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Cowon iAudio S9 review



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Let's face it, Cowon's timing could have been better. Here the company has a credible rival to the iPod touch and the sort of media player that audiophiles openly salivate over, but it only gets it into the UK about a week before Christmas. Still, if your loved one didn't pick one up as a last minute present, then this might be a good time to dig out any Christmas present money and buy a little something for yourself. This isn't the ultimate PMP, but if you're more swayed by audio playback quality than anything else, it's certainly one you ought to look at.

And take a good look at it, because the physical design is a thing of beauty. In the US they're calling this one the Curve, and a quick glance at the sweeping lines of the back should be enough to tell you why. The S9 is smaller and lighter than you might expect, being only 2.2in wide and 4.17in high and weighing in at less than 80g, all of which makes it slightly more pocket friendly than the iPod Touch. Despite this, its primarily metallic casing gives it a really durable feel. You'll want a case for the S9 just to protect its screen, but if you didn't get one it would still take care of itself.

The screen itself is easily the S9's most notable feature, with external controls restricted to a dual function power/hold switch at the bottom, fast forward/rewind and volume rockers at the top and a slightly weird grey pause/play control between them. Even the USB connection is squirreled away, residing under a pull-out plastic flap next to the power/hold switch. If you want sleek, stripped-back and stylish, it doesn't get much more so than this, making this one of the most desirable PMPs to emerge from anywhere outside of Cupertino.

The S9 looks great when lying inert, but even better once you switch the power on. The 3.3in, 16:9 format AMOLED screen is a beauty. The resolution - 480 x 272 - is the same as that of the PSP, and with support for up to 16 million colours it doesn't suffer from a restricted palette, either. Whether you're looking at snaps in the photo viewer or watching Xvid or WMV movies, the image is bright, crisp and full of detail, and the size hits a fine compromise between keeping the device small and giving you something you can actually watch for a reasonable length of time.

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December 28, 2008, 5:44 am

I got one of these and WOW it sounds good (using Shure SE530s). Drag & dropped Iron Man without converting and it looks and sounds great.

but just a bit disappointed at the lack of gapless playback from all my dance music compilations with continuous, mixed tracks - my 3.5 year old sony could do it and so could my iPod Classic. This Cowon is an audiophile's dream for sound so why can't they have firmware which can play gapless? apparently none of Cowon's players support it.

(and no review I've seen has mentioned this lack!)

but seriously compared to the iPod Touch 2G i tried in the store, the sound quality is light years ahead of apple. I've got a WinMo phone for browsing and emailing, Apple can keep their WiFi, Appstore and games lol

(that said - if they spent as much on their audio quality as they do on marketing, the Touch would be the one for me...but they don't so it's not!)


December 28, 2008, 5:43 pm

You have also failed to mention that it does not include any sort of expansion slot, which yet again kills the deal for me.

If I'm paying this kind of money for an mp3 player i would like to be able to add more memory to it, and Cowon have tried to be business smart here by omission of the slot so as to not cannibilise sales of D2.

Sony NWZ-S639F 16gb at half the price still makes the most sense I feel if you just want music.


December 28, 2008, 7:58 pm

I managed to get my hands on one of these about a week before Christmas and I am very, very pleased. The screen is absolutely fantastic and even the press shots don't really do it justice. And although it struggles with some .wmv files (although I found that all the ones I tried from BBC iPlayer worked when synced from WMP) it actually plays a huge range of xvid files including resolutions above that Cowon 'recommends' although to get the most out of it you really have to convert, but it's nice not to have to!

The only slight niggle I have is the battery meter is rather inaccurate, it will run down to about 20% in a couple of hours, then remain that way for 5 or 6 hours before going to 0% and remain on for another hour or so before turning itself off due to low battery.

David Stewart

August 23, 2009, 6:45 pm

I Have just Traded my COWON iAUDIO X5L Mp3 In for a COWON S9 And I am waiting Delivery,

The sound on X5L Was BRILLIANT!!I Hope (in comparison) I am not Dissapointed...David

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