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Where to begin? This is gonna be a long and detailed review so sit back and get ready.
Its not often you can say this about any productsí box but I just have to. The box for the MP3 Player is just downright cool. You could carry the box around with you and people would notice you for all the right reasons. Heck itís even got some kind of glazing on it. The box looks metal with the paint effect and tells you everything you need to know. Itís rigid and itís something I still havenít got the heart to chuck away. Itís got a little panel so you can view the main prize as well. Just check out the pics with this review to see what I mean. This is a box for freakiní sake. (Itís been opened by the way so itís not as great as upon arrival)
This is where the Cowon is worth the high money you spent on it. Iíve only ever purchased two very expensive things and thatís after about two years of deliberating, this is one of them. 1) You get a docking station. It too is finished with a metal look to suit the mp3 itself. Itís absolutely tiny, mind you itís only a stand right? Wrong! Itís got four ports on the back. One charger, one line out which comes supplied with a cable with a mini headphones connector on either end. You also get a line in of which you can use the same cable. Finally you can use the USB 2.0 interface to dock with your PC. AND IT DOES WORK WITH USB 1.0 (in my experience (DESPITE THIS NOT BEING SAID ON ANY PACKAGING, ADVERTISING OR WEBSITE! This docking station is far better than any of the ipod competition. Letís face it this system was designed to destroy the ipod and it does, very well. The ipod transmitter is actually illegal! 2) If you donít want to take the docking station with you, you can actually take along a mini dock version which just plugs into the bottom providing all of the features but it doesnít prop it up, it just provides an interface 3) Carrying case. Iíve never once in my life used a carrying case but Iím seriously considering starting to use the one supplied. I find all covers totally cover the product, like mobile phones for example, and itís such a shame that the designing has gone to waste. Look at this thing, would you want the design to go to waste? However, the case supplied is has a nice black finish to it. Also you can just slip the M3 into it rather than using Velcro rubbish, itís a tight fit so it wonít slip out. I think it uses elastic. Again check out the pics with this review to see what I mean 4) Screen protectors. How often have you wanted to protect your screen but the manufacturer canít be bothered to supply that tiny bit of sticky plastic? Well thankfully Cowon have and theyíve even given you a backup in case one comes off/gets dirty etc. Itís these little things that make
it so great 5) You even get spare plugs for the connector at the bottom of the unit. I will admit this was a bit annoying as Iíve never been a fan of these. What if I lose the rubber plug? Well doesnít matter anyway, Iím safe and even if I do lose it Iíve got a backup. Again itís the little things 6) The USB cable is about 1-1.5 metres in length and is nice and shiny. What more can I say? It does its job lol!
The inline remote control that was supplied with the unit is quite good actually. People have complained itís a bit plasticy. No itís not. Itís just not as heavy as the rest of the unit. A lot of time has gone into developing this ultra light remote; I wonít have it put down. The screen itself is very good and tells you everything from track name to the sampling rate this song was taken at! The only problem is that you have to turn it on its side to make full use of it, say if you wanted to browse your entire collection. For playing, pausing and next /previous track itís fine. You can navigate by touch not even needing to look at the remote. Iím a bit annoyed at how you have to use a combination of two dial switched to browse but you soon become accustomed to it and realise they couldnít have done it any other way if they wanted to maintain the quality of the remote. After 1 hour Iíve almost got used to it. Your friends will complain once you let them have a go at it but it doesnít matter, if you know how to use it thatís all that matters. Other features are hold, menu and volume up and down and option A and B. *Phew* Iím starting to think this is gonna be hard telling you all of the features! If you hold down menu you can access the menu. This includes *Jet Effect Equaliser, Mach3Bass, MP Enhance, 3D surround and Pan. All are great and improve the sound immensely. Please bare with me, to go through each meticulously Iíd have to write a novel simply because they are so perfect and think of everything. *PlayMode. This includes Boundary, Repeat and Shuffle. Even after consulting the menu Iím still not sure what Boundary is but Iím sure Iím just a minority *Display. Playtime (As in how youíd like it displayed). Scroll Speed, Scroll Type, Song Title (Filename or ID3 tag), Backlight time, Contrast and language. *General, Skip length, Scan speed, Resume, Auto play and Fade-In. *Recording. From here you can change the bit rate of when you record from the FM radio, Microphone or line in. It ranges from about 64 to 320 kbps. Also you can change the volume of the input *FM Radio. Change the option to match the area of the world youíre in to match the radio and also change from stereo to mono *Information. This tells you the current amount of files, directories, space free/used.
Seriously check out the manual if you want a total in depth look at each feature. There is only so much time in a day to go through each of them and for that Iím very sorry
From the remote you can access the FM radio, Microphone recorder (which is inbuilt into the main unit) and the Line in Recorder. All are far too easy to use after one look at the manual and suffice to say theyíre just great. Simple. They do their job very well. Oh and finally the controller has a digital headphone interface, the headphones have a normal mini headphone jack
The headphones plug into the control so unfortunately you have an extra wire built in. Mind you it means you can upgrade in the future. The quality of the headphones, I find, are amazing and easily surpass my home cinema system speakers. To be fair theyíre a bit old but still!
The main unit is so sleek itís a shame you can just walk around with it on your head to show off rather than shove it in your pocket. I personally have always loved the modern and minimalistic approach to the design of new products. This is why I love this so much. Most companies may be tempted to stick the buttons on the side or at the top in a boring way. The three main buttons (Play/Pause FF and RW) are towards the top right corner of the unit and for some reason make it looks even more expensive. They too are metal and have a very responsive feeling, not tacky and made of plastic. The play button also acts as the on/off switch if held down for about 2 seconds which is great. Just above the buttons in the centre of the unit and kind of on the edge and on the front are the status lights. There are three hidden inside a partially see through shell. This means when theyíre off it still looks cool. Check out the pics, I realise I havenít explained this too well sorry! On the right hand side of the unit along the edge are the volume button, hold button, inbuilt mic and the A-B button. This button is multi use starting recordings, setting points for repeat etc. All buttons are also metal and do not fail to impress. Right at the button is a pinhole from which you can reset the entire unit; I guess this is useful if a firmware upgrade goes wrong Finally on the left edge is the digital mic input. Oh and right at the bottom of the unit is the dock connection. The only problem with the unit that I can see is that it contains no screen and that you can only access all of the features (such as radio) from the control. I donít think this is too much of a concern as for most of its life itíll be stuff in your pocket. Also what if there were all of the functions and a screen? It would be massive and ugly and there would be nothing special about it. Itíd be no different to most of the clunky 20 GB hard drive players.
Pictures of Cowon iAudio M3
Main Unit in Action
The radio is actually surprisingly good. I was expecting this just to be stuck on at the end of the unit just to make it different from other mp3 players. However, Cowon donít do things that way. Itís got a good reception and you can easily scan through all of the frequencies by using the FF or RW buttons. Thereís even an on screen bar to tell you how far across the frequency range youíve gone. There are 20 storable radio frequencies. The only problem comes when you canít name the saved stations which was a massive disappointment. So instead of going to Radio 1 you have to search your list for 98.2. WARNING! ITíS ONLY FM! Whatís more you can even record directly from the radio with one press of the A-B button 2) Line in Recorder. This does its job excellently. Itíll display a bar and tell you how long you have been recording for, if the bar reaches the end itíll simply change scale! Not sure of any use of this but shows the companies put a great deal into this. The input gets saved into a RECORD folder and it automatically named with the syntax of ENC*** where *** denotes a 3 digit number 3) Microphone. The same as above except the recording gets saved into a VOICE folder
*****MANUAL***** The Manual comes in many different languages. Iíve got to say I found it quite confusing until I decided to actually sit down and read it. Once I did this it tells me all I need to know, it even gives me annotated pictures along with a diagram on which button to press. The trouble-shooter is good too. Whatís more I found out it comes equipped with a TWO YEAR WARRANTY! Here's a link to the manual.
If youíre still wondering about some aspects check out the pictures and also check out the Cowon site. They have a great flash tour of the unit showing you all angles. Please leave comments on this review and feel free to post questions on the Guestbook. Whatever you do donít buy an ipod over this, Iím glad I didnít
*****NOTES AFTER ONE MONTH USAGE***** 1)The sticky protective coverings that come supplied are like 1mm too small in terms of width to cover the entire screen
2)When you plug the unit into its cradle and connect it to the PC and switch on Windows XP it takes a long time to load. I'm not quite sure why this is
3)When switching the unit on you can see a moving loader icon, there to entertain you for the few seconds the unit spends loading. You can download free ones and make your own off of the iAudio website.
4)After instlaling the latest firmware, you can now... 1) read .txt files on the unit. 2)Have an auto-sync feature when using the line in to record things of cd's 3)Have a feature whereby when you record through the mic the unit will switch off until it hears a voice, conserving battery life 4)Viewing of lyrics 5)Many other things Where to buy
It costs about £240 from amazon/ Not many places sell it but just click the link below and click on the advert to go directly through to the amazon item link