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Hippo Gumstick




The Hippo Gumstick is a reworked Hisoundaudio Rocoo / Cube C30, same housing is used but the internals differ.

Specs:
Class A amp
Dimensions: approx 75x27x10 mm
Weight: 45 gram
Screen: 1 inch OLED b/w, 2-3 lines of text
Price: $99

Features:
Audio codec: MP3, WMA, AAC, APE, FLAC
4GB internal memory and micro SDHC expansion slot
FM radio
5 band EQ (normal, rock, jazz, classical, pop, bass, user +/- 12dB on 80, 250, 1K, 4K and 12K Hz)
4 playback modes (normal, repeat one, repeat all, random)
Multi-tasking
Voice and radio recorder
Text and lyrics reader
File browser
MSC, drag and drop

Included accessories:
USB Cable
Manual



Build quality and hardware:
The Gumstick is made of high quality plastic and what seems to be a metal frame, it feels very well put together. The screen is built in behind of the face of the player which makes it look very exclusive, and it works very well too. On the face of the Gumstick there is a rocker pad, with prev/next track and +/- volume as well as scrolling the menus. To the right of the rocker pad there are two discreet rocker buttons, menu/select and play/pause combined on/off. At the top of the player there you will find a microphone and a rocker button for recording and A-B repeat. On the right side, there is the mini USB port and headphone out, at the bottom is the on/off slider button and a reset hole, and on the left hand side is a micro SDHC slot.
The nice looking UI is quick and easy in use.



Audio:
To test the audio qualities of the Gumstick I have used a wide array of IEM’s (ATH CK10 UM2, UM-3X, Hippo VB, Hippo Shroom, FA Eterna) on ears Koss Portapro, Jays v-Jays, and Philips SBC HP1000 full sized cans..
One thing that becomes apparent straight away is the silence, the Gumstick doesn’t seem to hiss or produce any other static noises.
The Gumstick incorporates a Class A amp, in other words it packs an incredible power for such a small device, it can easily drive more demanding phones as well. The sound signature is natural/neutral, with a deep “quality over quantity” bass, lively and detailed mids and clear highs. The detail in sound is excellent, better than Cowon D2 and Sansa Clip, same goes for the soundstage and the imaging.
As I have found the Gumstick sounds especially good with warmer sounding IEM’s, Klipsch S4, Hippo VB, FA Eterna are very good matches.
There are EQ options for those who wish to use them, but to be honest, the Gumstick sounds so good that most users should not need to tinker with any settings.



Other:
There is also a FM radio, text/lyrics viewer and a voice recorder built in. These work as they are meant to, and may come in very handy for some users.

Conclusion:
The Hippo Gumstick offers a great sound quality and great design. Highly recommended.


HiSound


Rocoo A



This review is made with beta hardware and firmware.

Specs:
Class A amp
Dimensions: approx 75x27x10 mm
Weight: 45 gram
Memory: 4 GB
Screen: 1 inch OLED b/w, two lines of text
Price: $99

Features:
Audio codec: MP3, WMA, WAV, APE, FLAC , OGG
Micro SDHC expansion slot
5 band EQ with 7 presets and 1 custom mode
2 DSP modes Microsoft FX (3D and bass)
9 playback modes (order/shuffle, song once/repeat, folder once/repeat, all once/repeat, preview)
Multi-tasking
Voice recorder
Upgradeable firmware
Text and lyrics reader
File browser
External hard drive, drag and drop

Included accessories:
USB Cable
High quality IEM’s



Build quality and hardware:
The Rocoo is made of high quality plastic and what seems to be a metal frame, it feels very well put together. The screen is built in behind of the face of the player which makes it look very exclusive, and it works very well too. On the face of the Rocoo there is a rocker pad, with prev/next track and +/- volume as well as scrolling the menus. To the right of the rocker pad there are two discreet rocker buttons, menu/select and play/pause combined on/off. At the top of the player there you will find a microphone and a rocker button for recording and A-B repeat. On the right side, there is the mini USB port and headphone out, at the bottom is the on/off slider button and a reset hole, and on the left hand side is a micro SDHC slot. On the top left of the face, there is a blue blinking led, that indicates the player is on. A little trick to turn the player on/off, put the bottom slider to on or off and press lower discreet rocker, play/pause for 2 seconds.

Audio:
The included earphones are much better than the bundled ones on your average player, the difference is like night and day. But to really test the audio qualities of the Rocoo I have used a wide array of IEM’s (ATH ck10, Senn IE8, Hippo Shroom, FA Eterna, to name a few) and a full sized can (Philips SBC HP1000) as well. First off I can note that there was a very slight hiss from the beginning, but it seems to have vanished after a few hours of use.
The Rocoo sports a Class A amp, with an incredible power for such a small device, it can easily drive the rather large and demanding HP1000’s. The sound signature is natural/neutral, bass is deep and plentiful, without being too bassy or overpowering and what I can hear it does not suffer from any roll-off. Mids are lively and detailed, I can hear details in music that I could not hear with my Cowon D2 or Sansa Clip. Highs are clear and sparkly, without sounding harsh in any way, and again without noticeable roll-off. The soundstage is wider than both the D2 and Clip, and what more is that it is very nicely layered and instrument separation is excellent.
As I have found the Rocoo sounds especially good with warmer sounding IEM’s, Klipsch S4, Hippo Shroom, FA Eterna and Sennheiser IE8 are very good in pair with this little power house. It should also be noted that the supplied IEM’s sound very good.
There are EQ and DSP options for those who wish to use them, but to be honest, the Rocoo sounds so good that most users should not need to tinker with any settings.



Extras:
There is a text/lyrics viewer and a voice recorder built in, which can come handy at times.



Conclusion:
The Hisoundaudio Rocoo A offers good sound quality and great design. With the included IEM’s and for the price of $99, I cannot think of another player with such a great sound out of the box.
Recommended, after a recent firmware update.




Studio-V





Specs:
Class A amp
Dimensions: 80x50x21mm
Weight: 148gram
Screen: monochrome, 3 lines of text
Battery life: 100h music
Capacity: 8GB
Colour: black
Price: $450-500

Included accessories:
USB Cable
Wall charger
Earphones
Quick manual


Build quality and hardware:
Simply put, the Studio-V is built like nothing else I have seen, excellent materials and first class build quality! It is made of metal and I am sure it would come out as the winner in a smash-up fight with a brick. Great work HiSound.



Below the screen you have five buttons that acts as playback control (prev/next and rew/ff) and volume control, as well as menu buttons (up/down and left/right) and in the middle the play/pause and enter button.
On top of the Studio-V you will find the headphone out, which also acts as line out, line in and reset hole, on the bottom of it you have the micro SD(HC) slot, mini USB connector and two led lights.





Menus and overall usage:
The menu is easy to use, even if it’s not always that logical or intuitive. There is a bare minimum of settings to be found, no EQ or DSP options (apart from being able to change sound character through firmware), but there are settings for line in and line out. It is very apparent that the Studio –V aimes solely on delivering great sound without any fancy gimmicks.
The Studio-V uses MSC mode, which means that Windows sees it as a mass storage device with drag and drop support.



Audio:
The Studio-V can play mp3, flac, wma and wav files. Unfortunately there is no gapless playback.

There are two things that separate the Studio-V from other players, three if you count the tank like build quality.
The first thing is the built in class A amplifier, which gives a very clean and powerful signal.
The second thing is the possibility to change the sound character with firmware. There are two different firmware versions stored on the player, one for armature earphones and one for dynamic ones. The armature firmware has a warmer sound character, while the dynamic one has a more analytical one, to suit the sound characteristics of the earphones.

As I always do, I plugged in some high end earphones and hit play. Wow!
The Studio-V is the cleanest sounding player I have heard, with its neutral, nearly linear frequency response (with the dynamic firmware), and a very clear and detailed sound throughout. This is how a player should sound, not adding or leaving anything out, just a pure and unmodified signal.

With the armature firmware things change for the warmer. The low end gets thicker sounding and there is a slight loss in micro detail in mids and upper end, not much but still noticeable with high end earphones.

My favourite is the dynamic firmware, and with this the Studio-V is the best sounding player I have heard.
You can search the music library either by folders or by ID3 tags, nothing fancy or flashy, there is no album art for example, but all that is forgiven and forgotten once you hear the glorious sound it is capable of producing.
The Studio-V simply offers the best audio experience available today, at least in a pocket friendly size.


Extras:
Line in and line out, for expansion and adding amps etc. The Studio-V can be used as an amplifier for a secondary source, and it can also be used as a secondary source for an external amplifier.


Conclusion:
No gapless playback, but on the other hand the best sounding player I have heard, and as an added bonus it can play non-stop for the better part of a week. Highly recommended.