COWON J3 32 GB Portable Media Player (Black)

  1. Assymptotic
    If only Cowon had a better marketing team
    Written by Assymptotic
    Published Jul 7, 2011
    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.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. mertovic
      What about these set ?

      Cowon J3 and Sennheiser HD 598
      mertovic, Sep 9, 2012
    3. xylin6
      Great review! makes me sad they don't make these anymore as i would love to own one.
      I have a Sony F807 for now which is a fantastic player,still, for all the great things I've read about the J3 I hope to find one someday,I agree that dap's should focus on sound quality first and leave the extra stuff (phone/camera/internet etc) to separate devices.I know some people like to have an all in one device but it seems to me that those types of devices just don't have the great sound of a dedicated dap/pmp plus the last thing I want to hear when enjoying my music is a ringtone blasting in my ear.haha.
      xylin6, Oct 6, 2013
    4. Loras 461
      Yes the battery is amazing . Never measured but mine has got to be over 40 hours plus.
      Loras 461, Aug 22, 2015
  2. WhiteCrow
    Best MP3 player I have tried*Excludeing the colorfly*
    Written by WhiteCrow
    Published May 24, 2011
    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!
    1. lee730
      So would you know where I could get the same deal you got? I may be interested in picking this up to replace my fuze. My Sflo2 was sent back due to factory defects so I have to wait until they send me a new one ;(.
      lee730, May 24, 2011
    2. WhiteCrow
      ummm e-bay? I bought from Jet Audio so look at them or Cowon USA for a referbished model. the S9 is also the same MP3 without the buttons or memory card slot.
      WhiteCrow, May 26, 2011
    3. lee730
      Thanks man. I'll give it a look. The only issue though is it lacks a line out dock :frowning2:. From what I've been reading on headfi with a decent portable amp via Line out dock the fuze and iphone 4 sound better so I guess I'm just gonna stick with those combos using my Leckerton UHA 4. Thanks though.
      lee730, May 26, 2011
  3. Ko Nectic Jazz
    The best both worlds : small and lossless optimal player
    Written by Ko Nectic Jazz
    Published May 20, 2011
    Pros - Big capacity, very small size, long battery life, Flac & APE, microSD
    Cons - none, that's all I need for audio.
    The best both worlds : small and lossless optimal player.
    Big capacity, very small size, long battery life, Flac & APE, microSD
  4. budgetboy
    My Baby
    Written by budgetboy
    Published Jan 2, 2011
    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 ( coming in the mail and I look forward to having 64gb of FLAC music in my pocket at all times. [​IMG]
    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 ( 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. [​IMG]
  5. BigEar
    Nice sounding portable
    Written by BigEar
    Published Dec 24, 2010
    Pros - Compact, lightweigth, very good sound (for portable)
    Cons - Feeble USB / mm card cover, software stability issues at low battery
    Needed a good player for my FLAC and APE files (which my iPod could not do).
    Bought this player on the various internet recommendations although its ridiculous expensive in Europe (239 Euro for 16G version).
    It's a very good audio player in a nice looking package. It drives my RS2 very well and playes all files effortless with good dynamics and musicality. I like the added BBE equilizer settings, especially when playing at work on low volumes to get a bit fuller sound. Battery life is awesome and I love the OLED display although I guess I will not use video much.
    User interface is ok, but not as nice a the iPod's, but that might be just me. I have big fingers and hands and the controls (on screen) and at the player are tiny. Changing the volume often causes me to switch off the player as that button is at the opposite of the housing.
    When the battery was flat, I had some issues when I tried to start up the player. The software went instable and I had to use the reset button. Troubles luckely disappeared when the battery was charged again, so I guess this has something to do with the voltage drop of the near empty battery.
    Bottomline is that I'm happy with my purchase and love the sound.[​IMG]
  6. ovrclkd
    The Perfect Player
    Written by ovrclkd
    Published Nov 23, 2010
    Pros - Storage, a palette of EQ settings, ease of navigation
    Cons - I should have bought this first!
    After trying player after player to include the 602 I have come to realize this was the perfect match for me.
    I too use the UM3X, but also Grado 325i's, K702's (300ohm) and Senn IE6's. This player just wants to push them all. Aside from the 35 presets The EQ settings are ENDLESS! (there are 4 available to dress to your hearts content)
    I didn't need to find phones with the right "synergy" to make it sound great! Heck IMO if you pay $300+ for a DAP it should match at least something in your arsenal .....
    Bottom line, I love it, great sound, great vids (I just found out but probably will never use), easy to navigate. Once again let me say the COWON J3 is a great, great player.
  7. Will13
    Best DAP Ive owned
    Written by Will13
    Published Nov 23, 2010
    Pros - Great UI, great battery life, even better sound, I just love it
    Cons - Album art, and tags are sometimes abit messed up, but they can be fixed pretty easy with MP3Tag
    Well I sold my S:Flo2 for this, and I'm happy I did, this is alot better every where, as great UI, Battery life, and sound, also plays AAC, and works with album art most of the time
    overall I'm very very happy [​IMG]
  8. Daanish
    The best music player out there
    Written by Daanish
    Published Nov 20, 2010
    Pros - Excellent sound quality, customizable UI's, fantastic batter life and beautiful screen
    Really the perfect music player, with the expandable memory slot its just fantastic. 
  9. ZIPUR
    J3 and the Weston UM3x are a perfect match
    Written by ZIPUR
    Published Nov 16, 2010
    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.  
    1. silkthinker
      lovely... is it gapless too? :O it's such a shame i can't get these in méxico. :frowning2:
      silkthinker, May 21, 2011
  10. TyRanT-22
    Written by TyRanT-22
    Published Oct 7, 2010
    Pros - Battery Life, Sound Quality, Screen
    Cons - Build quality could be better, but it is not bad.
    I'll update this at a later date.