Hidizs AP200 Realview

Intro

“Experience Music like never before”, Hidizs’s marketing slogan should be considered in relevance to their current flagship DAP (Digital Audio Player), the Hidizs AP200. With the influx of audio players being a common sight nowadays, that’s a bold statement to uphold. Let’s dive in deep and see if this mid-tier player provides an experience like never before.

The Hidizs AP200 that we would be realviewing was purchased independently so no affiliation and influence from Hidizs whatsoever would impact this realview. Hidizs was founded in 2009 and released their 1stmusic player way back 2014, the AP100, roughly 3 years after, the supposed successor for the latter was released in September 2017, the AP200 (this should be 100 times better, right?) which initially started as a Kickstarter project resulting to 943 backers which successfully received their respective AP200’s. The Ap200 was able to secure JAS (Japan Audio Association) and CEA (Consumer Technology Association) certification to ensure a high-quality sound device inside and out, priced at USD $299 for the 32gb and USD $399 for the 64gb, it targets the heavily contested mid-tier audio player market.
 
Specifications and Packaging
Offered in both Aluminum Alloy body in Silver, Black and Blue hues and Stainless-Steel body with multiple rear panel options including Glass, Rosewood and Carbon Fiber, aesthetics was indeed taken into account by Hidizs to cater the mid-tier market. I opted to get the 64gb Stainless steel Carbon Fiber weighing at roughly .46 lbs or 210grams to compliment my trusty pseudo steel finish Acer Aspire F15. Driven by Quad core Rockchip 3188 processor, 1gb of RAM in a deeply customized Android 5.1.1 utilizing Dual ES9118C DACs and the TPA6120A2 AMP chip, on paper this should feel similar to our old flagship android user experience way back 2015 with emphasis on audio, similar to the LG v20’s target market a year ago.
Package in all matte box embossed with the Hidizs branding and model number upfront with the backside adorned in silver lettering spec sheet. The sides would show the serial number as well. This would sit well on our shelves for the box fetish in us. Lifting the cover would immediately reveal the player with a pre-installed screen protector which wasn’t applied really well and showed bubbles underneath, they should have done a better job here although a spare is provided. Inside one would find the AP200 case, USB Type C cable, warranty card and user manual.

Build quality, User Interface and Handling
 
 
Right of the box and grasping the player, the 1stthing that comes to my mind is that this is THICK! The typical stainless-steel feel is evident and the form factor coupled with the build material makes one to be feeling like holding a gym barbell, this might be good for some which would assure you that this is built sturdy yet when I was using it regularly, it is already hefty enough for my khaki and denim pockets. One hand use is great attributing to the 3.5-inch display that is not visible enough at max brightness when used outdoors but decent enough during indoor morning sessions at work with office lights all turned on. I carefully checked for body scratches and nicks and none were found right off the box and being used for almost a month now, only hairline scratches on the mirror back were observed. The left side play/pause and volume up and down buttons have great click responses although when using the included plastic clear case, the accessibility and ease of usage of these physical buttons fall drastically. The plastic clear case is the way to go over the Hidizs ap200 leather case which I purchased separately, it is nowhere easy to use and the cut outs of the leather case which was made to be inserted from the bottom made it very hard when using the power on and off button for turning off the display when in use as it slides the leather case down thus disorienting the whole display and physical side buttons and one would need to push it back up again, a waste of leather case materials and consumer expenses, I personally just use it for looks now. The latest firmware being 0.2.8Beta was installed and used for the duration of the realview and overall it was better than the initial firmware used on the ap200, the UI is more responsive in comparison to the initial firmware. Note that this is 1st a music player but since it has the Android playstore, I decided to install the usual suspect applications Youtube and Facebook and boom, one word, DON’T. This player is not a phone it would take around 2 to 3 minutes before one would finish typing any username along with the @gmail.com, password and keywords before you get what you want off Youtube and Facebook. Spotify was then installed and used to stream regularly, no software issues were encountered. Accessing the settings page is easy and all the necessary options are there along with in-line remote option which surprisingly my Fiio F5 with inline Mic doesn’t work. The gold shielded 3.5mm jack is built like a tank and should be commended, I think this would last longer than most average players except Sony along with the Type C connection as it blends well with all my devices, it’s great when a single Type C cable handles all our gears, right? Overall the build quality of the device is great yet the weight might turn off some, the handling is not your best buddy either as well as the UI though it would suffice for daily usage for a user who just let his whole playlist run through its course.
 
Sound Quality and Battery Life
Dual crystal oscillators and gold-plated Dual ES911C DAC chips that supports almost all music files an audiophile nowadays uses from FLAC, APE, WMA, WAV, ALAC, Apple LOSSLESS, DSF, and DSDIFF and Native support for DSD 64/128, PCM up to 384Khz/32bit, this mid-tier player got you covered. Bluetooth 4.0 and Apt-X support is there as well, those wanting LDAC and Apt-X HD might need to wait for the ap300 if it would ever come. I opted to fill up the 64gb internal memory 1st with FLAC and DSD files with some mp3’s for fun and conduct my realview off there. The Sony Cd900st with Yaxi pads stpad2, Koss Porta pro with Yaxi pads, Kinera Seed with H3 cable, Fiio f5, Audio Technica AD900x and Black Bud Red were used in the realview, I will mention which gear and track was used on each observation. I tried the Black Bud Red, a 32-ohm bud from Good Sound Gadget, this exhibits warm with great clarity for its price signature, using the DeadPool OST Album in FLAC, Ashes was presented calmly with the sub bass resonating all over the song yet Celine’s voice still climbs above, Nobody Speak guitar plucks was crisp and DJ Shadow’s rap was laid back, each rap outro didn’t exhibit excellent thump. All out of Love’s guitar plucks was still crisp yet the sub bass here is more controlled. Next up is the Koss Porta Pro with Yaxi pads, note that this can exhibits bass heavy signature with great control and couple with the Yaxi pads, sub bass is further refined. Ashes was still presented calmly and now the sub bass wasn’t resonating anymore and Celine’s voice has more body and clarity. Nobody Speak guitar plucks are still crisp and DJ Shadow’s rap is a wee bit clearer yet rap outro still has shallow thumps. All out of love’s guitar plucks are still crisp and sub bass controlled as well but the vocals are more airy, ample Air Supply maybe? Next up is the Fiio F5, I’m personally not a fan of this for its warm signature yet it has its own place for that particular characteristic, warmth. Norah Jones’s Don’t Know Why opened up great, imaging was noticeable albeit intimate, separation was delivered well too and Norah sang clear and lush while each opening note when she begins each stanza, vocal extension is greatly observed. Come Away with Me was subtle and detailed, Norah’s vocals here are airy and sparkle is to be found, I normally hate the f5 for not being able to at least showcase this. I finally pulled out the cans, 1stup is the Sony cd900st, a classic in its own right due to its reference sound, it does lack punch yet has ample punch on the low end. The ap200 easily drives this, identical tracks were used and the vocals here are clearly highlighted, mids and highs are very detailed, separation and imaging are clean and mimics a small conference room, clarity of different instruments distinct sound are distinguishable. The ATH AD900x was also driven quite well by the ap200, staging and imaging right off the bat are the noticeable improvements compared to the cd900st, the midrange is similar with the ad900x cutting more into the top-end with its near sibilant ability. The bass aspects were nowhere special. I both toggled between the High and Low gains throughout and preferred to keep it on High 90% of the time. Navigation of the Hidizs player powered by Hiby was decent considering my stubby fingers coupled with the occasional hiccups of the software itself. I tried to tinker with the ap200’s Low Pass filter options and after sometime, I opted to keep it at “Brick Wall” although personally each option was barely noticeable with each toggle. Bluetooth pairing was done with the Sony CAS-1 system and it was a delight, no stutters whatsoever except when the music software stutters on itself. Battery Life was great since considering it is under Android’s umbrella, FLAC usage in pure music mode yielded around 7 hours of playback with 3 to 5 pauses ranging from 5 to 7-minute intervals. DSD in music mode came at around 5.5 hours. Volume output was at 65-80/100 95% of the time. Android mode with Spotify streaming in Extreme quality came at around 5.5 hours. I personally didn’t check Hidizs advertised battery life so feel free to check it out yourself and find out for yourself.
 
Conclusion
The Hidizs ap200 targeted the mid-tier market with emphasis on “Experience Music like never before”. It is a well-built device and has variety of aesthetic options. The weight is a double edge sword as well as its compactness. The leather case is a big NO and not a lot of 3rd party case options makes one to settle in the plastic clear case provided. Software and User Interface experience is acceptable at best and for a device already out in the market for a year, this is its biggest weakness. If by some case anyone from Hidizs reads this, we hope they take care of their software now more than ever with successive releases of entry level music players by the company, building a dedicated fanbase is crucial and from the social platforms managed by Hidizs, things are not looking great. The materials used are awesome, the use of the gold shielded 3.5mm is commended specially that it was released at a time when a noted music player it was compared to got its 3.5mm jack questioned (guess the player? it’s named N**). I wished this had balanced out since single ended use was great. The strength of this music player is in its sound. Based on my listening sessions, it clearly shows a fairly balanced signature with emphasis on the top end which paired great with warm earphones complimenting what it lacks and at a decent volume output, bright sound signature gears will be shine with this player. Did it hit the “Experience Music like never before” slogan? As much as I find its sound and synergy with most of my gears interesting, this player will be in the used market sooner than later without a feeling of longing.

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