The Shuffle has been hogging centre stage in the budget MP3 player market for some time now. But, standing about the same size as a pack of chewing gum, screenless, and with minimal controls, the Cowon iAudio E2 is aimed squarely at snatching the limelight.
And on first impressions, it stands a very good chance. The unusual design is certainly eye-catching, with a loop at the top for attaching to a keyring, making it harder to leave the Cowon iAudio E2 at home. And in our book that’s preferable to the Shuffle’s clip, which feels a bit like a name badge at a soulless corporate shindig. It also comes in five colours, should the standard black not suit you.
The Cowon iAudio E2 comes in tiny triangular packaging, making it look like a shrunken takeaway sandwich. Unpack it and you’re faced with the standard cheap plasticky headphones, so better add in the cost of a decent pair. It’s a shame they’re so poor, lacking any kind of warmth or bass, because sound quality is rich and detailed once you’ve slapped in a quality pair, and with eight modes (BBE, BBE ViVa, BBE ViVa 2, BBE Mach3Bass, BBE MP, BBE Headphone 1, BBE Headphone 2, and BBE Headphone 3) you’re sure to find one you like. Just make sure you hit the Menu button at least once to switch to BBE, Cowon’s boosted sound quality that brings out otherwise lost detail. With this kind of grunt to play with, using the bundled cans is as pointless as watching Avatar on an iPod nano.
To change track and volume, press the buttons on the side of the Cowon iAudio E2. It’s not as intuitive as the Shuffle’s controls on the headphone cord, as we had to keep checking which we were about to adjust, and makes an annoying beep every time you press, but does free you from using the official cans.
The Cowon iAudio E2 is sleeker than the Shuffle, sounds better, supports Flac and Ogg formats, and at time of writing, the 2GB model is £16 cheaper from www.amp3.co.uk. Move aside, Apple.