Cowon iAudio S9 - Cowon iAudio S9

By Stuart Andrews



Our Score:


The S9 already sits up there with the Sony NWZ-S639F as one of the best sounding MP3 players of the moment, but it edges ahead by supporting two formats - FLAC and OGG Vorbis - that the Sony doesn't. Now, we all know that on a noisy train or city street it's pretty hard to tell the difference between FLAC and a high-bit rate MP3 file, but listen to the S9 in quieter surroundings and you can hear the sort of extra tonal detail FLAC brings to the party. Desire, from Talk Talk's classic Colour of Spring, sounds incredibly rich and complex, yet the beautifully recorded classical instruments, organs and guitars still ring through on a wide but still coherent soundstage Meanwhile, AC/DC's Back in Black sounds as mean and hungry as it does on CD with a decent pair of cans, that colossal riff done full justice by the S9's command of the mid-range and bass.

The S9 is without doubt a great player - the hard thing is working out where it sits in the current pecking order. If you're mostly listening to compressed music on the move and you're not particularly fussed about video, Sony's NWZ-S639F is almost half the price for 16GB and easier to get a good sound from straight away. If you want an all-singing, all-dancing PMP with a slightly slicker interface (though no radio) then the iPod touch comes in for similar money to the S9. If however, you want a great sounding, good looking video, audio and radio player that can handle uncompressed music straight from your PC or media tank, then the S9 is probably the best choice out there right now. Just budget for some decent earphones and prepare to put in a little work to get the best results.


The interface isn't perfect, but the S9 is a truly great sounding player with a stylish design and a comprehensive feature set. Warmly recommended.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Value 8
  • Usability 8
  • Sound Quality 9


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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