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Cowon J3 review

Cowon J3


A fabulous portable media player that improves on its predecessor in most areas. It's pricey, though

Review Date: 25 May 2010

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £144 (£169 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
3 stars out of 6

6 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

The Cowon S9 blew us away when we first came across it at the beginning of 2009. It was so good we voted it our favourite MP3 player, and it has remained on our A List ever since. Now its successor has been launched - the Cowon J3 - aiming to perfect an already tasty recipe.

There are a few key differences between the two devices. Aside from the fact that the J3 is a little squarer than before, the main headline is that you can now expand its storage quota. Even if you only choose to go with the 8GB version - understandable if your budget is tight - you can add to it simply by inserting a Micro SD card into the slot at the base. The best news here is that the J3 seamlessly merges files from the two sources together, thus presenting lists of albums, artist names and so on in one unified view.

Battery life is better than before, rising from the claimed 55 hours of the S9 to an amazing 64 hours of music playback with the J3. Video playback stamina remains unchanged at 11 hours, although that's still enough juice to watch Ben-Hur in its entirety three times over.

Most critically, though, Cowon has straightened out some of the S9's usability issues. The interface can be a little quirky at times, but once you've got used to it, the improved capacitive touchscreen and nippier performance will have you skipping from one view to another with iPod-like rapidity.

Cowon J3

There's more scope for customisation than before, with the traditional icon grid joined by a customisable widget desktop view and a lovely vertically scrolling text view. The latter comes complete with slick accelerometer-enabled animation - tip the player on its side and the words fall gracefully from one side to the other. Picture browsing, meanwhile, benefits from pinch to zoom multitouch support.

On top of all the improvements, the J3 retains all the features that made the S9 so great: a fantastic 3.3in 480 x 272 OLED screen, with eye-popping colours, crispness and smoothness of video playback; awesome sound quality; support for a huge variety of audio files, from MP3 to APE and FLAC; TV out (with optional cable); Bluetooth; an FM radio tuner; plus, finally, the bonus of support for Flash games with its nifty embedded Flash player.

All told, the J3 is an impressive bit of kit. It's better than the S9 - nippier, slicker and expandable - and, if you don't mind the extra size, a better all-round player than an iPod touch or nano. It's a little pricey, but we have no hesitation elevating the J3 above its predecessor on the A List.

Author: Jonathan Bray

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User comments

Not for the Audiophile

The Cowon J3 presents itself very with a very all-round player, with FM radio, a recorder, photo's and movies. However, the reason why I bought the player was because of the "amazing sound quality of the player - if not the best". I am a bit of an audiophile and I thought the ~£230 would be worth it. But honestly I was not impressed at all. Having had the Sony NWZ-A818, mixed with the Shure SE530's I was appalled by the sound quality this player gave.

It is true that there are loads of presets to choose from and you have the ability to regulate the following; EQ - on many different levels, BBE, Mach3Bass, 3D Surround, MP Enhance, Stereo Enhance and Reverb, which is great, but after many hours if not a whole day of playing with all the different combinations as well as various mp3's from different albums, which are mainly 320kb and many flac files, I am 100% sure that the Sony provides me with much better sound, even without the ability to play flac. I also like many different types of music, latin, jazz, classical, hiphop & techno and on all the different genres, the Sony provides me with a better range of sound all together.

I find the sound through the Shure SE530's in conjunction with the Cowon J3 to be very tinny, especially if you start adding a couple of levels of BBE, turning Sound Enhance and MP Enhance on. I finally found a good setting with the Mach3bass option, but the trouble was that when you start upping the volume, the player completely distorts the song, making you turn the sound down. I have no trouble like this on my Sony NWZ - the bass stays clear. Even with low level playing, the Sony provides a much deeper and clearer bass than the Cowon. The treble also flares out of control with the Cowon J3 at loud volumes. The Sony also does, but at much higher volume levels than the Cowon.

So, in my opinion, if you are quite picky about sound or listen to electronic music or music with bass or like to play your music loud, then I really don't recommend this player. Obviously this is just my personal opinion but I highly advise you to listen to the player before buying it. I you still want to buy a 32GB Black Cowon J3, then you can search for it on ebay under my name: siiimmo2005. I will post it on the by the 25th September 2010. I am reverting back to my Sony NWZ-A818. Cowon has a lot of work to be done before they get the "best sound quality mp3 player award".

By J3_Nothp on 23 Sep 2010

I Have just bought the cowon J3 from using ipods, and zune.

The reason for me purchasing the J3 was beacause of all the hype the is available on the web.

I decided to go to a loacl audio shop and try the cowon J3 for myself rather than be disapointed after making a purchase and have the thing sitting in my draw or trying to sell it for a reduced price.

I consider myself to be a an audio enthusiast for the last decade and have spent lots of money on high end headphones and portable amplifiers trying to find improvements on the quality of sound.

When i plugged in my sennhiesers IE8s into the cowon for the first time, I was physically struck with shock and suprise on how clear the natural the overall sound was. I am completely bowled over by the sound quality the J3 produces. I know that each to his own when it comes to finding the perfect sound. but IMHO, i think the cowon as the best MP3 player i have tried to date. I tried hooking up my portable amps ( ibasso D10, Iqube, Pico slim, and emerline's predator.)

Although the sound was slightly improved in various areas such as warmer bass with the iqube and a crisper lighter overall sound with the Predator, I can honestly say that the improvement was rather slight.
When using the same amps with my zune and my ipod classic with the senns, I found the sound improvemnet was very significant.
So I personally find the cowon J3 a jewel among the array of MP3s and PMPs out there on the market today although i have yet to try more of them.

However, i bought the J3 purely for the sound quality and nothing else that it has to offer.
I dont use the video player for watching movies. I dont use the widgets or the radio or any of other applications the has to offer.

In conclusion, I am still blown away by the sound of the J3 has to offer and i do enjoy the jetaudio application but mostly use the standard setting and am one happy listener!

By mayajoe on 26 Sep 2010

Superb sound quality

In comparison to the S9 the sound is more detailed, more precise. It's a delight to listen music from it with the Grado PS1000 direct plug in (of course uncompressed, wav, 1536kbps, 48kHz). It come very close to listen to a high-end speaker system and there ist clearly an improvement with the PS1000 in comparison with shure se530 or winstone 3s. This shows the sound potential of this player.

By jeff77 on 17 Oct 2010

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