Review: Gorgeously Retro Colorfly Pocket HiFi Takes 24Bit Vinyl Tracks Portable

Written by Matthew Lentini     08/11/2011 | 05:38 | Category name i.e.REAL HI FI

When it comes to sound, you get out what you put in. If you're playing MP3s and AAC tracks on a high-end system, you're immediately capped by the inferior quality of the format. Enter the Colorfly C4. The Colorfly is intended for audiophiles looking to house their 24 bit tracks in a versatile, portable unit with high quality components for playing on the go or attaching to their Hi Fi system.


Straight out of the oh-so-elegant box, the fittingly elegant Colorfly comes clad in a black walnut wooden housing with its logo carefully embossed on the back. This portable player is not the most portable of the bunch, measuring up similarly to the original Nintendo GameBoy. In similar fashion, it takes its design from the retro world, with a Steampunk-inspired mesh of timber and metal thrown tastefully together. If you're over the ultramodern sleekness of contemporary devices, the retro pastiche may just make your mouth water.

And so will the sound output quality. The Colorfly houses some high specs including a low jitter rate at under five picoseconds, a Cirrus Logic digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) and sample rate converter, a dynamic range of up to 120dB, built-in op-amp, gold-plated headphone inputs for 6.5mm and 3.5mm headphones as well as SP/DIF inputs and outputs (perfect for hooking the Colorfly up to an existing Hi-Fi system. The studio feel is complimented with a volume slider knob with a perfect tension underneath that's more of a pleasure to use than even the Apple iPod volume wheel.

24 bit track compatibility comes on the back of the top notch Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC which supports 192 kHz sample rates and audio data up to 24 bit, usually found on high-end A/V equipment. This star component allows audiophiles to salivate over their vinyl rips without losing quality, at the same time powering high end outputs. The Colorfly will run a 300 ohm headset with ease without the need of an external amplifier, articulating itself brilliantly. Its Australian distributor, Soundlabs Group, note that some users have used the device to power 600 ohm headsets, though we didn't get a chance to try this out ourselves.

You might like to lift your jaw from the table once you notice the $800 price tag and some of the shortcomings that make the Colorfly fall short of a dream to use. Storage of 32GB isn't ideal for those looking to fill their player up with 24 bit music that can easily push well over 30MB per three minute track, but an additional slot for microSD cards tries to rectify this (though realistically, how many people have large capacity microSD cards?).

For a device so fancy, the Colorfly is missing a lot of the fancy software you'd expect. The user interface is slow and cumbersome - generally very outdated for a portable music player. The file order comes straight out of how you arrange it in Windows Explorer on your computer, which is good and bad. The good is that it's the easiest method to drag and drop tracks. The bad is that there are no organisational tools on the device, just back and forward between folders, and navigating a full device can be a chore. There's also the lack of playback options for shuffling between tracks or running continuous playback of every song unless you've previously thrown them in order in a single folder. Also, the small USB connector for your PC that doubles has a charger won't throw tracks over very fast, so you'd best be patient if you've got a big vinyl rip library.

Usability for its purpose of storing and mobilising Hi-Fi audio is spot on though. A click of a button allows you to switch between multiple sample rates and up-sample from 44.1 to 192 kHz, thanks to the Cirrus Logic CS8422 Sample Rate Converter chip, though you'll often be hard pressed to hear the difference unless you've got one of the most trained, aurally attentive ears. There's also a button dedicated to different EQ modes like Jazz and Pop, though none of the options sound as good as the neutral setting.

In the end, you have to lend some leniency to the lack of legitimate 'pocketability' of the Colorfly C4 next to other portable music players, because it's more than that - it's a portable Hi-Fi system. You could leave it at home to sit in your Hi-Fi set up and still feel content that you've got a quality product that performs like it should - very utilitarian. It mobilises high definition audio in a premium package that has the added practical bonus of being especially portable. If you value the sanctity of your music library and don't fall into the iPod generation (or want something that'll really make the most of your expensive headphones), then the Colorfly was meant for you.

For the full list of audio compatibilities, check over the page.
The following types of files are compatible:
·    WAV (up to and including 192 kHz / 24bit)
·    FLAC (44.1kHz, 48kHz and 96kHz 16 Bit)
·    OGG Vorbis
·    APE (44.1kHz and 48kHz 16 Bit)
·    MP3 (up to 320kbps)
·    Note 16 bit 192kHz FLAC is possible but is more reliant on the type of software used to encode, some files may not play.
·    Due to possible future firmware updates, more may be added.

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Pros & Cons

Pros:

Decodes 24 bit tracks at 192kHz sample rate; Gorgeous retro design; high quality components; powers headphones over 300 ohms without additional amplifiers

Cons:

Very steep price; software and interface is very lacking, usability is no contender with more common portable music players