back to article Cowon iAudio S9 PMP

Monopolies are never a good thing and, frankly, Apple's iPod Touch has had things its own way for rather too long. Yes, there are better MP3 players and better PMPs, but the former are all too small to realistically watch movies on while the latter are just too big to be easily slipped into a pocket. Direct competition, such …


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  1. James Robertson

    competition is good

    As an iTouch owner, I say great review.

    Competition is great it means better hardware and better prices for everyone.

  2. Greg

    Oh, hell yes!

    Being a MASSIVE fan of the iAudio X5 and the way it kicked the crap out of its competitors, I was beginning to think they would never make a modern equivalent. Thank Christ they finally got around to it. This thing looks great. I could fit everything on a 32GB version of this I can on my rather broken old X5. Judging by the X5, I bet it sounds excellent, the screen sounds like fun, etc, etc. First chance I get, a 32GB one of these is getting bought.

  3. Rupert Stubbs

    Again, the puck has moved on...

    So it sounds as if the Cowon is a fine audio and video player – marginally better than the iPod Touch. However, Apple has already moved the Touch way beyond that.

    The crucial difference is that the Touch is part of a large and growing infrastructure that extends its usefulness in ways the Cowon could never do. WiFi (how did Cowon leave that out? Like the BB Storm...), email, web browsing, the App Store (including turning your Touch into a remote media controller), games, calendar, contacts, etc., etc., etc.

    That said, I'm glad that someone is pressuring Apple in terms of sound and screen quality.

  4. yonorri

    Not a glossy screen in sight...

    At last a nice looking screen, the oled display takes away that horrible glossy shiny look that has been around for the last few years, excellent.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Yet another ixxxxxx killer


    Yet another device being called an ixxxxxx killer (ixxxxxx=iPod or iPhone), we've heard it all before but nothing's managed it.

    Good luck. It won't happen.

  6. Bad Beaver

    like the display

    The display sounds real nice, even if the rest is not exactly my cup of tea. There seem to be some rather arbitrary limitations in place such as the 24 radio presets, 256 track limit on the favourites playlist...

    As a Mac guy I'm "wedded" to iTunes and proper MP4 support but I'd welcome any other players that work well with iTunes, so proper support for (smart)playlists etc.. Oh, and gapless playback, please.

  7. Stu

    OLED? woo! yay!

    I am liking the idea of this! Finally a PMP using a display technology fit for the purpose!

    And at such a high resolution too for an OLED device, thats the same as the still outstanding screen res of the Sony PSP (Although the PSP3000 may have lowered the bar a bit there) but you should have pointed out though, it is actually missing 23000+ pixels in relation to the Touch (480x320). OLEDs are brand new so I'll let them off! ;-)

    Its a shame though, I just bought a 32Gb iPod Touch 2nd gen on Sunday. And the screen still has the slightest tendency towards fading/colour washout when viewed from an angle. And as the Touch is meant to be viewed from a variety of orientations, its a significant factor.

    Am I correct in thinking that this OLED screen has no such problem?


    I'll take a ganders at this if I can find it in a shop, then if suitably impressed, I'm putting my iPod Touch on Ebay! Mind you I'll really miss mobile Safari as I think its the best web browser on ANY mobile device of a lower class than a laptop. Us iPod Touch/iPhone users have been spoiled!


    One other question though - Is it MULTITOUCH?

  8. Iain
    Thumb Down


    "While the S9 lacks any facility to set up on-board playlists, you can easily add tracks – up to 256 of them – to a “favourites list”, and we suspect this will serve most users just as well" - No, that is a deal breaker. This is a chronic omission, only being able to set a single playlist. I am personally offended. What if I want playlists for different moods?

    Utter crap, I see nothing of note or originality in this device, and it typifies the bandwagon jumping which has stifled innovation in the technology market. iPod beater my arse, iPod emulater more like. And I don't even like the iPod, I think it is over-priced and all shine and no function.

    I will stick to my 7year old 20Gb Zen thank-you very much.

  9. Miguel


    VLC works on the Touch ;)

  10. Kenny Millar

    Take note!

    Finally someone has figured out what makes the iPhone/iPod Touch so nice to use - the user experience.

    Sony, motorolla, Creative and Nokia should be paying attention!

  11. Andy Gordon
    Thumb Up

    The S9 rocks

    The simple fact is, the S9 has WAY better sound quality than the iPod can hold a candle to, and this should be easy to detect, it is that much better!

    The AMOLED screen is simply awesome .

    One thing i didnt see mention of was its 55 hour battery life for audio or 11 hours for video - crazily good.

    Personally, the Touch I would never buy, as i have an iphone. Listen to it though, its SO poor! It does work well as my Sonos controller though ;0)

    Clearly its horses for courses, but if you value sound quality, above all else, and enjoy movie playback, this is the daddy!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Nothing to kill

    The iPod Touch isn't worth killing.

  13. Anonymous Coward


    If only it had Wi-Fi...

  14. Cameron Colley

    RE: Working with iTunes, part of the infrastucure and so on.

    Cowon have always made devices for people who just want to use them as they wish how they wish, without any additional requirements for running operating system x or downloading software y. You'll likely never get an offering from Cowon that will integrate properly with iPlayer or iTunes or, for that matter, DRMd MS stuff -- but what you will get is decent equipment that you can use how you see fit.

  15. thomas k.

    small niggle re P2

    The P2 supports MPEG4, in addition to WMV9, although both are transcoded to SVI (Samsung's proprietary format) for playback on the device.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Looks nice but...

    You can't create playlists? WTF? Even the freebie p.o.s. player I have will let me create a playlist.

    Not a deal-breaker, but how could they do everything else so well and forget this?

  17. J


    Tempting indeed, it even works (apparently) with Linux... but no, thanks. I've been considering getting a 32GB Touch, since I'm interested in its "iPod-with-web" capabilities, and wanted to be able to carry all my music in a SS-based player. S9 has no web, so too bad for Cowon, or I'd get the S9 just for its ease of use with Linux (the article has no details on this, so I'm assuming it works). I don't care for radio, movies, games (yet, might change my mind if I find something interesting). Also, reading the article I had the impression that the "one playlist" thing was limited to list created *using the player* itself, but I would suppose that you could create more in the computer and have them all sent to the player? Or not? Either way, it's a strange restriction.

    Problem with Touch: needs all sorts of incantations to be able to use with Linux (with reduced functionality, I think? like album art problems? can't upgrade firmware before helpful hackers release new jail-breaking stuff). Too uncertain, specially considering the sort of money involved. Or I'd have gotten one already.

  18. Neil Alexander


    I don't know that I can take a device manufactured by a company called "Cowon" seriously.

  19. Bill
    Jobs Horns

    I appreciate Apple for one reason....

    they forced other manufacturers to step up their game. However, other than that, Steve can keep 'em.

  20. Greg

    The iAudio is an iPod beater, but...

    ...not in the mass market. The X5 absolutely wiped the floor with the iPod at the time, but the problem was no-one had heard of it. If Cowon spent the same advertising their products over here as Apple do, then it might have more of a chance, eh?

  21. Lee Duckworth


    touch of confusion and possible skulduggery regarding this, the rendered pic 1 in the article and a few more during show the screen displaying an image almost to the very edge - which had me drowning in my own drool.

    Its not actually like that though is it? shaame - i was going to use this post to say thing like "i hope HTC do that on a WM phone soon". guess ill have to wait

  22. uhuznaa
    Thumb Down

    Who needs another music player?

    While that thing surely is not bad, it's not the music (or media) player part of the touch that makes it so great. And it's also not the touch screen. It's the fact that the iPod touch is a great PDA, eBook reader, mail reader, browsing device and generally a nice small computer with lots of apps available. The two devices are just totally different gadgets.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mediocre hardware, terrible name

    Does this mean we'll see something being described as a 'Cowon iAudio S9 PMP-beater' one day?

    No, thought not.

  24. Stuart Halliday

    Watch it

    The trouble with buying a Cowon is that you buy into a device with no support.

    They got me good with their A3 and never again will I've fooled. Software is buggy, USB chargeable? Only if you're prepared to wait 3 days to get it charged! Playlist? - Only the one. Yes it's that bad.

    Cowon seem to churn these devices out every 6 months and then it's obsolete and you feel left on a pile of poo.

    Not a good attitude Cowon.

  25. vegister

    poor software

    @stuart halliday

    i agree with your comments. i am a cowon iaudio 7 user and while this player has great sound and battery life (60 hours), there is a bug with ogg playback that could be easily fixed by cowon that will probably never be fixed. also, the device records to wma,instead of mp3/wav, and there is an issue with playlists.

  26. blackworx

    Icons etc.

    The icons aren't Apple knock-offs. Cowon have been making touchscreen players using those icons since long before Apple even sat up and realised the clickwheel was getting a bit old hat.

    And some of the comments here - FFS guys get over yourselves. Just because you've never heard of Cowon doesn't mean they're some shitty little Johnny come lately. My Cowon D2 has outlasted 2 iPods and still kicks the crap out of them sound-wise.

  27. Gildas
    Thumb Up

    @ Stuart etc

    In defence of the Cowon A3 I have had one for over a year and it has been faultless apart from the the occasional crash when ff/rwd-ing through a large video files (700mb +) - a simple turn off/on fixes that. As for taking 3 days to charge via USB, that is just cock, it takes about 6 hours - and anyway, Cowon supply a mains charger! Cowon also issue regular firmware updates for their players which is not quite the same as offering "no support". The A3 also has a screen that is in a different league from either the S9 or the iPod Touch.

    Of course it ain't perfect - the lack of playlists is a pain (btw, you can set up separate lists on the S9, but by Christ it ain't easy!) but I use mine mainly as a video player.

    If you want easy multiple play-lists (and gap-less playback) - buy a bloody iPod, that's what I did because Apple products have those two functions nailed down in a way MTP devices can only dream of. Of course no Apple product will play Flac or decent rez AVI files so you pays your money. The sound my A3 produces makes my 2G Nano sound like utter shite btw.

    Of course multiple play-lists and gap-less are not the be all and end all to every consumer - some folk like to listen to their albums in the order the artist intended and gaps only really make a mess of operas, so I can see why Cowon didn't bother addressing either.

    What I would say about the S9 is wait until El Reg reviews the Cowon O2 before buying, the screen is bigger and it has memory expansion.

  28. Greg

    @Stuart Halliday

    Are you kidding? I've updated the firmware on my iAudio device at least a dozen times with new releases. That said, they never did build in gapless support. Check out, see if they can help.

  29. Rog69

    Not bad.

    Sounds good apart from the lack of gapless playback and what is the point of an 8GB model, with storage being pretty cheap these days when you look at card / flash drive prices. Nice to see support for flac though.

  30. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    screen, support and competition

    "The Cowon S9's screen genuinely advances the science of PMP screens" - iRiver Clix does not count as PMP, I suppose. It also employs active AMOLED and I assure the quality beats iTouch (and anything with LCD screen). And yes, image quality does not suffer from angle view, good to see it going mainstream.

    Some iRiver devices, including Clix, also support Audible DRM (like all Apple players) which is nice; they also have firmware updates from time to time.

    I must however agree that even pretty good PMP is not a replacement, not even competition, for a tiny computer with WiFi and quite a lot of programs to choose from.

  31. josh morris

    The USB port isnt proprietary

    while on the abi forums, a user had contacted cowon directly about the cable because it was initially believed to be a micro B USB cable that is becoming popular in america.

    However they responded back shortly after stating it was a common cable becoming standard in Korea, a 20 pin recharging data cable or something along those lines.

    Its a fairly common cheap cable its just not a standard for america yet. It is part of an attempt to get cellphones and pdas and other devices of the such in korea to use the same ports so that there are less proprietary cables in use.

    You can find them if you look for about 5-10$

  32. Alexis Vallance

    Looks nice

    Looks nice. But why buy a Honda Legend when you could get a BMW 5 series for a little bit more?

  33. Pete "oranges" B.
    Thumb Down

    Don't get it

    "The crucial difference is that the Touch is part of a large and growing infrastructure that extends its usefulness in ways the Cowon could never do. WiFi (how did Cowon leave that out? Like the BB Storm...), email, web browsing, the App Store (including turning your Touch into a remote media controller), games, calendar, contacts, etc., etc., etc."

    Funny, I remember doing all that with my Dell Axim back in '04. And I could even take the battery out of it.

    I don't get the whole fanbase thing. What, because Apple says PDA functions are now "cool" suddenly they're a must have on all PMPs? If you want a PDA, why not just buy a real one instead of Apple's crappy iMitation? An iPaq 111 is 299USD + the cost of your favorite size SDHC card. Not that bad compared to the Touch, particularly when you consider all the freeware programs for WM (MiniMo, PuTTY, KoboDL, etc.), the storage expansion, the better format support, the faster processor, and the replaceable battery.

  34. Trix
    Thumb Up


    I'll be getting one. My D2 is getting a tad tired, so yay for upgrade time. Only drawback is no SDHC slot, so I'll wait for the 32GB.

    If I wanted wifi and email on a device, I'd get a PDA or a smartphone. This is a music player, not a communications device. If you're into device convergence, great, get the iPhone or a Sony Ericsson Walkman jobbie.

    While I've had my niggles with Cowon firmware as well - yes, OGG playback in order is somewhat annoying - at least they do regular firmware releases. I do hope the release firmware on this one is decent. I don't use playlists - I use folders - but you can create them using a PC media manager when the device is in MTP mode.

    The comparison with Honda Legends and BMWs is just ridiculous. The Cowon devices are capable of so much more than iPods, and have much better sound. Now they've solved the "sexiness" quotient, I think we do have an iPod-beater on our hands.

    Final note, the device works great with all the major OSes. I use Linux mainly at home; it's all good with Amarok and the usual media players.

  35. David Shepherd


    > we were left wondering why Apple alone seem to understand the value of gapless playback

    well originally Apple didn't understand gapless but Sony *did*. The original ATRAC "network walkmans" (like my HD3) certainly did but original iPod's didn't - that's one of the reasons why I discarded iPod as an option.

    Sadly, in the new "MP3" incarnations Sony appear to have dropped gapless + ATRAC is no more. So when/if I come to replace the HD3 looks like Sony may be much less attractive and iTouch is a option again (after all,. as I'm going to have to rerip all my CDs then there's no benefit of sticking with Sony)

  36. Dick Emery
    Thumb Down

    No gapless = insta-fail

    The lack of gapless is a deal breaker for someone who listens to dj mix compilations a lot.

    Also lack of Wi-Fi. If you are aiming at iPod's you need to aim a LOT higher.

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