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on 15 August 2011
I bought the X7 because I wanted a dedicated portable music player, with good sound, a large hard disc, and good battery life, and the X7 seemed to be the only device on the market that ticked each of these boxes. In the past, I've owned a variety of rockboxed iPods, but I became fed up with the sludgy sound, and the poor battery life. iTunes vs. drag and drop was not an issue for me, as I managed my iPods, and manage my X7, with J.River Media Center, which handily blows iTunes out of the water. The large hard disc was the biggest selling point though, as I have a sizable music collection (primarily in flac, but I use mp3 versions on the X7, to prolong the battery life), and was fed up with having to chop and change the contents of my iPod so frequently. Now, I would certainly recommend the X7 to anyone that, similarly, wants a dedicated music player with great sound, storage, and battery - simply put, right now it's the only thing out there that can actually do the job.

BUT the X7 takes a little work before it does the job well, and if you're not willing or able to get under the hood a little, then it's not for you. First off, the UI is ghastly! But, thankfully, there is a solution. Fortunately, a number of able and generous programmers have produced some really fantastic (free) UIs, that can be used instead of the native ones. I highly recommend Kizune's Lynx UI (easy to find via google), as well as his browser (Leaf) and music player (Sense). With these on the X7, it's a real pleasure to use, and browsing is simple and intuitive, even with a fairly chunky (30,000+) music library. Second, the X7 will build an accurate database of your music only if the latter is properly tagged. So, before copying it to the X7, you'll need to take care of that, if you haven't already - I recommend J.River, but MediaMonkey will also do the trick. It also struggles to maintain an accurate database if you regularly delete some but not all files from the HDD. To work around this, you can simply 'hide' the main music folder after deleting files, let it rebuild the database, then reconnect it and then unhide the music folder (this procedure saves deleting everything and then moving it back on again).

To address some of the cons that people have highlighted: The touch screen is not great. As noted, it really could do with being more responsive. Although, once you get used to it, this doesn't really hamper things too much. But - and this is my only real gripe with the X7 - a touch screen on a dedicated music player is unnecessary and cumbersome - it makes it difficult to browse and change tracks without actually looking at the device (whilst it's in a pocket, say). This can be ameliorated by switching the volume 'up' and 'down' buttons to change tracks instead, but then you lose the ability to adjust the volume whilst it's pocketed, which again isn't ideal. As for the size, well, it doesn't seem too bulky to me, although it certainly has some heft to it, and will certainly weigh down a jacket pocket a little. But, with a protective case on, the dimensions are somewhat similar to a svelte Walkman (for those of you that remember those) and we carried those around without too much complaining.

So, in short, a very nice device, if you're willing to put a little time into setting it up optimally (seriously, don't even try to acclimatise to the native UIs - track down Lynx, Sense, and Leaf). The key thing is this: it does what I wanted it to do, without too much effort. I deduct one star for touch screen issues.
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VINE VOICEon 28 June 2011
This is a fantastic product but the operating system it comes with is merely adequate and doesn't show album art correctly. However download the Sense theme from the site iaudiophile for free or the author Kizune's project site and it makes it a brilliant music player. I have used both a Cowon J3 and the X7 and with the Sense theme, this is genuinely great with lots of space.

Note the player fits into a Nintendo DS case nicely, a low cost way of carrying and protecting the player.

Although the player is bigger than the similar flash based J3 this is still perfectly portable and is often played from my jacket pocket.

Others will review the player more extensively but I wanted to add a positive note. Buy with confidence but install the Sense theme and then fill the player with your music for best experience.

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on 14 July 2012
You know I could live with the irritatingly obscure user interface, the thick heavy chunky device, the crap video, the miniscule typeface which you cannot read and cannot alter (WHY?), the sticky unresponsive touch screen, all I wanted was a great music player.

The only good thing about this albatross is the sound which is very good. But if like me, you think you can put up with all the horrible truly horrible things this albatross of a music player puts you through just to play your music think again.

Over and above all this crap it has a major MAJOR design fault. If you let the battery run out, the machine is dead. That's right folks totally dead. You cannot revive this beast except sending it off to Cowon support - so say goodbye for your music for a month.

Just google the cowon x7 forums. This device dies - yes dies ! when you let the battery run out ! You are right to blink disbelievingly. How can that be ?

How on earth could any company release a device which dies, never to be born again (except in Cowon Support), when the battery runs out ! It beggars belief. After I sent it back they said, don't let your battery run out. Great. Yeah I'll put that on top of my priorities for my busy life. Well unfortunately I did let it run out again - blame it on a normal life - and the advice they gave (charge it, then press the re-set button, and 2 hours later it will come back to life - DID NOT WORK ! The device is still dead.

This is such a major design error that frankly I do not care how good their devices are, how great the sound quality, I will never ever buy a Cowon device again. Have they heard about testing ? Clearly not.

In all my history of devices I have NEVER heard of a device dying because the battery was discharged !!!!!!

Avoid this purchase at all costs - unless of course you enjoy a ghastly machine which seems to wilfully make every design fault in the book, and are willing to monitor your device day and night to make sure the battery never runs out.
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on 10 May 2011
Update - ALBUM ART Windows 7 64bit

I've come across the highly relevant fact that the X7 needs to have the jpeg file "Folder" renamed to "Cover" within each album-folder in order that Album Art is displayed. It is worth the hassle of renaming all the instances of "Folder" as "Cover" since one has to do this only once (then for each new CD addition) - a minor palaver. Some may not like the X7's blown-up rendering of the Album Art captured by Windows Media Player but I certainly do.
There is probably an automatic way to do this for the X7's entire music file structure but I'm not sufficiently well informed.
I simply used Control Panel and within Folder Options, unchecked "show hidden files" and "hide protected operating system files", then renamed the target files (F2=Rename;pasting the character string "Cover" over "Folder"). Remember to restore defaults in the Folder Options when finished; also the quick way to find this option is to search for "hidden" in the Control Panel screen's searchbox.
I've left the files on my PC unchanged - only altering the X7 files, otherwise you'll have problems with Explorer.

I've been using an X7 for almost a year and having enormous fun - the sound quality is outstanding & makes the overcoming of various niggles worthwhile.

I employ the 'folder' access route as I find this the neatest solution... perfectly straightforward. I would not normally go near a "sound processor" but the BBE is extremely good and the JetAudio software provides all the flexibility a knob-twiddler could desire. I've found that this actually works very well - used in moderation.
Cowon still need to sort out the handling of album art but this is only window-dressing as the player spends most of each day quietly working away in my pocket with the display off.
The X7's UI is quite idiosyncratic but only takes a few minutes practice to master. Vertical scrolling is very fast.
One of the main decisions you need to make is the format you're going to store your music in. I started off with everything in WMA VBR at max bitrate but had for some time been performing parallel rips to create a flac library in the hope that one of the big manufacturers would come up with a device Windows-compatible & large enough HDD. Cowon has delivered the goods.
It isn't actually essential to convert to flac or other lossless. The WMA-VBR CODEC is extremely good. I find the main improvement with most albums to be a barely discernible increase in the space surrounding instruments. If you stick with WMA you'll still get a substantial improvement in audio quality arising from COWON's peerless DAC. The audio quality is sure to leave anyone dumbstruck....magnificent.
I get superb results partnered with Ultimate Ears Triple fi 10 Earphones - Metallic Blue and (with appropriate equalization) Creative Aurvana Air Earphones.

Brief follow-up: although I rarely use the FM radio, this works well and the 3x8 matrix of presets is rather neat. Nowadays I use MediaMonkey to rip the flac versions of files. I first build a WMP version in my WMA-library using WMA-VBR, copy this to my flac-library, empty this of data (ctrl-A DEL) leaving the album-art only, then copy the flac MyMusic output ripped by MediaMonkey into the flac-library (and to a backup HDD). Sounds complicated but is actually quicker than the time taken to read this procedure. While I'm not bothered about album art on the X7 it is nice to have it on the desktop's monitor. All that's left to decide is whether to drag&drop the WMA or flac versions to the X7.
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on 23 May 2011
My faithful iRiver H300, like me, has started to show its age. It has kept me sane on long journeys more times than I like to mention. So I started to look for a new MP3 Player, specifically to play my very large collection of classical tracks - so I wanted excellent sound reproduction, adjustable to my ever-failing hearing, and a large storage capacity.

After several sessions of searching, I finally selected the Cowon X7 160 GB Portable Media Centre, partly due to the reviews listed on the Amazon web site.

The Cowon is everything I hoped for - capacity for my existing collection, with spare capacity for the future - almost infinite adjustable sound reproduction, so I can really see the difference between Karajan's version of Beethoven's 5th and that recorded by (say) Furtwängler.

The ability to play videos is a bonus. The bright colours are - well, pretty.

So am I completely happy with my purchase? Well, no.

The interface and navigation is quirky to say the least and like (the now-retired) iRiver requires a lot of practice.

However unlike the iRiver which has a very reasonable manual printed in a convenient size, the booklet (what Cowon calls the "Quick Guide") which comes with the unit is practically useless - 4 pages in English.

So I printed off the so-called manual, which is included in the little CD that is part of the kit - 44 (A4) pages of English that appears to be (badly) translated from another language. In any event it was surely written by somebody who knows the Media Player intimately and therefore several important things (to me anyway) seems to be ignored.

Several long and frustrating sessions of trying to learn the ins and outs of the Player have ensued. I am making progress, but Oh Mr Cowon, it could be much, much easier!

On purely sound playing and the looks and feel of the unit (I don't need something that fits inside my top pocket of my shirt) I would give 5 stars, but because of the manual this is downgraded to 4.
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on 18 November 2010
I had checked out all the available pictures but I still wasn't prepared for the size of this little beast. A chunky unit indeed but it is the price we have to pay for a screen on which videos are watchable. It would have been a perfect screen to have wifi but there is no such thing on this. A music, video and picture player in essence.
At 160GB and another 1.5GB on a flash drive within, this player is for the serious media collector or people who like their music encoded at 320 for Mp3 or Flac. Considering how legendary the sound quality is of the Cowon, it would be a shame to encode MP3s at less than 320 to play on this. Having played around with both S9 and J3, I can say that sound quality on this matches both of those.
Video resolution 480x272 is not great but okay and as I said earlier, watching videos on this is a pleasure because of screen size. Photos appear to take a bit of time to load and shift but again quite adequate. It is a surprise though that Cowon have released one with such low resolution having had the awesome amoled screen on the S9 and J3.
I know Cowon are very good with their firmware upgrades and I fear this needs quite a few. The touchscreen can at times be a bit unresponsive and although it doesn't need much pressure on the screen, at times I have had to press several times before it responded. The Bluetooth is good and has a good range without breaking up as was the case with the Cowon S9. Scanning for Bluetooth speakers and then pairing is straightforward and quick. Volume control is on two buttons on the left and respond well. The X7 has its own speakers and comes out with pretty decent volume.
There are rumours going round that this unit has problems transferring a large amount of files with Macs but has worked very well with a PC. However it did take about 5 hours to transfer 100GB of data. Once done, it shouldn't need to be done again.
A big problem appears on album art. It doesn't seem to resize the picture to fit within the screen. I wonder if this can be fixed by Cowon.
It has the usual FM radio, recorder, calculator, flash, notepad and stopwatch. None of them all that useful but these things seem to come as standard.
The deal breaker is the claimed 103 hours of music it plays on one full charge. Pretty sure this was calculated on Mp3s at 128 but even three quarters of that would be phenomenal. It claims 11 hours of continuous video.
Unusually these days, the X7 comes with its own mains charger and is supposed to be fully charged in 2 to 3 hours which isn't bad at all.
The 120GB version is also available. The spec is the same.
The manual is available on Cowon's website.
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on 15 July 2011
As my digital music collection has grown, it's outstripped the capacity of my 2G iPod Touch (32Gb). I was looking around for a replacement media player with a high capacity, and my decision came down to choosing between an iPod Classic and the Cowon X7. In the end I chose the Cowon for a few reasons: (1) no need to use iTunes which means I can (2) drop music files onto the device from any of my computers, whichever OS I'm using (3) it has 160Gb capacity, (4) can play ogg and flac as well as mp3 (5) has long battery life - claimed to be over 100h on audio.

In practice I've found the GUI as supplied rather clunky. I've replaced this with the UCIs made available by Kizune. I've no trouble tinkering with the X7's system. The two drives mount automatically on my Win7, OSX and Linux machines. I drag and drop music files onto the hard drive, and they are efficiently indexed by the device. I have not used Playlists: this seems to be problematic for many users. Similarly, I have not used the video or recorder functions, as I bought this primarily to use as a music player.

There is no WiFi - all comms is via a USB link (though the cable uses a proprietary connector). This suits me: WiFi on my iPod drains the battery quite quickly, so I have to switch it to Airplane mode. I am operating the X7 in MSC mode rather that MTP, and as far as I can tell this means I cannot scrobble my listening directly from the device. Many reviews commented on the large size of the unit. I actually think it's svelte enough to go in a trouser pocket, and anyway, I imagine that the battery life must be responsible for some of the bulk.

The sound quality is very good.

On the minus side, the touch screen is quite a bit less sensitive that the iOS devices I have. You need to use quite firm finger pressure to get a response. It's this that makes me drop the rating from 5 to 4*.

In summary, I am very happy with this purchase and don't regret it. I'm particularly happy to be able to just drag'n'drop music files from any computer to the device - no more iTunes!

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on 11 February 2011
Couple of design flaws with this product makes me a little disappointed with the Cowan. In fairness the size of the memory is what I bought it for and it's massive. Currently I have over 90,000 tracks on it so when I travel, I can choose the mood music I want. Down side is the lack of control over app icons and the ability to have the screen operating truely in 90 degrees when I want. I was hoping to mount the X7 as the centre piece of my car sound system but having audio and video on different screens makes it difficult to find a fixing method that spins through 90 degrees. Wouldnt it be simple to have a screen option to switch through landscape and portrait!! Sound quality excellant. Would I buy again? Change the flexibility of the screen output Cowan and yes I would. Dont change and no I wouldnt. More than happy to help with the testing if you need it Cowan!!
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It's hard to know where to start with this device, other than to say it isn't for everyone. A certain amount of patience and time is required to get this to be the player you want it to be.

First impressions are that it is not as brick like as everyone says. Until you pop it into the official case and it's like a pocket bible! The UI is also not as unresponsive as reported. I've owned an ipod touch, an iphone, a Samsung Galaxy S2 and whilst not in their league the screen is fit for purpose.

The screen resolution also is fine for this size. Why people obsess about HD video on a screen 4 inches big is beyond me. You'd need a viewing distance of about 1 mm to discern HD quality. I've watched an episode of The Simpsons, an episode of The West Wing, and a few Talking Heads videos on this - it is absolutely great. (The video formats I was using: avi & mp4).

Yes, I've seen some of the "cons" mentioned elsewhere: the USB lead does not lock or clip into place. The slightest motion seems to disconnect the device, not great when doing a bulk transfer. The album art is erratic & zoomed in to ridiculous amounts. I fixed the latter by using the "Sense" UI widely available. The former - rename folder art to cover.jpg. I thought my tags were impeccable, but this is unforgiving. A number have had to be redone with mp3tag. Listening to "The Hazards of Love" on mp3 showed that gapless playback (on firmware 2.07) isn't implemented. I believe it is with flac format though, so I'll try & re-rip the ones that need it on flac - things like Dark Side of The Moon, Diamond Dogs etc etc

The trick on set-up is to choose non-EU. The volume is loud, very loud. On my London commute I set it to 30 (out of 40) and it is fine through a pair of Sennheiser CX400 IIs.

Sound quality is absolutely brilliant - so transparent. Higher bitrate mp3 files are the way to go - lower bitrate files tend to sound a bit rubbish (the experience is s little like being at a concert with slightly out of phase speakers). The pre-set equaliser settings are really beneficial. The overall SQ is so much better than any other player I've had before.

Disk size: what can you say. It has swallowed my 74GB music collection and then every episode of The West Wing with acres to spare. Commuter bliss! Transfer rates from my NAS to the device were relatively slow however - about 2.5 MB per second.

There are a number of User Interfaces around, the ones I've tried are Leaf (a replacement device browser) and Sense (a replacement music player). Both are drag & drop installs and just work. There is very little documentation around so the trick is to just keep prodding away to see what happens!

The device has impressed through CX400 II buds, also through Sennheiser HD 212 Pro headphones. However they sound best in my ears through my Shure SRH440 headphones - the depth of sound is a lot more noticeable with these on.

A note for the wary: you will be much more hands on with this (over say an ipod classic) - and you will have many more frustrations and things not going as planned. But when you actually let it do its thing (music playback or video) then it is an absolute joy.

This unit was supplied by - I have previous experience with them, a fantastic company.

EDIT 25/1/2012

The USB cable does lock into place! It just needed me to be alittle less of a wimp.

Also I've purchased a pair of Sennheiser HD 25 1 II 70ohm headphones for music on the move. Those Shures sure are heavy, and i wanted to move on from the buds. The HD25s sound fantastic - no worries about needing a headphone amp at all, the X7 copes very well.
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on 20 October 2011
Cowon X7

Well where do I start?
This is a big old unit, with some minor UI issues, but nothing to great. With some playing about you soon get over these as the logic of the system is different to the mainstream units.
I can not make comment on the video quality of the unit as I have not figured out how to do this. (But in saying that, I have not really looked into it properly yet.)

I purchased this for one purpose really, and that was for music!
160gb WOW!!!
This is brilliant.
I know people have been moaning about the album art work being to large, but come on who sits and looks at the album art work on PMP anyway.
I plug my headphones in set it to play and never look at it again!
The unit's ability to read so many formats its great. I have been using WMA Lossless, but may have to change this as I am using up space fast.
Getting music on and off is so easy drag and drop as an external hard drive or through Jet software it is drag and drop also. Very Easy.

But the best thing of all.....
The sound quality
This is beautiful, the depth, texture and color that my ears have been missing whilst using a mainstream device have all returned. I know I get all of this when I am at home using my separates, but I have never had this on the go or in the office.
I'm finding myself stopping at work at times and playing a bit back to make sure I heard that little guitar lick, drum fill, bass run, vocal intonation or even the turn of a page on some classical piece.

It is suited to all music types, Heavy Metal, Prog Rock, AOR, Pop, and Country through to Classical.

Yes as I stated earlier it is big but for me sitting at my desk it is great and it's not a problem in the jacket when walking the dog. Not sure I would use it from running, but in saying that HDD units don't like to run anyway.

I love the sound that this unit gives me and it has reignited my desire to listen to music more and more. Thank you Cowon.
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