Portable audio became my hobby some year and a half ago, when i bought my first expensive headphones. I discovered lossless formats, loudness war, this website. I experimented with so called high-res audio. I was trying new headphones. I replaced my old mp3 player with Cowon x9, then Fiio x3, then Sony Walkman NWZ A10. I switched for more expensive Audio Technica ES10 headphones. Two months ago i was browsing head-fi and discover existence of Studio players from Hisoundaudio. Old school look, exceptional battery life, good references about their sound, powerful output, no necessary functions or big display. It was all i wanted. My dream player actually exists. I did my research and choose Studio 3rd anniversary model, which should be "slightly"(?) updated Studio V model. After discovering, that it can't be ordered in Europe, i started to look for alternative ways. I was told on local forum, that i should contact Mr. Jack Fu and ask him. He agreed to send me one for 450USD + shipping from Hong Kong. He also offered me discount of 150USD, if i write a review, which is great, because i would probably write it anyway. It took 6 weeks from ordering to arrival.
I want to thank Jack Fu and Hisoundaudio for possibility to order this player in Europe and for special discount.
Few things to notice:
- I accepted 150USD discount for player for writing this review. I wasn't told how to write it or what score it should receive. I will be as much as unbiased as i can.
- I don't have much experience and i was testing player with just one headphones.
- Review was written after just 4 days of using this player. I might update it in future.
- I'm not native English speaker and i'm writing this early in the morning, so sorry if it's somewhat harder to read.
And now to the review. I will be very strict and focused mainly on sound impressions, so i definitely recommend reading more reviews here on head-fi and this topic: http://www.head-fi.org/t/634747/hisoundaudio-studio-v-3rd-anniversary-edition-review
- support for 1 micro SD card
- 4GB of internal memory
- Lithium-ion battery with life of 100 hours on one charge (with ideal conditions, other users say it's something between 50-80hours of normal use)
- support for mp3,wma,wav,flac,aac,oog
- max 24bit/48kHz for wav and 24bit/44Khz for flac
- NO gapless support (but pauses between tracks are quick and silent)
- NO equalizer
Box content and build
Player comes in nice luxury feeling box with basic in-ear headphones (didn't try them), manual in Chinese and English, power adapter (only usable in China), some VIP card (no idea what that is, please find it somewhere else) and with micro USB cabel for data transfer and recharging via computer. I would characterized player with words: sturdy, old school, luxury, portable. Sony NWZ A10 looks like a cheap toy next to this. But you can jundge it by yourself. One thing you wont see in pictures is feeling of pressing buttons. They are a little bit hard to press and i read here on head-fi, that one user, who have this player for longer time, complained buttons don't spring back up. This is something i can't tell after few days of using. Hopefully buttons wont be ever a problem.
I'm using Studio player with ES10 headphones, which are over head closed-up portables with 53mm drivers. I can compare how they sound to other 3 decent sources: Fiio x3, Sony Walkman Nwz A10, my computer (Creative Sound Blaster). I would place all those 3 sources on the same level. You can hear differences. Especially Fiio x3 gives headphones quite warm and bassy sound, but overall i would have hard time to say one is significantly better, than other. Sound card can do little more clarity and separation, Fiio x3 has deeper bass and somewhat better voices and NWZ A10 can reveal the most details. But again, differences are small. I thought, that it's because of limitation by the headphones. That ES10 will sound more or less same with any source. Well... it doesn't. When i plug my headphones with Studio V 3rd anniversary edition it changes music experience quite significantly. It has better separation. More detail. Deeper and more precise bass. Better sense of space. I discovered details in songs, which i never heard before. I discovered, that in one song there were two singers instead one, or there were two guitars playing instead one. I can better distinguish different voice colors of singers. One of first songs, i have tried, was "Follow Me" from Muse. When the song culminated with that strong bass, i was smiling like crazy. Not even Fiio x3 could get bass that good out of ES10 headphones and if i liked Fiio x3 for something, it was bass. Another completely new experience was listening 24/48 wav HDtracks version of Division Bell from Pink Floyd. I then realized, how much of music can be lost between recording and listening. You think you know some song well and instead you don't know half of it.
I need to mention three things here. First is missing gapless support. I consider it to be a insignificant problem as gaps are quite small and there is no noise when switching tracks. Second thing - because of missing local distribution, there would be very problematic reclamation. In best case scenario you will be 2 moths without player. Third negative thing about this player is background noise. I read some users saying, that it has improved over ordinary Studio V (black one). I can't imagine how bad it must be, because even this "improved" version has quite a lot of noise. It is noticeable in silence or quite passages. It's not as prominent as let's say cracklin of vinyl rips, but it's there and can bother some. Fiio x3 and NWZ A10 were dead silent compared to this player.
Studio V 3rd anv is by far the best portable music source i have ever heard. I can't compare it to players of same price range as Ibasso dx90 or Fiio x5 or even more expensive ones, but compared to Fiio x3 and NWZ A10, it's a big step up. Without doubt. It is small, nice, old school looking player with the best battery life i have ever seen. There is small background hiss and possibly problematic reclamation though. But for me, all that matters is battery life and sound and for that i give this player full rating. I got finally my dream player.