With so many MP3 players now on the market, manufacturers are having to come up with more ways of standing out from the crowd. Cowon, latest player - the iAudio 4 offers either 128Mb, 256Mb or 512Mb player sizes all on a unit that is slightly larger than your average USB stick, strange since it isn’t a USB stick though.
So what’s different? Mainly that the LCD screen on the front of the player changes colour when a new song is played. Is it a gimmick? Absolutely. At £110 you are paying for a feature that for the most part will be tucked away in your pocket out of sight. That said the screen is large and clear and gives you a host of information on the song, track number, equaliser settings and so forth.
The unit is controlled by a series of buttons down each side and these access the menus and controls. Failing the MP3 player, the iAudio also features a FM radio and voice recorder functions although the radio is prone to where you stand as the headphones act as the antenna. We tested the unit on the outskirts of London and had trouble picking up regional stations however Radio 1, 2 and 4 all came through no problem.
The unit is powered by a standard AAA battery and depending on whether or not you opt for the battery will depend on how long it lasts - In testing so far (we’ve used it over the last couple of days) we are still on our first battery.
While the outside may profess to be a gimmick the sound quality of the unit is actually very good. The equaliser settings offer plenty to the jazz or rock fan alike and the extra bass setting manages to produce enough oomph without crackling the headphones supplied in the box.
When concerned with sound as an MP3 this is pretty good. However it has too many negatives going for it. These are the poor reception on the radio, the low quota of memory for the price and the fact that you even have to carry around a USB cable with you. The colour changing screen dependent on task, genre even song is a nice idea, but one that is more of a gimmick that actually something that is going to improve your listening, and as we said before especially if for the most part the thing is going to be in your pocket out of sight.