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AGPTEK Rocker v2

Rating:
3.5/5,
  1. Wiljen
    AGPTEK Rocker, Good hardware marred by firmware
    Written by Wiljen
    Published Jul 25, 2017
    3.0/5,
    Pros - great format support, good sound quality, 256gb Micro-SD support, and long battery life.
    Cons - Menus are unintuitive, buttons don't work when the screen is off, UI is poorly organized and functions can be difficult to find.
    RockerFront.JPG
    After reviewing a couple other players, Ngoshawk and I got to discuss the AGPTek Rocker and he volunteered his for review. I am grateful to him for the chance to try out this interesting little DAP. I am not associated with AGPTEK or Benjie and received no compensation of any form for this review.

    About Me:
    I live in the budget audio world as kids in college and Vet school demand most of my income. As a result I really enjoy finding great products in the market that anyone can afford. Sure, I’d love to be in a position to relax and listen to my new LCD-X or Zeus but for most of us, that just isn’t reality. Finding things that sound great, work well, and fit in my ever decreasing budget is more of a challenge than simply spending more to get more and it is a challenge I not only accept, I enjoy. I try to keep my reviews practical as no one really expects a $99 DAP to compete with the top-end AK.

    RockerBox.JPG

    Packaging:
    The rocker comes in a fairly plain black box with the player mounted in an insert and the cable and manual in the space under the insert. The packaging did a good job of protecting the player and was well laid out. The box does little to show the user what lurks inside though. This is the first in a series of contradictions that define the Rocker. The box while well put together, and even a bit upscale looking, does nothing to advertise the product or even suggest what it contains. If you saw this on a store shelf, you could easily pass it up for lack of any details on the packaging.

    RockerContents.JPG

    Build: The player has a nice solid feel with all corners rounded enough to not snag but still very square in shape. The Screen is large for the size and price point of the player if not super hi-resolution. Graphics are well displayed when album art is enabled. Below the screen is the common 4 button wheel. The wheel does have 4 distinct buttons at top, bottom, left, and right and does not operate as a scroll wheel. A fifth button in the center of the wheel operates as the primary play/pause control as is very typical for this style of player. The left side of the player has the power button and the Micro-SD card slot arranged from the top. I found that the micro-sd card slot would recognize all of my cards up to and including 2 different manufacturers 256gb cards. This is great compatibility as I have seen problems with the larger cards on several smaller players. The hardware limit of 15,000 songs really isn’t a problem with only a single SD slot and the use of lossless files. My 256 currently houses roughly 2700 titles so the limit was pretty much immaterial to me, ymmv. The right side of the player has volume up and down buttons also arranged on the top 1/3 of the player. The top is devoid of any controls or ports and the bottom contains a 3.5mm jack and the micro-USB port for charging and loading music. The control layout is very similar to many other players and works reasonably well. If I had one gripe at this stage it is that none of the controls on the main face of the player work when the screen is off. This means that you have to hit the button once to turn on the screen and then a 2nd time to actually make the desired change. A firmware change could easily alter this and would be welcome as I often change songs with a player in my pocket and having to pull it out and make sure the screen was enabled was a definite drawback.

    RockerLeft.JPG RockerRight.JPG

    RockerBottom.JPG
    Battery Life:
    The battery life was excellent and the little player could handle the pretty much all day listening sessions that are my average work day. Charging time from near dead was roughly 2 hours so the charge rate is about as fast as possible without really hampering cell life. I did not intentionally run discharge tests on this unit as it was borrowed and I did not think to get express permission to do so. Deep discharge always has some risk of harming the cell so I decided to forego this test under the circumstances. If the player is left sitting inactive for any length of time it goes into a standby or better defined as sleep mode. Waking it from its slumber is not instantaneous and is perhaps a bit more involved than I would have preferred.



    Features:
    FLAC, DSD, Mp3 and wave covered my library but it was nice to see apple lossless, WMA lossless, and OGG on the list of supported formats as well. Support for 24/192 gives me all I need for pretty much all of my sd card tracks as I tend to use hdtracks or other flac sources at 24/192 when available and 96 when I can’t get the higher resolution files.

    A true 10 band EQ works well once you get used to the controls and made enough difference to be able to adjust some of the brightness out of the Grado 60s and add some bass to the Fostex T50rp I paired with it to test.

    Bluetooth AptX 4.2 functioned smoothly. Pairing was easy and no drops or disconnects were registered unless I strayed more than 30 feet or so from the player. I must say that these new Bluetooth players are starting to have sound quality that will make you consider the use of wireless. I don’t believe they are 100% there yet, but boy have they improved since the early days and I can see a day soon when wires are a thing of the past.

    The USB dac function worked nicely when placed between my laptop and a Schitt Magni2 to drive the Fostex t50rp. The Magni definitely has more umphh than the internal amp on the Rocker but the Rocker was still quite capable even with these notoriously hard to drive phones.

    I was also glad to see gapless playback was easy to enable or disable for listening to symphonic works.



    UI:
    As already mentioned above, (Screen bug) the UI on this little player is truly a conundrum. It has the typical 3x3 layout of icons on the main screen and you would expect the sub-functions to follow suit but they don’t always. It sports more features and functions than most players at twice the price point but it does so in such a poor arrangement that you either can’t find them or it takes an advanced degree to operate them when you do.

    As an example, the first thing most of us do when we get a new player is plug it in to charge and set the power options. Ok, so plug in the USB, go to the gear icon (setting) and the options are in no particular order. It takes some sifting through to find what you are after and even then I wasn’t sure if I had found all the available settings or if others were hiding elsewhere. As an example to this day, I am not 100% sure that the setting to enable the buttons with the screen off doesn’t exist somewhere, I just couldn’t find it.

    So, I’ve got it charged and the power options set as best I can, now to add music. I pop in the micro-sd card and begin looking for the “Scan music library” function or whatever this version calls it. Again, no such function exists at the top level and it isn’t even evident from the top level naming which option it is under. After consulting the manual, I found the option 3 layers deep in sub-menus. For such a critical and common function, I had expected this to be at most 2 clicks away.

    Once you have the music loaded, the UI does a good job of allowing sort by artist, album, title, or to a lesser degree genre. Playlists are relatively straight forward to work with and playback functions are fairly simple to surface.

    This is the problem with the Rocker, it is simply not intuitive or consistent. For those who take the time to learn it, the good news is it gets better from here. For those who want a simple intuitive player that does it all – take a look at the Cayin N3 as the extra money definitely buys you a much more polished UI. I can’t help but feel that this player could be really good with some attention to detail on the UI. Maybe rockbox?

    Sound:
    This is where the Rocker works and why I say it is a conundrum. For those willing to put up with the UI issues, the reward is a good sounding, reasonably potent DAP. Sound profile is fairly close to neutral with a distinct roll-off at the treble range. To my ears, the roll-off starts at about 3.5kHz. This does mean that treble sparkle is somewhat decreased and it makes the Rocker a good pairing with bright headphones that need a bit of taming. For phones that are more laid back a bit of EQ may be needed to bring that sparkle back. I think many inexpensive products try and bring treble forward so it is nice to see a more natural if slightly rolled-off presentation. With my most sensitive IEM, I did notice a slight hiss. With less sensitive phones the noise floor was not noticeable but this may be a concern to those with really high sensitivity phones. I am unaware of anything in the budget price range that would normally be paired with this DAP that is likely to suffer from this issue, but none the less it is worth noting. On the other end of the spectrum, the Fostex t50rp could be driven to usable levels with the Rocker but the sound was definitely thinner than with a more potent amp and the pairing was at best mediocre. When paired with things more to its liking, Senfer DT2+, KZ ZST, KZ ZS5, or the Denon ACH-300 the music comes through and the only noteworthy spikes in the sound profile are those native to the headphones. Sound was full with a nice vocal presentation and the DAP paired particularly well with the Denon for the genre’s I listen to most. I hesitate to comment on soundstage as I tend to think this is much more a function of phones than DAPs but I will say at the very least I don’t think the rocker did anything to detract from the soundstage which is all I could hope for.

    Conclusions:
    A good little player if ranked on sound quality alone. A great player for the price point if ranked on sound quality and feature set. A poor design if rated based on UI navigation and menu options. An average player if rated in overall. The good news for AGPtek is the issues seem to center around the firmware and could be corrected if desired. At $149 better choices exist, and $99 it is much more competitive and at $49 it would be a solid choice as an outdoor player with good sound quality that isn’t a great loss if it gets wet or damaged. If AGPtek does revamp the firmware, I would happily give this another look as I think it has the beginnings of a really solid player.

    images

    1. RockerBack.JPG
      ngoshawk likes this.
  2. ngoshawk
    An affordable first-DAP, worth a look.
    Written by ngoshawk
    Published Jul 3, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Affordable. Revised build, which makes it easy to handle. Slightly above average sound qualities. Portable. Fairly intuitive UI.
    Cons - Longevity of buttons coming into question. Screen-while decent, not of the highest quality. No shortcut back to current playing song.
    AGPTEK Rocker v2-4.125 stars

    A small DAP, which retails for $149, cut to $89. Given to me for an honest review. I would have it no other way.


    [​IMG]


    Intro:

    I am older. I am happy that I have rediscovered the joy of music, through personal listening devices. Through this opportunity, I have become exposed to some wonderful kit. Much I now own, much I covet. Much I would never purchase, for various reasons.

    My listening style has changed somewhat over the years…from old time Rock-n-Roll to the Blues to Reggae, to Bluegrass. I cut my teeth on Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Outlaws, The Who, Santana, Bob Marley, Eric Clapton, David Bowie, Bob Marley, and Pink Floyd. But the music I hold dearest and nearest my soul, is Stevie Ray Vaughan. I was lucky enough to see him perform four times…twice in open air venues, followed by (that evening each time!!!) smoky blues bars, where intimate would be an understatement. Each holds a very special place in my psyche, and I can almost remember the whole of each concert in their entirety…

    I enjoy a warmer signature in my equipment, and listening, with a good bass line (but not basshead), complimented by outstanding vocals. Combine the sweetness of SRV’s guitar and Billy Holiday’s voice, and you get my musical grove.


    A couple of strange happenings have occurred to me over the last month. I say strange, because they were unexpected, and quite good. Strange, because this has not happened to me before now. AGPTEK contacted me asking if I would be interested in testing one of their higher end DAP’s after reading one of my Head-Fi reviews. To say that I was humbled, would be an understatement. After conversing with the company regarding details of their updated Rocker v2 (that is what I am calling it…), I agreed to review the unit. Their only requests were that an honest review be posted on Head-Fi as well as their right to use all or parts of the review as they saw fit, including Amazon. I agreed, and the unit was ordered. A short two days later, and I had the unit in hand. I will say, that I was disappointed with the way the unit was packed via Amazon, and will be lodging a complaint. Thankfully, the unit did not suffer any harm. This was of no fault by AGPTEK.



    Opening the device to assure myself that the unit was in working order, I was met with a tasteful textured hard cardboard box in all black. Lifting the lid, the DAP was well protected in a soft plastic sleeve, and foam insert. Underneath was the charging cable and instruction manual. Nothing else, but that was quite enough.

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    Turning on the unit, the battery showed a full charge. But how close to full, I did not know. As a result, I ran the unit as is, garnering about six total hours, before the battery monitor went red. Charging the unit to full, I will run this round until the unit dies completely, to ascertain how long the unit will run (Approximately 7 hours, as advertised by AGPTEK, is what I found).



    Sometimes I have a hard time getting a “felling” for a device I am testing. Other times I understand the device right away. And sometimes, it isn’t until I am writing the finale of my review, when I “get it.” I cannot quite understand this device right now. It is a hard critter to pin down…some of the time it sounds quite good (Trees from twenty one pilots Vessel, for instance). Sometimes it can sound middling at best (U2’s One Tree Hill). This could be due to the recording process, or possibly the synergy provided by the devices at hand…


    After a brief search of Amazon, I did find out that 13 of AGPTEK’s lower priced DAP’s are on Amazon’s top 100 selling list, with the previous Rocker version clocking in at #71. Tall shoes to fill indeed, with this updated version. An excellent selling point is the 4.0 CSR Bluetooth connectivity, with which I successfully connected my Mixcder MS-301 (which has BT 4.2). Providing a pretty decent combination, this can be had for less than two Ben Franklin’s. I was starting to understand the appeal…at least monetarily.



    Specs (from the company website and Amazon):

    Firmware Version 1.2

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    • SHUFFLE&FAST FORWARD/BACKWARD WITH BLUETOOTH 4.0 CSR, Compatible with most Bluetooth output device, support playlist under Bluetooth status, enjoy your high-fidelity stereo music with your wireless earphone. For better compatibility, please use AGPTEK Bluetooth earphone (Not included).
    • THE SMALLEST AUDIOPHILE PLAYER IN THE WORLD: SUPPORT ALL MAJOR LOSSLESS MUSIC FORMATS: AAC/ Aif/ Apple lossless/ Ape/ Flac/ Ogg/ Wave/ Wma lossless/ M4a/ MP3/ WMA, at up to 192kHz/32bit( Not support Audible and DRM WMA, more details please check the last image on this page.)
    • GAPLESS PLAYBACK CONTROL&AUDIO GAIN SETTING, retaining all the benefits of portable Hi-Fi audio. Great for listening to live albums, classical works, or anything that sounds best when it is played continuously.
    • EQUIPPED WITH A HIGH-QUALITY CIRRUS LOGIC CS42L51 STEREO DAC, faithfully reproduce 24bit high-resolution original studio-quality audio without distortion or loss of sound.
    • EXPANDABLE UP TO 256GB SD CARD (Not included), maximum hold 15000 songs. Please note that the player do not have internal storage.


    Package include:

    • 1x AGPTEK ROCKER Player
    • 1x English Manual
    • 1x USB Cable
    • Note: Earphone is not included.


    [​IMG]



    Devices compared/tested:



    Hidizs AP-60 ($89)

    Shanling M1 ($149)



    Audioquest Nightowl

    Unique Melody Martian

    Mixcder MS-301 (Bluetooth)

    thinksound ON-2

    Vibro Labs Aria

    Lend Me UR ears FLC8S

    Tennmak Pro



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    Functionality:



    As a small touch-button based DAP, the AGPTEK functions reasonably well. Quick to start, and turn off, there is virtually no lag either way. When turned on, the AGPTEK logo comes on, fades then comes on again, to be quickly replaced by the main operating screen. No big deal, it opens quickly. With nine widgets with which to choose, one is presented with everything from a Podcast option (not tested), to the Bluetooth functions, to Albums, Artists, Settings and Music (not in that order). Clicking on the Now Playing widget, takes you to the current song playing (if already in operation), and as far as I can tell there is no shortcut back to that menu, if you are in say the Settings menu. An unfortunate but minor annoyance.



    Clicking the “up” arrow, when in the current playing screen, will bring you back a screen where you can quickly adjust music settings such as EQ, Play Mode and Add to Favorites, My Likes or Bookmark if you wish. Be careful, though as there is a delete button at the bottom of this menu. I wish that the Low/High Gain setting was also listed on this screen, as a quick “burst” of volume would be handy with two clicks, as opposed to using the volume buttons. Again, not really a big deal, and one you can easily learn to manipulate around.

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    Many other functions are derived from the various widgets, almost too numerous to mention here, but easily found either by trial or from the pretty detailed instruction manual included with your purchase. For a full demo, see my video. I demonstrate all nine screens and basic functions within those screens.


    Below the screen, is a four-arrowed circle, with the main play/pause circular button in the center. Going back a screen from the playing screen is accomplished utilizing the up arrow, and then the center button. Not that bad to be honest. From that menu, one CAN quickly return to the playing screen by clicking on the LEFT ARROW. A nice shortcut back to the play screen. Using the four arrows and the center circle, one can control the entire functionality of the DAP, save volume. The +/- volume buttons grace the right side. There are no other buttons on that side, which to me is a nice isolating feature making my decisions easy…and sometimes I just need that!


    The left side houses the power button up top, with the micro SD slot below. Capable of 256gb cards, one can bring along a good bit of music. Capable of reading up to 15,000 songs, there are limits; but using more than one SD card really isn’t that big of a deal to me. There is no internal memory, so when using a card for the first time (as in you changed cards), it must be scanned again. You do not need to do that, if the card is the same from your last visit. Scanning quickly, you are happily listening within a minute, unless you have a very large library.

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    Made of an aluminum alloy frame with plastic front and back, the fit and finish is quite good. A high-gloss back does smudge quite easily, but adds a nice touch to the all-black motif. A protective plastic cover overlays the screen, and can push a bit. Not the most rigid, but not really a worry. Some mentioned the sharp corners as a downgrading aspect, but I found the corners to be rounded and of good help in the grip area. This does offset the somewhat slippery glossy-back. But for this price, one cannot be entirely picky, nor judgmental. A pleasantly nice shape and handling experience, overall.



    I found manipulating the buttons, and screens fairly easy. A bit dated, and clunky compared to more expensive, more advanced DAP’s, but functionality is not what this DAP is really all about. A lack of backlit arrow/center-buttons does make it somewhat difficult to operate in low light (unlike the Hidizs AP-60, which has a backlit function button area), but again I’m not really interested in how the critter works. I will say, that as nice as it is to have that backlit button area on the Hidizs, it is an extremely small area with which to work. Even with my average-sized hands, I often found myself pushing the wrong buttons repeatedly…a real annoyance.

    No such problem existed with the Rocker v2, and I was thankful. Speaking of these two equally priced DAP’s, several things stand out to differentiate them (most of which I will detail below…). Size is a bragging point for the Rocker v2, stating that it is the “Smallest Audiophile Player in the World.” As you can see, the Hidizs is in fact smaller, and does play music…so…I do welcome that extra length when using the AGPTEK though, as it makes in-hand use easier.

    [​IMG]

    The second function that stands out between the two is the screen. Slightly smaller than the Hidizs, the AGPTEK has a MUCH better viewing angle. If you are off direct viewing at all with the Hidizs, then forget about it! You cannot make out anything…While the color does change a bit with the AGPTEK, you can still read the screen, and determine what you need. A definite plus for the Rocker v2. Neither screen will win resolution awards, but the whole idea is to be able to SEE the screen, quite often in less than ideal circumstances…Advantage to the AGPTEK, here.


    Something, which may eventually make it into this sector (and would be nice) is the ability to control more than the volume, when the screen is off. To pause, one needs click the power button to “wake” the DAP, then hit the center circle to pause. A minor annoyance, but addressed in higher DAP’s with the functionality to do that when the screen is off. Again, not that important at this price point, but a technology, which will eventually trickle down to this level.

    [​IMG]

    As for the Shanling M1 functionality, a rolling wheel with clicks functions as the manipulating “tool” used to maneuver around the DAP. At almost twice the price of both, one would expect it to function much better, and be of an easier to use aspect. Mostly, it does. The UI is more intuitive to use than either, while the screen is LEAGUES better than the cheaper alternatives. As it should be. As for sound, I will admit up front, that the M1 is the standard by which I gauge a low-fi (lower priced) DAP. And rightly so, in my mind (OK, M2s, N3 lovers can throw either of those in, but the M1 was around before either of those…so…).


    Bluetooth:

    The Bluetooth of all three functioned perfectly. No glitches at all with connection, other than with the Mixcder MS301 functionality. I had to “clear” the search for connectivity in each menu, but once this was accomplished, connecting was quick and easy. And, this was due to maneuvering between DAP’s and my iPhone 6+. If I stayed with one DAP., then Bluetooth connected immediately upon turning that function on.

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    Once one learns the tricks, trials and shortcomings of the Rocker v2, you move on the important item…the sound!

    [​IMG]


    Sound:

    One has a certain obligation when called upon to do a review, regardless of whether it is a tour, an audition or at the request of a company. Those obligations are to be thorough, honest and did I mention thorough? Some will go out of their way to gush over devices, which may or may not deserve those accolades. I think those that might, do a tremendous disservice to what others write. Thankfully, that is not a common occurrence, and one, which does not apply here. This is a very decent little device. One that should be considered for those who are looking at either their first portable DAP, first foray away from a Smartphone, first commuting DAP, or one that can be used at the gym without fear of sacrificing not only sound but portability and loss. The last in case you drop the device, etc…



    As experience would have it recently, I dropped the Rocker v2 twice today on the treadmill…both times thinking you DOLT! Watch what you are doing!!!


    [​IMG] [​IMG]



    None the worse for the wear, the AGPTEK simply allowed me to pick it back up, and reconnect my IEM’s of the moment, the fine Tennmak Pro. A nice bouncy-bassy combination; the two played well together for my “vigorous” treadmill workout. Better than I handling the Rocker…

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    What can be heard from the Rocker v2 is a fairly even sound; with no one range crowding out the other. None perform well above the other, nor do they suffer too much from each other. Even is how I would describe the overall sound, with a definite rolling off of the treble (even to my tired, treble-hearing-loss ears…). This can be a good thing, as sometimes (from my experience) the trebles are pushed in lower priced DAP’s, giving that false sense of “quality sound.” Thankfully, AGPTEK did not take that approach, letting the overall unobtrusive qualities take center stage. A very nice, pleasant approach and sound was heard through everything I played. Whether it was my UM Martian’s, the Vibro Aria’s, the FLC8S, or yes the Audioquest Nightowl one could describe the sound as pleasant.


    Only with the Nightowl, did the sound suffer from not being as full as one might expect. Rather thin and weak, the sound while tolerant was not what I would have liked. That said how often would one use that combination? Not very often. Not bad, mind you, but not the set up one would expect here.


    Conversely, when I hooked up my Martian’s, the sound was much better. More full, deeper reach of bass and a good slightly forward vocal presentation. I did find this combination more intimate. While the excellent sound stage of the NO really sings, the Martian intimacy is simply superb. A very good combination, this setup was my first choice most of the time during this review.

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    My favorite setup though, was when I hooked the Tennmak Pro’s up. “Better” bass than the Martian or the Nightowl, the Tennmak is simply put, a stunning IEM for $21 USD. When you think that this combination can happily be your commuter combo, and for less than $115, you just have to smile and appreciate how far audio has come. The last three or four reviews I have done, I do mention the marvel I hold at how devices of such humble prices can provide a very good listening pleasure. And I amongst the many, who already know this, am happy. I am happy to share those thoughts with you, too. The Tennmak is known for its bass reach and quality, and in this combination it does not disappoint. I found myself working that little bit harder, that little bit extra to the thump of Ziggy Marley’s bass through the two. That little bit extra loft in my step so to speak, because of this combination. I would happily keep this set up for the gym, knowing it is a good sound, and worthy of gym-bag-abuse. Rugged and versatile.



    Using the Bluetooth capabilities of the Mixcder MS-301 was also easy to do. Other than the minor hiccups of connectivity, the two functioned without a glitch. Once I figured out that with each use of a DAP, sprinkled between my iPhone 6+; I had to clear the known devices on each DAP (the Rocker and the Hidizs), hooking up to BT was quick and painless. With nary a glitch, hiccup or bump the Bluetooth combination worked seamlessly. With an even near-neutral sound signature, the Mixcder provided a good wide sound stage to compliment the AGPTEK’s sound. With near-Nightowl sound stage qualities, you are presented with a nice fairly open sounding listening involvement. This too, would be an excellent commuting combination, and with a price south of $200 USD (for both), one could easily purchase a micro-SD card and be content.



    Of all the combinations, the Rocker/FLC8S combination presented me with the best bass. Running the black, red, gunmetal filters the bass is stunning coming from the FLC8S. A sound I do not listen to enough, what with my other options. I will often sub in the FLC’s into my workout queue, simply so I can listen to them! Not the best way to treat a $300 IEM, but so far they have responded well. But that is another story. The focus of the Rocker/FLC combo is definitely bass-oriented. Vocals are also pushed quite forward yielding another good option for commuting and general “in your face” listening. Not shouting, but a good jump-up-and-move type of sound combination. This would be my “clean the house” set up, and in fact was during the review period. Tucking the Rocker neatly into a front pocket, with the IEM cable close to your chest, you could happily clean to your desires content!

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    If I had to boil the sound signature of the v2 down, I would consider it a worthy alternative to your Smartphone music apps. With a near-neutral sound, pushing the mids and vocal “up” above the centerline, the sound is almost intimate. Having one of the smaller sound stages of anything I have heard, I found myself listening song after song to make sure it was not an illusion. It was not. I do not fault the DAP for that higher-than-center sound, but I was not really used to it.



    With a somewhat quirky UI, I would downgrade the lack of a “quick touch back to the song playing” option. While on many DAP’s, including the Hidizs one can long press and be back to the song playing (or twice in the case of the Hidizs), you cannot do that with the v2. There is an almost Blackberry-esque feeling to its UI. Logical to use, but arcane. You are presented with the nine widgets on the home screen with which to manipulate and maneuver, but it takes effort. One I cannot really fault due to the price point. And, one while I find acceptable since most of my listening is in full on shuffle mode a minor quirk non-the-less.


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    Comparisons:



    AGPTEK Rocker v2 ($89) v Hidizs AP-60 ($89)



    This is the most logical comparison to me (and besides the fact it is all I have at this price point!!), but others have compared the v1 to a Rockboxed SanDisk. I have no experience with the SanDisk, though. Touted as the “Smallest Audiophile DAP” in the world, the AGPTEK is in fact taller than the Hidizs. Thinner and narrower though, it does also tout a smaller (but better overall) screen.



    As mentioned above, the screen of the v2 is better, with more viewing angles. Functionally, the two approach their respective UI’s quite differently. With only four options, which to choose on the home menu screen; you are presented with fewer menus. Packing more into each widget, the Hidizs is harder to tailor to ones musical needs. I do appreciate the fewer sub-menu items on the v2 widgets, even if it means manipulating through more widgets. And while I do appreciate the backlit toggle “switches,” I cannot operate them smoothly. Even after a full two weeks, I still have trouble pushing the correct area of the Hidizs. Frustrating would be a polite way to put it…



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    Sound wise, the Hidizs provides a darker signature with a more rolled off treble. It is almost like Hidizs wanted a darker signature, but didn’t want it to show any distortion. I garnered a more full sound signature, too and one with less detail. One with a bit better bass reach, and vocals more towards that imaginary midline; exhibited a mild high-gain distortion on some songs. Instrument separation suffered as a result of trying to please all those sound characteristics, though. Not congested by any means, but one where most of the sound was competing to be heard. All could be heard, but there wasn’t much support. Almost resembling a shouting match, like a fifth grade band class at the beginning of the hour, with all playing at the same time…just to be heard. That said, songs such as twenty one pilots Car Radio complimented that sound, and complimented it well. A very busy song, which benefits from that “all-together” sound.



    Conversely, the v2 separates each tone and instrument better. One can clearly hear Josh’s cymbal taps, and snare punches. Tyler’s vocals are clearly defined. A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s, Love Struck Baby, sung by Robert Cray defines that separation nicely. His vocals are very forward anyway, almost punching through your ears, but I do believe the Sound Engineer got this one right, toning it back a bit so that the support instrumentation could be heard. Much more cleanly, than the Hidizs, in my opinion. Don’t get me too wrong, though. The AP-60 has its merits, but is overshadowed by the AGPTEK’s detail, separation and instrumentation in my mind.

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    AGPTEK Rocker v2 ($89) v Shanling M1 ($149)



    Almost an unfair fight, this is…but one in which I thought valid. Valid, because one should evaluate not only the level at which you are looking, but what one-step (or a couple) up might be like. Kind of like going car shopping… You look at the Toyota Corolla, but also might take a Camry out for a test drive just to make sure you get the one you want. The AGPTEK would be the base Corolla, and the M1 a midline Camry. Nothing wrong with either vehicle, just different classes and tastes.



    I will admit up front, that the Shanling house sound has me. I am enveloped by it. I almost dream of it, when listening to other DAP’s. I judge by it. I like others, too but it is that Shanling house sound by which I judge all comers. And the M1 is better. Unabashedly better. Better detail, better sound stage, better separation. But, not a complete smashing, though. As quirky (again, Blackberry quirky) as the v2’s UI is, in some ways it is easier to operate. While I like the Shanling signature wheel operation, it can be quite cumbersome to operate on the go. This is where the AGPTEK manipulates better. But, as I said I mainly listen in shuffle mode, so this is a draw.



    Where the Rocker v2 is brighter of signature, the M1 is more “mature.” The M1 is also more detailed, with better bass punch, and vocal representation. With less treble roll off, the M1 also does a better job up top. Mids, in conjunction with the vocals is simply superb for this price level.


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    What I found with the Rocker v2 was a versatile affordable DAP, with a few quirks. One that was and is not afraid to come along for the ride, and as such the v2 is worth a look. A small portable DAP, which while inexpensive, sounds like a good upgrade to your Smartphone music. Using the IEM/buds/headphone of your choice, you could surely find a satisfactory sound signature. Using the EQ you could then tailor the sound to your personal preference, and be content.



    Finale:



    The Rocker received mixed reviews on Amazon, as I read; but an underlying theme was present in most reviews…that this was a very good priced DAP, which functioned well and had enough pleasing sound characteristics to offset any flaws those reviewers saw/heard/felt. I would agree, but I would go one step further; this is not only a very good replacement for your Smartphone music, but a good first step into the world of DAP’s. Competing with the Hidizs AP-60, the two present their versions of what a lower-priced DAP should be; but for the same price. One has a backlit button area, good UI which is fairly easy to manipulate and the possibility to be used OTG or as a stand alone DAC (Hidizs). The other has better sound characteristics (to me), slightly more power and a MUCH better screen-viewing-angle (AGPTEK). While the actual screen quality of the AP-60 is better than the Rocker v2, you can only view it head-on. Otherwise, it becomes like those old original digital TV’s, where viewing angle was an actual thought in your purchase. Personally, I would take a variety of viewing angles to a “better quality” screen all day long. Especially since portability is an advertised aspect of both…

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    Much of the criticism of the Rocker was aimed at the internal ability to read music, low battery life and not crash. From my readings, a larger libraried micro-SD card would bog down, or crash the device. I’m happy to say that this concern has been addressed. I had no problem loading my 8000-song card, although it did take a bit of time (which is to be expected at many levels…). The Rocker v2 functioned flawlessly, and with nary a hiccup. Lately though, it has taken a bit sometimes to push the center wheel to either start/select/pause whatever you are doing. Longevity of the device may come into play in that regard. If I should develop a problem, I will update as needed. But as I said, I had and continue to have no problems with this fine, affordable little device….and isn’t that one of the main things we ask of our devices? That they function so that we can enjoy our music? It is certainly one of my main priorities and AGPTEK has succeeded. Give it a listen, it is worth it.

    My video review will be up tomorrow.

    I thank AGPTEK for the wonderful opportunity they presented to me. This is a nice affordable first DAP, or replacement to Smartphone music. Well done!
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