(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.
I must say the ceramic white Cowon S9 looks really nice especially against the contrasting deep black screen. What also looks to be different is the finish on the back of the player. The titanium and chrome have a rubbery matte finish where as this appears to be a white glossy finish. It’s a nice change up from all the traditionally black players. Even though I have a Noreve case on my titanium S9 I would have gone with the white if it were available at the time I got mine. Its only available in Korea at the moment but we should see it appear stateside soon. Be sure to read the S9 review if you are in the market for a new player.
We all love to show off our portable gear, whether its low key or something flashy and expensive- its a lot of fun to see how we all make our portable audio experience personal. In the forums we have a subforum dedicated to showing off your gear. The thread that started it all continues to grow into something massive: “Show off your portable audio stuff! (56k warning)“
Every so often we thought it would be cool to show off some of the site reader or forum member’s portable audio setups. To start it all off we thought it would be appropriate to feature the creator of the portable rig thread, DFKT aka Martin Sägmüller, our headphone editor and forum admin. As an enthusiast, he has quite a few rigs shown off, but this one is one of the more recent and stunning. Below are some photos and breakdown of this luscious setup.
Browsing around the forums I see a few people purchasing screen protectors for their MP3 players that have glass screens. Some might say better safe than sorry but these screens are much more durable than one would think. Below I put a few of these glass screen players though some rather harsh scratch tests, well beyond what the vast majority of users might experience.
One of the common complaints I hear about the Cowon S9 is that it feel too light and hollow. I recently found a fix for this by adding a really nice leather case, making it feel more substantial. While I don’t think that will be the main reason for someone to purchase a case for the S9, I do think the better reason is to protect your investment and keep the S9 blemish free.
Cowon just rolled out a beta of a fairly substantial firmware update to the S9. A list of the added and improved functions can be found here along with a download link. The important updates to note are the additions of widgets and the pitch correction on the video playback. These are noteworthy since these are some features the Samsung P3 already has.
I have been carrying both the Cowon S9 and the Samsung P3 for the last few months and they are both worthy opponents on features and on quality. Though personally I found that I use the P3 more than the S9 mainly due to the UI; the P3 is much more organized and intuitive. Though, with the addition of the widgets on the S9 has made the home screen even more cumbersome, just from the few hours I have been using it. The problem is the S9’s widget screen is a toggle, widgets or icons, where as the P3 mashes both icons and widgets on multiple “desktops” you can flip though. But I digress, once both firmware’s become more stable look for a P3 vs S9 throwdown.
Corning is on the cutting edge of all things made out of glass, everything from eyeglasses, to astronomy optics, to fiber optics, all the way to 4 ton panes of nuclear shielded window glass (yeah that serious). One of the things they make for the consumer electronics industry is Gorilla Glass which is a chemically hardened glass made to flex beyond what normal glass would and fend off hard objects that would typically crack glass. Corning’s site mentions that this material is available in 0.5mm to 2mm and having looked at the S9 apart it appears to be the 0.5mm thickness. Having used the S9 first hand (S9 review) for quite some time I can vouch for its toughness and would love to see more device manufactures use this technology.
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?
This video has been released on the S9’s UI and I will have to say it looks stunning. My previous worries about the S9 firmware and interface are diminished. This player looks to be night and day from the firmware on the O2 we have been concerned with. It looks like Cowon is on the right track with the S9. I spoke with Greg from GenMP3 about the S9 earlier, he has had a chance to use an S9 and says that the touch works great and the GUI is very smart.
So other good news is that Cowon is planning on a 32GB release of this player tentatively in February with 8GB and 16GB trickling out to the various countries at the end of this month and early January. It supposedly pops its head up earlier on Amazon, but I have yet to see it for sale anywhere in the US.
Another thing we know about the Cowon is that it will have a micro-B USB connection. This is a fairly non standard USB plug so be prepared to pack another cable. Though this is the same connection that the iriver SPINN uses and as Andreas points out to me that many mobile phones are starting to use this type of connection.
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.