The HUM Pervasion is a new kid on the block in the rapidly crowding world of digital audio players (DAPs), particularly those coming out of China (and in this case a Hong Kong company with manufacturing in China). To make any noise (pardon the pun) in this market a DAP needs to be very good. Luckily, the Pervasion has a few tricks up its sleeve to compete.
This has been one of those reviews that was a journey in itself to write. The more I listened to and used the Pervasion, the more questions it created. I’ve attempted to ask and answer all those questions here for you so please, strap in, relax, and enjoy the read!
EDIT: Please note that my Pervasion was returned to HUM for an update to bring its performance in line with final production versions. I have written an HUM Pervasion Update to clarify how it changed and improved.
The Pervasion looks like an old smartphone which is appropriate because it also runs Android software so you’ll probably have flashbacks to an original HTC or similar phone when you first pick up the Pervasion, but that’s not a criticism – it’s kind of fun and comforting.
- Display: 4.3″ touch screen
- CPU: 28nm A9 dual core 1.2GHz
- OS: Android 4.2.2
- Memory: external only, up to 128Gb microSD card (FAT32)
- DAC: Wolfson WM8741
- Op Amp: LME49720 (used as a filter in the DAC stage)
- Battery life: approx. 6 hours (full charge in 2 hours)
Much of the technical information about the Pervasion looks excellent on paper, but doesn’t guarantee great sound, however HUM’s emphasis on using a flagship DAC (Wolfson WM8741), high voltage power supply, and top quality components from the likes of Vishay, Elna, Alps, and Nichicon suggested an attention to detail and desire for quality. The question is, did they put all of these pieces together well or is the Pervasion just a mash-up of great parts that don’t necessarily synergise? At a rough price point of around $350 USD it could go either way… either amazing value or mediocre insignificance.
Design and Interface
I already mentioned that the Pervasion looks and feels a bit like an old phone, but for a dedicated audio player, that’s fine in many ways. It’s thicker in the body than a modern phone, but that’s most likely due to the extra audio components required to make the Pervasion sound like ‘not a phone’.
The chassis and casing of the Pervasion isn’t anything special. Putting it up next to the likes of the Shozy Alien, FiiO X5, or any of the Astell & Kern players, the Pervasion is going to look a little bit average. It’s not cheap or flimsy by any stretch, but it also doesn’t scream top-end quality. Don’t let that put you off though… you’re buying a DAP, not a showpiece. The chassis is everything it needs to be – it’s painted in a beautiful metallic red finish and it feels great in the hand. All the edges are well finished and the screen is a great size and has good clarity and vibrancy, especially for a music player.
Physical Controls and Connections
The top of the player has a micro USB socket for charging and data, and a simple on / off button which also wakes the device with a short press. On the left side (looking at the screen) is a simple up / down button for the volume and on the right side of the player is a slot for the microSD card which is uncovered, but cleanly finished and the card sits flush when installed so it’s a nice design – simple to access, but clean and neat. So far so normal, right? Let’s get to the stuff that you’ll never find on a phone…
On the bottom of the Pervasion you’ll find a pair of 3.5mm sockets – headphone out and line out – and a small, black volume wheel. “But wait”, you say, “Isn’t there a volume rocker on the side?” Yes there is, but you’ll want to use the bottom one most of the time. You see the WM8741 DAC chip (Wolfson’s top of the line) has digital attenuation, but it will degrade the sound quality by reducing the bit-depth of the signal. What this means in general terms is that as you reduce the volume level using the digital control, the distance between your music and the underlying noise gets smaller and smaller. You can actually hear this in action if you lower the digital control a fair way and then boost the analogue control – things get pretty messy at the extremes. However, if you leave the digital volume at full (255 / 255) you get pure, unadulterated audio to the internal amp and to the line-out.
Dual Volume Control is Awesome
In case you were thinking that this whole dual volume control thing was a bit dodgy, let me explain some great benefits.
Firstly it means you can adjust the line-out volume. If there was no digital control you’d have no way to adjust the line-out level and although significant reductions in digital volume bring noise issues, slight reductions in the digital volume won’t have an audible impact so you can use the Pervasion’s digital control to shave off a few dB if you need to for an external amp or a set of active speakers.
Reason 2 that the digital volume control is great is that you can run the line-out and the headphone out at the same time and adjust the volume of the headphone out without affecting the line-out volume. This means you can use headphones from both an amp and the Pervasion at the same time which, although rarely necessary, can be a handy trick.
Before I discuss the interface and sound quality, here’s a quick unboxing video so you can see the device “in the flesh” and also witness the beautiful startup animation: