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Cozoy Takt Pro Review – Minute but Mighty

Introduction –

Cozoy are quite the romantics, fusing sharp, daring styling with analogue tuning. They’ve always been a bit unorthodox with their designs, preferring tonality over specification and technicality. However, their recent products represents a shift towards the later while retaining the magic of models past. Cozoy’s new Takt Pro succeeds the Takt as Cozoy’s flagship ultra-compact DAC. It also best exemplifies this shift towards specification,  implementing the renowned Saber ESS9018Q2C DAC chip combined with some intriguing tuning on Cozoy’s behalf.

In addition, the DAC features a hyper compact battery-less design that perfectly suits portable use. As a result, the Takt Pro produces some very unique results within a very unique form factor. However, its $289 USD asking price puts it in direct contest with some very competitive models from venerable manufacturer’s like Oppo and Fiio. So, can Cozoy’s diminutive DAC deliver the technical performance offered by its larger counterparts? Let’s find out!

 

Disclaimer – 

I would like to thank Cozoy very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the Takt Pro at a discounted price for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the DAC free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

 

Accessories – 

As my Takt Pro is a pre-production unit, it arrived with no packaging. That said, the accessory set is identical to retail units. In-line with the Takt Pro’s multi-platform support, Cozoy provide 3 cables terminated in lightning, micro-b and usb type-A. This enables the DAC to function with a variety of devices from factory though I’m sure a usb type-c cable would be a very appreciated inclusion with retail units.

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The cables themselves are slim, short (~10cm) and flexible with decent strain relief. As such, they aren’t obtrusive when pocketed and are very well suited for portable use. The black Lightning cable pictured is an upgrade unit available for separate purchase. Cozoy also offer a USB-C variant, but the retail Takt Pro will only ship with a standard white Lightning cable and no USB-C cable. The type-A cable was very underwhelming, as pictured above, the usb cover slid off the plug upon first use. Of course, replacements are common and dirt cheap and Cozoy’s upgrade cables are very nicely built, but considering Cozoy’s asking price, I would expect these higher quality cables to be included from factory.

 

Design –

This may be one of the most outstanding features of Cozoy’s Takt DAC’s; both of which are absolutely miniscule. The Takt Pro is about twice the size of a smartphone dongle but far exceeds them in specification and build quality. With a machined 6063 aluminium enclosure, the Takt Pro feels rigid despite its dimensions. This particular alloy also enables an especially tactile finish and their alluring gunmetal colour scheme differentiates it from the silver Takt and doesn’t scream for attention when stacked with a smart device.

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In fact, this is where the Pro excels as it is barely noticeable when paired with a smartphone. This is especially pertinent as the majority of modern flagships are omitting the 3.5mm headphone jack. When paired with a tab of reusable 3M double-sided tape, the Takt Pro makes for a very practical alternative to the included dongle; and the Takt Pro is especially comparable to such solutions as it has no internal battery, similarly running off the source device.

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However, where the original Takt and majority of competing designs like Fiio’s i1 and ADV’s Accessport are wired to a specific connector, the Takt Pro instead utilises a conventional and widely supported micro-usb port. Some may want for usb-c, but the Takt Pro is physically smaller than the port and reversible micro-usb cables can commonly be found online for change. This enables the DAC to be used with every platform, extending to Windows and MAC devices in addition to portable ones.

 

Usability –

As it is powered by the source device, I was concerned about the Takt Pro’s compatibility with various devices; many of which have limited output power to preserve battery life. However, the Pro was plug and play for all of my test devices; an iPod Touch 6G running IOS 11.2, HTC U11 on Android 8.0, Fiio X7 II on 1.0.4 and my Windows 10 laptop. As soon as the DAC was connected, all began routing audio through the Takt Pro. And, though most of these devices cap their output to 44.1 or 48KHz over USB, a third party app such as Poweramp or USB Audio Player were able to take advantage of the Takt Pro’s ability to decode higher-bitrate files.

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Of note, 3rd party Lightning accessories tend to be a little unreliable, but though Cozoy’s included Lightning to micro-usb cable is not MFI certified, I experienced no issues during my testing. The micro-b to micro-b cable also functioned perfectly as did an aftermarket usb-c cable I usually use to connect DAC’s to my U11. Cozoy also offer an additional ASIO driver for Windows devices that offers reduced latency and bitrate support above 192KHz.

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The practicality of the Takt Pro’s design is compounded upon by its snappy hardware controls. The face of the device has 3 buttons that emulate a remote with clearly differentiated volume buttons and a larger multi-function button in the centre. They all have a very pronounced click and holding the volume buttons enables a skip track function which is practical for pocket use; especially since the Takt Pro does not pass through remote commands from the attached headset. The buttons functioned perfectly on all tested platforms but on Windows, the music app itself must support remote commands; Foobar and Spotify functioned as intended.

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Of note, as the Takt Pro is powered by the source device, it does tend to draw more power than either the stock output or stock dongle. That said, considering that it holds a huge output power and decoding advantage over these outputs, the Takt Pro did not draw significantly more power than my U11’s dongle. Additionally, power draw from my laptop made a negligible impact on battery life. Considering the size of the DAC, I’m not overly concerned that there’s no additional charging port for jack-less smartphones.

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The Takt Pro does get warmer than most sources due to its small size and heat conductive housing (which aids cooling). I also noticed that it was warmer when running from my laptop than smartphone suggesting the phone is delivering less power. That said, it was never hot the point of discomfort even during the current Australian summer. The Takt Pro was also surprisingly EMI resistant with no noticeable interference when paired with my laptop or phone regardless of CPU or WiFi activity.

 

Sound –

Given that the Takt Pro is a source device, all of the deviations in the sections below will be subtle in nature. Besides offering adequate driving power, a source can make a large difference but in the vast majority of instances, a great source should sound transparent and balanced. In this regard, the Takt Pro excels, it is deliberately tuned, but still balanced and linear enough to compete with higher-end equipment. For the full specifications and supported formats, please see Cozoy’s website here.

 

Tonality –

The Takt Pro is a slightly warm and mellow source; combining a mid-bass focussed low-end with a laid-back midrange and slightly reserved treble presentation. As a result, it sounds quite atypical for a Saber source, especially a 9018 based one. Substituting the middle treble glare usually associated with these units with a smoother, more refined but still clean presentation.

And despite its tonality, the Pro remains a nicely technical source with gobs of resolution, detail and control. It is perceptibly smoother and warmer in tone than more neutral sources like the Fiio X7 II so it does lean more towards the musical than critical side. Still, the Takt Pro is not nearly as obviously coloured as sources like the original Fiio Q1 and Hidizs AP60; and these are small signature deviations noticeable during longer listening.

 

AMP –

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The Takt Pro implements the Saber 9018Q2C DAC chip with integrated amplifier. Cozoy provide limited specification but promise a low output impedance for low-impedance multi-driver in-ears. And listening through the Sony XBA-40, which is especially susceptible to tonality deviations due to its super low 8-ohm impedance and mechanical crossover, I can confirm that the Takt Pro delivered a sound in line with my other low output impedance sources beyond some flavouring of the source’s own signature.

Cozoy also state a 49mW power output and a voltage output of 1.5VRMS into a 32ohm load. Though not significant compared to a larger DAP or DAC/AMP, these figures are immensely impressive given the Takt’s size and modest power draw. Of note, it did sound slightly more dynamic and controlled from my laptop than my HTC U11 which I would suggest to be a result of limited power delivery from my smartphone.

Still, when connected to either device, the Takt Pro produced very high levels of volume that far exceeded the maximum volumes either devices were capable of. The DAC also has a super black background with imperceptible hiss on almost every IEM and the faintest hint on my super sensitive Campfire Jupiter. They delivered clean signal to all of my in-ears including the 9-driver Katana and Sony EX-1000 with its mammoth 16mm drivers.

The Katana sounded clean and the Sony controlled, suggesting adequate power delivery under load. In addition, my portable headphones including the Denon MM-400 and Master&Dynamic MH40 were driven to potential. The Takt Pro didn’t excel with my less efficient Planar magnetic headphones, but it did do a far better job compared to my other sources of similar size and kept up surprisingly well with devices like the Fiio X5 III.

That said, the Takt Pro has quite a high gain so it isn’t perfectly suited to such sensitive in-ears despite its clean background; the Takt Pro was as loud on its lower volume level to my iPod Touch on half. As a result, a third part music app is ideal to digitally lower volume for sensitive in-ears though Spotify users may have to resort to impedance adaptors. This is definitely something to consider for low-volume IEM listeners.

 

Bass –

Full and rich, the Takt Pro delivers bass notes with enhanced body and warmth. Sub-bass is well extended and tight, delivering defined rumble. However, deep-bass sits slightly behind the Pro’s slightly bolstered mid-bass response. As a result, the Takt Pro delivers a warm and full-bodied over impactful bass response, contributing to its more laid-back presentation. Still, as the Takt’s emphasis is modest and gradual in nature, bass remains textured and each note is well-defined if not absolutely transparent. This added warmth does introduce hints of bloat, resulting in slightly less mid-bass definition and articulation compared to more neutral sources like the X7 II, though the Pro is hardly a congested or bloated source in the grand scheme of things.

In addition, their added body doesn’t compromise transience or control, in fact, the Takt Pro thoroughly impresses with its agility which counterbalances the effects of its slightly larger bass notes. Additionally, due to the Pro’s terrific resolution and quicker transient response, bass is also well separated and the DAC ultimately provides a snappy yet tastefully rich bass presentation. The Takt Pro isn’t quite as defined and separated as more linear source, but it is engaging and very tastefully coloured compared to the majority of warmer sources.

 

Mids –

The Takt Pro’s midrange remains congruent with its low-end, with a slightly fuller, more laid-back presentation. I would still characterise the Pro as quite a vivid, revealing source as it produces high levels of clarity and upper midrange transparency though there is some added body that pervades throughout its presentation. This is especially noticeable within the Takt Pro’s lower midrange that possess added warmth due to mid-bass colouration. As a result, it isn’t quite as defined and layered as more neutral sources; guitars sound more organic and male vocals are natural but slightly chesty. The Takt Pro’s lower half is still resolving if not especially revealing, with a greater focus on tonality that outright technical proficiency and realism.

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However, their warmer low-end feeds into a notably more transparent middle and upper midrange. This enables piano and female vocals to sound natural and clear with pleasing timbre. The Pro does have a slight darkness to its signature, but the DAC sounds smooth rather than veiled and its upper midrange remains very well-detailed. Background detail retrieval is also excellent due to higher resolution and a more neutral tone though slight tinges of warmth are still apparent. Resultantly, the Takt Pro offers a presentation that is simultaneously organic and revealing; it doesn’t offer the most realistic timbre, but does become more neutrally toned around its upper midrange and treble where the most noticeable details reside.

 

Highs –

Treble is quite intriguing with slight middle-treble emphasis enhancing air but not to the extent of most 9018 sources like the Oppo HA-2. Otherwise, treble is smoother in character; lower-treble is very detailed but also slightly laid-back, delivering notes with a little less attack than the X7 II. As a result, instruments like cymbals and guitars sound clean over crisp and never dull. Middle treble has a slight focus serving to enhance air and shimmer before feeding into a well-extended but more laid-back upper treble presentation. Their smoother nature contributes to the cleaner background of the Takt Pro that separates each foreground note without resorting to a brighter signature or cooler tone.

And despite its slightly smoother upper-treble response, the Takt Pro delivers a very well extended presentation that produces high levels of resolution. This prevents their more laid-back high-end from becoming dull and ensures that notes are delivered with focus and texture if not razor sharp clarity and edge. The Takt Pro also delivers notes with slightly longer decay manifesting though a little extra shimmer to cymbals and enhanced air around strings. This creates a rather unorthodox but immersive presentation. Accordingly, the Takt Pro isn’t especially realistic or linear, but it is immensely listenable during longer sessions and it very much retains the excellent resolving power Saber sources have become renowned for.

 

Soundstage –

As a result of its high resolution, enhanced air and separation, the Takt Pro delivers a reasonably spacious stage without sounding artificially enhanced as some sources can. That said, imaging clearly isn’t as precise or coherent as more linear sources though instruments placement remains easily perceivable and centre image is strong. Bass notes are not especially well separated nor are lower mids due to the Takt Pro’s larger note size and warm tone, though upper mids and treble are especially well separated on account of their middle-treble emphasis that enhances air.

 

Comparisons –

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HTC U11: HTC generally provide a more full-bodied sound and they are renowned among smartphone manufacturers for their higher output power; I feel this well represents one of the better smartphone audio experiences out there. Despite this, the U11 doesn’t touch the Takt Pro when it comes to maximum volume and the Cozoy clearly drives high-impedance headphones better; not just in terms of volume, but tightness and control. The Takt also has an advantage in terms of signature and an even larger technical one. Where the U11 produces clearly enhanced bass and almost artificially enhanced clarity, the Takt’s low-end warmth is far more subtle and it’s resolving power is achieved through resolution as opposed to excessive colouration; it is simply the more linear source overall. The U11, alongside many smartphones, also has a higher output impedance.

As a result, the HTC tends to further skew the signature of multi-driver in-ears and this was especially evident when listening to the Noble Katana. The Takt delivers a noticeably more balanced sound with greater midrange presence. The U11 sounds slightly more recessed and thinner within its midrange where the Takt is more natural with far more realistic timbre. Highs are also more even and extended, the U11 is a bit more aggressive but treble is thinner than neutral, making them crisp but brittle. The Takt is smoother and more refined, it possesses notably higher levels of resolution and clarity in addition to greater dynamics and control. Unsurprisingly, this makes the Takt Pro a large upgrade over the U11, and its small dimensions make it a super practical substitute for the stock dongle. Additionally, power draw is not significantly higher than the dongle, I would estimate a 20% reduction in playback time which is small considering the differences in driving power and quality.

Fiio i1 ($40): The i1 is slightly more compact than the Takt Pro but has a less practical cylindrical design. It too has a nice aluminium housing but employs plastic buttons and a fixed, rubbery cable. That said, the Fiio is MFI certified, guaranteeing reliable connection to IOS devices. Immediately, the Fiio offers far lower driving power than the Takt Pro. It is also more evidently skewed in signature with a generally darker and considerably less dynamic sound. The i1 had a notably looser low-end compared to the more agile and defined Takt Pro. The Fiio has a similar tone with mid-bass emphasis but it is even warmer, producing a more coloured midrange as a result. Lower-mids are full-bodied on the i1 but not veiled though the Takt Pro is clearer, more layered and more linear.

Upper mids exemplify this difference in performance even further, the i1 sounds quite a bit darker and even slightly veiled by comparison, lacking the extension, resolution and clarity of the Cozoy. As a result, the Cozoy’s treble response is better integrated, enhancing detail presentation and separation. The i1 retrieves a nice amount of lower-treble details but smooths off considerably more than the Cozoy which offers better extension, more air and higher resolving power throughout. Of course, the price difference is large, but listening through a resolving earphone like the Katana or EX-1000 and the gap in performance becomes very clear; the Takt Pro is simply more resolving, textured and linear, it is not to be underestimated due to its size.

ADV Accessport ($60): The Accessport is actually a really nice little Lightning DAC for the price. Its plastic build isn’t as convincing as the Takt Pro and it isn’t quite as compact, but it does offer an additional port to charge the device while listening. The braided cable is also a nice addition and it is MFI certified for perfect compatibility with IOS devices. Sonically, the Accessport is impressively neutral and revealing for its modest asking price. It’s a more u-shaped source than the more sculpted Takt Pro with greater deep-bass emphasis and a slightly brighter signature up top. It too has very nice driving power and volume but it produces noticeable hiss with IEMs and still doesn’t drive high-impedance headphones quite as well as the Takt Pro; notably lacking low-end control. Bass isn’t rich as the Takt Pro nor is it quite as tight or detailed, but the Accessport serves defined, more neutrally toned notes with good separation.

Mids have greater clarity on the Accessport and foreground details are brought more to the fore as a result. It doesn’t sound quite as natural as the Takt Pro but does sound a little more neutral in tone due to its less coloured mid-bass. That said, the Takt Pro has clearly better extension and resolution, it is more layered with far greater background detail. Treble is also nicely detailed on the Accessport, it has very slightly more lower-treble attack than the Takt Pro but its sound contains less information overall. The Takt Pro also resolves more into its upper treble and delivers a noticeably larger, more separated stage. The differences aren’t as immediate compared to the i1 but again, resolving in-ears and headphones will discern clear differences over longer listening.

Oppo HA-2 ($300): The HA-2 utilises the same DAC chip as the Takt Pro but it is more orthodox in its tuning. It is a far larger device but also one that is designed for portable use with an internal battery. The Oppo has impeccable build quality and a design that is perfect for smartphone stacking. I also appreciate the Oppo’s ability to function as a power bank and its analogue volume control offers greater flexibility. The Oppo also has two gain settings and an in-built bass boost that the small Cozoy lacks. However, the differences in sound quality are not what one would expect given the differences in size. The Oppo is more neutral and analytical but it also has some glare within its middle treble that can overshadow some lower-treble details.

The Oppo has superior driving power, especially noticeable when paired with planars, but it also produces a lot more hiss with IEMs where the Takt Pro is essentially silent. The Oppo delivers a slightly more solid sub-bass impact and less coloured mid-bass response. As a result, lower-mids are slightly more defined and slightly more separated. Upper mids are similar on both, the Oppo being slightly brighter, the Cozoy slightly smoother. Treble is also similar in signature on both but more linear and slightly attenuated on the Takt Pro. As a result, the Takt sounds less aggressive and airy but also cleaner with a darker background. Through this, the Oppo does produce a larger stage and more precise imaging, but the Cozoy sounds more focused with greater treble separation.

Fiio X7 II ($650): The X7 II isn’t directly comparable to the Takt Pro as the Cozoy isn’t directly comparable to its cheaper counterparts; but Fiio’s current flagship does represent a nice, neutrally orientated benchmark source. The X7 II is more balanced than the Cozoy, most notably within its midrange and treble where the Cozoy sounds noticeably darker. The Cozoy unsurprisingly serves up a warmer, more organic low-end while the X7 II offers a slightly enhanced deep-bass impact paired with a cleaner mid-bass. Both are tight but the Fiio is more defined and separated. Mids are more linear and more transparent throughout on the X7 II. The Fiio also produces more lucid resolution and retrieves more detail within the background layers of its presentation.

That said, the Cozoy does sound slightly more dynamic if less articulate than the more technical Fiio. Treble tells a similar story, the Takt Pro is smoother and equally well-extended but lower-treble possesses a little less attack and clarity than the Fiio. Middle treble is slightly enhanced on the Cozoy, producing a little more shimmer, but the Fiio does extend more linearly into the upper-treble frequencies, retrieving more micro-detail as a result. The Fiio also produces an appreciably larger stage and imaging is more multi-dimensional and coherent as a result of its greater linearity and resolution. The Fiio also separates better throughout and its slightly enhanced clarity does not compromise its realistic timbre.

 

Verdict –

I’ve grown to love the Takt Pro; gadgets like this have never possessed such a pertinent role than in today’s society and the Takt’s flexible form factor fills a perfect niche within the modern smart ecosystem. As a jack-less smartphone user, the Takt’s minute dimensions and physical controls make it a perfect substitute for the frankly underwhelming solution provided from factory. The Takt also provides large sonic upgrades over the majority of aftermarket dongle-style DACs and plenty of conventional portable sources too.

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Buyers will find much to love within the Takt Pro’s tastefully sculpted signature and high resolving power. It isn’t the most revealing, neutral source, but Cozoy’s latest is still impressively technical and immensely musical. Add in capable driving power, a black background and multi-platform support, and the Takt Pro offers versatility that belies its size and deserves its price. This isn’t a reference source rather, Cozoy have produced a rich, inviting yet balanced DAC that finds synergy with a wide range of gear.

The Cozoy Takt Pro is available for purchase directly from Cozoy here. If you would like to support my site, please see my affiliate link for the most updated pricing, availability and configurations at Amazon (International) and PenonAudio

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