Groove on the move | Part 2

Groove on the move | Part 2

Cowon D2+

Also ReadGroove on the move | Apacer AU824, iPod Classic 120 GB, iPod Nano

Groove on the move | Philips GoGear Aria, GoGear Opus, Samsung YP-P3 , Samsung YP-Q2

The D2+ is powerful enough to drive the SR 225 well but without an amp the loss of control over the treble is noticeable. Once amped things tighten up and the D2+ begins to exert control over the music as the amp reigns in the uncontrolled-at-times highs Grado is known for. The bass is heavy but not as clean as the iPod Classic and Touch – there is some bass bloat audible and the bass loses its tight, impactful feel. The mid-range loses its immediacy and begins to sound like it’s a few rows down from the rest of the music. Although everything is done reasonably well, the passion goes out of the experience and after listening to the iPod Touch you will inexorably miss something here. And it is this 10% more performance that people shell out disproportionately extra amounts for, given that audio gear strongly follows the law of diminishing returns. Priced at Rs. 12,499 the D2+ is pricey, especially considering it doesn’t perform as well as an iPod Touch that you can buy with a similar capacity for a little more.

Pros:

Feature rich

Built well

Good sound quality

Great audio formats support

Cons:

Not in audiophile territory

Bulky

Touch interface could be better

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Cowon iAudio 7

Priced at Rs4,999 the iAudio 7 hits the sweet spot for someone looking for a really affordable PMP with good music quality. It also fits the bill when it comes to compactness. It’s a winner – as long as your ears aren’t too discerning.

Pros:

Superb build quality

Compact

Good music quality

Neat touch controls

Good value for money

Cons:

Useless screen for videos

Not audiophile-grade

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Cowon S9

The S9 is a capable music player; its ace-up-the-sleeve being support for various audio formats including common lossless formats like FLAC and APE that are popular with the audiophile crowd. Drag-n-drop is a convenience I missed with the iPods and the S9 brings freedom of choice back to the equation. Music quality is good with bass having a slightly over-pronounced representation that bass heads will like but we like a little extra control over the bottom end of the sonic spectrum. The problem persists in the mid-range as well, and with metal music having a lot of drum and complex guitar pieces the music tends to get muddled and lose the extra bit of detail that separates decent players from great players. The bass also gets unfocussed and loses its punch with some tracks. The Cowon D2+ is better in this regard. The highs are slightly rolled off but this won’t be of consequence to any but the most demanding of users. The mid-range is also not as forward as we’d like and the sense of being involved to the music is missed.

At Rs14,999, the S9 is a mixed bunch – it is a good video player without the strict resolution demands on content like iPods have. But the audio performance is acceptable though not for purists. It could be a good buy or a bad one – depends on what you’re looking at.

Pros:

Very good interface

Good video quality

Built well

Great audio formats support

Cons:

Music quality should have been better

Firmware isn’t stable

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iPod Touch 32 GB

The Touch also rocks (literally!) when it comes to music. Where the Classic has detailed treble, the Touch introduces a hint of sibilance to certain instruments, although we must say the detailing is good and at no point does the sibilance really detract from things, in fact if you knew no different you’d think the sibilance was part of the track. There is no rounding off at the high-end and the treble sounds crisp and clear. The mid-range is detailed and revealed, in fact so much so that a difference in vocals and certain instruments is immediately noticed when moving from any of the Samsung and Philips players to the Touch. It also trounces all the Cowon models in the highs and mid-range where the Cowon’s have a roll off in the highs and the mid-range doesn’t sound as immediate, but rather recessed – that is to say the impression of playing a little further away from the rest of the music. A revealing mid-range is essential for any sort of music – be it Rock, Pop, Blues or Metal – the Touch works its wonder everywhere. In Where The Streets Have No Name the treble remains controlled and the bass is really palatable especially in the opening drum score. Cymbals still end up being a bit crisp – there was a hint of extra control on the iPod Classic in this regard. The mids in Trampled Rose are surreal with Alison Krauss’ voice sounding rich and seductive – the way it was intended. The vocals flow like honey, but there is a note of underlying urgency – no unnecessary tonal warmth here. Her higher notes are detailed and any tenor is clearly reproduced without any sort of harshness or sibilance. There is however a slight graininess to some sections of the vocals. The bass in No More Tears is clean and sounds fantastically quick and detailed, unlike some of the other PMPs that sounded muddy. In fact the instrument score had me lamenting the lack of a point A to B repeat function. But it’s an amazing musical experience, obviously with the right headphone/amplifier setup. In Layla the vocals are full-bodied and abetted by fantastic guitar plucks and instrument detail the listen is memorable.

Apple has just released a new family of the Touch including a 64 GB version that takes care of those with bigger space requirements. The 32 GB one featured here is the second generation as we’re yet to get our hands on the just launched, third generation. But the news is the new 64 GB version will cost no more than the older 32 GB version – meaning great value. It does have one limitation – at Rs25,000 the iPod Touch 32 GB cannot be classified as cheap. It’s a premium PMP, with an interface that is unparalleled, superlative music and video quality; the best demands the most money.

Pros:

Amazing screen

Great for movies

Brilliant Interface

Superb audio quality

Cons:

Slightly heavy

Bulky

Expensive

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