Cowon iAudio S9 - Cowon iAudio S9

By Stuart Andrews



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All of this is great, but the little Cowon really earns its keep when it comes to sound quality. At first, the experience may be a little underwhelming. The bundled earbuds are really quite nasty, producing the sort of sibilant, treble heavy noise that makes you think the iPod buds aren't really that bad after all. On the default EQ setting the player sounds weedy, and when you try to change it you discover the S9 actually suffers from a surfeit of sound modes, offering a grand total of 26 presets plus four user EQ and environmental settings at a rough count. Several of these relate to the unit's employment of the BBE+ sound processing technology, and while it's clear that these enhance the sound, it's not always clear exactly how or what they'll do without giving them a try.

On the other hand, this makes the S9 a real EQ fiddler's delight, and with a little experimentation and a good set of earbuds like the Denons I usually use for reference, it's not too hard to get a great sound. And when I say great, I mean great. The S9 can do superb clarity, making complex, heavily orchestrated music work, but it can also do warmth and depth of tone, not to mention an awful lot of bass. The Act 1 prelude from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde frightens many MP3 players, but through the S9 with suitable settings it sounds vibrant, rich and clear. The big beats in Stronger, from Kanye West's Graduation, sound tight and beefy, the vocals and synths layering over the top with just the right sense of urgency.

You can push the bass a bit too far if you pick the wrong EQ, but get it right and you can have a powerful bottom end without sacrificing mid-range warmth or high-end detail. Use Sex on Fire from Kings of Leon's Only by the Night proved that the S9 could also handle something rockier, the rhythm section propelling the track forward with a solid throb, while the waves of guitar build and crash dramatically above. Clarity and body are in perfect balance, and if you don't quite find the sound works for the track in question, there's always something you can do to fix it.


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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