Sound Studio

Auxiliary Speaker System




Thanks to the folks at Radio4You I had the opportunity to give the Hisonic HS-668 Sound Studio a try. The Sound Studio is an amplified speaker system that offers a variety of uses in addition to putting it to work as an external speaker for your favorite tabletop or portable radio that may be lacking in ample volume and/or good fidelity.

The Specs:
Power: 12v DC (supplied power supply @ 1 amp)
Speakers: Stereo - 2 @ 7 watts (from manual)
Dimensions: (inches) 8-7/8" wide x 4-1/2"high x 5-1/4" deep

Additional Features/Uses:
External Speaker for radio or portable MP3 player
MP3 player - USB port on front of speaker for use with a Mini Flash Drive.
Record Line Out Jack
USB input 5.1 sound card built in for use with a laptop computer or PC.
Headphone jack

Test Driving The Sound Studio
Since many portable radios usually lack in any sort of either good fidelity or adequate volume, I decided first to give the Sound Studio a test drive with a few small portables to hear how well it sounded and responded.

First a suggestion of caution. If you plan to feed the Sound Studio (or any other amplified speaker system for that matter) with a portable radio or any other audio source through the headphone output jack, check to be sure the volume is turned down first. Having the volume level set at a high level could possibly damage the speaker. A good rule of thumb is to start at a low volume and work your way up to a comfortable audio level.

The fidelity of the Sound Studio was quite good with the portables. The Sound Studio seemed to sound some what better with radios that have a ~line out~ or ~record out~ jack on the radio. Radios such as the Kaito KA1103, Sony ICF-7600G and Sangean ATS-909 produced very good results with a robust sound. Since this is a stereo amplified speaker, tuning these radios while in FM stereo mode sounded even better. The only radio that I used for testing that did not meet my expectations was the Degen DE1102. I do not blame the Sound Studio for this as the headphone output volume at max on my DE1102 has always been disappointingly low.

The next step was to try the Sound Studio on a table top. Many table tops are notoriously poor audio performers when using the radio's internal speaker. For that I decided to try the Sound Studio out on the Drake R8B which did very well. As with the portables, the Sound Studio's tone control could be catered to my taste. I tend to bring down the tone while listening on shortwave to cut out some of the hisses and pops.

Another nice use for the Sound Studio is to hook it up to other portable audio devices. While you could use a portable CD or MD player, I used my portable MP3 player that I seem to be carrying around more and more these days when I am not listening to "live radio".

Over all the stereo audio quality of the Sound Studio is quite nice and comes close to that of my mono Tivoli Model One. The Sound Studio set at high to medium volume level is enough to fill a room with adequate bass response with not too much distortion depending on your audio source. Build quality doesn't appear to be too shabby either. The knobs tune smoothly and the MP3 player control buttons don't wobble. Keep in mind these are 7 watt speakers so don't expect to have a disco party in your living room with this speaker.

Other Useful Features
Using the various modes of the Sound Studio requires moving a 3 position switch located on the back of the unit. The switch is labeled:
* Flash Drive/MP3 - for using the built in MP3 Player (see below)
* Audio In - for when using the Sound Studio as an external speaker for your radio or other audio source
* USB Sound Card - for use as a PC speaker

Built in MP3 Player
Another nice feature of the sound studio is the built in but rather crude MP3 player. I say crude because there is no track LCD display and only limited play functions. Only simple functions are available - Previous - Next - Play/Pause. The MP3 player sources audio files via the USB port located on the front of the Sound Studio. I tried the MP3 function out with a 512 MB Mini Flash Drive. I just copied the audio files from my computer to the Mini Flash Drive's root directory and plugged stick in to the Sound Studio and then hit play. It's a simple as that. My personal advice on using the MP3 function with the Sound Studio is not to spend the extra money for a Mini Flash Drive larger than 256 MB. Why? Since there is no LCD track display, it can be a bit time consuming to navigate to any particular file that you may wish to hear. Finding the file you wish to hear involves listening to the start of each individual file. It appears that the Sound Studio plays the MP3 files in the order which they were transferred to the Mini Flash Drive. If you plan on using the MP3 player for music all the time or really don't care about finding any particular file at a given time then get the Mini Flash Drive of your choice. Of course you can get a larger Mini Flash Drive and just limit the number of files you transfer on to it.

Record Line Out Jack
On the back of the Sound Studio in a Record Line Out Jack for use with an analog recording device such as a cassette player or MP3 recorder. This is a nice feature for those who use a radio that does not offer an audio line out source and must use the headphone jack to record audio and thus sacrificing the ability to listen to the program while recording. With the Sound Studio you are able to record and listen to the audio at the same time by using the Record Line Out Jack.

PC Speaker Function
The Sound Studio can also be used as a USB stereo speaker for a notebook PC or for a desktop PC by connecting the included USB cable and installing the sound shaping software (supplied with the Sound Studio). The sound through the Sound Studio is much better than what a notebook PC can produce with it's internal speakers. Multi speaker emulation is included in the software so the sound from a DVD movie can be listened to in virtual 5.1 channel with the two speakers inside the Sound Studio. The speaker can also be connected to any PC through the EXT speaker jack with the stereo extension cable.

It's Got The Look
At first glance the Sound Studio looks very much like the attractive and successful Tivoli Model One. This probably was no accident. Even the tuning knobs and speaker grill appear to be somewhat similar. The only vague physical difference is that the Sound Studio's cabinet is made of a wood composite with a veneer cover and the Tivoli is made of stained wood.

Bottom Line
With it's attractive look, the Sound Studio's versatility as an external speaker, MP3 player and it's stereo computer audio interface is perhaps it's strongest feature. Combining the three main audio processing functions into one compact unit that produces impressive audio makes the accessory worth considering.




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