Nationite's brilliant/cheap DAP

A Review On: Nationite S:Flo2

Nationite S:Flo2

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Review Details:
Audio Quality
Battery Life
Design
User Interface
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $190.00
Sefelt103
Posted · 2365 Views · 0 Comments

Pros: Dual mono architecture, price, durability

Cons: User interface

The Nationite S:Flo 2 is a media player that is no longer manufactured. It is a larger memory version of Teclast’s T51 player with extra storage (on the 16GB model) and different firmware graphics but the same UI. This player has a rare dual mono architecture which mirrors rack CD players. There are two DACs and two pre-amps, one for each channel. The advantages of this are supposed to be lower noise, less distortion and better separation. However this architecture has not generally been adopted (except for the Astell & Kern AK120) and most Hi-Fi players tend to utilise one DAC. An obvious disadvantage of this method is power consumption. This means the 2500mAh battery will last for a maximum of 10 hours playing mp3’s and less for flac files. Also because the line out (LO) and headphone out (HO) are connected irrespective of which one is being used the battery life is lower overall. It has been estimated you might get 20 hours continuous playback from the HO if the dual TI OPA2604 op-amps were not active. One way you can increase battery duration when using the LO is to set the volume pot to zero. Fortunately the batteries are quite durable and can be replaced by opening up the player, but conserving the battery has not been given the design priority that most other players have. A nice feature would have been a connector for a power supply, as many will use this player as a substitute for a CD player at home. Going outside Apple’s eco system often means lower grade interfaces and the S:Flo 2 suffers from this. It has this strange ‘File Align’ by time, name or type option that affects behaviour. Most people want files arrange alphabetically by artist. If you align by name then artists with multiple albums will have them mixed with track 01 of the first album and then track 01 of the second album etc. If you align by time then artists with multiple albums will have them separated, tracks 01-10 then 01-07 etc. but not in separate folders. Lastly if you align by type they seem to go into reverse order! 09-01 but not in separate folders. There is an unusual selection under title, which puts every single song in its own folder. The albums selection is as expected. There is also a directory section which shows the contents of the onboard memory and any trans-flash (TF) cards inserted. Unlike the selection of artist earlier mentioned, in the directory selection multiple albums are in separate folders. You don’t have the integration of onboard/TF storage like the artist selection (although artists are still grouped A-Z onboard storage and then A-Z TF storage) and there is the extra step of specifying onboard or TF storage. The user interface is chaotic and overly complex but it is surprising how you get used to it. Having two distinct methods of finding artists/albums etc. is not ideal. Multiple artists aren’t sorted alphabetically either in the artist or directory selections. If every artist has only one album this player becomes much easier to use but effectively the UI handles multiple albums rather poorly. There is also another difficulty in that once you have played a song on an album you are stuck in that album, the alternative being to start from the beginning selections again. To select another album using the artist selection takes 4 key presses and 6 using the directory selection. Apple players require 2 presses to change album. This player has some unusual other features: a dictionary, a calculator, a stopwatch and 4 games. The player supports mp3, flac, ogg, wma and the unheard of ape format. It won’t play Apple’s aac or m4a formats. This player can be used with full sized headphones with excellent results. Compared with many other players the S:Flo 2 has a few differences: the balance is quite neutral; it seems clear and fairly cold in presentation. The lack of colouration makes this player rare as lots of players have significant colouration. Compared to Apple’s iPod Video 5G the S:Flo 2 has more pronounced and nicer bass, is brighter and clearer overall compared to the iPod’s slightly duller and darker tone. Detail and soundstage are about the same. Through the HO using the Philips TDA1308 amp the S:Flo 2 has more attack compared to the slightly warmer and mellow sound of the iPod. It is never harsh though. The S:Flo 2’s character changes using the LO, which unlike some players seems to make quite a difference. The use of TI’s OPA2604 combined with an amplifier produces a sound with a little less attack that seems like the bit-rate of the file has been increased. Many elements are enhanced; bass has greater range and is more defined, as is the midrange. Critics have said the sound signature is too bright, it did seem a little like that with my Sennheiser HD555, but with my HD595 it seems less noticeable. My impressions were with the equalisation set to ‘user’ and flat. The ‘normal’ setting I find does not give a flat response and as its level is also higher this can occasionally cause distortion. This player has a few firmware defects and some quaint characteristics. Things like the screen randomly goes to maximum brightness occasionally or it ‘forgets’ the last song that was playing when you last switched off and selects another one. Sometimes after plugging into a PC it thinks the TF card is empty until you restart the player. Due to the heavy-duty electronics you will hear thuds through your headphones entering and exiting the playing screen. When playing through the HO you might notice noise which ceases when the display goes off. But for all its faults it was and still is a great player. There have been several audiophile players that cost more than this one did that simply do not provide as good sound quality. There are also ones that cost much more than this that may only give a relatively small improvement in sound quality.

 

For:

High HO sound quality

Wonderful LO sound quality

Low cost

High quality screen

Durable

Short battery life

Expandable storage

Hardware volume control

 

Against:

UI could be improved

Not a great video player

Short battery life

Limited onboard storage

Display noise through HO

Some less refined traits

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