Cowon iAudio 7 Review

cowon iaudio 7 main Cowon iAudio 7 Review

Cowon has updated their i6 by replacing the 0.85” micro hard drive with flash memory and upgraded the battery for long lasting 60 hours of playtime. Adding the flash memory to this device is a big improvement since one of the biggest complaints about the iAudio 6 was is slow interface due to the data bottle neck of the hard drive. The iAudio 7 has the same great sound, powerful amp, features, and solid build quality as the i6. There are no substantial improvements other than the speedier interface, which is now par by standards.

The player is basically a year old at its “new” launch date. Can Cowon keep resting on its fanboy audiophile base and branding of being “the best sound quality” without improving interface and basic usability?

  • Quick Look
  • Display: 262K Color 1.3” 160 x 128 pixel LCD
  • Dimensions: 35.6mm x 76.1mm x 19mm
  • Weight: 53g
  • Supported File Types: MP3, OGG, FLAC, WAV, XviD, JPEG, TXT
  • Capacities: 4GB, 8GB, (16GB Rumored)
cowon iaudio 7 acessories thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 box thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 back thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 compare1 thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 compare2 thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 earbuds thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 face1 thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 face2 thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 face3 thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 face4 thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 family1 thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 family2 thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 i6 thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 sides thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 top bottom thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 usb thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Review

Accessories

The iAudio 7 includes the basics: the player, earbuds, standard USB cable, and JetAudio software. The manual says the line-in
cable is included, but it’s not. Nonetheless, you can pick one up for a few bucks if needed.

There are some aftermarket accessories for this player such as a few cases. Note that all accessories for the iAudio 6 will work for the iAudio 7 since they are an identical form factor.

Design

The player is made mostly of plastic with the exception of the red band which is aluminum. The player has an overall well built feel to it, like most Cowon players. Buttons are firm and depress nicely.

The face and back of the player is made of a hard, smooth, scratch-resistant plastic. This will mar if faced with another hard surface, but a raised edge of the surrounding casing prevents the front and back from being scratched while lying flat on a hard surface.

Screen

The 262K Color 1.3” 160 x 128 pixel LCD screen is an improvement over the previous OLED screen on the i6. The colors on the i7’s LCD show more accurately than the i6’s OLED screen and do not have a blue-ish tint when displaying video and photos. Even when the screen is off, this blue tint is visible when comparing. An additional benefit of the upgraded LCD screen is that there is no screen flicker which is commonly seen on OLED screens. Don’t get me wrong, the screen looked great on the i6, but the improved difference in the i7 is evident when compared side by side.

User Interface

cowon iaudio 7 screenshots1 thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Reviewcowon iaudio 7 screenshots2 thumb Cowon iAudio 7 Review

The main home screen will allow you to select one of six modes (music, video, radio, voice recording, pictures, text) plus options and can be reached by pressing the menu button once or twice.

The most important aspect of an MP3 player is the interface and how it lends to the overall user experience, so this is where I am always the hardest. Cowon’s interfaces have always been usable, but by no means intuitive. It will take you some time to get the hang of this interface and the way different modes of the player operate. Overall, like most of Cowon’s interfaces, it’s workable, but my no means great.

Here is an example. When you select music from the main menu it will take you directly to the last song selected or last listened to. It would seem that the logical thing to do to browse the music would be to hit the “red dot” button which usually operates as the “back button”. However, that will switch the play mode. What you need to press to get back to the main library is the menu button followed by the “red dot” button (which is now a “back button”) several times, depending on how deep you are in the library.

Controls

The player is held in a landscape manner and tactile buttons are located at the top: dedicated volume buttons, a menu button, and a power/hold switch. Found on the face of the player are two touch-sensitive buttons as well as what Cowon calls a “swing touch” interface—basically a touch strip. One of the downsides to this control configuration is that it is a difficult one handed interface; while possible, it doesn’t allow a firm grip and lends to accidental touch interface activations.

This leads me to the touch interface—it is ok for a tiny touch interface in theory, and it does lend to easy browsing of long lists of music, but here comes the “however”. So many times I found myself accidentally touching the play/pause or sliding the “swing touch” bar one menu item too far and then overshooting what I wanted to select once again.

There also is not what I call a “soft hold” as in most players: when the screen goes dark you must press a button to light the screen before any controls activate a feature. If a touch sensitive button or slider is even brushed against while the screen is off, it is activated. From this you must rely on the hold switch when you are not interacting with the i7.

A year ago when I reviewed the i6 I found the interface to be acceptable, but after using more interfaces and watching the improvements over the last 12 months I can’t help but feel frustrated by the i7’s touch controls and interface. I would have rather seen an “un cool” / “un trendy” set of 9 tactile buttons found on Cowon’s F2.


Battery

The battery is rated at 60 hours according to Cowon. I’m going to be honest with you. I didn’t test it because I had better things to do than to watch my battery drain for two and a half days. But I will tell you from my past experience of testing Cowon players that you will get a minimum or 48 hours of use out of this player and probably more. Also note that charging the player takes 3.5 hours.

Features

Voice Recording

Voice recordings can be taken at 64kbps, 80 kbps, 96 kbps, and 128 kbps WMA files. Voice recording performs well but it picks up every nuance of your touching the player. Just touching the buttons or running your finger across the aluminum band will add a substantial amount of noise to your recording. Many MP3 players suffer from this, but the i7 does more so than others. Adjusting the mic volume helps but does not alleviate this problem.

Line-in Recording

Like the voice recording, the line-in also records 64kbps, 80 kbps, 96 kbps, and 128 kbps WMA files. An audio source such as a mic or CD player can be connected to the i7’s 3.5mm input jack. There is also an option that will split the audio into separate files at a defined interval of silence (1,2,3, or 4 seconds). Line-in works well and is useful, but would be much more useful if you could record to other codecs such as WAW, MP3, FLAC, or OGG.

FM / FM Recording

The radio is like any other on an MP3 player—32 presets, autoscan, and recoding in WMA format at the above mentioned bitrates. Reception is somewhat weak. I did notice a difference in that the headphones used determined the quality of reception. Which kind worked better is completely a hit or miss. Autoscan worked well but picked up many static stations.

Lyrics

The i7 has the ability to display lyrics real time on the screen which can be added to the files with the downloadable lyric manager. The program will automatically tag the files with lyrics using an internet database. It is a neat feature but seems to be limited to pop music. So for the non-pop tracks you will have to tag them yourself using this program.

Text

Text is pretty straight forward. Select the text file and the text displays. Text will scroll a page at a time, but you can also jump to a line by selecting it by number in the options menu.

C
lock / Timer / Alarm

The timer is fairly extensive. You can set it to turn on to music, FM radio, or even turn on and record radio – handy for recording your favorite radio talk show.

Transferring Media

The iAudio 7 has one of the easiest ways to get music onto an MP3 player, MSC drag and drop. Plug it in, it shows up as a removable drive, and you drop media in the respective folders—this works on any modern OS including Mac, Linux, and Windows. But the player is MTP/MSC User Selectable, meaning you can switch it to MTP transfer mode. MTP works primarily on Windows machines and will allow you to take advantage of subscription and ala carte music services such as Napster, Urge, Yahoo!, and others. It is great to have choices and this player gives you them all.

Photos

Photo browsing works well even with larger megapixel photos. The player will show a 3 x 3 matrix of thumbnails or a list for browsing. Selecting one will put it into full-screen mode that allows you to flip though them. Yes, it’s cool and works well, but remember, it’s a 1.3” screen.

Audio

Your audio files are browseable in file folder mode (as you dragged and dropped them onto the player) or by ID3 tag information. ID3 mode is much more robust showing: Artist, Album, Tracks, Favorites, New Music (showing the music loaded in the last day, week, or month), Genre, Year, Playlists, Recordings, and even Folders (operates just like the file folder mode).

Now there are pro and cons to both. ID3 browsing is stronger with features and also has file folder browsing. However, under ID3 mode you cannot use the dynamic playlist or bookmarking feature (ridiculous). So if you are into on the go playlists or bookmarks, you will want to use file folder mode. Also if you want to keep it simple and/or ID3 tags are a mess or missing, this is the way to go.

Playlists can be made on your computer in MSC mode with JetAudio/Cowon Media Center and in MTP mode with Windows Media Player, Monkey Media, Napster, Winamp, and a plethora of other MTP based media players.

EQ & Sound Enhancements

The EQ and sound enhancements are very well covered on the i7. The EQ is 5-band and each frequency is adjustable. Each band is also adjustable in terms of width. Settings for this are: narrow, normal, and wide.

This player has BBE sound enhancements, but features that digitally reshape your music can tend to sound unnatural. Not so the case with moderate settings of BBE enhancements. BBE is a great addition and can make bad recording sound better. This is a very welcome feature and really should be on all players.

Sound Quality

The i7 plays evenly though the entire sound spectrum; when set to a flat EQ nothing is overly exaggerated or underperformed. One way I have been enjoying listening to the i7 is with my pair of Sennheiser HD650’s. Usually, an amp is needed to get these reference headphones to listenable levels, but in the case of the i7 there is enough power to push the HD650’s. It will not drive them to full potential, but it will drive them to a loud comfortable level on a flat EQ. The ideal settings I found to my liking was a flat EQ with MP3Enhance on, 1 BBE, and 1 MachBass. If I started to tweak the EQ or add anymore sound enhancements, the sound would distort at full volume.

The bottom line is the i7 is great listening for the purist who like a flat EQ and will drive some of the more demanding headphones. There are plenty of sound enhancements and EQ setting for the audiophile to fine tune to create a symbiotic relationship between the headphones and the i7. Cowon’s sound quality is their strong suit, the i7 is no exception.

Video

Video played on the i7 is XviD and runs at 12 framed per second. To some it may be a bit gimmicky, but to others it may kill your boredom on a car, bus, plane, or train ride. The video is definitely watchable; it is just a matter of how long your eyes can look at a 1.3” screen. I watched a few TV shows comfortably and although I wouldn’t use it frequently, it would come in handy from time to time. There are no major flaws or problems with video playback. It really comes down to personal preference and ability to focus on a tiny screen.

Converting videos was a simple task using JetAudio conversion tool. It was able to handle converting most of my video from various formats such as, Xvid, DivX, MP4, and WMV.

Conclusion

The iAudio 7 has a solid audio codec and feature set that will keep the casual and hardcore users happy. Added to this is a firm build quality. The sound quality is crisp with an even across-the-spectrum response that has the power to drive larger headphones at a comfortable level. Additionally, it has my sound enhancement of choice, BBE. I love being able to plug in my Sennheiser HD650’s without an amp, flatten the EQ, maybe adding a touch of BBE, and just listening. The iAudio 7 does sound great.

On the other hand, I cannot see using this player walking down the street or at the gym. The two handed control set, unintuitive interface, and finicky touch interface just doesn’t lend itself well to everyday use. Cowon can’t keep riding on their tag line of being an audiophile grade player, because honestly, the competitors are no longer far behind. Cowon has long maintained a high quality of audio but is failing to improve their user interface.

The bottom line is that if you are looking solely for sound quality, the iAudio 7 will without a doubt please you. But if you are looking for a player for real world use, with a balance of usability and sound quality, there are better choices.

Pros

  • Sound Quality
  • Powerful Amp
  • Very Customizable sound settings
  • Battery Life
  • BBE
  • Full of features
  • Lots of Audio file support

Cons

  • Unintuitive interface
  • Overly sensitive touch interface
  • Awkward Size – Too Thick
  • WMA recording only
  • On-the-Go playlists and bookmarks don’t work in ID3 Browsing Mode
  • Weak FM reception

Purchase

You can find the i7 at Amazon for a good price or if you are in the UK, EU, or the rest of the world—check out AdvancedMP3Players.




38 Comments

curious on July 19, 2007 1:03 PM

Some Telechips 7801 based players add some interference to ogg Vorbis playback (Cowon D2, iRiver clix2). Is it the same case with i7 or not?

Night Surfer on July 19, 2007 1:12 PM

Very nice unbiased review. Thank you.I agree that the competition is catching (or surpassing in rare instances?) Cowon in SQ but it should remain an audiophile choice due to it’s other qualities including OGG and FLAC support.I will be taking a close look at the 16GB when it comes out. (if it hasn’t been left in the dust by something else by then).

EnzoTen on July 19, 2007 2:04 PM

@C – I didnt notice any problems with OGG on the i7 nor the clix2, but then again i only tested a few tracks. I dont have too much OGG.@NS – Thanks! I’m glad im not the only one realizing that competition is catching up. I am a Cowon fan, but im torn by their crappy interface usability issues.

roger767 on July 19, 2007 4:58 PM

Cowon needs to rip the iPod scroll wheel. I have an iPod and its the only player than I can control while its in my shirt pocket. Volume, play/pause and next/previous.

Sirocco on July 19, 2007 7:07 PM

The last 2 cons the reviewer listed demonstrate the tendency to be overly critical of such devices: It DOES have on-the-go playlists. Shouldn’t this be on the “pro” side? Lack of on-the-go playlists is a frequent lament. This has it – be happy! And it has bookmarks? Again, this belongs on the “pro” side. And finally, reception is usually dependent on geographic and antenna issues, not the radio itself.

EnzoTen on July 19, 2007 7:29 PM

@SiroccoWhen most MP3 players have OTG playlists, then yes, it is con when you cant make features work at 100%. Same thing with the clix2, it has bookmarking but it only works with Audible content- that is a con.And as far as the radio, do you think that based on the technical level writing in the review that i dont know how a radio works? I have no less than 40 MP3 players on my desk. I have tested the radio on them all. The i7 has sub-par reception.you are nitpicking like a fanboy…

Utew on July 20, 2007 1:51 AM

Grahm,Nice read … your reviews, always make me appreciate the time and thoughtfulness you put into each one. Having a source for balanced opinions on digital media devices, free from pre-conceived bias, is the one thing that I hold in highest regard. Thanks.Though I don’t own a Cowon player, this one has caught my interest.. and even with the downsides (always a downside) the advantage of flash over HDD evidences itself in reliability alone. This looks like a great player for audio-dominated use and with a firmware fix to adress many of the minor issues, could be just that much better.How touch interfaces pan out in the long run is yet to be seen.. at this point I prefer tactile myself.. though hybrids along the line of the Creative ZVM, may well be the best compromise IMHO.

EnzoTen on July 20, 2007 10:15 AM

@UtewThanks for the kind words- the best thing i can hear from a reader is that the reviews are free of bias… that is what i strive for.The problem with Cowon is that they can be slow to move on firmware fixes. In this case they have had over a year with this player (ala the i6) to make changes. So i am a bit concerned on how many improvements will actually be made on this player. A better option to the i7 is the D2 even though i believe is suffers from the same OTG usability with a touchscreen interface. Im not saying there is anything wrong with the D2′s interface- it is just not a one handed interface and does not fend well in your pocket.Even though the ZVM suffers from inaccuracy issues it is more of a workable interface since it is just a up and down slider. Other notable touch interfaces that i think worked: Samsung Z5 and the yet to be release if ever the AOL/Haier player.-Grahm

thomas on July 20, 2007 12:52 PM

how expensive is it? im only really looking for a line in recorder with good sound quality, what are my other options?

curious on July 20, 2007 2:31 PM

>Cowon in SQ but it should remain an audiophile choice due to it’s other >qualities including OGG and FLAC support.I’m an audiophile and I prefer iRivers ifp/ihp series to any iAudios. FLAC support does not mean you get all the file format is able to deliver. It’s just a feature of players while in most cases the bottleneck are electronic parts inside. Maybe on Rio Karma you could hear the advantage but most players lose when compared to irivers iHP100/300, ifp 700/800 series, FLAC against mp3.@thomas – used/refurbished irivers ifp 700 and 800 series record up to 320kb/s mp3. The same is iRiver ifp-F700, with 4GB of flash memory. On sale only in Japan but available on ebay. Another option is MiniDisc recorder from Sony.

David Johnson on July 20, 2007 2:32 PM

Grahm,Are you aware that Cowon released firmware version (1.12) last week and then released firmware version (1.13) a couple of days ago for this player.Two releases in a couple of weeks seems pretty good to me, as far as support.I own this player, and will have to say, with using several players over the years, this is by far the best one that I have used!Including some of those players was the Z5, I still use it and would have loved it even more if Samsung would have made it in a 8 Gig, with FM for the USA market.I have also owned the Iriver Clix gen1. I will be buying the gen II 8 gig when it is released.David

EnzoTen on July 20, 2007 2:58 PM

@DavidYeah i got the firmware updates and they just seemed to be bug fixes. Cowon is definitely on top of their firmware, but to me their philosophy is release the player and worry about bugs and adding more features later. I commend them their continual improvements but it is not as consumer friendly as releasing the device right the first time and not having to put customers though a gauntlet of firmware updates.i7 is the best one (as far as usability?) before ther Z5 or clix? I hand that hard to believe… but to each his own =)and BTW… you will love the clix2… one of my faves… review coming soon.-grahm

Alex on July 22, 2007 3:03 AM

Grahm,I also would like to extend my thanks to you for your review on the I7.It was well worth the read to get an idea as to how good this new release is, and if it is worth buying.In terms of a direct comparison between what Cowon has and does, and the Ipod, I still would have to say that Cowon should win out here. I say that because my IPod 8 gb player just cannot be talked about in any serious discussion of overall sound quality. For all the great things that IPod and it’s many users gloat over, the overall sound quality cannot be one of them. This where the entire Cowon line excels, and where the IPod falls way short. The Cowon MP3 line has adjustable sound enhancements and EQ settings that make for a great sounding player. The IPod suffers from NO adjustable EQ settings, and very poor overall sound quality.For my money, the Cowon overall wins out- hands down.Alex

Bazirker on July 23, 2007 1:36 AM

My iAudio X5 plays ogg but utterly fails to deliver the gapless playback that the ogg file format supports. In fact, I’ve played around with it some, and it handles the non-gapless mp3 format better than ogg during track transitions, presumably due to the slightly higher processing requirements of the ogg format. Can the i7 actually play ogg gaplessly lke it’s supposed to? It drives me nuts on my X5…

J.C. on July 24, 2007 9:41 AM

I’ve a simple question: is there a “hold” button so it is safe to carry it in a pocket, for instance ?

F@mous on August 1, 2007 2:40 PM

If you cared to read his review or even look at the pictures, you would know that this player has a hold button.

Cadence on August 13, 2007 10:07 PM

This is a descent fash drive based, mp3 player, with long battery life mp3 player in a tiny body, with sound customizing functions(BEE, 5BandEQ, Mach3Bass, 6EQpresets, 3D surround).Seriously if it was any smaller it would cramp my hand trying to hold it.

Jacob on September 10, 2007 11:20 PM

I purchased an iAudio X5L in January of 2006 because of the favorable reviews they have received from many owners. From the perspective of audio quality, it was a superb performer for me. The FM radio was quite functional and was able to pull in all the stations I regularly listened to, and the voice recorder was at least adequate, although I think it really needs a powered external mic to realize its full potential. The video, on the other hand, was quite awful – at least as compared to the iPod. I didn’t care about the video, however, so this was not really a factor in my purchase.I use the line-out capabilities of my iAudio to play music through my home stereo and in both of our family cars. Unfortunately, in March of 2007, shortly after my warranty expired, my left line-out channel went dead. This was the beginning of my worst customer service nightmare ever.Fortunately, or so I thought, I had bought an extended warranty from Mack Camera & Video Service. I packaged up the unit and sent it to Mack Camera, including a letter detailing my problem. I fully expected that I’d receive my repaired unit back in a couple of weeks. It was not until late May of 2007 that I received an obviously refurbished unit. During this time I called and emailed Mack Camera numerous times only to be ignored at every opportunity. At Mack Camera’s website you can check the status of your repairs. For my repair it always said “Status: Manufacturer,” “Reason: Manufacturer.” It seems that Cowon does its repairs somewhere in CA and does not have a phone number that customers, or extended warranty providers such as Mack Camera, can use. All correspondence must be via email. Cowon was content to drag its feet endlessly. Mack Camera, for its part, seemingly felt no obligation to help speed things along for me and was perfectly content to keep me in the dark. I had NO idea as to the status of my repair until I received the refurbished unit in the mail.To my great disgust, the refurbished unit I received was itself damaged. The circuit board tab to which the sub-pack connects was slightly, but noticeably, bent. It took me more than 20 minutes of jiggling the sub pack before I could get it attached so I could transfer over my music files. I also charged the unit at this time – the only time I was EVER able to charge the refurbished unit.So, after a few days of frustration, I called up Mack Camera once again and carefully explained the new problem. No problem, they said. They sent me a UPS call tag and I shipped the damaged refurbished unit back to them at their expense. They told me on the phone that I’d have the unit back in a few days. It is now late September 2007 and after six months I still don’t have my iAudio back! I’m getting the same old run around from Mack Camera. No response to any of my phone calls or emails, and apparently I went straight to the bottom of the queue at Cowon’s US repair site. Honestly, doesn’t it make you wonder how reliable Cowon products really are if there is such a long line of repair work to be done?Well, to add insult to injury, today I received a repair estimate in the mail from Mack Camera. They are asking that I pay $105 to repair the bent sub-pack connector! They are claiming Cowon has determined that I damaged the unit, for crying out loud. My wife and I just rolled our eyes when we saw that. She watched me struggle at length to get the sub-pack connected to the refurbished unit. Cowon sent me a lemon, yet because it is my word against theirs, and because if Mack acknowledges that Cowon is at fault they would have to pay for the repair themselves under the terms of the extended warranty, Mack is sticking me with the bill.I don’t know what I will do frankly. With extra cables and accessories I have more than $600 in this unit. I feel like if I pay the $105 I’ll be paying extortion fees, but if I don’t I’ll just have an expensive pile of junk that I won’t even be able to sell on eBay. If I do pay the bill, I expect not to see the unit until at least November or early December.The only thing I am certain of is that I hope I’ll be able to cost both Cowon and Mack Camera far more in lost business than they would have spent to treat me fairly and like a valued customer – thus this review. If you have read this far, you had better fully understand what you are getting into. As long as your Cowon product is working you will love it. But if it fails, you will end up in the same endless pit of customer service hell that I’m currently in. And beware of Mack Camera extended warranties. They will ignore your requests for information on repairs, and they will take every step they can to deny your claims. Consider yourself warned!

Robert Wells on September 13, 2007 11:27 AM

Grahm,If you engage the “hold” switch on the iAudio 7, can you still adjust the volume? With the Clix, you can slide the hold switch on and still adjust the volume.I never worry about skipping tracks, but I sometimes need to adjust the volume while I’m running.Thanks…great review,Rob Wells

Robert Wells on September 13, 2007 11:27 AM

Grahm,If you engage the “hold” switch on the iAudio 7, can you still adjust the volume? With the Clix, you can slide the hold switch on and still adjust the volume.I never worry about skipping tracks, but I sometimes need to adjust the volume while I’m running.Thanks…great review,Rob Wells

EnzoTen on September 13, 2007 6:11 PM

Rob, no the hold switch holds everything.

arevalo on December 9, 2007 6:05 AM

YOU CAN change volume on “HOLD.” Set it to either volume or ff/few.

arevalo on December 9, 2007 6:07 AM

Oops, FF/REW.

Timoteo on January 4, 2008 7:42 PM

I just bought a 16GB iAudio 7, ripped some of my favorite music to FLAC format, and plugged in my Grado SR-80s. No matter how I set it, it just doesn’t have great sound quality. I tried flat EQ with a touch of BBE, with a lot of BBE, no bass boost, with and without surround sound, all the preset EQ settings, my own EQ settings, etc. Compared to my home audio system, this thing sounds like crap.If you have any ideas on how to make it sound as great as everyone seems to think it sounds, please post a reply here.

Timoteo on January 6, 2008 3:08 PM

I bought this product based on all the rave reviews about the sound quality all over the web (since you can’t just go down to your local Best Buy and listen to one – they’re only available over the internet, and I think in brick-and-mortar stores in LA and NYC). Everyone talks about how the iAudio7 sounds great, wonderful, “audiophile quality sound”, etc., etc.Let me preface this by saying that I am an audiophile – I love listening to music and I am extremely particular about the way my music sounds. I love listening to CDs through my Grado headphones at home.I didn’t think the iAudio7 lived up to all the hype the first few days I used it. In fact, I thought it sounded terrible and couldn’t understand how anyone could think it sounded good.Turns out, the headphone jack is a little weird – sort of. I’ve plugged into this thing numerous times over the past few days and the headphone plug never went all the way into the headphone jack. I always pushed it in until I felt significant resistance, then stopped pushing for fear of breaking it (I can be the proverbial bull in china shop sometimes – “careful” is not one of strong traits). I thought it odd that that headphone plug never went fully into the jack on the player, but thought it was just a bad design. Well, today, I vowed to listen to it one more time before sending it back for a refund, and accidentally pushed the headphone plug all the way into the jack. What a difference that made in sound!Now I would say the Cowon sounds very good. I won’t make any claims that it has “audiophile-quality” sound – that’s a stretch, but I actually think it sounds pretty good using the “Normal” EQ setting (i.e., set flat). I’m listening to files in FLAC format (lossless compression) and they sound very nice. This will be plenty good for work and travel. I still like my home system better, but it cost a lot more than the iAudio7.One thing they don’t tell you before buying it is that it only holds 4,000 files or 2,000 folders. This is true of both the 8GB and 16GB models. If you’re using FLAC format for your music files, you won’t have to worry about this. At about 4MB/minute of playing time, a 3 minute FLAC-format recording will use up 12MB of memory in the player. But if for some reason you had, say, 4000 files that were 2MB each, that would use up only 8GB of the 16GB of available memory and even though you would still have 8GB of free memory on your player, you won’t be able to use it because you hit the 4000 file limit. I don’t know likely it is that anyone will run into these limits, but it is possible.The other thing that still bugs me is the user-interface. The first couple of days it drove me batty and I wanted to throw the thing across the room – I could not get it to do anything that I wanted it to do and it made me so angry. I consulted the documentation provided on the CD, but it wasn’t very helpful. The user-interface is touch sensitive, and when I say “sensitive”, I’m not kidding! It is extremely touch sensitive; it’s easy to accidently brush against some control on the screen and have it do something unwanted. Until you get used to it, it may drive you nuts.Lastly, there is no audio out jack, so you can’t bypass the internal D/A converter and headphone circuit and plug into an external headphone amp for better sound. You can still plug an external headphone amp into the player, and plug your headphones into the headphone amp and it will play louder. This might be helpful to people who have less efficient headphones than the Grados, but I find the volume very sufficient with my Grados.

testing on February 26, 2008 2:45 PM

But if you are looking for a player for real world use, with a balance of usability and sound quality, there are better choices.What are the better choices?

testing on February 28, 2008 11:19 AM

What are the better choices?

Noah on March 3, 2008 6:35 PM

I own the iAudio U3, and I’m very displeased with the voice recording capability, which is my main reason for buying it. At very low volumes, the recording clips and everything is distorted. I did not experience this when I had the predecessor, the U2. The U3 has limited mic adjustments, and there is no mic sensitivity control… only a volume control. Therefore it clips even at the lowest setting.It seems that Cowon has downgraded their internal microphones. Has anyone experienced this on any of the Cowon products? I’m hoping to find an alternative.

Nick C on March 12, 2008 7:15 AM

Just a note, although the IAudio 7 does support Ogg file playback, it doesn’t support tag names in Ogg files, which mean you will either need to browse in ‘files’ mode (in which the music files are viewed in the folder hierarchy they were uploaded to the player in, and the filename is displayed – e.g. Artist/Album/01-Track.ogg) rather than in ‘tags’ mode (which is more intuitive to browse through, e.g. Artist/Album/Track as on the iPod).This doesn’t sound like much, but with loads of tracks, ‘tags’ mode does make browsing more pleasant. It’s a bug in the IAudio firmware that has gone unfixed since the player was released, over 9 months ago.

D on July 23, 2008 4:05 PM

I’ve had a lot of trouble with my iAudio 7. Customer support SUCKS. The buttons broke within six months of using this, it crashes regularly, it takes FOREVER to start up after you recharge it, and it is horrible at sorting your music properly.The specs are impressive and this SHOULD be a great MP3 player but it’s a shoddily build, poorly programmed piece of crap. Don’t buy one, it won’t last you more than a year.

D on July 23, 2008 4:14 PM

Addendum: Yes, I have the latest firmware, it still crashes.

LegoMyGeggo on July 24, 2008 10:20 AM

Just curious, for Enzo as well, but with all the new updates on this hardware what is the verdict on everything? Also, is the UI still really difficult to use?

Grahm Skee on July 24, 2008 2:45 PM

There may be tweaks in the new UI, but basically the UI problem is mainly hardware. So i still think the UI is cumbersome.

joe on August 4, 2008 10:58 PM

Hey D, you may have it crash as often as it does because a file may have not transferred over correctly, and when it builds its playlist or sort music it stalls or crashes on doing so.@curious, I have not heard problems with ogg vorbis playback on the D2 that I got for someone, but, my U3 makes a quiet high pitched squeak on bass notes. Is that what you are referring to?Say for instance, if you listen to “Heart of Rock n’ Roll” by Huey Lewis. You can clearly hear the artifact in the beginning. For me it is so annoying that I want to upgrade, but would miss the U3 tactile interface.What the next iaudio model needs is the swing touch interface and tactile buttons on the end of them, or perhaps recessed touch style buttons. In the pictures they look like they could be raised or lowered but I think that is just due to the way that part of the button is because it is clear.

joe on August 4, 2008 11:00 PM

Hey D, you may have it crash as often as it does because a file may have not transferred over correctly, and when it builds its playlist or sort music it stalls or crashes on doing so.@curious, I have not heard problems with ogg vorbis playback on the D2 that I got for someone, but, my U3 makes a quiet high pitched squeak on bass notes. Is that what you are referring to?Say for instance, if you listen to “Heart of Rock n’ Roll” by Huey Lewis. You can clearly hear the artifact in the beginning. For me it is so annoying that I want to upgrade, but would miss the U3 tactile interface.What the next iaudio model needs is the swing touch interface and tactile buttons on the end of them, or perhaps recessed touch style buttons. In the pictures they look like they could be raised or lowered but I think that is just due to the way that part of the button is because it is clear.

unruled on August 7, 2008 4:20 AM

Glad I bought the meizu m6, as it seems better than this player on all fronts, for the same price.

efeilliaid on September 9, 2008 10:44 AM

Hi All,is scrobbling to last.fm possible with this player?Thanks,efeilliaid

Bill D on August 5, 2009 10:57 PM

Looks like the buttons on my player won’t respond. It powers up fine and will play ( the same track over and over!).They’re usually so touchy. Anyone have any idea why it suddenly won’t respond? thanks B

Comments Closed. Please continue the discussion in the forums