taken up in lockstep as a showcase for the firm's ongoing R&D in this digital source sector.

Transitioning to Campfire's boisterous dynamic-driver Lyra in balanced drive meant lower volumes to compensate for their higher sensitivity. Following Patrick Chartol's rip-roaring electric bass guitar on Istanbul's "Oriental Bass" surprised with its low-end snarl, growl, warbling menace and blotting pops. Because of the M2's high contrast and profound silence, this Mercan Dede-esque music had a slightly backlit effect quite like its cover in the next photo. In it you also see how the M2 Pro deals with no cover art within the brushed circle motif. It places the suggestion of an LP or CD inside it.

Here is the same motif with a flac file's partial cover. The HifiMans partook in the photo op. If you're fond of minimalist Asian pen 'n' ink drawings, you'll concur that Soundaware really aced the graphics of their revised interface. As a highly resolving modern deck, this player had obviously zero issues to track the slightly golden, warm and elastic signature of the RE2000 versus the robust, dynamic very energetic grip/shove of the Lyra. Nor had it any hesitation pushing the 101dB-rated mega heavies of Final's Sonorous X, a €4'600 take-no-prisoner dynamic full-size over-ear headphone more than 500g weighty due to solid metal construction. In my book, those Japanese extremists in their flash gold/chrome skins act as a kind of über Sennheiser HD800 without the German's shortcomings; and with rather more powerful bass. True, nobody would wear them outdoors except perhaps on a covered balcony or back porch. The point is, the Soundaware drove them as beautifully as a low-power SET would show absolute mastery over a high-efficiency widebander to have one question the sanity of big burly amps. Obviously those remain needed for more reluctant loads. On that count, Final's big D8000 planars remained well within the purview of this circuit's high gain setting as another big can you'd never take on the road but could swap to once back home without needing a separate amp when the in-ears pull out.