Hisoundaudio AMP3 Pro. 2Dec 30th, 2009 | By David
Hisoundaudio AMP3 Pro. 2
: 12/30/09 – 01:59:33 AM
: MP3 Players
Page 1 : Index
: $159 @ Whiplash Audio
Hisoundaudio is a new company that just emerged from Shen Zhen, China back in 2008, releasing the AMP3 as their flagship product. With other products in development, they also decided to redesign the AMP3 to improve on the previous bugs. Thus they came out with the AMP3 pro. 2 in October 2009 to provide FLAC support, 16 GB microSD capability, as well as other fixes.
With very little demand for a hi-fidelity music player, Hisoundaudio still managed to put the AMP3 into mass production. The AMP3 has a built in dedicated amplifier section as well as a simple design to minimize interference. It is obvious that this product was directed towards audiophiles and those who want the highest sound quality possible for portable listening. The CEO and chief engineer are acclaimed to be professionals in the audio industry with a passion for music. With such high praise in their product, I was very excited to review the AMP3.
Page 2 : Package and Contents
The AMP3 is packaged in a small black box.
The back of the box gives more details on the specifications and features of the AMP3, as well as details about the company.
The AMP3 is neatly packed inside a hard foam guard for protection.
Included with the package are the AMP3 player, USB cable, PAA-1 earphones, and wall charger.
Now that we have opened up the package, let's take a step back and look at the specifications.
Page 3 : Specifications and Features
The full manual can be downloaded from the Hisoundaudio website.
Earphone amplifier grade: Grade A (class A) circuit design.
Bundled earphone: PAA-1 high fidelity earbud
Frequency Response: 26Hz-23kHz (earphone)
Sensitivity (dB): 98dB (earphone)
Impedance: 32 ohm earphone (earphone)
Power-Handling: 100mW peak / 30mW rated (earphone)
Memory capacity: 4 GB
Card Compatibility: microSDHC
Maximum compatible capacity of the Memory cards: 16 GB
Battery continually playing time: > 100hours (volume set at 8 degree)
Compatible formats: MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC
Screen: 1 inch OLED
Color available: Brushed Silver and black
USB type: mini USB 2.0
Dimension: 74.5 L X 40 W X 20 H (MM)
Price: $159 MSRP
With a class A amplifier built in and 'high fidelity' earbuds and FM tuner, I am curious as to the real sound quality of the AMP3. Although sound quality is very subjective, there are technical areas that can be compared and noticed such as treble, bass, soundstage, etc. to help describe sound. This will be further explored in the sound quality section of this review. At $159 and 4 GB, the price is very attractive compared to other players on the market.
Now that we have had a taste of the AMP3 on paper, let's take a look at the real thing.
Page 4 : Design and Layout
The design of the AMP3 takes us back in time, with a thick aluminum frame, small screen, and buttons that resembles the 1st. generation Apple's Shuffle. The case is made out of a brushed aluminum, which feels solid and very resistant to scratches.
On the bottom of the player, there are two LEDs, a USB port, and a microSD card slot.
At the top of the player are a headphone jack, line in jack, and a reset switch.
Here you can see a size comparison between the AMP3 and a credit card. It is only slightly smaller, and has the thickness of about a quarter.
The included earphones were designed in-house by Hisoundaudio, and are labeled as the PAA-1. They have a J-cord design (one side shorter than the other) with an inline volume control.
Now that the AMP3 has been thoroughly examined, let's move onto the installation.
Page 5 : Installation
The AMP3 is a Plug and Play USB device, and can be used to transfer files to the internal storage as well as the microSD card. The AMP3 is also charged through the USB connection.
This makes the AMP3 one of the simplest audio players on the market in terms of transferring files as Windows recognizes the player as just a storage device.
Now that the AMP3 is setup, let's take a look at the interface.
Page 6 : Interface
Since the interface of the AMP3 is hard to explain with pictures, a video walk-through was prepared to fully explain the AMP3's interface.
Now that the AMP3 has been fully examined, let's give it an evaluation.
Page 7 : Ergonomics
After using the AMP3 as my main portable music player for a few months, I am very familiar with the interface. It was obvious that the user interface of the AMP3 is a step back in terms of the available technology available today. Turning on the player after loading new music takes a long time. Upwards of 5 minutes was common and this wait takes even longer if a microSD card is used. However, after the first bootup with new music, the AMP3 turns on in about 10 seconds.
One of the biggest problems with the interface was just playing music. At the 'Now Playing' screen, you have to hold the Play button to go to the menu to select music. However, doing this always goes back to the 'Resource Manager' page, regardless of how you accessed the music in the first place. It would be nice if it could do a 'one up' function where it brings you back to the folder/album page that you were on before. This forces the user to make more button presses than needed. The 'Now Playing' screen only displays the file name of the song, instead of the usual 'Title/Artist' that most other media players display.
Playing FLAC was also a problem. On internal storage, it works and plays perfectly fine, but with only 4GB available, someone who wishes to use FLAC would turn to larger external microSD cards. However, FLAC files frequently skips and lags on external storage. There are no problems with playing standard .mp3 files on external storage.
The battery life of the AMP3 is the most impressive feature. In a controlled test and playing an album of 12 .mp3 tracks at 192 kbps on repeat, the AMP3 lasted a little over 90 hours. That's almost 4 days straight! This proved to be very convenient because the AMP3 only needed to be charged up once a week for light to medium use.
The portable amplifier section of the AMP3 was also a feature. It can take a line-level signal from a variety of sources such as DAC's and CD players and amplify it to suit headphones. However, it is not very strong, and inefficient headphones turn out to be quiet. However, with low-sensitivity headphones such as the Koss Portapro or any of the Audio-Technica headphone line up, the AMP3 can power them to uncomfortably loud listening levels. Being one of the first media players that have this function, it is great for people who need a portable amplifier and also want a built-in music player all in one package.
Now that we have finished looking at the music player from a functionality perspective, let's put on some headphones and have a listen.
Page 8 : Sound Quality
This review is based on the 5.42 firmware. The AMP3 and PAA-1 earphones have been burned in for over 600 hours, and are tested with 320 kbps mp3 files ripped with LAME 3.98r. Some of the music used to listen were various male and female RnB artists, jazz vocalists, classical, big band, and electronica.
Music player comparisons
The first test was a comparison between the AMP3, Gateway M-6864 Laptop headphone out, and Samsung P2. Headphones used were the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 Studio Monitor.
Treble, midrange, and bass
The AMP3 had a very crisp and forward treble with a slight sparkle. High hats and cymbals sounded very forward and clear and got slightly fatiguing after long listening. The laptop had a much more recessed treble and sounded laid back. This gives for a more relaxed listening that was not as fatiguing. The P2 sounded forward without the sparkle, due to the slight echo effect.
The AMP3 had a more laid back midrange compared to the laptop, with vocals sounding more veiled than clear with the laptop. I preferred the laptop in this context, as I prefer my vocals to be more forward. The midrange on the P2 was even more laid back than the AMP3, but not enough to feel as though the vocalists were very far away. In terms of midrange, the laptop definitely wins.
The bass on the AMP3 was very clean and tight. However, the laptop's bass sounded the cleanest, with the AMP3 being slightly muddier, and the P2 being the muddiest. The bass on the P2 was also slightly recessed compared to the other two, and would probably need the equalizer to even it out.
Soundstage, imaging, and instrument separation
The AMP3 has the smallest soundstage of the three, but the difference is very minimal. The P2 appeared to have the most open soundstage due to its echo effect which made instruments and vocals sound airy and open.
In terms of imaging, the laptop had the largest horizontal imaging, which makes for a very immersive experience for the listener. The AMP3 and the P2 both had less horizontal imaging, but the P2 had very good depth perception due to the echo. However, it sometimes affects the listening quality as it tends add echo where the sound was supposed to be crisp, making the P2 not ideal for listeners who want an accurate representation of music.
The AMP3 shines when it comes to music details and instrument separation. When listening to various classical recordings, I heard details that I never noticed before, and could easily tell where each instrument was. Listening on the laptop or the P2 could not replicate this, the instruments sounded more mashed up and it was hard to discern an oboe from a flute in complex passages, but with the AMP3, the difference was very noticeable.
The second test was a comparison between the PAA-1 included earphones, Samsung stock earphones, and Apple iPod stock earphones using the AMP3.
Treble, midrange, and bass
The PAA-1 was very forward and bright in terms of midrange and highs, with the music sounding like it was right in front of you. The Samsung and Apple were still forward sounding, but not as much as the PAA-1. The Samsung buds seemed to have recessed highs and mids. The PAA-1 had a very clean bass range with enough punch without sounding too muddy or boomy. There is a slight bass rolloff, but this is expected with a small open earbud design. The Samsung buds were very over-emphasized in terms of bass, which sounded slightly distorted and muddy. This overwhelms the low-midrange and shrouds vocals, making for a very fun listening experience but I prefer a clearer midrange so I can hear vocals better. The Apple buds had a nice controlled and punchy bass, but not as clean as the PAA-1 or as strong as the Samsung buds. The Apple buds seemed to have the most bass and treble rolloff compared to the rest.
Soundstage, imaging, and instrument separation
The PAA-1 has the largest soundstage compared to the others. It seems as though Hisoundaudio designed the PAA-1 to complement the already detailed sounding AMP3 to bring out a good listening experience. In terms of imaging, all of the earphones lose to more expensive earphones and in-ear monitors, as they are very simple earphones designed for casual listening. In terms of instrument separation and detail, the PAA-1 comes out on top to bring a very immersive listening experience compared to the Samsung or Apple buds. The PAA-1 earphones are definitely not just stock earphones that need immediately need replacement with something better, the AMP3 customer will be pleased with the performance of the PAA-1.
FM Radio Tuner
Using the AMP3 as an FM radio tuner really impressed me. The sound is crystal clear with very little noise and interference. With the radio stations in Toronto, and I can listen to pop and jazz radio stations with very high clarity. This is definitely one of the best FM tuners I have ever heard, with sound that is just amazing.
Page 9 : Conclusion
With little demand for an audiophile portable music player, Hisoundaudio still introduced the AMP3. Being a combination of a portable music player as well as portable headphone amplifier, the AMP3 is a very attractive product to audiophiles on the move. There is only one other product that would compete with the AMP3, which is the HiFiMAN HM-801 costing over four times as much.
- Low price
- Resistant to scratching, aluminum body
- Very long battery life
- Great sound quality
- Valuable stock earphones
- Excellent FM tuner
- Doubles as a portable amplifier
- Interface problems
I would like to thank Hisoundaudio for making this review possible.