Cowon iAudio 6 Review

iaudio 6 main Cowon iAudio 6 Review

The iAudio 6 marks the start of a new breed of MP3 players that is based around a mini 0.85” hard drive. This media player is packed with all the necessary features supporting all the pertinent audio codec that include MP3, WMA, OGG, FLAC, and WAV. The “6” is not limited to audio- it plays back MPEG4 (XviD), and JPEG on its radiant 1.3” 260K color OLED screen. It is a great player with few faults.

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The iAudio 6 is bundled with earbuds, standard USB cable, USB host cable, line-in cable, and software, which are all fairly standard issued accessories. As of now the only optional accessory I am aware of is a leather case made by Noreve.


This player comes with two different pieces of software: JetAudio and JetShell. JetAudio is your standard media player that plays, rips, converts and burns music. This is also the application you will use to convert and transfer video to the iAudio 6. JetShell is another application that allows you to synch files, add effects, make playlists and manage features of the iAudio 6. It would be nice to see both of these applications merged into one in the future.


The iAudio 6 measures 35.6
x 76.1 x 19mm and weighs 60 grams. It is very well built with a solid feel and has buttons that are accurate and firm. The player’s housing is made of plastic except for the back plate which is a brushed aluminum. The front, which includes the screen and touch controls, is made of a hard glossy plastic. This face is scratch resistant and will not scratch under normal use. It does however, show fingerprints easily.


The 1.3” 260K color OLED 160 x 128 pixel screen takes up most of the real estate on the front of this player. I was never impressed by OLED technology, especially with smaller screens. The colors were not very accurate and the resolution was fuzzy compared to LCDs. On the contrary, the iAudio 6’s OLED screen is simply brilliant- matching, if not surpassing, LCD technology on other MP3 players.

To give you an example, the screen has the same color depth and clarity as the screen on Creative’s Zen Vision:M. It would be nice to see this OLED technology on Cowon’s next iteration of the X5.

User Interface

The interface takes a minute or two to get used to, but after that it is fairly straight forward. The tactile buttons on the top include a slider power/hold switch, menu button, and what I think is a must for every digital audio player, dedicated volume controls.

I have never been a fan of touch sensitive controls. They all suffer from accuracy problems and are often pressed when you don’t want them to be. This is still the case for the iAudio 6. The recessed virtual buttons and slider help deter accidental touching, but I still found myself unintentionally operating them.

Putting aside my bias towards touch interfaces,the smooth recessed slide control and buttons feel great on your thumb. I would give it ok marks for what it is, but I think that it could be improved by adding adjustable sensitivity– there are so many accidental presses. Still, long lists of music is easy to browse through by sliding your thumb or pressing and holding the top or the bottom of the slide control. On a side note, media is arranged and navigable by a file folder structure, but the track themselves can be displayed by ID3 or file name.

The menu and record buttons double as user defined shortcut buttons when they are depressed and held. The buttons can be set to bookmark, add to dynamic playlist, record, jump to EQ, shuffle, etc.

Overall the interface is great, but is does suffer from slowdowns when loading media. Often times a “wait screen” will appear for a second or two when switching songs, recording, or changing to a different media mode. This is the iAudio 6’s biggest weak point, which can be attributed to the miniature but slow .85” hard drive inside. Using more expensive flash ram would alleviate this problem, but would add to the price tag. Cowon did make the right sacrifice in this case, because in the end the interface slowdown is not a deal breaker.


The battery charges in 3 hours through any powered USB port and is rated at 20 hours of playtime. A few informal battery tests showed play times of between 15-18 hours of audio playtime under typical use.

On the video side of battery drain I preformed two tests which exhibited video playtime of around 3.5 hours with screen brightness at maximum.


USB Host / File Management

The USB host feature will allow you to hook up cameras and other UMS devices to transfer files from the device to the iAudio 6. You can also transfer files from the 6 to the UMS device. I tested this with two different Sony cameras and a few different brands of UMS MP3 players. The cameras worked flawlessly, but I had a few problems with some of the MP3 players. When connecting some players like the SanDisk Sansa players, they would both lock up and have to be reset. Then when I tried again, the players would transfer files just fine; it was unpredictable. Also, some devices would truncate the file names to 8 spaces. This is a great feature but it is slow and buggy with a select few devices. Cowon is usually on top of bug fixes, so this feature will probably be ironed out in the near future.

In the same way that you copy files from once device to another, you can move or delete files and entire folders around on the iAudio 6 as well. This is an awesome feature that lets you keep your music organized on-the-go.

Voice Recording

The voice recording works just as expected. This feature records in WMA format at bitrates of 32, 64, 80, 96, or 128kbps. It also works in most quiet to noisy environments due to the adjustable gain control.

Line-in Recording

On the top of the player next to the headphone jack is a line-in jack. Just as the voice recording, it has adjustable gain and can only be recorded in WMA at similar bitrates. Like other iAudio players it will automatically divide songs into separate files when silence is detected. The silence interval can be set from 1 to 4 seconds.

FM / FM Recording

The FM radio has good reception with any type of headphone or earbud plugged in. Auto program is also available which will fill up your 24 presets with the strongest signals. If you like to listen to radio programs you can schedule the iAudio to record at a specified time.


The 6 is able to display lyrics on-demand with the download of a lyric manager program free from iAudio’s website. The program will automatically tag the files with lyrics using an internet database. It is a cool feature but the availability of lyrics data is limited to mainstream top 40 music. So for the non-pop tracks you will have to tag them yourself using this program.

Misc: Clock, Playlists, Bookmarks, TXT

For those who would like a clock, alarm, and sleep timer, they are available. The iAudio 6 has the ability to bookmark and create playlists on-the-go by simply depressing and holding the play button while a song is selected. Finally, for those who like to read on a tiny screen or keep their contacts on their player, the 6 is able to display standard text files.


Photo viewing is straight forward with a 3 x 3 thumbnail matrix interface. Selecting a photo will maximize it to single mode where you are able to flip through them one-by-one full screen. It works very well with smaller sized files but starts to slow down when pictures start to exceed 1MB in size. Also to mention, photos downloaded from a camera directly using the USB host feature can easily be viewed once transferred.



The quality of the iAudio 6 is very good; definitely above average. But what I can really appreciate with this player is the ability to drive larger headphones. It was able to drive my Sony V700DJ headphones well beyond normal listening levels. A common problem with smaller flash based and some hard drive players is the lack of substantial output wattage that won’t produce an appreciable volume level in higher end headphones. The iAudio 6 will drive almost every earbud or headphone.

EQ / Sound Effects

There are a lot of tweaking options on the 6. The player has a 5-band user EQ along with presets such as: Normal, Rock, Pop, Jazz, Classic, and Vocal. In addition to the EQ the player also has sound enhancement features. I am not usually a big fan of these types of features, but with the 6, they enhanced the music without making it sound unnatural. These settings are: BBE, Mach3Bass, MP Enhance, and 3D Surround. It is difficult to explain what each setting does; but all you need to know is that they are not just useless features; they could be of benefit to you. With all these setting to tweak, Cowon adds Jet Effect Presets, which will save all of the above sound settings, including the EQ, into one of ten presets.


The 15fps video playback on the iAudio 6 is smooth, but does have some artifacts at the smaller compression sizes. However, the highest setting is very clear. The JetAudio software allows you to select 4 different q
uality settings: 256kbps, 384kbps, normal, and high which are compressed at 2.8MB/Min, 3.7MB/Min, 4.5MB/Min, and 5.3MB/Min respectively. For those of you who are too lazy to do the math, the files would take up about 250MB, 330MB, 400MB, or 500MB for a typical movie.

Conversion time takes around 1 min to convert 10 min of video on a 2.8GHz Pentium D or about 9 minutes to convert a typical movie. For whatever reason each video converted is watermarked with Cowon’s logo in the top right corner of the video. It is a minor annoyance and only stays there for a few seconds, but the watermark is very unnecessary.


The iAudio 6 has all the features you need packed into a solid built form factor wrapped together with a great user interface. Besides ease of use the player has a brilliant screen and enough power to drive heavy duty headphones- two big selling points for me personally.

I did have a few minor issues with the iAudio 6. The GUI is slow due to the mini-hard drive and the USB host is buggy with some UMS devices. Still, these problems would not deter me from purchasing this player. I would definitely recommend this player to anyone looking for a compact player in the 4GB range.


  • Crisp, Bright OLED screen
  • Solid Build
  • USB Host
  • UMS
  • Great Sound
  • Drives Higher End Headphones


  • GUI lags at times
  • USB Host Buggy
  • WMA recording only


Moritz Heiber on April 30, 2006 11:46 PM

As far as I can get it from the iAudio website (and please correct me if I’m wrong) the player does not work as an USB mass-storage device. So Linux lovers be advised .. you better save you money and stay away from this one. And if you need a decent’ish MP3 player that almost sports the same amount of features go and buy the iAudio 5 instead.Apart from that iAudio did it again.

EnzoTen on May 1, 2006 12:45 AM

Yes it is UMS. Linux Fans Rejoyce.

Michael on May 1, 2006 3:25 AM

I can’t even see a day when Cowon isn’t going to be UMS. They’re the best company out there right now with respect to giving knowledgeable DAP lovers what we want (well except gapless).

Noam on May 1, 2006 8:10 AM

What battery does it use? Is the battery user-replaceable?Awesome review, EnzoTen.

Noam on May 1, 2006 8:17 AM

Never mind, I see: Built-in Lithium Polymer.

hobo on May 1, 2006 9:30 AM

sweet review! But it does seem a bit too pricey. (over £200)

AB on May 1, 2006 9:39 AM

From Iaudio USA:The Iaudio 6 should be released in the beginning of May. The price has not been finalized yet however, it should be in the $250 range. Please check our online store for updates. Please contact us if you have any further questions or concerns. Thansk!-Cowon America, Inc.Saw it on one website for $249 US. They’re marketing it in the range for a similar sized NANO. Still the 5X seems a better deal in regards to price/storage.

winste on May 1, 2006 10:23 AM

Considering this instead of the Sandisk e270 given it’s recent quality control problems. I plan to use for running and maybe some biking. Can someone comment on the amount of skipping a mini hard drive experiences during jogging? I’ve always steered towards flash based but have no concrete info on skip rates.

Cliff on May 1, 2006 10:27 AM

If it were flash I would buy it, but I’m a runner and don’t want to purchase a hard drive based player, because they aren’t durable enough. Sansa it is for me. Although I want FLAC and OGG pretty badly.

Adam on May 1, 2006 11:08 AM

The iaudio 6 can be used as portable storage device. As stated on the website

AB on May 1, 2006 11:16 AM

I’ve seen people in the gym run on the treadmill and bounce up and down on the step machines with their Ipod video’s and Archos HD DAPs. Given the mass/size ratio of the player/HD, I’d expect it to be robust but wouldn’t use the unit as a hammer.

dfkt on May 1, 2006 11:54 AM

About the sound effects: BBE is a manufacturer of professional audio studio gear. You can read more about their algorithms here: in the “technologies” section.I own a iAudio X5L, and am extremely pleased with BBE and Mach3Bass. They really add a new dimension to the sound, perfect for listening with ear/headphones.

roger767 on May 1, 2006 11:55 AM

Major disappointment is that the GUI is again laggy. Just like cowons’ other hdd DAPs. How come iPods GUI’s arent that laggy?

blub on May 1, 2006 12:27 PM

because they use simple interfaces. ipod suckz it looses in all ways against the iaudio 6.and for all the sport guys out there a 0.85 hdd is one of the toughets drives out there

Yeshai on May 1, 2006 8:02 PM

Looks like an amazing unit.And sold very well in Israel for some time allready.But very high on the price side.Yeshai

Moordryd on May 2, 2006 12:50 AM

I, too, am now reconsidering my choice to buy the e270… this one looks quite good and seems more stable than the Sandisk.Great review. Thanks very much.

Pepe on May 2, 2006 12:54 AM

Nice review EnzoTen !How come you didn’t disassemble the I6 ?I am particularly curious to see if it is easy to disassemble the I6 and replace the battery.If you disassemble it, could you post the battery size, type and voltage, to see if there is any replacement available ?I have second thoughts about spending $250 in a device that will die in 2 years. Cowon will probably replace it for $80 (that’s what they told me 1 month ago when I asked them). But the battery is probably worth only $20.

deb on May 3, 2006 10:56 AM

I like the design and its compact size. Not crazy about it having a hard drive but, I do like that it allows bookmarking. Here’s a video demonstration.

deb on May 8, 2006 4:17 PM

That Noreve sight it nice! I ordered a case for my Mpio One and one for the iAudio 6 I haven’t received yet!

DTizzle on May 10, 2006 4:03 PM

I just got my Iaudio 6 last night. I charged it for about 3 hours and started loading data on it. Started customizing all the settings. Well come to find out the GUI is much slower than I imagined it. If you have a problem with waiting 10 to 30 seconds for songs to change or 2 to 6 minutes for the G.U.I. to load this may not be the player for you.I initially though that may I had too many songs in the root directory with no subfolders, and different music types such as OGG,& MP3 files. So I put about 100 mp3 file in the root directory and the average time to skip to the next song is still 10 to 30 secounds. I was so enthusiastic about this player, now I’m ashamed to let my friends with ipods nanos try it because it’s so slow.

EnzoTen on May 10, 2006 6:28 PM

2-6 min? you are exaggerating!… It never took anything more than 5 seconds to load for me though my extensive testing. Space between songs is about 2 seconds. You perception of time is way off.Keep your music in the music folder, you probably should not have anything in the root folder.

Yorobbie on May 11, 2006 5:50 AM

Could somebody tell me if the Iaudio 6 can be used with a lanyard/neckstrap? I’d like to use it with the Sony MDR-NX1 earbuds.

EnzoTen on May 11, 2006 8:23 AM

Yes there is a hook for a lanyard

dtizzle on May 11, 2006 12:56 PM

No I am not exaggerating numbers, but I am now starting to think I may have a defective model. I have given it another day to use and test, I just hit the reset button and I’m doing a recharg for the next 3 hours. If that doesn’t change anything I’ll assume I have a flawed unit based off howl ong you think it should be to skip to the next songand boot up EnzoTen. If this is the case I will be sending my unit back for replacement.

CHriss01 on May 12, 2006 6:35 PM

dtizzle I had the exact same experience as you, but upgraded the firmware to 1.2, which has cured the problem completely

ben g on May 14, 2006 9:21 PM

anybody no if you can drop mpeg4′s on the iaudio 6 for a apple computar? or do you have to use jetshell? it seems to be haunting me with my u3 player it seems you have to use jetshell no questions asked and jetshell will not work with mac~

Tom P on May 16, 2006 12:13 AM

I don’t think it reads mpeg-4 formats for videos. It only supports the file type that the program converts it’s a detailed review on it with photos: have a question. Can anyone inform me about the lanauges this thing supports? I know it supports English and Korean, but anything else? (I’m most interested in Chinese and Japanese)

dtizzle on May 16, 2006 12:30 PM

CHriss01, Your oh so Right, I actually got firmware revision 1.14 from cowon online support. Now my player works as it should. Kind of scary for a few days though before the upgrade. After about 2 hours of testing different things with Cowon tech support, We found that if I put media directly in a folder ie. (music files in the music folder) its starting times and time between song changes can quadruple in time and even more. So with all things discovered things run a lot smoother if you can seperate songs in folders by some predefined criteria.

ben g on May 16, 2006 1:16 PM

hey tom thanx for the reply but the website you sent me to says it plays mpeg4′s and xvid. there has to be some way to get it to play those formats from a mac. what would jetshell do to a mpeg4 for xvid to make it play on the u3 or u6. this is giving me a headache i love the players and would hate to go bak to a ipod there must be a way?

Tom P on May 17, 2006 3:57 AM

Ben, personally, it doesn’t bother me if this player can only play a certain type of video. I mean the thing is so small, the video is a real bonus to this player. But if you really want to get mp4 format videos to work, it isn’t that much of a hassle to follow the program to convert it to .xvid.Anyone can inform me about the languages this thing can support?

mark h on May 17, 2006 10:13 AM

Tom, I’ve been using Japanese setting for 1.12, 1.14 and 1.20 firmware without a single problem.This little gadget is great: no software needed to transfer files, multiple language support, great sound quality, movie playback etc. etc.I just wish that they’ve used 4 gig flash memory or have the HD size at 10 gigs

ben g on May 17, 2006 8:45 PM

so i should use the japanese settings? i am lost, i have a apple computar jet shell will not work. so i have been trying to drop mpeg4′s right into it and it acts like it works but when i un hook it and turn on it says no file. now i just tried a avi and it showed up this time but it won’t play. i am changeing the settings on my converter so will see if that works? i have a u3 player and the new iaudio 6 and i am having the same problems with both players. also the firmware i am pretty sure won’t work on a apple computar either?

ben g on May 17, 2006 11:31 PM

o.k so avi also did not work and avi’s are what came already loaded on to both of the players. i am at a dead end. please help?

Noam on May 22, 2006 3:09 PM

Hey, guys, head over to the forum. You’ll probably get much more help there. ;)

M on June 2, 2006 6:37 PM

That’s awesome…you listen to Dntel as well? (This is) The Dream of Evan and Chan is probably my favorite song.

Hoey on June 5, 2006 7:48 AM

I bought the Sansa 4Gb, it froze and stopped being recognised by my computer, i sent it backi have just bought the Iaudio 6, IT’s GREAT i see no problem with the speed of the GUI, if your willing to take the jump to a HDD based player this little thing is well worth little problem though, how do get the tracks to play randomly when your file browsing is set to Music?

Orga Hades on June 25, 2006 9:19 PM

Is the only way to charge the battery via USB cord? Can it be charged with a wall-socket plug? I do a lot of travelling and lugging a laptop everywhere I go would be a major hassle.

Noam on June 27, 2006 5:47 PM

You could try getting a USB power converter. There’s a review on a Sima one on this very site. Run a search for “Sima”.You guys will get more help in the forum.

Jason on July 12, 2006 1:38 PM

I wonder how successful this can be for recording live shows… I would assume as a “bootleg” 128kbps would suffice

Apacer on July 17, 2006 3:53 PM

Hey guys,is the iAudio U6 a students mp3 player?Can I record entire classroom lectures?Is there any noise cancellation function wherein I can ” block out all the chatter of the blokes behind me who are discussing the last night’s football match, while the professor is coming to the important parts “Will the U6 have increased memory if I plug a USB Pen-Drive in it?Thanks.

sts_9191 on August 12, 2006 2:41 PM

hey guys.I really like this mp3 player, and am leaning towards purchasing this one, but i am still a little confused and some help would be great. I know this one has a small 4 gb hardrive, but will little jogging mess it up? also i am comparing this to the samsung YP-Z5. any help would be appreciated.

magic on September 22, 2006 6:40 PM

hi guysanybody knows is it alright to jogging with this player? cuz it’s hd!

uscmatt on October 3, 2006 1:53 AM

Hey folks,I routinely use my i6 on an elliptical machine without problems thus far. Although it is less jarring than running, my arms are always moving and I’ve had no problems with skipping. I use the armband purchased on the Cowon website, which is of marginal quality, but fits the device well and securely. I did cut off the front panel of the cover to have easier access to the touchpad while exercising.

Silver on November 27, 2006 6:28 AM

Cool Player!Regards,Silver

udual on January 15, 2007 9:19 PM

does the iaudio 6 support mp-4 format

Eli on February 21, 2007 1:42 AM

Hello everybodywho can say me how can I buy a new headset for my IAUDIO X5?Eli, IsraelThanks….

EnzoTen on February 22, 2007 10:51 AM

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