Tuesday, January 5, 2010

iAudio E2. My Review.

I became a fan of Cowon/iAudio products when I first got their flagship Cowon S9. They make a less expensive player, the iAudio 9 (review coming later), which for audio performance is equal to the S9. At the low end of their offerings is the iAudio E2, and so I bought one to find out how well it would do against the larger models.

Black is the only color available in the U.S. at the moment. It appears they intend to sell the E2 as a fashion accessory in several other colors though. Time will tell.I like the E2's design. A simple rectangle intersected with a circle, the statement is clean and striking. The circle/ring also presents a few options for attaching the device to oneself, and the whole device can be easily mistaken for a "fancy" USB thumb drive.

It's not tiny but it's size is just large enough to provide room for the required buttons. You get external power, volume and track rockers, and an Options button. The lone jack serves as the headphone jack and the USB charge/sync connection which requires the included unique USB cable. There is a reset hole on the back next to a tiny LED that indicate charging/charged and on/off status of the E2Music: Although you can use the E2 as a portable thumb drive, it's primary function is to play music. It supports several formats your music might come as, including MP3/2/1, WMA, FLAC, OGG, and WAV. It finds any music files you've transferred to it's memory and will play them sequentially or shuffled. It's only major shortcoming is in not giving you a way to easily jump through folders or albums. If you put 1000 songs on it expect to spend a tediously long time finding a specific one. The E2 doesn't play consecutive songs gaplessly (with no gaps between songs), but the gap is very short. You get to enjoy a subset of Cowon's BBE EQ/sound enhancement presets. With a quick tap on the Options button you can switch between Normal, BBE, BBE ViVA, BBE ViVA 2, BBE Mach3Bass, and BBE MP, BBE Headphone (1,2,and 3). Hold down that same Options button to switch between shuffle and consecutive play. You get a pleasant female voice to confirm your choice. Audio output sounds great to me, with both the included earbuds and through my favorite Sennheisers HD595s.

Conclusions: At $64 for 4gb, the E2 is priced $10 under the 4gb iPod Shuffle. I haven't listened to a Shuffle and won't buy one to test as I think it is the poorest designed MP3 player Apple has ever come up with. The E2 is a solid performer though, and easily worth the price. You get a great music player and an eye-catching conversation starter. I haven't found anywhere to buy the optional belt/pocket clip shown on Cowon's web sight, but did discover I can clip it to my belt with a little d-ring or hang it from my neck by passing a loop of leather cord through the ring. If you're looking for a great MP3 player to replace an old shuffle, the E2 is a hard one to beat.


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