i9 video review vs sansa's rockboxed
I recently bought an i9 when i already have a clipzip and fuze. "How many ears do you have?" says my wife... Zzzzz she just doesn't understand, you can never have too many DAPS :D
So why did i buy the i9 then?
Well... it's been a long time since i have played with a cowon product, previous players i have owned include the x5 and D2 (I had the O2 but returned it within a month).
So point being I am well aware how good the sound quality is on cowon players. I had some spare pocket money lying around and after using rockboxed sansa players for so long wanted to see just how close the sound quality (SQ) was between the devices, I wanted to see if cowon could beat the mighty sansa and replace them as my preferred player for work and gym.
But why the i9? why not a j3 or a c2 or i10? The answer is that i wanted a DAP first and foremost, not a pmp. Video was not important to me as when i am either at work or gym i use the player purely for music. I also needed the player to be as small and light, unnoticeable. Even with the fuze I can become aware of it being on my person (when at work for 6-7 hrs).
So i really narrowed the criteria down to;
c) good sound quality
d) build playlists on the go
e) decent battery
The i9 seemed to tick all these points.
As you will hear from the video below I was ok with a 16gb limit, so although for many this is a deal breaker for many it wasn't for me.
Anyway enjoy the video and pics to follow. Please skip to 4:50 to see the i9 in action (I wasn't aware i was rambling for so long to begin with).
The old 'stack the players on one another' pic
Lego dudes, the ultimate scale reference
Close up. The zip is far dimmer, especially outside.
The fuze holds its own for brightness, but resolution is far more pixelated.
Other interesting things to note that I forgot to mention in the video is that the D2 does favourites (or what it calls Dynamic Play List, DPL) even worse than the i9. Even in folder mode it is impossible to add whole albums or a collection of albums in one go. It gets worse, it seems to me that the only way to add a song to the DPL is during actual playback of teh song (from the now playing screen). I would love to hear if i am wrong on this, but i
tinkered with it for 10mins or so and it was the only way i could get the 'add to DPL' function to appear.
Another weird aspect is that the i9 3.5mm port is not accepting my Ultimate Ears Super fi 5 headphones properly. More information can be found here and thank you Walkgood for your help on this matter.
So a quick list of pros and cons;
weight (lighter than fuze, heavier than zip)
screen quality is best
sound quality is best
fairly decent shortcuts to EQ settings.
battery life is best
no clip (if that matters, either way DIY)
UI is cumbersome, awkward and definately a learning curve.
creating playlists/favourites is awkward
256 file limit for favourites/on the go playlist
some headphones might be incompatabile with it
no crossfade and other little useful tweaks found in rockbox
price is highest
lack of tactile buttons (tho hold feature is nice)
very good sound quality (tho not as good as cowon)
crossfade (as well as heaps of other nice features)
easy UI (even rockbox)
Creating playlists is easier/better, no limit file limit
expandable memory (even 64gb cards work)
fastest bootup (when using rockbox)
customisable themes/fonts/now playing screen
Price is cheaper than the i9
Better controls than i9
More tactile buttons
has a clip (zip only)
controls too cramped (on zip)
lcd poor quality (especially zip but better or fuze
brightness on zip is especially poot, but pretty good on fuze
battery life is less than i9 for both models
So where does the i9 fit in? Potentially it will become my main player, I will continue to use it for a couple of weeks to really try and break the learning curve so that the UI will become second nature.
If the following are important to you, this device probably can't be beat by ANY other player (yes that's a challenge);
1) Uncompromising Sound Quality
2) 16gb maximum is fine for your needs
3) You need the smallest and lightest device possible (whilst at same time still having decent battery life
4) You mainly listen to albums all the way through or play your entire collection in shuffle/all fashion i.e. building playlists via genre etc isn't a feature you care much for.
5) decent screen quality and brightest/most easily viewed in sunlight
I welcome further questions or comments.
Good job on the review, pictures & video. While I agree with many of your points, I disagree with you on one important point you make, sound quality. I believe if you volume match the three without any enhancements that you’d have a really hard time telling the difference between their sound quality. Possibly the reason you believe the i9 has better SQ is because it has a higher output than the clip or fuze.
I dunno, I was using the i9 without a single effect ('user 1' unconfigured or 'normal' i think) and to my ears it sounded richer.
Remember, i have been using nothing but sansa rockboxed for a over a year now. I have the settings flat eq (don't touch it) and maybe increase decrease the bass at most (most of the time its 0). Then i tried the i9, it to in its natural state and I swear it sounded better. Placebo... anticipation, imagination? maybe i dunno. I guess the only real way would be to blindfold me.
But even then isn't that debate pointless seeing as the cowon DOES have BBE and other tweaks that sansa just doesn't have?
I whacked BBE Viva and tried a couple other effects and it definitely sounded better than anything (tinkering) I have managed on my clip/fuze.
It could be that the clip/fuze is capable of getting close to these stunning sounds, but i for one am not ept enough to achieve this.
I stand by my review, the sound quality is better than sansa :P
(but each to their own hehehe)
If you compare the i9 to your wife's D2, without any effects or EQ, you'll definitely hear a difference....the i9 is much clearer sounding. But I had trouble telling it apart from my RB Sansa or my 4th-gen Touch, using the same flat settings....so the UI was enough to eventually convince me to trade it away.
While this one is the J3 VS Clip, I contend there’s not much difference between the J3 and the i9 http://rmaa.elektrokrishna.com/Compa...%20Clip%2B.htm
well its not looking good for bruce with a vote of 2 against 1 lol. :(
But seriously, the ONLY reason im staying with this player is for BBE and some other effects which to my ears sounds better than anything u can do with a rockboxed clip.
I'm not sure how relevent talking about flat vs flat is when in real use yer gonna take advantage of cowons greatest flagship selling point, BBE. To me its worth the learning curve.
Tonight I just made my first actual playlist (not favourites) via JetAudio's media manager for the i9, so thats pretty cool. I'll fill that baby up with dozens of quick playlists that will help circumnavigate the favourite issue somewhat.
Edit: Like I said before you did a good job on your review and you should be commended. Most members don’t go thru the trouble you have to learn, experiment and review a player as you have done. I only tried to point out one error that I have fallen for myself in the past.
I think what WG and I are getting at is that the term "sound quality" should refer to what the hardware itself is producing...I know that's why I made the comparison to the D2, because I had them both at the same time and there was certainly a difference. There of course is also a bunch of newer enhancements on the i9 vs. the D2, so for those who like the BBE, the difference is even greater.
For me in particular, I loved the Mach3Bass, and I liked the Stereo Enhance but not the 3D sound. Most of the BBE presets sounded too artificial to me in the i9....if I tinkered with a custom setting, I could add in a little BBE and get a sound I liked, but it took a lot of work to figure out where the fine line was between pleasing and unnatural-sounding.
As far as just the 5-band EQ, I prefer the Rockbox one to the Cowon one because I can set the frequency and width of each of the 5 bands to pretty much whatever I want, unlike the Cowon which limits the range of what you can tweak. But that's also what I consider "enhancement" versus "sound quality".
I absolutely agree with you on the sound tweaks that you love, making the UI worth trying to adapt to. Maybe if the i9 had been my primary player, I would have adapted better to the UI and kept it....but I'd pick it up after a couple of weeks , and get frustrated by not remembering how to do something with it that I could easily do on any other player. The i9 actually was the only player that I downloaded the manual for, because of this....(kudos to WG for posting a link to it here in the forums)
Yeh i skimmed over NwAvGuy's blog prior to buying the i9, man he loves that clip+ lol (and so he should).
But here is where my technical savy limitations come in. I am no audiophile, i can barely grasp concepts such as 'soundstage' and other terms when ppl are trying to praise or fault a player (or IEM).
I think this is to do with the fact that talking about sound is hard for most (or at least me), because sound is auditory and not visually taught. Unless someone sticks something on my ears and says "right, this is an example of poor soundstage, and this is an example of fantastic soundstage" (or warmth or whatever term to describe sound etc) then i personally find it very hard to relate.
So I generally leave the science to the ppl that can understand it, and instead rely purely on practical experience. I can wholly see that perhaps i was perceiving a greater sound quality in the i9 vs the sansa products (when they are all flat) when infact there is actually is no greater quality to be heard, that my mind is playing tricks. Even the name Cowon is now infamous for great sound quality.
But, if i take a particular song, listen to it in the sansa clip or fuze, fiddle around with any tweaks they might have, and then do the same but this time with the i9 player and utilise its tweaks, well.. to my ears the song sounds better on the i9.
And this is why i stand by my comment for the i9 having better sound quality, because i'm not comparing flat vs flat, i'm comparing the two players in all their entirety (in the sound category) for optimisation for producing better sound than its default state, and in this regard the i9 beats the sansa (imho).
It seems simple to me, u can leave all the science behind, if the song sounds better after going through whatever means, then it sounds better no? This is true to just pairing the device with different headphones.
And then comes in the equation of personal preference. I mean, some people like certain genres of music right, perhaps some like classical only, and shudder at dubstep, metal techno etc. So then does that mean they have a harder time appreciating certain tweaks (or find them little value to enhance a particular genre)?
What im trying to say is isnt judging sound quality a little like judging art? Yes u can have the science backing up the argument, but ultimately you have music as the form the sound quality is being conveyed, and therefore some differences of opinions arise over what sounds good and what doesn't (in a similar way ppl argue over whether 'x' artist is any good).
I dunno.. i'm rambling now clutching at straws... hahaha
Is there a way to view your music files through folder view? ie. as it is stored on the memory in folders
EDIT: talking about the i9
Yes, and this is the ONLY way to build an 'on the fly' playlist (cowon calls it favourites). If you are browsing your collection via id3tags such as Artist, Album or Genre you will not be able to add multiple files in one go (like an album), it allows only for single file at a time.
I found the manual to be ok, not the best, I like how in their troubleshooting section their first question is "I am still confused even after reading the manual?" that kinda sums everything up right there lol. :D
More indepth chitchat about how the folder structure works can be found here.
Bruce I wasn’t saying the manual is good, far from it IMHO. I only suggested it because it can give people that are looking at a new player a better idea about the player before they buy.
yeh for sure there is some useful stuff inside, its just not very comprehensive hey. Its def a poor excuse for a manual lol, but i still found a few snippets of useful info (like how to dispose of the device responsibly aahahahaha) :D
you think the i9 ir i10 will ever support rockbox? i've had a bunch of good players with crappy ui before and don't intend on adding another. also i listen to a lot of podcasts and it's hard to beat rockbox for bookmarking
Personally i don't see the point of rockboxing a cowon product to lose the BBE (apparently i'm told its not included in the partial D2 port). I think we can safely conclude no, there won't be any rockboxing on cowon players.
Yes that's quite true, you don't lose BBE just decide which mode to boot. What i mean is you can't take advantage of the rockbox world (navigation, crossfade, dynamic playlist etc) and BBE same time, which is a shame.
And yer right, enough with the pessimism bruce :D
Hi, first post on ABI.
Firstly, Nice review and comparison.
Did this end up being your main player? What are you using now that has great sound quality?
What headphones did you end up using with this player?
I am considering this player for my wife but want to run it with some Sennheiser HD555's and am concerned if the i9 will have the power to do so.
My wife doesn't want to muck around so a headphone amp is out of the question. She just wants something that sounds great and is simple and easy to use.
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