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COWON J3 32 GB Portable Media Player (Black)

85% Positive Reviews


Pros: everything is great from this player

Cons: the only issue, is the recharging cable..

IMO, the Cowon J3 is the company's best device/price. It offers an excellent sound and compatibility with almost any file you want to play on it. It's also capable of driving all but the most obscure headphones to satisfying levels of loudness, and relatively excellent battery life. However if you're just looking for a device that does one thing -- play music really and extremely well -- then the Cowon J3 is an excellent option.


Pros: style, size, battery life, SD card slot, Touch Screen, Power and Sound

Cons: propriatary usb cable, just like everything else.

I love having something no one else has, that’s how I live my life making my own path.  At least that’s how I feel when someone gawks at my J3.  Every third person on earth has an IPOD, nothing to talk about, no fun, typical, average,  yawn.  Now the J3 is a special player in every aspect.  When you pick up this shiny black glossy unit you expect a lead weight.  However the unit is light as a feather but strong like titanium.   Then you power it on as a thin blue line scrolls across the screen and then the touch screen icons which react to orientation of how you hold the J3.

However I couldn’t truly enjoy my love for the J3 until I added and upscale IEM.  After weeks of searching, reading, asking (Then being rebuffed for not searching) then more searching.  Flopping from one device to another.  Should I spend a lot or spend a little and get several $50 and below.  Will ebay ship me a Chinese fake since they lead the world in that area.  Back to asking an be rebuffed for not searching.  Finally I settled on getting the best I could afford the Weston UM3X.

Making the purchase click, the wait begins. Then the sound thoughts float in.  Buyer’s remorse, read more reviews, maybe I should have gotten…   

 Look for affirmation.  Read, Read Reading everything while the family goes waning for my attention.

Then the UM3x arrives, I immediately grab the J3 and plug it in. I go to setting and turn off EQ’ing off so I would have a good baseline reference.  Tapped the music icon and my ears fill with the most warm punchy bass, clear highs and better than expected Mids!  Tap, Tap to double check that I don’t have BBE+ enabled and it confirmed no EQ’ing and it sounds wonderful.

Bottom line I love my J3 pared with the Cowon J3 my search for quality music listening is over the ripping continues.  


Pros: Effective EQ, BBE, Gapless playback, Lengthy battery life, Lightweight, Accessible physical buttons, Easy to drag-and-drop files.

Cons: Weird UI, Custom UIs are slow, Can't use while charging, Video format support lacking, Battery life meter is useless, Korean proprietary plug.

Cowon J3 -- JoonBug's Review with pics!

Official Cowon J3 JetAudio Product Page


Let's face it, at the time of writing, the iPod has taken over the DAP (Digital Audio Player) market. Wherever one goes, one is bound to see someone with either an iPhone, iPod touch, iPod nano, iPod classic, or iPod shuffle. The characteristic white Apple earbud is more a fashion symbol than a way to be in touch with our music. The iPod itself is also not that great of a music player either, sporting nice audio circuitry but messed up software, making it very difficult for people to enjoy their music. Some don't care for this lack of audio fidelity, and you see them wearing the popular Beats cans. Those who do sport dangerous looking "portable" rigs with small DACs and amps, while others skirt the iPod line altogether for a lesser known DAP, like this Cowon J3.


My trek to this product was not entirely unusual. I had already had an iPod touch (3rd gen) with an ESW10 with 256kbps music and I was happy. But then my iPod became dependent on an AC connection because of its flagging battery. I had already found head-fi by then, and saw the J3 was enthusiastically recommended as a great DAP with phenomenal sound quality So... let's find out if the J3 deserves the hype!


Cowon J3 (credit Cowon)


Before we get started...

  • My comments about the J3 stem from my experience with an iPod touch (3rd gen).
  • I like a very neutral sound signature.
  • My favorite genres of music are classical, acoustic rock, and jazz in that order.
  • I purchased my J3 with a DMB tuner, only users in Korea, and possibly China would care about this. For obvious reasons, having the DMB tuner makes the J3 more expensive.
  • I got the White 32GB DMB one from a Korean vendor while I was in Korea.
  • I also want to apologize for the crummy picture quality. I need a new camera.

Cowon J3 Specs (from the Cowon page)


(L x W x D) and Weight 106.5mm x 56mm x 9.9mm
Color Options Chic Black and Sleek White
Size Options 4/8/16/32GB*
Screen Specs 3.3" AMOLED (490x 272  screen ratio - 16:9)
Battery 64hr Music, 11hr Video, 3.5hr USB charge
Headphone Jack Output L/R each 29mW (w/ a 16 ohm earphone)
Frequency Output 20 ~ 20,000Hz
Buttons**  Power/Hold (left), Next/Prev Track (right), Play/Pause (right), Volume (right)
Ports MicroSD slot (up to 32GB), 20 pin USB proprietary jack
Supported Audio Codecs  MP3, WMA, OGG, FLAC, APE, WAV (also unofficially AAC)
Supported Video Formats AVI, WMV, ASF (also some early H.264 vids)



*  = Some countries have specific size/color options i.e. 4GB only comes in White, etc.

** = Button placement is when the screen is facing towards you.

More specific J3 info can be found at JetAudio's J3 Tech Spec Page



The J3 comes in a minimalistic, self-contained plastic small flower-pot shaped apparatus.

J3's Packaging


Open it up, and it becomes...

Packaging opened up.

Pretty, huh? Unfortunately the outer covering on my J3 packaging was cracked. I'll blame the postal service on that...


Opening up the brown paper cone-thing leads to a user manual, earphones, proprietary USB cable, and a proprietary 24 to 20 pin plug. The plug is absolutely useless if one is outside of Korea, as it's a standard in Korea but rarely seen and used elsewhere. The user manual does a so-so job of explaining the controls inside, but it suffices. The earphones are decent, better than the stock iPod earphones, but one will need a better headphone to enjoy the J3 fully.


Included accesories.

Overall, a pretty spartan collection. Points for a clean packaging look.

My rating = Good

Design & User Interface (UI)


On the outside...

J3 next to an iPod touch



Having won the Red Dot Design award in 2010, the J3 is aggressively marketed by Cowon and JetAudio for its fetching looks. My J3 came in white, and I was very pleased with that color. The white was innocuous enough to avoid screaming "LOOK AT ME!" but also stood out with that bright sheen. Those who like their color palette on the more inconspicuous side would like the black. There is a fairly solid-feeling screen with a metal plate obtruding the bottom part. I didn't really like the extra space on the bottom: it made the 3.3" screen look smaller. But then again, the space is convenient for holding up the device. On the right (with screen facing towards you) there is a Next/Prev track rocker, below that a Play/Pause button, and way below that a volume rocker. Being used to the iPod, I would have appreciated the volume rocker at the top, but it works.


On the other side of the device is a power/hold button. I actually have broken my power button and would like to warn prospective J3 owners from pressing it too hard. This thing is not as indestructible as my Touch's power/hold button. Finally, on the bottom is a headphone jack and a cover, when uncovered, reveals a microSD port and a proprietary USB port. I like the cover as it keeps dust out of the ports, but it is inconvenient to access the ports. If you grow your nails a little, it shouldn't be a problem. All, in all, not bad, Cowon!

My rating = Great.


On the UI side...

J3's "blocky" interface in a Ringke StoneBrown case.

On the software side, the J3 has three main modes of interaction. First, there is a "block" mode where every function appears as a square block, much like an iOS interface. There is no option to add icons or widgets, and blocks can be moved around by holding on to a certain block and dragging it when red markings appear around it. Secondly, there is a "list" view where said functions appear on a list, much like that of a Zune. As far as I am aware, the list order cannot be changed. Lastly, there is a widget mode where one can pick and choose "blocks" and functional widgets to add on multiple screens. The experience is quite similar to that of an Android interface. Interesting what Cowon is trying to do... choose the mobile OS flavor you like, I guess?


Usability wise, the first interface is my favorite as it is the least hassle to deal with. Functions load quickly, and the feel is snappy. The second interface is cool to play around, and has that schnazzy sort of feel until I got annoyed of scrolling down all the time to change my EQ settings. The third UI is technically my favorite and provides fun little widgets that greatly improve the user experience. However, there's also plenty to dislike about this interface... ie 70% of the times I've crashed my J3, it's come from this interface. More onto that later.


There is the route of a custom interface. The community at iAudiophile.net is fairly active about all things Cowon, and one can receive help installing interfaces. I'd personally like to recommend Kizune's UIs which are, I believe, the more popular of those who choose a custom UI. Having said that, I recommend sticking with the stock UI as it's the fastest UI for a J3. Period. Being used to an iPod touch's snappiness in switching from apps, the load and response times for custom interfaces were unbearably slow.


Long story made short, the use the "block"/iOS interface. Cross your fingers that you don't crash the device.. like I did so many times. Custom UIs are great if you can wait for every touch and button click to register. The UI does the job, just barely.

My rating = Pass/OK

Next up: Music/SQ


Thanks to work and school, there's no time to work on this review, but rest assured, this review will be completed by Christmas-time.









Pros: Amazing sound quality, great range of file support, gorgeous look, clever interface, regular firmware updates, no software (e.g. iTunes) required

Cons: Small harddrive space

After my Creative Vision: M (60gb) broke in the Fall of 2010, I was considering getting an iPod to replace it. Thankfully, my brother directed me to this.


Upon receiving the item, I was immediately overcome by how gorgeous the J3 is. It has a small, slender, sleek black build; it feels comfortable holding it in my hand. Then, when one turns on the device, we're greeted with a rather quirky interface. From the bubbly sound when you press a button on the screen (which can be turned on and off), to the various icons which take some tinkering with to fully comprehend, the Cowon interface is admittedly quite strange compared to both Creative and Apple products (but incredibly flexible once you understand how it works). There are 3 menu styles, the default square grid, a grid list, and a sort of 'desktop' in which you can drag around all of the icons and arrange them in any way you like. It would be too long-winded to go into detail about the menus and all three interface styles, but suffice to say, they take some playing around with to get a feel for. If you made it this far on the internet, the learning curve should be no problem.


As for the rest of the pros, they speak for themselves. The J3 can play all the file types as described -  whatever I threw at it, it played with great clarity. The sound is fantastic, even more so with high-grade equipment. The equalizer and sound settings can give you many different feels in order to get the sound you desire, and the volume on it can go quite a ways. At a volume of 20 (the maximum is 40), it already quite loud, more so than at the half volume setting for an iPod or Creative. In fact, using Shure SE530 earphones, listening to music at this volume for more than 30 minutes started hurting my ears. I also tried the J3 with my Sennheiser HD595s at the same volume with excellent results (no amplification, will update this review when I get a suitable amp); the sound is quite neutral, with crisp mids/highs, exactly how I like it. The battery life at a sustained volume of 20 can easily last you an entire day, though I haven't done extensive testing with the battery life to say much more (e.g. how long it can play movies before dying out).


In addition, browsing through the files on the J3 is similar to browsing through the files on your computer's hard drive; one can simply copy and paste files from a computer straight to the J3 with no software requirements, make new folders and rearrange them as you see fit, etc. This makes it very easy to work with. The regular firmware updates are just icing on the cake; many, if not most of the bugs that the J3 had on release have been remedied as of the writing of this review (including the dreaded playlist bug).


Admittedly, if you've amassed a great music/video/picture collection, with most of your collection in a high grade file format, 32 gigabytes of hard disk space may not cut it. This is rather unfortunate since one of the main appeals of the J3 is its ability to play high-quality audio files such as flac; a trait that can't be fully flaunted with such measly disk space. Even at the time of its release, the J3's competitors were easily boasting +60gb hard disks. If not for the first two pros I listed, this would be an inexcusable shortcoming.


As a final note, the J3 can't connect to the internet and isn't a phone. I mention this because these are two popular features to have with todays culture. Fortunately for me, I care for neither of them.


Pros: Sound Quality, BBE EQ, Battery Life, Durability, Buttons, Usability, Drag&Drop, MicroSD Slot, Screen, Powerful and Clean HO (works well as a LO)

Cons: None

Background: When I lost my S9, I had to find a replacement. I began to look for options, noting the Cowon J3, Nationite S:flo2, and Hifiman HM-601 as possible options. Then I discounted the Hifiman for the sake of portability. I spent a long time deciding between the J3 and the S:flo2 and eventually went with the J3 for the battery life, usability, reliability, and the digital volume control, as I like to keep my player on volume level 1 and leave it there in order to preserve my hearing as a musician.


I just got home from a trip today and this pretty young thing was waiting for me on my desk. I loaded 30gb of FLAC and listened for an hour, then decided I had to post a review. In short, this is my new favorite mp3 player. The S9 was awesome, with a few flaws. The J3 fixes them.


The button placement is so much better. I can put the screen on lock, and put it in my pocket, not worrying about the tactile buttons being pressed on accident. This gives me control without having to fiddle around with unlocking the device. 


The MicroSDHC slot is a godsend to those with large libraries or love to discover new music. With my S9, I always wanted more space. I love to transfer new albums I haven't listened to to my player and either delete or keep them, then repeat the process. With the S9, I had to keep deleting old albums that I liked somewhat in order to keep listening to new music. I have this card (http://www.amazon.com/SanDisk-32GB-microSDHC-Memory-Package/dp/B003WGJYCY/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1294027856&sr=8-2) coming in the mail and I look forward to having 64gb of FLAC music in my pocket at all times. rolleyes.gif


The speaker is alright for music, but surprisingly useful for movies and videos. Xvid videos from perfectly reputable sources (cough) look amazing on the AMOLED screen, and seeing them is the point where most ipod touch owners will acknowledge the validity of your purchase. But hearing them adds a whole new sense to the experience. Its actually a decent speaker, beating the tinnier apple speakers to my ears, and goes fairly loud. Great for showing your favorite movies or playing your favorite new track for your non-audiophile friends. 


The UI is just slick. I love it. It's so much cooler than the apple products I have used, customizable with user-created themes (http://iaudiophile.net/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=111) and has easy access to the J3's capabilities directly from the music and video screens. Cowon really listened to feedback it seems. This UI is just a joy to use. The S:flo2 aint got nothin on this.


Extra battery life - more to love. I mean seriously, 64 hours battery life for music is almost overkill. But 11 hours video on the J3's amazing screen is perfect for long commutes and trips. And who wants to worry about charging their mp3 player all the time? I watch friends having to plug their ipods in halfway through the day and smile, knowing that I could listen to music for almost 3 days straight without stopping to plug in my J3. 




In short, I'm loving this little miracle so much, and I'm sure it will get even better in time. It's said that Cowon players have a slight treble emphasis. I can clearly hear everything in my music with the J3 and Westone 3 earphones. So no worries about out-of-control treble - there may be a slight emphasis, but everything sounds great to me. Another note about this pairing is that the Westone 3's, which hissed slightly with my S9, have NO hiss whatsoever with the J3. I can't hear anything but the music. And it's reproduced so beautifully. With the EQ off, its just me and the music. But using BBE EQ effects, it becomes an infinitely customizable music experience, which is really nice when plugging into my friends' stereo systems.


Get one now and stop being indecisive. You know you want one. ksc75smile.gif


Good NOT great player. Audio is ok but since has been surpassed by a number of better players (Cowon Z2, Sony Z and F series walkmans, Samsung 4.2 Galaxy etc.). Interface can be a dog and the touchscreen interface looks extremely dated now. Battery life is very good but again not class leading. Build quality is ok but it does feel a bit cheap.

This once was head and shoulders above the rest but as with all things gadgety, it has had its day.


Pros: GREAD SOUND!!!, easy interface, not apple, almost ALL music format support, customizeabal, small, lightweight, GREAT screen touch and visual wise.

Cons: A little too flimsy feeling, The interface takes getting used to coming from an Itouch.

COWON J3 16GIG V.S. I TOUGH 2nd gen 8GIG*for sale and jail breakable*

Well where to begin.... I got this to replace my Itouch*that it for sale* due to the fact that the headphone jack is broken an easy fix I have guides for but I was looking for any excuse to get rid of the thing. I like the features the Itouch offers. I must say it is a great little handheld micro tablet*so to speak* but the output is just baaaaaad. The Cowon J3 puts it to shame in terms of audio out put. Running the Ipod at max volume is about running the J3 at 28*caps at 40*.


Build: Well I must say the cowon is light, like it feels like nothing is on my hand, the Itouch is a heavy best I suspect from the glass screen which IMO is just a poor design choice. The J3 feels solid just very very VERY light, I cannot stress how light it feels. Nothing creeks, nothing seems to flex, and further more no corners to get bend like the Ipod.


Screen: Well the Itouch screen is nice, the J3's screen is VEEEEEEEEERY nice. Clear, and color full*accurate*. The touch is more sensitive than the Itouch which I like as I hate having to struggle with hitting the pause button on the Itouch, this bring up another good point. BUTTONS!!!! for pause/play, and next song, last song WOO BUTTON MASTER RACE*it's really a big deal to me, I have touch only things*


Sound: Well the J3 gets A LOT of praise on here and I see why. It sound like I have just crawled out of a cannion of apple crap campaigning adds and hit the bright vivid horizon of understated but power full MP3 players.


The reason I bought this soo cheep is because I found it refurbished by Cowon USA, it's brand new, not a mark on it, nothing It's as good as new, nothings off about it, all plug ins work correctly nothing.


I really love this, the output leaves a tiny bit of a hole just in the over all volume but boy oh boy does it get my K500's moving*the Itouch can barley power them to an audible level*


Over all I am very happy with this, I hear you can put emulators on it aswell wich would be very very cool as well. WOO FLASH!!!!AHHHHHAHHHH!





Pros: Very clean sound. Beautiful and abundant custom themes and UIs. The player's design

Cons: Thin, cold and lifeless sound. Bass is shallow , sibilant mids. EQ makes sound even worse than the default (mainly squeeze the mid-range)


I used the J3 with vsonic gr07, sony ex1000 and don't think it is a very good sounding PMP.


Pros: battery life, great screen, physical buttons,fast interface,lot's of sound settings

Cons: sound quality at default settings


I owned a J3 32GB player for 2 or three years, so I got to know all it's advantages and disadvantages.


The good


This thing has much more output power than most non-audiophile players around. I never maxed it out, and the sound remained controlled at most volume levels. The battery life is simply outstanding, about 50 hours with that magnificent OLED screen. Also, the video playback and SWF's played smoothly. There are a lot of audio-enhancements, millions of sound settings combinations to choose. 


The bad


The sound at default settings (without using equalizer and the various enhancements) is pretty much dead, lifeless with undefined bass, and highs not very defined. It improves a lot after proper equalizing, but at the end you end up with non-realistic sound that you can like, but feels too plastic. It's a shame, because is a ~30$ Clip can sound good, no reason for premium product to fail in such a basic thing as play unequalized music.


Bottom line


I would consider it only if fantastic battery life is needed. For any other purpose there are other players that cost less and deliver more.

COWON J3 32 GB Portable Media Player (Black)

3.3-inch 16:9 Wide AMOLED, 16 million colors, res. 480x272, ultra portable. Play all your digital entertainment: movies, TV shows, photos and music. Touch sensitive interface. Bluetooth, Voice recorder with internal microphone, FM radio and TV-out supporting composite connections. Maximum 11 hours of video playback and maximum 64 hours of audio playback. Standard microSD card slot and built-in speaker.

FeatureMaximum 11 hours of video playback and maximum 64 hours of audio playback
Height5.9 inches
Length3.7 inches
Weight0.68 pounds
Width3.7 inches
List Price$299.99
Package Quantity1
Product GroupCE
Product Type NameMP3_PLAYER
TitleCOWON J3 32 GB Portable Media Player (Black)
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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