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COWON J3 32 GB Portable Media Player (Black)

  1. hemidesign
    Phenomenal in every aspect!
    Written by hemidesign
    Published Sep 14, 2016
    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.
      Hawaiibadboy and taffy2207 like this.
    1. taffy2207
      But its not as good as the Plenue D IMHO :)
      taffy2207, Sep 14, 2016
    2. Sulbh
      Sulbh, Sep 14, 2016
  2. tamleo
    Just OK
    Written by tamleo
    Published Jun 8, 2015
    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.
  3. viperxp
    Great DAP , only with EQ
    Written by viperxp
    Published Apr 16, 2015
    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.
    1. jon parker
      Ive also had this player for a few years now and agree with your points. The default sound is indeed quite dead sounding although for some critical listening with sensative earphones this can on occasion be useful.
      I do have a bit of a hate /love relationship with them. With the BBE enhancement ON the sound can be dramatically improved. Sometimes even sounding like a good DAP can sound and this is where the love/hate comes. I strive for the best possible sound by using the 'best' DAC chips married with Opamp & quality iems. So even though the J3 can sound very good . . . it gets that sound by 'cheating'
      Anyway, with it s huge battery life it is great for burning in Headphones & is perfect for taking travelling when you dont want to take your best gear with you.
      One thing you didnt mention is how good the J3 is for reading from! If you have reasonable eyesight you can put a load of books on it in txt format and read from it although the screen light is the biggest battery drainer! 
      As a travel companion this player gets 10/10
      For sound quality it gets 10/10 for its BBE & MP technology but maybe 2/10 for the chip's bare sound :)
      jon parker, Apr 16, 2015
  4. Supercritical
    Excellent audio source
    Written by Supercritical
    Published Apr 30, 2014
    Pros - Sound quality, expandable storage, zero hissing, BBE, battery life
    Cons - Proprietary cable, difficult to create playlist, still pricey online after many years.
    For most people, Cowon J3 is pretty much the ultimate 'non-audiophile' music player for its sound quality, battery life, and expandable storage (I've heard of 64gb micro sd cards working on it, I haven't tried myself yet).
    After having many Creative hard disk based DAPs(Jukebox, Zen touch, Zen Vision W), I wanted to migrate to flash based ones. As Creative simply became totally uncompetitive with audio players, I had to look elsewhere, by chance I stumbled upon Cowon, and I found J3 to be the perfect choice.
    The sound is clean, clear, absolutely no hissing even with some very sensitive IEMs, and with BBE enhancement it becomes pure enjoyment for the ears. It also has an equalizer for more fine tunings.
    The battery lasts long time, with regular commuting use, you probably will need to charge it every 2 weeks or so with sound enhancements on, more if every bells and whistles turned off.
    Now the bad things, the cable is proprietary, I really don't know what Cowon was thinking while designing it, so if you lose it, you will need to order another one online. Good thing the battery will last long enough before your shipment arrives.
    The UI is horrid for today's standards, Cowon seemed to have trouble designing one, it is very tedious to make a playlist work.
    The prices are simply ridiculous for an aging DAP, and currently many online sellers bundle them with useless 8GB sd card to inflate the price further. Very deplorable.
    Bottom line, perfect standalone player for commuting, gym etc, without the need of an amp.
    1. avitron142
      On the for sale part of Head-fi you can see these go for $140. I got it $125 myself refurbished 3 months ago. 
      avitron142, Dec 28, 2014
    2. Loras 461
      Very nice  review .
      Loras 461, Aug 22, 2015
  5. Xstream
    Written by Xstream
    Published Dec 18, 2013
    Pros - Great sound, EQ features and options, portable, battery
    Cons - reliability, not the best UI
    Well, i won't make a long review.
    Having the iPod Nano V6, SansaClip+, SansaClip Fuse, iAudio 6 and a mix of older Sony's, iPod's etc ... I think the best sounding player to me was the iAudio 6. Followed by the iAudio J3. The difference is marginally, but somehow the 6 just performed a tiny bit better to my taste. The BBE+ etc effects just had a smoother and warming impact, where on the J3 it starts to sound a tad more cool, in some cases even mechanical (hissing etc), where the 6 kept composed. 
    But ... sadly, i only managed to enjoy the J3 for a few months when it died. The screen showed weird colors, like there was some graphic card issue and froze, it didn't respond to any button actions. Resetting, rebooting ... nothing. So i returned it, got a new one, after a few months ... the same happened. 
    So i've given up on this model. Might try some other iAudio devicse, but i have no confidence anymore in the J3. 
    1. View previous replies...
    2. perhapss
      Odd indeed.
      As I've said I've had no problems with mine.
      Where did you get a new j3?
      They've been discontinued for some time now.
      perhapss, Dec 19, 2013
    3. Xstream
      Ah, the experience is a bit older ... Must have been over a year ago. In the meanwhile i've had more players and while i was checking this list and was kind of surprised to see this one on no. 1. I think it doesn't deserve it, so i shared my experience. I think even the Sansa is just as good (better out of the box), but the BBE + JetEffect options is a big USP of iAudio, so that's why i prefered the iAudio slightly. More flexibility. Pricewice it's a no brainer though, sansa all the way. 
      Xstream, Dec 19, 2013
    4. avitron142
      +1 @perhapss
      Mine never crashed ever. It's still the golden standard for me. 
      avitron142, Dec 28, 2014
  6. lexangl
    Awesome Player!
    Written by lexangl
    Published Dec 11, 2013
    Pros - Extreme Battery Life, BBE & Jet Audio Effects, EQ, Lightweight, Superior Audio Quality, Supports Most Formats
    Cons - Screen resolution, Navigation has a learning curve
    The short and simple of it is this is the best DAP for the price I have owned. I have used all the main stream players, (IPods, Zune, Creative Zen Player, etc) and I will never go back. Besides the great audio quality, the battery life is unparalleled. I have played with my friends iBasso and Colorfly and although they might be a bit better (maybe) with the full lossless, i still like the full freedom of the Jet Effects. Besides, it was much cheaper than what they paid.
    If I had to change one thing, it would be the screen, its touch interface works most of the time, but with cold or dry hands sometimes it needs a second tap. Of course the tactile buttons make up for it.
    For reference, I own the following headphones for comparisons.
    Bose IE2, Bose QC20, Ultimate Ear UE6000, Sennheiser HD590, Sennheiser OCX 880, Denon C751
  7. Krisman
    Ok, not as good as the hype suggests
    Written by Krisman
    Published Nov 25, 2012
    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.
      xylin6 likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. avitron142
      Point being you're way too critical. Besides for the fact that the Samsung Galaxy does NOT have better audio than the J3, and every other option you mentioned is over twice the price of a J3 you can get in the "for sale" part of head-fi forums (for about $140 or so),
      Not to mention it's much smaller than the X5 (which has 1/6 the J3's battery) and literally half the weight, it's still a better package than anything else I've seen for this price.
      Yes, better than the crappy Samsung, the bulky X5, the Z2 is much worse overall than the J3 (just google it), and the Sony Z series is 3x the price.
      Your audio expectations are as wacked as your hair. Both seemed to have gotten electrocuted.
      avitron142, Dec 28, 2014
    3. oliwek
      lol, your audio comparisons (Cowon Z2, Sony walkman and even Samsung Galaxy better audio quality ????), seen from 2017, are... curious.
      I really wonder what headphones/IEM you used on those devices... was it stock earbuds ?
      Congrats, your notation contributed to a really low result for a great player that I still use in those days of (price inflated/power hungry/great sounding) HD players.
      oliwek, Mar 29, 2017
    4. Krisman
      Thanks for the put down. Glad to see people can respect each others opinions on head-fi.
      Krisman, Mar 29, 2017
  8. mauricio nz
    Cowon J3
    Written by mauricio nz
    Published Sep 22, 2012
    Pros - Battery Life, sound quality, audio formats, simple to use
    Cons - Does not support many videos formats, blue-tooth not that good.
    My best Pmp so far.
    I have tried sony's, sans'a, and cowon j3 is the best so far.
    Unfortunately I lost it, and now it is discontinued so I have been trying to replace it, I bought a Sony Walkman A 865 which was sent back due to the poor battery and poor Eq, after that I bought a Cowon Z2 basically the same sound quality than J3 but an horrible android device, this also was sent back.  
    So now I will just wait for a "successor" of the J3, since any Smartphone nowadays is able to perform better than cowon Z2, there is no point in getting a low quality android product, J3 has basically what is just needed today, a great battery life, many audio formats support, nice amoled screen; If more video support can be added and a bit bigger screen and improve the bluetooh performance in order to send and receive files, then I will get a new cowon.  Otherwise I will just use my Smartphone which plays reasonable well with Poweramp on it.
  9. gshay
    Written by gshay
    Published Apr 29, 2012
    Cons - THIS DOES LIKE MAC'S !!!
    Fairly new to mp3 players, tried the Ipod Nano 6th Gen. Never would shuffle worth a damn.
    Same 150 songs over and over. Researched this J3 here and purchased it. Followed ALL instructions as to installing the newest `firmware' using my Mac. Wrote a polite letter to those people in the country it was made. Too old for this nonsense. When the songs change the volume blasts louder, plugged in the Pico amp, sounds better, BUT CANNOT install firmware.
    Much nicer then the Ipod but has different items to learn, right?  Please help this  feeble old guy 
    with the  updated firmware.OK?
    Update:     5-6-2012
    Now a week later, it does, if your careful work with a Mac, all the comments and data above is 
    right on the money, this is heads and shoulders ahead of the IPod. You can by a simple `click'
    turn any song into a `live' recording with reverb large rooms or small, the settings are almost unlimited. And playlists are IMHO gone, I found a very simple way to place your mp3 or better
    into the J3 with making the `lists'. I did have to use an older pc to install the 2.29 firmware.
    Then back to the Mac for all other projects. Caveat: Install `BlueHarvest' in your Mac first___
    otherwise the J3 very well might `brick'. Before using with a Mac clean ALL caches & cookies.
    I use OnyX to Clean the Mac, it is free. This J3 will make your listening so much more enjoyable. After the  first few recharges it will play music for over 2 days non-stop.
    Since finding this and reading all reviews here, I have yet to turn on my large system, "totally-tubes" the only way to fly, analog. FYI: When attempting to understand, it think Asian and go from there because Cowon will NOT answer your questions. Cheers!
    1. XxDobermanxX
      Sooo how is the sound quality ?
      XxDobermanxX, Apr 30, 2012
  10. JoonBug
    Cowon J3 -- A very customizable DAP (White ver.)
    Written by JoonBug
    Published Aug 3, 2011
    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!

    Before we get started...

    1. My comments about the J3 stem from my experience with an iPod touch (3rd gen).
    2. I like a very neutral sound signature.
    3. My favorite genres of music are classical, acoustic rock, and jazz in that order.
    4. 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.
    5. I got the White 32GB DMB one from a Korean vendor while I was in Korea.
    6. 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​
    Screen Specs​
    3.3" AMOLED (490x 272  screen ratio - 16:9)​
    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​
    Power/Hold (left), Next/Prev Track (right), Play/Pause (right), Volume (right)​
    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.


    Open it up, and it becomes...
    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.
    Overall, a pretty spartan collection. Points for a clean packaging look.
    My rating = Good

    Design & User Interface (UI)


    On the outside...

    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...

    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.
      miceblue likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. cmkofkvc
      if you enjoy neutral sound...I recommend that you try the S9 if you havent already...
      to me S9 sounded even more neutral...
      cmkofkvc, Aug 5, 2011
    3. JoonBug
      Hey, thanks for the tip. I happened to try both out before I bought them, and I actually preferred the J3 b/c of a slightly cleaner sound and more features than the S9.
      JoonBug, Aug 6, 2011
    4. hittitin
      The battery of my J3 had been damaged , I'm thinking of changing one . Do you guys know the size of the battery ? Thanks a lot .
      hittitin, Oct 7, 2011