The good things don’t end there. Files are transferred and the device is charged using a standard USB to mini-USB cable, which is much more convenient than some proprietary connection. It also has the most incredible battery life. Cowon claims it’ll run for anything up to 60 hours (that’s nearly three days solid!) and I wouldn’t argue with that. I never saw the four-bar battery gauge at anything less than three throughout the period I tested it, and I listened to it extensively on the train and at home everyday for more than a week.
Obviously there are downsides – there’s no AAC playback compatibility, and those incredibly detailed menus also make it more difficult to locate and adjust simple things such as play mode and the user equaliser.
Sound quality, though good, isn’t quite up there with the best in class either and the hissy bundled headphones aren’t much cop. With a better set of cans the talents of the iAudio 7 shine through more clearly. It’s much more detailed and clear than, say, Samsung’s YP-T9 but doesn’t have quite as much presence as the Sony NW-E015 or the balance and clarity of iRiver’s Clix 2 or T60 players.
The driving guitars on Biffy Clyro’s Puzzle don’t have quite as much body as I’d normally like. Amy Winehouse’s vocals on Back to Black sounded a little harsh and over edgy. And the choral music on a recording of Mozart’s requiem lacks the drama that it can have on better playback equipment. You’ll also probably have to fiddle with the bass settings on the iAudio 7, because with all the usual enhancements turned off, the sound is neutral and is missing a little weight at the bottom end. The normally rumbustious Jamiroquai lacks his normal synth-driven swagger, and the bass lines on Nitin Sawhney’s Beyond Skin album don’t have enough substance until you nudge the Mach3Bass adjustment up a few notches.
But these complaints are relatively small. Overall, I enjoyed listening to the iAudio 7, with the slightly disappointing sound quality offset by the fact that I could simply drop my Ogg Vorbis and Flac files straight on it without having to convert them first.
Ultimately, the iAudio 7 is a strange mix – a bit like that that mad, slightly unstable uncle you’d rather not be seen in public with but you’re fond of anyway.
It’s fiddly to use, but incredibly powerful. It’s quirky to listen to, but has a huge battery life. And though it isn’t the cheapest at £109 for the 4GB and £149 for the 8GB (the 8GB Sandisk Sansa e280 can be had for £114), it is still well-priced.
So there’s no getting past the fact that the iAudio 7 is odd, but if you accept its faults and embrace its strengths it makes the perfect geek’s music player. In the inimitable words of Borat, the ultimate oddball – I liiiiike…
Score in detail
Sound Quality 7