Cypher Labs Picollo – Pick a Winner!
- Great clear sound
- Oodles of Power
- Solid construction
- Versatile; is both a portable DAC and standalone amp
- A bit angular and pointy
- Volume pot needs care if in a bag/pocket
Cypher Labs’ new portable DAC promises to pack the sort of high quality performance we’ve come to expect into an even smaller package. With the name Picollo being a slight revision of the flute’s name, can we expect a solid performance or is it all a bit of a pickle-o?
Simplicity is the theme; on the outside there’s a small switch for gain settings (3 levels of gain are available), the familiar Cypher Labs machined potentiometer, 3.5mm line in and headphone out sockets, and round the back, the USB socket. There’s also a tiny red LED at the back to indicate that the unit is charging (green when full), and a similar blue one on the front to indicate that the unit is operating. The Cypher Labs Picollo sports a Texas Instruments PCM2704 integrated circuit as DAC with 32,41 & 48kHz operation with a 16 bit depth – obviously the mobile/portable market is the target with this one.
The Picollo is compatible with many smart phones so it will give superior decoding on the move; check Cypher Labs’ Picollo DAC product page for a list of compatible devices. Some models may require a specific app to gain this functionality.
Needless to say, the Picollo is titchy! At just over 2 inches wide and 3 1/4 inches long, the unit is around the size of a pack of filterless cigarettes. The thickness of the unit is 3/4 of an inch. Most of the case appears to be of laminated metal and very solid. The bottom, while being just as solid, is made of plastic; it has a slightly hollow ring but it matches the rest of the case very well.
In this age of swish moulding and bevelled edges however, the edges and corners of the Picollo are on the keen side. Not a deal-breaker, but I can imagine a few pockets eventually getting holes worn in them with the Cypher Labs Picollo as a passenger. Also the volume pot seems vulnerable to any sudden ham-fisted movements if it’s in a bag or pocket.
The sound is as sharp, clean and accurate as any other Cypher Labs DAC; soundstage is as good as I can expect depending on headphones used, and the same goes for the sense of space within classical recordings and vintage reverby tracks such as The Hollies “We’re Through” and The Swinging Blue Jeans’ “You’re No Good”.
Bass is tight and well controlled, mids are very enjoyable (and definitely shown off by the tracks above), and treble is fully represented but is more subject to listeners’ personal sensibilities. Personally speaking, the treble is perfect when listening on the Beyerdynamic T1 and also the Sennheiser IE800; the Ultrasone Edition 12 is a bit too edgy so they got it about right at Cypher Labs.
Power is surprising for such a little package; With the Beyerdynamic T1 (600 ohms/102dB sensitivity) volume got up to a good level with the Picollo on the high gain setting; on older/quieter recordings this might not be quite enough for those intent on hearing damage (depending on the mastering), but the T1 is merely for testing the power – most headphones are not so difficult to drive and so this won’t be an issue. I would consider the T1 adequately powered by the Picollo; desktop amps would perform better of course but they are not portable!
A solid unit in more ways than one; I would have liked a more rounded form but this is a minor criticism. For its purpose, the Picollo absolutely fits. All portable headphones will be more than adequately powered, and the Picollo is compatible with a vast array of Android handsets for superior sound quality wherever you find yourself.