After getting fed up with the slow Hard Disk Drive of my 16gb Philips opus I decided I needed to convert to something a bit more responsive.
I did my research - i pods, samsungs and sonys were amongst the main contenders but then one helpful review of the ipod touch on Amazon said that the I-pod was great for gadgets and features but not the best for music quality and for a straight forward Mp3 player with great quality sound one should go for something from the cowon range.
I decided on the i audio 9 - even after reading mixed reviews. The positive reviews discussed its sleek looks - advanced equalizer settings and excellent sound reproduction.
The negative reviewers focused on its menu format and touch pad design - saying it wasn't a good design and took too much time to get used to - and thus often comparing it to the i pod touch or nano - (the nano is a fair comparison in terms of price, size and style), where the nano was favoured for its 'simple' menu format.
I have owned this for 6 months now and any worries i had were soon eradicated.
1 - Its a very good looking, sleek bit of kit. I really like its design. The screen is a bit smaller than i was used to on my previous 2 multi media players, but I use mine predominately for music so not especially bothered by this - although i would be if i wanted a good screen for videos.
2 - The diagonal swipe system (for me) makes even more sense than the wheely feature of the i pods - obviously a step down from the full touch screen system of the modern ipods - but its not in the price range for that so cannot be accused of failing on that mark. I found the touch wheel of ipods was great for scrolling through lists at speed but tricky to simply move just one or two places down the list without accidentally flying past where you wanted to be. The diagonal sweep of the cowon i9(bottom left for down and top right for up) allows you to sweep through the menus with ease and if you need a simple movement of one place up or down - simply tap on the end of the arrow to do so. The touch pad has a back button to return back through the menus and a select/play/pause button - which for me is incredibly simple and easy to use - so i have failed to find fault here.
3 - other reviewers complained that the lay out of menus was overly complicated and unnecessary - again I disagree - it took me about 2 minutes to navigate my way through the menus and work out the buttons uses. Seriously - for anyone who used mp3 players before (esp non Apple ones) then this really isnt any different. There is a main menu (which is reached by a quick tap of the M button on the side of the unit, the only aspect of it that took a me a few attempts to solve) then gives you access to the sub menus (music, video, pictures settings and so on) - from there it is incredibly straight forward and the menu layouts are exactly the same as any other player, apple or otherwise. So I reckon the reviewers who were having trouble getting to grips with this were either opposed to the cowon range in some way or possibly technophobes and just not used to these gadgets. Volume buttons on the left (easy) and an off/hold switch on the right next to the M button. On the bottom headphone socket and usb connection - again I cannot see reason to complain...?
4. - One aspect of the player that gained unanimous praise was the sound quality - again I cant fault it. The settings menu provides access to the elaborately named equalizer and effects menus. I havent used, seen or owned a mp3 player that has such a range of options to alter the sound. The choices and combinations are limitless. My first impressions were that some of the functions must be pointless and not make any real difference - however after playing the same song on repeat and testing out the different options I can honestly say i found they all made a significant difference in some way or another - i must admit there some pointless ones i can never see myself using ('Reverb Room' possibly being one....) but nevertheless it is entertaining and interesting to try them all out. It also has 4 savings for users custom equalizers which is useful.
I'm no expert on sound reproduction technology so all i can say is the bass enhancers (of which there are about 6 different options) really make a difference in their own ways - in some cases it can be a bit too much but with the sony headphones I am using i have not experienced any cases of 'rattling' yet. The 'wide' functions really help to open up the sound and again the reverb function can help create that live effect if desired.
All in all a great mp3 player - with little I can fault it on so far. All the negatives I was potentially concerned about have been washed away upon use of the i9. I can see what people mean by the aspects they were unhappy about, but in my opinion they were being very picky. Obviously I haven't had the privilege of trying all the mp3 players in the range - but it's blown the Philips opus 16gb (also same price) out of the water and it's sleek looks and equalizer are far superior to the Creative Zen Xi Fi - plus its cheaper than an apple i pod nano and you don't have to mess around with iTunes either.
Plus the battery life is impressive - its been on every day for approx 45 mins at a time for nearly 2 weeks without any need for a charge.
The only thing I would have liked to have seen is an option to alter the functions of the side buttons used for volume. Personally as I have it mostly in the pocket of my suit, the volume is set at the right level before I use it and for ease I would have like to been able to change the function of the side buttons to skip songs as if I want to skip a song I have to get it out of the pocket - open the leather cover, swipe to bring up the display and then tap on the unit for the next song.
I minor and lazy point I know that isn't a fault of the players, just something that would have made a simple action easier!
Overall a winner in my book.
note - april 2013. turned my i9 on the other day an the screen no longer works. it has spent its life in a leather case with protective screen on it so i have no idea how this has come about. Very annoyed - out of warranty and cowon do not have a UK based repairs centre. I contacted an MP3 repair centre who quoted £50 for repair. I'm of the mindset that once something is damaged, its never quite the same again even if it has been fully repaired.
I'm considering buying another one as i liked it so much but annoyed it hasn't lasted longer.