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Cowon iAudio 5 MP3 Player Review

Introduction:

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Cowon iAudio 5

Cowon iAudio 5

The field of flash-memory based MP3 players is very crowded these days. Major brand names like Apple, Creative and Rio all have players in the 1GB and under market. What’s a less known company like Cowon America to do so they can get their players noticed? One of their latest, the iAudio 5, takes a swipe at this dilemma with a great depth of features, support for lesser known music file formats and high quality sound. Is it enough though to be heard amongst the crowd?

How It Looks:

Cowon’s iAudio 5 (the black 1GB model was tested and several other memory/color configurations are available as well) fits nicely in the palm of your hand, measuring 3.02” x 1.37” x 0.7”. It is extremely light, coming in at just over an ounce with the AAA battery inserted. The overall feel of the stylish, rectangular design is solid, generating the feeling that the iAudio 5 could take a short fall and come out with no problems.

From the top down, the iAudio 5 is loaded with external controls to help make the most of using it. On the top are two mini jack holes, one for headphones and the other for in-line recordings. Also positioned here is a small slot, presumably for inserting the included neck strap so that you can wear the player like a pendant. Taking center stage on the front is the four line graphic LCD. While it presents a great viewing space for all of the necessary information, it can also smudge very easily so it is a good idea to keep it in the provided clear protective case.

On the left side is a multi-function menu/volume control push dial, which is matched on the right by an identical one which handles play/fast forward/rewind/power. While these dials give a cute ear look to the iAudio 5, they could be potentially bumped as you hold the player or while it jostles around during your workout.

Other controls on the right side include a mode button for switching between different functions like MP3 player and FM radio, a record button and a hold switch to lock the iAudio player so your favorite tune doesn’t get disturbed while you do your thing (see previous paragraph for comments on dual push dials).

Finally, on the bottom are small compartments which hold your battery and allow you to plug a USB cable into the player.

How Well It Functions:

Audio:

For such a small player, the iAudio 5 packs enough features to make it virtually feel several pounds heavier. In the basics department, music file formats of the MP3, WMA and OCG types are supported. The last one is an added treat – OCG is a lesser known format, but one well regarded for its superior audio quality.

Besides acting as a digital audio player, Cowon’s iAudio 5 also offers up a FM radio for your entertainment. 24 presets are available to lock in your favorite stations and you can also record your favorite radio broadcasts as either MP3 or WAV files.

The iAudio 5’s two other main functions have to do with recording. A voice recording option is built in, as is the ability to directly record audio files from a third party source (i.e. CD player) via a cable which you connect between the two devices.

As far as sound quality went with these four functions, results were generally on the up side. Playback of MP3s, transferred to the player through a fairly speedy USB 2.0 connection (153MB of music in just over two minutes), was clean and well sounding. Cowon has added some great sound enhancement features as well, such as surround sound, bass boost and a well stocked list of preset equalizer choices, which further provide for a pleasurable listening experience.

FM playback was crisp and clear. Voice recording was good as well. Line in recording, on the other hand, was not as clean. The MP3 which was recorded was a little flat, lacking the same depth and quality heard during playback of music files transferred from a computer.

Controls:

Controlling these functions, and the additional features that supports them, comes down to the variety of on screen menus which are viewable through the iAudio 5’s LCD. And there are a lot of menus, believe me. It’s somewhat tricky at first to figure out how to navigate them all to find what you want, but the flip side is that the degree of customizable control is great.

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