Cowon announced the X9 – nicknamed “Super Player” – which would make sense as a logical upgrade/sidestep to last year’s X7. But actually it’s more of a rehash of the ancient O2 PMP, released four years ago, in 2008 (ignoring the newer V5′s existence in several aspects).
The X7 is a 80-160GB HDD player with Bluetooth capabilites, the new X9 is a flash memory player without Bluetooth, but a MicroSD slot instead. Internal capacities of the X9 go up to 32GB – same as the ancient O2. Both the X7 and X9 have embarrassingly bad screen resolutions of 480×272 at 4.3″ – same as the ancient O2. Seems Cowon had a few old resistive touch screens left over to recycle (the slightly less ancient V5 HD in comparison had a much more reasonable 800×480 resolution at 4.7″, but by today’s standards that is the extreme lower limit for comparable screen sizes as well).
Additional tactile buttons for FFWD/REW/skip might make the X9 a more desirable player for on the go than the X7, which only had a unified menu/play/pause and two volume buttons. Cowon claims a battery life of up to 110 hours for audio and 13 hours for video on the X9. If real-life usage comes close to these synthetic benchmarks, it would be quite amazing for nomads and globetrotters. Cowon’s usual plethora of supported file formats and BBE sound enhancements are of course not missing from the X9. An additional annoyance is Cowon’s use of a proprietary USB connector instead of a standard mini/microUSB port.
iAudiophile moderator Kizune posted a comparison chart of the X7′s and X9′s differences, for your perusal.
[Cowon Korea via iAudiophile]
NwAvGuy is a man who recently made quite a few enemies in some audio communities and got banned from some enthusiast/audiophile forums as well. He’s rather outspoken and doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to pointing out flaws in shoddily designed – and often overpriced – gear (which sometimes goes against commercial interests of said sites, unsurprisingly).
Since some of his adversaries asked if he can only criticize other people’s designs or if he indeed has the skills to create better performing devices, he now has a point to prove, it seems. The result is known as the O2 – short for “Objective 2″ – headphone amp.
NwAvGuy was very transparent on his blog regarding the design process of the O2, and he open sourced the schematics under a Creative Commons license. He will not be selling finished amps, but everyone is free to build their own – no matter if for personal use, or for commercial purposes.
Some design principles of the O2 are:
- State of the art audio performance with most any headphone out there, from the most sensitive multi-armature IEMs to full-sized high-impedance headphones
- Usage of inexpensive quality parts instead of overpriced “boutique” components
- Easy to solder and assemble (no SMT components)
- Precise volume control (no crackling or audible imbalance at low volume levels)
- No dangerous clicks/pops at turning on/off
- Usable as a portable or a desktop amp (batteries and AC power)
- Switchable gain
- Battery rundown protection
In the end, the price of the parts used in the O2 should come to about $30 (without enclosure, panels, or wallwart) – and according to NwAvGuy the audio performance should be indistinguishable from top quality studio gear like the $1600 Benchmark DAC1. I, for one, am very interested in building my own O2 to find out how it performs.
Detailed info on NwAvGuy’s blog: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 – and we also got an ABI forum thread about the O2 going on.
Sure we have plenty of complaints about Cowon O2 mainly dealing with the user interface, but in the end is still a respectable PMP with the signature warm sound typical to Cowon.
The O2 is too big to fit in your pocket which makes it a good candidate for a protective case since its likely to tossed into a bag or carried by itself. If you have read any of our case reviews you know that we are fans of the Noreve cases. This one is no different. Check out the pics below with some thoughts on the fit.
Martin and I have been a bit disappointed with our O2’s (check out his O2 review). We have no complaints about the hardware and the sound quality is top notch as always. Cowon has made some minor fixes and improvements with Codec handling in recent firmware updates, but our major gripe is the UI. Equating it to something out of Windows 3.1, we were a bit puzzled as to why Cowon would take a few steps back when they already have something very successful to build upon- the D2.
Putting the D2 UI on the O2 would be a huge improvement and cure our main gripe. How could you argue with an oversized D2 with HD codec support? I have been trading a few emails with one of the O2 firmware programmers and he seems to think it is a good idea and has passed it on to R&D- so this may indeed become a reality.
In the spirit of product development and improvement, Martin has mocked up what the O2 would look like with the D2 interface after the jump.
After a month of agonizing customs and shipping problems I finally was able to get Martin’s S9 over to him. He couldn’t be more pleased sighting the brilliant screen and native video support. With that as our trusted headphone editor he has performed listening and RMAA comparison tests side by side with the Cowon O2 and D2.
While I didn’t buy in the hype of being the best sounding Cowon to date (check out my S9 review), he didn’t either- though stating it is nearly the same as the recent Cowon players. Check out the details and frequency response graphs comparing the S9 to the O2 and D2.
Every time Cowon releases a new product it marks the start of a years long process of actually making the player stable. This was also the case with the O2, which was released with more issues than it had pixels. Cowon just released a new firmware update and this time they actually fixed something.
The most noticeable change is a video fix that allows for videos above 720p to be played. A number of other video related fixes were also made to improve overall stability along with improvements and fixes to other aspects of the player. Hit the link for full change log and download link.
Here we have Cowon’s newest flash-memory based PMP which certainly evokes comparisons to a hypothetical “D3”, a successor of the Cowon D2 (at least in theory). It has the same basic design (yet bigger), a touch screen interface, and an SDHC slot. However, it’s certainly closer to the A2 or A3 considering its video capabilities.
The O2’s specs look absolutely amazing on paper – hardly any other portable player that comes close in supporting so many audio and video formats. On first glance it appears as if Cowon concentrated on the fundamentals, giving their customers a powerful device – an unrestricted video and audio player – that gets the basics right.
But we at anythingbutipod aren’t here to recite spec sheets or press releases. We rather check how the O2 performs in reality. Read on for the rather inconvenient truth…
Cowon has always had a strong underground following for its very clean sound and great support for audio codecs. However, this underground support is slipping due to very poorly written firmware. Even in the past being a Cowon user have been bothered by numerous buggy and botched firmwares. I in fact have bricked an i7 as well as U3- bricked to the point of having to be returned to the manufacture to be fixed. Both of these happened while upgrading firmwares.
An SDK aka Software Development Kit is basically a package that will allow users with development skills to make their own applications for a player. This is what allows people to make apps for the iPhone, for instance. With the Samsung P2 users have been wanting an SDK since the player came out, without luck. Cowon O2 users however are luckier and Cowon has released an SDK for the O2 with the player having been on the market only a few weeks.
To use the SDK the player needs to be using firmware 1.12, which is currently in beta stages. The SDK itself is available to download for free from Cowon’s site. This should certainly make the player even more sought after and we can only hope the S9 will get the same treatment once that’s out.
[Cowon Global via GenerationMP3]
Cowon’s latest PMP, the O2, sits nicely in between the full blown A3 PMP and the popular flash based D2. Though I think this will eventually replace the Ax PMP line since Cowon is careful not to cannibalize their other products. This is the reason they did not release an X7, because the D2 would take sales from an X7.
If the O2 is indeed replacing the Ax series line up, it’s not such a bad thing. Even though the screen resolution is higher on the A3, 800×480 as opposed to the O2’s 480×272, it does have a bigger screen (O2 = 4.3” & A3 = 4.0”) and is much more portable. You can see in the photos below, the O2 is not that much bigger than the X5 or the Zune.
We will have a full abi review for your soon, but in the mean time here are some pics and initial impressions.