Cowon Z2 32GB Android 2.3 'Gingerbread' MP3 Player with 3.7" OLED Screen
SoundMagic PL30 In-Ear Sound Isolating Earphones
Denon AH-C260R Mobile Elite In-Ear Headphones with 3-Button Remote + Mic
Cowon S9, J3, i10, X7 & X9 USB Cable
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I needed a new dedicated MP3 player as I wanted good quality sound which no iPod or mobile phone can deliver. I'd heard many good things about the Cowon players. The J3 has been out for some time now and has a very loyal fan base. I also considered the new Cowon Z2 Android device but I've got an Android phone for my Apps and the J3's battery life is huge.
The user interface is a little clunky but everyone says that so I wasn't expecting anything too slick. However, It's not too bad once you get used to it, it does the job rather well.
The playback quality is very very good. You can drag and drop your files easily onto it. It even works great with my Media Monkey music database.
Cowon no longer make these devices, so I'd advise on grabbing one of these before stocks run out.
I had great support and advice from AMP3 before buying it. It had free delivery which I have to say is the fastest free delivery I've ever seen. After ordering at lunchtime one day, the package came before lunch the following day... Fantastic. Thanks guys. I'll be ordering from you again (I have my eye on a Fiio E17) :-)
Apart from a couple of very minor hiccups I found the player easy to set up and use. Music all loaded with ease. Loading movies is the next step. It's a slippery device and easy to drop so I'd recommend the fitting of a protective case. Read the review by John Calderbank and you'll get the full picture.
Great player, exactly what I wanted. Only issue, which is common to all players as far as I can see, is they the volume is too low. I listen to classical music not loud pop and it is simply not possible to hear the quiet bits even with expensive noise reduction headphones. Can't fault the player though.
Fantastic sound quality; great battery. User interface is poor compared with ipods, but I already knew that. Would recommend this if you are looking for a portable music player - but make sure you use higher bitrate mp3s or flacs, and get yourself a pair of decent headphones.
I bought the wrong MP3 player, but without any problems i returned it and bought the correct one. Top notch service, top notch delivery and top notch prices. I will recommend you to all i know that is going to buy a mp3 player.
I decided I needed to buy a dedicated MP3 player, after I was disgusted at the sound quality of the latest Apple devices (the latest iPods and iPhones use Cirrus Logic DAC chips, whereas the older iPods use a far superior Wolfson DAC chip).
Wolfson DAC chip
Not too bulky
Plenty of memory (preferably expandable)
ability to tweak sound
colour display to show album art
The Cowon J3 ticks all those boxes. However I found gapless playback didn't work at when I dragged my music onto the player from my iTunes library. I quickly learned, however, that if I ditch iTunes and rip a CD using a program called E.A.C.(Exact Audio Copy) using the LAME plugin, then dragged them on to the J3, they played perfectly gapless. I have now re-ripped all my gapless CDs.
The sound quality is excellent. In addition to the superior Wolfson DAC chip that is is fitted inside this player, there are infinite possibilities to tweak the sound with the various settings such as Jet Effect 3.0, 5-band EQ with wide/normal/narrow band options, BBE+, Mach3Bass, stereo enhance and MP enhance (to upscale low bitrate MP3s) options, as well as the ability to add effects such as 3D surround and reverb. I encode all of my MP3s at 320kbps and this is the best sounding player I have ever heard. It will also play WAV and FLAC files for those of you that want to improve the sound quality even more.
Also, another thing to mention is that when you drag albums from iTunes onto the J3, some albums don't display artwork or display songs in the right order. This can be rectified by re-tagging your MP3s (which can be done in bulk) using a program called 'MP3tag' before dragging them onto the J3.
Although the stated maximum memory expansion via the microSD slot is stated at 32GB (the maximimum size of a SDHC card), I was very pleased to learn that this player will read microSDXC cards. So I bought a Sandisk 64GB card and can confirm that it works perfectly, although you have to reformat the card to FAT32 file system using a compatible device (I used my Samsung smartphone). I now have a 96GB player which fits all my music collection with 20GB to spare for adding videos.
It's also worth mentioning that all the menus such as artist/album/song lists are merged between internal memory and memory card.
Anyone buying this player will need to buy a good set of headphones. The bundled earphones do not do this player justice, although I would say the they are better that the standard white earphones that come with Apple devices. I have tried numerous over the ear big headphones and ear-canal noise isolating earphones and have settled on WeSC Bassoon Pro DJ Headphones, and also a pair of Ortofon EQ7 both of which are superb.
All in all I would give this player 10 out of 10 with no reservations.
My experience ordering from AdvancedMP3 players was first class. I received emails at various stages of my order. Postage was free and my player was delivered next day by courier.
The Cowon J3 is the best music player that I have ever used.
I chose a Cowon player as it is the only brand that I have found that has gapless playback, a lot of my music is live concerts and I find the dwell between tracks spoils my listening experience.
I have had a number of MP3 players in the past of all price ranges, Flash & HDD, Budget unbranded to top of the range Iriver models But the sound quality of the and battery life of the J3 far exceeds any thing used before as is the video playback.
If you are spending over £100 for a Music player I would recommend Cowon J3
My die hard Rio Karma was finally coming to an end of its life. Replacement, the Cowon J3. Its light, easy to use and with its expandable memory card slot, I quickly starting adding my music collection onto the J3 with a simple drag and drop on the computer desktop. Sound quality is great and plenty of options to tweak the sound with the JetEffect equalizer. Like others when first turned on I set the settings to English, Outside Europe to prevent the volume clamping set for UK market. I ave found the unit is plenty loud enough and haven't found a need to go to the max ye, perhaps with other headphones there may be but using some Sennheiser E6's they sound ace with the J3. Battery life seems to last for ages. Have been using it for 2 weeks now and still have 75% displayed. It seems to go down in 25%'s so not that accurate to gauage but its good enough. Overall the sound quality is exceptional, quality of build cant fault. Included headphones are poor but they usualy are when supplied with a mp3 player.
The only minus point I can say is not the Cowon J3 but AMP3's shopping experience and it was a big minus point. After asking for vouchers from family for Xmas, I found 3 lots were put on hold due to AMP3 poor verification system if using Paypal. My family were told to send verification documents via email as proof of purchase. I rang up to complain what a poor experience it was and why was it was happening, AMP3 claimed it was their paypal verification security they had in place that was preventing the order from going through. Only to find out that in my cases it was a computer/software fault, the paypal accounts were verified and subsequently the voucher orders purchased. This did mean that the vouchers were delayed by over 3 - 4 weeks and so missed getting them for Xmas. It was stressful for family buying the vouchers, having to prove a purchase made on AMP3's website using their payment options is not something they would do again. If only it was a simple as amazon. I would not recommend anyone to purchase vouchers from AMP3 until they improve the system. I or my family received no apology for their error and for something I wanted as a Xmas present, I didn't receive until Mid February once finally back in stock.
I decided to buy the Cowon J3 to replace my Ipod Touch (2nd Gen - 16GB) which I’ve had for 4 years, and during this time period its had no space left on it, suffered a water damaged screen, a power/stand by button which no longer works, and was starting to overheat, so as you can tell it was time for a replacement.
I decided that my next piece of kit wasn’t going to be an Iproduct because I started to hate apple, which to me is just a fashion accessory for the teenagers, as well as I hated using Itunes because I find it irritating and annoying, and me being 21, I wanted something more grown-up and more adult-like which stood out from the crowd because to be honest I don’t follow fashion, and thanks to the following sites
I came across a company called Cowon which I have never heard of, until now and all I can say is thank you that I now have, I saw all these positive reviews and also the little AMP3 favourite logo sticker in the corner of the screen so I thought it must be good if all the experts that work there are calling it one of their favourites.
Now the only thing that the J3 has got that my old Ipod hasn’t is the wi-fi or apps, but I never used them because they just completely drain your battery and I found most (if not all) apps were very boring, and my Samsung galaxy SII has got WiFI and 3G So what's the point of having a PMP with WiFi? Answer – there isnt , so I decided to get a dedicated PMP
First things first, the J3 is classically styled with a matte black finish, simple curves and a beautiful fit/finish, it just sits nicely in your hand that only weighs 76G so its very very light.
The 3.3″ AMOLED screen makes my jaw drop to the floor, it’s just a gorgeous thing to look at, and all the colours are natural and vivid. Images are sharp and no visible ghosting or flushing.
As for movies the J3 is a sleek little player which bears a gorgeous screen to play those humble films and the J3 will do it! With style! And if you deicide to watch a movie on it then your going to feel as of your actually in a cinema because the sound effects are mind-blowing, crisp and crystal clear and there’s so much depth within the quality of the images which adds intensity to the movies,
The picture quality compared to my is just surreal because the picture quality could sometimes be a bit muddy and blurry, and sometimes caused eye strain after long periods of time, compared to the J3, I just don’t get any.
It’s also worth mentioning that you get sub-titles on the movies for the “hard-to-hear people” which makes it a BIG BONUS for my friend who’s deaf
I have researched that the pass models such as the X7, or S9 have had some complicated User Interfaces (UI) to get your head around, and I must admit it took me about a couple of hours to get used to it, but once you understand it its very easy and simple to use, its very snappy, no lag to be noticed anywhere.
This is where Cowon starts to demolishes apple because I love the transfer mode, no stupid software like itunes, you just plug it in and shows up the same as any external USB hard disk or memory stick you then copy your files on it then safely remove it, job done, no faffing about.
Another reason and more specifically the main reason as to why I wanted the J3 was because I heard that Cowon has a speciality and a reputation for delivering brilliant sound quality, so when I got it I didn’t know what to expect, so I tested it and without using any foul language its phenomenal, I tested it on my music collection which consist mostly of metal, anything ranging from old school 80-90’s band such as Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest to more modern metalcore bands such as Killswitch Engage, Parkway Drive and As I Lay Dying, and, I’ve never heard that much detail in my music, there’s just so much depth within it , the J3 has made me fall in love with music all over again, all I can say is that it lives up to its reputation and its absolutely trashes the sound quality on my Ipod, and just so you know I don’t have any of the “top of the range headphones” I just have some Sennishers MX 580, although I’m looking to buy some Audio-Technica ATH-W1000X
Another advantage compared to my Ipod is that the battery life on it lasted for approximately 12 hours and that’s if I was lucky, and the J3 just makes a laughingstock out of it because I’ve only had to charge it up approximately once every 2 days where as before I had to charge my Ipod up every couple of hours.
On my Ipod I easily filled 16GB and when I wanted to add some music to it, It meant that I had to delete some of my other music to make space for it, and that was really frustrating, and in order to put on the extra music, it meant buying a bigger capacity Ipod, and Apple would be making more money from this situation. I’m sorry that for me is just unacceptable, this is in fact another reason as to why I bought the J3 because I bough the 32GB J3 and when I do eventually fill it up I can just add a SD card and give it an extra 32GB so essentially it will be a 64GB on a very very light device so that for me is a big MAJOR advantage so thank you Cowon for coming up with a GENIUS IDEA! This is a very useful feature for your customers.
However there are a couple of problem with the Cowon, they are not serious and it’s not really worth mentioning but it’s just me nit-picking at it (also I would like to point out AMP3 and Cowon are not to be blamed for these)
• The headphones that come supplied with the J3 are so cheap and basic, they are rubbish. Want my opinion? Bin them and get yourself some better ones. However this is very common because most company supply “freebie” headphones which are all useless so it’s nothing new there.
• You have to buy the AC adapter separately, where as with the x7 it comes supplied with it, but they don’t cost much and most companies don’t include a charger in the box anyway, so it’s nothing serious.
• You better be prepared to spent time ripping all of your music collection to FLAC or a different type of audio file you prefer (if anything this is an advantage because you can listen out for new details in your favourite songs)
However the only bad thing I can say is that you will eventually fill 64GB easily if your using FLAC music files, which means that you have to buy another J3 or the possibly the X7 but it doesn’t matter because its worth it in the end.
I’ve still got my Ipod, it’s in the corner of my bedroom gathering dust and I only use it now just for the reason that I like to laugh and make a mockery as to just how bad it is and I can’t believe I bought something from the apple market, in my opinion I’m ashamed of myself for it.
So if you want something that is grown-up, with supreme sound quality then get yourself a Cowon, otherwise you will regret it.
However on a serious note I would like to thank AMP3 for their informing me and keeping me up to date with my order, Thanks a lot, I will be buying from you again in the future.
So many things to like about this:
Wonderful sound quality
Wide range of supported formats
Free of restrictive proprietary management software (iTunes, Zune, etc.)
Only one problem so far - the quality of materials used in its construction is a bit cheap - what looks like metal, for example, is plated plastic (which is already beginning to chip off).
That said, if you are more interested in listening to the player than looking at it, you won't care about whether its chipped. This is by far the best audio quality I've experienced in a portable device. Providing you don't need the hand-holding of something like iTunes, and matched to a decent set of headphones (Etymotic ER-4p, for example) I don't see how you could better this.
I purchased the J3 Cowon on the basis of reviews I had read on this site and elsewhere. I was not disappointed. My previous player was an Apple Ipod Nano. The main reason I decided to change was the volume control limit, having to use itunes or other equally annoying software to transfer music, the the lack of compatibility for different formats (i.e. flac). The Cowon solved all these problems and more! The sound quality is amazing. There is no comparison to the ipod. There is so much more detail in the sound, even when playing mp3 files.
I do tend to use the earphones provided with the player when I am commuting to work. These provide a good sound, but to get the best out of the player it is necessary to get something higher quality. I use a pair of audio-technica ATH-ES55s which work very well for me.
All in all I am very happy with the Cowon, and certainly would recommend to anyone who is looking for a player with superior sound to the mass market products out there.
I purchased this player as a replacement for my Archos 5 Android Tablet which kept on failing on me. I decided to go for the Cowon J3 because all I ever really did on my Archos was listen to music and watch films so I thought 'why not just get a dedicated media player?'. I can happily say I have no regrets!
The player works perfectly and the AMOLED screen makes watching films a truly joyous experience. As I have always been a bit of an audiophile the majority (85%) of my music collection is FLAC, for this reason I avoided the Cowon S9 due to its lack of micro sd slot. So when the J3 came out I couldn't wait to get my hands on one! With the freedom of removable memory cards I am now able to quickly switch between which music I want to take with me.
Although the UI takes a while to get used to (can get a bit fiddly at times) once you get your head around it it's easy! The fact that you have a choice of 3 home pages really lets you feel in control of the device - that you can really personalise it to make it your own - and the amount of customisation available for the equalisers and other effects really lets you set it up just the way you want.
Even after all of this you still get more! The huge battery life is really something that you will enjoy; obviously you will not get the quoted 64 hours music playback in reality, but with practical usage (and FLAC playback)I easily get 40 hours continuous playback (the first couple of charges will be a bit disappointing but after a while the battery life will improve).
Overall this is a great product and I would urge anyone thinking of buying a really decent music player to give this one serious consideration.
This was to replace my old sony NWZ-A818. I thought long and hard about what should replace it. I loved my sony, the sound quality was awesome and it was easy to live with. My daughter has an ITouch, while it offers a number of apps, games, etc. I was not impressed with the sound output. Plus, i cannot be doing with Itunes!!!
Anyway, not being able to try out any Cowon unit and simply going on the numerous, positive reviews (see, anythingbutipod), i opted for this one. Wow, what a piece of equipment, what a piece of technology, the sound was far better than i expected, although, the operating system is ok, it does take a little while to understand it's little quirks. But hey, this things is still awesome and when plugged into the HIFI, the unit seriously kicks out the tunes. You hear the detail in the music (obviously this is subject to codecs used, the speakers and amps, etc). I love it and I am sure you will too.
5 out of Five stars
I bought this as a replacement to my ageing S9 and instantly fell in love with it
especially its light weight compact design. Cannot add anything extra to the glowing comments made by other reviewers and neither have I found any problems with it.
First time I heard of Cowon was on a Which review. The review was very complementary and I thought I'd give it a go. All I can say is a huge thank you to Which! They got it exactly right! An excellent MP3 player...simple to use, all the features needed to make playing music on the move an enjoyable experience. I use my own headphones rather than the included ones, and I love the depth of sound. The connection to the PC is no-fuss, no proprietary software nonsense...just plug it in, drag the files to the folder and away you go. 5,000 songs took about 25 minutes. The battery lasts about 4 days of 3 hour a day use. Its even compatible with Audible so I can listen to my books. Love it!!!
I have dipped into some other reviews and agree that some aspects of the J3 are a bit mad. However, like most others I believe that the good far out weighs the bad. I love the player and would buy it again with all its flaws. If you love music and have the patience to set it up correctly, go for it.
There are rather a lot of reviews for the Cowon J3, here on AMP3, but there are a number of points I haven't seen covered (and I've read all 58 reviews here, at the time of this writing).
To begin with, let me make it clear that I think the J3 is an absolutely FANTASTIC player. I'm going to mention some negatives in this review but that is merely because the MANY positives of this player have been well-covered by the other 58 reviewers. I'm discussing these negative aspects of the J3 for constructive reasons - to encourage Cowon to continually improve, and to allow potential purchasers to attain a more rounded overview of the J3, as well as offer some insight in how to overcome some of the shortcomings, should anyone encounter one of them. Consequently, my stated negatives about the player do NOT reflect an overall negative impression of the player. Absolutely, categorically, not. The J3 is deeply, thoroughly, awesome and, in spite of its foibles, I glowingly recommend it to anyone who cares first and foremost about SOUND QUALITY rather than apps and bells and whistles. I bought my J3 just before Christmas 2010 and I'd buy another one tomorrow, without hesitation, instead of any of the newer offerings by any manufacturer, including Cowon. Yes, the J3 is THAT good!
So, with that said...
Frustrating absence of proper dynamic/on-the-go playlists - Apple have allowed users to generate playlists whilst on-the-go for YEARS, even on their most basic devices. It is completely unacceptable, therefore, for a premium device by a long-established maker such as Cowon to fail to PROPERLY cater for this very important need. I would even go so far as to say Cowon are potentially putting their customers at risk from the point of view that if one is continually taking the player out of one's pocket, to select another artist or track then this is likely to attract unwanted attention from would-be muggers, if one lives in a rough area. The crude and rudimentary 'Music Favorites' feature does NOT cut the mustard and is bad for both Cowon and their customers.
The placement of the power-button directly opposite the volume buttons on either side of the player is absurd - I regularly reach into my pocket to alter volume level only to find myself inadvertently pressing the power button and sending my player into sleep mode. I seriously cannot understand how Cowon's team did not realise that in order to press a button on one side of the player, equal and opposite pressure must be placed on the opposite side of the player. Over time, one gradually learns to use 2 fingers (spread apart) on one side of the machine, whilst using the thumb to press the volume controls, but this isn't foolproof and inadvertent mistakes still occur.
At the time of this review, I'm running version 2.25 firmware and Cowon still haven't fixed an irritating sporadic failure of the player to put itself into self-sleep when the player is left in 'pause' mode (the player is user-set correctly to sleep after 3 minutes of non-use). This occasional failure to go into sleep mode leads to the battery running totally flat and is infuriating when I finish work, put my earphones in, and find the player is dead as a dodo for the commute back home. As I said, this is sporadic but it's infuriating when it occurs.
No playback of iPod-compatible h.264 video files - this can be annoying if you have owned an iPod and have a hard drive full of h.264 files. You'll need to convert them to something like .wmv or h.263. As far as I know, this is a shortcoming of the processing power of the chips used in the player, rather than a fault of Cowon themselves, On the Plus side, although it is not advertised by Cowon, this player WILL play .mp4/AAC audio files. The only caveat with these files is that the album art won't display. To get around this, simply place an appropriate .jpg image in each album folder named 'cover.jpg'
If you attempt to connect the Cowon J3 to an Apple Mac computer (I'm typing this review on an old Powerbook G4), you'll come a cropper because Macs tediously insist on writing a '.DS_Store' file to EVERY folder/directory the user opens on a device or drive. In the case of the Cowon J3, creation of these files renders the unit unusable (when you reboot the device, you just see a green bar and garbled 'snowstorm' on the screen. The actual music files on the device are stiil there, because you can copy them if you reconnect to the Apple Mac, but the Cowon J3 device's firmware is unable to boot whilst the .DS_Store files are in the device memory). This is a P.I.T.A. - I've been there myself, but fortunately, in spite of the apocalyptic appearance of the screen, sending the unit back to Cowon for repair is not necessary. Backing up the music and video files etc. (and deleting the .DS_Store files from the backed-up folders) and then reformatting and re-populating the Cowon memory solves the issue (and conveniently allows one to again choose what region they want the device to believe they live in - select 'Non-Europe' in order to have the Cowon play files to a decent, un-euro-capped, volume). If you only own a Mac computer and are worried that you may be unable to purchase a Cowon J3 for the above reason, then there is apparently a work-around which involves setting the Mac to never write .DS_Store files (just Google it), but I've not gone down this route, since I also own a Windows PC and now do all my Cowon file transfers on that machine instead.
The 'BBE' option (it's one part of the 'BBE+' audio bundle contained in the 'Jet Effect 3.0' audio suite on the player's firmware) is supposedly an improvement on sound resolution/quality, but personally I find it adds sibiliance and casts a muddy veil over the sound, so I always leave the BBE option switched off and wouldn't care one jot if Cowon removed the feature in future firmware revisions.
As others have mentioned, the trick to getting decent volume output from the J3 is to tell it you don't live in Europe when you are presented with the 'region' screen for the first time (don't worry, you can then tell it you do nonetheless want English language menus). If you missed this option or wish to change what you chose, then this can be done by backing-up all the files from the J3 to another hard drive, then reformatting the J3's internal memory (remember to remove any SD cards so there's zero risk of them accidentally being deleted/reformatted or whatever).
The sound quality on this thing is damned good. Plenty of clarity and resolution. The only areas of sound-quality improvement I could perhaps wish for are:
1) Greater control over EQ settings - the J3 is better than most DAPs in this regard but I still wish there was more control than just 5 bands (although the user can choose whether these bands are adjusted within a narrow or wide range, along with slightly varying the frequency range upon which each band is focused). It would also be really nice to have a spline/rubberband feature in the firmware that 'smooths-out' the transition from one equaliser band to the next, but I'd settle for simply having a greater number of manually adjustable EQ bands - 7 or 9 instead of 5. This desire for greater control isn't so much for the purposes of tweaking music playback per se as tweaking overall frequency response of the player as it relates to the sound signature of certain earphones/headphones. For example, my AH-C700 earphones have a slightly recessed midband, whereas other earphones have exagerated bass response or harsh treble etc.. The more accurately one can tweak to compensate, the more satisfying the end result.
2) Improved current delivery for a more dynamic sound with challenging tracks and challenging earphones / headphones. Most users would never have reason to even contemplate this, but it is apparent to me that a trade-off has been made by the chip manufacturer (Wolfsen?) with regard to power consumption vs. current delivery. This may account for some people's underwhelming experience with the J3 when using their favourite set of earphones/headphones - some transducers simply have more challenging impedances and may require more current to drive them to a sufficiently dynamic and musically-engaging level. This is only a potential issue for customers who KNOW they have challnging, particularly current-hungry transducers. Under such circumstances, one might consider using a FiiO E5 amp with the J3. It's also fair to point out that many other players in the marketplace have equivalent power output to the J3. Only a very small minority of users would ever require additional amplification but it'd be a pity for them to overlook players such as the J3 without considering the possibility of adding a FiiO E5 or similar.
3) The integrated loudspeaker is a nice idea but the implementation is quite lame - most mobile phones have better speakers than this one - come on, Cowon, there's no reason you couldn't put a better drive unit in this - even two, for proper stereo operation and higher volume without risking distortion. I'm not asking for miracles, but the J3 speaker is only 40% as good as it could be, considering how excellent the players audio processing is. To be fair, I guess that's partly a reflection of how high Cowon/Wolfsen set the bar in terms of audio processing.
The sound quality - is it REALLY as good as all the amateur and professional reviewers say it is? That depends on how much of a purist you are. If you expect gargantuan levels of current-hungry dynamics, as only VERY high-end Hi-Fi equipment can offer, you may not favour the Cowon J3 100% (though you'll still find much to like). However, if you fit into 90% of the population (including audiophiles with under-£5,000 systems at home) then you'll more than likely be extremely pleased with a Cowon J3. I have self-made hi-fi gear (Linsley-Hood amp, Dynaudio and Scanpeak L/S drive units, hooked up to an Arcam CD player) so I appreciate decent audio quality. I'll also point out that I'm disinclined to use any form of EQ on hi-fi systems. However, where portable audio is concerned, I've come to appreciate that the rules of the game are different; although I like a refined sound, with no 'boom and tizz', it is an inescapable fact that IEMs often have wildly differing sound signatures. It's also an inescapable fact that many IEMs (and indeed, headphones in general) have, to varying degrees, a tendency to make instruments and voices sound somewhat 'inside one's head', rather than outside the head as is more common in reality and with conventional hi-fi loudspeakers. As well as being less realistic, this 'inside one's head' tendency can be rather fatiguing to the listener. Put these factors together and the case for deliberately manipulating the sound becomes quite compelling. Thankfully, this is where the Cowon players excel. No EQ is perfect (as I've outlined elsewhere in this review). However, broadly-speaking, restrained/moderate use of the J3's 'MP Enhance', 'Stereo Enhance' and '3D Surround' features can dramatically relieve listening fatigue. Purists can simply choose to not use these options. Personally, I occasionally switch them off at times when imaging and seperation of voices/instruments is more important to me, but most of the time, I find I really appreciate the reduction of fatigue that comes with invocation of the above EQ features; if one stops being analytical about the imaging, one can slip into a very enjoyable, unfatiguing, broad soundstage which is about as close to bliss as I've ever experienced from a portable audio device with earphones and nothing - NOTHING comes close to Cowon for this, in my experience, not even Sony's high-end A-series. As an example, I'm listening to Yo-Yo Ma's rendition of Ennio Morricone's 'Gabriel's Oboe' as I type this, with the J3 set as follows:
MP Enhance = ON
Mach3Bass = 1
3D Surround = 3
Stereo Enhance = 2
through a pair of Denon AH-C700s...the soundstage is enormous and is, frankly glorious.. :-) My iPod Classic couldn't come even CLOSE to this; not even remotely in the same ballpark. Artists such as Alison Krauss & Union Station also showcase the supreme sound quality of the J3; Whatever your musical taste, carefully set, the J3 is pure musical bliss... (in fact, I yearn to hear what the J3 is capable of with the highly-revealing HiFiMAN 272 IEMs!)
The J3's sound recorder also works very well, particularly for such a tiny microphone.
The J3 user-interface is absolutely FINE - seriously, I can't understand why people moan about this! I learned it from scratch, never having owned anything by Cowon previously, and was 90% up to speed within 24 hours, with just a few little surprises occurring over the following few days, as I uncovered nuances in the U-I that had not been immediately apparent. At NO point did I ever have any difficulty in navigating the players features, other than noting that the icons in the radio interface are not very obvious in their meaning; thus these particular icons require more of a 'suck-it-and-see' approach, but I rarely use the radio anyway.
Nice that the device does let the user delete files without connection to a computer (this needs confirmation by the user so one-press user slip-ups are unlikely).
Durability - I've dropped my J3 on concrete a couple of times in the 9 months I've owned it - each time it has simply bounced and continued working as before, none the worse for it's abuse, other than the odd scuff here and there on the casing. The screen also remains completely responsive and clear. This is in stark contrast to the iPod Classics (I've had 2), BOTH of which died - one without any abuse and the latter after having been dropped once on tarmac when I was in France. I'm glad the J3 is solid-state throughout rather than relying upon those unreliable electro-mechanical hard disk drives in the iPod Classics.
Neither PRO or CON - just curiosities:
I've noticed that, sometimes, when I select an artist/album/track or whatever from a list on the screen, the player will highlight the one I press, yet actually open and play the item beneath the one I selected. This happens so rarely that I don't consider it a problem - more a peculiarity, but it's worth mentioning, nonetheless.
BBE+ '3D surround' does make the soundstage seem broader, more enveloping and less 'in-the-head' but at the expense of smearing imaging / placement of individual instruments within the soundstage, and sending them further 'behind' the listener. For casual listeing, the overall effect can actually be very pleasant (e.g. live concerts, orchestral pieces etc.) but on a technical level I have some suspicion that this may be little more than a crude phase manipulator rather than a complex DSP algorithm. If anyone has detailed information to support or refute this suspicion, I'd be very interested to know.
Lastly, this isn't a criticism but I just thought I'd mention that the J3 is PUNISHINGLY-revealing of the shortcomings of 128kbps MP3s! (I'm using mid-range Denon AH-C700/751 earphones). This is totally the fault of 128kbps MP3s, not the player.
Given what seems to me to be unnecessary complexity and resource-hungriness (without any significant benefit) of the Android-powered Cowon D3 Plenue (good though I'm sure it is), I have a nagging suspicion (which I hope proves to be unfounded) that the J3 may be a classic and the last of it's kind - a relatively SIMPLE, resource-light, Audio player which does what it says on the tin EXTREMELY WELL.
You will learn to love the Cowon J3!
I think there are three phases you will go through when you get a J3.
1) You will be impressed by how small it is, how nice the display looks, how long the battery life is and the touch screen when you first get it powered on and play with it.
2) You will get annoyed by the counter intuitive UI navigation. E.g. there is no consistency. Sometimes you scroll by dragging, as you expect, but other times (BBE+ setting) you press a 1, 2, 3, or 4 at the bottom to go through list of options. When navigating lists, e.g. Music-_Artists-_Albums-_Songs, you go back to the previous list either by a swiping horizontally, but this also scrolls if you get the angle wrong, or you can press a "up" arrow at the bottom. However, the up arrow options alternate between a font-size zoom bar at the bottom - you may not initially realise this. These are just a few examples. Font size zooming is good for the fat-fingered though!
3) Once you get use the the UI you will love it because it does everything you need a Personal Media Player to do!
It works for me on Win7 Pro 64-bit (despite what Advance MP3 say!). It has two USB modes: MSC for treating like a USB storage device and MTP for syncing with Windows Media Player. If you want to sync with Media Player then you just have to drag the songs or playlists to the WMP sync list and sync it. You can then have playlists you created on your PC appear on your J3. It will also convert any audio files it needs to. However, you do not get the WMP star ratings on the J3, but this is minor. For me, I just wanted to sync my 4+ star rated files so as not to fill the player up with songs I was not to keen on.
The included PC software also appears to work on Win7 64-bit, but I have not really used it and you do not really need it. The one disappointment with the included software was the video converter - this only converts 30s unless you pay! This seems really cheap for such a high-end device. However, you can download the free "SUPER" converter from http://www.erightsoft.com/SUPER.html. This gives you a load of settings, not all of which work on the J3. However, http://www.anythingbutipod.com/forum/showthread.php?t=56633 explains which settings you need to chose. You can then transfer your converted video across and it looks great!
Start up is very quick - just a few seconds. If you have added files, it takes a little longer the next time it starts as it rebuilds its internal database, but this is just once each time you add/remove files. Navigation is then very quick no matter how many files you have. I have filled 26GB of 32GB with around 4000 songs and it does not slow down. The search function is kind of slow though.
Sound quality is top notch, as every J3 review says! However, I wanted to connect the J3 to the line in on a hifi amp. It does not have dedicated line out or a line out setting so you have to use the headphone out. Unfortunately the volume is then quite low because the voltage range is a bit below the typical line in/out range even at full volume. The J3 is loud, but this is because it provides current to the headphones - for line out, you need voltage and negligible current because a hifi amp line in is a high impedance load. Nevertheless, using a big amp with B&W tower speakers give the best sound from MP3s that I have ever heard!
Another happy customer from advanced mp3, I purchased this to replace my tired old sony after reading the reviews on here and the internet. At first I could not see what all the hype was about as I could not tell any difference between this and the tired old sony, so I contacted advanced mp3 for an RMA for which they were more than happy to oblige without question. Then I found out about the EU law thats states all mp3 players in europe have to be volume limited, but Cowon got around this by giving you the option to choose your region. Wow a change of mind soon set in, this coupled with a pair of audio tecnica ES7 headphones also purchased from advanced mp3 blew me away, the Cowon really perfomed in all aspects, and the equliser settings are immense, and its simple to use. If you are thinking of purchasing this mp3 player which I highly recomend be sure to select "non europe" on the initial setup. 10 out 10, many thanks again advanced mp3.
Like so many other customers who've written reviews, I too had the S9 before upgrading. Well, in all honesty, after a few excellent years with my S9, one day when I was rushing off the train, I dropped it and somehow managed to stand on it and break the screen -oh dear! So I decided I might as well upgrade to the next model, as I was either going to have to arrange for a repair or replacement. It's OK though, I contacted AMP3 and they had me sorted with a new one the following day -phew!
The J3,despite being quite similar, is so different from the S9. Little extras such as the touch-screen being a little more responsive, the menu and playback settings being a little more logical/intuitive, the built-in speaker, the expandable memory -make it so much better than the S9. I love the new shape too, and it's far more practical having the buttons on the side, as opposed to on the top like on the S9. And as with any Cowon product, the sound is exceptionally good.
And this time I'm protecting it properly -never again will I not spend the extra on a case.
Also, I should mention, the official leather case is very nice, high quality and offers good protection.
All in all, I am extremely pleased with my shiny new J3 - and it's white too! Very nice.
Cowon J3 32GB MP3 Player
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