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shorkorde
101
Jan 3, 2018
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tl;dr - It's good, but not perfect by a long shot. If you just want your music on a small device that (probably) won't need an amp, and has enough battery power to get you through a few continuous days of use on shuffle or for casual listening - go ahead and pick one up. You may have a connection issue or two depending on your computer, or find yourself a bit frustrated with the interface if you have a large library of files; but these are fairly easy to work around. The device-killer here? Gapless playback. Look elsewhere in this case. Every song fades in/out across 2-3 seconds and after scrubbing. Every time. (I hope this is just a bug in my copy, but it seems like a "feature".) --- --- --- --- --- I've had my Nano D3 for close to a week now, so I figured I'd offer up some detailed (aka too long) impressions and notes for people interested. There are also a few slightly bizarre marketing claims made with this product (marketing mumbo-jumbo or poor translation, I can't say), that I'm hoping to clear up as well.
Finally - and critically - I'm no audiophile. I like stuff to sound "nice" and "detailed", but once it starts getting to the realm of "really good", I just don't have the golden ear to distinguish differences any more. Though I tend to keep everything in FLAC, this is only because I've found a lot of poorly encoded .mp3 files out there and have become paranoid. I'm a firm believer that with properly encoded .mp3 files at 320kbps (even 256) I either: A. don't have the equipment to tell the difference or B. wouldn't be able to tell a difference anyway (don't judge me too harshly). For reference: 160kbps vs FLAC I can tell in a double-blind most (90%+) of the time. 192kbps drops harshly to about 65% accuracy - just barely over random guessing, and only on nicer equipment. But again, I've also heard 256/320kbps .mp3 files encoded poorly that weren't even close to the originals.
With all that in mind, I won't be commenting on the sound aside from saying that it hits my definition of "good enough". Besides, I'm also in the camp that - if you start with a good audio file - the output (speakers/headphones) matter far more than the delivery system (dac) to the final sound signature (so speakers/phones > amp > dac as long as the components aren't obviously poorly made). If you can stomach all of those things without hating me (I feel all the judging stares...) then I'll keep going. --- --- --- --- --- All I wanted from this player was something small (check), with decent battery life (check), that I could toss in a pocket with some IEMs for a decent listening experience while running around (check). Cool. Done. That was easy. Sort of.
The build feels solid. Not indestructible, but quite solid. The addition of 2 screen protectors (seriously, thank you Xduoo) means I don't feel bad throwing this in the same pocket as my keys when necessary. Will it scratch/scuff over time? Maybe. It hasn't happened yet, but it's entirely possible. It's not a concern for me though, and the idea that this is how it's been treated for a week without issue is a good early indicator.
Battery is solid. 900mAh seems like more than enough for all-day listening plus change. How long exactly, I can't say as I haven't tested this. Playback with the screen off for several hours (3-4) only made the battery drop a single bar (out of 5). Messing with it a ton while the screen was on while doing this write-up? Knocked off a bit more than 2 bars (dropped 3, then changed its mind and put one back). Another plus is that 900mAh means it'll probably charge up from empty fairly quickly. (2-3hrs from empty? This is just a guess.) I haven't allowed mine to go that far as I'm actually using it and allowing it to drain fully would be pretty inconvenient at the moment.
The specifications claim "IPS HD" screen followed immediately by 240x320 resolution. Quite confusing. Let me try to help. Yes, traditional HD is anything at 1280x720 and up with FullHD defined as 1920x1080. I'm guessing most of you know this. However, the other part of that definition is that this classification only counts at 72dpi+. Since this is a 2-inch screen, that 240x320 falls somewhere around 138dpi (-ish). So, high enough pixel density to give an HD-like viewing experience. Can you see the pixels? Sure. Don't stare that close. It's bad for your eyes. The wording here is misleading, and I wouldn't really define this as "HD", but it's more than adequate for the real estate you will be looking at. I'm ready to believe the "IPS" claim though as viewing angles are quite good, and there's a little bit of that distinctive IPS light "leak" around the edges (not distracting though).
EQ and presets are there, as well as a "custom" option [+/-6dB across 62Hz, 250Hz, 1kHz, 6kHz, and 16kHz] but I'm not really one to mess with EQ much and tend to always leave it "off". Interestingly, I noted that going to the "custom" EQ all zero'd out still results in an overall reduction of perceivable volume. I don't know if this is because "off" is already calibrated up a bit, or if engaging the EQ modifies the audio chain somehow dropping output. I'd like to think the latter as bypassing entirely is what I feel "off" should signify. No clue though.
Here's another marketing snafu: " With 8 gigabytes of built-in storage, the Nano D3 has room for about 6,400 lossless songs—and that’s expandable to 256 gigabytes via the microSD card slot." Okay. This is wrong, but closer than it seems at a glance. 8GB won't get you anywhere near 6,400 lossless songs, but I did some math before the drop and worked out that the 256GB microSD with WAV/FLAC/etc. at 1141kbps would fit that 6400 song amount (at about 4m30s per song). The actual internal 8GB after OS and formatting has about 7GB remaining or roughly 180 of those same lossless tracks.
I mentioned it right at the beginning, but this player - or mine at the very least - has one remarkably frustrating trait: no gapless playback, and every track seems to start/end with a fade in/fade out. It's like the first and last 2-3 seconds of every track don't exist. The same kind of fade-in effect occurs when you scrub back/forth in a track. This is in all playback modes (sequential/repeat/random) and occurs on both FLACs and .mp3s (the only files I have to test right now). So continuous album or symphony lovers? Mourn thy loss. Why is it this way? I have no clue. This is head-slammingly frustrating and I would love to see this addressed in a firmware update, but a few quick Google searches indicate that this may also be a problem in some of their other players. The only idea I've been able to come up with is perhaps the player "pops" on these file transitions/scrubbing and the fade was an easy or necessary fix. This could easily be a "no-buy" point for many, so be advised. (I hate this issue, but everything else is convenient enough that I ultimately decided to keep mine.)
Settings menu options include changing the language, auto power off, sleep timer, lock keys, backlight time, system info, format (internal/external) storage, and reset all. Language is self explanatory. I was mildly peeved that Auto-off only goes up to 20min (5/10/15/20), but really the device only takes about 6 seconds to boot and - with headphones in - can immediately resume playback. Not a big deal. Sleep timer does exactly what you'd expect - shutting the device down during playback after the specified interval (10/15/30/60/120min).
Lock keys is very mildly frustrating for me in that they gave me many options, but not exactly what I was looking for. When the screen is off, you can have this set to lock all keys (only power button works), lock none (all keys function as normal), lock play keys (front facing for play/pause and seek/skip), lock volume keys (side keys). Good, but if we're going this far; give me the volume and track skip keys with a lock on the larger play/pause key and a guard against accidentally holding down one of the seek keys while in my pocket. Now I'm just nitpicking...
The rest of the settings are fairly straightforward, so moving on to Music Settings. Play mode, EQ, preferred display, resume mode, default volume. Play modes are: order, repeat all, repeat one, and shuffle. Worth noting that "shuffle" is a "true" endless shuffle, so if you have a small EP album, don't be shocked when a track gets played twice in a row before another one ever gets playback. EQ includes: BASS (yes, it's actually in all-caps, and definitely far too much for my taste), Heavy Metal, Pop, Jazz, Unique (? I don't understand this one), and Custom. Most of these seem to be in the league of, "tuned far enough that you'll definitely hear a difference," though not necessarily tuned that well. Tinkerers might be able to get good results from their own settings in Custom. I just leave mine off.
Preferred display allows you to choose between showing the album cover or lyrics by default (can only do one at a time), which reminds me it's a good time to mention that your standard ID3 tags will work just fine here - at least under the My Music navigation (where you'll usually be). If you go to the "Folder" section, things seem to be organized in a slightly different way. Most of my subfolders maintain order numerically (tracks and albums look okay), but a few artist folders seem out of place. This might be special characters throwing the player a curve, or it might be related to "date created" data. Again, no clue, but it's a non-issue from the "My Music" side of things as long as your tags are correct.
Resume mode lets you pick between song (start at the beginning of your last track), position (resume exactly where you left off in a track), or off. Default volume allows you to set the power-on volume exactly where it was when you powered off (memory) or to set a specific level to always power on at (custom). It'd be nice if they also had a "limit volume" option for that "held-button-down-in-pocket-now-it-hurts", situation; but alas it was not to be.
The playback screen makes good use of its real estate displaying volume level, whether or not headphones are plugged in, play/pause status, microSD status, battery indicator, cover art or lyrics, track position, track number/total tracks, playback time position/total time, track title, artist, EQ on/off, playback mode, and bitrate/quality (320kbps or 16bit/44K as examples). Curiously, it doesn't include the album name on this display, but I've found a long press-and-hold of the play/pause button takes you to another screen with track, album, artist, genre, codec, sample rate, and bit depth info. Still, if you want album info at a glance, make sure your cover art is embedded in the file properly before uploading.
On that note: connectivity. It's good. Mostly. Charging from the micro-USB is a breeze and can be done with just about any micro-USB cable and a powered USB port. Connecting the Nano to a computer may be ever-so-slightly hit/miss. I did several tests and annoyed many friends. I had one machine (Mac) that didn't like the player being connected during wake up and I had to unplug/plug in before it recognized. Another Mac had no issues. 2 Win 10 machines that picked up on the player right away, a 3rd Win 10 that would charge but simply would not recognize the device from any port - this was fixed by a reboot. Finally, 2 Linux machines running Ubuntu (one worked splendidly and the other went into convulsions on the ground until I removed the microSD card, got it recognized, then re-added the card...very strange and I blame the computer). No Win 8/7/Vista/XP (XP? Really?) to test, so be aware your mileage may vary.
That said, there isn't much need to mount the device if you don't want to and don't plan to use the internal storage. Just get a card reader, format the card either in-device or from the computer to FAT32, load up your music files/folders, and pop it back in the player. Be aware that reading/updating the library can take a few minutes or longer depending on how many files you've got. Another oddity? I had to go into the "Folders" option from the main menu and select the microSD card before it scanned all the files. Just adding the card and opening the "My Music" option didn't get me anywhere as it was still looking at the internal storage.
And you can't have both the internal and external storage mounted simultaneously (at least, it doesn't work for me). This is why I don't think mounting the device is too big of a deal. I doubt many wish to be restricted by the 8GB internal storage limit and are probably buying/repurposing a microSD card to use with this player. If you *do* switch between the storage options from the main menu "Folders" option - it's entirely possible...but it'll also have to rescan your media library (Nooo!) which - as I said before - can take several minutes. Odd? Yes. I just leave the internal storage alone (aside from having some emergency, "need this microSD card now," tracks there just in case I ever have reason to pull it from the player).
I stand by my reluctance to describe listening experience as this is probably too subjective for me to give accurate account of. But I will say that the little DAC/Amp has enough power to drive a decent range of headphones/IEMs. I tried plugging in a set of Beyerdynamic DT880 Pros (250 Ohm) and maxed out (100 vol.), the player could get loud. Not painful loud, but probably past casual listening loud. That said, I could also hear the player straining a bit this high up (certain frequencies distorting in a way similar to clipping and the noise floor became apparent). For anything this high impedance, I'd recommend an amp as well - but I feel like it almost defeats the purpose of this particular player. The IEMs I actually use with this player all fall in the 32 Ohm range, and there's plenty of power here for that (the 250mW @ 32 Ohms seems to be spot on). Haven't used the line out yet (again, not really what I bought this for).
In conclusion, I like it. It's like a puppy. I like puppies. But every once in a while, it makes a mess of the carpet. Gaplessly. But that's okay. Maybe it'll grow out of that someday (with a firmware update).
...That was too much to write. Anyone who read this far, congrats - your patience and concentration must be well above average. Anyway, I hope that was helpful for some of you and if you have any other questions let me know and I'll try to address them. Thanks!
Jan 3, 2018
TheContraptionist
433
Jan 5, 2018
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Great summary man! Probably more in depth than my review ever would be, haha.
Jan 5, 2018
shorkorde
101
Jan 8, 2018
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Thanks! Glad you thought it was helpful. If you have any other thoughts/questions, by all means let me know. I always value a second opinion.
Jan 8, 2018
blazer39
86
Feb 28, 2018
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i didnt read the whole thing..but thumbs up for the effort :)
Feb 28, 2018
ZachL
216
Mar 1, 2018
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There's no option to turn off the fade in and out?
Mar 1, 2018
shorkorde
101
Mar 1, 2018
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Nope. Pure speculation here, but I think there's either a limitation to how fast it can process; or it might pop/glitch in some way when switching tracks/scrubbing/play-pause with this being the easy way to "fix" it. Either way, it's there and not something that can be turned off.
Pretty aggravating. Had I known beforehand, I might have held off buying. Oh well. Live, learn, and eventually consider gifting away when the next shiny toy comes along, haha.
Mar 1, 2018
hardboiledmurfsuperman
2
Dec 7, 2018
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One of the best product summaries I've read in a while... (this companies device, is a pass for me- thanks to many days of back and forth, all culminating upon your clean, and subjective observations) thanks for the hard work! 
Dec 7, 2018
shorkorde
101
Dec 7, 2018
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I'm glad the description helped you come to a decision (probably the right one, if I'm being honest). Several months later, and I still have my D3 (believe it or not); though it's been relegated to backup duty in case I forget to charge my daily driver. ("Daily Driver" at the moment is a Shanling m0 - not a bad option if you're still looking, though it has a few oddities as well.)
Dec 7, 2018
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