Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
Mixed bag, but remember why you bought it!
on 30 November 2012
This unit was bought for a lost (later refound) iAudio 7 which was a fantastic if fiddly little player (it was the best fathers' day present I ever received! Thanks, kids!). The sound quality was amazing (no hyperbole!), especially when partnered with my Klipsch Custom 2s and playing FLAC files. The battery life really was, as advertised, around 60 hours which means a full day of travel is taken care of (long haul flights, anyone?). In light of this, I had no qualms in buying another Cowon product.
Lets just get this straight before we go any further. I like it. I gave it 4 stars, but it could so easily have been 5 if they sorted out the following issues, which have obviously heralded worse results from less forgiving reviewers.
As I think everyone on the planet seems to agree, the control system is perhaps as bad as Cowon could make it. The i7 was bad, but I held out some hope that they'd learned from their mistakes in lack of intuition and improved. Not so. In fact, they seem to have taken the i7 as their benchmark and made it less intuitive again, which was really quite a feat. The menu system is confusing, the control system is bewildering and after almost 3 months of use I still don't know what some of the onscreen icons actually mean.
Another thing is the touch controls. There seems to be some confusion. The screen is standard TFT. Nice, but certainly not touch sensitive. The lower part of the player is touch sensitive. It works OK. My main concern about it, though, is again in reference to its predecessor, the i7. With this unit in your pocket, you have no idea which button you're likely to be touching. You could skip a track trying to go back, you could pause instead of going forward. The i7 at least had little divots over the buttons to help you locate them without looking. Not too big a deal when walking, but I use it in the car and can't really be looking down at the centre console every time I want to change the track!
I saw one reviewer say they were using the unit as media player for gigging and were upset at the maximum volume. I have this same issue in the car, a place where I seriously love to crank up the volume. Max it out on the i9 and it maxes out way before I reach my desired volume. It's not an issue using the car's CD player - I could make my ears bleed if I chose to!
The next biggest problem is the media connection. What gives, Cowon? The i7 had a standard mini-USB socket, which was excellent - you only ever need 2 cables (micro and mini) and they're all interchangable. Now? Cowon has, in its 'wisdom' introduced their own proprietary connection. Not. Happy.
It's not going to be getting any beauty contest prizes any time soon. Sure, it's not 'ugly', it's worse, it's boring. Uninteresting. Lacklustre doesn't cut it. The lustre isn't just lacking, it left the country with its new lover, leaving its job, the mortgage payments and the CSA behind.
So, it's hard to control, low powered and you need to have GPS and an armed guard on the cable 24/7 just so it's not lost. How come it gets four stars? Why do I still like it?
Sound quality. The i7 (yes, again) was good enough to make all of the little irks evaporate. The sound on the i9 is actually even better, even over a crappy 3.5mm cable. Mated to my prize Klipsch 'phones, this is astonishing. Sure, the max volume doesn't allow you to turn it up to '11', but it doesn't matter for personal listening. The audio scale goes up to 40 and when mated to a decent noise isolating headset, anything above '15' is just uncomfortable and unnecessary. The sound is detailed and precise, without too much colour (unless you use the almost limitless equaliser options - in my old age I seem to be more of a bass fiend, so use the BBE settings).
It plays my favourite lossless audio codec, FLAC (it plays almost every other audio codec in the public domain). This already gives it a quality advantage over lesser players. The better your source, the better your system. FLAC provides every bit (roughly) from the CD which means the data source is as reliable as it's likely to get (in this and most other price ranges).
MP3, AAC (unless lossless) etc clip chunks of data out using advanced algorithms to trim that 50MB music file down to a very portable 4MB. That means you can fit thousands of tracks on a 16GB drive. FLAC does compress, but only by about 50%, so in the real world, my i9 has a 550-600 track capacity
It's better at its job than any other media player I've ever used, from a Creative Zen, back in the tail end of the 90s, to the iPod (all of them) and my son's Sony, as well as all the others. In the audio quality stakes it's king.
So, if you want a piece of audio equipment to go in your pocket, buy yourself a Cowon. If you want something pretty, get an iPod.