Review: Hisound NOVA N3

Hisound NOVA N3 Review:

I would like to thank Jack at Hisound for sending me this sample for review, I will write as honest a review possible. This has received over 50hrs burn-in and has been used for a while before reviewing. I do not believe in burn-in on DAP’s and amps/DAC’s.
This is my first DAP review!

Gear Used:
N3 > Alclair Reference Monitors / Sunrise Audio Dragon2 / Dunu DN-22M
(compared to iPod Classic 7G headphone out)

Packaging, accessories, build quality and design:
Packaging is a simple matte black box, with gold trim and text. A picture of the N3 on the front with included earphones, and information about the player on the back. The box is simple and effective with the contrast between black and gold. Inside this you pull out another black box, with a felt covered foam bit on top, held in the felt covered foam is the N3 very neatly presented also protected in a thin plastic bag. Inside the black box you will find a standard USB cable for charging and connecting it to your computer, and 3 pairs of earphones: PAA-1, Tabour and Wooduo2, the packaging is neat and effective, easy to get open and well presented.

Accessories are stated above, USB cable, and 3 pairs of earphones: PAA-1, Tabour and Wooduo2, the things that are missing is a carry pouch, and also tips for the IEM’s Tabour and Wooduo2 as they only come with M single flange tips installed, no mains charger is included either. Also included is an instruction manual.

Build quality is on the whole good, the main body is gold aluminium, the buttons on the side are plastic and feel a little cheap, and the touchpad on the front is of good quality and should last well with everyday use, the headphone jack is nice and tight, SD card slot is fine and so if the USB port.

Design wise it is ok, not great as there is a record button on the side which people will rarely use and could have been used for playback controls as there are no playback control buttons , you have to use the touch pad. The on/off/hold slide switch is fine, but when it is on hold, you have to unlock/lock/unlock again to be able to use the touchpad (this may be fixed with later firmware) and also I have a battery problem where the battery drains even when power is off (firmware or hardware I do not know). I like the form factor, slim and easy to carry around, I just wish they didn’t put the record button on the side, as the touchpad design is great and easy to use.

UI and connectivity:
The UI still needs work (hopefully it will get better with firmware releases), it is easy to use and intuitive and the basics are there, just for some things you have to go round in circles. I do like the basic UI and it works fine when you get used to it.
Connectivity is super easy, plug it in, drivers automatically install and it works like a normal external drive, you just drag and drop files, easy as that.

So, so far it’s easy to use and quite intuitive and well built, but the firmware is a bit buggy, you can’t play files from the internal and external memory together, the first second of FLAC files is cut off and it really needs more volume steps, 32 is too low/quiet at max and also with sensitive iem’s volume 1 (minimum) is still too loud.

Well here is the most important part, and the best, you can forget all the downfalls because the sound is great, I didn’t use EQ for reviewing purposes.

I won’t separate it between lows, mids and highs I’ll write it as a whole. Very tight quick lows, mids are airy and detailed with well extended highs. It’s actually very hard to explain the sound at it is essentially neutral, compared to the iPod Classic 7G it is very detailed and airy and makes the iPod Classic sound a bit warm and congested. On full volume there is no clipping, hiss is a slight problem when there are quiet passages which can be a bit annoying but when music is playing you don’t notice it.
The EQ settings are really good, you have a nice section and my favourites are Wooduo and Hi-Fi, but I generally don’t use EQ. The EQ does usually make the highs more sparkly and also brings out the bass. There is also only 1 user EQ setting which you can tweak to your liking.

I’m sorry I couldn’t find much to say, the sound quality is really excellent but the firmware leaves a bit to be desired. I think if they put that sound quality into a less mainstream design with better functionality it would be great, I’m glad that hiss is not a big problem as that is usually a bad thing about Hisound DAP’s. I really like the sound, and the form factor is also quite nice, it definitely beats the iPod Classic sound wise, but the iPod offers more storage and you can get one for around the same price.
If rockbox was available for this DAP, it would be excellent, and as is it is still a great sounding DAP.

So, what do we conclude: great sound but buggy firmware! (AND NO ALAC SUPPORT!)

Thank you for reading this review, and feel free to comment, sorry there’s not much more.