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Cowon D2 = awesome MP3 player

I finally broke down and replaced my crusty old Creative Muvo2. Like any self-respecting geek, I agonized over which to buy. I settled on a Cowon D2.

I did tons and tons of research before settling on this. I knew exactly what I was looking for and the D2 met my requirements almost to the letter. So maybe I can save you some time and effort if you share my tastes. My requirements, which the D2 satisfies:

  • 16 GB flash memory. More importantly, expandable via SD / SDHC cards. This means this thing is going to last me a good long time. 8GB of flash memory is $20 or less nowadays, and there are already 32GB cards though they're crazy expensive. The price is going to drop fast though, giving me almost unlimited storage space.
  • Shows up as a simple FAT partition. This is essential for me. (Also supports MTP, if you can stomach it.) Music transfer via Devices in Amarok 1.4 works just fine.
  • Folder browsing or ID3 tag browsing. I obsessively tag my music, so I like that way.
  • Supports non-Latin alphabet filenames and tags. Most of my music is Japanese, so this is also essential for me. Cowon is a Korean company anyways, so they've got this down. The interface itself can be switched to many different languages, which is nice.
  • Audio codec support: MP3, FLAC, OGG, WAV, WMA, APE. You can't beat that. All I needed was MP3, OGG and FLAC, but the others are a nice bonus.
  • 52 hours of battery life for music, optimally. You'll never hit this in real life, but you're still likely to get almost two days worth of playtime. Comes with an A/C adapter, charges in 3.5 hours. Can also be charged via USB, of course. (The USB connector is a standard cable, no proprietary garbage, which is also nice.)
  • Displays album art, including embedded art in MP3 tags.
  • FM radio.

The only one of my requirements the D2 didn't meet was to have a replaceable battery. From what I've read of people who disassembled this thing, the battery is screwy and may be difficult to replace, but I'm not too worried.

The D2 does lots of other things I don't care about, like playing movies and displaying pictures and text files and Flash, and it has a scientific calculator and displays the time and so on. All I wanted this for was to play music, and it does that amazingly well.

The sound quality on the D2 is noticeably better than my old Muvo. It sounds very good. There are a lot of equalizer settings, bass boost, and a bunch of things I don't understand. I turned them all on, and everything sounds awesome. I can turn this thing up VERY loud (ear-shatteringly loud) before getting any distortion. With my Grado SR80's, music on the D2 sounds as good as or better than the sound card in my computer.

The touch-screen interface is good enough for me. I'm not thrilled by such things and I'm smart enough to adapt to any usable interface; "user-friendliness" was not on my list of priorities. I'd rather have power than simplicity, and this gives me the power I want.

This player is like the KDE of MP3 players; there are options for almost everything you can think of. The interface is crammed full of information but the stylus works well to get through it. If you like a dumbed-down minimalist iPod click-wheel kind of interface, the D2 isn't for you. The D2 also has three hardware buttons, two for volume and one for menu, and their function can be customized.

All of this for $175 from This is a very good time to buy a D2, because the next generation of Cowon players is right around the corner. The D2 is likely to be discontinued in favor of fancier, flashier, more expensive but less awesome players. I couldn't let this pass.

AnythingButIpod has a good review of this player including videos.

January 13, 2009 @ 10:33 AM PST
Cateogory: Hardware


Bleys Maynard
Quoth Bleys Maynard on January 13, 2009 @ 12:59 PM PST

Have you tried anything with a cyrillic ID3 tag? I have lots of Russian music. I'm at work and it's at home, but if you need a sample, I can upload one when I get home.

Quoth Brian on January 13, 2009 @ 1:34 PM PST

Russian is one of the languages that you can put the interface into. There's a ??????? option, anyways. I assume Russian tags are supported.

Bleys Maynard
Quoth Bleys Maynard on January 13, 2009 @ 2:13 PM PST

Well, you were right about the MuVos, but I can only get the 8GB model in Canada, for the same price you paid for your 16gigger.

Quoth Brian on January 13, 2009 @ 2:55 PM PST

$229 CAD = $188 USD, so it's about the same price.

Quoth numerodix on January 13, 2009 @ 9:04 PM PST

Welcome to Cowon!

I have an iAudio F2 which is sadly beginning to age.

Bleys Maynard
Quoth Bleys Maynard on January 13, 2009 @ 10:19 PM PST

I really shouldn't open myself to temptation, but...

It says touch screen. Yuck.

Are there physical play, pause, forward, and back buttons? Preferably large ones? I usually listen to music mostly while walking or biking, with my mp3 player clipped to my belt or a webbing loop on my backpack. I like to be able to reach my player and move forward to skip a song I don't want to listen to or back to re-listen to whatever's just finishing without looking, or opening up my jacket in sub-zero Canadian winters. The one I presently have regrettably has microscopically small forward and back buttons, forcing me to remove my gloves when I want to skip a track. I get frostbite, on average, six to eight times per day.

Does it come with some sort of case or clip that I can attach to my belt? I can always make one, but my skills in that regard are sadly lacking, especially while nursing frostbitten fingers.

Quoth Brian on January 14, 2009 @ 3:15 AM PST

There are three physical buttons: volume up/down and menu. Along with Hold and Power. The buttons are tiny (the whole player is tiny) and it may be hard to hit them with gloves on.

You can assign a second function to the volume buttons that activates when the Hold button is set to Hold. So that with Hold off volume acts as volume, but with Hold on volume acts as skip forward/back.

You can assign a second function to the menu button that activates when you press it for a second instead of press and release; it can act as pause/play, or skip forward, or skip back. With Hold activated, the menu button uses its secondary functionality when pressed/released or when pressed for a second.

So no this probably isn't going to be fun to use from your pocket, but you may get used to it eventually. Also no it doesn't come with a case, but cases can be bought.

numerodix: You also have a Cowon? Great minds think alike.

Quoth numerodix on January 14, 2009 @ 5:54 AM PST

I like "Fools seldom differ" :-)

But yeah, their pro-Linux standpoint is a big plus for me. I've had two iRiver's in the past, and had to use amarok's awkward sync feature, very error prone. Mount as usb mass storage is such a blessing.