Cowon S9

Categories: MP3 & Audio Reviews   Tags: , , ,
We love
Superb screen bursting with colours. Audio is excellent.
We hate
Looks like it's trying to be an iPod
A credible alternative to the iPod Touch, the Cowon S9 even surpasses it in terms of audio quality.
Launch Price

Cowon S9

The Cowon S9, in so many ways, is like a bad lookalike – you know the ones we mean: fat Elvis impersonators that call themselves Suspiciously Elvis. That sort. The S9 desperately wants to be an iPod Touch, but only comes in with 8GB and 16GB models, no Bluetooth support, no Wi-Fi and no web browser. That said, this does trump the iPod with one major ace: audio quality.

Forget about Apple for a minute and imagine you’d never touched the Touch’s sexy screen. The S9′s 3.3-inch colour OLED display is unbelievably bright and bursting with colours. Touch it and you begin to wonder why every PMP doesn’t use OLED displays. Unfortunately the interface is more crappy than those Portaloos you get at festivals. It’s fussy, overcomplicated and a mess compared to the iPod’s elegant interface.

While video reproduction is excellent the Cowon is unable to understand the latest MPEG-4 or H.264 clips. Still it’s really the audio quality that allows the S9 to sit next to the big boys on the shelves. The BBE+ audio system really punches up compressed music files, giving your ears a sonic tickling they’ve probably only heard from a Sony player.

Not a bad attempt, then, at beating the Touch at its own game. If only Cowon had created an interface to match the sonics we’d be talking about an iPod beater here. As it is it’s more of a decent alternative.

  • Anything but ipod

    This is an old thread, but it has incorrect information.
    1. S9 has bluetooth.
    2. H264 is available as a hack, but it not recommended as it halves the battery life – iPods have the same problem and don’t playback the full H264 spec anyway! Further, H264 was not designed for PMP or personal device use as it was always meant to be processor intensive. The real benefit of H264 cannot even be seen on a 3.3 inch display – I’ll take the large file over limited battery life any day – same on the ipod in this regard. However, if the S9 does run it then the half battery life is still more than the iPod’s full battery life.
    3. Apple Lossless is no competition for FLAC for audiophiles. The S9 handles all FLAC profiles.
    4. The S9 interface is customizable to the extreme. Most people use Claw’s interface rather than the simple and clunky initial one.
    5. Software can be obtained from anyone, not just the Apple oligarchy.

    Other matters:
    1. S9 does not introduce reverb in its Flat Eq setting as the ipod does to hide its crappy amp and stock headphones. The S9 stock headphones are no better, but I prefer the choice of just buying better ones and enjoying pure sound to buying better headphones and knowing the sound can never be pure as on the ipod.
    2. S9 has about 200% the battery life in continuous tests thanks to the AMOLED screen and Li-Po rather than Li-Ion batteries. C’mon Apple – catch up!!
    3. Ipod = iTunes or nothing. I prefer nothing, which is what you need to use the S9 – pick any management software you like rather than the privacy invading iTunes. Strictly speaking iTunes is illegal in Europe as it installs additional software without permission or clear indication of purpose. ‘Case coming to a court room near you Spring 2010′.
    4. iTunes may disappear from Europe if Apple do not allow other PMP/MP3 player makers play Apple DRM on non-Apple devices. Apple threatened to pull out over this one – European parliament said ‘Ok, your loss not ours’ – I am paraphrasing a lot. Apple *may* be forced to disable all Apple DRM protected tunes bought by European customers. Remember, Microsoft lost this battle in Europe, Apple is next up in court.

    S9 – stock interface could be much better. Custom interfaces are beyond anything the ipod can do. Battery life way beyond ipod. Screen quality makes the ipod video look so 80s. Applications can be got from anyone. Accelerometer more sensitive than Apple’s. Works on Windows, Mac, Linux, BSD etc. Only up to 32GB available. No SD or other extended memory slot.
    Ipod – many more applications. You can be individual by getting the same thing as everyone else. Poor sound quality – almost everyone is better than Apple in this regard even if you buy better headphones. Screen quality, which has always been only average, looks terrible when side by side with the S9. Larger memory available (64GB).

    Take your choice – but make it your choice by trying both and making your own mind up. Just like with Hi-Fi equipment you should listen to your own music on each device, not the stuff that comes as a demo.

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