(Warning: If you’re not immune to ear-hemorrhage-inducing pop music, you better turn down the volume on your speakers/headphones before starting the video.)
The Cowon J3 is far from being abandoned by the user interface modding community (and the S9 and X7 benefit from being compatible). Well known Korean UCI designer Asurada presents a teaser video of his newest creation, ASUCI v2.
Using 45 degree tilted interface elements would usually be just a gimmick, but Asurada obviously put a lot of thought into the design and usability of his theme. Next to ergonomic left-handed usage I especially like the increased length of the slider bar, allowing for more precise scrolling in a track. It seems to hit a quite sweet middle ground between a portrait- and a landscape-oriented interface.
I’ve whipped up two short videos to showcase what I personally believe to be the most fetching and useful UCIs (user created interfaces) available for the Cowon J3 and S9 (besides Claw’s venerable S9 UCI). Forum member Kizune really has outdone himself with these projects, combining a great visual style with a high level of usability and generally better logic than Cowon’s default interfaces.
Do not adjust your set, these videos are silent. I spare you the yapping, heavy breathing, and other superfluous background noises. I prefer letting Kizune’s UCIs talk for themselves. Please provide your own music of choice to go with them, and if you have questions about these UCIs, just ask them in the comments below – or, even better, check out the Aero Music and Chakra forum threads.
Videos after the jump – even in 720p when Youtube isn’t clogged.
“Good news, everyone,” as Hubert J. Farnsworth would say.
One might believe not much has changed since Cowon released the S9. On paper, the J3 is basically the same player, just with and additional MicroSD slot and a speaker. Fans of Cowon players already know: the company is usually trying to reinvent the wheel with every new player – changing hardware layout, user interface, and general design cues willy-nilly, as if there’s no brand recognition to worry about.
So Cowon actually trying to improve on a winning player like the S9, trying to go an evolutionary route rather than the ‘revolutionary’ way is something that doesn’t happen very often. Whoever read my reviews of the Cowon O2 and V5 video players knows what I’m talking about – the latter is in many aspects worse than the former, even if it has the same basic form factor and feature set premise. No evolution, no building on tried and proven interface aspects, Cowon starting from scratch once again, and failing.
The J3 however is a very different beast. It took all the good aspects of the S9’s design, hardware- and firmware-wise, and made them better, seemingly organically and effortlessly. The form factor is an improvement, the tactile buttons are better placed and have a better feel to them, the interface is even more responsive, and easier to operate. The additional MicroSD slot is a godsend, and the battery life is even better than on the S9.
No need to play the suspense card and the old “read on to find out” teaser – the J3 is simply the best player Cowon ever made. Be my guest if you still want to read on, though.
We have had our eye on the details of the Cowon J3 for the last few months, but today photos have surfaced on French site GenMP3. The J3 has specs similar to the S9 with a 3.3” AMOLED touch screen, TV out, Bluetooth, and accelerometer- well from the specs we know, it appears to be another S9 in a different design and UI.
However, that could be a good thing considering the Samsung P3 has a better build quality compared to the S9 and like myself, some have complained about the odd curve on the back of the player. For that, I welcome Cowon knocking off another Cowon player for the better.
The Clip+ has a fantastic little form factor; somewhat cheap in build quality but very rugged. The interface is simple and relatively straightforward. The features on the Clip are more or less average, however it supports the alternative Rockbox firmware which provides tons of additional options (gapless playback, Replaygain, playlists, Last.fm scrobbling, etc). Read the full review or go ahead and buy it.
The J3 is a fantastic PMP with a very nice AMOLED screen and tons of features. It sports Cowon's trademark BBE sound enhancements, and offers a customizable user interface with strong support by our user community. You can usually find it at Amazon for the best price - and don't forget to check out our review.
Microsoft Zune HD
Sure, many of us are not big fans of the walled garden, but there are a lot of great things going on with the Zune: sturdy hardware, ultra easy to use user interface, and a media player that is worthy of Editor’s Choice. You can check out our Zune HD review or stop by our Zune forums for the latest info and gossip.
Phonak Audéo PFE
Phonak Audéo PFE offer outstanding clarity and precision; natural, dynamic mids and treble, and decent bass for a single armature in-ear phone. They handle dense, complex music very well. The PFE work well with most acoustic and some electronic music genres, but bassheads might have to look at other alternatives. They're great for sports as well, since they fit very securely. Check out our review.
The Hippo VB (Variable Bass) offers a serious subwoofer for on the go, right in your head. They don’t just deliver generous quantities of punchy, textured bass, but good audio quality over the whole frequency range with decent clarity and exceptional soundstage. Exchangeable bass ports let you customize their sound to your liking. Read our in-depth Hippo VB review.
Soundmagic E10 / E30
The Soundmagic E10 and E30 are basically right in the middle between the Phonak PFE and Hippo VB - not too analytical sounding, not too bass heavy. The E10 provide a bit more bass, the E30 a bit more clarity. Both come with a very fair price tag considering the sound quality they deliver - a great choice for the audio aficionado on a budget. Read our E10 and E30 reviews for more info.