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Cowon X7 - Sound Quality

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Although it's adept with video, music is where the Cowon X7's forte lies. It handles a variety of formats including FLAC, APE and OGG alongside the standard MP3, WMA and WAVE, and sound quality is great. Next to our test iPod Classic 160GB, the Cowon X7 offers a more detailed mid-range on standard settings, giving vocals a more defined sense of texture, and greater presence.

Cowon X7

If you're thinking of buying this player primarily on the merits of its sound quality, make sure you have a decent set of earphones already - you'll hear more of a difference upgrading from a £15 set of buds to a £50 set of IEM earphones than from a less capable MP3 player to this. If you already have a setup to do it justice though, the Cowon X7's JetEffect 3.0 engine offers a great way to tweak your sound.

JetEffect 3.0 is comprised of an EQ, an aural exciter, bass booster and a handful of other processing effects. It comes with a huge 35 presets, plus four that you can customise manually. And there's a whole lot of customisation to be done.

There's a 5-band EQ, each working to a /-12dB scale that you set manually. You also set the frequency for each of these bands, and whether they're wide or narrow in their effect. This EQ feature is unusually flexible and powerful, and even when taken to extreme settings didn't cause distortion. It's versatile and subtle enough to let you mitigate for the shortcomings of your headphones or earphones, which most media player equalisers simply aren't sophisticated enough to do.

Cowon X7

Less time-consuming are JetEffect 3.0's BBE and Mach3Bass frequency boosters. BBE enhances the high-end subtly, increasing clarity without adding sibilance - although it may introduce harshness and sibilance when using very bright-sounding headphones. Mach3Bass is a similarly intelligent bass boost, although as it's quite powerful you can leave your music sounding like a boomy mess if you overdo it.

Used in tandem with the EQ, Mach3Bass can effectively sculpt the bottom-end entirely, which is impressive. We managed to turn an high-quality but overly bassy pair of buds into a restrained pair by severely restricting bass at 80Hz, then upping the Mach3Bass to replace it. The effect was surprisingly convincing.

Cowon X7

These are JetEffect 3.0's best bits, and audio nuts will be able to spend hours fiddling with the EQ to get cymbals splashing as they desire, but there are a few extras too. 3D Surround fiddles with channels to give the impression of a wider, more dynamic stereo image. MP Enhance is designed to mitigate for low-quality digital audio files, but makes little difference to decent-quality MP3s. STE (Stereo Enhance) is a much less invasive alternative to 3D Surround, but therefore also much more usable. The final feature, reverb, won't be of much use when playing music, but you may want to add some to soften recordings made using the built-in mic.

All told, this may be the best-sounding hard drive MP3 player on the market. Anywhere.

dev

April 28, 2011, 2:11 pm

So tempted, I'm looking for something to replace my ipod classic as I'm bored of the average sound quality...but this thing is just too big and clunky! Is there anything else on the market that people would recommend? I need space, preferably 120gb plus. Not interested in apps/bluetooth or any of that jazz as I have an HTC Desire

Jeff78

June 21, 2011, 8:05 am

With 120gb plus this is probably the only option with good sound quality. The J3 is much lighter ans smaller with up to 64gb (32+32, or more with more micro-sd card in your pocket). The hifiman 801 has good sound and more power to drive cans but is heavy, no internal memory (sd card slot only). Other MP3-Players playing in this league of sound quality?

Lucktnev

January 28, 2012, 1:39 pm

I am absolutely disgusted by the X7. The product called Jet Audio is useless. It adds m4a files to the library which cause it to crash. It does not synch with the X7, and hangs for hours. It is impossible to add album covers to any format other than mp3, though it says WMA are ok. You cannot add album covers to albums, but only at a song level.
The player is so hard to use, with the touch screen needing a degree of skill not available to humans.
The support from Cowon is non existent. I tried to email for 6 weeks and got no reply.
Purchasing this device has been the most unpleasant purchase ever.

voodoo

April 29, 2012, 2:17 pm

An audiophiles portable music player. Yeah it's clunky compared to something like a Touch but I bought this to play music - not Tunes.
Pros - Sound quality. Drives even tough headphones like AKG701 reasonably well but is heaven with Shure SE535's.
- huuuuge battery life, tough durable case (get the leather case accessory), storage capacity, no iTunes!! Plays FLAC natively. Good enough to connect directly to an amp or active speakers without a DAC.
Cons - no 24/96 support. Navigation is clunky if you flit from song to song (fine otherwise). Non standard (Korean) USB connection cable.

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