Walnut V2s: Back to Basics

Greetings!

Today we’re going to be taking a look at a basic DAP/AMP, taking form in the Walnut V2s.

Sometimes all you want is a straightforward, simple to use player. One that’s low on features and frills, doesn’t take a massive chunk out of your wallet, and doesn’t skimp on sound quality. The Walnut V2s does all of this quite well.

Let’s check out why, shall we?

Disclaimer:

The Walnut V2s was purchased from Penon Audio at a discounted rate for the purposes of review. There is no financial incentive for writing this review, and all thoughts and opinions within are my own. They do not represent Penon Audio, Walnut (?), or any other entity.

At the time of this review the V2s retailed through Penon Audio for 33.90 USD: https://penonaudio.com/Walnut-V2s?search=walnut

My Gear and I:

I’m a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established writers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.

Fast forward a couple years and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like HiFiMan, RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Mixcder, Brainwavz, Meze and many more. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to a product that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done and payment enough.

Earphones used for testing were the Havi B3 Pro twins, ClarityOne EB110, TFZ Exclusive 5, Rose Mojito, thinksound On2, and because I have them on hand at the moment, the HiFiMan Susvara (come on…I had to try). I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass. Lately I’ve been enjoying more mellow and relaxed products with a bass tilt. Two of my favorite in-ears, the Echobox Finder X1[i] with grey filters installed and the Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced are good examples of my preferred signatures.

Specifications:

Supported Formats: FLAC, APE, WAV, MP3

Battery: 1,500 mAh lithium

Battery Life: 15 hrs

Amp Power Supply: 16v

Drive Capacity: 15-300Ω

More Stuff: Output Uses Elna SILMICII silk capacitor; Input uses EIna Black-neg; Can act as standalone amp if you want

Packaging and Accessories:

A simple device needs a simple package and accessory kit to back it up. In the case of the V2s, you get a plain cardboard box free of any designs or branding and a Micro USB cable. That’s it. No manual, but rubber straps, no case. It’s all business here.

Build and Design:

My first thought upon seeing the V2s was that it looked old. Cool, but old. I love the black and while color scheme with cursive writing explaining the function of the five buttons on the face and input/outputs peppered across the unit.

In hand the aluminum shell feels very solid and durable, able to take a kicking from even the most careless of owners. The front and rear plates look to be made of the same PCB material used to make circuit boards. While it doesn’t look impressive from a fit and finish perspective, it’s a functional and tough as nails material. The only part that feels even remotely fragile is the long, slender power switch out back.

While the V2s is a little thick and weighs about as much as my LG G5, it’s still small enough to be pocketable. Unless you wear skin tight skinny jeans. That’s probably not going to work.

Overall the build and design is more about function over form. The unit feels good in hand with controls that are easy enough to access and understand, so much so it doesn’t take long to learn to control it without looking at what you’re doing.

Ease of Use, Controls, and EQ:

Once you figure out the V2s’ intricacies, it’s a very easy to navigate player. However, figuring out it’s functions is learned either through trial and error, or online in the forums. Here is what I can share about the controls based on information found on Head-fi, and my own experiences.

Prev: Press once to return to the start of the track. Press twice to skip to the previous track. Hold to prompt the “Last Folder” queue, and hold again to actually skip to the last folder.

Stop: Press once to stop music from playing. Hold to delete the current track.

Next: Press once to skip to the next track. Press and hold to prompt the “Next Folder” queue, and hold again to actually skip to the next folder.

Mode: Press once to let the player run through a single cycle of everything on the memory card. A second press plays everything on random. A third press turns all that off and just plays your tunes in the order loaded on the memory card. Hold down the button to lower the volume digitally.

EQ: Press once for the “Rock” setting. Press twice for “Pop”. Press three times for “Classical”. Press a fourth time for “Jazz”. Hold down to increase the volume digitally.

I found the EQ settings to make a pretty noticeable difference in the presentation.

Rock – increases treble and mid-presence, thins out the sound and improves separation, reduces overall bass quantity; overall a nicely balanced setting that works well with most music

Pop – significantly reduces treble presence and pulls back the mid-range while boosting mid-bass quantity; not a fan of this with anything but extremely bright earphones or headphones as it makes the V2s sound veiled and muddy

Classical – thins out the sound even more than on the ‘Rock’ setting, adds even more treble, and reduced bass presence even more; not a fan as it is too clinical, sucking out any emotion and impact a track may have had

Jazz – Much like the ‘Rock’ setting but with a more forward mid-range, more impactful bass, and further improved clarity nearing what the “Classical” setting outputs; my favorite EQ of the bunch and what I left the player on the majority of the time

Sound:

I find the V2s’ default signature to be bright, somewhat edgy and aggressive, and with a touch of grain in the upper mids and treble. This was particularly noticeable when compared to my other, significantly pricier, players; Shanling M1, Hifi E.T. MA8, and the HiFiMan Megamini. It’s actually quite similar in signature to the first gen Motorola Moto G I used to use. It’s soundstage is quite large and open with good separation and layering. Detail and clarity are also stellar, minus the aforementioned grain. It has a nice black background and when paired with one of the easiest to drive, most sensitive and hiss-prone iems in my collection, that being the ClarityOne EB110, avoided producing any background hissing or static.

Paired with headphones that had a more treble-heavy presence or focus (like the new TFZ Exclusive Series or pretty much anything from JVC) was fun at first. After the first week the wow factor wore off and my ears found such parings to be very fatiguing. I resorted to using the built in Pop EQ setting which drastically reduces treble and mid-range but also makes the sound a bit hollow and dull; a necessary sacrifice unfortunately.

Pairing the V2s with more neutral or warmer, smoother, bassier earphones was a much more pleasant experience and in my opinion the most suitable way to use and enjoy this player. Depending on the earphone, I still got to enjoy the V2s’ excellent clarity and open sound stage, but without the tiring treble. For some very dark earphones, like the Brainwavz M100, it gave them some treble energy and clarity that I could only attain previously through heavy EQ.

Overall I find the Walnut V2s to offer an energetic and engaging signature. Without applying one of the built in EQ settings I found it too treble heavy to pair with bright earphones. On the other end of the spectrum, the default signature paired amazingly well with darker, more bassy earphones. The Jazz setting EQ offered the most balanced and cleanest sound. This could easily have been the default signature.

Living with the Walnut V2s:

It’s been a while since a media player that lacked a screen was my daily driver; at least 10 years. Given I’ve been using something with a visual interface for over a decade, be it something basic like the Samsung YP-K5 or more in depth like a smartphone, it was surprisingly easy to go back to a clutter-free player like the Walnut V2s.

I’m the kind of person that picks an album and listens to it front to back, or pulls up my entire library of tunes, sets it to random then hits play, only skipping tracks when I’m not feeling them. Custom playlists are not my jam. The V2s suited my listening styles perfectly. As I was heading out I would simply grab the player, snag a set of earphones, plug them in and flip on the V2s. Since it starts playing immediately upon start up, all I needed to do was set the volume and chuck it in my pocket. There’s no boot time, no searching through menus to find what you want to listen to, etc. Initially I was running with a packed 16 gig card but I ended up paring this down to an 8 gig card with select material. This was just the right amount of music to permit scanning through albums were I in the mood for a specific track, but still enough material to avoid repetition when playing on random.

In terms of powering my gear, I actually found the V2s’s standard volume too loud for most of my headphones. This issue was exacerbated because the player suffers from a mild channel imbalance at low volumes. I thought this was going to be a fatal flaw for me and completely ruin my ability to use the player as anything but a standalone amp, but then I figured out the digital volume controls. Such a handy feature.

In terms of powering more demanding gear, because the V2s gets LOUD, just for fun I tried them with the HiFiMan Susvara. If you’re not familiar with it, use the search feature above, read up, then come back. Yeah, I gave the sub-40 USD V2s a go at the 6,000 USD Susvara. I already said it was just for fun, so stop rolling your eyes. To my surprise the V2s was easily capable of driving the Susvara to volumes that exceeded what I can comfortably listen at, and way louder than the players mentione din the “Sound” section. You could tell it wasn’t enough though, evident by the clipping any time there was a deep bass hit. The Susvara is a ridiculously demanding headphone. What I gathered from this little venture is that the V2s should have more than enough power to run the vast majority of headphones and earphone.

Another negative, and one that only became apparent when not using the V2s for a length of time, is that the standby battery life is pretty mediocre. After only a couple days of being out of use, I went to use the V2s and found it dead. Over the last few weeks this has happened a couple times. Not a major issue, but notable for someone that is planning to use this infrequently or as a secondary player.

Overall the V2s proved to be a very convenient player. It wasn’t perfect for every situation, but if I just needed something for a grab-n-go type scenario, the V2s was my go to.

DSC01518

Final Thoughts:

If you’re looking for a player with a very crisp sound that exceeds it’s price tag and are willing to give up basic features like a screen for menu navigation, the V2s is worth consideration. It’s easy to use, it plays hi-res files, it has a decent and achievable 15 hour battery life, and best of all, it’s really inexpensive and capable of powering some thirsty headphones. You can even use it as an amp for another device should you not want to bother messing around with the DAP. If it were only an amp, the price would still be quite reasonable for the power this thing outputs.

It’s probably not going to be the right player for you if you enjoy carrying around thousands of songs, or want a sleek, modern device packed to the gills with features. For that you’ll probably want to research something like the well-received Benjie X5, the slightly more expensive XDuoo X2, or one of a ton of other low cost DAPs that have cropped up.

What I’m saying is that while the Walnut V2s isn’t perfect, it does exactly what it needs to do; it plays music and sounds good doing it.

Thanks for reading!

– B9Scrambler

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