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  #1  
Old 06-22-2012, 11:01 AM
muscular muscular is offline
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Default A Cowon Z2 Review.

**Realised later there is a user review section, sorry mods, pls help me to move the thread if it's posted on the wrong section, my bad.



The Cowon Z2 has been around for quite some time now.
I'm sure there were others like me who was thinking about how the Z2 sounds compared to J3, and whether Z2 is a successor to the J3.
It'll be quite a lengthy writeup for anybody interested.
Am using a IE8 with silver cables with my Z2

General:

The Cowon Z2 runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread. I've not yet owned a android device yet thus i can't give much writeup about gingerbread here.
The Latest OS by google is actually the 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich commonly known as ICS.

Specs wise can be found on http://www.cowonglobal.com/
It is listed to have 1 CPU, 1 VPU and 1 GPU.
The VPU term here is quite interesting, my guess is that it's another processor that takes care of the video processing.
Many have compared it to Sony Z1000's dual core processor, while
i do not have the Sony's, the UI on Z2 is very zippy and acts much like a dual core to me. (It might be a dual core on Z2, just that 1 core has been prioritized to process videos, but i might be wrong here)

There is a cowon interface used on the Z2, and i found that it has been tuned differently from android's default slightly, it takes a harder touch to navigate the menus. I thought it was the hardware at first, until i tried different games and they were all very responsive even on the slightest touch. Which brings me to believe it's just cowon's interface instead of the hardware.

Player Built:

The player is rectangular in size. It's slightly thicker than the J3.
Screen size is a 3.7inch, it may be smaller than most android phones but i find it just right if you want a single-hand operation. Most device of size 4 inch and above requires both hands to operate the device normally.

We are all familiar with the bottom of cowon's player, where it opens up to reveal the microUSB, MicroSD and miniHDMI slots, the flipper also acts as a stand when watching videos. I have a small problem with the flipper, it extends out too short, some usb cable might need some fiddling to get the cable into the microUSB slot.

The speaker is now placed at the front at the top of the screen, a clever move for people watching videos. The speaker is a notch better than J3's, it output at a higher max volume with more clarity.

There are forward, play, backward, volume up, volume down buttoms located on the right side of the player. The apps i've tried including neutron and poweramp utilizes all the side buttons. For poweramp, you will need to disable side buttons functions on the cowon's music player in order for poweramp to utilize it properly. Power button located on the top of device. A mic is found on the left side of device.

Sound Quality:

I'll make it quick here, it sounds similar to the J3 on Cowon's default music player, except that i found it to have a slightly higher volume on the upper mids. But just very slightly. I noticed this as i use EQ with my senns IE8 and found myself with lesser EQ on the mids and highs. Althought i must warn that it could have been the EQ settings between the 2 players acting differently, could have been that Z2's EQ gives more volume per DB increase.
But in the end if ur confused, you could simply take it that there's no difference between J3 and Z2's sound quality.

Now here's the deal, Z2 on poweramp/neutron player sounds better than the default player. Lately, i've decided to purchase poweramp, i find it to have a better UI and takes up lesser memory than neutron. Neutron on my Z2 heats it up a little as well, and i check that it consumes more memory on my ram.

How does poweramp sounds better than Cowon's music player?
On poweramp, the vocals are more pronounced.
There appears to have the magical higher mids boost on neutron, and it's very obvious when u listen to female vocals.
I noticed better bass response on poweramp/neutron, the bass extends wider.
Sound quality between poweramp and neutron music player are pretty much on par

Video performance:

This is where it shines. Compared to J3, it's superior due to the bigger, higher resolution screen and the support for almost all the video formats.
I've place a 19mbps full HD video and it plays fine except that occasionally i see weird lines.
And since full HD takes up lots of space, i actually convert them to 800x480 resoution when i have the time.
On a side note, a 10mbps full hd video plays perfectly fine.
Full HD is one thing, i'm sure no portable device will handle a blu-ray quality video flawless, i'm reading 25-35mbps on them.
One last thing to mention is that the player does get warm playing videos but depends on how high is your video's bitrates, the higher, of course more processing and more heat.

Android Market:

It's not available by default but u can install the APK file and they will magically install and the market will be available to u when u have an wifi internet connection.
Games play fine on the device although i must mention again that some games may make ur device warmer than others.

Verdict:

Z2 may not be the upgrade to J3.
The shortened battery life will be very obvious especially when u owned a S9/J3 beforehand.
It depends on ur needs, if you need a better video player and does not mind the 3.7inch screen, i would say go ahead. But do account that u have a significantly shorter battery life.
As for audio needs, i've mentioned that poweramp/neutron music player is slightly better than the default player and that the default player on both J3 and Z2 sounds similar.
In short, if you get a Z2 and use poweramp on it, you get a slightly better Sound Quality. But i do not think that the slight improvement is worth a total upgrade.

Pros:
- Android OS
- Exteral music players (Poweramp, Neutron etc. from Android Market)
- 3.7inch AMOLED 800x480 screen
- Awesome support for video formats
- Folder browser (.Wav files are recognised)
- Side buttons gives it flexibility when player's in your pockets
- MicroUSB slot
- Wireless N support
- MicroSD to increase memory.

Cons:
- Poorer battery life than J3
- Player with Cowon's silicon casing sticks to ur jeans a little
- Player can get warm when using certain applications/games
- Cowon's UI make the player a little unresponsive for it's touchscreen
- MicroUSB slot may need some fiddling to insert cable


***Updates:
Recently purchased Neutron music player from google app store.
I've decided to purchase neutron even though i've already purchased poweramp as
neutron is 1 step better than poweramp in term of sound quality.
Neutron has more depth to it's music, making the soundstaging better, bass response was better as well.
Neutron has lots and lots of customisation, it's EQ can be tuned to the exact frequency you like.
Cowon Z2 with neutron is definately an upgrade for J3 which i've not regretted at all spending onto.




Last edited by muscular; 07-13-2012 at 09:53 AM.
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  #2  
Old 06-28-2012, 10:45 AM
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dawningistheday dawningistheday is offline
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Nice review. It seems like a massive upgrade from the D3, but I think anyone who is primarily a music connoisseur would be just as well off with a J3 (probably better, considering the battery life). I don't have a Z2, but this seems to be the consensus around the web that I've gathered.
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  #3  
Old 06-29-2012, 01:27 AM
muscular muscular is offline
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I've done a Comparison between cowon's default music player, poweramp and neutron music players these few days.
And i must say that neutron is very impressive. I've purchased both poweramp and neutron on my Z2.
Neutron on Z2 is definately a step or two up from J3.
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  #4  
Old 07-05-2012, 03:36 PM
agistrilink agistrilink is offline
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Default Eq-settings/presets across music player apps?

I have pretty much the same configuration as you now, as I just installed Neutron as well. For me, the main benefit is that I finally found a good music App that really organize my albums in a simple artist/album/track structure as I was used to with my S9. The default player either has an artist/track (useless) or album/track (too many albums) music library browsing structure. Extremely annoying with 32GB flash and 64GB sd.

What I am curious about is how you configure the underlying Cowon's presets underneath Neutron. Do you put the Cowon on "normal" and configure everything with Neutron? That would leave out all of the fine JetAudio/BBE options...The other way around: Choose a nice Cowon-preset and fine-tune it on Neutron.

I am really curious how people cope with this layered eq/sound settings/presets.
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  #5  
Old 07-06-2012, 12:24 PM
muscular muscular is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by agistrilink View Post
What I am curious about is how you configure the underlying Cowon's presets underneath Neutron. Do you put the Cowon on "normal" and configure everything with Neutron? That would leave out all of the fine JetAudio/BBE options...The other way around: Choose a nice Cowon-preset and fine-tune it on Neutron.

I am really curious how people cope with this layered eq/sound settings/presets.
I have mine on normal, and the audio process as it is.
I haven't played around with BBE + neutron's own EQ.

Have always found BBE and EQ to sometimes make audio sound artificial.
They're helpful to me when some pop songs i listen to has a not-so-bearable bass thump, thats when i EQ them down.

Z2+Neutron+silver cabled IE8 has more or less made me settle down for now. And bear in mind i have a HD650+compass home rig.
While my portable setup cannot compare to my home rig, i believe i've alrdy maximised the SQ for my ie8 atm.
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  #6  
Old 07-06-2012, 07:29 PM
Domdom Domdom is offline
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I own both (J3 and Z2) some additional details!

First, video is overall better in everyway so no issue here, it does play everything. One tiny detail, not a showstopper though: contrast on J3 is better and picture looks slightly crisper.

Audio: yes J3 battery is way better, almost forget about it, Z2 MUST be charged on a more regular basis. BUT 3 big issues that Cowon should fix, almost incomprehensible not to:

- Navigation with stock player is really average: 1 level under genre, album, artist so really hard to use -> work around is to navigate by folders and keep music organized "manually"
- TAG decoding in Flac is buggy! some Artist tags show as "=RTIST", same fix as before
This doesnt hurt music so not really an issue, just dissapointing.

If you consider using 3rd party player like Poweramp and have good headset or inears (I use Earsonics EM3Pro), there is something wrong with the way Z2 handle audio stream played from 3rd party, and it is clear when music volume is low that there is some background hiss and distortion, as if 3rd party apps couldnt use the same output method as stock player, so for now, I consider 3rd party players unusable which is too bad, it would help a lot with navigation and tags.

It is a great player, not perfect unless COWON fix previous issues but I am not very confident since these are obvious bugs and havent yet been corrected
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Old 07-08-2012, 04:05 AM
muscular muscular is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Domdom View Post
there is something wrong with the way Z2 handle audio stream played from 3rd party, and it is clear when music volume is low that there is some background hiss and distortion, as if 3rd party apps couldnt use the same output method as stock player, so for now, I consider 3rd party players unusable which is too bad.

It is a great player, not perfect unless COWON fix previous issues but I am not very confident since these are obvious bugs and havent yet been corrected
I have no such problems, and much seaches even on head-fi, people did not have such a problem. Perhaps u could playing around with ur music player settings. Or i could be just ur iem being sensitive.

On my part, dither on neutron caused some distortion even at low volume.
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  #8  
Old 07-08-2012, 05:00 AM
Domdom Domdom is offline
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I can promise you this is real, please read this
http://iaudiophile.net/forums/showthread.php?t=38703
not the part talking about volume but the rest

I tried Neutron, and did an easy test: play music with Neutron, without pausing, then go to the stck music app, dont play anything just display the app screen and suddenly you hear the sound is different like it went through a different output. The "background" becomes "quiet"

With "standard" entry level headset playing music at a "normal" volume it is harder to notice and some people wouldnt but it is there

3rd party player settings are all flat, I am not using any equalizing stuff
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  #9  
Old 07-08-2012, 07:23 AM
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Kizune Kizune is offline
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I have a Z2 and as Domdom said, there's clearly a problem with third party music apps.
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  #10  
Old 07-13-2012, 09:57 AM
muscular muscular is offline
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I guess ur talking about some static or constant noise when music is played?
I can't confirm if thats happening on my set, it's perhaps too soft to be noticed or placebo on my part.
What i can confirm only is that dither creates static/noise when no music is playing on neutron.
I guess i still can live with the 3rd party apps.
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  #11  
Old 07-15-2012, 11:21 PM
lw3 lw3 is offline
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hows the jelly case and are there any alternative cases for the z2?
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  #12  
Old 07-26-2012, 02:18 AM
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Kizune Kizune is offline
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Just noticed an error: "microUSB, MicroSD and miniHDMI"

It should be: "miniUSB, MicroSD and microHDMI"



edit: Or is it microUSB? Anyway, I know for sure that it has microHDMI, not miniHDMI.

Last edited by Kizune; 07-26-2012 at 02:40 AM.
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  #13  
Old 07-26-2012, 11:13 AM
muscular muscular is offline
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Both usb and sd card slots are micro
Whereas for the hdmi slot, it should be a type C.
Search on the net has ppl calling it both mini and micro.
Probably the type alphabet is the official naming for now.

For the casing, I've only seen one thus far, and its the official case.
Unlike j3, there isn't a rinke casing for Z2 atm.
The casing can be a little sticky to smaller/jeans pockets.
Perhaps someone who uses the device naked can advice if the device gets
Scratched easily?
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  #14  
Old 07-26-2012, 04:59 PM
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Kizune Kizune is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muscular View Post
Both usb and sd card slots are micro
Whereas for the hdmi slot, it should be a type C.
Search on the net has ppl calling it both mini and micro.
Probably the type alphabet is the official naming for now.
Nope, microHDMI is Type D - and I know for sure that's the HDMI port the Z2 has because my GPU has a miniHDMI (type C) port and I cannot use my screen's cable with my Z2.

Here's a nice picture:

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  #15  
Old 08-14-2012, 09:07 PM
rocknroll rocknroll is offline
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I also have the Z2, but I do have one question: what is the maximum external storage extension capacity? Is it 32GB or 64GB?
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  #16  
Old 08-15-2012, 03:56 AM
Domdom Domdom is offline
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64 microsd works fine
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