Does anyone have a "Cowon J3" mp3 player?

I’m looking for a player to use for language files from Cds and podcasts,
and this one seems to fit my criteria, but I have some questions about:

· the playlist and bookmarking capability
· the repeat functions
· the battery life

If someone has one of these players, I would love to pick your brain!


I’ve got one ordered. Will arrive Monday with a bit of luck. I’ll let you know.


Did you do much research before buying? I’ve done two solid days research more-or-less, and still don’t know which brand would be best overall, let alone which specific player. Not only do all the reviews and comments directly conflict with each other, most of the players seem to have very serious design and quality flaws (even the really expensive ones)!!

Regarding my questions:

There doesn’t seem to be ‘on the fly’ playlist creation; you have to do it on your computer and move them across. I’m not too bothered about that, but I also read that it doesn’t use standard m3u playlist files, and that you have to convert your lists from iTunes/WMP/WinAmp/Mediamonkey to a special format?

Can bookmarks be named/labelled?
Is bookmarking easy to use?

repeat functions:
· How easy is it to rewind back a few seconds?
· There seems to be an a->b repeat function - how easy is it to use?
· Can playlists be set to repeat, or can only files and folders be repeated?


By the way, I found the English manual:

From the instructions, it looks as though the repeat functions aren’t quite as comprehensive as I’d hoped for. They also look a little finicky to use. Also, there’s no mention of playlist formats except for the word ‘playlist’ in one of the screenshots. I’d be very interested in your assessment once you get the machine.

On the plus side, I noticed that:
· playback speed can be set to 50%-150% and has pitch correction
· you can set the skip interval (short press of the rewind button) from 1 to 5 seconds
· you can set the rewind/forward seek speed (holding the rewind button)
· there appears to be a ‘resume’ setting, which hopefully keeps your place after powering off
· you can use the text reader (ie. load a transcript) whilst listening to the equivalent audio track
· ‘hold’ mode can leave the forward/rewind and volume buttons active, but disable the touch screen

Lastly, I noticed quite a few people talking about a factory flaw, whereby the glass is not flush with the casing - one of the corners rises up on a large percentage of the machines due to a design fault. Hope you don’t experience that problem.

Are you buying yours through Amazon from the supplier: ?

More info on playlists:

The problem appears to be with the firmware. The symptom is that .m3u and .pla are corrupted/deleted after their creation if the player is rebooted with an SD-card inserted. Apparently if the lists are created on the PC, moved to the playlist folder, and the machine is rebooted without an SD-card inserted, then the playlists are fine and the SD-card can then be reinserted (as long as it is removed the next time a playlist is created). Cowon say they will fix this issue in a subsequent firmware update.

Note that playlists only work with files on the main memory, and not with files on the SD-card. The firmware update may fix that too, but it is doubtful.

After looking at the manual, and pouring over some more comparison reviews with ‘equivalent’ players from other brands, I decided that the J3 seems the most appropriate for my needs, although it is 3x more expensive than my usual budget for this kind of gadget.

I’ve already ordered mine, but would be still interested in your impression when you receive yours.

Just buy from somewhere with a good return policy.

Buying online and returning stuff appears so easy within USA, but actually it can be a real hassle in Europe, even when sending goods between EU countries (which supposedly have good trade agreements).

I’d rather just get my choice right first time, thanks!

As far as I know, you can return something within the UK only if it is a) faulty or b) unopened in its packaging. You can’t return something because you don’t like how the firmware works.

I’ve spent months thinking about am mp3 player (not nearly as hard as you a
have, Hazlo), and in the end I just liked the reviews that said that Cowon produce jolly good mp3 players with no begod nonsense. I have only a vague idea what functionality it actually has, or whether I will understand it when I get it.

in the end I just liked the reviews that said that Cowon produce jolly good mp3 players

The sound quality is supposed to be excellent on most of Cowon’s products, although apparently some other brands in equivalent price ranges approach the same kind of quality. However, Cowon have also been heavily criticised for low build quality, unstable software, and confusing user interface, which makes the choice more difficult and precarious - there appears to be a certain amount of risk in choosing a Cowon, and you basically just have to hope you get a ‘good unit’. If it wasn’t for the combination of features that I listed above, I probably wouldn’t have bought it.

BTW, since you’re paying top-dollar primarily for sound quality, you’ll need a good pair of headphones to actually get the full benefit of it when listening to music. I’ve got a 30€ pair of Panasonic ‘buds’, and also a 100€ pair of Denon ‘circumaural’, but I’ve read forums where people are matching their J3 player with headphones priced in the high hundreds.


I just read something important skyblue - when you first boot your J3 player, it will ask for a region. It is important to choose ‘worldwide’ rather than ‘Europe’, otherwise your volume will severely limited by an EU regulation.

That is what stopped me from buying a Sony A-series Walkman a few days ago. Since Sony do not offer a choice of region, to get a machine without crippled volume I’d have had to import one from the USA.

If you do per chance choose the wrong region on your Cowon, you can delete the ‘param.cfg’ file from your J3′s system folder to force the prompt again.


Well, you have done way more research than me! I shall be crossing my fingers…

Yes I am buying it from advanced mp3 players through Amazon. Thanks for the tip about region choice!

This is the third mp3 player I’ve owned, and the technology gets way more complicated each time.

It’s arrived, and my initial impressions are:

  1. It’s shiny!
  2. the lead falls out very easily - you have to be careful when charging it
  3. the software that comes with it is completely baffling, however
  4. it’s simple to drag and drop your stuff onto the player
  5. It WILL display Russian .txt files: hoorah!
  6. It charges up quickly - 3.5 hours from cold
  7. I have installed the player software on the wrong computer - all my media files are on my netbook aargh!

More when I’ve got my head further round it.

What makes the Cowon J3 better than the iPod touch?

The iPod touch: charges quicker, is shiny, displays Russian, has nearly unlimited software (apps), and iTunes supports drag and drop… The price tag?

Glad you got yours!

FedEx claim mine will arrive this Friday, but that seems too quick for where I live. Unfortunately it’s a public holiday on Monday, so I might be looking at next Tuesday before I receive it.

the software that comes with it is completely baffling

I’ll be using MediaMonkey to sync to mine, and won’t install the Cowon software unless I specifically need to. Eg. to transcode a video from one format to another if my own conversion software doesn’t work. MediaMonkey can be quite complex though. If you’re looking for a simple player and good way to sync files between your netbook with your J3, I think MusicBee is a good free alternative to MediaMonkey, Windows Media Player and iTunes.

the lead falls out very easily - you have to be careful when charging it

I’ve read dozens of posts and reviews, and never come across someone talking about that problem. As I said before, it seems Cowon’s build quality is very hit and miss.

Good luck with your J3.

What makes the Cowon J3 better than the iPod touch?
The iPod touch: charges quicker, is shiny, displays Russian,
has nearly unlimited software (apps), and iTunes supports
drag and drop… The price tag [is same as the Cowon J3]?

As I discovered when researching mp4 players, there is no clear better or worse. You just have to find a player that suits your needs. I would never use the ipod’s wifi/apps, which is the main selling point of the ipod (in addition to the build quality and user interface).

From my perspective:
· The J3 sound quality totally blows ipod out of the water, and I love music.
· It has very strong output for driving good ‘circumaural’ headphones or hifi.
· The battery lasts for 50+ hours listening to sound; much more than ipod.
· An SD card means my 8Gb J3 can hold 40Gb, and it’s easy to swap.
· It has a AMOLED screen which is much nicer than ipod’s LED screen.
· It plays a wider variety of video codecs (incl. the ipod’s H.264 format).
· ipod touch is too heavy (I can jog with the J3 in my pocket).
· J3 has buttons I can use from my pocket without looking/unlocking.
· I can drag/drop files and sync more easily on the J3 (No iTunes!).
· J3 uses standard m3u playlists, as opposed to Apples XML format.

Maybe the ipod has some of the features below, but:
· It has programmable skip & seek speeds (for repeating sentences).
· I can listen to a podcast and read the transcript for it at the same time.
· I can record local Spanish radio and play it back later to study it.
· J3 can slow down playback speed to 50% and correct the pitch.
· It has good bookmarking and resume.

To be honest, toward the end of my research, the ipod wasn’t even on my shortlist any more. The final comparison was between the J3, the Cowon D3 (with Android), and the Samsung YP-M1. Again, that’s not to say these players are ‘better’ than the ipod, just that they suited my needs more.



Thank you for your detailed comparison!

Thank you Hazlo. I was the one who told Skyblueteapot about this player. I told her, if my old mp3 player (which I love very much) will ever break, I’ll buy this Cowon. I did some research recently. As you say “it perfectly suits my needs”, so it’s my first choice :slight_smile:

the lead falls out very easily - you have to be careful when charging it

Update: the lead doesn’t fall out if you push it in REALLY HARD. D’oh!

The J3 has lots and lots of options to customise your listening and video watching experience. What it doesn’t seem to do is:

accept that audiobooks should be treated differently from music (not a problem for me as I don’t listen to music, and if I did, would probably treat it like audiobooks anyway)

download newsfeeds from readers (although it would display them, if you had software to convert them to .txt files - Caliber maybe?)

You can listen to a podcast / audiobook and read the transcript at the same time. In fact the text reader will turn pages automatically for you, just tell it how fast.

Zooming is easy in text files. In fact you could put text (tables, say) on as jpg files, they zoom easily too.

HAven’t got my head around playlists because, listening only to audiobooks, I’ve never needed to use them. Copying files from the computer is easy, just drag and drop. You can create a fancy folder structure, and navigate round your folder system using the Browser option.

Technical question Hazlo: you recommend buying proper, expensive headphones. What do you do when the jack breaks, as mine invariably do after spending 16 hours a day stuffed into my trouser pocket?

Another techical question: can you add dictionaries, and if so, where can you get them from? A Russian-English, and a Russian-Japanese, dictionary would be very useful.

Oh, and the video supports subtitles well. You can change font and size, and even toggle between two languages if your video has dual-language subtitles.