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The Unnecessary Impressions Thread: Cowon iAudio X5L

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

What is this about?

 

Just for fun I thought it would be nice to review stuff, that no one will ever buy again. I would like to make it ongoing. I wanted to make this earlier, but was to lazy to do so...

 

 

1. Sharp MD-MT831H(GL)

2. Sony NW-HD5

3. Cowon iAudio 7

4. Cowon iAudio X5L

 

 

1. Sharp MD-MT831H(GL)

 

Does your device greets you when you turn it on? My MT831 certainly does. In a way that makes me think it is excited, or looking forward to play some music for me.

 

 

 

It certainly is polite, but what does it take to listen music? I already had a MD prepared, the George Kawaguchi The Big 4. While listening to cool Jazz, music that somewhat reminded me of Cowboy Bebop, I was preparing other 3 Minidiscs.

I use my Sony NH-1 to put the albums on the Discs. You ask yourself why. I just did not want to hook up the CD player and the MT831 with the optical cable and wait till its recorded and tag it manually.

 

SonicStage does not work with my Win7 Laptop => take out my old WinVista laptop, where there is only SonicStage on it. => copy the wanted albums on the laptop => convert it back from FLAC to WAV => pull it to SonicStage => drag and drop it on the Mini Disc

that takes some time...

 

 

 

The Sharp MD-MT831 came out in 1999. Back then you had to pay  46.000 yen for it. That is ~330 EUR or ~450 USD. That is more than the DX90 pre order price and definitely more than a Fiio X5. At that time it was one top of the line device. Mine is a "Platinum" version. I really do not know what that means. Maybe it was sold so often, that the reached platinum...

 

I cannot say much about the features, because I do not have the manual at hand. Later I may add some more information about it, like output power and so on...

 

Generally the MT831 is very well built. It is all metal with outstanding quality. It is older than ten years and still looks good.

 

 

 

 

 

While the player build quality is nice, the remote control looks like it does not belong to this product. Its plastic with a different colour line. I looks and feels cheap.

 

 


Now to the sound :)

 

My headphones of choice are Unique Melody 3DD.

 


George Kawaguchi's The Big 4

 

The MT831 is a slightly mid centric MD-player. The upper mids slightly stick out of the frequency range, This is no problem for me, except with the electronic piano, that they have on this album. Even though Invader 7 is my favourite track of this album, I do not like the piano (or is it a electric piano). It is somewhat "in your face".

 

I love the hi-hat in all the tracks. It sounds just right. Saxophone and flute are also nicely presented. Also the Drums.

I am not sure about the soundstage. It sounds like The Big 4 are all in a small room in my head. BUT, maybe they recorded this album in a really small room, I do not know. However it is nothing bad, it is intimate.

Except of the first track, I really can enjoy this album. Even though the album is very fast paced, there is some easyness about the sound of the MT831 that charmes me.

 

 

David Guetta Nothing but the Beat 2.0

 

Going from Kawaguchi to this album, the first thing I notice is more soundstage. It is not the world, but is more than on the previous album, which is nice.

Also female vocals are nice to listen with the MT831.

Knowing that the 3DD extend pretty low with an extreme slam, provided you have the right seal, the MT831s lows have a good slam. Yet it is only in the upper lows an some in the mid bass. It does not go really low. This is all with the BASS feature off. You can crank this thing up to BASS - setting 3. With this setting it is like you are sitting in a car with massive subwoofers in the back.

 

 

Dead Prez Lets Get Free

 

Lets see how it handles Hip-Hop. A track filled with lots of political messages and a beat that is so addictive. On some players with the 3DD it really massages your ears. Just amazing.

 

The MT831 cannot fully handle this track. It sounds good, but heard it better somewhere else.

On the other hand, it handles the rap-vocals very well. However imagine myself, back in the mini disc days, it was only about base. Sitting in the bus, driving to school and looking out of the window... I see myself crank the BASS - setting up. Quality was not mandatory.

 

I am now on track 06. This Mini Disc player is about vocals. A flute in the background, a base-line and rap; it sounds so good.

 


London Grammar If You Wait

 

The last Album is all about vocals (at least to my ears). Hannah Reid, as beautiful as she is, her voice is even more beautiful. MT831 plays it well. So beautiful and nice. The soundstage is good. Nice clarity.

 


Summary

 

It is hard for Mini Disc Players in this day and age. Even though definitely more portable than a DAP + AMP stack, it cannot reach an iPod nano or similar players, when it comes to portability. Also putting on music is a hassle. Not only you cannot just drag and drop your favourite FLAC files, you have to convert around. It would be even slower, if I had not the MZ-NH1 for recording. However, personally there is something about Mini-Disc that fascinates me. The craftmanship? It reminds me of my school days?

 

While the size and usability is not on par with the standards today, it beats any iPod with its small finger when it comes to build quality. I just love metal housings (I do not count the iPods metal back since it is so scratch prone).

 

Sound quality wise I put it in the area of Cowon players. In some areas better than Cowon, like with the mids. The MT831 sound can be described as slightly relaxed, somewhat mid centric, with a little hump in the upper mids. It has a black background. The highs are good (not super good) and do not get overtoned by the mids. The lows are ok, but as I wrote, a little more 3Dness would be nice, also more extension. Soundstage is somewhere in the middle.

 

 


 

 

 

 

As I would like to move on with the unnecessary impressions of various portable audio devices without the requirement of actuality, availability or attractiveness my next object is the Sony NW-HD5.

 

 

2. Sony NW-HD5

 

I can remember, when I first joined the forum (2009), even before that, lurking around without an account, the NW-HD line of players was said to be very good sounding. Years later I came across some guy who was willing to sell his for 15€. That was last year. Most of the time I kept it in the drawer, because its battery lasts about 10 min.

 

 

 

 

Battery is a good point to start. Specs say it can last up to 40h. That is only possible if you play 48kbps files, which does not sound appealing, at least not to me. Sadly I could not experience the battery power myself, since mine is broken. Luckily the battery of this unit is changeable by the user, just like you could do with discman and minidisc players. Also the availability of batteries is still big on ebay.

 

You probably do not ask yourself, if it is an upgrade over an (or the MD-MT831) Minidisc player, as you expect it to be an upgrade. Not so fast. (I sound biased towards Minidisc players)

 

I still need Sonicstage for this one. While it is possible to use the HD5 as an external hard drive, where you can drag and drop your files, you cannot do that with music, which you want to play. The file transfer is pretty fast, when you do not need to convert. With conversion it is a tad bit slower. It only supports two file types. ATRAC and MP3. WAV and WMA are recognized by Sonicstage, but they get converted when transferred to the HD5. "Damn! No lossless." you say. The maximum bitrate is 352 kbit/s with ATRAC3plus. There are some alternatives to Sonicstage, but you would still need Sonicstage installed and it is not really an improvement.

 

Over the Minidisc it has the advantage in storage size. 20gb is quite enough space when you know that you will not go over a certain bitrate, so the file sizes are reasonable. There are people who could fit in bigger HDDs. The MK4007GAL 40GB is said to work with the HD5. Link: http://forums.sonyinsider.com/topic/3725-how-to-upgrade-hd5-to-40gb/ Recently I bought an 60gb HDD to upgrade it. Sadly it was too fat. After I managed to put the device back together, I did not bother collecting any more information about upgrading the HD5, though I believe that there is somebody, who was able to fit a CF-Card inside the HD5.

 

It has a 1.5" 7-Line Backlight LCD Display, which is pretty cool. There is no album Art, but it tells you the artist, album, track name and number. Also genre, file type, bitrate. Additionally a progress bar inclusive the current minute and seconds. It gives you all the info you need.

 

 

I personally like monochrome style displays, yet it cannot compete with the nowadays AMOLED or IPS displays.

 

Generally the unit looks pretty nice. As you see, mine is silver. In black it looks even better. The main body is metal. The top cover is out of plastic, but still feels ok. It looks and feels high quality. Some may like it, but I am not a fan of the rubbery buttons it has. I am tempted to carve them with my finger nails.

 

 

A cool feature is that the remote control of the Sony NH-1 works with the HD5.

 

 

 

Let’s talk about sound quality.

 

My headphones of choice are Unique Melody 3DD.

 

 

Will.I.Am #Willpower

 

Despite of the hashtag, this is a pretty nice album. That is straight pop music with Cher type voice auto-tune and music passages where lows could sound exciting.

 

This is the first test album, though I am not sure at this point, but this DAP is not about highs. The highs are a little thin and there is a hint of hiss.

 

Will.I.Am’s voice sound good, but female voices like that of Eva Simons does not sound that good, every time she reaches the highs. On the other hand, Britney Spears voice sounds good, because in the Scream & Shout song she sings in lower frequencies than Eva Simons for example.

 

Generally the mids are nice. Not much to say about it, since I do not believe that this album is about mids.

 

Lows. The lows are good. There is a good punch, but as I know what the 3DD are capable of, how low they can reach. There is a hint of it, but it gets drowned by a bass-hump that comes before. I do not know how to explain it better. Sony forwarded a part of the lows, which over-tones the rest of the lows spectrum. The Sony HD5 can reach pretty low, but some part of the lows are too forward. Maybe it’s the album…

 

 

George Kawaguchi's The Big 4

 

I do not know if this is intended, but the saxophone somehow sticks out of the presentation and the electronic piano is even more “in your face” than with the Sharp MT831H with the first track.

 

The presentation is somewhat average and I would never choose the HD5 to listen to this album. Even on the second track the saxophone sticks out too much for my taste.

 

 

 

Etta James Losers Weepers

 

Let’s talk about soundstage. This is a difficult topic with the HD5. There is soundstage, but sometimes it feels as it is just an effect from some software enhancement. Does not sound right. Etta’s voice is just not the center of the presentation, which is a miss for me.

 

 

 

Bill Evans & Jim Hall Undercurrent

 

This is not an album that one typically would use for review. I believe that the version of the CD I own is not a re-mastered one. I cannot tell much about highs or lows. Everything is somewhere between upper and lower mids. Nevertheless, it is an album where I can lose myself in the music. Slightly melancholic, it spreads its own atmosphere. I just love this album. This test is about enjoyment of music. The HD5 passes it. Though there are better setups, to be honest.

 

 

Summary

 

2005 the Sony NW-HD5 maybe was a good alternative to an iPod. Quality wise it is a solid device. Also one could easily replace battery and with a little more effort the hard drive too.

 

Sonicstage on the other hand is a handicap, even more than iTunes. Back then it was an alternative, but today it has no support. However, because of Minidisc, I still have Sonicstage around, so it is OK to me. Despite my situation, I can fully understand people never again using the unit, because the lack for Windows 7 and 8 support with the Sonicstage software.

 

Together with the 3DD it does not sound perfect. In general I would say it does not sound right. Albums that I enjoy most of the time sound different. Thin highs, ok mids and good lows, will not bring you to pull the HD5 back out of the drawer. I expected better from this dap. Maybe it is because of the DAP – IEM combination. That is why I give it a chance with another headphone (Audio Technica ATH-ESW9). BUT, even with a more forgiving headphone, like the ATH-ESW9, it does not turn things around. My conclusion on the sound of the HD5 sounds more like criticism on the player. It presents music in a tone that I just do not feel.

 

EDIT: Since Sonicstage has no support anymore on the Sony website, here is a forum post in a Sony-oriented forum with all the necessary Sonicstage Downloads:

http://forums.sonyinsider.com/topic/20727-sonicstage-4243-full-non-web-installer/

 

Also I bought a new battery for mine. It has decent battery life.

 


 

 

 

 

 

3. Cowon iAudio 7

 

I always wondered why the German Cowon page stopped updating at some point. More precisely it was somewhere around the time of the release of the Cowon X7. I did not give it much attention, because I imported my newest gear anyway. Do not know the background, but one thing was for sure, which is that Cowon slacked off. Over the last years Cowon was partly re-releasing always the same payers:

 

Cowon M2 = D20 = C2 = D2+ = D2

 

Do not get me wrong. All of these players have high standards when it comes to sound quality, battery life and design. However, updating a product is not done by just increasing the battery life (putting in a larger battery) and redesign the shell. This is maybe why Cowon has much less attention on Head-fi and not on only on Head-fi. You just have to take a look at the share-price course:

 

 

Recently however, Cowon released a player, the PLENUE P1, which will maybe change the trend. Sadly I do not have € 1000 to spend it on the P1 (but I am really tempted to buy it somehow). Instead I took € 20 and spent it on the Cowon iAudio 7 8GB. Meanwhile the iAudio 10 is available, which is available for around € 130.

 

 

20 Euros, what was in it for me?

 

This is how the main UI looks like. From left to right you can chose between Music, Video, FM Radio, Record, Picture, Text and Settings:

 

It has a 1.3" Color-TFT LCD (160x128), plays MP3s, WMAs, OGGs, FLACs and WAV files. I only tested Very High quality variable bit rate MP3s and FLAC files with different compression rates. For the MP3 files it displays album art on that small display as you see on the pic below, but sadly it does not work for FLAC files. All my music has album art embedded and also a “cover.jpg” in its respective folder.


What it also does is MPEG-4 (XviD) videos. I just tried the demo videos that the iAudio 7 has included. Even looking at pictures and reading txt files is possible, but in all seriousness this device was not made for watching videos, pictures or reading text files. It also has a radio built in and it is even possible to record your favorite radio station, while listening to that station (max. 128 kbps MP3s). The reception was bad.

 


It has many many features, like line-in recording. If you do not want to use the line in, there is also a built in microphone. The max for the three recording modes is always 128 kbps.

 

There are even user defined function settings for some buttons. One can choose between browsing by folders or by tags. Whatever you chose in the setting, one will have to restart iAudio 7, because you cannot access both at the same time. It is either folders or tags, but you cannot switch while listening.
If your MP3s are tagged correctly, then the iAudio 7 will display it correctly. With FLAC files there is no album art and it also has some problems displaying the album-tag. You can see it in the two pictures above, the one with the album art is a MP3 and the other one a FLAC.

 

The front of the iAudio 7 has a touch panel with two buttons and a slider like area. I recommend to put the Touch Sensitivity level on Low, because it is overly sensitive. Generally the UI is fast and responsive, but I had to adjust to it, because to me it is not so intuitive. It also has Volume control buttons.

 

I love the simple design of this player. It somewhat reminds me of a darker Snickers Bar. The iAudio 7 was also available with a red frame. The build quality is amazing. On the left side it has a headphone out and a line in, on the right side it has the usb-plug and reset button hole under a cover.

 

The back is also very shiny. On the front and the back one leaves finger prints very easy.

 

As you see mine has 8GB storage, but it was also available with 4GB and 16GB. Sadly there is no SD-card slot (the complete iAudio line has no SD-Card slot).
The iAudio 7 can be filled with drag and drop, there is no need for software like iTunes or Sonicstage. I was able to copy files on it with around 4.5 MB/sec. To me that is ok. I know that there are faster transfer rates.

 

If you feel like you want to tear it down, it is pretty easy. Only 7 screws are holding this thing together:
https://de.ifixit.com/Teardown/Cowon+iAudio+7+8GB+Teardown/23590

 

There is (or was) Rockbox in progress:
http://www.rockbox.org/wiki/CowonIaudio7Info

 

Enough of its features, let’s hear it.

Generally I like the Cowon players, because of their through all players I heard, constantly held high standard in sound quality. This one has a Wolfson DAC built in and a flood of audio settings that you can adjust.

 

For the sound impressions I turned off all JetEffect settings. The EQ is completely flat (no BBE, no Mach3Bass, no 3D Surround. I just wanted to know what this player is really capable of. I will be listening with the ESW11LTD and Unique Melody 3DD.

 


Alt-J An Awesome Wave


Consciously I never listened to Alt-J music. I heard parts in a club song and also parts in a commercial on TV. Only recently I discovered this album, where billions of other people knew of it already 2012 or earlier.


ESW11LTD
The iAudio 7 can drive the ESW11LTD very well. The vocals are quite nice. No matter what track you choose Alt-J main singer’s special voice will always please you. The highs are also good. The only task that the iAudio 7 cannot accomplish together with the ESW11LTD are the lows. The iAudio 7 does not extend as deep as other players do, but this is something that improve with the many settings that JetEffect has to offer.


3DD
To my ears the 3DD are slightly V-shaped. The mids are not as beautiful as like with the ESW11LTD, however they are still ok. The general presentation is just “ok” to my ears. Despite the general opinion that the Cowon players tend to be flat and dry sounding, I am not so sure about this one. To my ears there is a slight elevation in the upper (to mid) lows. The slightly elevated lows sometimes invade the mids, but this is only in combination with the 3DD.
 

 

Calvin Harris Motion

 

3DD
While I was almost on the verge to say that the 3DD and iAudio 7 are not a good match, with this album it is different. The vocal parts sound very good. Unlike with the Alt-J music the vocals do not get invaded by the lows. The vocals stick out pretty well, which on the other side could mean that these albums are recorded very different. Highs are nice to ok. Since “Calvin Harris – Motion” is electronic music that you can dance to in the club, there are many passages with lows. Here again I would have wished for the iAudio7 to extend lower.

 

ESW11LTD
Changing from the 3DD the vocals are great. Also the highs are great. Soundstage seems to have increased a little. All I wish for would be a little boost in the lows.
 

 

Duke Ellington Duke's Big 4

 

3DD
Together, the 7 and the 3DD sound lovely with Jazz music. Although it is a very intimate presentation, one can always distinguish the played instruments. Joe Pass with his guitar must be somewhere on the left and Duke Ellington himself sits somewhere on the right,… well I am not sure. That is where the problem is. Sometimes I could swear, the piano is on the right, but then sometimes it I on the upper left side of my imagination. Instrument placement is not very well. I do not want to be picky about this, because normally I would never sit down and listen to an album and try to find out where each of the musicians sit. I would say guitar, piano and drums sound very good, only the bass seems a little shy. This is where I would need to work on the EQ.

 

ESW11LTD
With the ESW11LTD the piano and the guitar is a little more forward. It is a little easier to distinguish where each instrument is, but I am still not sure about the piano. It is still very intimate, like they all play together in a medium sized room. The Bass here is actually much better.

 

James Blake Overgrown

 

ESW11LTD
Wow, what a voice. The 7 in combination with the ESW11LTD sounds just great in the mid area and vocals. Highs are ok too. With the first track I know that the base in the background can sound much more impressive with other setups. The Album is all about James Blake his voice. The iAudio 7 does nothing wrong here.

 

3DD
With the 3DD the vocals are not as much forward as with the ESW11LTD. However that is the difference in the headphones / IEMs I use for reviewing the iAudio 7. I cannot find any flaw in the listening experience. Again I would only wish for a little more extension in the lows.

 

 

Summary

 

The Cowon iAudio 7 is a high quality device. It is nicely built and sounds good. In 2007 it was not a state of the art device, but it had many features that others did not have.


The Soundquality on this device is very good. It would not beat my old D350 Discman, but it is still on high level for a mass oriented mp3-Player. Why do I say mass oriented mp3-player? For example, the Fiio X3 is made for people who hold SQ in high regards, but still look out for the budget. One could not put the Cowon and the Fiio device in the same market segment. Music is very much enjoyable on the Cowon iAudio7. I would say that from the highs to the mids it is a good music player. The upper lows have a slight elevation (really just a tad… maybe it’s the headphones…). The mid-lows are okayish and beyond that there is nothing (does not extend deep). The iAudio 7 gives you an intimate presentation with a small to middle soundstage. It is rather detailed. Instrument separation is good, but I do not feel the stage and where each instrument might be played. That all is without all the possible sound adjustments one could make with this player. I had/have many different Cowon Players at home and it is true that some of them sound dry, but not this one.

 

Why would you need the iAudio 7 in this day and age? The one I found is in the price range of a Sansa Clip. Maybe if you look out for a Sansa Clip like device and might be able to overlook the fact that you cannot extend the memory.

 

Personally, I am a Cowon fanboy, so I could not miss this one out. Just look how beautiful it is:

 

 

 


 

 

 

4. Cowon iAudio X5L

 

Again I took a Cowon player from the drawer. I do not know, if you look up classified sites in the internet, but every now and then there is a Cowon X5 available. Meanwhile I have two. Sadly one has a broken button. This one had a broken HDD, but I replaced it, to make this thing a working device.

 

 

 

This Cowon is a sturdy looking device. As far as I know it is only available in black. The front and the back are cast aluminum. It is anodized and not painted in black. It feels very well in ones hands and is quite heavy compared with an average digital audio player.

 

 

The grey mid part as you can see on the photo is plastic. It looks and feels very high quality. Same goes with the buttons. In the front it has a joystick, which is also the main control of this device (menu, volume, next and previous track, etc.). On the right side it has the play/pause button, next to it is the record button. Then there is the power button, which can also can be put in the hold state. On the left side it has the headphone out and the usb-host socket. Top of the player there is a led for charging purposes. Red = charging Green = fully charged

 

 

It has 160x128 resolution color display. Loses against any new iPod, but wins against ui-less discman or minidisc player. It cannot be compared to today’s standards, but one has no problems, as the usability with it is good enough. It does not display album art though.

 

There are nice details like the small rubber piece, that can be used to cover the docking socket or the small pins on the back, which elevate the player 1mm to prevent scratches on the back.

 

This device is really high quality, but I have to say this from experience, it has two weak spots.

 

One is the joystick. While it works well, it is also the most used button. It is used to control almost the whole player. On my other X5, lowering the volume or going downwards through the menu is not working anymore. There is a tutorial, how to replace the joystick, but it involves soldering on a very small area. Here is the link to the tutorial: https://lpig.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/cowan-iaudio-x5-repair/

 

The other weak spot is its HDD. Like any DAP with a hard drive, it is quite dangerous to drop this device. Once you drop it, there is a big chance that the HDD inside is broken. Replacing the HDD is pretty easy, I already did this myself. While this X5 says 20GB on the back, it now actually has a 30GB HDD inside. It was broken, I had to replace it. On the other hand, one could not replace a memory module on solid state based memory players.

 

Replacing inside parts of the player is not a difficult task, as it is pretty modular buildt (Screen, HDD, etc.). Sorry I have no pictures here, but there are enough when you google it. There are two batteries in it, which makes a little more complicated to replace it.

 

 

When you turn on the X5 you see the iAudio logo and a progress bar, but only for a few seconds. It starts up pretty fast. When you turn the X5 on, you get where you left off. Namely you are in the playback menu, seeing your last played song.

The playback screen shows you the ID3 tags. Artist, album and song name. It possible to switch this, to only see the folder and file name. This is personal preference. Tags work well with MP3s, but they have its problems with FLAC files, as you can see on the photo. Besides there is a track progress bar and below it you can see all your EQ Settings (BBE, Mach3Bass, etc.) along with the bitrate and volume.

 

 

The UI is good and quite fast. Browsing tracks happens through folders, I did not find a search by albums or artists. I prefer this way of searching tracks, but others might not like it.

 

Also one can view pictures and videos with this device. I do not know who would do this with this kind of screen, but believe it or not, the X5 has a USB-host function. You can attach you camera and look through your photos.

One can record through the built in microphone or the Line in from the docking module or station, but only up to 64 kbps. Radio recording is also possible.

Usability is very good IMO, with a few points, that could have been done differently. The one is like I wrote before, the tactile stick weakness. The other is the headphone out to the left. If the headphones have a large plug, like the PS500e, you cannot put the X5 easily in a pocket. Even with an L-type plug I have always a feeling that it could break off.

 

 

The reason why Cowon put the HO on the left and not on the top or bottom, could be the remotecontrol plug. If plugged in, the cable goes upwards.

 

 

There is a big and a small docking station for this device. Both have the same functionality. Line-in/out, input for the charger and USB.

 

The X5 is a popular device. With popular devices, there are always people who try out different modifications.

 

There is a stable Rockbox port for the X5: http://www.rockbox.org/wiki/IaudioPort

I have not tried it myself with the X5, but had Rockbox with other devices. The Rockbox OS is simply the best. (To me at least).

 

There are also Hardware mods

Along with Rockbox, there is a mod, where you can put a 256gb  SSD in your X5: http://forums.rockbox.org/index.php?topic=23436.0

The X5 Alexmod, which should enhance sound quality

http://www.head-fi.org/t/445384/alexmod-true-audiophile-tweak-of-cowon-i-audio-x5-dap

 

 

Now lets talk about the sound itself. Momentarily my main listening tools are the Grado PS500e and the UM 3DD. (On a side note... I removed the Youtube music links, since one can google the music, if one really wants to listen to it)

 

Jamie XX – Obvs

 

This song is sort of an enjoy-meter for music listening. Steel Pan, one or more, I cannot distinguish, is the main instrument. I love the sound of it. It is sort of melancholic, like the moment before the sun starts rising. Everything is grey, but you hear the birds already conjuring the sun.

The X5 along with the PS500e present the song pretty well. This is not a song, one would use to test the highs of a setup. The spectrum is floating around the mids and lows. The X5, with its intimate mid presentation does pretty well with this song. With the standard settings the lows are not so prominent, as on other setups. I know that other sources, like the ifi iDSD micro packs a lot of more lows punch. On the other hand, if I would not know about many other setups, I probably would not mind. Also, as you probably already know, Cowon lets you customize the sound to your likings with the many settings you can chose from. In this case I could have tweaked the settings with Mach3Bass or with the EQ.

 

The difference with the 3DD lies in the lows, which are more prominent, but generally I like the song more together with the PS500e.

 

 

Nucleus – Elastic Rock

 

This easy going song packs a lot of different instruments and therefore is not so bad for reviewing purposes. With the standard settings the guitar is slightly forward, just like the saxophones. The Bass-guitar is rather in the back. Drums are ok.

This song is well presented, but lacks a little atmosphere (cannot describe it better). The PS500e can retrieve quite some detail, but with the X5 it will not reach its best.

 

With the 3DD the presentation is very intimate. Not small room intimate. It is like you listen Nucleus in a quiet café. Guitars are still forward, but just slightly. The electric bass can be distinguished very well. Hi-hats very nice. I would say that the saxophones are just right.

 

T.I. & Young Thug – Off-Set

 

This song makes heavy usage of loudness. It is very enjoyable hearing in the car, but sort does not please me with the X5 PS500e combination. T.I. and Young Thugs voices are very forward, annoyingly forward and overshadow the base.

 

Just like with the PS500e, one has the feeling, that there is so much going on in the song. Kind of feels busy while one is listening. Lows are more extended and beefier with the 3DD

 

 

Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

 

The X5 in combination with the PS500e is very enjoyable with vocals. A good resolution & forward mids turn this in a quite nice presentation of Lanas voice.

 

Switching over to the 3DD, the mids are not as sweet as with the PS500 and there is less resolution, but with the 3DD slightly U-shape/V-shape sound signature, the quantity and quality of the lows is better than before, while still maintaining mid-forwardness.

 

 

Summary

 

To summarize the SQ of this device, I would say the strong point are the mids, highs are ok and the lows are rolled off. You can make things better with the various EQ settings. To my ears it sounds good, and it has its nice traits, like the intimate sound, but the D2 and the iAudio 7 are a tad better in the sound compartment. With the Cowon X5 I would recommend headphones that have a slight elevation in the lows.

 

I believe, the same enigeer or engineers, saw the iPod Video and made his (or their) version of the Video. With slightly better SQ and lots of functions and settings an iPod Video does not have.

Why would one still consider this device, even after 10 years? The good enough sound quality, the ability to Rockbox it and also ability to upgrade storage capacity. That is my answer.

 

 

 

 

 

As I go on with the reviews, I hope I will improve with language and review quality. I am too long in this forum, without any review or impression to add.


Edited by RAFA - 6/4/15 at 1:02pm
post #2 of 12

That there looks fat, LOL!  I got a Sony RH1 MD player a few years back just so I could listen to all my old MDs.  I agree the MD players make me nostalgic.  the click of the MD as you insert them...  CD players were too big to fit in a pocket but MD players were just the perfect size.  They also use my favorite lossy codec - ATRAC, sounded so much better than mp3.

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kantana View Post

That there looks fat, LOL!  I got a Sony RH1 MD player a few years back just so I could listen to all my old MDs.  I agree the MD players make me nostalgic.  the click of the MD as you insert them...  CD players were too big to fit in a pocket but MD players were just the perfect size.  They also use my favorite lossy codec - ATRAC, sounded so much better than mp3.

True. Alone the disc itself is as fat as the new iPod nano, but still smaller than CDs and much more scratch resistant.

I would like to try the RH1, but people ask too much for it. As soon as I find a reasonable offer, I will probably try one.

Sometimes MD force me to listen to the whole album and discover good tracks that I would have not discovered with having the possibility to switch albums so fast as with the iTouch.
post #4 of 12
Love this thread. Please do more reviews! I'll write about my MZ-R900 soon!
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nanatin View Post

Love this thread. Please do more reviews! I'll write about my MZ-R900 soon!

No problemo. I will give my best to add more. Some other MD-player and recorder, also Discman and other DAPs are waiting to be heard.
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

Honestly, sound wise I expected more from the NW-HD5.

post #7 of 12

I think you've forgotten the lineout option through the headphone jack, can be selected within the options setting.

 

Unlike most daps, the hd5 has true lineout support. I can vouch for this because I've owned one a few years ago and using it with iem, I could hear hiss and the hard drive spinning noise whenever I changed tracks manually or scrolling though tracks. The background also increases when connected to a wall charger. 

 

However, when I selected the headphone out to line out and connected an external amp, I could not longer here the previously mentioned sound issues, only the characteristics of the external amp hence completly bypassing the internal amp of the hd5. 

 

I just purchased a black on ebay for $10 plus $18 shipping and can't wait to listening to it again when it arrives next week!

 

To me, the hd5 is the prettiest and best made dap I've ever owned plus that fact that is has a removable battery and replaceable harddrive means it'll never stop working. Yes, sonicstage is a hassle but it's worth it even it's just for the lineout funtion alone.   


Edited by Fungus - 8/27/14 at 10:24pm
post #8 of 12

Also, not only can you replace the Hard Drive, but you can replace it with a larger hard drive - my HD5 has a 120GB drive and makes a great every-day player.

 

Sonicstage (or X-App, if you don't mind a program in Japanese), is no real problem and the sound really is great.

 

Cheers,

 

Andy

post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by RAFA View Post
 

Honestly, sound wise I expected more from the NW-HD5.

 

I don't think sound quality was ever Sony's number one emphasis during the cassette/CD/MD eras. Someone else always had a better sounding player; Sony would do sound quality specials from time to time (say the WM-DD) but otherwise Sony's very consumer-oriented and never had much hi-end heritage or street cred.

 

So as a company, it's not until the mid-2000s that Sony began citing sound quality as their key advantage over other brands, and in the walkman's case, they even needed to build better-sounding players before they can claim this... Or at least more exciting than before, hence the creation of the Clear Bass feature.

 

Back when the HD1/3/5 was current, some of us also suspected whether the codec on these players deliberately capped the frequent response of MP3 playback so that ATRAC3plus gets shown in a better light. You can draw your own conclusions.

post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by WalkingMan56 View Post
 

Also, not only can you replace the Hard Drive, but you can replace it with a larger hard drive - my HD5 has a 120GB drive and makes a great every-day player.

 

Sonicstage (or X-App, if you don't mind a program in Japanese), is no real problem and the sound really is great.

 

Cheers,

 

Andy

I've used GYM but never heard of X-App, will check it out!  

 

I might contact you in the future for the process of upgrading the hard drive when it stops working if you don't mind. :regular_smile : 


Edited by Fungus - 9/9/14 at 9:05pm
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 

I am sorry that I did not add new stuff recently. It was all because of my new job... kind of had less private life.

 

Bought a new battery for the NW-HD5. Also here is a link for your Sonicstage needs: http://forums.sonyinsider.com/topic/20727-sonicstage-4243-full-non-web-installer/

 

Sony has no support anymore for Sonicstage.

 

Furthermore I added a new player => the Cowon iAudio 7

 

 

Coming useless reviews:

 

  • Microsoft Zune (Microsofts failed iPod Touch)
  • Sony Walkman DD11 (for this one I need MCs which do not have yet)
  • Archos 5 (big fat 120gb)
  • Sony D-150 (or D-15 depends where you live)
  • some Hi-MD Minidisc player
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

Well, I did not go according to the previous posted list and just added Cowon X5L.

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