Simply Super Sound: The Cowon G2 MP3 Player

With flash-based players gaining in the fight against the massive hard drive jukeboxes like the 30-gig iPod, manufacturers are attempting to take additional liberties with their more discreet music players. Thank goodness. When I first began looking at smaller players that I could take to the gym with me, I was worried that I would be stuck with the venerable – but boring – iPod Shuffle. Thankfully, I’ve been able to avoid the white earbuds and find a great little player in the process: the Cowon iAudio G2. With incredible sound quality, a 1-gig memory, and a price that only pinched a little, the G2 is a killer sound machine for tiny price tag.

The Good. From the outset, you’ll be impressed with this fun little player. The G2, with 1 GB of space and a small profile is easy to use, wonderfully accessible to Windows users, and blows the competition away with its sound.

In terms of design, the G2 is better than average. The unit is controlled by a small thumb stick, and while it may seem a little odd to some, the control system becomes intuitive after a few uses. The buttons are quite responsive, and while it may not be as easy as iPod’s Click Wheel, Cowon has come up with a better alternative than most manufacturers. The G2 also has a line-in and record function which records directly to MP3 format, a welcome feature for those of us trying to put those old mini-cassette days behind us. All of this is tied together by the big four-line display, which communicates what’s going on a very understandable fashion.

The G2 is more than accessible to those who don’t rely on iTunes for their music needs. The player is compatible with MP3s, OGGs, and protected WMAs, and while it comes with its own software to load your music, the G2 also works with Windows Media Player, Musicmatch Jukebox, and several other software packages. This also means that the G2 can play music purchased from services like Napster, but not subscription-based music.

Where the little G2 really shines is when it plays. The clean, even sound is incredible, especially for a player this size. While most manufacturers are content to let the size and space in their flash players sell the product, Cowon has gone above and beyond in giving the G2 audio output that destroys the competition.

The Not-So-Good. Unfortunately, at least one of the “bads” on this little player is a genuine bummer. While it’s predecessor, the G3, was outfitted with USB 2.0, the G2 is was regressed to the significantly slower USB 1.1. In an age when it seems as though just about everyone tries to use USB 2.0, this is disappointing, especially for a 1 GB player, and especially if you’re used to the speed that comes with it.

The other finger-wagging comes in two more minor pitches. The player doesn’t have an FM tuner included, and while it seems like a minor point, FM tuners and recording functions usually come together, so it would be nice to have it included. The other gripe comes thanks to the battery life. While the battery life isn’t terrible, the company claims up to 40 hours from one battery run. I’ve only been able to get about half of that. Still, that means about 80 hours of music from one 4-pack of AAs, and that satisfies me, even if it’s paltry compared to the company’s claims.

The Bottom Line. While you might be missing speed when loading the songs, once they’re inside, letting them out will sound incredible. If you’re looking for huge sound with a little price tag, you’ve come to the right place.

Despite some small frustrations with the speed, I’m immensely happy with the sound quality of the iAudio G2. As something of an audiophile, I try not to sacrifice quality, even in a player I’m just taking for a jog. The G2 has allowed me to do just that at a reasonable price, and in my book, it’s one of the best sounding players I’ve heard, even if it’s considered only a basic player.

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