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Cowon iAudio U5 MP3 / Media Player Review

I’m liking this replacement to my piece of junk sony CD player (which initially sounded awesome) that started grinding and die IMMEDIATELY after it’s warranty expired. Guess where that went.

I just finished ARGUING with creative labs to take their non WAVE playing overstock zen stones ADVERTISED to play WAVs back. I’ll have to review those too.

I got the U5 so that I’d have not only an HQ portable device for uncompressed CD tracks, but a nice source better for bike stereo systems than a CD player on bungee anyways.

8gb is enough to hold about a dozen 80 minute CDs worth of music. That’s plenty for me.

The U5 needs a little break in time or maybe adjustment time. it really sounded shrill and bright at first. that might be because I’m used to sources with rolled off treble.

The U5 has plenty of low level resolution in the treble, but not of dry variety like class D recievers. well, it does get dry if pushed over 35. If anything, it might lean a little towards forgiveness, but not much. It can clearly reveal digital sheen on early 80s recordings or how bad a tracks mp3 compression is with ease.

At volume 30, it has a nice warm sound, when pushed to 40, it gets a little thinner sounding with too much treble. There’s a 5 band EQ that could fix that, but who uses EQs or pushes their amps too hard? oh… right… most people. LOL

Actually, the first thing you should do when you get the unit is turn all of the default effects off (BBE enhancement, mp3 enhancement, bass boost & eq) if you intend to do any hifi listening.

With all of the “distortion” (enhancement) devices out of the way, the U5 likes to pop a nice warm bass (actually I’ve boosted it to +2 or +3) and a non fatiguing treble that likes to get rowdy with cowbells and woodblocks and reveal the subtle textures in white noise so that shakers sounds like shakers etc.

Loading the U5 is slow. the full 8gb would probably take a couple hours easy. that’s how fast it’s supposed to charge too. reviews say it has a 9 hour battery life which is fine for a day’s use.

The reason i bought it was for HQ and to give the brand a try after a PREVIOUS bogus creative labs MUVO player ALLEGED to work with windows 98, but didn’t a couple years previous.

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I’m listening to dub on mine right now and am not really even aware it’s there.

Now i won’t be stressed when i step up to their 32gb widescreen or maybe their next generation units down the road.

The sound quality after breaking this in all day is great on my new Sennheiser HD 202‘s also recently broken in.

Seeing i’m doing a review here… I should give the stock earbuds a quick try though I imagine they’ll be brittle sounding right out of the bag. as you might surmise… I’m not a fan of ear canal torture devices.

The buds LOOK nice at least. they’re black with tasteful faux aluminum trim. I like the similar low key look of the U5 itself… very businesslike. learning to navigate a player is a new skill, but this one was a piece of cake EXCEPT for having to learn that the trick to getting to your folders list is to hit the BACK button when looking at a playlist. I kept thinking UP (a level).

Well… now I see why the bass was intially boosted so high. these sound about as deep as the sony around the ear buds that came with the CD player. without an A/B test, I’m thinking the Cowon’s buds are more transparent, but that might be the player too. I’m hearing much HF texture on a familiar song.

I paid $85 for the player with free delivery and am quite happy. no file incompatability with MY ENTIRE MUSIC COLLECTION (the creative phone guy that kept arguing with me about returning the non WAV zen stones had the gall to ask me “why would you even want to listen to WAVs and not mp3s?”)

I will admit that the stones DO sound nice with mp3s, but that’s not what I bought them for.

Oh man… back to the Sennheisers… oh… this is headphone bliss!

Next step might be to get a mid-fi open air set of headphones for a few more Nths of sound but the U5/HD 202 combo is nice. the fat, but undistorted bass is the real treat. those poor poor mp3ers just don’t know what they’re missing.

If you match the U5 with a good pair of efficient cans (an external headphone amp even?) and don’t push it’s amp to max, it’s a great “portable CD changer”

Oh… it doesn’t mangle mp3s either.

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