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Digital Audio (FLAC/MP3/etc) Players (DAPs) item created by hairuko, Jun 4, 2010
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.
High HO sound quality
Wonderful LO sound quality
High quality screen
Short battery life
Hardware volume control
UI could be improved
Not a great video player
Short battery life
Limited onboard storage
Display noise through HO
Some less refined traits
Pros - Sound Quality, Line-out SQ, Vol Control is quiet and has excellent feel to it. Plays flac, works great without amp. Dual Wolfson DACs sound so smooth.
Cons - UI is worst I have ever used. Scrolling with finger forever, worst navigation in touch screen history, you grow old before you scroll to the album
I feel badly writing a negative review because I am the kind of person who tends to be grateful for the positives, and lets the negatives slide, but...I wish someone had spoken up about what a horrible, terrible job the S:Flo2 guys did on the UI. I am a software designer and programmer and I understand just how difficult it is to work with some interfaces and you have to do the best you can with what you've got, but the final product for the S:Flo should never had gotten out the door. It is NOT ready for prime time.
I would need to write several hundred words to really convey to you just what a really bad interface it is and just how frustrating it is to work with.
Make a mistake while scrolling or selecting a song and you are penalized by being sent back to the menu and having to start from position 1 again in you're quest to scroll down a couple hundred songs, 7 to a screen a time.
Rather than tell you and make you read all of this let me just sum it up as saying the S:Flo2 is the biggest tragedy in PMP history. The sound quality is just fantastic. I love Wolfson DACs and the twin Wolfsons to the Line-out are really the best SQ for the money I have ever heard. Truly fine, quality sound. But although I have tried, over and over to master the scrolling and navigation, it is helpless. It can never be mastered, only endured.
I feel sorry for Raz at MP4Nation.net. He appears to be a really nice guy and he stood behind his offer and delivered all the extras and did his best to get a good product but in the end, it will never be a giant killer with the interface it has.
And when I look on the forums to see if new firmware is out, it has been very quiet there, and no announcements since June or July on firmware updates.
So in the end, it was an inexpensive venture into very good SQ with a very poor interface for me.
Pros - sq from HO is good, sq from LO is awesome
Cons - omg really lousy ui, what battery life?, no physical buttons
i listen (mainly) to classic rock, alt rock, prog rock, trance/dance, classical
i use cheap IEMs, grados, and aux connector to car
i am on firmware 2.20
i'll just list pros and cons.
-feels hefty and solid
-sq is great. HO and LO lives up to expectations no doubt about it.
-has a nifty auto off feature
-has an expansion slot
-if the mini plugs have no devices connected, it won't start playing the song. pretty cool.
-thank god for a reset button
-detects as usb mass storage so you can get to copying files straightaway without any software install.
-omg incredibly lousy UI. the two default skins are atrocious. the first one is too bright, the second too dark. it lists files by name, type, or date. literally. it seems unable to use the vorbis tags on my flac files. despite asking it to sort by name, it only does that for filenames. not albums. not artists. or maybe i just can't figure it out. but it shouldn't be so darn difficult!
-scrolling sucks. especially if you have super long lists. if your finger rests on the bottom a bit too long, it'll select it. then you have to hit the back button, and whoops, gotta start all over again.
-pressing back once while a song is playing does not set you to the beginning of the song. instead, it jumps you back an entire song. maybe that's normal behavior, but it sure annoys the crap out of me.
-there are no words describing functions of icons in the playing screen. you have to try each icon to figure out what it does. seems like other players do this too, but it still annoys me. what the heck is a gear symbol? ohhhh settings.
-fingerprints. omg fingerprint magnet. then again so are all touchscreens. sigh
-no physical buttons to control playback?! gAHHH! well how bout a hold (lockout) button? no?? well crap, what if my butt decides to switch songs?
-you have to hold down the only button on the thing to turn it on. how long? oh i dont know. at least 5 seconds.
-file transfer is slooooooooow. barely 5MB/s. (i'm on w7x64)
-the accelerometer? wait i dont think it has one. oh nm it does. it's just really stupid. you can only turn it one way otherwise it's just upside down. all pics display full screen vertically and nice big black bars on the left and right if you hold it horizontally. and all movies play horizontally.
-sometimes it doesn't want to quit charging mode and you have to hit the reset button.
-pretty sure vorbis tags on flac don't work
-plays cue files. slick. except it apparently doesn't read the time stamps correctly.
-flac playback is barely 10 hrs on one charge.