I don't know why this exists - several months with an E-Ink music player

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Ah E-Ink. Wonderfully reproducing that paper feeling to limit eye strain for reading, a brilliant canvas for electronic notebooks, and... Listening to music? Sure.

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About six months ago I was on holiday in Northern Ireland. Sat in a cottage on a traditionally rainy day, I was browsing the web for unique and interesting devices. Having reviewed the reMarkable 2 a while back and having owned a few eReaders, E-Ink was something I was familiar with and enjoyed using. It intrigued me. It intrigued me enough to start looking for fun things that incorporated it. To my surprise there was plenty out there. Want a secondary E-Ink monitor to read documents on while you work? You can buy it. A laptop with an E-Ink display on the outer lid? That exists. But the standout oddity was the one I saw had just released: the HiSense Touch.

Now this is marketed oddly. On (electronic) paper, it's a music player. You know, those things famous for having their screen off 90% of the time they're in use? I suppose it just baffled me. Who would think this was a profitable venture to pursue, and how long would it take to arrive if I ordered it that day? I actually remember turning it on for the first time, despite it being months ago now. It was a deep sense of dread and regret, and it's rare I look at a purchase like this. I went into this device knowing its absurdity and bought it anyway, and a part of me was terrified by that. This wasn't some cheap AliExpress punt, this thing came in at £290.

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With the Touch using its own strain of Android, the setup process is about what you'd expect. It's simple enough, but with this being something not available in western markets, you'll be stuck with non-Google apps and unique bloat. Thankfully you're able to set things to English from the get-go, but you still have to deal with the bundled apps until you install your own. Functionally, everything works fine out of the box. It's rough around the edges and the English UI isn't perfect, but you'll have no issues using it. You get a unique home screen layout with icons across the bottom for music, apps, settings, and books. Tapping these will load you straight into the respective app while keeping you in the home UI for a really seamless experience. If you want more apps you can use the bundled app store, but I'd generally advise against this unless you're a native Chinese speaker, as this isn't translated. Sideloading will be your best bet.

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It's a bit awkward using the bundled keyboard and browser, but it didn't take me long to find a Firefox and Gboard APK online for something a bit more familiar. With these tools at my disposal, I set out to fix my biggest irritation with the phone: the bundled eReader app. As one of the four apps so nicely integrated into the home screen, and representing a genuine selling point for such a pocketable device, my heart sunk when I saw the eReader app was almost entirely Chinese and difficult to navigate. Were it not for KOReader this think would've been on eBay months ago. KOReader was a game changer. An absolutely beautiful open source app, KOReader gives you an eReader experience on any Android device, but my God does it elevate an E-Ink device to something higher. It's like it was made for it, and gives you an experience on par with the likes of Kobo and Kindle. You can install dictionaries, use bookmarks, highlight snippets, and even use the volume buttons to turn pages. I keep the Touch in my pocket and love to take it out on the train or during a break at work for some brilliantly portable reading. This is the device's biggest selling point, and it's not even something I knew about prior to getting it.

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Though I tend to use it as a pocket eReader, I feel like I should probably address the elephant in the room: it’s a music player. It’s just not the best one. There are a few basics you want out of a music player, especially one at this price. You want a headphone jack. Okay it has that, that’s the bare essential. Outside of this though, you want plenty of storage to actually keep your tracks. This is a 128 GB device with no expandability, and 26 GB of that is taken up by the system. 100 GB can go a long way, but if you’re wanting to load it up with large lossless audio you’ll be running out of space sooner than you’d want. The bundled app and general listening experience is fine, seeming to put a little more power to my headphones than the NWZ A15 Walkman I was using previously. My 20 ohm Audeze LCD-GX don’t need all that much power to sound good, but it naturally won’t compare to the desktop experience you can get by hooking them up to something more powerful. I will add here that the built-in speakers pack a surprising punch for a device this small. It's not really a feature you see on many music players nowadays, with the focus being on the headphone listening experience, but it is pleasant to have and see done well.

When it comes to specs you have an adequate 4 GB of RAM on offer, which has proved to be fine in my time using it. To go with this you have a 1.8 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 460 processor and the aforementioned 128 GB of internal storage. The 3000 mAh battery keeps the device powered for a few weeks at a time when used lightly thanks to the limited power an E-Ink screen actually pulls. The device also features a ES9038 DAC and ES9603 amp chip, though I don’t know enough to comment on how great these are when compared to other offerings. Perhaps the weirdest inclusion is a front facing camera, allowing you to recreate A-ha’s hit music video for Take On Me in the included camera app. The device runs fine, but what was constantly on my mind as I used it was a single word: why?

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It can also function as the most expensive alarm clock you're likely to own with a nicely customisable lock screen.

The HiSense Touch remains a mystery to me, and one I really couldn’t recommend to the majority of people with it costing just shy of £300 when I bought it. It’s a novelty that slaps an E-Ink screen where one really isn’t needed and while I appreciate what it offers, I feel there’s better value to be found elsewhere. The HiSense Touch grew on me and has become something I use regularly, but not so much as a music player. For the vast majority of people, a phone is more than adequate for an on the go listening experience, and for those who want more, you have better offerings from the likes of FiiO and other well known music player creators. And for those who want an eReader, there's cheaper dedicated options. It's a collision of worlds that shouldn't exist, but a small part of me is glad it does.
 

Vilagamer999

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Were it not for KOReader this think would've been on eBay months ago. KOReader was a game changer. An absolutely beautiful open source app, KOReader gives you an eReader experience on any Android device, but my God does it elevate an E-Ink device to something higher. It's like it was made for it, and gives you an experience on par with the likes of Kobo and Kindle. You can install dictionaries, use bookmarks, highlight snippets, and even use the volume buttons to turn pages. I keep the Touch in my pocket and love to take it out on the train or during a break at work for some brilliantly portable reading. This is the device's biggest selling point, and it's not even something I knew about prior to getting it.
100% agree, koreader is the best app ever!
 

ciaomao

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"My 20 ohm Audeze LCD-GX don’t need all that much power to sound good"
After reading your test I am unfortunately only interested in how satisfied you are with your LCD-GX and whether you possibly already had the opportunity to compare the sound with the LCD-2? :)
 

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After reading your test I am unfortunately only interested in how satisfied you are with your LCD-GX and whether you possibly already had the opportunity to compare the sound with the LCD-2? :)
I adore the GX, but when I got them it was one or the other with them and the LCD-2. I went when the GX because they're a good bit lighter and I generally wear headphones for a lot of the day for work. The GX aren't exactly light, but the strap makes them comfortable enough for long sessions. As for the sound I don't have much in the way of a direct comparison with my only other set of non-gamer headphones being the semi open DT 880 Pros from Beyerdynamic. Compared to those the sound feels explosive. The really large earcups are comfortable and the low impudence means they still sound good even when plugged into a Switch or Xbox controller. I've been tempted to do a write up for them similar to this but I feel a little out of my depths in the land of audio lol

Bloody great set of headphones though.
 
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Duo8

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Price isn't too out there for a high-end player. E-ink is nice even if it's really only a novelty if you're using it as a music player.
I think a smaller version of this could be a hit in the lower-end player market. An always on e-ink display showing the album art would be cool.
 

RAHelllord

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I adore e-ink for the concept but that device really feels like it's trying to look for a problem to solve and failing hard. One advantage of e-ink is that you don't have to constantly refresh the screen to show an image, but that isn't going to be saving such a huge amount of power that it's going to be an appreciable increase on battery life, and it hurts usability at night.

FiiO and Sony make a few cheap portable audio players that would probably be a better choice if something dedicated is wanted, but personally a phone set to DND serves me just fine. If I want to listen to my wired headphones on the go something like the FiiO BTR5 will fill that niche quite well, sync it via bluetooth to the phone, plug the headphones into the small device, drop it into the tiny useless pouch that is on all jeans, and it's good to go.
 
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The Real Jdbye

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Yeah, if I reduce the quality of my mp3 files to 192 kbps (which still sounds good enough) I can fit every single album I've ever listened to in a 128gb micro SD card and still have plenty of free space.
Encode your music to 128kbps opus instead, it's the same quality as 320kbps mp3 and the files are smol.
 

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I hate you, I hope you realise that ;)
Sure I have a Kobo Elipsa (and an Aura And Forma for that matter) and a Sony NW-A55, not to mention my phone and iPad.

But you’ve just gone and shown me a shiny toy I didn’t known existed, don’t need in any way, shape, or form, but just can’t help but want one now. What can I say, it’s an addiction :D
 
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Scarlet

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I hate you, I hope you realise that ;)
Sure I have a Kobo Elipsa (and an Aura And Forma for that matter) and a Sony NW-A55, not to mention my phone and iPad.

But you’ve just gone and shown me a shiny toy I didn’t known existed, don’t need in any way, shape, or form, but just can’t help but want one now. What can I say, it’s an addiction :D
I'm in the same boat honestly. I have a nice Walkman and a Kindle Oasis already lol. I do at least kinda have the excuse of my Walkman's aux jack being loose after several years of use... The pocketability of this is what's keeping me using it more than my Kindle though. It's so easy to just have it with me.
 

ciaomao

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Sure I have a Kobo Elipsa (and an Aura And Forma for that matter) and a Sony NW-A55, not to mention my phone and iPad.

But you’ve just gone and shown me a shiny toy I didn’t known existed, don’t need in any way, shape, or form, but just can’t help but want one now. What can I say, it’s an addiction :D
Maybe this is also something for you: https://www.audioquest.com/dacs/dragonfly/dragonfly-red I have the red one. It destroys more or less every argument for a portable high-end player.
 

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Maybe this is also something for you: https://www.audioquest.com/dacs/dragonfly/dragonfly-red I have the red one. It destroys more or less every argument for a portable high-end player.


Cheers, I did consider one of the Dragonfly series, but went with an iFi Hip DAC instead. Then decided I wanted a dedicated player instead, so I could stick a 1TB card in it, without affecting my phone storage. Well, either that, or it’s my technology addiction, one or the other :D

Albeit I do like the balance headphone output on the Hip DAC, not least of all because it gave me an excuse to purchase yet another pair of cans :)
 
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ciaomao

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Cheers, I did consider one of the Dragonfly series, but went with an iFi Hip DAC instead. Then decided I wanted a dedicated player instead, so I could stick a 1TB card in it, without affecting my phone storage. Well, either that, or it’s my technology addiction, one or the other :D

Albeit I do like the balance headphone output on the Hip DAC, not least of all because it gave me an excuse to purchase yet another pair of cans :)
I didn't know the ifi, looks interesting. thx
 

ciaomao

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I adore the GX, but when I got them it was one or the other with them and the LCD-2. I went when the GX because they're a good bit lighter and I generally wear headphones for a lot of the day for work. The GX aren't exactly light, but the strap makes them comfortable enough for long sessions. As for the sound I don't have much in the way of a direct comparison with my only other set of non-gamer headphones being the semi open DT 880 Pros from Beyerdynamic. Compared to those the sound feels explosive. The really large earcups are comfortable and the low impudence means they still sound good even when plugged into a Switch or Xbox controller. I've been tempted to do a write up for them similar to this but I feel a little out of my depths in the land of audio lol

Bloody great set of headphones though.
update on Audeze:
today my left driver broke. I did some research and read about similar cases. Apparently the foils age extremely quickly. an exchange is very expensive because the drivers are matched. After a few years, the problem will most likely come back. good luck with yours. :nayps3:
 

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update on Audeze:
today my left driver broke. I did some research and read about similar cases. Apparently the foils age extremely quickly. an exchange is very expensive because the drivers are matched. After a few years, the problem will most likely come back. good luck with yours. :nayps3:
Appreciate the heads up. I know people say you need to take a LOT of care with them, so I've been trying my best to avoid putting pressure on them and hoping they'll survive as long as possible.
 

ciaomao

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Appreciate the heads up. I know people say you need to take a LOT of care with them, so I've been trying my best to avoid putting pressure on them and hoping they'll survive as long as possible.
I couldn't have treated the headphones better. room temperature, normal humidity, never dropped, indoor uv exposure, not overloaded...the foil is just aged, likely.
 
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