Studio V Anniversary Edition

General Information

Hisound's Studio 3rd Anniversary edition: Perfect player in the world.

Hisound's Studio hifi music player( DAP) is featured with tiny size, big sound, strongest power with longest playing time. The Studio 3rd Anniversary edition is qualified to be the perfect player in the world.
Features :
1., 80 MW of out put power which is one of the strongest power DAP in the world.
2, It has 85 hours playing time battery.
3, Very portable which is only 80X50x20MM,
4, Has a decent earphone amplifier function, which is one of the best portable earphone amplifier in the market.
5, Neutral sound signature, which can be great synergy with most earphones.
6, No hiss with most headphones, even no hiss with SE 530 , TF 10 or most CIEMs.
7, Maybe has the widest sound stage among all the rest players.

Latest reviews

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:
Main features
- 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.
I paid $300 + shipping for it. That's a special price for anyone, who writes a review. Normal price is $450. I didn't have to write a positive review. I would give it full ratting even for price of $450.
There is a contradiction in all the reviews for this player. The audio qualiy/battery life indicator bars are both on maximum ? The Cayin N6 with a huge 5600mah battery plays for 8 hours. How does this tiny player with a 2000mah battery manage to deliver superb sound quality (for 100 hours?) without heavily draining its battery ?. Class A amplifiers/high grade DACs are renowned for their high electrical power consumption which in a portable application means short battery life.
here is update after almost 6 months: 1. player works just like new. 2. player freezed up few times during these 6 months (10-20x) during switching tracks or navigating through menu when playing. 3. there is small difference between wav and flac... i prefer wav. 4. hiss is less prominent (or i got used to it). 5. battery life is fine, but far from 100hours...more like 30 hours with 15/31 volume and flac/wav. Overall i'm happy with it. I only miss support for higher sampling rate, than 48khz.
Pros: Size, Build, Battery Life, Sound Quality (stellar!)
Cons: UI, Boot Time, Lag (scroll / software) - only with pre-installed firmware
Introducing HiSound Audio’s TOTL DAP – The Studio V 3rd Anniversary Edition
Studio V3 A.E.
Sonic Joy - V3 A.E. + RS1
After reviewing many of HSA’s earbuds and IEMs lately, my thoughts turned toward buying a new DAP.  My iPod Touch G4 (32 GB) had been getting pretty full, and I’d been tossing up between simply getting the iPod Touch G5 (64 GB) + an add on amp (probably an Arrow) so I could drive my higher impedance full cans, or buying a DAP that could do an all-in-one job.  I asked Jack from HSA for his opinion, and he steered me toward the Studio V3 A.E.  We struck a deal where I would pay for the device, review it, and if not happy, could return for a full refund.  In this review, I’ve listed the Studio V3 A.E. for its normal list price.  I paid a little under this – but I did pay for the DAP.
I was provided the Studio V3 A.E. as a paid (but discounted) review sample.  I am in no way affiliated with HiSound Audio - and this review is my honest opinion of the Studio V3 A.E.  I would like to thank Jack and the HiSound Audio team for making this opportunity available.
Preamble - 'about me'.   (This is to give any readers a baseline for interpreting the review).
I'm a 46 year old music lover.  I don't say audiophile - just love my music.  Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current mid-fi set-up.  I vary my listening from portable (iDevices) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP).  My main headphones at the time of writing are the Senn HD600, Grado RS1, Shure SE535 Ltd Ed. IEMs, and HSA’s BA-100, Crystal and Living earbuds/IEMs.  I've also just received the Dunu DN1000 Hybrid IEM this week.
I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz to grunge and hard-rock.   I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, indie, classic rock, and alternative rock.  I am particularly fond of female vocals.  I tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced - with a slight emphasis on the mid-range.  I am neither a bass or treble head (you could argue that I do like clarity though).  Current amps = NFB12 and LD MKIV.  I also formerly owned several portable amps - the most notable being an Arrow 4G and GoVibe PortaTube.
My experience with DAPs in the past have been initially with very cheap Sony offerings, then step-ups to the Cowon iAudio7, and lately to my iPhone4 and iPod Touch G4 – which are both very good sounding and have excellent interfaces.  I've also listened to various other devices along the way - including Cowon's J3.
I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher completely transparent.  For my portable listening – it is my preferred format (space vs quality).  All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line).
I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences.  I am not a ‘golden eared listener’
What I Was Looking For In A DAP
I thought I’d list (before I start with the review) what I was really looking for in a new DAP.
  1. Great (neutral) sounding
  2. Good build quality
  3. Reasonable battery life
  4. Easy to use interface
  5. Able to drive both low impedance and (within reason) higher impedance cans

Did I get all of this with the Studio V3 A.E?  That’s a definite no.  Well - mostly (following some tweaking).  And for me, the two biggest ‘must haves’ were going to be sonic quality and usability.  Do I still have the Studio V3 A.E?  Yes.  No intention of returning.  Read on, and discover with me why I regard this DAP as having a ‘Jekyll & Hyde complex’, but why (for me) it’s remained a keeper.
This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience.  Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
Packaging and Accessories
When the Studio V3 A.E. package arrived – before I opened the parcel, my initial thought was that Jack must have sent me something along with it.  The box is big considering the size of the DAP – but I have to admit it does give an impression of something “just a little bit special” being inside.
The Studio V3 box​
Size comparison (iPhone)
Tiny DAP - big box!
On opening the V3 box, the initial impression was “wow this thing is tiny”, and also – it does look very solid and classy.
With the V3 you also get:
  1. An HSA VIP card
  2. Warranty (in Chinese)
  3. The Studio V3 manual (in English and Chinese)
Paperwork in the boxEnglish page from manual
The manual itself is fairly basic – but also pretty easy to follow.
Underneath the display tray is a second compartment with 3 very nicely presented boxes which hold the USB plug and cable, and also a pair of PAA-1 earbuds (which despite their budget appearance actually sound not too bad).
Second compartmentThe Studio V3
2nd Compartment AccessoriesPAA-1 Earbuds
Technical Specifications
There wasn’t a lot of information (technical anyway) on the web – so I’m relying on what was published in the manual.  Relevant details include:
Dimension : 
 76 x 49 x 20mm
Weight :
Screen :
 1 inch matrix (128x64) OLED
PC connection :
 USB2 – standard mini-plug
Internal memory :
 4 Gb flash
Battery :
 Lithium-ion (more on battery life later in review)
Supported Formats :
Supported OS :
 Windows 98/SE/ME/2K/XP/Vista/Win7 (also works on 8), MAC OS10, Linux 2.4.2
Languages :
 Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian
Maximum output :
 10mW-80mW per channel (32 ohm load)
Frequency response : 
 17Hz to 23 KHz
Distortion :
Four words – solid, classy, high quality.
Side view with iPhone 4 in background
Rear of Studio V3
The body is a solid piece of machined aluminium with a brushed exterior.  The colour is silvery with a light golden hued tint.  The body has slightly bevelled edges – but it is comfortable to hold.  The buttons are solid, and appear built to last.  The OLED display – while small is relatively easy to read, and can be viewed reasonably easily (dark and light).  It does suffer a little in direct sunlight - but easy enough to shade with a cupped palm.  The USB cable fits snugly, and headphone socket is tight and feels well put together.  On the bottom of the player – next to the USB port – is a micro SD expansion slot.  For this review I’m using a Sansa Ultra microSDXC class 10 card.  The card is easy to fit and is solid once input.  One note here – you’ll need to format the card to FAT32.
Top view next to iPhone 4
Bottom view next to iPhone 4
On the top of the unit is the headphone out, and also another plug so that the Studio V3 A.E. can also be used as an amplifier for another source.  I have tried this feature – and while it works, I can’t say that it’s a feature I would ever see myself using.
Micro SD Card
Top Ports - Headphone Out and Source In
The only issue I have with the build is that I’m always worried about scratching it because it looks so classy.  It’s already received a lot of comments from my work mates – and has been instantly a topic of conversation when I’ve had it out.  Quick thought for Jack – it would be nice to include some type of soft cover (or pouch) as an added accessory for the future.
UI (Universal Interface) / Usability
With pre-loaded firmware DT-DYNAMIC 2013.01.15
Ok – here is where we meet Dr Hyde.  So far my initial impressions were very good.  First I charged the battery for the initial recommended 8 hours, and then began loading some music.  The USB interface is really good.  On plugging I got two Windows Explorer windows – the first the 4 GB internal memory, and the second had access to the 64 GB card.  Putting music on the player was simply a matter of drag and drop.  So far, so good.  When I had the card loaded with about 45 GB of HQ aac files (around 4000 tracks), I unplugged and turned the unit on.
Initialising / Start Up
Now Playing Menu Option
I’d already read a lot of the threads on the V3 A.E. – so I was expecting a slow start-up.  Initial boot took around 5 minutes.   The disconcerting thing was watching the screen initially scroll the boot messages – then seem to freeze.  Don’t panic if this is happening to you – it’s normal for everything to freeze while it’s initialising the card.  Once it starts scrolling again you notice the card is loaded and you’re ready to go.
Selection screen - using tags
Selection screen - folder browsing 
Here’s where things started to get flaky.  Although the card had loaded – the player was extremely laggy moving from menu to menu.  Scrolling was an absolute chore – and sometimes despite clicking repeatedly, it was not scrolling at all.  For anyone at this stage – patience.  What I found out later - through trial and error – is that this player does not like a big library of tracks, and that it gets more responsive around the 3000 track mark or lower.  I also found that leaving the player for about another minute after it’s initially loaded also speeds up the responsiveness.
Settings screen
Bye-bye (often frustrating)
Anyway – initially I had ~4000 tracks loaded and the player was extremely laggy.  Not used to the interface, and coming from the excellent UI in all the Apple devices – this made me very impatient, and it was at this point I discovered one of the major flaws in the V3 A.E. UI.  The central button acts as a select option, play/pause, and back option – depending on how long you hold it.  Unfortunately it also acts as the power off button.
So imagine if you will – laggy menus, trying to back out of a directory, buttons unresponsive because of the lag – so press the central button either repeatedly or longer (because of the lag) – and you suddenly get the “Bye” notification and the device powers off.   Aaaargh!!!  Wait 5 minutes to power on again.  Repeat process etc.  It was at this point after a further 15-20 minutes that I was ready to just box the whole thing up and return it to Jack.  At this stage I hadn’t even been able to have a decent listening experience.
Anyway – fast forward now 3 weeks – and things are much different.  The UI still sucks could be better – but it’s usable.  It’s extremely basic – and Jack’s advice to me (via email) was invaluable.  He advised patience and that eventually I’d get used to working the buttons – the length of time to press etc, and I have.  Like I said earlier – the secret is not to overload the player with files – and to be patient with loading.
The menu itself is simple – but effective.  You can either browse by selecting the music option or file browser mode.  Using the music option – your tags need to be correct.  Interesting note here (just another quirky observance) – if you have no music files on the 4 GB internal memory, the player won’t recognise tags on the files on the removable micro SD card.  For me it simply showed ‘no file’.  Once I added files to the internal memory – they reappeared.
Main menu options include “Now Playing”, “Music”, “Resource Manager”, and “Settings”.
The best part about the UI is that it’s very simple to use once you get accustomed to it.  The worst parts are:
  1. Player lag
  2. No back button (apart from the central one) and having it double as on/off.
  3. Every time you exit a menu you have to relocate that folder again (no memory of where you last were).  This is extremely annoying – especially when browsing by folders, or if you have artists with multiple albums.
  4. If you have a lot of folders – you can have a lot of clicking to get to the one you want – there is simply no easy way of getting there in a hurry.
  5. No true gapless
  6. It has lossless support – but does not work with 24/96 files (have to resample these)
One recently discovered fault (could be just my unit) is that sometimes when I power on – the volume either appears to be slightly muted, or louder than it ought to be.  This doesn’t happen very often – and usually just repowering the device of and on again puts things back to normal.  It’s happened only a couple of times in the last 2 weeks – but it is repeatable – so could be an issue just with my unit.

UPDATE 28/11
So in an attempt to get better response from the player - I decided to try removing all of the tags from my files.  I use folder browsing anyway - so no biggie.  I fired up MP3tag - deleted the tags, and tried again.  Still a very slow boot, and still some lag in the UI.   Hmmmm ....

Next - wiped the player - got rid of the albums I'm least likely to use - so now I was only loading about 2300 tracks (mostly full albums).  This time all of the albums loaded as FLAC - but after I cleaned up all the tags (deleted any ID3V2 tags, deleted artwork, deleted all other eroneous info except for Artist, Album, Genre and Track (title and #).  Reloaded and an instant improvement.  Load time is now about 3.5 minutes (it's pretty consistently around this time) - but a lot of the lagginess is now gone from the menus.  It;s actually pretty snappy, and a lot easier to use!  Now that I'm not having to fight the player all the time - I can have a look around.  Discovered folder play - works really well, and there is an option in settings to randomise the play (nice).  Genre tags work, as do artist and album - so if you want to create playlists you can - just by arranging desired tracks in a common folder.  The good news is that if tagged properly - you can then use the normal 'tagged playing options' to play by album - and the folder option to arrange playlists if you need to.  Takes a little managing the set-up, but all in all - the more I use the player, the better it's becoming.
Would I like the UI fixed - YES!  Biggest one for me would be boot time.  But it's very usable at the moment - and it's not a chore as it was in the beginning.  My Hyde is now more of an annoyance than a raving beast :)

UPDATE 04/12
Following Lee730's advice - I finally bit the bullet and reverted to firmware version DT-DYNAMIC 20111223.  I now consider the UI to still be a little primitive but very usable (no longer the Mr Hyde it once was).  Boot time with a fully loaded internal and external memory is now just a little over a minute (approx 74 seconds), scrolling is dynamic, and most of the lag is gone.  I really don't know why this version is not the default one for the player.  All in all now - this has gone from a good DAP to a great DAP in my estimation.  Sonics (as you'll read further) are outsanding, as is the build.  Now the UI is functional as well.

I could go on a lot more about the UI – but it’s time to move on.  The important thing is that I still have, and use this DAP daily.  And that’s simply because of the sound …..
Let me preface this section by making sure you know where I’m coming from.  I like the sound of my iPhone.  It’s linear – sounds great, low distortion, essentially flat frequency response.  I did not expect the Studio V3 to sound superior – yet it does.  I level matched, got my wife to assist with swapping blind, and tried it with a number of different headphones.  The V3 A.E. to my untrained ears sounds phenomenal.
Once the music starts - all else is forgotten
Even with cheaper earbuds - excellent sound!
It’s essentially pretty colourless – maybe has a very slightly brighter than neutral signature.  It’s either that or most of my other gear has been slightly darker than normal.  I won’t go on about bass, mids or treble – as that won’t get to the heart of the matter.  The V3 A.E. has a very black background.  I’ve noticed no hiss (or other noise) with even my very sensitive SE535 Ltd Eds.  The main difference between the iPhone 4 and Studio V3 A.E. (sonically) is in a greater sense of ‘air’ or ‘space’ with the music.  I know this sounds like stupid audiophile speak – but it’s the best way I can describe it.  Side by side (and volume matched to the best of my ability) – in direct comparison – the iPhone 4 sounds quite flat after listening to the V3 A.E.  If I had to guess – I’d say it was something to do with the crossfeed set-up maybe?  Anyway – the Studio V3 to me simply sounds wonderful – which is why I’m keeping it.
Update - spent the evening with Dunu's DN1000 Hybrid and the Studio V3 A.E.  To my ears, these were made for each other.  Crystal clear, gorgeous mid-range, punchy and hard-hitting (dare I say 'magical') bass - and I am definitely not a basshead.
Studio V2 + SE535 LE - wonderful sound
Studio V3 + RS1
And to those who are maybe scoffing at this point (like I used to with others) – remember that I have every reason to return the player for a full refund.  The UI is not good not as good as I'm used to, I can’t store all of my music (like I wanted), and features are missing that had grown to be 2nd nature on my iDevices.  I’m keeping this because it sounds great – despite everything else.
HSA claim (on the rear of the device) that it is Class A inside – and this is one of the reasons I looked at it originally.  I wanted a DAP that I wouldn’t have to carry a separate amplifier with (a truly portable device).  And it doesn’t disappoint.  It’s perfect with my sensitive IEMs, and can still drive (with no issues) my HD600.  It sounds great with the RS1 – and when I had my K702 I even tried it for a while.  Whilst the K702 was lacking a small bit of power (didn’t quite have the bottom end that I was used to from a more powerful set-up), volume and general sonic signature on the K702 was far better than from the iPhone – and was very listenable.
The Studio V3 has 31 different settings in its volume scale – and so far I’d never had any issues with headroom.  On the HD600’s I sit close to 20.  With my IEMs – around 8-10.  There are no issues with channel imbalance.
Even powers the K702
Outclasses the iPhone 4 sonically
Battery Life
HSA claim up to 100 hours playing lower bitrate MP3 files in saver mode (ie screen turned off).  I’m guessing from a full initial charge – that could be achieved.  But as far as real world usage goes – I’m probably using the player around 6 hours a day (playing music), and sometimes longer if I leave it in stand-by.  I have no problems getting at least 2-3 days, so I’d say minimum 30 hours with higher resolution files and normal use – probably longer – is achievable.  Anyway – given that it powers all my headphones (portable and full sized) and has very long life – no amp required – I’m very happy with its battery life so far.
So there we have the Studio V3 A.E.  A real Jekyll and Hyde dilemma for prospective buyers.  On the positive side:
  1. Truly excellent sonically
  2. Wonderful build
  3. Powerful enough to use without an additional amplifier
  4. Very good battery life
On the negative side:
  1. A crude and frustrating UI (until you learn it's oddities, and get your library tweaked to overcome the issues)
  2. Laggy if used with too many files (becomes snappier with fewer files + also correct tagging)
  3. Significant start-up delays (hope they fix this with firmware eventually) - unless you revert back to the older stable firmware.
Is it worth the full retail price (USD 450)? – I’ll leave that up to the individual.  For the discounted price I paid – it is my favourite player sonically, and I use it in preference to my iPhone 4 now.  It wouldn’t take much to make the Studio V3 A.E. an absolutely excellent DAP.  Here are a few ideas …..
Suggestions for HSA
  1. Separate on/off button (absolutely necessary IMO)
  2. When back button used – it needs to go back one step only
  3. Keep expansion slot – but increase onboard memory.  If the memory was even 32 GB onboard (64Gb would be ideal) – this should significantly increase the responsiveness (I’d forgo the expansion card altogether), and negate the lag from having too many files.
  4. Think about adding a lock button/switch.  I had it in my pocket yesterday (jeans) and I seemed to drain the battery quite quickly.  Assume that the buttons may have been inadvertently being pushed (in my pocket) which led to screen being on almost all the time - and resulting in a big battery drain.
  5. Revert back to original firmware DT-DYNAMIC 20111223 or at least make the most current firmware as stable and with the same shorter boot time.
Thanks again Jack for the opportunity to purchase and review this unit.  I won’t be sending it back – it sounds too good to part with.
Thanks.  I actually talked to Jack about possibilities of firmware updates in the future to fix some of the UI shortcomings.  Unfortunately it doesn't sound as if HSA will be really looking at many (if any) updates.  If you're OK with really basic functionality - it still is a marvelous sounding product, with a very good amp, and really nice form factor.  But saying that - if you need a more user friendly UI - I'd recommend trying something from Fiio (X3 or X5) or iBasso.  Both companies are pretty active with their user base trying to improve the UI useability.
I've been eyeballing the X5, actually!  I was initially looking at the Colorfly C4...I think you wrote a review on it?  Anyway, a review I read got me goin' until I saw the price.
Still doing some research, but right now it looks like i'm between the X5 and an iPod Nano or Classic.  I'll take a look at the Ibasso next once I have time again.
I haven't tried the Ibasso (or the C4) - maybe try H2O on the forums?  Also - early firmware for the likes of the DX50 was apparently pretty bad - but like Fiio, they seem to be improving as the product matures.  Definitely see if you can get advice from owners though.  I love my X5 !
Pros: Great Sound, Transparent, Grat Battery life
Cons: The UI Sucks
I recently decided to take a bit of a chance and buy blind into a new DAP. Over time I've slowly become more and more tired of the mainstream Apple/Sony/insert company name here MP3 players on the market and their lack of audio capabilities. Nowadays my player of choice is the iPod Touch and although I very much like my iPod's UI interface I've gravitated towards using a mobile amp to bring the players sonic signature up to speed. Although results have been very good I'm now finding myself becoming more and more tired lugging a two piece brick around so much so I've decided to give the so called boutique audiophile DAP market a shot. After a little nosing around on head-fi and some discussion with a trusted friend from head-fi, lee730, I took the plunge and got the HiSound Studio V 3rd Anniversary Edition. This player is rather pricey, a little to pricey in my opinion, but I was lucky enough to hear about HiSound running a half price Studio V promotion in exchange for an honest review and feedback on their player. I was a little unsure about this purchase due to certain rumblings I had read about it. Buggy UI, loud hiss, limited file support, player freeze ups, seemed to be the main complaints from various users concerning this player. Even so I decided to take a big chance and purchase it anyways due to the vast majority of people, both fans and detractors alike, seeming to agree that this player even with all it's short comings still sounded pretty nice.

I placed the order and got busy encoding my key test tracks from ALAC to FLAC. Roughly a week or so goes by and one day a package from China arrives on my doorstep with my new player. Inside the beat up shipping box is my player and it's accessories safely stored in a leather display box. The presentation of this product I must admit is quite nice. By nature I'm a pretty simple guy and for me it's not about presentation and fancy packaging it's more about getting to the heart of the matter and how the product actually performs but even so I still had to admit the presentation was well done. The first thing that struck me about the Studio V 3rd Anniversary Edition was how freaking tiny it was and how perfectly sized it felt in my hand. It's roughly about twice the size of a box of matches and in my opinion the perfect size for mobile use. The next thing I noticed was how solid the form factor felt in my hand. No cheap plastic on this player the whole thing was brushed aluminum right down to the buttons. I'm very happy with this players physical form factor and my opinion is don't change a thing.

Quick aesthetic impressions aside it's now time to get to the sonics of this player which is the key reason I bought it. This player sounds very nice and easily destroys a straight up unamped iPod, Sony player or Clip+. The sound characteristics, it's lean sounding and fast and to my ears teeters just slightly north of neutral. The bass sounds nice and full, in other words it has authority, but it's still tight and has punch and detail. Mids, a bit on the dry side which in my opinion is a perfect match for my Sony EX600 and jPhonic K2 sp. I generally like dry mids so for me the mids were a nice surprise. As for the highs, it's bright and full of energy but not overly splashy meaning it doesn't sound like that crazy harsh sound of someone running their fingernails down a chalk board. People who are a little touchy concerning their treble may want to give this player a second thought before committing their hard earned bones towards it. That being said I personally think it's far from harsh and would describe it more as forward sounding highs meaning the treble hasn't been overly smoothed over and doesn't roll off so early like say my iPod Touch does. I'm also both happy and very relieved to report the hiss issues reported from users using other generations of the Studio V for me is almost completely non existent. When using my Sony MDR EX 600 IEM if I listen closely I can hear a very very soft hiss. I only noticed it because I was looking for it but if I hadn't been looking for it I doubt I would have noticed it.

The interesting thing about this player is it seems to love all the gear I hook up to it. Believe it or not the DT1350 sounds quite good on it. Originally when I heard this player the first thing to come to mind was my DT1350's loaded treble would be way to energetic with this DAP. In the end I wound up with mud on my face when I hooked it up only to realize the treble now sounded a little more detailed and slightly smoother in the upper mid to lower high transition. It wasn't night and day of coarse and I still had some sibilance problems with badly recorded music of coarse but overall I was quite happy with my DT1350 treble on the Studio V. Next up was my V-MODA M-80. I thought the M-80 sound signature would become more lean with this DAP only to be shocked to find the mids were now more detailed while still sounding as warm as before. The M-80 highs, still flat which was a bit of a disappointment considering I was hoping this player would give the M-80 a little more life up top. Oh well can't win them all I guess. On the plus side the bass seemed a little less bloated and the slight bleed into the lower mids seems to have improved a bit. From there I decided to hook up my recently acquired V-MODA M-100 headphone which has a forward sounding bass. The M-100 sounded very nice on the Studio V and I realized the bass although still quite forward sounding (it has 8 db of boosted bass) was now a little more detailed and seemed just a hair quicker on my Studio V when compared to my UHA-4 amp. The M-100 highs seemed well defined and although the Studio V didn't really boost them they did seem very well extended. Overall I would have to say the whole sound signature of the M-100 sounded slightly cleaner on the Studio V. Something interesting I would like to add, maybe it's just my ears but the M-100 has a slight U shape in it's mids and when paired with the Studio V that slight U became even more apparent. Even more interesting is when I hooked up gear which is known for being mid centric at it the mids suddenly seemed to become more prominent then I was used to.

As I started throwing more gear at the Studio V (Grado SR 60i, EX600, Westone 4, K2 sp, e-Q7) I started to realize this damn player had no real coloration of it's own but instead preferred to disappear and let the gear it was hooked up to do it's own thing. Thus far this is sounding like a really great player isn't it? Sonically I have to admit I'm very happy with it. Oh and I almost forgot to mention, battery life is in the double digits as in 50 to 80 hours. I thought it sounded far fetched myself until I got the player. When I got the player I plugged it in and let it charge overnight to guarantee a full charge. In a span of roughly two weeks I was still showing two out of four power bars with roughly 3 to 5 hours a day of use. Two days ago I decided to plug it in again and let it recharge overnight and so far I'm still showing a full charge on the display.
Something else I think is worth mentioning is this players versatility in driving gear. Most of my stuff is known for being efficient. Probably the most demanding I have is the DT1350 which in the big scheme of things isn't really that demanding when compared to other headphones. To try and test this players amp section I shot by a fellow head-fiers home and let him have a listen. This gentleman is known around my city for having a wide selection of headphones one of which being the 600 ohm AKG K240 Sextett. I didn't expect the Studio V to drive this headphone and neither did he and it took maxing out the volume but it did drive it to an acceptable volume level with only some minor control issues in the lower bass. Although I've heard these headphones being driven better by other more powerful gear I was none the less rather impressed how well it was able to drive it.

This player is now really starting to sound like a real winner isn't it? Don't get to excited time to talk about the Studio V's achilles heel, the UI. In short, considering this player retails for a suggested street price of around 500 bones the UI can only be described as completely unacceptable. The good news, even though the UI is flawed it's still stable enough to make the player work for you. Let me try and explain. When you first turn on the player you're greeted with a HiSound logo and from there the player quickly scans your micro SD card. A few seconds later the main music app appears. Now if you hit the music app and navigate any music on it's internal 4GB memory generally you'll be OK. But if you try to navigate your music on your SD card look out boys and girls what you hear will sound like utter crap. What I mean is your music will play but it will clip and pop and if you try navigating around to find other music while there's music playing in the background the music will click pop and cut out with practically every click. I'm not even going to get into the buggy playlists option because no matter what I did I couldn't get it to work.

Thankfully there's a work around for all this silliness. If you completely ignore the music app and navigate to the Resource Manager app after clicking on it you'll then be greeted with 2 options, external memory and internal memory. Click on external memory and navigate your music to your hearts content because the resource manager app unlike the music app works generally not to badly. I did notice the odd little clip or pop once in a blue moon but overall it worked to my satisfaction.  Although I'm quite happy the resource manager works well enough to make the player work for me I still can't help but feel a little put out and bummed that such a pricey DAP's UI is buggy and can't help but wonder what was HiSound thinking when they decided to release a DAP with only half of it's UI running smoothly
Final judgement, this is a very nice sounding player that checks off two of the three must haves for a player to receive full praise from me. Sonically, it's a very nice capable player that will make your gear shine. All the gear I own seemed to synergize quite well with it to the point the player became transparent and I could just forget about it and concentrate on my music and what the headphone/IEM I was using could do. Physically it's form factor is the perfect size for mobile use and it feels rugged and solid in your hand. It feels like it will stand up to the test of time. If HiSound could get a firmware update out in the near future and fix or even maybe completely eliminate the buggy Music app section and playlist section on the UI this player would be a great player. As it is the UI is the only thing that's holding this player back right now and if HiSound decides to not further develop this player with a proper firmware update then they'll only be shooting themselves in the foot. This is a very nice sounding player with a premium price tag attached to it and a buggy UI in this price range is unacceptable to the customer who chooses to invest so much on an MP3 player. As it stands now I would rate this player a 3.5 out of 5 stars which can easily become a 4.75 out of five if the UI issues were addressed.

A little "harsh" on the rating?? I'd give the T51 a 3.5, its user interface is pretty bad, definately give the V a 4 for the combined user interface issues plus there is no dedicated amp out. The V's internal amp can be cut off, but hooking up my uha4 to the ear out didn't sound as good with the internal amp off as leaving it on and using volume control on the V and 4.


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