Backstage: Cowon iAudio X5 - cheap, pocketable video, with tradeoffs | iLounge Backstage


Backstage: Cowon iAudio X5 - cheap, pocketable video, with tradeoffs

To get straight to the point, there were three reasons I wanted to check out Cowon’s iAudio X5 “color sound” portable meda device: first, I wanted to see how well a device the physical size of an iPod could handle video; second, I was intensely curious about its audio capabilities, which some people have recently been touting as iPod-rivalling; and third, I wondered whether the recent surge in hype for a relatively unknown Korean company was the work of genuinely enthuisastic fans, viral marketers, or both.

Now that I’ve played with the X5 for myself, I have a better idea of the answers to those questions. Click on Read More for the story and our thoughts on this interesting evolution of the pocket digital music player.

Even in our prior incarnation as iPodlounge, we developed a pretty good reputation for calling things like we saw them - unlike Apple, for instance, we’ve never maintained that every Apple-branded product deserved a perfect five-star rating, and we’ve run a few articles imploring Apple to add various features to its iPods. Why? It’s not that we’re perfectionists or so techno-gaga that we need to have more in our music players, but we’re realists: there are some great things that iPods could do, but don’t.

Apple’s choice to go minimalistic was intentional, brilliant, and dangerous. When Apple started to sell iPods, Creative Labs was selling Nomad Jukeboxes - Discman- and Walkman-sized MP3 players, some with great audio customization features taken from Creative’s sound cards. The iPod was smaller, more expensive, and in the name of ease of use didn’t bog users down with features Apple assumed people didn’t care much about - like audio customization. Spec-for-spec, the Nomads had a lot to recommend them, but iPods were simple, pocketable, and cool. Apple blew past Creative and never looked back. But because Creative and its rivals can’t copy some of Apple’s patented iPod look and feel, they have continued to try and compete on features.

The Hardware

Cowon’s iAudio X5 is the handheld audio/video player Creative might have made if it hadn’t developed the oversized, $500 Zen Portable Media Center, which didn’t do so well after its holiday 2004 release and has now faded into obscurity. As noted in our earlier preview, the cheapest version of X5 is about the size, color and weight of a U2 iPod, can be had for a mass market-friendly $299, plays music, movies, and photos, and runs for around 14 hours before requiring a recharge. These are all good things, and Cowon sweetens the pot by offering 10 extra GB of space and 20 extra hours of internal battery life at small additional premiums.

Instead of a scrolling pad or wheel, X5 uses a five-position joystick that alternates between iPod shuffle features (volume and track selection)and menu navigation, depending on context, plus a series of three controls on its right side: a dual-purpose hold and power switch, a Record button, and a Play/Pause button. A hard reset is performed with a pinhole on the bottom right side; headphones are plugged in on the left, both choices a bit different but not objectionable. Once you’ve pressed play, using the X5 isn’t too much of a struggle, but turning it on and initially choosing tracks is a bit of a pain, thanks to those controls and this menu system.

Yeah, that’s a stripped down DOS-style file and folder system, which you navigate with the joystick. It’s the first thing you see when you want to hunt for a song or movie - not too cool, and it will scare grandma away, but computer science majors will feel right at home.

Cowon also includes a bunch of other items in the box. You get a set of decent (if Frankenstein-ish) black and silver earphones, X5-to-audio and -USB data cables, and a female USB to male mini USB adapter in the box. We’ll explain the relevance of that in a moment.

Like the iPod, X5 has a proprietary connector on its bottom, but unlike the iPod requires you to connect two included pieces - a “subpack” with USB, line in, out, and power ports, plus a wall charger - if you want to keep it running. The subpack turns out to be a pretty interesting idea, acting as a single go-between peripheral between the X5 and any standard cables you might want to connect.  Cowon also includes a black rubber connector cover so that you can keep the pins safe - an omission from post-3G iPods - and PC software called JetAudio and JetShell.


We’ll spare only a few words on the software. Misnamed in the same way as iTunes, JetAudio handles conversion of audio and video files (not photos) to X5-readable formats - which incidentally outstrip in number the ones supported by the iPod - while JetShell is a not-so-useful file transfer application that basically duplicates the features of the Windows desktop. Suffice to say that both programs work, but they won’t blow you away or rival iTunes in ease of use any time soon. It would be great if we could say that neither program was necessary, but JetAudio is essential if you want to use the X5 to watch movies.

Performance of Key Features: Audio

The X5’s greatest strength is its audio performance, which we’ll simply describe as nearly perfect. Aside from the device’s support for MP3, WMA, and Ogg Vorbis audio formats, the latter preferred by a noisy group of audio fans, the device allows for a great deal of sound customization without changing headphones or using separate knobs on external amplifiers and speaker systems. Buried within a “JetEffect” menu are a collection of audio settings, most notably a five-band graphic equalizer with presets and easy-to-use custom settings. You can tune the five bands independently by selecting any one and moving it up and down, increasing the bass, treble, and midrange of your music.

There are also settings such as “BBE,” a treble enhancer turned up to 5 of 10 by default, a separate “Mach3Bass” enhancer which is turned up to its maximum 10 setting by default, giving many the false impression that the X5 “sounds better” than the iPod, an artificial 3D surround sound spacializer, a feature called “MP Enhance” to compensate for compression in digital audio files, and “pan,” the ability to rebalance the weights of your left and right audio channels. Separately, it offers “fade-in,” which isn’t the long-desired crossfade, but close enough.

We say “false impression” for only one reason: those demanding accuracy from their audio will be thrilled with the iPod’s flat, accurate reproduction of recorded sounds, but between the default Mach3Bass and five-band equalizer, X5 wants you to know quickly that it caters very well to the many people who love and place emphasis on a unit’s bass response. It’s a smart exploitation of Apple’s choice not to radically improve the bass enhancement of its weak preset equalizers, and one that could be marketed well to X5’s advantage.

The X5 is a superstar on recording functionality. As noted in the preview, it records from its built-in (and good) FM radio tuner or line-in from any other audio device at up to 320kbps, 44.1Khz, and records voices through a built-in (right-hand) mic at up to 128kbps. These features shame the iPod’s weak 8Khz recording, intentionally crippled by Apple as a means to appease the recording industry.

At the start of this section, we used the words “nearly perfect” for a reason: equalizers and recording functionality aren’t exactly novel to the X5 - for instance, even early high-capacity MP3 players such as iRiver’s SlimX and Creative’s original Zen Nomad offered better-than-iPod equalization. In fact, the Zen also included time scaling features we continue to love even today. The X5 does a great job of letting you tweak the sound of your audio, but it’s not comprehensive in that regard - it’s just really good.

But - and this is the part of the review that’s as tough to write as it is to acknowledge mentally - it’s almost as if none of these really great audio features even matters at this point without the iPod’s music organization interface and controls. The iPod’s strength is that you can use one hand to find any random song from a catalog of 15,000 in a matter of seconds, start playing it, and smoothly move to other tracks. You just can’t do that with X5 unless you’re exceedingly dextrous and well-organized using the old-fashioned file system.


The single most intriguing feature of the X5 is the one that may inspire debates between fans and cautious observers - AVI movie playback. For specific applications, such as playback of televised cartoons, the X5 is adequate, not fantastic. But for watching full-length movies, television shows, and other live-action programming, the X5 falls short of consumer expectations, and has no prayer of competing with Apple’s future portable video hardware.

In the era before Sony released the PlayStation, Sega struggled to push its first-generation Sega CD accessory to play back videos with an acceptable frame rate, color palette, and screen size. The 16-bit hardware never proved truly up to the task, and another generation or two passed before movies became popular on game consoles.

The X5 is the Sega CD of portable video players. Its screen is actually smaller than the iPod’s, and plays movies back at a resolution of 160x120 or lower, stripping off pixels on the top and bottom for widescreen viewing. Still, its video shows all of the telltale signs of compression, with flattened colors, a low (15fps) frame rate, and the occasional audio-to-video synchronization glitch. This is fine for episodes of South Park, which we tested and enjoyed on X5, but we weren’t as impressed with live-action programs. Even if some people are willing to tolerate it for cartoons or light viewing, it’s just not where it needs to be visually to win over average users.

A second and equally significant problem is its transcoding requirement. The initial appeal of its “AVI” support is mitigated by the fact that AVI is only a wrapper for other video formats, and despite the fact that you think you might already have some compatible files, you probably don’t. So you’ll need to convert everything you own, a file at a time.

Though we’re sure that there’s some exception to this general rule, we found that the X5 was unable to natively play any file we dropped on to it without conversion. This included movies made by digital cameras and ones encoded with various tools in various “AVI” formats. Mac and Linux users don’t have a simple solution to this problem, but PC owners can turn on JetAudio and start encoding in the 256kbps xVid video, MP3 audio format required by X5. (We found JetAudio to be generally quite good at transcoding from various formats into the xVid format.) Our test 2.4Ghz machine generally ran at an acceptable 4 to 6 times the actual speed of movies and TV shows we tried to encode, such that a 1 hour, 44 minute movie took 25 minutes to encode, while a 22 minute clip took 4 minutes. Users of different PCs will see substantial variations.

The solution to the transcoding problem? Get a device that plays back any video without transcoding, or one that supports playback of clips in the dominant format you own. This isn’t anywhere near as easy in the movie world as it was in the MP3-dominated music world, and bodes just as poorly for Apple as Cowon unless future iPods can natively play back MPEG-1, -2, and -4/DiVX format films, or quickly rip DVDs into Apple’s preferred H.264 format. As far as we’re concerned, any portable video player will be only a partial solution if it doesn’t provide some support for popular legacy formats, just as the iPod would have failed spectacularly as an AAC-only device.

As a minor gripe, the X5’s lack of an external speaker turns out to be more relevant than we had expected when watching videos. There are times when you just don’t want to wear earphones when listening to a movie, and the X5 doesn’t cater to that desire at all. The fact that its headphone jack is found on the left side almost guarantees that no top-mounting speaker accessory will solve that problem, either.


The X5 is a mixed bag as far as photos are concerned. It can transfer, store, and display JPEG-format digital photographs without any computer assistance or optional peripherals, and includes an adapter for other devices’ USB cables. (You can use this adapter with the unit’s bottom port, or connect it to the X5’s left-side USB Host port, another interesting addition.) Playback is more sophisticated on a per-photo basis than the iPod; you can zoom in and out of photographs it displays on screen - very slowly, for large pictures - and turn any photograph it can read into wallpaper for its file-selection interface. It’s not super-impressive, but it’s better than the iPod in these regards.

But in our testing, it did have some other, equally annoying problems. It was uneven, for instance, when displaying photographs: half of the JPEGs we tested worked, half did not. Its thumbnail view - only nine images per screen - was slow, didn’t display some pictures correctly, and of course had none of the slideshow features included on all color iPods. And its pictures folder inexplicably disappears in its standard “Digital AV” listing of folders, requiring you to go to a separate menu to access the shots, even though movies and music are accessed separately.

Overall, the X5’s photo tradeoffs weren’t smarter than the iPod’s; in fact, for many people, they’ll be more annoying. Apple makes you buy a Camera Connector or use iTunes to transfer your photos from a camera, but once you do, they all display properly. There’s no software or hardware that guarantees the X5 will do that, so you’ll need to find ways to resize oddly formatted or otherwise incompatible pictures yourself.


Cowon’s iAudio X5 is at once an evolution and a devolution of the current color iPod, adding audio and video features that specific niches of users will like, but encumbering them with hardware and interface limitations that Apple fans would never accept. Other than its sound enhancement functionality, which will particularly please bassheads, it’s not that tempting - the sort of portable media player designed for people who want more audio functionality than what’s offered in today’s iPods, but aren’t willing to wait and see video, photo, and interface features done perfectly. That makes it a potentially attractive iPod alternative for new buyers, but not a viable replacement for current iPod owners.

That conclusion brings us to the last of the three questions I posed at the start of this review - is the iAudio’s recent surge in media attention the result of viral marketing, good traditional marketing, or just noisy word of mouth from a surprising number of strongly opinionated, unpaid fans? We twice put the viral question directly to Cowon’s public relations firm, which didn’t give us a definitive “no” or “yes” either time, but we can’t rule out the possibility that people legitimately feel passionate about the X5. When a company like Cowon beats Apple to satisfying the needs of people who have repeatedly asked for more control over their sound than the iPod offers, that company deserves its cheerleaders. We’ll be returning our X5, but we won’t be surprised when we hear that other people are keeping theirs.

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Comments were accidentally turned off for this article when it was posted - sorry; that’s been remedied.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 21, 2005 at 11:13 AM (CDT)


The iAudio X5 really does seem to be evidence of why Apple still holds its lead position.  It’s not just that iPod rivals try to compete on feature set: it’s that they’re often developed as though they were limited-function computers rather than enhanced music players.  In trying to generalize the interface enough to let it do anything, they end up doing nothing especially well.

Posted by Jonathan Fingas on July 21, 2005 at 12:09 PM (CDT)


I’m glad to see comments are now on. I am sure a lot of people wanted to voice a comment.  It is an interesting article, but supports my fear over the website name change. It seems the website is losing sight of its primary focus: iPods. 

Unless I missed something, iAudio is not iPod product or iPod related (something to be used with ipods).  Just because it has “i” in its name, and is similar size does not merit an iPod focused site to cover it (just my opinion of course).  It seems now you begining to cover non-iPod related products; losing your primary focus for what made this site originally so popular. 

Sure, this is just 1 non related product.  I thought to give you my worry before it became 2, 5, 10, 100+ products (as the English saying goes: a Journy begins with just 1 step).

Anyway, I just wanted to give my feedback.  I still love the site, articles, and especially the forums.—Jing. :)

Posted by Jing on July 21, 2005 at 4:19 PM (CDT)


i think the reason this article is on the site is because this product is meant to rival the ipod.  i’m not saying you’re a moron.  i’m just saying the reason they chose to review it was so we could compare it with current and prospective ipod models.  i don’t even think you’re an idiot or anything like that.  i’m just trying to say that there’s a reason that articles like these are on the site.  because it’s actually DIRECTLY RELATED to the future of the ipod.

Posted by eric on July 21, 2005 at 4:43 PM (CDT)


I bought the X5L (30+ hours of battery life)and love the device. It does a great job, but, like the article said, the X5L isn’t as easy to use. Of course my analog watch, which needs winding every single day, isn’t as easy to use as a Casio G-Shock, but it isn’t rocket scince either!!! :)

If you go to (I think) you will find that many folks there truly like the iAudio devices. Also, the iAudio mp3 players have been around longer than the iPods….and used the “i” before Apple Computer did. Just a bit of trivia there.

I am very curious to see how Apple handles the vPod (or whatever it is called) as they have the opportunity to improve on what is currently on the market.

Before anyone claims I am against Apple or the iPod, I say nay!!! The iPod is a fine machine, but I simply wanted a wider choice of file formats (OGG Vorbis), the better battery life, the drag and drop file syste (to and from the device - no DRM nonsense) and the USB OTG. It connects to my digital camera and PSP easily, which allows me to transfer files back and forth…neat!.

My only complaint with the X5L is the screen isn’t the best for video, you cannot view album art while music is playing (I am a throwback to the LP era), and the connector on the bottom doesn’t seem as sturdy as the iPod.

Oh, one really nice feature of the X5L is the solid aluminum case!!! I wish Apple would just drop the white/chrome nonsense and go with a solid aluminum case for their larger iPods. The alumiinum cases on the minis are very nice indeed.

Posted by Joe on July 21, 2005 at 6:11 PM (CDT)


this is actually a good review. It’s clearly written by something of a fanboy (wouldn’t it have to be?), but it seems to address the issues that actually need addressing. that said..

“DOS-style file and folder system”
No one who knows a thing about file organization can begin to claim that basic hierarchical file-and-folder organization is “DOS-style” any more than a car with a steering wheel is “Yugo-style”. Seriously, words fail me when I try to describe how incredibly stupid that reference was. If you don’t understand what I mean, you’ll have to take my word for it and stop making OS references until you learn the basics of the foundations of the basics.


“... you just can’t do that with X5 unless you’re exceedingly dextrous and well-organized using the old-fashioned file system.”
Again, hierarchical file systems are not “old-fashioned” any more than mice or keyboards are. That’s all I want to say there, but it’s an important point as far as I’m concerned.

“There are also settings such as “BBE,

Posted by SDA on July 22, 2005 at 11:44 AM (CDT)


“... you just can’t do that with X5 unless you’re exceedingly dextrous and well-organized using the old-fashioned file system.

Posted by enemes on July 22, 2005 at 12:03 PM (CDT)


Come on guys, the fact of the matter is that if you dont purchase songs from iTunes then the iAudio X5 is clearly the best value for the money.  It has loads of features and a great design.  Not to mention a durable metal shell (apple should take note). And much much more.  In my opinion the X5 is what the apple should be.

Posted by Bill323 on July 22, 2005 at 12:09 PM (CDT)


I own an iPod 4g and a x5. The x5 is clearly the better player.

It sounds so much better with my Sennheiser HD25-1s that this fact alone makes it superior for me.

I actually prefer the folder-based navigation of the device. Imagine, you can simply drag and drop your MP3s in windows explorer, that’s so convenient!

Built quality is also better than on the iPod, the x5 is not prone to scratches.

Lastly, I don’t think it’s fair to compare x5’s video features to *future* Apple products. They are good enough for my needs.

I’m going to sell my iPod.

Posted by Ben on July 22, 2005 at 2:04 PM (CDT)


” but turning it on and initially choosing tracks is a bit of a pain, thanks to those controls and this menu system.”

This part confuses me. The interface is perfectly fine. If you use the player for more than 30 minutes, it all becomes apparent and seamless.

” but they won’t blow you away or rival iTunes in ease of use any time soon.”

Uhhh, as far as I’m concerned, highlighting folders and dragging them into a window is kind of easy.

“Ogg Vorbis audio formats, the latter preferred by a noisy group of audio fans”

That shouldn’t be in there.

“We say “false impression

Posted by Kevin on July 22, 2005 at 4:13 PM (CDT)


Btw, why do you compare the x5 to the ipod mini in the first pic? Shouldn’t there be the 30Gig equivalent?

Posted by Ben on July 22, 2005 at 5:42 PM (CDT)


I have iAUDIO X5 30 Gb. I bought the player to listen to music and this player has the best signal to noise ratio (SNR) in the industry, and it supports FLAC format. When I connect it to my home theater, it performs! It is absolutely silent in between low transients ~ meaning no hiss or crackle while listening to the music. BTW, I turn off all the audio enhancements, unless I use my headphones.

Posted by Rohit Priyadarshi on July 22, 2005 at 8:13 PM (CDT)


Just a note on the comment about why iLounge is reviewing this product.  You’ll notice that the review falls under the “Backstage” portion of iLounge.  Backstage, as far as I know, is dedicated to other products and services that may be of interest to iLounge readers but isn’t necessarily closely related to the iPod.  Don’t worry, i doubt this site will be moving on to the Dell DJ any time soon ;-)

Posted by Brett on July 22, 2005 at 8:17 PM (CDT)


My PSP does a great job of filling in the gaps for games, video, etc.
It’s bigger than an iPod for sure, but it’s got excellent screen quality.
Converting the video takes some time, but it’s worth it.
Plus, there are great Mac apps for the purpose - better than the PC stuff!
WIth the upcoming PSP 2.0 firmware, we will also be able to play newer high-res video and surf the web!
Can’t beat it for $250.


Posted by SB on July 22, 2005 at 8:39 PM (CDT)


This seems to be as fair an article as I’ve seen from an iPod fan…

I have an iPod and X5L.  Here’s how I break it down:

Navigation: iPod. Hands Down
Sound Quality: Push

File Support: X5. Easy. supports many formats and soon to be added to PlayForSure list to support Yahoo, Napster.

Recording Abilities: X5. Easy. Supports scheduled FM recording, Line-in recording, voice recording. Does all very well.

FM Tuner: X5. Apple seems to have no interest in adding one.  For many this is not an issue…but for me, this is the reason I bring my X5 to work and leave the iPod at home.

Photos: Push. iPod has a larger screen, X5 has a few more options.  I’ve basically never used this feature on either player.

Video: X5. Article is fairly accurate.  I’ve got one master ‘funny web videos’ archive on my player…which look fine…but playing movies and tv shows isn’t great.  Cartoons are good.

Battery Life:  X5L - 35 hours.  Realistically expect 30.

So truly as I see it - iPod’s only clear cut advantage is navigation.  But of course navigation is key here…and for many, I think that might be enough for an iPod.  For those who want more features, X5 is a good device to look at.  Yahoo Music support is amazing of course…I’ve downloaded 3,000 songs for $5 this month.  Don’t try it at itunes.

Posted by Dave on July 23, 2005 at 12:41 AM (CDT)


Supprisingly good review for the x5 considering this is an ipod site.  However, it is funny that the reviewer says the video on this player has “no prayer” to compete with apples.  Does anyone know anything about Apples?  No.  And guess what?  You’ll have to convert videos to apples quicktime format.  Apple isnt exactly an open source type company.  So good luck hoping for native mpeg support, xvid, divx etc. . .

Otherwise, not a bad review.  Audio is better on x5. :)  You are right.

Posted by brant on July 24, 2005 at 11:32 AM (CDT)


I have 4G photo-ipod and x5l.  I am using grado rs-1 headphone to listen these player and X5 has much better audio quality than ipod. X5’s amplifier is able to drive rs-1 very well. If you are looking for sound quality , then you have to have x5 otherwise go for ipod because ipod is ipod . People just want to have ipod because it has become a fashion symbol .
Navigation and file system of X5 is that bad as described by reviewer. It took me 5 minutes to understand because I hate to read manual.
Only drawback I see with X5 is that it doesn’t have video-out.

Posted by Anil Kumar on July 25, 2005 at 12:20 AM (CDT)


Interesting review, though from an obviously pro-iPod perspective.

Because the direction that the iAudio x5 is going in ultimately doesn’t really interest me, the only comment I really can add is that however seamless the iPod’s navigation is (and I DO like my 4G’s ease-of-use A LOT, mind you), that particular trait is also a bit overblown. As cumbersome as my Nomad Zen and H140 were to use initially, once I got used to them any navigational idiosyncracies became invisible over time.  Fact is, I abandoned the Zen primarily because of its overall bulk and size, not because of any goofiness in its nav design. And as for the iRiver, well, that was given up because of its ultimate unreliability and outright failure when called upon to do its thing, apparently asked for one too many times. And both of them didn’t have anything close to iTunes supporting them.

I suspect that the navigational quirks of the x5 is very much the same as those of any of the iPod’s previous competitors, and that they would be just as easy to get used to as the Zen and H140 were before.  Yet I also suspect the ingrained culture (e.g., mass pop ‘brainwashing’, if you will) of the iPod will limit the success of the Cowon player as well, just as it has for Creative, Rio, iRiver, Samsung, Sony, and all the others previously.

However, I’ve also heard conversations from those associates who would easily qualify as slavish fashion mavens who feel the iPod is yesterday’s news, which was kind of surprising considering how well the players continue to sell. But clearly Apple’s success is as much about the trendiness and appearance of the iPod as it ever might have been about the actual PERFORMANCE of the player itself (all one has to do is look at the insane number of iPod cases available for proof); with that sort of market push it seems like the cards are indeed stacked against all the rest, including Cowon. But in popular culture, all it takes is one pop-marketing misstep by Apple, and they can easily be ‘so yesterday’, regardless of how good their latest device might actually be.

Posted by flatline response on July 25, 2005 at 4:29 AM (CDT)


Just from the comments here I started to belive that its not the iLounge…

I think that the need for an MP3 player is very personal so for some iPod might b it for others the iAudio.

You can continue and continue the talk about the trendiness of iPod.. so what? arent ppl here say stuff just as “iPod haters”... isnt any new player out there try to sell itself by the “iPod Killer” slogen?!

Anyway - for me (and I’m a very technical person (running linux at home just to get it spend my nights) i want my music to b simple and just play…

Posted by LinkTree on July 25, 2005 at 7:08 AM (CDT)


lol wtf r u on about with the ipods video playback? how typical of a ipod loser saying the ipod will have way better video playback which will proberly be a load of shit! as someone else said u will proberly have to convert the files and that means if you have a high quality avi movie and it is converted it and it be shit compared to the avi! and ppl stop going on about “this is an ipod site why r u revewing this?” i own a iriver on the iriver forum u can talk freely abou other players and most ppl love the x5

Posted by shaun on July 25, 2005 at 8:10 AM (CDT)


It is just important to mention that cowon is really active when it comes to listen to the community and implement new features to their players so they already announced that a firmware update will add the ipod like navigation trough your files, so we will have a much more interesting device to use, and last but not least this firmware will add DRM support ;)
i think it sums it all…..

Posted by Bobbylechat on July 25, 2005 at 4:51 PM (CDT)


“Apple’s choice to go minimalistic was intentional”

I’ll just assumed you learned this from your personal email correspondence with Steve Jocs.

“Cowon also includes a bunch of other items in the box. You get a set of decent (if Frankenstein-ish) black and silver earphones”

Damn those nerds at cowon for not going with the oh so fashionable white on white, I mean silver and black talk about fashion faux pas!

“X5-readable formats - which incidentally outstrip in number the ones supported by the iPod”

by “X5-readable” I assume you mean INDUSTRY STANDARD formats like ogg,wma,flac and mpg.


There are also settings such as “BBE,

Posted by ginnal on July 27, 2005 at 12:54 AM (CDT)



Posted by ginnal on July 27, 2005 at 12:57 AM (CDT)


Right. A few things about the above comment.

WMA and OGG audio formats are certainly not industry standard, just as AAC isn’t on the iPod. In fact, I’d be in a position to argue that the only “universally accepted” (read: not industry standard) audio format is the MP3. Aside from this complaint, I saw nothing of substance in your comment that refutes what was said in the article, and convinces me to take a closer look at the Cowon X5.

If you don’t agree with the reviewers view on bass enhancement, then reply with substance. Reading “WHAT!!! !!111 WHAT!!111!” certainly doesn’t change anybody’s mind, and in fact it just makes your comment look less credible. I don’t know what the point of your comment was, but I can tell you right now that it didn’t get me to check out the X5 because of it.

Posted by DarkJC on July 30, 2005 at 3:59 PM (CDT)


I like my 3G iPod, but I still use my old trusty IHP-140. Unless Apple or someone else ships a unit with a digital out, it will be my last portable player.

Posted by Andy on July 31, 2005 at 2:13 PM (CDT)


The bass rolloff with low-impedance headphones on the iPod is good enough reason for anybody to upgrade.  The iPod sounds thin, due to it’s less than par internal amplifier.  Only when it is paired with a somewhat good amplifier (something like the Pocket Amp V2, or a GoVibe) through the line out is it equal to the X5 in terms of sound quality.  But then the iPod setup would be about three times as thick as the X5, and a bugger to carry around.

Check out  I frankly don’t care for the other options; if you’re fine with using the iPod stock earbuds on your iPod, then by all means feel free to continue the ignorance.  But if you’re using something like the Shure E4Cs on the iPod’s headphone out, you don’t know what you’re missing.  There was a clear night and day difference with the E4Cs on the X5 than on the iPod - perfect synergy, you might say.

Posted by akwok on August 1, 2005 at 4:55 AM (CDT)


Has it been verified that this is DEFINATELY COMPATIBLE with the Yahoo Music Unlimited service?  If it is then I am ordering one tomorrow.  I can’t seem to find a clear cut answer on this from anyone yet.  Any information would be appreciated.


Posted by Eddie on August 4, 2005 at 11:17 PM (CDT)


One simple point on the video stuff.

Regardless of whether or not you think it’s fair to suggest that whatever Apple does will be better - which it most assuredly will be in that regard - the simple fact on this one is that average people who see 15fps video are not going to be satisfied. Sort of like the Sega CD and PlayStation references, there is a point at which technology is not ready enough for prime time to justify its sale to mainstream consumers. There will of course always be people - early adopters - who are willing to put up with 4fps video on their Pocket PCs because “OMG it’s video it’s video!”, just as there were people who actually posted articles months ago about getting color iPods to play back “video” by quickly scrolling through still images.

You’ll note that we were not among the people to highlight that particular idea, because it just underscored how pathetic the color iPod was at doing something it wasn’t designed to do. It probably didn’t appear on Apple’s own web site for the same reason. If you’re going to put a feature into any product - iPod, X5, or competitor - do it right or don’t advertise it as a feature. Outside of classic early adopters who are willing to put up with anything, a half-assed approach won’t win you many fans.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on August 5, 2005 at 1:40 AM (CDT)


First off, I think it is reasonable for iLounge to cover non-iPod audio players, as apart from the hard-core Apply fan-boys, most people are not just interested in iPods, but also the alternatives.

I own a 60GB iPod photo. It is the only Apple hardware I have ever owned, but I bought it for the capacity and the photo features, none of could be matched by the competition at the time of purchase.

I’m objective enough to see the weaknesses of the iPod: I’m not impressed by the industrial design that ensures that the iPod will be scratched by a week of standard use unless you protect it with third-party production gear, I do think the iPod (and iTunes) user interface is somewhat limiting (I can handle more than one button, Apple) and so on.

As I see it, only good can result from making sure to point out these shortcomings. People can choose the correct player for their needs, and Apple is motivated to solve problems with the current iPods. Pure fanboy-ism will not benefit iPods or Apple in the long run.

Posted by Karl H. Torvmark on September 6, 2005 at 3:19 PM (CDT)


haha, i have had an ipod for a while and i have to say it has nothing but sucked. Battery life sucks and goes down drasticly after about a month. They never really adress this with future releases. They continue to make it harder to do what you want with the ipod (like transfer music from one computer to another). And now that the ipod video is out it sucks. 2 hr. battery life when watching videos.
come on ipod. Its just a matter of time untill what happens to mac computers happens to ipods. People will realize they want something that works noth something that is cool.

Posted by steve on November 7, 2005 at 12:00 AM (CST)


I bought an X5 3 months ago, Im an audiophile, THe sound quality is good, However its a pain to use, Tec Support is a Joke, YOu get no response. I have used it twice since I have bought it, It wont turn on or take a charge, Have sent 3 emials to to JetAudio still no reponse, Im just going to buy a damn Ipod!!!!!!
JetAudio is a scam!!!!!!!

Posted by Mike on August 16, 2007 at 11:42 PM (CDT)

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