Cowon iAudio E2 Review

cowon iaudio e2 main Cowon iAudio E2 Review

I have never been a strong supporter of the screenless MP3 player. It is a niche product for those who want to just throw some tunes on a player and hit shuffle and I never really fell into this scenario. However, I will admit, I had a great time showing off this player because of its slick, modern, and ambiguous design.

Spoiler alert! This is the best MP3 player without a screen on the market. Read on to find out why.

  • Quick Look
  • Capacities: 2GB / 4GB
  • MSRP: ? / $65 (check latest price)
  • Dimensions: 1.04 x 2.52 x 0.30 inches
  • Weight: 0.59 oz
  • Sound Enhancements: BBE, BBE ViVa, BBE ViVa 2, BBE Mach3Bass, BBE MP, BBE Headphone 1, BBE Headphone 2, and BBE Headphone 3
  • Data Transfer: MSC via 4-pole to USB cable
  • Battery Life: 11 Hrs. (charge time 1.5 hrs)
  • Audio Support: MP3, WMA, FLAC, OGG, Wav
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In the Box / Accessories

The Cowon E2 comes with headphones and a USB to 4-pin photo plug that allows you to charge and transfer content to the player. As far as accessories, there are none, but at this point the player itself becomes the accessory. I attached the E2 to my keys and made it my key chain, it looks awesome and I never forget my player when I go to the gym.

The disappointing thing here thought is that Cowon makes a plethora of colors, but only sells (for now) the black one in the US.

Design / Build

Cowon has made some huge strides in designs in recent players since the near steampunk design of the beloved X5. The E2 continues this trend with an ultra-modern minimalistic design. While using the player as a key chain, it drew attention and was a constant conversation starter.

The player is made of a hard semi-gloss plastic with a solid metal ring at the top. Buttons have good tactile feedback and are separated enough for larger fingers. Overall the E2 has a high end build quality with a design to match.


The player is controlled with 6 buttons, three located on each side of the player. On the right are the power and skip/scan buttons. On the other side is the volume control and BBE/Shuffle button (short press for BBE, long press to toggle shuffle all). There are 8 different BBE setting that are announced by a female voice each time you press the button. These setting in addition to normal (off) are: BBE, BBE ViVa, BBE ViVa 2, BBE Mach3Bass, BBE MP, BBE Headphone 1, BBE Headphone 2, and BBE Headphone 3. Similarly the female voice will say “shuffle on” or “shuffle off” for the long press shuffle toggle.

There is one missing, skip by folder. You can skip to the next track all you want but if you have a lot of tracks it might be rough to find what you want. If there was a way to navigate by folder it would make it much easier to find the music you want. It could be implemented one of two ways: a long press on the volume buttons or a combination of skip scan + the power button. Update: Cowon added this feature upon our suggestion.

Being that the only indication the player is on is a tiny led light on the back you might fear accidentally leaving it on and killing the battery, but when you remove the headphones it will automatically shut off. I have already accidently left it on several times, but now when I’m done I made it a habit to remove the headphones.


What is impressive is that this player like the rest of the Cowon fam has an impressive lineup of supported codecs. I may be mistaken but I don’t think there are any other screenless players that support FLAC and OGG.

In terms of sound quality, the E2 is the lagger in the Cowon product line. It is above average but it doesn’t quite have the same dynamics and warmth of its bigger brothers. However, BBE works so well that you won’t be complaining about the marginally inferior sound quality.


To get right to the point, the Cowon iAudio E2 is easily the best screen less MP3 player sold today. The build quality is top notch and while design is always subjective its unique modern design will definitely turn some heads. One of the things that impressed me the most was that Cowon managed to squeeze BBE onto this tiny player along with file support that has never been seen on this type of player. It might fall a little bit short of Cowon’s typically high end sound quality, BBE makes up for it allowing the E2 to run with the rest of the Cowon family of players. There is only one thing missing from this player is the ability to skip by folder. Other than that, in terms of a screenless MP3 player, you will be hard pressed to find something better.


You can pick this player up from Amazon, usually with no taxes and free shipping.


exekias on November 23, 2009 9:27 AM

brill review of a product i have been waiting for!, love it, i really like it wen a product i eagerly await is given the two thumbs up, by those in the know

electron on November 23, 2009 10:40 AM

hmm, Ive never been a fan of screen-less players, but this still sounds pretty nice :)

Justin on November 23, 2009 11:28 AM

I had to google brill and adjective to find out what exactly “brill” meant. I guess ppl wil shortn ne wrds these days.

Zing on November 23, 2009 12:53 PM

Thats the uglyest mp3 player i’ve ever seen. And..for a screenless player its HUGE! :/

Liz on November 23, 2009 2:38 PM

Brill isn’t new. Maybe it’s a UK thing, we’ve always used it a lot.

Justin on November 23, 2009 4:58 PM

@Zing: I agree, for what the player offers it seems to be rather large. It also seems to be a bit over priced, one could purchase a Clip and a memory card and still beat out the E2 with an actual screen. Although, I am probably a little biased because I cannot imagine not having the screen.@Liz: that or I am just becoming an old man. My first thought was brillo pad or a word I have never heard of before. Brilliant never crossed my mind…I suppose I am out of touch on the new lingo, it doesn’t matter which side of the pond I’m on.@admins: if you enter a comment but don’t enter the Captcha, it gives an error stating the post cannot be submitted because “text was entered wrong”. Just a suggestion of changing text to captcha as I personally thought I had entered invalid characters in to my reply.

fredfred on December 1, 2009 5:39 PM

Might not hurt to mention somewhere what the acronym “BBE” is supposed to stand for, for those of use whom have never heard of it.

WesFX on December 8, 2009 5:57 PM

^Second that, fredfred.Even though it doesn’t have a shuffle function, the Sansa slotmusic player is still a way better deal for me, as a secondary player. It’s super cheap (20 USD), comes with the Sansa headphones which I would pay 20 for (if I could buy them outright), it’s powered by a single (tiny) AAA battery so I can carry a new AAA in my pocket for it, and it has a Micro SD card. I own a Fuze, and I keep almost all of my music on my SD cards so the instant transfer is just fantastic. And I don’t use anything other than MP3 and WMA (well, Ogg for Podcasts, but I wouldn’t use a screenless for Podcast browsing) so format support is a non issue.I would more than love Rhapsody support, though.Too bad they only seem to sell them on their site, now. I guess slotmusic didn’t catch on. Television advertising would have helped.

adaptateur on December 15, 2009 10:10 PM

I will be getting this, because I know that cowon has superb audio quality. I have a scandisk 2GB clip which is too small and a creative zen 32 GB that I never use because the ui is terrible and button placement is abysmal.

WesFX on January 2, 2010 10:15 PM

^That would be “Sandisk”.Both in spelling and pronunciation.Don’t understand why anyone would get a display-less as their main player. Don’t understand why anyone would buy one at all at these prices.

Jai on January 5, 2010 2:34 PM

You know, for a screenless player this actually seems decent. If this thing was cheaper than the Clip, I could almost see myself recommending it to people, though I can’t go without a screen myself. As it currently stands at 62 bucks however, I don’t see how it can compete with the other players the have more features with a lower price. If they priced it around $30-40, I could see it becoming a very viable option.

Xsss4hell on January 14, 2010 10:38 AM

I boght the black one, but got the white, because black was out of stock.However it’s larger than I thought. I boght the 4GB variant and for 67€ and it’s not working. That shiznit just stops working and I don’t know if it’s on or not because there is only one tiny led light.Another bummer, the Next button is too near to the Off button.That piece randomly turns off when I press the shuffle button.After resetting it several times it worked.. but then crashed again.. and I’ll send the shit back.Don’t buy it I’ve a reference audio System and I know good sound quality. Buy an apple ipod shuffle 2nd gen, it has the best quality I’ve heard yet from an mp3 player. Or buy the Philips GoGear SA018.. just my 2cents

Josh on April 24, 2010 2:48 AM

Had mine for two months… LOVE IT, NO REGRETS.Switched from iPod and Sandisk, and as the review says the sound IS way better, hands down… and looks better too in my opinion. I paid a premium, but it was worth it! It’s the best. No regrets, zero thoughts of switching.To those who say that this is ‘big’… it’s not, it’s tiny. About the same size as an iPod shuffle 1st gen (i think an shuffle 2nd gen is wayyy to small.)

Chris on March 31, 2011 9:38 PM

Build Quality
Music Quality
BBE (fine tuned equilizer schemes)

Buttons placement – you might press wrong button if your not looking what are you pressing.

Bought myself WHITE one 2 months ago from eBay because it’s not sold in my country. It’s tiny but not too small to lose (the black looks in pictures better, but I find it hard to find black small electronics (such as black TV remote…). Although you have to look at what you’re pressing, or you’ll mix with the buttons. The headphones that comes with it are ok but nothing more. The BBE feature is awesome (10+ equalizer schemes to fine tune to your listening preference or headphones type) Example: with the headphones that came with it I chose BBE-MOC3Base, after I bought MX880 headphones I changed to BBE-Headphone3. I love quality music and surely believe the MX880 don’t release the full potential of this little giant. Last I love the woman’s voice when changing modes :)

On Cons:
Buttons placement – If you tend to change volume and skip songs often, you have to look at what you’re pressing, otherwise you’re likely to mix between buttons (e.g. pressing volme side instead of skip or on/off instead of shuffle – each placed on 1 side)

Chris on April 1, 2011 4:40 AM

Important update:
on 2nd thought, my pc heaphone output produce superior sound with the MX880, so the E2 does not produce so quality music.. :|

Chris on April 23, 2011 8:46 PM

** Important update 2 **

It sucks generally. Stay away!!
Very disappointed, it may require a dedicate amp, not sure, but no details, you’ll recognize the songs you play, but no stage, muffled sound overall, no matter which earphone you through at it nor which BBE setting.

dark_skeleton on May 10, 2011 7:53 PM

@^Chris: I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’s even louder than my iriver clix2. Make sure you flashed it with US firmware, not EU – it has a limiter on it.
The sound is awesome, I can’t decide which EQ preset to choose (BBE VIVA2/BBE MP/BBE headphone 3), the design is amazing. It’s really tiny and the female voice is also very good.
I agree with the fact that buttons placement is not very good, but hell – I can’t imagine them elsewhere on that beauty.

Chris on May 25, 2011 10:52 AM

dark_skeleton, you are cowon employee.

Customers beware, please read my inputs above and don’t rush to waste your money.


satya on September 15, 2011 1:10 PM

dear Ma’ms/Sirs
plz tell the best suited earphone for this product. :) plz

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