As the HiSound Audio Studio V and Roocoo Digital audio players performed well when we tested them, I was expecting pretty good things from the Nova 1, despite it being at the cheaper end of the range retailing at around 150 US$
The promo blurb has it pegged as a ‘3 in 1 design player’, decoder, amplifier and headphones.
All I want it to do is play music to me and be simple to use when I’m out and about.
The first thing that struck me was the packaging, it was pretty cheap and flimsy an a bargain basement kind of a way, not a great first impression after seeing how the Studio V came packaged, (it looked like it was off to a gentleman’s smoking club) however it may well be the prototype packaging which is forgivable.
The second problem became apparent when I pulled out the instructions…everything was in Chinese. ‘That’s OK, I can just switch it on and work it out!’ I’m a pretty practical gal but admittedly I don’t speak a word of Chinese and had to admit defeat after I realised I had no idea whether I was going to play an MP3 or order the set meal for 2.
Thankfully hisound were able to send over English language instructions and explain how to switch the device into a language I understood.
How it looks
The player itself, like its big brothers, is very classy looking. I like the elongated design which sits nicely in your hand and I like the gunmetal grey coloured case with black and a bit of silver that isn’t going to look like some tatty offering from a pound shop after it has lived in your pocket/bottom of your bag for a few weeks. It has a nice weight to it too, not heavy but you know it’s there. Being from the generation where the height of sophistication was a Sony Walkman the size of a house brick, the little Nova 1 was already impressing me with its size and looks.
I’m sorry to say that the PAA-1pro earbuds that came with the player didn’t even get a look in. I am really not a fan of in ear monitors as I find them to be deeply uncomfortable and generally make my ears feel like they have been broddled with a screwdriver after a few minutes of wear. I can’t comment on how they sounded but I am happy to say that the alternative PAA 1 were a joy to use. Their shape was comfortable and my ears remained happily ‘un-broddled’ despite extended listening.
I didn’t like that when you plug the player into a pc via USB you just get a picture showing a USB cable and can’t operate the player, so you can’t charge and play at the same time. However that was a minor niggle so I loaded up some FLACs (you can whack music onto the player or via mini SD cards whichever you prefer) and took the Nova 1 out for a brisk walk.
The menu is pretty easy to understand and it doesn’t take long to get to things working, it is pretty intuitive, not really ‘touch screen’ in an ipod touch sense of the phrase, but you operate it by touching the led buttons below the display.
The radio is also a nice feature, well it would be for anyone living somewhere other than rural France where the only radio option is the local station dishing out a steady diet of 80s pop!
However I tried the radio out when in a more civilized area and it picked up stations with good clarity and was actually something I would use again.
There is also a digital recorder and I believe it plays video, though the screen is so small I’m not sure what you would attempt to watch on it!
The sound quality is great, you have different pre-programmed sound options for different types of music, though I stuck with the HSA V1.0 option as it gave a full sound with good definition and a strong bass.
Testing it against an ipod touch the overall impression was of a better quality of sound, you really hear everything clearly with no distortion at louder volumes that I seemed to get on the ipod. The Nova also sounded much more 3D, like you were sat listening to a good hifi with speakers rather than having the sound plugged directly into your ears, to the point that when walking outside you find yourself looking behind you when you hear something in the music that you haven’t heard before!
It does what it says on the tin, plays music at hifi quality, it is a nice simple design and while not as overtly flashy as something like an ipod, it is a lot cheaper and it sounds better.
I also found the battery life to be excellent, only finally packing up on me after a long journey to Munich and back via Paris on the train, which will have been over the stated 23 hours of battery playing time.
Would I go out and buy one? Yes, because I like my gadgets to do one job and do it well. I like a phone that makes phone calls and a music player that plays music; I don’t need to play games on it involving quite irate birds either.
Author – Linette