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Old 09-15-2014, 12:40 PM
ESS ESS is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2006
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Default Ruminations on the Cowon M2

M2 Comments

I want to say right away that this isn't a "real" review of the M2 because, unlike many of the reviewers who've done reviews, I have not had a lot of DMP's (PMP's.. whatever).

So what I'm offering below are some of my observations about the M2, but I come from a perspective of 6 or more years of use of my S9 and a few years before that of using the Cowon X5L.

This isn't an "S9 vs M2" review because I want to look at the M2 and how it stands on it's own, however, my experience with the S9 dictates that I make some comparison comments for purposes of clarity.

I also want to state right here that I don't give one thin damn about DMP's that some users want to be the Swiss Army Knife of DMP's. My personal focus is toward using a DMP as a dedicated personal music player, and I don't care about movies or pictures or even album art because virtually all of my recordings are oggs with many of them ripped from commercial CD's with the rest being ripped from streams.

I also hope that people reading this won't be offended if I don't post pictures. If anyone is truly confused by anything I describe below, then tell me and I'll snap a pic and add it to a subsequent post, but anyone can get all the M2 pics they want on the Cowon website to get the general idea of the M2 and what it looks like.

With all of those disclaimers out of the way, here's my take on the M2 that I've had for only a few days, and forgive me if I don't present this in any particular order of interest.

Manual:

You can toss the paper manual that comes with the M2 in the trash if you like because the "real" manual is on the M2 itself in the, you guessed it, the "Manual" folder. That first few pages of the digital manual starts with the "Quick Start" pages that are in the printed manual so everything you need to get going is right on the M2 itself. Feel free to delete all the other versions of the manual that aren't in your language.

While the manual is handy, much of what I learned about using the M2's UI was done through just playing with it. But read the manual. It's The Law .

Included Accessories:

USB charger cord. Nice, very nice, because Cowon has chosen to go with the standard miniUSB port for charging and file management. Gotta' love that.

Ear Buds. Sorry, I haven't used a set of Ear Buds for over 20 years.
Prone to ear infections, I never put anything in my ears so I'll just assume that the included Ear Buds "work".
For my part, I have used the Bose QuietComfort 25's (and it's predecessors) for a number of years, so Ear Buds have no interest for me. It's probably a given that most people upgrade from what's included (with any player of any brand) anyway.

Firmware:

The first thing I did when I plugged it in was to check to see if there was any Firmware upgrade available, but at this time, there isn't. The Firmware on my player is shown as Ver. 1.04.

Screen:

I wanted to address this early on because I had been so used to the X9 and it's capacitive screen that I was apprehensive about going "backwards" to a resistive screen.

I saw right away that the M2 screen is very responsive, so no worries there. I was, however, a bit disappointed at how sloppy it seemed to be. I would go to click one icon but some other icon would be launched.

I knew I had found the solution to that problem the moment I stumbled across the screen calibration function in the Settings menu. Calibration is simple, but the tiny white squares that are offered to be touched are in the very corners of the screen, and I couldn't get my finger into the corner enough to trigger them because the screen is framed by the player, essentially insetting the screen a little. I fixed that by using a dull pencil tip to trigger them. Once calibrated, the screen started behaving as expected, and my clumsy fingers didn't feel so clumsy anymore.

To satisfy the naysayers, yes, using this resistive screen is "different" than the capacitive screen of my S9. It's not bad, but it is different, and it took a day or so of using it before I got the hang of how to poke and slide to coax it to do my bidding.

In the end, I can't say that I "love" the resistive screen of the M2 as much as I did the capacitive screen of the S9. But it functions, and it functions very well for it's purpose. I knew that this wasn't going to be a "deal breaker" for me anyway, and I'm actually happier with the functioning of the M2 screen than I thought I would be after having read the plethora of reports about how crappy it could be expected to be. Others may be more critical about this than me, but that's my take on it.

I can add here that I am very impressed with the image quality of the screen. Cowon included one demo video onboard, and it's as good in quality as any video I ever played on the S9. Cruelly, the video included is a promo vid for (and you knew this was coming), the S9, the very player that I had been using for years that had finally given up and begged for a replacement. Keep in mind that the M2 screen is quite a bit smaller than the screen on the S9, but I was wanting a new player no larger than the S9, and hoped for one even smaller in size. That's exactly what I got.

The M2 is marketed as a DMP/PMP, but for me, the "M" doesn't stand for "Media", but instead, for "Music".
For that function, the screen of the M2 is more than up to the task. The M2 is primarily an audio device, not a graphic device (even though it's graphic capability is better than I expected).
If you still have a prejudice against a resistive screen, you should look elsewhere.

MicroSD Card:

A huge improvement over the S9, the M2 begins with the same 32gb onboard storage as my S9 had, but the M2 adds a MicroSD port so that I could go crazy with loading it up with even more music and audiobooks as time goes on.

I had already bought a 64gb MicroSD card before the M2 got here because I had read elsewhere that other players spec'd to be able to use a 32gb card would be able to read 64gb cards IF those cards were re-formatted to fat32.

This wasn't a big issue for me whether the "64gb trick" worked or not, because to be honest, I already HAD loaded up ALL of my music and audiobooks on the 32gb S9, and I still had about 8gb space to play with (everything I carry on the player is ogg).
Still, I was going to take whatever I could get.

So I re-formmated the exFat 64gb card to fat32 using "fat32formatter", but alas, t'was not to be.

The M2 reported only the 32gb limit even though it had been stuffed with the fat32 64gb card. I'll let others play with that and maybe there's a solution, but for now, what you can get with the M2 is 64gb maximum storage space; 32gb onboard and 32gb in the MicroSD card slot.

Being able to double the storage space from what I had with my S9 tickles me to death. But people who have a "need" to carry more than 64gb (total) should look elsewhere.

User Interface:

It's a given that I hate learning new things. When I replaced my X5L with the S9, I hated the S9. Really, I did.

So it's a given that the UI of the M2 would be different from what I had been using, and it took a couple of days to get used to it. Now, I like it, but there are some things I had to get used to.

The biggest setback for me was when using the "Music" icon to access my music. The thing is, I don't give a damn about album art. I never loaded album art on the S9, either.

So what happens when you go to your music using the Music icon is that the screen shows the last selection that was being played. Good so far. But when I click on the icon in the top left corner to access my other "music", what I get is a screen of 8 "Musical Note" squares that mean nothing to me.

If I click on any of those squares, I will immediately be taken to whatever that icon represents, but I have no idea what that will be until it starts playing.

All I can figure is that the Musical Note icons represent album art covers. If you don't have album art covers, then you get the generic Musical Note squares. At first, that was quite disappointing, but I got around that by using the Browser to find and play all my music. Notably, that is EXACTLY how I did it on my S9, so in that respect and how I use my player, the M2 operates just like my S9 did in how I selected my music or audiobooks to play.

I'll add here that my S9 sported the Claw software, and I can't help but wonder how much the UI could be improved with a similar addition software upgrade (which probably doesn't exist... yet?).

The UI is reasonably intuitive and offers a simple way to get around the player.
It is different from what I've been used to, but it's easy to learn and adapt to.

On the other hand, I wish that Cowon would settle on standard of UI, derived from years of customer feedback and tweaked and improved with ongoing customer feedback. That would be great, and I think better than trying to reinvent the wheel for all their various players.

As an aside, I got some personal feedback from a corporate rep who (loosely) stated that the company wasn't sure that they wanted to design any more Android OS players. I was glad to hear that. If I want Android, I'll pick up my phone.

Last comment: The UI is really just "OK", but being OK, it works very well. Those who wish for the latest wiz-bang UI's that get you so excited that you forget the music you're listening to, look elsewhere. It's a music player after all, and it does exactly that quite well.

Operation:

The M2 includes real live buttons to push, and I'm all in with that.
The screen input is necessary to initiate some things of course, but once my audio is playing, the screen isn't necessary anymore, and that's the way I like to roll.

The Hold feature gives you a choice of whether to hold both the screen AND the buttons, or to hold just the screen. My S9 was set to hold just the screen so I set the M2 the same way, and it's perfect for the way I use a player.

I like the buttons as well, even better than the S9. The Hold feature is activated using the Power button (no slider, and I like that) by just a momentary click. To power the M2 on or off, you click and hold the power button.

Volume is a rocker, and I like that better than the slider on my former S9 as well.

The Play/Pause button is on the top, next to the "Next/Last, Fwd/Rwnd" rocker.

My favorite button of all is the "Home" button that does just that, and only that. The Home button is on the upper right side of the player, and it's great because no matter where you are in the menus, if you get lost or want to take a shortcut and start again from the Home screen, just click the Home button and you're there. That button right there makes the UI a lot better in my opinion.

Revisiting the resistive screen, with all my fumbling around, the screen (a time or two) would respond "sloppily" again where a click on one icon would initiate an action of another adjacent icon.

Clearly, this is a software issue rather than a hardware issue. My guess is that future Firmware updates will address things like this, but this leads me to another nice feature of the M2, and that is it's easy reset feature. To do a quick reset of the M2, all you need to do is to hold down both sides of the volume rocker (+ and -) at the same time, and a few seconds later, it resets itself.

It's not a "full" reset where all settings are reset to factory defaults (you can do that in the Settings menu if you like), but it does a quick reset that (for my intent at the time) immediately "fixed" the sloppy icon issue I wanted to fix. And it did fix it.


Sound Quality:

OMG, it's a Cowon. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

The Cowon players offer the "perfect" SQ that they do, not necessarily because of the hardware, because lots of other players can sound really good as well.

What Cowon offers, and has always offered, is JetEffect, BBE w/Mach 3 Bass, plenty of pre-sets in JetEffect, the Equalizer of course, and then several custom user settings where a user can make up their own settings and save them

The M2 sports the newer JetEffect 5 which offers quite a few more presets. While I will probably go build a few of my own presets at some point, I have found that there are several of the JetEffect presets I keep going back to depending upon what I'm listening to at the moment that sound so nice that I don't yet feel the need to build my own custom settings.

The sound settings are easily gotten to while playing music, so it's easy to skip around and try different presets on anything you're playing at the moment.

Back to the "OMG, it's a Cowon" thing...
Lot's of people have louded that "this player has better SQ than that one" infinitum, so here's where I call BS on that:
I referred to the SQ of the Cowon players (including this M2) as "Perfect", and I'll stand by that statement.

Because what I mean by perfect is that the various methods of sound manipulation that Cowon players include, all together, add up to a system that lets each individual user taylor his (or her) music so that it does sound "Perfect" to that individual user. Your "perfect" will not be my "perfect", and so on and so on.
So what Cowon has done by using the sound manipulation methods that they have used from the beginning, is to allow each user to achieve their own "Perfect" sound.
If that's not perfect, then I don't know what is.
"Perfect" SQ, and what's not to like about that?

Runtime:

A stated 90 hours runtime. Heck yea. I'll give that another "OMG".

My deal-breaker on so many players has been runtime. In fact, my personal limit is 40 hours. Any less than that and I'm just not interested. Naturally, that only shows my personal preference based upon the ways that I use my player, but this posting is my party so my preferences apply.

The S9 was a 55 hour rated player, and it of course loses some of that by way of an aging battery. But I was OK with the S9 and it's time between chargings, so adding about 40% on top of that with the M2 means that I'm a very happy camper.

I haven't had my M2 long enough to measure it's actual runtime, but at this point, I see no reason to doubt the claimed 90 hours.
Runtime is all good with the M2.

Bottom Line:

Some of the above has dealt with what could arguably be referred to as negative issues about the M2.
That's the nature of most reviews, right?... beat up on the negatives?

But from my personal perspective, I am more than happy with the M2 as a replacement for my S9. If there is any one thing that I would have chosen to be an improvement from what I've seen, it's that I would have gladly paid an additional $50 or so for a capacitive screen if for no other reason than that I'm used to using a capacitive screen.

If my description of the M2's resistive screen sounds like you wouldn't be happy with it, then consider another player (X9?) and don't look back.
For my part, the M2 is actually more suited toward my purposes of why I want a PMP in the first place. My "Media" was all about the Music, and the "Portable" part was icing on the cake.
The M2 is all about the Portable AND the Music, so for a simple folk like me, this was a good choice.

Addendum Bottom Line:

Getting beyond my own preferences and looking at the M2 from someone else's eyes, my "outside" opinion is that the M2 is not a ground breaking new design. It could even be seen as a step sideways in that it offers a simple UI and screen input like some earlier players, but is updated with more storage available, and is a very much smaller size for what it does.

The M2 is diminutive compared to the older S9 and I think offers better portability considering it's size along with it's high storage capacity and quite astonishing runtime.

For old-timers looking for a portable music player that does what it does and does it well, including the ability to play music YOUR perfect way, the M2 might be for you.

For those looking for a little movie machine with a big screen, dazzling UI, Bluetooth, WiFi and everything else that can be loaded on a device, then you might want to look at the new Samsung S5 cell phone. I've got one myself, and it's pretty cool.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

I've been sort of general with some of these comments, but if anyone has any specific questions about something, let me know and I'll do my best to answer them.
Lastly, know that I am an admitted Cowon fanboy. I've use their players for more than a dozen years and have been happy with each of them no matter what their individual foibles.
Take everything I've written with a grain of salt because I am neither a nit-picker mining for faults nor a techie searching for God in a PMP.
I just want perfect music, my perfect music, when I want it, and wherever I want it.
To continue in that quest, I have found that the M2 is up to the task.

Until down the road and I will need another replacement...
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Mark

Ogg and Flac or I don't listen, and the Cowon X5L and S9 do it best for me.
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