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4.1 out of 5 stars31
4.1 out of 5 stars
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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 ; )
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on 31 May 2009
After a recommendation from a friend i punted for this player given the spec and AMOLED screen. I own a 30gb and 120gb ipod both of which struggle to cope with bass and only offer a limted range of EQ settings. The poor quality sound was really exposed once i bought a pair of Shure SE310 headphones so decided it was time to upgrade the player. Reading some of the forums, everyone has said about how Cowons have the best sound quality etc., and not having heard it for myself decided to take a gamble. I have to say what a fantastic player, the sound from this thing is amazing and matches the quality of the headphones.
You must invest in a good pair or the quality of this player will seem no different to any pther ipod/MP3 player. EQ settings are infinte and the screen colours just blow you away and the screen is brilliantly responsive. FLAC tagging is a little clumsy but firmware updates seem to be coming out every month which should address this. Also MP4's are not supported which is dissapointing but as long as you have a decent converter does it doesn't matter as you can still convert to divX but again a firmware update may fix this. Bass is stunning and top end has clarity you simply will not have heard before. The interface takes a little getting used to, certainly as i own an iphone and the interface is no-where near as intuitive but once you know your way around its fine.

all in all this player exceeded all my expecations. If you can get the 32g go for it, but the 16gb will hold 360 songs at 44mb each in uncompressed format so should be enough for most. I stull use my ipod for going to the gym and use Skullcandy earphones which compensate for the lack of bass, but if your going to spend £200 on a player buy this you will not be dissapointed
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on 3 November 2009
If you have already googled the player,viewed the youtube demo's and drooled over the images then buy it.
This is as good as the reviews say it is. If like me you are not a sheep and want something other than an iwhatever (yes there are other quality manufactures out there)and do not want to be trapped into itunes then this is a good buy. The trouble is i only want an audiophile quality music player without all the video/picture/apps add ons but they do not exist so you get the whole package. Forget looks (although it is nice)this player sounds great and has plenty of sound customisation tools to get you the sound you like. My clumsey fat fingers had a bit of a job with the touch screen but after shaving my fingers to a point it works great(joke kids)

You will not go wrong with this player. It beats ipod sound and picture quality but lacks the wireless connectivity (although bluetooth is built in for wireless headsets and stuff)I got the 16gb version for the price of the 8gb here at Amazon which was a bonus as there is no facility to expand the memory but saying that i constantly change what i have on the player as variety is the spice of life and have plenty of alternative music storage elswhere. Great style, great sound, many tools,would stop a bullet piercing your heart if you had it in your chest pocket and was shot.
Get one. If you don't like it theres something wrong with you.
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on 19 March 2010
OK, so I've only had this for a couple of days! But I'm VERY impressed. I am a bit of a hi-fi buff, so value sound above all (that's why we buy these things - isn't it??). Previously had a Creative Zen 8Gb - great player, but ran out of space. Wanted a bigger replacement and external buttons. Bought a Sony E series - lovely to look at - but you could hardly hear the thing! And it didn't sound as good as the Zen - so returned it. Picked the Cowon after great reviews across the web, even though the brand is not well known. Here are my + and - points:

+ points
+ It sounds fantastic - rich detail and presence and it goes LOUD (just ensure you DO NOT SELECT EUROPE in the Country configuration screen, then OK to Europe/China for the radio)
+ it's a beautiful thing to hold, use and look at
+ Great user interface - yes, there is a lot going on, so you will need to spend some time to get to know it - but that's fun
+ Radio is very good
+ Easy to synch your files to - lots of options for that, but I used Media Player (NOTE - ensure the Cowon is set to MTP transfer mode and then all your album art will be transferred), you can also use copy and paste to put files on
+ Fantastic screen
+ External buttons for volume, next track etc - handy so you can leave in the pocket and control without using the screen (did you hear that Creative??)
+ Long battery life - yet to prove this, but they claim 50hrs!
+ Lots of web forums, user groups and flash applications for changing the player interface etc

- points
- It takes a little while to get used to navigating around (personally I like all the options and prepared to put in the time) - if you want a very simple interface, you may be a little frustrated
- Slight delay in screen response to finger touch
- Not so many accessories around as the market is ipod brainwashed.....

Did I mention THE SOUND?
BUY - if you love music for its sound, the Cowon is the one.
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on 18 May 2009
fantastic sound quality even with the issued ever I purchased a pair of shure se110 and the issued earphones out performed them by miles.
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on 10 August 2009
i have had the S9 for around a month now and i can say that the sound quality is of a high standard, and this was the main reason that i choose this mp3 player over others similar to it. the user interface on the other hand is not very good and i would like to have a word with the guy responsible for this layout to simply ask him what he was thinking.
If your looking for good sound quality go for it. if you want a sensible layout go for something else, the sony X series looks pretty sick! but i have to say, the S9 is a rather attractive piece of equipment...
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on 2 April 2010
Well I recently decided to upgrade my MP3 player. But I had gone of Apple products. To me they are wonderful to look at and easy to use, but there is something sterile about them and from a company that was originally all about openness their systems are to restrictive and closed for my liking now.

So having looked around I had heard a lot of good about the Cowon audio players. In particular the S9. So purchased one and got it the next day, in time for me to give it a test run while I had a long weekend in New York.

On opening the box and getting the product out, it looks excellent. It really does look as good as the photo's show. The problem is when you pick it up. There is a very plastic feel to it and it is to light weight. When hidden in a pocket it is all to easy to forget it's there. So the build quality is good but the materials used are awful and the feel is off.

Once you charge it up and turn it on, the first thing you will notice is the screen. It uses an AMOLED screen, which gives off wonderful colours and feels extremely vibrant. Play a movie or music video on it (preferably do a good rip) and you will see a great improvement over other media players.

The next problem then rears it's ugly head, the menu system. The top menu is easy to use and excellent, but as you start to drill down into the sub-menu's things start to get a bit confusing. I have been using this for over a month now and only just starting to get the hang of it. The instructions (both supplied and on the website) are next to useless. The main problem is that when playing music you are in the menu of the album you want to listen to everything is OK. But when you want to choose a new album to listen to then you hit problems. First up there was no indication on how to do this. Also you will notice there is no back button like on say a touch or any controls like the Archos. Instead, after a little trial and error and some research I found you had to flick your finger across the screen. As I said I am getting used to it but it isn't always easy.

Another thing is your music when it is stored. To get the front covers of your CD's on there you need to copy them into the relevant folder and rename the file front.jpg.

At this point you may be wondering why I have given it so high when the review has been so negative? Easy, the sound quality.

First you need to be aware that there is some additional investment required when purchasing this particular MP3 player. First thing to do is throw out the earphones. Don't use them they are awful. Also forget using anything like the £10-20 pound Sony, Phillips or any other manufacturers generic earphones. Even get rid of the Apple earphones. As a bare minimum you are looking at something like BOSS earphones (I like them) or any of your favourite high quality earphones. Even better get some high quality headphones instead. Then rip your Vinyl and CD collection to either FLAC, OGG or APE and away you go. You have the best lossless media player around (don't even talk about Apples lossless format it's awful compared to the others).

Oh and one other nice feature that I haven't seen anywhere else, it can record radio stations directly from it's fm tuner. Handy for those live concerts on the radio.

All in all I gave it 3 out of 5. What I will say though is this, if you are an audiophile who loves the best quality sound and isn't put off by the hidden menu's and frankly isn't bothered about all the manual work required then add 1 star to that review. On the other hand if you want a simple MP3 player that is quite literally plug and play I would deduct 2 stars as this is not the player for you.
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on 25 September 2009
I have enjoyed the S9 for a few months now. In my view there are no PMP/MP3 players that provide a better quality of sound or audio tools to fine tune your listening experience than Cowon. The S9 is stylish, light and durable (having dropped it on numerous occasions I can confirm it still works perfectly). The AMOLED display is wonderful, creating a bright and attractive interface. The material used for the outer case can sometimes feel a little "plastic" but then again you will not know it is in your pocket and it still looks great. The USB type is slightly annoying as it does not use a standard USB cable. If you forget your Cowon supplied USB cable you cannot dig out a standard cable to charge the device or transfer files. Another gripe is the challenging interface. The touch screen interface is annoying on occasions and it takes a while before you get used to navigating through the various options (through gritted teeth). So why five stars you may ask. It is five stars because of the audio quality. No question. If you are looking for a multi-function device with a fantastic interface experience look elsewhere. If sound quality is your primary requirement - look no further - buy the S9.
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on 14 May 2009
Great player, very easy to use. Well supported with Firmware updates. The sound quality is outstanding with so many ways to customise the sound, to the users pref's.
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on 12 September 2009
I considered this together with similar PMP's from Samsung and Archos.
Samsung P3 has better bluetooth compatibility.
Archos 5 has larger storage.
That is about it.
This destroys everything on sound quality ( it), video quality ( it) and incredible battery (55 hours for audio!?).
Had it 2 weeks, no bugs, no problems, no regrets.
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