As promised, this is my review of the HiSoundAudio Studio V 3rd anniversary.
My headset is an Earsonic EM4. I am extremely satisfied by it. It is very neutral, with deep and articulated bass, a nice medium and detailed but never aggressive trebles. I used to pair it with a Cowon J3 that gave me full satisfaction but died unexpectedly few weeks ago.
To find its successor, my two requirements were:
- At least the same sound quality
- A very good battery life (30+ hours). I am travelling a lot and new Cowon’s short life batteries are deal breaker for me.
I wandered on the net to find the good candidate and found on Head-Fi this brand, HiSoundAudio, and their highly praised products… True, there were some cave emptor here and there regarding the stability or user interface, but when Jack gave me the opportunity to get one in order to write this review, I give it a try.
Received in a black, watch like box, the overall presentation is quite good. Small flaw in finishing prevent to qualify it of luxury product but close enough and it is definitively more exclusive than the plastic box of the J3.
Minimal, mainly in Chinese and obviously written to support multiple products. It contains basic information but definitively not enough to make your device works correctly, we will this later
This is a small brick of champagne brushed aluminum. Aluminum is light (which is good) but quite fragile (which is not) and my device arrived with a dent on the top. It marks quite easily and will have to be seriously protected from external aggression. That being said, I like the look (so do my wife) which is definitively out of standards (iphone like) devices we see everywhere now. However, this is a matter of personal taste and not everybody is fan of Bauhaus design.
On top, 5 buttons (brushed iron) forming a cross for the control and one too small (but readable) screen, that’s all for the interface.
User interface is definitively of another age. It lack of consistency (sometime the menu is up/down, sometime left/right) and is not comfortable (screen is really small and can display less than 20 characters). There is no search function and despite my effort (and the support of the forum), I was unable to make the ID3 tags recognized. Therefore, no navigation through albums, artists or whatever…
In consequence, access is reduced to the resource manager which is basically a file explorer. Hopefully my files are sorted in directory by artist then album so it’s ok but if it’s not your case forget it…
Depending of the type of tags you use and your size of data, the file checking when your start the device could take several minutes. This is annoying and could be reduce to less than 2 minutes by sticking to a set of rules seen just after…
The storage, the files, the tags, the life…:
Internal storage is only 4GB. You will then need to add a micro SD card (SDXC is Ok) up to 64GB. Please note this card will have to be formatted in fat32 as the exfat format is not supported. Tools to do so can be found on internet as Windows will not allow you to do so directly.
As said, file checking is very slow and the system is very picky when parsing the file, ignoring some and mixing up file orders. So, to make it work and reduce the checking time to minimum you have to:
- Remove all ID3v2, FLAC, VORBIS tags. Keep only ID3v1 (I am wondering it this is really necessary however...)
- Remove all albums arts, inside (tags) or outside. With the screen, they are useless anyway so…
- Your filename should not contain dashes (-), dots (.) or exotic (ie non basic) characters (à é…)
Doing so, you should be able to start in a decent time and navigate through your file with the resource manager.
And the battery you wonder… it is endless… scores of hours, this is really great and I like that…
Ok ok we get it, but the sound:
Sure, putting apart the battery criteria I mentioned earlier, the other important point for me was the sound quality. Going through all those problems (took me days to reach a stable situation), there is probably a reason for that. You are right, the sound is damn good.
The Studio V got 2 firmwares called Dynamic and BA. My device arrived with the Dynamic one. It was not good (at all) especially in the trebles with extremely unpleasant saturation. From web instruction (this is not in the manual), I manage to switch to the other firmware, BA (stands for Balanced Armatures) and it is a totally different world.
Two first striking things are the high level of transparency you get and the beautiful textured medium, especially appropriate for voice lover as I am. Sound is very fluid, analogical, probably mode suited (however it is very good on other style) to live music, jazz, classical… Soundstage is good putting all elements at the right place. Only drawback is the gap between to track which is really annoying when listening live and concert….
Regarding the J3, the only point that I could find could be a slight lack of energy on the low and may be an inferior precision on treble. However the latest could just be an effect of having a higher level of details.
In my country, audiophile is an ambiguous word. It shares the same meaning as in English, describing the world of music lovers, high quality devices and search of perfect reproduction. But it also carries a kind of ironic dimension, of devices forgetting the user’s mind and eyes, sometime elitist or unreasonably expensive.
Coming from a Cowon J3 that gave full satisfaction (good sound, good battery, nice but small screen), I have to say this Studio V 3rd anniversary really is really matching this qualification. If you are ready to really sacrifice all for the music, go for it, it’s really good. If struggling with a “not of our time anymore” UI and the most picky and capricious ID tags and file name processor I ever seen, this is not you thing..
Well, you get me I guess… :-)
Edited by Notred - 9/4/12 at 8:33am