Cowon iAudio 9

Tested at £100

This Cowon doesn’t do too much wrong – and wins plaudits for its new interface – but we find it hard to recommend with the nano in mind


excuse me but i am also surprised by What HiFi review of Cowon.

do you review players for SOUND or something else?

because for me the most important in MP3 player is SOUND quality. i can skip video and else gimmicks. it is the same way like in high-end, a player or vynil table are designed exactly for the purpose and there is nothing else in between. it is nice to have DVD player and CD player in one, but as you know best CD players are not DVD players.

coming back to Cowon, i have their landmark and by far the excellent X5L which still thrills me with amazing clarity and rich sound after many years, then a small F2 who beats any iPod sound wise by a mile, then I9 which is even better than F2 and S9 which is great although i prefer my old X5L better.

i am curious which headphones or earbuds you used in test? i think minimum what can justify Cowon would be Klipsch earbus and higher up to HiFi Man or Grado line. cheap alternatives will not cut it.

and i hope my ears are not lying to me because i compare Cowon sound in-ear to my hifi which is 3-way Sonus Faber floorstanders powered by tubed pre amp with sollid state end and Naim CDP or Rega DAC via SPDIF adapter and hi-tuned MacMini.

what i can certainly assure that Cowon does not sound like high-end set in clarity and richness and space, BUT.... Cowon is much closer to high-end than iPod. i had iPod and i have iPad which has iPod application and none could deliver the sound quality which could worth Cowon sound.

sorry, but iPod sound flat and mashed no matter what you do with it.

hope you will find more time to give a better listen to mp3 players you review.


I'll say it yet again - as my earlier comment has been ignored - we review as we find. The Cowon X7, for example, is a five-star product and listed in our Best Buys in the magazine each month:


This is just hilarious. I had this MP3 player and it's a great player. I've also had the V6 Nano and sold it already. It's utter rubbish compared to this player. 

And all i read in this review is about video performance? Really? It's not even meant for that. It's a MP3 player with a screen and some secondary options, like video. If you want MP4, try another (bigger) player with a proper screen and resolution.

Considering the price it's probably the best player you can buy.

I now own a Cowon J3, better for video, and it has similar sound at a higher price.

The Cowon technologies make it possible to create a soundstage you prefer, and with much clarity and detail, where Apple just makes it worse with any other then standard setting. 

And you just notice one thing after a long, totally irrelevant storye, it's not very dynamic? Come on. Is that the best you can do?

It's hard to take WhatHifi seriously. I've noticed more strange ways of reviewing products. Starting to feel commercially influenced instead of the main thing: what is great HiFi?!

While we're sorry if you're starting to feel commercially influenced, we can reassure you that we are most emphatically not.

Well, i know sound is subjective. So on that note no criticism. 
But i found the Nano (too) sharp in it's highs and basses just failed to deliver. The mids were excellent though. The thing is, that when i twiddle with the equaliser on the Nano it only got worse. Reducing the high and your feeling if the music is behind a curtain. Upping the Bass a bit makes it only booming and flat. So i've no clue on how you review.

Now with Cowon, when i feel something is off. I just correct it in the EQ and if it loses a little power because of it there are a handfull of techniques to improve the sound with BBE+ or MP Enhance for instance. Nothing is said about these nifty Cowon tricks which make MP3's sound better than ever. 

Maybe it would be nice to add a series of demo tracks in various genres for each player / product. So people will know what its purpose is. It might be true it sounds great on Pop/Rock, but sucks on R&B or House. 

For me it's totally unbelievable if the Nano outperforms the Cowon (aside of the huge X7). Especially comparing prices. Also the Nano doesn't do well on video. And yet, the iAudio is criticised on that category. I have a Samsung telephone which almost sound the same as the Nano. Sure, there are improvements, but it just sounds nearly as empty and cheap. 

I have the Shure SE535 headphone by the way, which also influences the result obviously. 

We've found Cowon players variable - some, like you say, are excellent (we've just awarded one five stars precisely for the strengths you mention), but not all: including this one.

I must say I was disappointed with this review. Cowon produce some of the best sounding mp3 players on the market, which admittedly are always let down by the earphones included. Given good earphones they beat virtually everything available. In fact, they are so good that they can even drive many headphones to high levels with very good reproduction. I personally put sound quality before anything else and this article shows that you don't. So I will take your other reviews with a big pinch of salt, as I realise you have different priorities.


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