Top positive review
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Aural Nirvana, although not for everyone!
on 14 May 2010
I felt compelled to write this review having now owned the Cowon for just over a week. I've gone from considering sending it back and purchasing a Zune HD, to one week later being completely in love with the thing!
First impressions: On opening the packaging and first holding the S9, I was somewhat disappointed, coming from the heavyweight Creative Zen Vision W this unit felt like some what of cheap `credit card' style remote that comes bundled with dodgy Panasonic micro systems from Currys. Lovely looking screen though ;)
Also the stock user interface on this unit is damn right ugly and borders on the unintuitive. I turned it on, dragged and dropped Jeff Buckley's Last Goodbye, stuck in the stock ear buds and eagerly awaited the widely reported "stunning" audio.
What's this, wait up? It sounds no better than my Creative Zen and certainly no better than the much cheaper Samsung P3 that I auditioned last week. Bah, I sit there disappointed whilst wandering if I've been mugged off.
I count to 10 make a cup of tea, get online and head to a few Cowon forums to vent my frustrations. Thankfully it's after spending some time on these forums that everything becomes clear.
First off the S9 is a tweakers paradise, being flash based you can literally skin your device with any style of interface you fancy. I download a few themes and soon the interface is looking miles better than it did originally. CLAWS UI finishes everything off (Google it!) and the S9 is now exactly how I want it. I also upgrade to the latest firmware which irons out a few niggles.
Next off, I read about the impressive array of EQ settings i.e. BBE and various ways in which the sound of the S9 can be customised to suit headphone and music type. I spend some time playing around with these, switch on BBE Viva 2 and WOW even with the nasty disposable ear buds that come packaged with the S9 my jaw drops. The sound from this thing is nothing short of incredible, it makes the IPOD touch sound like a power drill! Honestly this unit really is leaps ahead of any other DAP or MP3 player I've heard in recent years.
In addition, the AMOLED screen is absolutely stunning; I recoded BBC Planets Earth from a Blu Ray DVD; drop it onto the S9 and the colours absolutely pop. The S9 trounces any other screen I've seen to date. The S9 also supports a huge amount of formats, avi, divx, the list is seemingly endless. It also supports my lovely FLAC audio files. Hmmm, nice.
Next day my Ultimate Ears Super 5 fi pros arrive, the bundled earphones get chucked in the bin and the sound just improves 10 fold. If you're going to spend £200 on this player than do yourself a favour, ditch the stock earphones and go and spend some money on a pair of decent par of headphones i.e. Ultimate Ears, Shures, Wetstones, Etymotics or Grados. You won't regret it and if you can afford the S9, you can afford a decent pair of cans to go with it ;) You'll thank yourself for it and only then will you really see what this amazing player is capable of.
In short, out of the box you might think "Oh what is all the fuss about" but to think this and give up on it will mean your doing yourself and the S9 a disservice. The S9 is highly customisable and capable unit, do yourself a favour and do some of research! You can set the S9 up to be a stunning little device that is tailored to your needs with a little bit of know how.
This is brings me to my major point, this MP3 isn't for everyone. Many of you will be better off with an IPOD touch, or a Zune HD. Out of the box they're easier to use, they look nicer and if you're using cheap headphones and poorly encoded MP3s with a bit rate of 128kps, you won't be able to tell the difference in sound.
However if you consider yourself an audiophile and put decent sound quality at a premium, than this really is the player for you.
Even the look and feel has grown on me and rather worryingly I heard myself calling it `sleek and sexy' yesterday.
I can't recommend it enough, but before you buy I suggest you do your research whilst asking yourself whether or not you're computer literate and patient enough to get the best out of it. As if you don't know what you're doing you'll end up bricking the device and having to send it back!
I'm hard to please, but this really is a stunning piece of kit and I can't recommend it highly enough.
Stunning sound quality! Unmatched in my opinion (New Sony X series is on a par though)
Excellent format support including FLAC, Ogg etc.
Fantastic AMOLED screen, only matched by the Zune HD
Endless opportunities for customisation, means you can tailor your S9 until your heart is content.
Drag and drop transfer ability means no useless, invasive and nasty I tunes to bother with.
Regular firmware updates. Almost on a monthly basis, meaning the S9 is constantly being updated and improved.
I don't want to hate on Apple or come across as a Cowon Fan boy, as really its each to their own. I personally feel the S9 offers a far superior product to the Ipod/I touch and makes a statement about the type of consumer you are.
The S9 does have some issues e.g Album art not displaying, unintuitive user interface. Although these can be worked around fairly easily and are down to user error and lack of understanding rather than the unit itself.
The S9 at times feels like it is too intelligent for its own good, e.g. carrying out simple tasks can for some seem complicated and I can understand why some users don't like the unit.
Expensive, there is no denying that this unit is costly. If you don't care about flac, customisation or the sound quality, you may do well to consider the IPOD touch, the SAMSUNG P3, Zune HD or other players. They all have pros and cons, yet I would argue that some of these players and both cheaper and more suitable for may users.
Accessories are expensive, the cowon bundle is fairly sparse, you'll have to pay extra if you want TV out cables and a wall charger The USB is also a Korean 20 pin and the S9 won't charge of a micro usb which is a tad frustrating.
Take the time to read and understand the instructions before jumping in and give these guys a visit...
They'll save you a lot of time ; )