The Bang for the Buck
About the company Colorfly:
Colorfly is a Chinese manufacturer of Portable Hi-Fi products, which is especially know for the Colorfly C4 Digital Audio Player (DAP) that was one of the few audiophile grade DAP’s in the market.
Colorfly Official Webpage: https://en.colorfly.net/
I would like to thank Colorfly for providing me this sample via Penon Audio for review purposes. I am not affiliated with Colorfly beyond this review and these words reflect my true, unaltered opinions about the product.
The Colorfly BT-C1 is available on Penon Audio for 62,50 USD.
Purchase Link: https://penonaudio.com/colorfly-bt-c1.html
The Colorfly BT-C1 is a small sized wireless Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) with integrated and Amplifier (AMP), which can be connect to devices like Phones, Tablets, PC’s etc. that are supporting this protocol to enhance your music experience.
Package and Accessories:
The device comes in small and simple card box which contains the following items;
- Colorfly BT-C1
- Low profile USB Charge Cable
- Stylish Lanyard
Design and Build Quality:
The outer shell of the Colorfly BT-C1 adopts a CNC processed aluminum alloy material in combination of a high-strength glass with anti-fingerprint, which has a black vinyl like design that looks stylish and is very compact.
There are three physical buttons and one volume wheel. The device has also a small LED, which lights up in three different colors (red, blue, green) and is giving several information’s about the device status, which I will explain later.
- Sample rate : 32bit/192kHz
- Output power : 32mW (32Ω load 1KHz/THD+N<1%)
- Bluetooth version : 5.0
- Distortion : <0.05%
- DAC chip : ESS 9318
- Signal to noise ratio : ≥125dB
- Headphone jack : 3.5mm
- Bluetooth Codec’s : SBC, MP3, AAC, APTX, APTXLL
- Battery capacity : 270mAh
- Charging time : 1.5 hours
- Battery Life : ≥ 6 hours
- Size : 42mm*42mm*12mm
- Weight : 26g
Hardware / Power / Connectivity:
The Colorfly BT-C1 has some nice hardware specs for such a tiny sized Bluetooth device, which has some unique features like to connect two devices at the same time.
a) Digital to Analog (DAC):
The Colorfly BT-C1 has a relative new DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) of the company ESS Technology’s with the model number ESS9318 under the hood. The ESS9318 SoC supports the ESS patented 32-bit HyperStream architecture that can support up to 32-bit 384kHz PCM and DSD256 to deliver up to 125 dB SNR and -113 dB Total Harmonic Distortion plus Noise (THD+N).
b) Bluethooth Chip:
The Colorfly BT-C1 is using the latest Bluetooth SoC (System on Chip) of the Company Qualcomm with the model number CSR8670. Bluetooth and Bluetooth low energy radios, DSP and memory integrated into a single SoC to help reduce system complexity and eBOM while supporting devices with small form factor like the Colorfly BT-C1.
c) Bluetooth and supported Audio Codecs:
The Colorfly BT-C1 supports the latest Bluetooth 5.0 protocol, which is a big advantage over some other competitors, like the Astell&Kern XB10 that which is supporting an older protocol, the Bluetooth 4.1 Class2. This means whenever you pair the Colorfly BT-C1 with a Bluetooth device it selects the best possible codec that your audio source (DAP, Tablet, Smartphone) supports.
Supported codecs are SBC, AAC, APTX, APTXLL, which means that you no longer hear an FLAC, WAV, MP3, DSD, etc. music file. All audio formats will be decoded by the output device to PCM and then transcoded to aptX, AAC, SBC etc. via Bluetooth audio (in 16bit) to Colorfly BT-C1.
The maximum wireless operating distance of the CT-B1, without any barrier is about 10 meters, which I can confirm after my experiences with it.
What do these codes actually mean?
The aptX audio codec is used for wireless audio applications, notably the real-time streaming of lossy stereo audio over the Bluetooth A2DP connection/pairing between a “source” device such as a Smartphone, Tablet Laptop or a DAP. Products bearing the CSR aptX logo are certified for interoperability with each other. (Ref: Wikipedia)
aptX LL = Low Latency is intended for video and gaming applications requiring comfortable audio-video synchronization whenever the stereo audio is transmitted over short-range radio to the listener(s) using the Bluetooth A2DP audio profile standard. The technology offers an end-to-end latency of 32 ms over Bluetooth. By comparison, the latency of standard Bluetooth stereo varies greatly depending on the system implementation and buffering. Solutions are available that use standard SBC encoding/decoding that achieve end-to-end latency of less than 40 ms. (Ref: Wikipedia)
SBC, or low-complexity sub-band codec, is an audio sub-band codec specified by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) for the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP). SBC is a digital audio encoder and decoder used to transfer data to Bluetooth audio output devices like headphones or loudspeakers. It can also be used on the Internet.
It was designed to obtain a reasonably good audio quality at medium bit rates while keeping low computational complexity, having Bluetooth bandwidth limitations and processing power in mind. (Ref: Wikipedia)
The Colorfly BT-C1 has three physical buttons and one volume wheel. The button in the middle is the play, pause and call answer button, which also turns the device on/off, when you push it for about 2 seconds. When you press it for 4 seconds it will activate the Bluetooth pairing mode, which is only needed for the first time (for each device).The left button is for previous and the right for next song selection.
The LED light gives us several information’s about the device status. The device is charging or has low power if the LED lights up in red. If the device is fully charged the light will be in green and blue when the pairing mode is activated.
e) Driving power & Hissing:
The ideal impedance range for the Colorfly BT-C1 is between 16 – 100 ohms and it has a driving power of 2 x 30mW @ 32ohms. The BT-C1 was able to drive all my IEM’s between 16 and 60 ohms to very loud volume levels and has a surprisingly silent background with very low hissing that was only noticeable with my DUNU Falcon-C, which is a quite sensitive IEM. The Colorfly BT-C1 has also quite enough juice to power my full sized Audio-Technica ATH M50 Headphone to relative loud volume levels.
The Colorfly BT-C1 has a build in microphone, which will automatically activated when you pair it with an Smartphone. Btw, the voice transmission and clarity was surprisingly good.
g) Battery Life:
The Colorfly BT-C1 is able to work continuously for about 5.5 – 6 hours with approx 70% volume, which is quite good for such a tiny device with wireless sound transmission capabilities.
Equipments used for this review:
- DAC’s : Colorfly BT-C1, Astell&Kern XB10
- USB Source : Samsung Galaxy S8+, Apple iPad Air2
- IEM’s : Campfire Audio Polaris, SEMKARCH SKC-CNT1, Dunu Flacon-C
- Earbuds : Astrotec Lyra Collection, Penon BS1 Official, Simphonio Dragon2+
- Headphones : Audio-Technica ATH-M50
Albums & tracks used for this review:
- Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Spotify)
- Opeth – Damnation (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Flac 16bit/44kHz)
- Metallica – Sad bu True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Jehan Barbur – Yollar (Spotify)
- Minor Empire – Bulbulum Altin Kafeste (Spotify)
- London Grammar – Interlud (Live) (Flac 24bit/44kHz)
- Laura Pergolizzi – Lost On You “Live at Harvard and Stone” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Steve Srauss – Mr. Bones (Flac 16bit/44kHz)
- Dire Straits – Money for Nothing (DSD 64)
- Gothart – Jovano, Jovanke (Spotify)
- Otto Liebert & Luna Negra – The River (DSF) – Binaural Recording
- GoGo Penguin – Fanfares (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Casey Abrams – Robot Lover (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Yosi Horikawa – Bubbles (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Future Heroes – Another World (Tidal Hi-fi)
- Lorde – Team (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
- Tom Player – Resonace Theory “Album” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Deeperise feat. Jabbar – Move On (Spotify)
Please note that this is a low budget DAC/AMP that means, all my comments about the sound quality are in consideration of this price range. The burn-in period for the Colorfly BT-C1 is about approx 75 – 80 hours.
The Colorfly BT-C1’s sound is close to neutral with a clean and balanced presentation tonality which has a touch of warmness.
The lower frequencies area of the Colorfly BT-C1 sound controlled and has pretty good extension for the price. What I have noticed is that there is lightly more sub-bass quantity then mid-bass, which is reaching to a pretty low register.
The bass is pretty fast and gives the sound a hint of fullness without to color the overall presentation too much, which is a great ability for such a tiny device at this price point.
The midrange of the Colorfly BT-C1 sounds uncolored and with only a small amount of coloration, which is a result of a hint of warmness that is, produced form from the lower frequency area. One of great features of the BT-C1 is the smooth and pretty transparent presentation of the midrange, which excels pretty good with both female and male vocals. I have really enjoyed the vocal presentation of the Colorfly BT-C1, especially female voices like Jehan Barbur and Ozgu Ozman (Minor Empire.
The only downside in this area is the missing of some fullness, which was remarkable with the Audeze iSine20 and the Dunu Falcon-C.
The performance of the BT-C1 regarding to the midrange definition and detail retrieval of instruments is outstanding, when I remember that this devices cost only 62.50 USD.
There upper midrange sounds fairly soft and quite controlled with only a small amount of harshness, which was noticeable with the Dunu Falcon-C that is quite sensitive in this regarding.
The treble range of the Colorfy BT-C1 has pretty good control and extension, which doesn’t tends to sibilance and harshness. It is fairly neutral and uncolored, which is again a nice ability for a entry level Bluetooth device. Instrument like pianos, violins and side flutes sounding crisp fairly detailed without to be harsh.
The upper treble region is missing some energy, which sounds otherwise pretty controlled and with a above average detail retrieval.
Soundstage and Separation:
The Colorfly BT-C1 delivers a quite a spacious soundstage, which has an above average depth and natural expansion. The positioning of instruments and vocals is pretty good.
Colorfly BT-C1 vs. Astell&Kern XB10 (using 2.5mm balanced out)
The Astell&Ken XB10 was a pioneer for many brands, and a good example to show us that small wireless Bluetooth devices can sound pretty good.
When it comes to sound, the Astell&Kern XB10 has the warmer and brighter tonality compared to the Colorfly BT-C, which has less emphasis on the top and lower end with its more natural presentation.
The bass of the Astell&Kern XB10 has more body and weight especially in the mid-bass area where the Colorfly BT-C1 sounds more balanced and clean. Both devices have a fast bass response, while the sub-bass of the XB10 are reaching to a slightly lower register. The bass extends pretty well on both devices, while the Colorfly BT-C1 has the upper with its better control.
The midrange of both devices is sharing a fairly amount of detail, where the Colorfly BT-C1 sounds slightly cleaner and with additional transparency. The Astell&Kern XB10 sound a bit too veiled for my taste, which performs otherwise pretty good in this area. Vocals have a hint more weight with the XB10, but the BT-C1 sounds more lifelike especially with female vocals. The overall detail level of instruments and vocals is lightly better with the Colorfly BT-C1.
When it comes to the treble range, the Colorfly BT-C1 and Astell&Kern XB10 are pretty detailed. The Colorfy BT-C1 has the upper hand for control and extension. The XB10 sounds slightly brighter then the BT-C1, which is resulting to harshness problems, especially with some bad recorded Metal songs like Metallica’s “Sad but True”. The Colorfly BT-C1 a bit more distant and transparent compared to the Astell&Kern XB10.
Astell&Kern XB10 and Colorfly BT-C1 have an above average soundstage performance, with moderate level of wideness. The biggest difference is for depth, where the Colorfly sounds more realistic and precise.
The Colorfly BT-C1 is a small but very capable device that will change the prejudices against Bluetooth devices, due the surprisingly uncolored and detailed sound for a Bluetooth DAC/AMP which is sold for a reasonable price.
Summary (plus and minus):
- + Small and lightweight
- + Great sound for the price
- + Clean background
- + Easy to operate
- – Needs a bit of attention due the glass at the bottom