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Luckily, the Opus does better in the audio department. For one thing, in a world where nearly every PMP comes with rotten, substandard earbuds (with the exception of a few models from Sony), the Opus ships with a pair of half-decent canalphones. The signature is a little bright for my tastes, but get the fit right - three sets of silicon tips are provided - and you get a solid, clean sound with just enough low-end depth for most kinds of music.
Running through tracks from Massive Attack, Pearl Jam, Mastodon, One Republic, Ladyhawke and Miles Davis, I found the noise emanating from the earphones perfectly listenable, and while I was itching to put a pair of Grados on my ears, at least I wasn't tearing the Philips headphones away in disgust.
Hook up something more substantial, and the Opus reveals hidden depths. With its last generation players, Philips added in an enhancement mode, FullSound, aimed at restoring detail lost to compression and creating - you guessed it - a fuller, more Hi-Fi like sound. With the Opus playing through a pair of Sennheiser HD595s, it seems to work, adding depth to the bass, a distinct sparkle to the high end and a degree of presence across the board.
The Opus can cope with the complex, hard rock dynamics of Mastodon's Crack the Skye, separating out the layers of bass and guitar and not allowing the drums and cymbals to grow too dominant or too sibilant. Throw it something more subtle, like the rich, atmospheric tango of Gidon Kremer's Homage to Astor Piazolla, and it still shines, delivering mournful violin, sweet clarinet and plucked double-bass with real finesse.
Justin Timberlake's pop comes through with punch and energy, while Notion, from Kings of Leon's Only By The Night, is every bit as majestic a stadium rock anthem as it should be, the guitars, bass, drums and vocals powerful and clear.
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