Saturday, April 21st 2007

My New Toy: the Cowon/iAudio D2

(This little review ended up so long I decided to add some rather un-bloggish section headers.)

Rating

Without further ado: 9.5 out of 10.

Intro

On Thursday the 19th I finally got my first ever DAP. The Cowon D2 (4 GB). I thought I was going to get it on Monday, but it was delayed three days in the post. That’s the Swedish postal service for you.

Cowon iAudio D2 box

Cowon iAudio D2, display switched off

Strictly speaking though, this is a PMP, not a DAP, since it plays videos as well as audio.

Previously, Cowon have branded their DAPs as iAudio this or that, but for some reason they’ve dropped the iAudio name from their newer players. (The A3, D2 and Q5.) If they are trying to reduce consumer confusion by removing the semi-brand iAudio name, they aren’t doing to well. The current situation is much more confusing. Google says the D2 is referred to as the iAudio D2 in one out of three times.

Pros & Cons

My main reasons for getting the D2:

Then there are a few other useful features that might come in handy:

Then a few gripes:

More thoughts

Overall, the D2 feels very well built and sturdy. You can hear how nice it feels (yes, you can hear it!) roughly one minute into this pretty good video review when the reviewer pushes it around on a table surface. As usual, though, on these kinds of things, the USB/charger connections are covered by a plastic lid which doesn’t feel… umm… indestructible. I guess the player would work fine even if that lid were to break off.

Since I live about 320 kilometres from my family and girlfriend, I spend quite a few hours on the train every month. That’s where I’ll be using the video capability of this thing. I’ll simply load it up with a few episodes of whatever I happen to be watching, or possibly a film that I’ve recorded from TV recently, and watch on the go. That should reduce the boringness of travelling. I’ll just have to try to not laugh too loudly while watching Seinfeld. 🙂

I will use my D2 with my Koss PortaPro headphones, which are very light and travel friendly while sounding great.

One great aspect of all Cowon/iAudio players is that you can adjust the sound in about a million ways, using a real equalizer, bass booster and various effects. For those of you who have a Cowon player, here are my settings:

Yes, I like my bass nice and rich 🙂

Album art is another of the D2’s nice touches. For each music folder you can simply add a picture of the album cover, call it cover.jpg and it will be displayed when playing any of the songs in the folder. See the photo below.

Cowon iAudio D2 showing album art

The easiest way to get your D2 set up with album art is to simply do Google image searches for each album and save decent-looking images in the corresponding folders. It takes a while, but it’s well worth it if you ask me. (And hey, you’re reading my blog.) The pictures should be at least 92 by 92 pixels. If they’re bigger, they will be automatically downsized by the D2.

I also like the fact that Cowon are constantly improving the firmware for their players. It makes you feel that they care for you even after they’ve got your money, which is the kind of thing that makes you want to come back to a brand in the future. Right now it’s been a few weeks since they released 2.41, so there should be a new version out soon. 🙂

When I got my D2, it had the 2.21 firmware installed, so I went through the rather tedious upgrade process to get version 2.41. About halfway through the installation I couldn’t get it to switch on, so I panicked for a little while, thinking I had lost it for ever. However, after a few more tries it started and I could finish the installation. That’s pretty much the only software glitch I’ve seen so far.

The bundled computer software, JetAudio, is surprisingly good considering it’s bundled. So far I’ve only really used it for converting videos to the right size, though. What I liked was the surprising number of options for getting the video conversion just right. For instance, it’s possible to select just part of a video file for downsizing.

Finally, if you end up a Cowon (or iAudio?) owner, you should know about the iAudiophile.net forums. There you’ll find answers to pretty much anything you could want to know about the Cowon DAPs and PMPs.

No Responses to this post:

  1. jer says:

    I had an iAudio X5 for a while and really liked it. I thought the firmware was pretty crappy, though, so I ended up installing RockBox on it, and then it became a MUCH nicer player.The problem I ended up running into on it was the little joystick-style control scheme that actually stuck out from the player. It eventually startd having difficulty manuevering through the menus due to the joystick wearing out.About that time they got Rockbox working on the ipod video, so I shelled out for a refurb one of those. (My main complaints against the ipod involveed having ot use iTunes, not being able to play any formats that I want to, etc. Rockbox solves all of these issues)The control-scheme is much niver on the ipod, but the sound quality is nowhere near as nice as it was on the iAudio. That’s the one thing I really miss.

  2. David Naylor says:

    Yeah, I’ve heard about the X5 joystick problems before. Hopefully the touch screen of my D2 will last longer than that. If it doesn’t I’m doomed 🙂

  3. Judge says:

    Instead of using google image search to get album art, which is probably a very very veeryy tedious task, I’d suggest an album art download program like Album Art Aggregator. A lot easier and user-friendly. Cheers, good review btw.

  4. David Naylor says:

    Ah, thanks for the tip! If only I had known yesterday afternoon 😛

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad to see you liked it.My iRiver h10 5gb just died 2 weeks ago. I’m now in the progress of finding my new player, and the D2 is one of my options.It has great battery life, supports many formats – but I don’t like the need for double clicking.Another player I put my eyes on is iRiver’s new Clix2 8gb of flash based memory (or they’re X10). Looking g-o-o-d-!ogirtd

  6. David Naylor says:

    Yeah, the double clicking seemed awkward to me too before I got it. But when you’ve used it a bit you get into the swing of it and it all comes naturally. Obviously, it still takes a fraction of a second longer than single clicking would.

  7. Kristofer says:

    Glad you liked it! I was a bit nervous after recommending it to you. But hey! It’s a great player! The Koss Porta Pro – Headphones are good but the D2 carries even more hi-end potential. There is so much more sound quality in that player. A par of Sennheiser HD 25 perhaps? 😉