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Old 01-19-2015, 04:12 AM
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BruceBanner BruceBanner is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Australia, NSW
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Default The Alien Shozy DAP Review

"Greetings Earthlings, all of your ears belong to us! Resistance is futile!" etc etc.

Yes... quite.

So what is this oddly shaped DAP all about?

Specs (lifted from rear packaging because i have no idea how to do Chinese or whatever those letter thingies are...):

From the company Shozy comes 'Alien' their first attempt in the DAP market. Shozy is a company already established in providing audio equipment and oem soloutions for various audio and tech companies, they also produce portable amps and the like.

Taken from their website the Alien is "sleek Wav/Flac player with a solid CNC aluminium housing with hairline surface treatment and navigation of great simplicity."

Yep you heard right, no MP3 support <shock! gasp!>.

I guess they feel lossless is the way to go, something I am (still) not entirely convinced of.

If you're wondering where the screen is... yeh... there is none. This is a screenless DAP, and depending upon your point of view that is either a good or bad thing. With no screen comes certain advantages, no firmware, no disappointing UI, no bugs (well... less bugs) and according to some a cleaner signal (the idea that the addition of OS and screen gives way to interference and noise and a less than optimum sound quality).
It may very well be true, I have been following a few Headfi threads for awhile now, threads that discuss some of the other 'boutique' DAPs. Examples Fiio's X3, X5 and iBasso's DX50 to name a few, and a common theme creeps in on all these threads - namely software bugs, but also how different firmware release versions seems to alter the sound, and a lot of complaining and moaning centered around these issues.

I don't own any of these other DAPs, I'm sure they are all very good at what they do, for sure everyone has different needs and for some a DAP without a screen is a deal breaker, but before you dismiss this player I encourage you to read on.

My Background

You can skip this section if you like, but I feel it important to give the reader some idea of the reviewer, my competency in reviewing this DAP amongst other things.

For about a decade I have been collecting and listening to mp3 players. For awhile now I have been an avid lover of Cowon players, my personal favorite the i9+, 32gb memory, BBE and Jet Effect, 40grams in weight and a decent 20+hr battery life.
It's an understatement to say I enjoy an EQ/DSP tweak, it's more honest to say I am an abuser of these settings. Those that like their sounds clean and neutral would be horrified to see what settings I use, and I'm too embarrassed to post them here. But alas, the ears like what the ears like and I stand by my love for BBE/Jet Effect.

But that's not to say I don't enjoy flat neutral sound either. I think it's really important to highlight that at home, in front of the computer, I will listen to music unaided by any EQ/DSP tweaks via Foobar2000>Fiio E9+E7 USB DAC combo>Superlux HD668B cans. I don't know why but I never felt the need to reach for a tweak, everything sounded just fine as it was, the signal was also very clean with minimal hiss and I started to wonder if I could repeat such a similar thing 'on the go'.

Now i'm no audiophile, I may go that extra bit in considering alternatives for portable music solutions than the average consumer i.e. getting past a smartphone and stock ear buds), but Iím not comfortable using well known terminology surrounding sound quality. For example, when some people have described a sound as analytical or cold, that to me has often meant boring or dull. When someone speaks of something being 'warm' that often means to me that it's more enjoyable. I donít know, for me it just seems such words are open to misinterpretation so I will try and keep these to a minimal (for sake of being misunderstood).
Instead I will be giving a more practical review of the Alien Shozy, something I feel more qualified to appraise giving my extensive mp3 player collection that I have amassed over the years.


Well this was an interesting experience, by far the worst boxing of a product I have ever come across (and that coming from a Cowon user is quite an achievement!).
For starters their is a piece of decorative card that doesn't even fit in the box properly, it's bent and contorted, clearly a few mm too large to fit properly, and it's thin and flimsy, a thicker piece of decorative cardboard cut to the right size would make the thing look better in it's box, as is, it looks like a cheap Chinese knock off.
The rear of the box is in fact the manual and specs, as there is no booklet/manual to be found. I cannot remember if there was a usb cable provided as it was awhile ago since I unboxed the thing, and there is nothing to read that says what's included in the box, but it doesn't really matter... the usb cable is just for charging the device (standard micro usb cable affair, the kind most modern android phones have), in reality I think most of us will have about 15 of these usb cables lying around the house. I have been using any I find lying around to charge the shozy, no issues.
The packaging suggests cheap and nasty, luckily from here on itís onwards and upwards!

MP3, FLAC, WAV & Sound

My first task was to actually find some way of putting music onto this device, as up to this point I have been an MP3 man all the way.
I gave up on buying physical CDs a long time ago (I live in pretty small dwelling and just don't have the space, same for DVDs, everything is digital for me).
I had only one recent CD purchase which was a limited 500 copy 4 disc box set by the Electronic Welsh DJ outfit band called Hybrid, so I started a rip from there. WAV was first up.
Connecting my PFE 232's to the Alien I switched it on and waitedÖ
At first I thought something was wrong, as I wasn't hearing any hiss whatsoever. Usually my experience with DAPs is, upon switching on, u hear some kind of hissing/background noise as the player starts, a click or beep here or there, something to alert you to the fact that the thing was on. I got nothing, dead silence. I pulled the headphones out and put them back in; it was like I never removed them from the jack at all. And then the song started playing...

Every time you switch the device on it will default back to stock volume level, it cannot remember where you last had the volume, so naturally on my first go it was too quiet for my ears, so i increased the volume. At first I did a long hold press on the volume + button... silly me... this is how you play/pause the device (in my mind a short press of the on/off button for play/pause made more sense, and long presses of the on/off for turning the device on and off, but there u go.
So it had to be multiple presses of the volume + button to get it the volume I wanted.

Whatís this?! At first i thought perhaps it was a little broken, as it appeared some presses weren't being recognised, then i listened more closely, actually every press was being recorded, itís just they were tiny increments! This was very good news (for me), I can't stand large increment volume adjustments <cough *android* cough>! Coming from Cowon (which gives 2.5% increment adjustments, the smallest I had experienced to date) I wasn't expecting this. To hazard a guess I reckon the increments sound around 1-2% steps, very small, but I like it this way, it allows me to get very close to the absolute loudest sound I can derive before distortion kicks in

And a small note about volume and distortion here. This Alien goes crazy loud, I haven't managed to discover maximum volume for fear of ruining any equipment connected to (those that know me that's quite a claim)!
Although it has plenty volume it does start distorting at a point earlier than you might expect, a bit earlier than I would have liked, but not by much. I am still able to be satisfied in a Ďmax volume + no distortioní department. I'm just saying if there is a Alien Shozy 2.1, if they could hold off on distortion at the louder volumes a tad bit longer then that would be a welcome addition.

Anyway... where was I? Ah yes... how did it sound? Well... I was very very pleased with what I was hearing. To my ears it sounded like I was getting something very similar to the PC desktop rig I use (of which is formerly mentioned above). I was getting zero hiss and everything felt balanced and right. Not too little bass, not too much, crisp treble but not harsh, separation, detail, and comfortable soundstage, I had no complaints.

Normally when listening to a new mp3 player I find the default Flat/Normal/Neutral settings to be dull and lifeless, almost muffled. I tend to head straight to the DSP settings and try and tweak to finding something I like, usually that's a loose V shaped signature of some description.
With the Shozy I wouldn't describe its sound to being flat, perhaps because my ears enjoyed it so much on first hearing that suggests to me it may be more V shaped, I donít know, Iím no expert in this regard, but I liked whatever it was I was hearing.

And of course on the Alien there is no way to change any sound settings, WYSIWYG, and with that comes pros and cons. With no ability to tinker the sound you can only sit back and enjoy. No getting caught up with buggy UI, or being frustrated with not getting the sound signature you're trying to seek. Perhaps now being forced to listening to the song as is, maybe closely resembling what the artist intended (tho no one really knows the answer to that other than the artists themselves). But from someone who has come from a BBE/Jet Effect (ab)user this was actually a remarkable breath of fresh air! Oddly enough, when trying some songs I felt at times this was actually hitting a sound signature that sounded very similar to my own Cowon tweaked BBE sound signatureÖ canít beÖ must be all my imagination...

But here is where the Shozy really shines. With the Alien, when shuffling a mix of various songs from various genres (more on how to do this later) I wasn't feeling as tho I needed to increase bass for this track here, or lower for this track there, everything sounded good, with no hand looking to go reaching for something to tweak.
On my Cowon, I found when shuffling music like this, I needed to have the 4 user custom presets set in such a way to slightly change depending upon genre. Bass heavy music such as rap or hiphop needed a bit less bass emphasis, but on older heavy metal tracks benefited with more bass, so with Cowon I was constantly reaching down, tweaking the player to jump to a different preset depending upon which track came on next. I managed to get very fluid and quick in doing this, but still it was a slight pain in the ass.
I can confidently say that this hasn't been the case with the Alien. Going from one genre to the next doesn't make me reach down for a tweak, everything is as it should be and I was really surprised by this revelation.

So... I'm getting ahead of myself a little here, back to MP3's FLAC and WAV.
I also tried ripping a CD to FLAC and found no audible difference (to the WAV). I wish the Shozy could take MP3's because when I played the FLAC and WAV rips of my CD against a 320kbps MP3 file, I couldnít hear any audible difference (using Foobar with the Fiio E9+E7 USB DAC combo running through Superlux HD668B cans). I would hazard a bet that MP3's would sound just as good on the Shozy, but hey... FLAC and WAV only attracts a certain crowd right?

I wasn't about to go and rebuy all my music collection in FLAC or WAV so I had to do a Mp3 conversion to WAV or FLAC, less than ideal. Nonetheless I used foobar to do this task and for me I can't notice any difference between a CD rip to FLAC/WAV vs a MP3 320kbps>FLAC/WAVconversion. Perhaps my ears are too stuffed to tell the difference, I dunno.. YMMV.

In my opinion the success of this player isn't because it only plays WAV (44.1k/24B) or FLAC (44.1k/24B) but rather what's happening on the inside in combination of removing as many software/screen components that get in the way of reproducing good sound quality.

I support this statement because when i connect my PFE 232's (which hiss very little) to my Cowon or Sansa players, even with EQ's turned off and volume low, I heara slight hiss, and more hiss when songs are actually being played. Only recently did I buy the Yamaha EPH-100's, intended for the Cowon i9+, I was disappointed, they were by far the hissiest IEM I have owned to date (to be fair they sounded pretty good if you could get past the hiss). It's a very different story however once you connect them to the Shozy, absolute zero hiss again. I threw every IEM I owned at the Shozy, I couldn't hear hiss on any of them. It just goes to show... sometimes different sources do matter.


Well there's little to talk about here, having no UI means I have little to discredit. There are some gripes tho. The button placement for example, is too cramped really. The player has no resume feature, so if you have been listening for an hour and a half, accidentally hit the off button (middle one) then when you go to switch it back on youíre presented with what could be quite a few time consuming skipping of tracks to get back to where you left off. And you can't press the skip quickly either, you have to wait for each song to start playing before moving to next track. Again something that could hopefully be improved upon for the next model.
There really is no need for such cramped button arrangement, for a player that is really going to reside in your pocket for 99% of the time, youíll want to operate it blindly, slightly further apart button placement would help, and pronounced raised buttons so you can feel them easier.

A bonus however is with no UI comes no library updates or refreshes. Once the card is inserted music starts playing within a few seconds.

It's clear Shozy intended this player to have a 16 or 32gb card inserted and drag and drop albums onto the player and listen to each album sequentially, long pressing fwd button to skip entire albums.
I had a different plan.
I love shuffling my music. When I come across new albums and new material I will listen to the album as intended a few times, but ultimately I pick the songs I really like and add them to my 'best of' collection. And with that I often shuffle some of the songs in that best of collection depending upon what mood I'm in that day.
With the Cowon i9+ I used their 'on the fly' solution to do this courtesy of their Favorites feature. But it was still a little fiddly and time consuming, for the Shozy I have moved to a better method, Winamp.

I now have Winamp setup with a library consisting of only FLACs. Each morning I build a playlist of what I fancy listening to and by using Winamp to do this feels superior to any OTG fiddly player alternative. I get full album art display, no lag, less mistakes and basically finding the songs I really want i.e. a faster better playlist.
Once I have the playlist I save it to desktop, then by using a handy little program called 'Amok Playlist Copy' it copies all the FLACs that exist in the playlist onto my micro sd card in my card reader (by the way i have a 64gb card working fine). I did a test the other day, 231 files (6gb) took 6.5 mins to copy across to the sd card (fyi).
But now I am left with lots of song files starting with 01 xxxx.flac, 01 xxxxx.flac etc. If I were to listen as is then I would be hearing track 1 of everything in the playlist for a good long time before moving onto track 2 etc. I wanted things really shuffled, but how to do this?

In steps my IT friend who simply says 'i can do that!' and makes a cool little script that randomises the files and allocates 0001 0002 0003 etc in front of the files to ensure they play in that randomised order. Nice.

But I felt this wasn't enough, we can do better! A lack of resume feature made it a little painful to get to track 50 or 60 quickly after a power off, so my friend went one step further and created a GUI interface that allowed the files to be split into folders of how many files you like. This way I now had my 231 files randomised, allocated 0001 0002 0003 etc to their file names AND they were split up into folder lots of 10, 20, 30 tracks or how many you liked! Now when I resume and want to find where I left off I can long press the fwd button and skip 10, 20 or 30 songs with ease, and then single press the fwd button to find the last track heard (or rwd button if gone too far). Perfect! Thus with a little help from a friend I have circumnavigated some of Shozy's shortcomings, the lack of resume feature and no shuffle.

The new improved ShozzyShuffler can be found here. (pw shozy)

EDIT: A member on headfi (Jaker782) discovered that the Shozy can indeed Shuffle! Long pressing the volume down mode puts the player into a different playback mode.

First long press: Album repeat mode (folder repeat)
Second long press: Default mode
Third long press: Song shuffle mode
Fourth long press: Default mode

The Shuffle mode plays everything on the SD Card and not just within a folder, so it is a true 'Shuffle All'.

It is bizarre that the player does this and is no way advertising this fact. If you look at the specs picture above you will notice that they make an effort to point out that long pressing the volume + button acts as a play/pause but volume - button is still just volume down...
There is actual evidence to support that one of the Shozy developers is unaware of this feature... truly a device 'out of this world' lol :S

Ok, back to the review...

The lack of UI for some is probably an automatic deal breaker, but if youíre brave enough and you think that you can make the Shozy work for you then I say go for it. No screen is actually quite refreshing; there is also nothing to scratch! Adding an amp might make a nice addition (tho technically double amping as the Alien has no line out), but seeing as the shozy has a very clean output I suspect it will work very well with a variety of amps.
Something that also annoyed me about amping in the past, with previous DAPs, elastic bands or whatnot can overlap the DAPs screen etc, anchoring the two devices together can be problematic, here with the Alien we don't have that problem, no screen, no issue.

Personally I have not used an amp with mine, no need, the Alien is powering all of my IEMs fine as is. But this is a device aimed for the IEM user specifically; if you plan to use different headphones such as cans you may very well need more power to drive them.


Since owning the Shozy Alien I have not picked up another DAP. I like the sound and zero hiss too much to go back to a Cowon. I feel I have conquered the no screen limitation, it's not a big deal for me, and if you think it might be for you I encourage you to think outside the box.

According to other users, for $200USD you're getting a player that is on par with some very expensive boutique DAPs, competing with and in some peoples opinions trumping (in sound quality only of course) even very expensive $1000 players like the AK240s.

There is room for improvement, the 8hr battery life for one is indeed hard to swallow, but for me and my life circumstances I can make do, gone are my days of listening to music 10hrs non stop, yours may not be.

Only you can decide whether you are ready to join the little green men...



-Excellent sound quality, engaging and addictive, balanced and not lending to wanting to be tweaked in anyway. Suits a variety of genres.
-No hiss, at least to my ears none, tested with a variety of IEMs that have pronounced hiss on other well known DAPs.
-No screen to scratch, no distractions, no buggy firmware. (Yes i see this as a Pro!)
-Small volume increment adjustments.
-Plays music fairly quickly with no refresh databases to contend with. * Yes if there aren't too many songs on a sd card, but the higher the gb stored on a card the longer it takes before first song playing.
-Shuffle mode does exist


-Lack of features and functionality that come with similar priced DAPs (namely screen/navigation assistance)
-Buttons slightly cramped, tho in reality not a big issue, I personally have never accidentally switched off the device when meaning to pause for example.
-No Bass or Treble control, but again perhaps that detracts from the point.
-No Mp3 support (where in reality I would surmise it would sound as good as FLAC and WAV).
-Short battery life.
-Weigh's 80g. On the one hand this is a decent weight when considering the sound quality and what might actually exist inside components wise (vs competitors), but for a shuffle player this is still mighty heavy. Lighter is always better in my opinion and opens up the player to be used in a variety of different scenarios.
-Only one folder depth possible, subfolders are not read.
-No Shuffle or resume ability, but partially navigated around using above method.
-No Search feature (as in skipping through a song)
-There appears to be a max file limit for a single folder, 231 files was not read accurately with quite a few songs being omitted, splitting the 231 files into folders of 20 or 30 solved this issue (or leaving them in root).


-Does the Shozy play and charge same time? I dunno.. will find out.

Yes it does, but according to Shozy to do so might not be ideal towards health of battery.

I purchased my Shozy Alien from noisymotel, they offer excellent customer service and believe they post internationally.
SOURCE: Xclef (gone) | Cowon X5(gone) | Cowon D2 (dead) | Sansaclip+ RB | Sansa ClipZip RB | Cowon i9+ (32gb) | Cowon C2 (4gb)
HPs: Soundmagic E10's | Hippo VB's | UE 600's | Superlux HD 668B | Superlux HD660 | Sony XBA3 | Sony XBA2VP

Last edited by BruceBanner; 01-27-2015 at 12:44 PM.
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