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AMP3 in-depth review (long)

post #1 of 152
Thread Starter 
Review of Hisoundaudio AMP3 DAP/AMP/FM




AMP3 DESIGN PHILOSOPHY:


The AMP3 is the first product to be introduced to the audio marketplace by Hisoundaudio, a China-based company that, by their own description, is dedicated to producing audiophile-grade players that incorporate the oriental concept of music and art being inseparable.


The AMP3 is designed to address the audio shortcomings of the current portable audio marketplace. Its design goals are to produce a player that incorporates the following characteristics: sound resolution, separation of the sound stage, a sense of power, and the flow of the music.


Hisoundaudio flatly states that it is their design goal to produce audiophile-grade players that are second to none currently produced! Quite a lofty goal, with a lot of tough competition in the portable marketplace to challenge their claims. Given this design philosophy, needless to say, I was very interested in evaluating the AMP3 and comparing it to a number of other high-end portables, as well as using headphones and IEMs other than the included PAA-1 earbuds (which were designed to complement the performance of the player).


For a more in-depth review of the Hisoundaudio design philosophy, one can visit their website at: ÉîÛÚÊкºÉùÒôÏìÓÐÏÞ¹«Ë¾.


There are descriptions of a number of different player models, all similar in design to the AMP3, but designed to specifically address difference musical genres. At this time, the AMP3 is the only model currently available for purchase.

The U.S. Distributor for Hisoundaudio products is Whiplash Audio, a high-end audio retailer who is also a Head-Fi sponsor. Whiplash Audio first introduced the AMP3 at CanJam 09. There is also additional product information available on the Whiplash Audio website: Whiplash Audio Dynamics



WHATS IN THE BOX:


The AMP3 is neatly packaged in an attractive cardboard box, with the included items being the player itself and in a compartment below the player, the custom-designed PAA-1 ear buds, foam covers and wall charger. There is no quick-start guide or users manual included in the packaging, although a .pdf manual can be downloaded from the manufacturers website.


PRODUCT DESCRIPTION:


The AMP3 is a solidly-build device, with a case that gives the impression of being able to be run over by a truck! The case is built of aluminum, available in either a black or natural brushed finish.


The case design is very minimalist in appearance, with very few obvious external controls. The top of the player contains a jack for a stereo mini-plug, a small hole for resets and another mini-plug jack for line-in use.


The front face of the player has a 1” monochrome screen, and a large round touchpad.

The touchpad, with only 5 buttons, controls all of the player functions, menu selections, and power on/off.


The bottom of the player contains a USB input used for data transfer as well as charging, and a slot for a micro SD memory card. There is a tiny LED above each of these openings, a blinking blue light that indicates that the player is in operation, and a red LED that indicates when the unit is recharging, either via the included charger or when connected to a PC.


Technical specifications are as follows:


Dimensions: 3-1/8” L, 1-3/4” W, and 3/4” D.

Weight: 100g (3.6 oz)

Compatible Formats: MP3, WMA, WAV

Frequency Response: 26-23hkz, (stated response of included phones)

Battery: 1800 MAH Lithium, user replaceable.

Playtime: Approximately 100 hours

Output Power: 100mw peak, Class A amplifier operation

Internal memory: 4gb

External card sizes : 2gb, 4gb, 8gb micro SD/SDHC.



AMP3 USER INTERFACE:


The interface is menu-driven, and accessed via different press times, as there are so few controls present on the player. To turn the device on or off, a long press of approximately 3 seconds to the Play/Pause button is required. To access the menu functions, a short press to the Play/Pause button of about 1 second will bring up the “Homepage”. With the player in operation, the screen turns off depending on the user preference which can be set via the “Settings” menu page. If the screen is off, a brief press of the Play button will bring it back to life, at which time one can cycle through the various menus.


First in view is the “Homepage” showing volume setting, play mode, battery status, play/pause mode, elapsed playtime/total track length, file number XXX of XXXX. There is also an indicator for EQ, which reads “Nature”. As there are no EQ settings available, I feel that this really means “Natural”. Hisoundaudio feels that EQ settings are an intrusion into the realism of the playback, and have been removed from the menu options.


Menu navigation is quite intuitive after the “Homepage” is visible; another medium length press will call up the next menu category. The menu categories cycle through in the following order:


Once the “Homepage is displayed, a second medium press of the Play button changes to “Now Playing”. When this is displayed subsequent quick presses of the Fwd button proceeds in the following circular order: “Music” > “FM” > “Ebook” > “Source Manager” > “Settings” > “Line-in Play” > “Now Playing”


Each menu heading has a number of sub-menu options that can be accessed by pressing the Up or Down button. To back out of a sub-menu, just use the Back button, then continue the left or right navigation. The menu headings are fairly self-evident, for example, “Music” lists choices by artists, genre, albums or all songs.


“FM” mutes the player input and allows one to save and select presets, or to scan manually.


“Source Manager” allows one to view files in both internal and external memory.


“Ebook” is a curious option for a device with only a 1” screen! I doubt that one would want to read an Ebook on such a small screen. Perhaps it might be better used to store phone numbers, addresses, etc.


“Line-in Play” allows one to use the AMP3 amplifier to play files from an external analog source. This options works very well, and I was quite pleased with the superb audio quality from the internal Class A amplifier, regardless of what phones I used.


The “Settings” menu allows one to choose various playback modes, such as Normal, Random, Repeat One, Repeat All. Additionally, options are available for Screen Backlight time, Auto Shutoff, Sleep Time, Language selection, Storage Information, and Reset to Default.


While the menu system is very user-friendly and intuitive once one becomes familiar with the different press times required for selecting the various functions, there are some software/firmware issues that need to be addressed by Hisoundaudio.


For example, if one selects the Random play mode, then attempts to make a file selection from the All Songs file list, the player will freeze, requiring a manual reset.


Also, boot times are much longer when booting the player while in Random mode.

Additional software issues manifest themselves when recharging the player. The red charge light never extinguishes, and sometimes the battery will not charge to full capacity. To correct this issue, one needs to unplug the player from the charger or PC, then reconnect.


These software/firmware issues have been brought to the attention of Hisoundaudio, and it is anticipated that they will be addressed by updates in the near future. Also, the 8gb data limit seems to be unnecessarily low and, hopefully, future updates will allow for a greater capacity card to be used. I was successful in booting a 16gb card, but ran into problems if I loaded more than 8gb of data to the card.


HOW DOES IT SOUND????


This is the real bottom line! Regardless of design philosophy, appearance, etc, if a player doesn't meet performance expectations, it will not gain customer acceptance, regardless of attractive pricing.


In the case of the AMP3, I was very pleased to find that it greatly exceeded my expectations! The music presented by this player is spacious and is capable of resolving very small musical details with a sense of space and ambiance that I rarely hear in home systems, much less a portable device.


Bass reaches to the recorded limits, but is very taut, and nicely detailed. To listen to a drum kit selection is to really appreciate the quality of the sound from this device. I evaluated the player by using music ripped at 320kbs from several acoustic albums recorded by a friend of mine who I have often heard perform live. The resemblance between the AMP3 sound and the live performance was uncanny.


I have, on many listening sessions, heard details from some of my classical recordings that I have not noticed previously.


My initial listening was done using the included PAA-1 buds, which at first glance, resemble the buds manufactured by Yuin. They are, however, somewhat larger and have an inline volume control. They are of a “J” cord design, not my favorite, but certainly easy to identify left from right.


It was my impression that the highs were, at first, a bit overly bright, but as the player matured over a period of several hundred hours, it continued to strike me as always improving in audio quality, not so much in frequency response or tonal balance, but rather the sense of realism and imaging conveyed by the music.


Listening to male vocalists often reveals the tendency for an amp to accent the mid-bass, resulting in a chestiness to the vocals. The AMP3, while able to present tight clean bass, has no such tendency to over-emphasize the mid-bass.


Highs are never strident or harsh. Such instruments as bells, triangles, snares, etc. are reproduced clearly and cleanly with superb transient response.


I also played a recording that I had previously made and used for amp testing that consists of a sine wave sweep, from 20-20khz. This was reproduced accurately, with bass reproduced with no doubling to well below 40hz, even when using the included earbuds!


It is very apparent that Hisoundaudio has placed much importance on developing an earbud that is capable of doing justice to the AMP3. They sound as good to me as to some of my other IEMs costing hundreds of dollars more.


I tried a variety of different phones that I own, and the AMP3 seems to somewhat favor the higher impedance phones over my low impedance ones. My very inexpensive Koss KSC-35 phones exhibit remarkable synergy with the AMP3, and are, as of now, one of my favorite choices of phones for the AMP3. ( I have replaced the clips with a headband on both the KSC-35s and my Yuin G1As)


Never once did I hear any RF interference from cellphones or my ham radio gear. I attribute this to the shielding provided by the very heavy aluminum casing.


I have also used my AMP3 as the source to drive my AKG K1000 setup. These phones are notorious for revealing source shortcomings, but they sound really fine with the AMP3 source. I still find it hard to believe that the AMP3 can source this well into a high-end system.


SUMMARY:


PROS:


A very well-crafted device that delivers superb sound, whether through its included earbuds, or through other quality headphones. Pleasing to hold in ones hand. The appearance exudes an impression of class.


The FM performance is better than any of my other players that have a built-in tuner.

Using the Line-in Play options also results in the same impressive audio quality as is exhibited when using the device as a self-contained player/amp.


Superb battery life; I have consistently gotten between 85-100 hours play time on a single charge. While I have had a couple of portable amps that can deliver this kind of playtime, I have never owned a DAP that even remotely came close to this length of play on a single charge. Truly amazing, and one of the most significant capabilities exhibited by the AMP3.


Very modest price for a DAP/AMP/FM with this level of build quality and performance.


CONS:


Limited external memory capacity.


Limited support of additional audio formats such as Ogg, Flac, etc.


Software/firmware issues resulting in freezes and long boot times when utilizing certain sub-menu options.


Recharging faults...battery circuitry doesn't reliably accurately read battery condition, resulting in incomplete charging, and failure of charge light to indicate completion of charge cycle.


No included user manual.




Reviewed by Ron Kerlin

(HiFlight)
post #2 of 152
Nice review, thanks. Just waiting for the s/w issues to get resolved before pulling the trigger.
post #3 of 152
Great review!
post #4 of 152
Thanks for the review.

We need someone to do a RMAA test to see how the Amp3 handles low frequencies at various impedances. Bass rolloff is a common problem with daps and I'd like to know how the Amp3 performs.
post #5 of 152
Excellent, and from a member of we "fishy" Amp3 owners. LOL. I hope this covers all the bases for folks who have questions. Great job.
post #6 of 152
Thread Starter 
I can't run the RMAA tests from my Linux machine, but for testing, I have a good recording of thunder. That is very difficult to reproduce realistically, but the AMP3 handles it better than my iRiver.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Punnisher View Post
Thanks for the review.

We need someone to do a RMAA test to see how the Amp3 handles low frequencies at various impedances. Bass rolloff is a common problem with daps and I'd like to know how the Amp3 performs.
post #7 of 152
Oh, my god, it is really long review. But l like the informative write up. Thank you Hiflight for your hard typing!!

I am glad you pointed out the cons. I think the designer of AMP3 will realize what we don't happy with.

Hope to hear more update news from you.
post #8 of 152
I have also used my AMP3 as the source to drive my AKG K1000 setup. These phones are notorious for revealing source shortcomings, but they sound really fine with the AMP3 source. I still find it hard to believe that the AMP3 can source this well into a high-end system. QUOTE

Hi, Hiflight

Thanky for your tetails review.

I am curious what is your setup of AKG K1000? I mean the if you directly hook the AMP3 to K1000? Or via a amp as a preamp?

BTW, Did you have ever try to hook AMP3 to the home set up as a source and preamp?
post #9 of 152
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by fatman View Post
I have also used my AMP3 as the source to drive my AKG K1000 setup. These phones are notorious for revealing source shortcomings, but they sound really fine with the AMP3 source. I still find it hard to believe that the AMP3 can source this well into a high-end system. QUOTE

Hi, Hiflight

Thanky for your tetails review.

I am curious what is your setup of AKG K1000? I mean the if you directly hook the AMP3 to K1000? Or via a amp as a preamp?

BTW, Did you have ever try to hook AMP3 to the home set up as a source and preamp?
I fed the headphone output into the input of my Signature 30.2, to which the K1000s were attached to the speaker terminals.

Even though there is not dedicated pre-amp output on the AMP3, it sounded superb. I also tried it with my K1000s using my Little Dot T_150, with the same excellent results. I also tried it thru my Denon receiver aux input, driving my Magnaplans. Also great sound.

I realize that using a sub-$200 source to drive a high-end system might sound rather odd, but hearing is believing!
post #10 of 152
Quote:
Originally Posted by HiFlight View Post
I fed the headphone output into the input of my Signature 30.2, to which the K1000s were attached to the speaker terminals.

Even though there is not dedicated pre-amp output on the AMP3, it sounded superb. I also tried it with my K1000s using my Little Dot T_150, with the same excellent results. I also tried it thru my Denon receiver aux input, driving my Magnaplans. Also great sound.

I realize that using a sub-$200 source to drive a high-end system might sound rather odd, but hearing is believing!


Thanks. I would like to try the similar pairing. I will try to hook AMP3 to the home amplifier to boost the bookshelf speakers.
post #11 of 152
What do you mean by "Limited support of ... Flac"?
post #12 of 152
if u enter couple of flac files in the player in the same folder and u didn't change their names it will read it (min 3 i think)
post #13 of 152
Ron, can't wait to hear you setup of using the Amp3 as the source for your K1000/Signature 30.2 Amp. Cheers.
post #14 of 152
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrarroyo View Post
Ron, can't wait to hear you setup of using the Amp3 as the source for your K1000/Signature 30.2 Amp. Cheers.
Yeah, it looks really funny, a tiny little silver box on top of my amp! I would probably get laughed out of a meet. (Until someone stopped laughing long enough to listen!)
post #15 of 152
If it sounds good, it is good!
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