Review Price £279.99
Like most Far East-derived MP3 players more dedicated to their sound chips than software, the Hisoundaudio Studio-V's interface is ropey. It's controlled completely using the five buttons on the player's front, which act as a D-pad and select button.
The basics of the system are familiar enough, letting you browse through your library using ID3 tags, by album name, artist, genre or year. However, navigation is peppered with idiosyncrasies that mark it out as a less-than-stellar system. It's the same effect we saw in the similarly audio-focused Cowon X7.
Presses on the select button either take you back to a previous menu, select or shut the player off completely, dependent on context and length of press. And it's all-too easy to get them mixed-up - just one example of the many quirks you'll have to get used to here. As stuck in the past as the interface can feel at times, reminding in particular of iRiver's rather excellent 2004 H140 player, the screen is remarkably clear considering its teensy 1.1in size. It's down to the OLED tech used in the display.
OLED doesn't use a traditional backlight, instead each pixel is individually illuminated. This gives near-unbeatable contrast and makes the monochrome display here look pin-sharp. That small size is always going to make browsing through a large music library something of a chore though, especially as the interface hasn't been sufficiently tailored for big collections. Using FLAC, the 4GB edition will be full up after around 20 albums, but that figure will be significantly higher using 320kbps VBR MP3s, or with a microSD equipped. Blind tests suggest that very few can tell the difference between the two formats. Still, ever with the "audiophile" in mind, the Studio-V can play lossless FLAC files, alongside WAV, WMA and MP3.
It does little else besides. There's no radio, no mic for audio recording and - thank god, given the screen size - no attempt to include video playback or games. This really is a device for those who sneer at 256kbps bit-rates and drool over headphone amps. However, this pure, stripped-back approach won't mean anything if the Hisoundaudio Studio-V can't come up with the musical goods. So let's see how it fares.