HiSound Studio V, 3rd Anniversary Edition | Great Sound, Terrible UI

Editor’s Note: TheDigitalFreak takes us through a very detailed, personal look at his HiSound Studio V, 3rd Anniversary Edition; he covers just about all the bases!

The HiSound Studio V, 3rd Anniversary Edition, paired with the AKG Q701

For the longest time, my DAPs of choice, like most people’s, were the UI kings — an Apple iPod Touch 3rd Gen and a 160 GB 7th Gen iPod Classic. Yet, as much as I liked my iPods and their ease of use, I found their sound quality lacking, and kept gravitating toward using a entire portable amp and DAC stack, while merely using my iPods solely as music transports. The results were very good, but lugging a three-piece brick around was tiring. So, in order to satisfy my need for a better-sounding on-the-go music experience, I decided to take a bit of a chance and give the “boutique audiophile” market a shot.

After a little nosing around on head-fi and some discussion with a trusted friend, lee730, I took the plunge and purchased the HiSound Studio V 3rd Anniversary Edition. I was lucky enough to hear about HiSound running a half price promotion in exchange for an honest review and feedback about their player on head-fi. I was a little unsure about this purchase due to certain negative rumblings I had read on various audio boards: buggy UI, loud hiss, limited file support, player freeze-ups, and long MicroSD Card read times. The player is also rather pricey — a little too pricey in my opinion, but I decided to take a chance and purchase it anyways. The vast majority of people, both fans and detractors alike, seemed to agree that this player, even with all its shortcomings, still sounded very nice. So, I placed the order.

Unfortunately, the Studio V (and to the best of my knowledge, all of HiSound’s other players) does not support Apple Lossless (ALAC). So, while waiting for it to ship, I bought a couple of 32 and 64GB MicroSD Cards and got busy transcoding my audio collection from ALAC to FLAC. Considering around three quarters of my music is either ALAC or AIFF, there was quite a bit of work ahead of me to get my library properly re-encoded and reorganized for this little player. Anyone out there reading this article that is contemplating an escape from Apple’s walled garden should keep that in mind when considering this DAP as an iPod alternative.

Roughly a week or so later, a package from China arrives on my doorstep with my new player. Inside a beat-up shipping box is a leather display box, my player and its accessories, safely stored within. By nature, I’m a pretty simple guy. For me, it’s not about presentation and fancy packaging, but more about getting to the heart of the matter and looking at how the product actually performs. Even so, I still have to admit the presentation was well-done.

The first thing that struck me about the Studio V was how incredibly tiny it was and how perfectly-sized it felt in my hand; it’s slightly larger then a box of matches and in my opinion the perfect size for mobile use. The next thing I noticed was how solid it felt in my hand. The whole thing was brushed aluminum, right down to the buttons — no cheap plastic on this player. On the back of the player is a glassy, black presentation with the HiSound logo, the model number, generation, and the words “Class A Inside”. Overall, I think it’s a very nice, minimalist-looking DAP with an old school edge. Currently, I’m very happy with this player’s physical form factor. In my opinion, there’s really nothing to change, with the exception of the smallish screen, which can use a size upgrade.

The Studio V is of a great size and solidly-built.

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