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Cowon iAudio D2+ 4GB - Cowon D2+
Luckily, the quality of the video playback is perfectly decent. The D2+ doesn't sport the clearest or brightest little screen I've ever seen, and I found myself missing the similarly sized, 16:9 format screen of the Samsung YP-Q1, but colours are rich and motion is nice and fluid. There's also good news for fans of iPlayer. After a temporary glitch where the menus seemed to conflict with the video image, a downloaded WMV of Later with Jools Holland played perfectly well on the D2+.
That said, I think that most buyers of the D2 regarded video playback as a bonus feature rather than a compelling reason to purchase. The D2's biggest selling point was always its superb audio playback, and the same holds true of the D2+. In fact, if anything it's actually a better player, for the simple reason that Cowon's highly-regarded JetEffect audio processing technology now incorporates BBE+.
As a rule I'm not a huge fan of additional processing. Sometimes it helps ameliorate a weakness of the player or the headphones, fortifying the bottom end or enhancing mid-range clarity, but in a lot of cases it just takes the sound further away from what the people producing your music originally intended. The strength of JetEffect is that, while you get a bewildering range of options to tinker with, you do get a highly customisable sound and one that, used carefully, does genuinely sound better than the basic, untreated output. With a flat EQ and everything switched off the D2+ is a very good player. With the sound tweaked just a little, it's right up there with the best from Samsung and Sony, not to mention Cowon's own S9.
Even with the bundled headphones, which aren't great, you can get some reasonable results. Nudge the BBE and Mach3Bass settings up a couple of notches, then do the same with StereoEnhance, and you have a sound that - were you stuck somewhere without any decent IEMs or cans - you could actually listen to. Listening to Moon to Moon from the new Bat for Lashes album, there's enough clarity to do the minimal instrumentation justice, and enough warmth to make the vocals come alive.
Play Blue in Green from Bill Evans' Portrait in Jazz and it doesn't sound bad at all, the thick chords and elegant lines of the piano working well with the restrained bass and drums. Things get a bit muddy when you put on something rockier, like Audioslave's Revelations, but when you consider that we're talking bundled ‘phones, that's not really much of a complaint.