Cowon S9 Review

cowon s9 main Cowon S9 Review

One of the most anticipated players of this year is the Cowon S9. We named the D2 one of the top 5 players of this year and those users have been clamoring for a successor. Even though the S9 is not a D2 successor it does go a big step beyond with what I think is one of the more important features, native xvid support- no conversion necessary. It does also offer a much more usable capacitance touch screen compared to the D2.

After seeing how poorly the O2’s initial firmware was when released I was concerned there would be some stability issues, but was relieved to find stable firmware. But after all the waiting and all the hype that has been buzzing in our forums, does it live up to the talk?

  • Quick Look
  • Dimensions: 57.0 x 105.8 x 12.7 mm
  • Weight: 77.0 g
  • Colors: Black/Titanium, Black/Chrome
  • Capacities: 8G, 16GB
  • MSRP: $200, $240
  • Display: 3.3″ 480×272 AMOLED 16.7m colors, Touch Capacitive
  • Audio: MP3, WMA, FLAC, OGG, WAV, APE
  • Video: DivX, XviD, WMV
  • Photo: JPEG
  • Other: TXT
  • Transfer Protocol: MSC/MTP User Selectable
  • Audio: 5-band EQ, BBE, Pan/Balance
  • Battery: 55h Audio, 11h Video
  • Other: Flash, Utilities, Bluetooth, FM, Voice Recording, Line-in Recording
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In the Box / Accessories

Manufacturers seem to be skimping more and more on included accessories, and that is no different with the S9 – just the bare minimum is included: the player, earbuds, USB transfer cable, and software cd. The cable is not a standard USB cable on the end that connects to the player, but it is a 20-pin connection that is being used by many of the Korean manufactures on some mobile phones and media players. It may be a standard, but it’s not a common cable, so you won’t be able to easily borrow one.

I would have really loved to see the video out cable as well as the audio in cable included. These, too, are not off the shelf cables since they also use the 20-pin connection. Each of these is available on Cowon’s Jettmall store for $10-$15 apiece, so this is a heads up on the added cost if you are looking for video out or audio in capabilities.

Related: Cowon S9 Accessories Forum

Design & Build Quality

All the teaser photos before the launch were a little bit deceiving. I was expecting something substantial, more like a Sony product. The S9 is lighter, slightly hollow, and a bit “plastic-y”. This is not to say it’s poorly made; it is still very we built with no body flexing or creaking. The button tolerances are on point and have a nice tactile feel to them.

The body is all plastic with the back being a soft, matte velvet-like plastic (This is on a lot of devices, but I never know the term to call it). The sides come in two different finishes, titanium and chrome (the titanium model is shown). After carrying it around for a few days, I haven’t seen any scratches on the screen. It is glass unlike what you find on the Samsung P2, so it will do a great job of keeping scratches off the face.

One quick note about the curve design of the player, it feels nice in your hand and the design is great to hold. However, I would have liked to see more of a boxy candy bar design since the curve design doesn’t lend well to operating it while laying on a flat surface since it rocks back and forth when trying to press it.

Screen

A 480×272 pixel, 16.7 million color AMOLED screen graces the front of the player. AMOLED (active matrix organic light emitting diode) is a newer display technology with advantages of using less power, thinner form factor (since it doesn’t require a backlight), and generally faster pixel response times. On the S9 it does look fantastic, color accuracy and brightness are very similar to LCDs. The more noticeable gain is in the pixel response time and contrast- you will see less ghosting in movies and UI transitions as well as blacker blacks.

User Interface

Cowon really put some time into this one with it being more thought out than any previous Cowon player. However, you may need to take some time to wrap your head around the UI. The UI has an obvious Asian influence like all of Cowon’s products so I can’t quite call it intuitive for us Westerners. For instance, while traversing though media libraries the buttons at the top change too much and try to do too much. Top buttons will toggle between lists, take you back to the main menu, or “close” a menu. But when navigating folders, the “up a directory” and a back button are located at the bottom in order to go up a folder or hierarchical ID3 tag categories.

Sure I might be over analyzing this and no matter how much I discuss it, it will not change since the US is not a prime market. This is more of a complicated way of saying that the interface is smarter than previous Cowon UIs, but it could be much smarter to us Westerners. It’s just a fair warning that you may need to spend some time getting used to it.

The GUI is very fast and responsive. However, I do notice some hang ups every now and again. For instance when moving in and out of the video menu, pressing the button to go back to the main menu it may take a half a second.

Controls

I really like that Cowon did include hardware buttons. At the top are volume down, volume up, pause/play, reverse, forward buttons. At the bottom is the on/off/hold switch. The cool thing with the top buttons is that they also allow you to navigate your media. The track forward and reverse buttons navigate though the media folders while the volume buttons will move up and down the list.

Touch Screen

The touch screen is a capacitive-type screen as opposed to a resistance-type screen as found on the D2 or Archos 5. Resistance touch screens are older technology where conductive material is layered in between empty spaces. This screen needs direct force in order to register where you are pressing. Capacitive-type screens on the other hand are newer and more accurate touch screens. This tech basically measures the electronic charge between th
e screen and your finger. Depending on how they are calibrated, you don’t even need physical contact between your finger and the screen. I didn’t mean to get all Mr. Wizard on you, but if you want the straight dope, capacitive screens are better than resistance.

The capacitive screen on the S9 works very well, better than the Samsung P2, Cowon D2, and even the Archos 5. It will occasionally miss a press, and to be honest, I’m not sure if this has to do with calibration, or the current resistance and moistness or dryness of your finger which could affect its electrical charge. I would guess it may be a bit of both.

G-Sensor

The “G-Sensor” is what Cowon is calling the accelerometer. This detects and changes the orientation of the screen as you physically turn it. To be straight to the point, it is more of a hindrance than a help. The rotation is slow to detect and switch. This becomes a problem if you’re holding it at a horizontal angle or have it lying next to you on the couch for instance. If you pick it up to use it, it needs a second or two to adjust. Additionally, the G-Senor doesn’t work for all screens or applications, the home screen doesn’t work in horizontal orientation, nor does the text reader (which would be an excellent candidate to rotate).

What I would like to see here is an option to completely turn off the in the settings, then allow us to manually rotate the screen with maybe a short cut long press on the forward and reverse buttons. All is not lost, it just needs a firmware update… -.-

Transferring Media

The S9 supports both MSC and MTP with the flip of a setting, so all of your OSes are covered. The player comes with Cowon Media Player (Jetaudio) but to be honest you probably won’t want to use this. It is a standard media player but the UI is incredibly convoluted. Windows media player, Winamp, and Media Monkey are all other and better choices that will work in both MTP and MSC modes if you are into organizing and synching with a media player. But dragging and dropping files onto the player just like a flash drive works just as well.

Features

Documents

The S9 has the ability to show txt files. The nice big bright screen makes it pretty comfortable to read text on. There are 12 different back ground colors you can choose from if you read better on a white background as opposed to black for instance. The auto reader can be set to automatically page down at a set number of seconds with an easy toggle on and off at the bottom menu. Bookmarks are also available for keeping your place in really long documents. The zoom feature works just like it does for media lists adjusting the font size.

Flash / Utilities

The S9 has support for flash applications and games. The player shipped with an empty flash folder, but we have been finding that some D2 flash apps have been working just as well. I even got a few iriver SPINN games to work.

There is also a Utilities menu on the main page. Currently there is only one utility, a calculator. I am under the assumption that they will add more utilities over time, just as Samsung added them with firmware updates.

Related: Cowon S9 Games, Applications, Utilities Forum

Radio

The radio UI is a lot of fun with a big virtual dial and a matrix screen of preprogrammed station buttons. Unfortunately, radio reception is not very good. I found there to be a lot of static in even the closest stations. This trickles into the auto program features where it almost seems to just fill the program slots with random stations. The closest station to me, no more than a mile or two away, was not correctly detected by the auto program feature, but instead selected on notch above what it was supposed to be.

Recorder

The S9 will record three different sources: microphone (located on the back of the player), line-in (with purchase of optional accessory, and FM radio. These all have the option to record in 32, 64, 80, 96, 128, 256kbps WMA. Now many of you might be screaming for MP3 recording, but MP3 recording requires an additional license fee where as WMA has a single license fee for playback and recording.

I was unable to test the line-in features since the cable is not currently available, but I can’t imaging it’s too different than on other Cowon players- in other words working as advertised. There is also a sync feature that will break up the according to the silence in between if you are recording an album from CD or tape or even record.

Photos

The photo view functions just like any other with the basic thumb nail viewing and slide show. But the zoom feature makes the S9’s photo viewer stand out a bit more than the rest.

Bluetooth

I tested one pair of Bluetooth headphones. I had no issues with pairing. The S9 only works as a wireless audio transmitter over Bluetooth there are no other features like found on the Samsung P2 such as wireless calling though your phone or file transfer. I don’t know if Cowon has any plans to add any additional Bluetooth support, but it is a possibility with future firmware updates.

Related: Cowon S9 Bluetooth Forum

Audio / Music

The UI does lend to a nice music browsing and management, despite what I think are some misplaces buttons as I discussed in the UI section. Jumping into the music section will put you right into the now playing screen. This screen features big album art (tap it once and it will show you metadata like file type and bitrate) with a touchable progress bar as well some control buttons on the bottom flip menu. There is also a “quick list” here that pops out from the right side of the screen. This simply shows you and lets you select the previous or next track by touching.

At the top of the screen is a library/playlist/bookmark toggle button which shows you the appropriate list. Browsing your media is done by either file folder browsing, or ID3 tag browsing. Both of these are in the same screen. So for instance at the “root screen” you will see: “Folders”, “Artists”, “Albums”, “Songs”, ect… So if you want to browse your collection by folder you would press “Folder” in the list. If you want to browse by ID3, the appropriate tag categories are below “Folders”. This is how Samsung as well as iriver handles their browsing.

Toggling again will put you into the favorites list. This is simply a single dynamic playlist. This list cannot be reordered but songs can be removed (on a side note you can also delete a file from the device, not just remove it from the favorites list in a similar fashion). Adding a file to your favorites is really easy and handled b the bottom flip menu. When pressing this “add” icon it will give you the choice of adding it to your favorites or bookmarking the current position. Getting to your bookmark list is the next press on the list toggle.

Sound Quality

Cowon has always been know for great sound quality and you will find the same here- it’s very comparable to the D2. Testing it with some lossless FLAC files against a few other players I did find that it started to fall apart at higher volumes. By this I mean the highs start to get a bit fatiguing and the soundstage closes in. Other players like the Sansa Clip, Toshbia T400, and the Cowon X5 play though clear till the volume was near the top. I also found that the low end lack a bit of warmth when compared to the others, but with BBE on all Cowon players, bass is never a problem. BBE will turn even the Shure SE530′s into bass cannons. To almost all, the S9 will be more than acceptable; I only nitpick for those toting the ultra expensive phones. Take the preceding as an overly critical look; I still maintain it has great sound quality.

Lik
e the other Cowon players, the S9 sports BBE sound enhancement. For me personally this is the only sound enhancement I find to actually add something to the player and not sound synthetic or unnatural. With this the S9 has a bit of an added edge. This time around though there are some really nice BBE presets in addition to 4 slots for user presets. These presets include all the BBE settings as well as a 5 band EQ. This EQ is the same great EQ found on other Cowon players with adjustments for the curve as well as the center frequency.

Video

The AMOLED screen lends well to video playback, especially with the faster pixel response time. The player officially supports Xvid and WMV with a recommended size of 420×272 at 30fps. However, I have been able to play up to XviD 640×320 30fps without any problems. WMV on the other hand didn’t quite push that far- a similarly sized WMV file played but was choppy. This is one of my favorite features of the S9 since no conversion is necessary since with me, if I have to convert it, it doesn’t end up on my player. On the down side, H.264 is not supported which is very common among all the new players.

Just like the music menu, you also have the ability to make a favorites playlists as well as bookmarks. BBE fans will also be happy to know that BBE is available while watching video.

Related: Cowon S9 Video Forum

Conclusion

cowon s9 12 thumb 150x112 Cowon S9 Review

The Cowon S9 is a solid player. The capacitive screen is a big improvement over the D2’s resistance type screen. On the face of the player a beautiful looking AMOLED screen graces the front and runs among the top screens on current portable devices. The sound quality is what we would expect from Cowon, excellent. The UI is fairly smart and its obvious Cowon spent some time on this, but it may not be intuitive to US buyers. My previous worries about buggy firmware are gone, while not perfect, it is the most stable Cowon release yet- though still expect typical constant updates over the next year.

For the Cowon fan it is a must buy if you can get over the fact that there is no expansion slot. But if you are on the edge or can’t quite decide and you are eying a touch screen player, wait till late Q1 of 2009. Sony and Samsung are releasing competitive touch screen players, but also by then Cowon may have added more features and utilities. I definitely do recommend the S9, but there will be some other great choices as well. Which one is “better” will come down to your personal preference.

Purchase

You can pick up the S9 usually the cheapest at Amazon.

Pros

  • Great Sound Quality
  • Capacitive touch screen
  • Great AMOLED screen
  • Native Xvid Support
  • BBE on video

Cons

  • No H.264 support
  • No expansion slot
  • Not so standard 20-pin connection
  • Audio in and Video out cables sold separately
  • No multi-touch

ABI>>Links

Cowon S9 Video’s

Here are a few videos of the Cowon S9′s UI and various features. They are embedded here for a quick look, but are in HD on in the abi YouTube Channel. You can also subscribe to the abi YouTube channel and be the first to see the videos.





80 Comments

Martin on December 22, 2008 8:05 PM

Great review – looking forward to receiring my 16GB S9 :) Is the top-keys multifunctional like on the D2 (different functions when looked and unlocked?)Also looking forward to the HD video :)

Djini on December 22, 2008 8:26 PM

and now….the question we’ve all been waiting for…..Is the Cowon S9 better than the esteemed Cowon D2?(this way I can feel like a proper idiot if necessary for purchasing the D2 two months before it’s superior replacement arrived!)

OnYourMark on December 22, 2008 8:38 PM

Thanks for the review. I learned some stuff even though I’ve been following S9 news for a while.I’m looking forward to that video.Check for typos ^_^ first paragraph in “Design & Build Quality”. no biggie though.

jjrosaria on December 22, 2008 9:01 PM

great review.. But the lack of h.264 is dissapointing. since I download podcasts in h.264 format.. well I cant have it all in one device… Again very nice review

A on December 22, 2008 9:23 PM

The S9 seems like a very good player. Although, I would like it better if it had more memory. This is especially necessary if it is going to support Divx and Xvid videos. This is probably the only thing holding me back from purchasing the S9.

Nephersir 7 on December 22, 2008 9:46 PM

Great review, but a lot of typos too (Monkey Media, mpt, mulit touch). I dont think you can list the “no multi-touch” as a con, because the Evil Apple patented multi-touch motions so that other companies cant use it

DaHarder on December 22, 2008 11:29 PM

“The touch screen is a capacitance-type screen as opposed to a resistance-type screen as found on the D2 or Samsung P2″…Hmm? You might want to check your information regarding the Samsung P2′s screen technology.Hint: The Samsung P2 utilizes a Capacitive Touch Screen technology developed by Synaptics.

Grahm on December 23, 2008 12:06 AM

Thanks, fixed it. Meant to say Archos 5.

Grahm on December 23, 2008 1:05 AM

@Nephersir7 Thanks for the fixes =) Dyslexia FTW!

James Forelo on December 23, 2008 5:04 AM

That’s another great review, but with those cons, I think I can settle with the D2 handling my audio and my PSP as my portable video device, though I’m not travelling that far nor long enough to use it that much anymore.I’m glad it didn’t trainwreck all the hype around it.

H30 on December 23, 2008 5:32 AM

That was fast! The S9 review is out before the O2 review.

Pashko on December 23, 2008 6:45 AM

So, what about 1.4Gb DVDrips with ~800×400 resolution? Will s9 play them smoothly with 30 fps? What about FLAC 48khz?

TheDarkSide on December 23, 2008 7:36 AM

Now this is an excellent review. I’d just like to see what the competition will look like shortly, when the P3 and Walkman Touch arrive. I’m thinking this just may be the best of the bunch. Especially since this will probably be the ONLY 1 w/drag & drop for DivX, w/no converting. Great player!!!wOOt!!!!!

Curran on December 23, 2008 8:05 AM

I second that O2 comment – why no O2 review yet?

deb on December 23, 2008 10:32 AM

“Battery: 55h Audio, 11h Video”. Same specs for the D2 and it didn’t disappoint.

RedSky on December 23, 2008 10:36 AM

Nice review. Pity they haven’t fixed up the absence of bass though, guess it isn’t going to be for me.Also wonder why they went with such a constricting capacity. I mean if they’re not going to include an SD slot the least they could have done was bump it up to 32GB.

Walker on December 23, 2008 11:37 AM

The 32 gb will be coming out in jan/feb of next year

DaHarder on December 23, 2008 12:21 PM

Personally, I don’t own any Cowon product that suffer from a ‘absence of bass’, but instead find many of those who feel this way are unaccustomed to listening to music that is sonically balanced, preferring a more pop/hip hop/artificially bass-heavy sound.Additionally, the exclusion of an expansion slot probably indicates that Cowon is reaching for a larger/more mainstream audience this time. The one mainstream DAP manufacturer that does include one (Creative) has been forced to cripple its functionality in order to remain DRM compliant, so maybe Cowon decided it was better to simply forgo the option altogether rather than deal with the controversy/bashing that Creative did.

DaHarder on December 23, 2008 12:24 PM

… but then again, Sandisk appears to get away with the integrated expansion slot, so – Who Really Knows?

Grahm on December 23, 2008 1:40 PM

@DaHarder, This absence of bass is compared to the Clip and its more of a missing warmness at the low end. Again this is being very very picky- so i can see where you are coming from. But also any Cowon product can be a bass monster with BBE on. With some of those BBE presets turn the Shure SE530s in to serious basshead phones, when they typically are not.That is also an interesting point about the slot. I think with SanDisk they have a deep vested interest in adding a microSD slot since memory cards are one of their core businesses. so they always benefit from players with memory slots.

Marvo on December 23, 2008 2:22 PM

Yo itz yo boy Marvo lemme tellz yall a lil sumpin bout dis shit rah here Da S9 iz da shieet, me and my lil niggas got one of deez man to use up in da studio an shiet dayam da sound iz so good an shiet. Bitches love diz shiet 2, dey gonna be all ova yo nutz boy…

Puntang Poonitchsayach on December 23, 2008 2:31 PM

Alo u ver stopid guy u y u type like that thi websit ich no a gangster webmail. U go home and changee eveything. bad guy u!! Y u do that!!!

Matthew on December 23, 2008 2:50 PM

^ I’m going to pretend the above two comments never happened.Nice Review Grahm, having owned 3 Cowon products I think I might give this one a miss though, what with the other touch DAPs on the way

Tommy on December 23, 2008 3:03 PM

You aren’t going to find dvd rips above 720 pixels in width.NTSC is 720×480 max and PAL is 720×576 max…Unless some moron is padding the movie with extra pixels.The S9 plays 720 pixel xvid just fine.

Relyt on December 23, 2008 3:48 PM

Great review, but what’s with the little man and cowon pen in the picture?

joe on December 23, 2008 3:58 PM

Not true Tommy. In order to display the correct ratio in a 2.35:1 DVD, the resolution gets scaled to 854×480. Otherwise it would look too skinny.DVD players do this for you, but when ripping, you must use this resolution to play it right.

RedSky on December 23, 2008 8:47 PM

Ah, well good to see they’ll bring out a larger capacity player.@DaHarderI disagree, it’s a personal preference to be sure, but especially with metal you’re missing out on a lot of actual ‘detail’ if you don’t have a punchy and deep lower end, which besides Sony it seems no one cares about these days. BBE does help, but still doesn’t really come close to my old H320 iriver.So, wait you’re saying that Creative crippled memory expansion integration for DRM reasons? I haven’t heard anything about this. I’d be more inclined to agree Cowon found it unnecessary for the demographic they were catering for this time around, or left it out for size/price reasons.Even then I’m surprised they’re basically refusing to compete with the higher capacity MS/Apple players, when based on memory prices at least, it seems feasible. Another potential argument is they want to avoid consumers picking out their lower capacity versions and simply filling in the capacity difference with cheap SD cards, but then why not include SD card slots in their higher capacity models instead?

Pepe on December 23, 2008 10:41 PM

I always thought it would be impractical for me to use a touchscreen DAP, since I skip songs quite a lot while on the go, and having it touchscreen would be really hard to manage (Unless I had BT headphones with AVRCP). But S9 having buttons on the top makes it complete WIN for me =)

Marcel on December 25, 2008 12:40 PM

Gapless Playback?

ilh on December 25, 2008 8:58 PM

@Pepe. I’m in the same boat, wouldn’t go for just a touchscreen as I don’t want to have to get it out of my pocket just to skip track or pause it. The S9 buttons work nicely through my trouser pockets and the sock I bought for it :) Option for hold on touchscreen only (or buttons too) is nice as well to keep the screen off in my pocket when skipping track.

nachocheesy@hotmail.com on December 25, 2008 11:58 PM

Could anyone comment on the Video out function?

Bruce on December 26, 2008 6:47 AM

No H.264.No removable battery.No removable storage (unforgivable).To be honest, I’d rather use my PSP than this. Transcodes (with the freeware MediaCoder PSP Edition) are not an issue for me. Removable batteries and media are, though.Also, I prefer the ergonomics of the PSP a lot more than this. Otherwise, everything else seems good here. Codec support (aside from the lack of the increasingly popular H.264) seems good.

Osasu on December 26, 2008 12:28 PM

UGH the Samsung P3 is going to be wayy better…

GavM on December 26, 2008 12:58 PM

I got one of these for Christmas and after playing with the BBE settings etc I have to say I was blown away by the sound quality compared to my iPoo Classic (shame Apple’s enthusiasm for good marketing and UI doesn’t translate to good audio processing, because iPod Touch is a nice bit of kit..after trying it though, thought it sounded mediocre)And on my SE530s the bass is a heck of a lot chunkier than my iPod – not to mention this thing goes louder.Watched part of a dvd rip of Iron Man and it looked and sounded just great (dragged and dropped, no conversion)My disappointment? It would seem there is no gapless playback?! I listen to a lot of electronic music compilations which have the tracks mixed in together and should not have a pause. I haven’t seen gapless or lack thereof mentioned in any reviews *coughs and looks up at the abi review above* but I’m pretty peeved if it’s not possible – it’s a big no no for me and I might have to return it…

Rams on December 26, 2008 8:56 PM

Almost bought this one.Was disappointed though by a couple of things, except for the things mentioned above:- bluetooth is very limited, no file transfer.- bad radio.

Claire on December 27, 2008 2:17 AM

I’ve historically always avoided Apple products while looking for alternatives that I would argue with Apple fanboys to be better, but I’m having trouble arguing for this as better than the ipod touch when it’s jailbroken. Oh well, I’m probably picking this one up anyway, just to avoid giving money to Apple over Cowon.

sprockkets on December 27, 2008 10:53 PM

Two things to keep in mind: The ipod accomplishes gap-less via itunes and how it interacts with the music and such; it doesn’t really have any independent way of doing it on the player.Second, I wouldn’t worry about the lack of H264 support; the ipod series only supports it at the simple profile level, which, is pretty much worthless. Why? No CABAC and no deblocking, the two features that makes H264 worth using vs. MPEG4-ASP. CABAC does around 10-15% lossless reduction in bitrate, and the deblocking filter gets rid of, well, blocks – which is plain annoying in MPEG4-SP/ASP at lower bitrates. However, at the simple profile level, H264 cannot use b-frames, which is the first and biggest reduction in bitrate vs. quality.This player can do full MPEG4-ASP features, which, in my opinion, is better than H264 at the lowest level. FYI, the D2 couldn’t even do B frames and was limited to 128kbps mp3. At least this is much better, but unless you support up to the ext or HP of H264 (the A3 does as of current firmware), consider it useless as a feature.

sprockkets on December 28, 2008 1:10 AM

Correction: The ipod can do gapless if the proper conditions are met and crossfade is turned on.

Renat on December 28, 2008 1:28 AM

Great review! Resulted in me purchasing an S9 :) You should become Amazon.com affiliate for this product.Also want to point out that you can embed Youtube HD on this site as well. Simply follow the instruction here;http://www.mydigitallife.info/2008/11/20/how-to-embed-and-play-720p-hd-high-definition-youtube-videos-fmt22-code-hack/

joe on December 28, 2008 4:05 PM

Actually, I tested MPEG4-AVC BP or the lowest profile at the same bitrate vs. MPEG4-ASP, and while AVC had some artifacts, it looked overall better, not to mention it encoded the same material 3 times faster.So much for that.

Bingzhong on December 30, 2008 12:47 PM

Besides the fact that this is an obvious Samsung P2 knock-off, it also has a terrible firmware.And, Samsung just released there YAPP-P3 not too long ago. This thing would be dead in a week.

warisz00r on December 31, 2008 7:12 AM

Bingzhong: O RRY?Now I’m waiting for Sony’s answer to ths (and the iPod touch), after then it can only be that, or the S9.

Tharatoth on December 31, 2008 9:11 AM

P2 knockoff? Really? Well, I guess things are made even when you realize that the P2 is a D2 knockoff. By your logic, of course.

sved on January 7, 2009 3:19 PM

3 quick Q”sdoes this unit support file sizes above 9 GB for the 16gb unit?and does it have USB on the GOfunctionality?i’m looking to transfer files above 10gb for a single fileand would like this to double as a USB flash Drivealso the USB on the GO is a must for any serious PMPFinally…does this have enough power to display images on a big screen LCD say…50″ w/o looking grainy, or below DTV quality?

coolboy on January 9, 2009 9:38 PM

Great Review!:)

Sirocco on January 11, 2009 3:22 PM

The back material of this device is sometimes called urathane. It’s a rubbery material that allows a good grip, and is generally fingerprint proof. It doesn’t slide easily when on the passenger seat or other cloth surfaces, which is an advantage.

Sirocco on January 11, 2009 3:34 PM

There was a firmware update to keep the view in portrait mode while listening to music, regardless of how the player is oriented.

Sirocco on January 11, 2009 3:39 PM

I’m so lucky – I can record in MP3, with my Samsung YP-T8.

Sirocco on January 11, 2009 3:59 PM

I agree with others that lack of multi-touch isn’t a con. For an audio/vidio device, is lack of multi-touch really a shortcoming? Frankly, I don’t even like single-touch. I prefer buttons, since they’re more reliable and easier to operate when driving/jogging.

Sirocco on January 11, 2009 4:04 PM

A genuine “con” would be something like “doesn’t work while jogging” or “shocks user while playing 60′s tunes”. Lack of an esoteric feature that one other device has isn’t a con. On the other hand, if a mundane feature like FM gets truly bad reception, that would be a con.

Sirocco on January 11, 2009 4:21 PM

Claire, one qick comparison to the iPod touch: the Cowon S9 is lighter in the pocket. For some reason, heavier makes a better first impression, but, in practice, lighter is better. Another thing I don’t like about the Touch is all the apps that are available. I want a nice music player, I don’t want to be sucked into a complete “ecosystem”. I don’t want my dap to take over my life, it doesn’t need to become a hobby.

Sirocco on January 11, 2009 4:46 PM

What is it about mp3 players that we, evidently, find so intriguing? I just received the Archos 5 in the mail, but didn’t open it because I’m thinking of getting the Cowon S9 instead (the bluetooth resolves the headphones/speakers wire tangle issue, besides having skip interval, scan interval, and bookmarks for long radio show recordings, plus the black titanium and scratchproof glass cover are too sexy). And now I read about Sansa’s new slot-radio and the $39 disks you can get preloaded with 1,000 genre specific tracks. Should I choose 1, or get all 3? Will I be faced with this indecision yet again next month? I subscribe to the Theory of Oneness, yet these devices are irresistible, like crack to a drug addict. Just researching them is consuming much of my free time. It’s as if researching them is more fun than actually owning them. Where will it all end?

Stan on January 11, 2009 6:49 PM

For touch screen devices like this and the iriver Spinn, if you want to protect the screen with some kind of cover does it hamper the response (or ability to function) of the touch screen? My guess would be that it would impact the resistance type less than the capacitive type of the S9. While on this subject does any one know the type of touch screen the iriver Spinn is?

detroit on January 13, 2009 4:21 PM

dealbreakers1) no flash expansion2) recording format is limited. Uncompressed WAV and lossless FLAC should be available.3) EQ is missing some key frequencies-62,123, 1k, 5k, 8k4) Needs to also be a phone. This is silly to have 2 devices. There is nothing on the market providing hi-quality audio and a phone. All the phones have poor audio inc iPhone.

ricardo on January 16, 2009 3:15 PM

i wonder why Cowon does not use FLAC as the recording codec.cheers!

spat on January 17, 2009 7:55 PM

This is a media player not a communication device. Do one thing and to it right! cowon does a fairly good job at that.I have the S9 for one day now.Saddest thing about it is the lack of playlists (either editable in player like favorites and store them by name or m3u,pls support).There is this nice tempting playlist menu item. Just no way to fill it up (Windows MP is not an option)H264 and AAC support would make more vids run out of the box but to be honest you should encode them to a more suited size anyway.Tip: Hold down the play button(hardware) To go straight to the main menu from anywhere.

mweb on January 17, 2009 11:55 PM

Hey S9 owners – Does the S9 live up to the claimed battery life? I’ve googled it many times and still haven’t found any benchmarks. thanks.

PowerTorsk on January 21, 2009 5:55 AM

According to Cowons website and the users manual PDF that came with my S9, it doesn’t support Divx…Haven’t tested it yet, though…

Martin on January 27, 2009 2:33 PM

Could somebody comment on the quality of image displays? How much could those be enlarged? If I have a picture of a page from the book, could I read it when enlarged?

deo on February 1, 2009 8:40 PM

I definitely agree with this site’s ideal. Original IPODS in general suck; however, am I mistaken in thinking this is an exact replica of the itouch? I am sure it has an incomparable sound quality and codec support; however, when it comes to fun, the itouch has got any of these players beat. They copy and copy apple, and while every other major brand has got the original ipods beat, the itouch is a complete different story. Perhaps it is time Graham takes a second look at the player.

Anonymuse on February 24, 2009 11:18 AM

What is meant by “MP3 recording requires an additional license fee where as WMA has a single license fee for playback and recording”?

ri3s on March 1, 2009 8:52 AM

Hi all,I just ordered a pair of shure se530s and I also think about upgrade of the mp3 player. At the moment I have got creative zen (using koss porta pro) and I am wondering if there is a big difference between the output quality of these two.Thanks.

warofart on March 14, 2009 3:24 AM

The lack of h.264 support made me not get this, I watch many video podcasts which are in this format.I got the Archos 5 instead.

ThyASS on March 24, 2009 2:41 PM

I dont understand why the comparrison with the Touch.Sure, the design is similar, but from my perspective they are aimed differently.As many people pointed out the Touch is a multimedia toy, has WiFi, browser, games, nice and UI…is simply impressive with its features with even more to come. But for me it fails to deliver with its sound quality. I compared it with my D2 and the difference was significant – im using px100 at the moment. There was just too much hiss in the same tracks.The S9 isnt such a gimmick on the other hand. Doesnt have a WiFi – but it never ment to have. There is just no need for it in my opinion. Sure its UI isnt perfect and may be a little bit sluggish-that could change with the firmware upgrades in the future.What it was meant to be is a great PMP and it is beeing great in what Cowon promised it would be. It has great sound quality, that you can customize in million ways, strong audio output, outstanding display, great format support, and also one of the best battery lifes on the market today-id say about 40hrs real-(D2-cowon claimed audio 52hrs/ my device with eq and jett effects -bbe,mach3bass,stereo enhance with mp3 320kbps 38hr). And last but not least a strong comunity at audiophile creating new apps and skins and etc… just like before and still for the D2.The only downside for me really is the lack of a sdhc slot.So to do my summary :-) :If I want something with WiFi and browser I get a smartphone, if I want something for games i get a PSP – which i have.If i want something that sort of does everything, but doesnt excell in nothing I get a Touch.And if I want a great sounding PMP with longlasting battery life that delivers I get a S9 or a D2/D2+. Because that is what really matters to me.And i think Im not the only one that thinks this way :-) period.

greeny on March 30, 2009 1:02 PM

“The body is all plastic with the back being a soft, matte velvet-like plastic (This is on a lot of devices, but I never know the term to call it).”I know exactly what you mean. My LG Cookie is made of the same stuff and it feels amazing :D

JohnnyDead on March 30, 2009 10:44 PM

Hi I just ordered an S9 it should be here Wednesday. I also have a 60gb Creative ZVM, but since they stopped making it and because the style is becoming abit dated I have been looking for something that sounds just as good as my zen has around the same capacity, just abit more style and a better UI. But theres really nothing out there that has the capacity so I am willing to let that go but when it comes to sound everyone seems to regard cowon, creative, and sony as being the best. Personally the ZVM is the best sounding creative player even to this day, the zen and x-fi aren’t as good. Creative is actually taking steps backwards. So that leaves Cowon, Sony. and Samsungwhich is only known for good sound quality but with the new P3 I hear its suppose to have the best sound quality yet, quality that would rank among creative, cowon and sony. And all three companies are releasing touchscreens, all of them will eventually be available in 32bg which will be enough for my collecting even though im use to having 60gb. So I’m looking at the Cowon S9 and Samsung P3. The Ipod has the available space, but the sound isn’t up to par and there is no eq, plus the style is abit boring and old since your average joe is carrying one around. The Sony is too far off for me right now, plus while Sonys are known for great sound quality they are also known for not going very loud. And my ZVM is one of the loudest players I researched. And its SNR is the highest of any other player. I know the Cowon S9 has a listed SNR of 95 which is below the listed 97 of the creative. But still about the highest I will probably find. Cowons are known and respected because of their sound and thats something that really matters to me coming from the ZVM I can’t accept anything less. So I like the S9, its the best looking mp3 player on the market, and while I am hearing about how light it is and that if feels cheap but I’d say compared to the other mp3 players it will actually probably hold up better over time, because plastic is more durable than metal for pmps. Metal tends to be heavier and when the player is dropped it hits harder and it chips away at the surface covering the metal. With plastic its lighter and just bounces when it hits something, metal drives right into what ever it is hitting. So I think the S9 has the best looks, style, build and screen of any other player. The P3′s screen isnt as good and the style isn’t as good either, its too rectangular. But I am still really considering the P3, its UI is the best of any player. And its build could potentially be better than on the S9. I like how you can see a graphical representation of whatever music your playing. The screen isnt as good, and the style isnt as good as with the S9 but the UI is far better. And its sound is an question, I’ve read articles that said the p2 was one of the favorite sounding players the editors listened to. Which didnt mean it had the best sound. Also I am reading that the new DNSe 3.0 audio enhancement is galaxies above the original version on the P2. And they also said that the sound now is in the league of sony, creative, and cowon. Also I read in the forums, someone who has listened to both the S9 and P3 and said the P3 has better sound than both the S9 and D2, but that it was very slight and it didnt do classical arrangements as well. It comes down to is sound for me, if the P3 does in fact sound better are even equal to the S9 I will be going with the P3 I am in love with the UI and the fact that the player actually gives you physical feedback when you interact with it. Keep in mind I am someone who likes bass in my music, with the ZVM the bass is perfect for me, even the bass boost which others dont seem to crazy about. But for me it does what I need it to do, it makes it sound like I am listening to a high quality sound system in my ear phones. The bass is where it needs to be, in the far lower end, and has depth and is punchy in the higher frequencies. I also cant go without using the EQ, I can never listen to music flat, it just gets boring to me, anyone could listen to music that way and I prefer to customize the sound to my liking it adds individuality. Also keep in mind I am a metal head. So loudness is important, not necessarily the overall loudness of the player, but its ability to reproduce guitar tones accurately, with power and presence. If anyone has had the opportunity to listen to the cowon s9, creative ZVM, and or the P3 I’d appreciate some feedback. I am going to compare the ZVM and S9 this wednesday but the P3 will still be in question. Plus I’d like to know what others think. Thank you

aGuyInCanada on April 26, 2009 8:18 PM

uhhh….I’m living in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada and I want to know when it is coming out in best buy… I really want to buy this thing in best buy since I have a gift card for it… Or do I have to just buy it in amazon?? =(

Scooter on May 3, 2009 6:38 PM

The S9 has been upgraded to 32GB here in Korea. They’re selling on gmarket.co.kr for W380,000, but the street price is probably cheaper. My girlfriend is going to buy one this week.

DeeK on June 16, 2009 3:01 PM

I’ve had my S9 32GB for about a month now – I’m glad I waited for the 32GB even though it cost more, definitely worth it because a) there is no expansion slot so I need all the room I can get b) the sound is so fantastic that I hope to put my entire music library into it – Takes a while to get used to the UI (My other player is a Sansa E280 which is pretty simple) but once you get the hang of it it pretty much makes sense & the more I use it the more comfortable it is & as I said before the awesome sound is worth the learning!!!

davidkim on June 27, 2009 11:19 PM

maaaaan! I bought this a week ago and I have to agree that new BBE+ is R&R, sound is sooo good! And it’s amoled lcd is also fantastic!And note that this S( supports *some* H.264 vedios but *not all* H.264 vedios.I’ve tried 480*272 intel – Conferencing codec(H264)and it worked well,

Andrew on July 25, 2009 6:16 PM

Well, looks like they fucked up the recording function again. Guess I wont be purchasing this now.If they actually had a brain, they’d drop WMA and switch the recording format to something decent like FLAC or Vorbis so that it wont require ANY licence fee.Idiots.Your not getting me as a customer until you stop locking me into a format I don’t want.

Aku on August 1, 2009 10:56 AM

Where can I find these user made interfaces?

yadda on August 15, 2009 11:00 PM

that UI is a fucking shitshow

gezana on November 6, 2009 7:14 AM

About the complaints concerning the UI… why didn’t the reviewer mention the fact that the UI is completely customisable? I’ve found different versions of everything for the S9 – main menu, music, brower, video, text reader, etc – and it only takes a few seconds to download them and put them to use. I never even look at the original Cowon designed UI anymore.

chris on December 7, 2009 5:23 PM

is this being sold in canada???????

bernardo on January 14, 2010 6:03 AM

i purchased the s9 beacose i like music as being an audiophile my ears learned how to listeni compared the audio quality of the s9 against the headphone output of my marantz sacd 7001 player I have no complaint about the sound quality of the s9I listen only flac files of the best quality via an akg430 headphonesthe s9 the akg430 and my earsbecome a teamrecomemded for the music lovers

Anonymous on February 11, 2010 6:33 PM

“RadioThis trickles into the auto program features where it almost seems to just fill the program slots with random stations. The closest station to me, no more than a mile or two away, was not correctly detected by the auto program feature, but instead selected on notch above what it was supposed to be. “Isn’t it supposed to add all station that work around you and organize it by lowest to highest number.

Bob on February 23, 2010 10:42 PM

@Chris: Yes, it’s being sold in Canada via Newegg.ca (Free shipping, currently!)http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16855228034&cm_re=s9-_-55-228-034-_-ProductIt’s currently selling for $280 + Tax for the 32GB edition.

JMK on February 26, 2010 4:53 AM

Great review. I think this pretty much sold it to me in the end. I was after something to replace my 11 year old CD player, which still works fairly well, but I wanted something that supported more than just MP3. (Mostly FLAC and Ogg.) Plus video sounded like a nifty idea as well. I looked around for quite a while, and considered players from Philips and Samsung also, but after some stuff I read, I think the S9 is the way to go for me. So yay! Hopefully it will be with me next week!

PanzerIV on March 24, 2010 2:48 AM

I have the AKG K702 headphone and I can say the sound quality is WAYYY better than the iPod Classic I had. Not 100% sure I like the touch feature but I’ll prolly get used. It just feel slow and unaccurate to me.The biggest cons is to have no expension slot as 32gb is small to me since I Have over 50Gb mp3.

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