HiFi Walker H2 review: An MP3 player with wide-ranging file support but rough edges

 The HiFi Walker H2 on a wooden bench.
The HiFi Walker H2 on a wooden bench.

HiFi Walker H2: Four-minute review

The HiFi Walker H2 has carved out a very unique spot itself in the portable media players market. When it comes to MP3 players or digital audio players, the space between the super-cheap Amazon-flooding options and the super-premium bank-account-draining high-end best MP3 players is a no-man’s land. Into that desolate area strides the HiFi Walker H2, which is lovely and premium in some aspects and startlingly rough in others.

HiFi Walker is a Hong Kong-based tech company that, according to its website, only seems to make four products: a bone conduction headphone, an MP3 player carry case, a touch-controlled MP3 player and this, the HiFi Walker H2. I’d put money on the fact that you heard about this device on Amazon, or another shopping website, when looking for a new MP3 player.

So, should you pick up the HiFi Walker H2? Well, that really depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for an alternative to the kinds of feature-flush digital audio player that make up our list of the best MP3 player, then the HiFi Walker H2 might be your best option that doesn’t cost an eye-watering four-figure sum.

The device supports a wide range of audio file types including MP3, WAV, AAC, FLAC and WMA, with a Texas Instruments-made DAC that’s a favorite amongst audiophiles and an on-board equalizer so you can tweak your sounds depending on your tastes and ears.

With two 3.5mm headphone ports, you can plug in headphones or connect the player to your home sound system or vehicle stereo; there’s also Bluetooth compatibility so you can stream wirelessly to other devices or from your smartphone using Qualcomm aptX. The HiFi Walker really ticks as many connectivity options as it can.

If you just care about your listening experience to the exclusion of everything else, then, this is a great device that far undercuts similarly-featured rivals. But that’s at a big expense: in almost every other department, the HiFi Walker is a bit of a dud.

Take the battery life, for example: the device lasts for roughly 10 hours of listening before going flat (a figure which is even lower if you’re listening via Bluetooth). For some people, that’s not even a full working day of listening, and it’s much less than the vast majority of the device’s rivals.

The design is another area that needed a second draft: it’s basically a big bulky block. The glass rear picks up fingerprints quicker than a crime scene investigator and the device weighs down your pocket like a big rock.

Perhaps the most questionable area is the software though, which would be most aptly described as ‘harebrained’. Over the course of my testing the HiFi Walker, I never quite worked out how to get around in a manner beyond ‘pressing random buttons to see what happens’. Sometimes pressing ‘back’ from a song menu will take you onto the music player, other times it’ll take you one step back in the menu list. I could never work out if I should play songs from the ‘explorer’ menu or ‘category’. There are two different settings menus with options randomly scattered between the two.

All of the above is to say, the HiFi Walker H2 has plenty of rough edges, and so it’s really only worth considering if you need great audio and the only cost you care about is the financial one.

HiFi Walker H2 review: Price and release date

The HiFi Walker H2's scroll wheel.
The HiFi Walker H2's scroll wheel.
  • Costs $149 / £129 (roughly AU$230)

  • Not the cheapest, but pretty cheap

The default price of the HiFi Walker is $149 / £129 (roughly AU$230) but you likely don’t need to reach that far into your wallet; at the time of writing, the device is on sale for $120 / £105 (roughly AU$200) and its price seems to fluctuate between these prices, sometimes going even lower.

At that price, this certainly isn’t the cheapest MP3 player we’ve ever tested, and there are options at the mid-two-figures mark that are certainly worth buying if you’re looking for a simple and portable music player.

However some DAPs (digital audio players) on the market go for eye-watering four-figure sums, and a brief perusal of our list of the best MP3 players shows plenty of much more expensive rivals. The HiFi Walker holds its head against some of those, making a decent case as to its place as a budget alternative.

If you see a pricier device on sale, that’s actually the HiFi Walker H2 Touch, a touch-screen version that’s about $20 / £20 more expensive and is different in a few ways. That’s not the device being tested for this review.

HiFi Walker H2 review: Features

The HiFi Walker H2 in a man's hand.
The HiFi Walker H2 in a man's hand.
  • 10-hour battery life max

  • Onboard equalizer is handy

  • Two 3.5mm ports and Bluetooth connectivity options

According to HiFi Walker, the battery life of the H2 is 10 hours of use. Some of you may be wondering something to which the audio-tech-heads already know the answer: no, that’s not very long at all. It’ll be fine for listening at home or on short walks, but don’t expect to take it on long holidays (unless you’ll spend lots of time near a charging port).

I should also mention that users online have reporting a use time that’s somehow even shorter, closer to 8 hours. I tested using wired headphones and 10 felt like a more appropriate estimate, but if you rely on Bluetooth for your listening, this 8-hour figure is probably more apt.

So what features does the HiFi Walker H2 have on board? The first, and perhaps most important, is an onboard equalizer to let you tweak the sound of your music to your ears.

There are various presents including rock, jazz and ‘classic’ (presumably classical), but you can also jump into a custom mode if you dare. This requires an adept understanding of the various navigation hiccups of the H2 (more on that later), but it gives audiophiles a lot of leeway to control their musical experience.

Otherwise, the H2 is distinctly feature-bare. There’s no support for non-musical file formats, no in-device recorder, and relatively little way to customize the device.

The HiFi Walker’s saving grace is its range of connectivity options, which should impress people with lots of gadgets. There are not one but two 3.5mm aux ports, so you can plug in headphones or a jack to connect it to your existing hi-fi systems, and it connects using Bluetooth not just to headphones but to a smartphone as well.

This is done using Qualcomm’s aptX, and it’s meant to let you pull through your phone’s songs onto your HiFi Walker to control it in an extra way… in theory. In practice, the H2 failed to pair with my phone on every occasion, so I never got to test the feature.

  • Features score: 3.5/5

HiFi Walker H2 review: Design

The HiFi Walker H2's ports
The HiFi Walker H2's ports
  • Giant black obelisk

  • Heavy, but not too heavy

  • Plenty of buttons across the body

The images that accompany this review aren’t screenshots from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. No, it’s the HiFi Walker H2, which is perhaps cosplaying as the famous monolith, in that it’s a big black rectangle.

The device measures 5.6 x 1.5 x 8.9cm so it’s about average sized for a DAP: bigger than your cheap MP3 player but not as big as some of the chunky top-end models on the market. However with a weight of 150g it’s really showing its heft; this isn’t gadget you can idly chuck in your pocket or leave on your chest as you doze.

An interesting little design feature is the presence of a gap at the bottom-right of the face of the device, which seemingly looks like it’s for a lanyard or wrist grasp to attach to. One is not included in the box.

It’s fair to say that the H2 has more buttons in more places than a Bop-It game. The top edge has the power button, the right edge has the volume rocker and an exposed microSD card slot, and the bottom edge has one USB-C and two 3.5mm audio ports.

On the front you’ve got a forward and backward button on the right edge, with a back button below them. To the left you’re looking at an iPad Classic-style scroll wheel with a pause/play button in the middle, and under that is the M button. If you press M during music playback, it brings up a list of options including the equalizer and the option to add the song to your favorites.

The screen measures 2 inches diagonally, with a resolution of 320 x 240. That’s almost fit for purpose – almost but not quite, and so album artwork is generally cropped off for its lower fifth when you’re listening to music. Unlike most rivals it’s not a touchscreen.

Instead, you’re using that scroll wheel to navigate menus. Thankfully it’s nice and responsive, with a little physical ‘click’ at every interval to indicate that you’ve scrolled onto the next option. This may be blasphemous to some, but I think I prefer it to the one on ye olde iPod!

No official IP rating has been provided for the HiFi Walker H2, so don’t take it in the bath with you.

  • Design score: 3/5

HiFi Walker H2 review: Usability and setup

The HiFi Walker H2 memory card
The HiFi Walker H2 memory card
  • Easy to add files via USB-C

  • Memory card is technically external

  • Confusing interface layout

Adding music the the H2 couldn’t be simpler: you plug it into your computer, drag audio files onto its window and disconnect the device. It couldn’t be simpler!

By default, the HiFi Walker H2 has 64GB memory for storage. I say “by default” instead of “on-board” as there is no on-board storage, and this 64GB is thanks to a microSD card lodged in the side of the device. Remove it and you can’t listen to music; you can swap it for a higher-storage option up to 256GB for more space though.

This could be really useful for people who really want to easily swap between, for example, their jazz cards, or their opera cards, or their pop-rock cards. However for the average user, this is just a potential tiny piece of tech to use — particularly because the card is literally poking out of the H2’s body, and you can eject it by pressing it.

If you find the thought of juggling microSD cards daunting, then maybe click off this review now, because the process of actually navigating the HiFi Walker’s menus is an absolute nightmare.

The user interface layout of this MP3 player is illogical and confusing. It’s easy to sum this up by pointing out one thing: there are four options on the main menu: ‘category’, ‘explorer’, ‘settings’ and ‘system settings’. To make that clear; the first duo are two different ways to scroll through your music library, the second duo are two different lists of settings.

So which of those options do you press in order to explore your library of songs? If you picked ‘explore’ you’re wrong, it’s category. What about to change the system-wide wallpaper? If you picked ‘system settings’, you’re once again wrong, it’s just ‘settings’.

The myriad buttons you have at your disposal are confusing too, not least because they seem to do different things. Sometimes when you’re in a menu, hovering over a song, the M button will add a song to your favorites. Other times it’ll prompt you to start a new playlist, and in some other circumstances it’ll just act like the ‘select’ button. Same as with the back button and foward/backward buttons too.

Honestly, navigation in general is a pain, and it took me a while to figure out how to get around the user interface — after two weeks of testing, I sometimes still get lost. If you own this product, here’s my helpful tip: pressing the power button once just turns off the screen, and you need to press and hold to turn the whole system off.

As a reviewer, I probably shouldn’t also gripe about spelling and grammar mistakes in the user interface… but as a writer, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring that up too!

  • Usability & setup score: 3/5

HiFi Walker H2 review: Sound quality

The HiFi Walker H2 on a metal table.
The HiFi Walker H2 on a metal table.
  • Neutral sound

  • Plenty of file formats supported

I’m going to give it to the HiFi Walker: this review has been fairly middling, but it’s ticking all the boxes when it comes to sound quality.

The player’s default sound quality is slap-bang neutral: don’t expect any booming basses or shrill trebles here. It’s inoffensive but lovely and balanced.

I say ‘lovely’ because the equaliser is right there: you’ve got a nice blank slate so you can tweak the sound to your heart’s content.

The H2 plays loads of different file formats; whether your library is saved in MP3, WMA, WAV, OGG, AIF, AAC or even DSD, you can play them on this device.

  • Sound quality score: 4/5

HiFi Walker H2 review: Value

The HiFi Walker H2 in a man's hand.
The HiFi Walker H2 in a man's hand.
  • Much cheaper than high-end audio players

  • Pricier than budget MP3 players

If all you care about is listening to a range of audio file types on a range of devices, then the HiFi Walker H2 absolutely offers value for money; its price is a fraction of what you’d pay for many rival devices offering similar feature sets.

However if you just want a simple digital audio player so you can listen to tunes when out and about, the H2’s price just won’t be worth it when you consider all the rough edges in the user interface and design.

  • Value score: 3/5

Should I buy the HiFi Walker H2?

The HiFi Walker H2 on a wooden bench.
The HiFi Walker H2 on a wooden bench.

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

HiFi Walker H2 review: Also consider

How I tested the HiFi Walker H2

The HiFi Walker H2 power button
The HiFi Walker H2 power button
  • Two-week testing period

  • Pop, rock, classical and spoken word music tested

  • Used at home, in the office and on walks

I tested the HiFi Walker H2 using a range of headphones including Bluetooth-connected over-ears, wired in-ears and my running headphones. The testing was done simultaneously to several other MP3 players to give some context to it.

The music I listened to was largely classical but I also tested using rock, pop and hip-hop to get a wide mix of genres. This was mainly done in the H2's default sound state but I fiddled with the equalizer a little too.

I have over five years of experience under the belt testing gadgets for TechRadar which includes, in the audio space, speakers, over-ear headphones, earbuds and radios.