HiSound AMP3 Pro2 DAP/headphone amp - what to expect and warnings
TMA was going to do a review of HiSound's AMP3 Pro 2 back in November.
HiSound are a new 'audiophile' company who have put out a whopping 4 players in about half a year, though two are still in beta. Each are labelled 'audiophile' or 'professional' and each fall very far from those lofty heights, but I'll explain that later.
I've used the Pro 2 and Rocoo and am awaiting a mate at Headfi to send me the Studio for evaluation. The Pro 2 model is a basic aluminium brick (I actually like the aesthetics) with a small screen, iPod-like control button, and a line in and out port.
I won't really get into 'sound quality' here simply because it is a contentious issue and one I'd rather not get into. So instead, I'll discuss its sound quality as it is as a measure of both performance and expectations by the market. HiSound set out to make the best MP3 player in the world and what they made instead was a beta machine and charged users 160$. Inside, it harbours 4GB memory and with the use of Micro SD cards, it can expand another 8GB, though getting the units to read these cards is pretty rough.
I gave the unit the benefit of the doubt and kept my email free from work for the first 48 hours. You see, the AMP3 Pro is supposed to get 100 hours of battery life. The unit I was to review got no more than 48 and hasn't ever gone beyond that. That aside, its shelf life is bad: leaving it in the off position for a few days drains the battery completely - no worka ata alla.
So, it could be a defect. A 2nd unit had the same problem. Right, so maybe it is a marketing claim based on a lucky unit. Whatever the case is, people have been buying these players for 160$ and getting only half what they expect, though some say they get close to 100 hours.
But it's about the audio, right?
Next, 'audiophile' must mean something different to me than it does to HiSound who swear they've been in the audio business for 10 years, in fact, I've had that phrase repeated over and over to me so many times that my suspicious side reckons they were trying to hypnotise me into believing it. The AMP3 Pro 2 sits on a Class A circuit which essentially just keeps the amp in the ON position the entire time. Who knows what actually goes on under the bonnet though, I'm experiencing shaky faith here.
This badboy hisses more than any portable digital audio player I've used. And I was just going to use it as an amp; the price is good and the thing doubles as a DAP, why not?! I've used my entire arsenal of inner earphones (iems) and headphones with the AMP3 Pro 2 and found several very inconsistent reports. Aside from hiss, there is noticeable bass roll off with low Ω earphones/headphones, quite massive distortion, and channel narrowing which would please Cowon.
The AMP3 comes with a pair of decent earbuds, but even they hiss. Inline, they have an attenuator which slid way up, reduces hiss and helps the AMP3 achieve a mediocum of actual resolutioni. Without implementing the attenuator, however, there is noticeable hiss and bass roll off - and this from a player which is labelled 'audiophile' and 'professional'.
I've a nice pic of it next to my other players in the LemmingS article, but dear me, I get sick thinking of it. So, the included earbuds hiss and roll off in the bass. What else can go wrong? If you are using earphones, nearly everything. There is no EQ unit to combat any of this tragic performance, but you do get a radio and the strangest of navigation systems ever. The post following this will show the AMP3 Pro's pretty horrid Right Mark Audio Analyzer (RMAA) scores.
Moving up to real headphones and the unit sounds quite good. It is both loud and hiss free with my DT880 600Ω and nearly hiss free on my DJ1Pro. And, thankfully, there is very little bass roll off on either one. But when I listen to either headphone, I'm at my desk and generally use a dedicated headphone amp and a DAC with iTunes, so the AMP3 occupies a perilous (and useless) ground.
I cannot justify buying this player - not yet, and not to anyone. It is too expensive for its performance level and for its atrocious lack of user friendliness. The Rocoo is supposedly made to address all the issues. But, it is worse: the channels are mixed up so that Left is right and Right is left. You will hear new things from the Rocoo if you hadn't already: sound is backwards. Oh yes, and the EQ on the Rocoo is the same thing, adding to the bass actually takes away from it and visa versa. It is also harder to use and with some earphones, is too loud from the headphone output.
Any final words?
All in all, I am not impressed, and no one should be.
If you like the sound of the unit, you shouldn't have to put up with freezing, crashing, poor firmware, lack of gapless... and the list grows. So, the unit does feature a line in and 'amp', but what 'amp' hisses as much as this one does and what 'amp' so decidedly cannot actually drive headphones?
I've approached HiSound many times asking them to fix these issues and even to open the device for third-party firmware support from Rockbox. I doubt that will happen and even if it did, how can Rockbox help the hardware flaws? They cannot.
The reason this unit got popular is that the audiophile community is as expectant for a 2nd coming as anyone. They want a perfect device. The iDevice plays music well, but not perfectly. But this device with all its problems isn't even good enough sounding to warrant its price. Marketing always wins in the end and HiSound market this unit as true audiophile. NO one, however, asked them what their definition of it is...
HiSound: develop a real player. Spend a year doing it. Don't release beta hardware and software for sale. It is unfair and will only ruin you in the end as your name is NOT associated with quality, either sound or build.
MP4Nation also have an interesting article about HiSound's Studio model which was sent them for evaluation in hopes they would sell it at their store. Conclusion: ain't gonna happen.