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Old 01-27-2014, 03:44 PM
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Default Cowon E2 Review


Capacities: 2GB / 4GB
MSRP: $59AUD
Dimensions: 26.2(w)x64.2(h)x7.7(t)mm
Weight: 16.6g
Sound Enhancements: Normal, BBE, BBE ViVa, BBE ViVa 2, BBE Mach3Bass, BBE MP, BBE Headphone 1, BBE Headphone 2 and BBE Headphone 3.
Battery Life: (Claimed 11hrs, Actual 5hrs), Charge time 1.5hrs
Audio Support: MP3, WMA, FLAC, OGG, Wav.
Buttons: Power, Shuffle/BBE, Vol +, Vol -, Skip/Scan, Rew/Scan

The E2 is a stripped down no nonsense 'shuffle' based player from Cowon offering (i think) the lowest price point for experiencing the Cowon sound via its array of BBE DSP enhancements.
As someone who actively uses Cowon products I feel quite well suited to comment on how well the E2 sounds, especially in comparison to its higher end DAPs.

First Impressions


Once unboxed I charged the player as per manual, waiting for the LED light to turn from red (needing charge) to green (fully charged). I then threw on 10 test songs quickly, songs I regularly use to get an idea of how a DAP sounds and to configure the DSPs etc.
Immediately I was impressed, even on 'Normal' (no DSP applied) it sounded good, better to my ears slightly than a Sansa player. The I pressed the shuffle button to cycle through the different DSPs and was again happy to hear the warmth of the BBE sound.
To my ears the presets sounded the same as on any other Cowon player I owned. Before tweaking my own BBE settings in my higher end cowon DAPs I relied on BBE Headphone 1 as my DSP of choice, so I am quite synced as to how that specific preset sounds and it felt the same on the E2 compared to the i9+/C2.
The only thing I had to do was mp3gain my music from 89db up to 92db to get the volume at a level I like (which was pretty much maximum). It's not that it's a quiet mp3 player, just that those of you who know me around here know I like my music loud and am possibly hearing impaired somewhat.



I wasn't impressed with the build quality, indeed if you looked closely the player wasn't straight at all, it was bent somewhat, a little crooked which activated my OCD. I also noticed that the - Volume button was a bit flakey on my unit. Pressing the + volume button felt secure, no misses, a good click and corresponding adjustment, the - button is not as successful. I feel it click and sometimes doesn't adjust volume, sometimes i press and get no click, it's like the spring mechanism isn't working properly. Don't get me wrong it does work it just has a higher fail rate for recognition. Not really an issue for me as all I do is switch the player on, push max volume up and leave it there, the - button is a button I won't use much, if this was happening on another more important and often used button I would be trying to replace the player.

Interacting With a Screenless DAP

This is my first ever 'shuffle' player. At 4gb storage it's clear its not really intended for complicated navigation, playlists etc. Throw in a few albums or hit shuffle (which shuffles entire contents of the drive regardless of folder structure).
My purpose in getting the E2 was to find something truly exercise friendly, something so light and compact that I can run without feeling it bang against a leg, not having to hold etc. I love my i9+, but at 40g and the size it is, if I have it tagged to me at certain places (more on this tagging later) then I am aware of it. The E2 however feels invisible (same as a sansa clip).
For me this player was to play my absolute favourite songs, shuffle all and exercise and in that regard it is the best I have ever owned.
Turning shuffle on or off is easy (long press on the shuffle button) and rotating through the BBE presets is simple with short presses. Where it annoys me is a female voice calls the name of the preset each time you press the DSP, I'd much prefer an LED system on the player, an LED that lights up depending upon the DSP in use etc.
For example, BBE Headphone 1 will be what I use 50% of the time, then sometimes if things get a little distorted I will go to the next BBE setting 'BBE Headphone 2'. But then if I want to go back to BBE Headphone 1 there is no way to jump back, you have to keep cycling through all of them again. It's a shame there is no double press on the shuffle/BBE button to jump back one, or a really long press etc. I have learned however if u press the button in quick succession (whilst counting the presses) you will get to the preset you want and the woman's voice skips a few 'callouts', so at least that's something.
But it has been a long wish of mine to have a dedicated EQ button and this is as close I have gotten to having one, and it's a fantastic feature. I so hope Cowon stay in business and release more DAPs, one with a dedicated BBE/EQ button would be superb. How I would see it working would be to configure that EQ button (in settings) to rotate through the presets (even custom) that you want, then whilst a song is playing and you press the eq button it switches to the next preset you have bookmarked. On a DAP with a screen you wouldn't need the annoying voice over just a pop up message etc.
I really wish a double tap on the shuffle/BBE button took u back one preset instead of only going forward. Nevermind...


Adjustments in volume were accompanied by an annoying beep also. In addition to that everytime the player is switched on/off, or the headphones are pulled out the volume is put back down to default (which i think is somemid way. Everytime I use the player I have to increase volume to max and hear those annoying beeps. Again, some use of LED lights on the player would be better than beeps. Skipping and Rewinding tracks works fine as you would expect. At first I wasn't sure if scanning works (actually fast forwarding in a song) as you here a continuous beeping noise (sounds more like a bug, that scanning isn't working) rather than the song skipping/speeded up noise that I am used to. But indeed it seems scanning works, u just cant hear or tell where you are up to. Again more annoying unnecessary beeping, the C2 and i9+ scan normally, why can't the E2?

But all in all it was interesting to use a player without a screen, not as cumbersome as I first thought. It made me think about the SansaClip+ and how we all got by pretty fine with just some LED screen with no album art. I could see a Cowon doing quite well if it released a future shuffle and had a minimal LED Screen to help with navigation or displaying song/lyrics etc, if anyone could make it look sexy and cool it would be Cowon. I would prefer less Beeps and Voice overs instead a a simple LED light pattern to signal what's going on. For example, I adjust volume fine on my i9+ without hearing beeps, I let my ears tell me if its too loud or quite, not a number on a scale, the beeps feel unnecessary and overdone in places and it gets annoying.

Pros

So I think I have pretty much covered the pro's of the player, to recap they would be;
1) Excellent sound for the size and weight of player. I personally prefer the sound of the E2 over the Sansa clip range.

2) Dedicated BBE/DSP button.

3) Fast on time. i9+ can take a little while to switch on and be useable (longer if you have just added music), least with the E2 it boots up instantaneously.

and now...

The Cons

1) Excessive Beeping and Annoying voice overs (already covered that)

2) Not the best build quality (covered that too)

3) Battery Life. Claimed to be 11hrs I have had 5hrs at one test and am currently doing another. My battery test involves filling the player to its 4gb max (3.68GB to be exact) with various mp3 files of differing bitrate (128-320kbps), no FLAC or OGG here currently. I then shuffle the entire collection, plug my headphones in, turn volume to max (which is where I would listen to in real world conditions) and then leave it running and checking on it periodically. The 11hrs claimed must be very low volume, perhaps no headphones plugged in, BBE Normal, mp3 files of 64kbps etc. I just want to warn people that under real life conditions don't expect to get the 11hrs claim, I'm not even getting 50% of that! It's ok for a workout but this low battery life has meant I can't use it for work... shame.
I have also read some people talking about the E2 discharging quickly when not in use (ie off). I have yet to fully charge the player and then leave it a couple of days and do a battery test (will post these findings this week), but I have noticed after a night of been fully charged, when going to use it the next day, I plug it up to pc (ie charging) and it will be red to begin with (indicating it needs some charge) and will stay red for 20mins before turning green. If the DAP takes 1.5hrs to fully charge, 20mins is fairly significant time to lose from just one night of resting... (someone with better maths skills than I should be able to tell us what in listening time that might roughly be). So i suspect there is a dischage fault here, will be able to confirm later. If so that's pretty bad, I mean this thing is kinda meant to be hooked onto yer keyring etc, emergency player is smartphone dies of battery etc, but what's the point if the E2 can't hold a charge!?


4) No clip. I personally don't mind DAPs that have no clip mechanism, I have got around it by using 'Magnetic Badge' clips (see photo above). One side is metal with 3M sticky foam, stick this to yer player of choice, the other strip has magnets which would be placed on the other side of clothing. This allows for more versatility than a clip imo. The DAP can be placed any side up, with headphone terminal at an angle that suits the user. The clips on the Sansa player meant that (if u placed it on yer pants/shorts) it always faced that way. Rockbox allowed for screen reversal which was nice, but even then yer stuck with placement on the edge of garments. The magnetic clasp allows for the item to be placed more medial if you prefer.
There is a clip made for the E2 but I can't find it for cheaper than 17quid, so I'll be giving that a miss.

5) Confusion over features. I read somewhere that pulling the headphones out of the E2 causes the E2 to power down. Nope not for me. I'm using the latest firmware and it definately stays powered on. I can see the headphones removed and the Green led light still blinking intermittently (indicating on). I have to manually power off. Perhaps this explains some 'discharge' issue some people have. Curiously reinserting headphones back in and the volume is put back down to default (about mid way i think). So On/Off puts music back down and so does pulling the headphone cable in/out. Odd.

Whose It For?

So where does the E2 sit in DAP world? For me it's a pure exercising DAP, offering the best sound in the gym without concerns of such issues such as scratching screen, weight, bulk, bounce etc. Make no mistake, the E2 despite its faults will replace my Sansa Clip. The Sansa Clip also failed to get me through a long working day on occasion (10-12hrs continous use) which led me to look into Cowon players again. The E2 won't replace the i9+ but at least I have something more suitable for the gym.

Use the E2 if you are organized (thinking ahead to issues such as charging), want the best sounding smallest player for activities that are completed in under 5hrs (just to be safe). I always found that once I heard the Cowon BBE effects I found it hard to go back to hearing something lesser (Sansa), I put up with all the little dissapointments and quirks of Cowon because at the end of the day it just sounds better (to me) and lets face it most of the time that's what you end up doing, just listening to music.
I know BBE and DSPs aren't for everyone and I think that's fine. In fact if yer not bowled over by BBE then you essentially have a much larger choice and better bargains to be found elsewhere, I'm jealous!

Future

I would like to see more battery life. More thought going into button pushes and indeed more buttons (there is no play/pause, even tho on/off is fairly quick it resets the volume upon resume, annoying). A few extra LED buttons (or even a hidden style LED display) would allow for much more versatility. More storage space of course would be nice, but I have quite enjoyed the challenge of loading 4gb worth of music onto the player and approaching the player from a different perspective than the i9+.
Indeed I may take the 4gb 'best of' music off and instead put whole albums on or just new music that I come across, I'll see...
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  #2  
Old 01-27-2014, 05:43 PM
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Second battery test complete under same circumstances as before (full volume, mp3 128-320kbps, shuffle all), came in under the same 5hr mark. I can confirm it was fully charged before use.
I shall now try a full charge and leave for 48hrs and then run a battery test to see if it gets the same 5hrs or less due to discharge.
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Old 01-27-2014, 08:00 PM
skip252 skip252 is offline
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Nice read BB. As a load a few faves on it start it up and let it rip type player it sounds pretty decent. The pics make it look more impressive than the only one I saw in real life. Can't see the build quality issues you mentioned at all.

Reinforces for me why I've never really liked or disliked screenless DAPs. I see where it could appeal to some but I like having greater control without having to do lots of button pushes.

A couple of things you may want to consider on the reports of the battery life. The E2 doesn't seem like it's been made for a while so the battery in the one you have may be old. If it is I'm guessing it's lost some of it's ability to hold a charge. That might also be something to consider if it won't hold a charge when it's powered off.

The other thing is that manufacturer stated battery life is usually measured using a 128 kbps MP3 at default volume and no interaction with the device. I've never used a DAP that way so I always shave ~25% of that when I'm figuring what to expect from any DAP.
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Old 01-27-2014, 08:17 PM
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Yeh I never expected the 11hrs, but thought more than 5hrs, perhaps 7-8.
When did this DAP first appear? How old is it? A stockist in oz is still selling them, I didn't think it was new but...
I had similar issues with Sansaclip, it once failed to get me through a real working day. I figure my volume levels have alot to do with it. All my clips I get around 10, not the 13-15hrs others get, but then no one seems to listen as loud as I do.
I'm pretty sure I ran some battery tests on a Fuzev2 and the results differed significantly if the headphones were connected or not.
I may try a default volume 128kbps test also.

I'm sure its discharging on its own accord tho, 10hrs of no use and it'll stay red for 20mins till it goes green when charging.
All DAPs do mind u, I grabbed my C2 the other day, it was empty (hasn't used for months) and that's suppose to have 55hr battery life. Same with Sansa clips not used in awhile, but it feels as tho the E2 really suffers this badly (as u say partly perhaps to age of the player).

If u look really close in the 1st and 4th pic u can see it's veering off to the left slighty, that's not just photgraphing messing, it actually is curved a bit. Yer not going to see a problem with build quality from the - Volume button, u just have to trust me when I say my unit does exhibit this behavior.

Quote:
Originally Posted by skip252 View Post
but I like having greater control without having to do lots of button pushes.
Ironically this player I prolly interact the least. Apart from the BBE button getting tapped occasionally, and the initial volume increase, that's it. I mess about way more with the i9+, building playlists (favorites) etc.
Because its 4gb I think it makes u less likely to mess around with it, it is kinda a shuffle player..
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Old 01-27-2014, 08:20 PM
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Nice review bro. But the 5hr battery life is ridiculous. Plus the idea of not having a screen is the final nail in the coffin.
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Old 01-27-2014, 09:15 PM
skip252 skip252 is offline
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Enzo's review was done in November 2009 so it's been around at least that long. No telling how long they were made or if they still are. They're not available on the jetmall or amazon so I'm guessing they're no longer in production.

I don't do a lot of fiddling with a player while I'm out and about. I like to be able to easily change playlists I've designed to fit my mood. As long as a DAP let's me do that I consider the UI at least 75% successful. I don't see any mention of playlists in your review? Any idea if the E2 uses those?
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Old 01-27-2014, 09:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The DarkSide View Post
Nice review bro. But the 5hr battery life is ridiculous. Plus the idea of not having a screen is the final nail in the coffin.
I agree that the 5hr battery life is ridiculous, especially as it has no screen to power. I know if the screen was on all the time on my sansaclip zip or even clip+ then that chews battery life also and nowhere getting the claimed battery life, but still I was getting around twice the battery life on the clip+/zip with screen interaction occasional.
Least they could have done is to beef the battery a bit in compensation on the E2, it really is quite poor.
BUT... is it really going to matter to me? I wont be using this player for any situation that requires 5hrs playback time, 1.5-2hrs will be all I need. What I would like is a super fast charge time (1.5hrs charge for 5hrs playback is a bit naff) and no severe discharge problems. I would like to feel as tho I could leave this player for 72hrs before picking up again and it's still good to go, but sadly I doubt this is the case at all. It's not great not knowing how much charge is left either (no % bar etc).

But not having a screen, well I don't think anyone buys an ipod shuffle or this (E2) with the intention of using it the same way a player with screen (or for that matter a player with larger storage capacity). So I think it's a 'bit' unfair to compare this to anything that does have a screen. I mean its 4gb, if all the albums were FLAC yer not talking awhole lot of music, it's clearly intended for brief bouts of music in a shuffled way or album all the way through.
It may be the same size as a clip+/zip (perhaps slightly smaller and lighter, my pics of the clip have the clip removed) but I prefer it for those times that I need 1hrs worth of music with best possible sound (gym basically).

It won't replace my i9+ but it will replace the clip and I think that's my point. I don't need navigation or a screen when training for up to an hour (I didn't when I used the clip in this fashion). What I do appreciate is better sound quality and quicker shortcuts to a different EQ depending upon what song comes on next, the E2 does this.
The clip failed to fulfill my needs at work (namely occasional too short battery life and sub par sound quality, compared to Cowon that is), I couldn't substitute the E2 even if I could (ie long battery life) as 4gb just isn't really enough for me when I'm at work all day, I need more choice incase I get bored of the 4gb content. Currently my i9+ sits at 20gb and with that volume of music you really need a screen to navigate and build playlists etc.

The E2 is what it is, it's also interesting to note that out here it costs less than a clip...
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Old 01-27-2014, 09:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skip252 View Post
I don't see any mention of playlists in your review? Any idea if the E2 uses those?
No playlists. You can't build any and it won't read one (at least I think). The manual mentions nothing of it supporting playlists, and if I throw one in I'm not sure how it would manage...

You see the moment you switch the player on it starts playing a song. On/Off is almost like play/pause except when 'paused' its actually off (and saving battery life). The annoying this is when 'unpausing' (switching on again) you have to put the volume back to where u were (but i'm pretty sure it picks up where it last left off, will confirm that later). All you can do is skip to next file or folder.

However, I discovered a little useful program some years back that I still use today. It's called AMok Playlist Copy, and what it does is allow for you to drag a playlist into the program (literally drag n drop) and then point it to a folder to export to and it will create all those mp3 files that are in the playlist to that location. So if you plugged the E2 to pc, set the output folder to being the E2 then dragged a playlist into Amok and click 'ok' it will put all the songs in the E2 that are in that playlist thus kinda doing the task you want. It will even create a subfolder (if you like) so that perhaps one playlist is called 'Heavy Metal' all those songs would end up in that folder called 'Heavy Metal'. You could drag a second playlist into Amok and export again, this time with a new subfolder perhaps called 'Classical' and same will be done again. The E2 would now have 2 main folders that you can access and if not shuffling will play them in sequential file order. If you shuffle it will shuffle across both folders (Shuffle All). Problems you will get is if yer playlists conversion results in more than 3.68gb worth of mp3 files, so smaller playlists would be safer or export first to a non E2 folder to see what the end result in size would be.
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  #9  
Old 01-27-2014, 09:45 PM
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The newest Shuffle will play for a good 10+ hours with high bitrate mp3 files. I could never get the voice over to work on mine, but it played loud and it was tough (all aluminium). If I had to go screenless I would take one of them again over the E2, because I was never fond of any of the BBE presets. None of them sounded quite natural to me.
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Old 01-27-2014, 09:51 PM
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Yep, it really all comes down to the BBE and whether or not yer a fan. No BBE fan? Plenty better options elsewhere.
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Old 01-27-2014, 10:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceBanner View Post
Yep, it really all comes down to the BBE and whether or not yer a fan. No BBE fan? Plenty better options elsewhere.
The other Cowon players, where I could fine-tune the DSP effects, are fine. I still have a D2+ that gets used a few times a week. But the built-in presets, none of them sat quite right with me....not on D2, D2+, i9, or X9(and the X9 has an amazing number of them).
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  #12  
Old 01-28-2014, 05:19 AM
neutral neutral is offline
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Where can one still buys this. Isn't it discontinued or it's just me?

Though, I'd prefer something with an actual battery in it. :P
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Old 01-28-2014, 11:53 AM
Mikerman Mikerman is offline
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Would be so nice with a text-based OLED screen across the flat front, and with button controls on the 2 sides . . . .
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Old 01-28-2014, 02:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neutral View Post
Where can one still buys this. Isn't it discontinued or it's just me?

Though, I'd prefer something with an actual battery in it. :P
Hhahaa, u can buy it here in oz. (they may ship)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikerman View Post
Would be so nice with a text-based OLED screen across the flat front, and with button controls on the 2 sides . . . .
I agree. What i was trying to put across is a screen isn't the be all and end all of a DAP. The E2 made me think of the Clip+, and how I actually prefer the look of the clip+ vs the clipzip. To me that zip screen cries out cheap, whereas the text isn't trying to pretend its something its not.
I want a E2+ with text-based OLED on the front xD
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Old 01-28-2014, 02:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin the Martian View Post
The other Cowon players, where I could fine-tune the DSP effects, are fine. I still have a D2+ that gets used a few times a week. But the built-in presets, none of them sat quite right with me....not on D2, D2+, i9, or X9(and the X9 has an amazing number of them).
Headphone 1 was the preset I singled out when I first tried them all out. Eventually I moved to variations of other ppls eq tweaks but I kinda grabbed the E2 knowing it had Headphone 1 so that I would be kinda satisfied.
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Old 01-29-2014, 07:12 AM
Jeven Jeven is offline
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This shows up on amazon uk as first available, Nov 2009, currently unavailable.

That's why the battery life is so poor on your model - it's around 4 years old.
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Old 01-29-2014, 02:01 PM
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BruceBanner BruceBanner is offline
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Yep, I hope the discharge is less of an issue. As I said earlier, in reality 4-5hrs is ok for what I'm using this device for, running dead from a weeks worth of not using is a little more of a PIA... we'll see.

Maybe pry open the unit and source a new battery on ebay xD
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Last edited by BruceBanner; 01-29-2014 at 02:22 PM.
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Old 01-31-2014, 01:23 AM
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BruceBanner BruceBanner is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Australia, NSW
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I fully charged and turned the player off at 2:20pm on Tuesday. I turned it back on and did the same test as before (full volume, shuffle all, mix of bitrate mp3 files) today at 2:20pm (Friday, a full 72hrs sitting in the drawer discharging.). It conked out of battery life at 6:10pm, 3hrs 50mins total runtime, indeed less than the 5hrs gotten twice previously.
It's important to note that both previous tests that got 5hrs the player sat in the drawer overnight (after being fully charged) before starting the test but did indeed get a another additional quick charge before running the tests. This quick charge saw the player take 20mins before moving from red (needing charge) to green (fully charged). It could be that those 20mins account for the missing 1hr 10mins, after all it takes 1.5hrs to fully charge. It could be discharging very quickly (within 10hrs or overnght) and then not much more no matter how long u leave it (well within reason...)

PS, can someone move this to Mp3 Player Reviews or is it not worthy lol?
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SOURCE: Xclef (gone) | Cowon X5(gone) | Cowon D2 (dead) | Sansaclip+ RB | Sansa ClipZip RB | Cowon i9+ (32gb) | Cowon C2 (4gb)
HPs: Soundmagic E10's | Hippo VB's | UE 600's | Superlux HD 668B | Superlux HD660 | Sony XBA3 | Sony XBA2VP
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