Note : My set of Hisound Nova 1 has stopped working after 3 months, I can’t really recommended this DAP as the sound quality and reliability is low.
Thanks Mr.Fu from Hisound Audio to send me this review sample of Hisound Nova 1 music player, as you can see Hisound Audio is one of our sponsors but this will alter nothing to the review of Hisound Audio products.
I have been following Hisound Audio music player closely ever since I started my audio review journey but I just have no luck before this with our local distributor. However, today what I will reviewed at here is not something as expensive and high end as the Studio, and is not the same range as the Rocoo, this is a new product range named Nova series, what I have today in hand is the budget entry level Hisound N1 (Nova 1), which is just selling for 149USD, sits parallel with music player such as Ipod Nano (A little bit more expensive) and various music players.
Description and Packaging
N1 has a built in 4GB memory and accept external slot of micro SD Card expansion. For the price I can’t complained anything, 4GB should be good for the price, however it will not be enough if you put in lossless albums as I do, able to slot in micro SD card is very welcomed, and N1 can read the card really fast, so far so good.
One of the points that make N1 a solid choice is because of the built in headphone amp of N1 instead of using Sigmatel chipset like others do.
Packaging is just normal, nothing much to talk about, however I really wished that Hisound Audio can included a pouch or casing for the N1. N1 is quite ‘luxury’ by the look and I think users will like to have a nice pouch to carry them. My review sample came with a PAA-1 ear bud and I have never tested them yet, I paired something better instead, the Living ear bud from Hisound Audio.
Outlook, Interface and Operation
The Nova 1 is different looking if you are familiar with Hisound Audio previous products, it is quite trendy looking although still dull designation, not as ‘lively’ and ‘fashioned’ looking as the competitors, but I doubt will anybody really care? The build quality is solid and tough, somewhat far exceeding what 149USD can proved. I am quite surprised to see and feel this to be so solid, I have handed it to my audiophile friends, they can’t believe this is made in China land, well…
N1 is not using the conventional type of keypad or touch screen as some, instead it is using a ‘touch key’, just touch the ‘key pad’ briefly and softly, you can access the control. Control so far is quite smooth and responsive. I have no problem to control them but I am not a fan of this touch key feature however, I noticed it is really sensitive, if you put it inside your pocket and not locking it, the ‘touch key’ will respond, so leaving the player in ‘unlock’ situation to put into pockets seems impossible. So lock the key and put into pocket? Yes I can but this will eliminated the convenience as well, as I have to unlock it every time I wish to change volume, tracks and so forth.
I do not understand why Hisound rather make a shortcut key of ‘recording’ and ‘A/B’ instead of making an external volume control rocker/button, because for me, volume control is far more important than a Rec button for an audiophile music player. This is my biggest complain on control layout of N1.
However, Hisound is really skillful to make such a small and light device with good audio quality, I thought I will be hating it for every day uses and sports, but in fact, I had no problem at all use N1 when I am carry out sport activities, it is so thin and light weighted.
Screen’s refresh rate is extremely low, you will noticed this when you switching on/off the device and when you are in the music playback interface (The EQ), refresh rate is too slow that I the EQ pictures cannot move fluidly, I hope that we can see devices with better screen refresh rate next time, this is nothing serious because the control and interface is quite smooth, although not perfect (I am not expecting something near to perfect in this price range though), still beyond useable level. Hats up for Hisound Audio though, interface is far exceeding my expectation although with some quirks.
N1 is not a powerful device. No, I don’t say that it is powerless or weak, but I have to crank the volume level to at least 8-15 (Maximum volume is 32), if I use the HAS V1.0 equallizer, it is able to enhance the volume and overall sound quality but not as dark (background) as the Hifi.
So how is the sound quality of Nova 1? First of all, this is not a player that can give you a lot of resolution in music, but it is not dead or detail-less, instead, it is the laid-back sound signature makes people think that it is detail-less.
I will say it has a very laid-back (slow), relaxed (As opposed to aggressive sounding) and smooth sound signature. This is not a good or bad thing, it is just you like it or not. Along with the laid-back and smooth sound signature, N1 also has good sense of clarity and musicality. Some warmth in the music reproduction is not a bad thing, because of the warmth nature, 224kbps mp3 format and bad recording music never show their flaws.
How are the three frequencies ranges sounded? It is a little bit leaned to midrange than treble and bass. The smooth sound reminded me a lot of JDS Labs CmoyBB V2.03, I am not saying that they sounded a like, but the smooth sound signature which I don’t often get in most of audio equipment that I have reviewed, became relevant in the N1. I am easily fall asleep when I lay down and listened to the N1 with Klipsch X7i. I have tried to have a listening impression with N1 while I am laying down, and for three times I have failed and slept on the bed (Also there is once on a chair). The relaxing sound signature can really let you relaxed, in opposed, sound is not exciting and aggressive, if this is the sound signature that you have ever wanted, go to it.
Instead of dry sounding such as Hippo Biscuit, I appreciated N1 to be liquefy in the sound signature, which sometimes I will describe it as ‘sweet’. However, for those who are sensitive to laid-back sound, will think that it is ‘sluggish’, this is why I stated at the first that it is whether you like or not like about the laid-back sound signature. For casual listen, N1 is good enough and is really good in the price range, I heard that N3 is a totally different tuning music player, so laid-back/relaxed sound signature is not your thing, look at the N3 instead.
There is no sound signature that can fits everybody preference, for those who like laid-back sound signature, owning an good IEM, I honestly do think N1 is a good music player, for just 149USD you can get an high sound quality music player instead of the consumer products. Control layout is thumbs up for N1, as it is simple and straight-forward, if you are looking at an affordable music player in the market, make the N1 in your list.