Cowon iAudio7 review

The iAudio7 is a chunky player, but sadly the solid looks don't match the sound, and it's a right old fiddle to use Tested at £80.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Some things – KitKats, for instance – are better for being chunky. We don’t think an MP3 player is, especially not one that’s such a bind to use


  • +

    Extensive specification

  • +

    impressive volume

  • +

    rapid, attacking sound


  • -

    Tiny, overworked display

  • -

    infuriating fascia controls

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    stocky looks not matched by the sound of the low end

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    miserable headphones

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We're well aware there's an '80s revival in full swing at the moment, but where retro fashion is concerned it's important to pick and choose – that's why we say ‘okay!' to skinny ties but ‘no way!' to inner-city race riots.

And, for our money, the Cowon iAudio7's chunkily bloated looks and hopelessly overburdened display fall heavily into the ‘no way!' category.

Let's imagine you're undeterred by the derision an MP3 player styled like Knight Rider's Zippo is bound to attract, and wish to investigate the Cowon further.

User interface drives us nuts
The first thing you need to know is that the user interface is among the least successful we've seen, and that's for one specific reason: the touch-sensitive fascia controls get on with the iAudio7's extensive suite of menus about as well as a Rottweiler gets on in a poodle parlour.

This Cowon is a brilliantly adjustable player, with the facility to trim every aspect of its performance – from the speed that track names scroll across the display to cropping or stretching video formats to better fit its tiny screen – which makes the hamfisted vagueness of its controls all the more galling.

Menu text is small enough to induce a squint, which makes customising things to your specification almost more trouble than it's worth – and though the iAudio7 can play video files, that squint becomes terminal if you try to watch them.

Music is its redemption
As a music player, though, the Cowon isn't without redemption.

It almost goes without saying that the supplied 'phones are scarcely fit for purpose, but switch to something with a degree of ability and the iAudio7 demonstrates a surprisingly vivid, speedy sound.

Archie Shepp's Attica Blues is delivered with engaging zip and drive, though low frequencies could be more assertive.

The Cowon's outright volume – it's one of the few players we've tested that can get uncomfortably loud – means that the noise of even the most oversubscribed train journey can be successfully drowned out.

Fair specification, but too much aggro
There are other pluses here too: FM radio reception is on board, and there's a built-in mic for voice-recording.

The iAudio7 is compatible with a good many different file types (including lossless FLAC) and the claimed battery life is a massive 60 hours.

But the endless aggravation of actually using the Cowon is enough for us to draw a necessarily large veil over it.

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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