Review #16: Benjie K9

(Also known as AGPTeK M07)

I finally did it! I’d ordered Benjie K9 from an independent online seller, for about $22 (with shipping). His response was really fast, but the delivery was delayed by Christmas. Last week I finally got it, and I’d like to share my impression about this player.

At first this is going to be a mini review, but I remember that there are only a handful reviews about this player.

(I don’t have a good camera, so forgive me for the low-quality photos throughout this review)

First Impression

The box is smaller than I thought. Inside was the K9 itself, a pair of earphones, a pretty long USB cable, and an instruction manual (in English. with some spelling errors). I decided not to use the bundled earphones and cables, although from what I’ve heard, the earphones are not bad.

K9 is tiny, but it has some weight due to its metal body, which has a matte finish. There are no visible screws, and the metal back and sides looks like it’s one piece. The front is made of plastic, but it doesn’t look fragile. The controls are made of textured plastic, which rattles a little as I shook it. This player is also not as thin as I assumed, but overall, it’s a good-looking player which feels great in my hand.

 

My hands are small, by the way.

 

K9 next to a 1:64 Hot Wheels car.
K9 next to a 1:64 Hot Wheels car.

On the bottom, between a Micro USB port and 3.5 mm jack, there’s an on/off switch. If the switch is in ‘on’ position, you can turn the player on/off by long-pressing the play button. The other use of this switch is to reset the player when it freezes; during my testing, playing corrupted files can cause this.

The K9 can be used out of the box without charging it first, and came with two preloaded songs. When I was exploring the menus and decided to play one of the songs, something funny happened: I forgot this player has an external speaker and the volume was loud enough to almost push me off my chair. It turned out that the default volume is 31/31. When I’m listening with earphones, I found a volume of 4-6/31 is comfortable enough. Fortunately, you can change the maximum volume on Sound Settings (accessible on both Settings and Now Playing menus).

Xubuntu 16.04 instantly recognized it as a FAT32 drive labelled ‘NO NAME’. Clementine also recognized it, which makes copying music easy. The K9 reloads its database right after it was unplugged.

Interface

The K9 has a simple menu in red, black, grey, and white color scheme with large icons, thin sans-serif font in all caps for the main menu, and some sort of thin monospacefont throughout the interface. It reminds me of Windows’ Metro design, but I like it; some cheap PMPs have colorful menus with animations, which looks cheap and boring after a while. Many Chinese PMPs also seem to use the same font as the K9 for their interface. Some people (especially Fiio M3 users) said that it hinders readability, but here I don’t think so.

Playback/Navigation

The controls are straightforward and logical; menu for options, play/pause for select, previous/next for up/down. K9’s volume button also doubles as a back button; short-press for back, long-press for volume. You can also long-press previous/next buttons to quickly browse menus/song list.

The songs are organizer by artist and albums, and it’s also possible to view a list of all of your songs and play them in shuffle.

All songs, artist list, album list.

On Now Playing screen, you can press the menu button to turn on repeat/shuffle mode, add song to playlist, delete it, toggle sleep timer, select/edit the equalizer, and add bookmarks (there are 10 slots).

The K9 can only show album art embedded in the audio file, instead of a separate image file in the directory. The album arts are usually stretched to fill the screen, but a few are not and they’re shown on the middle. They don’t look very detailed, but it’s reasonable given the small screen size.

Stretched vs unstretched album art.
Stretched vs unstretched album art.

There’s actually a way to play songs by genre, but it’s hidden in the Now Playing settings. On ‘Play mode’, select ‘Play music from…’, select ‘…this genre’, go back a few times, and you can see all artists with the same genre as the currently playing song. If you press back once again, you can see a list of genres.

Left: artists under 'Jazz' genre. Right: list of all genres.
Left: artists under ‘Jazz’ genre. Right: list of all genres.

K9 has rewind/forward function by long-pressing the previous/next buttons. This feature, coupled with the Bookmarks feature, made K9 suitable for listening to audiobooks or DJ mixes.

I was surprised that K9 can read unusual characters well.

Left: Blank Banshee's D ☰ ☰ P $ P Λ C ☰. Right: ©rosses †oo ßig's ∆´ß¨Ïå -jesuFa.
Left: Blank Banshee’s D ☰ ☰ P $ P Λ C ☰. Right: ©rosses †oo ßig’s ∆´ß¨Ïå -jesuFa.

I read that the K9 can read .LRC files (lyric files with timestamps, think of subtitle files). I tested this with some lyrics I got from EvilLyrics. It works, although the background and the color of the font clashes a little.

When browsing songs by album or folder, you’ll notice that some of the songs are sorted in a weird way (e.g. the last song in an album is now the first), and new folders will be shown on top. This is pretty common in music players, and you can fix it with DriveSort (Windows, also works under Wine) or fatsort (Linux).

Sound

I can’t say a lot about the sound of this player since I don’t have sensitive ears. There are no hisses or clicks, and the button clicks are not audible. The sound is decent; the bass is noticeable, more so with the help of the equalizer. The treble (I listened to my guitar-heavy Jazz albums) also sounds good.

Playlist

There are 3 available playlists; you can’t delete them or make a new one. They also can’t be transfered to the computer, and the K9 doesn’t seem to be able to read playlist files either. I tried creating playlists on Clementine in .m3u and .pls; none of them are readable.

Other features

Other features are placed under ‘Tools’. There’s a radio, an e-book reader, and a voice recorder.

The radio is pretty decent. You can bookmark stations (‘presets’), record radio streams, and choose the radio band; the recording quality is fine, but that depends on your reception. One problem about this radio is that when you quit it, the player would forget the last song you played before turning it on.

recording

You can read an e-book (in .txt format) while listening to music; this feature is not so great, though – I still prefer reading with FBReader on my phone. The screen loads about 9 lines; there’s also a bookmark feature and you can jump every 10 pages. Some characters doesn’t look right, but it might be the fault of the file’s text encoding.

I’m not really interested in the voice recorder. You can select the recording format (mp3, wav, act) and select from some presets (train, meeting, noise canceling).

SD card

I turned the player off and plugged in an SD card to the port on the right side of the player. An SD card symbol will appear on top left corner.

The K9 can’t read music from both internal memory and SD card at once. To play music from SD card, you’ll need to select it from the folder view. The SD card icon would turn green, and the songs inside would be shown on the artist and album list.

I’ve read someone complaining that the K9 would revert to playing from internal memory after being turned off, but it doesn’t happen in my case.

Settings

The first two settings about playback can also be accessed from the Now Playing menus. On Display Settings, you can adjust the brightness, screen timeout, and choose a screensaver. I like the digital clock the most, although the demo mode is also interesting (the text is in Chinese). There seems to be a bug with the Album art screensaver – when turned on, the player would restart itself.

There’s also a time and date setting, which is only useful if you choose the digital clock screensaver.

The K9 supports 20 languages, most of them European. It also supports Bahasa Indonesia, but there are some glaring errors and typos, so I don’t choose it.

The last items on the settings are options to format the K9 and restore it to factory settings, show information about the player and available disk space, and to reload the database (shown as ‘playlist’).

Battery Life

According to the documentation and some reviews, the battery life of K9 is about 20 hours. I haven’t done any tests, but I found it plausible. I’ve been using the K9 for about 12 hours and the battery gauge looks about 50% full. I’ve also plugged it to a computer several times to add and remove songs, and this seems to increase the battery life a little.

Conclusion

For a casual (non-audiophile) user with limited budget like me, the K9 is pretty good. The player, both inside and out, looks more than its actual price. Some people complained about its lack of dedicated volume buttons, but I don’t think it’s a big deal.

However, there are some things this player missed. The control buttons feels fragile, and there are no button-locking function to prevent accidental presses. To my experience, that rarely happened, but that might happen if you store the K9 in your pants’ pocket with other objects. It also can’t read internal and external memory at the same time, and its way of messing album tracklist can be annoying. .

After a week, I also noticed that the paint on the bottom corners of my K9 were chipped. They didn’t when I first got it; I assumed the paint came off due to accidental bumps with the floor as I’m taking pictures of it. It would be a great idea to invest in a protective casing.

(The thing closest to an official casing seems to be this casing from Agptek.)

I need to say this again: if you buy the K9, don’t play anything before turning the volume down (or even better, set a volume limit).

 

Pros

  • Metal body
  • Affordable price
  • Easy navigation
  • Battery life

Cons

  • Control buttons feels fragile
  • Some tracks are not correctly sorted
  • Internal memory & SD card are not unified
  • No button-locking function

Suggestions

  • Dedicated genre list
  • Crossfading
  • Song properties page
  • Button lock

Specs

Price ($): 19.99
Dimension (mm): 94x38x9
Body: Plastic/Zinc Alloy
Screen: 1.8” OLED
Weight (g): 79
Claimed Battery Life (h): 20
Capacity (GB): 8
File Formats: APE, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, ALAC, WMA, MP3, AAC
Expandable?: Yes
Cover Art: Yes
Radio: Yes
Other Features: E-book reader, voice recorder, sleep timer
Firmware updates: No

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2 thoughts on “Review #16: Benjie K9

  1. Hey, I just bought the Benjie K9 today. I wanted to ask you if you know how to transfer music from pc because my K9 can’t be detected in my pc. Do I need a driver for this?. Thank you.

    1. Maybe you need to try a different cable. I just tried plugging the K9 to a Windows PC and it was recognized without having to install a driver. Make sure you select ‘Charge and transfer’ on the K9 when the selection appeared as well.

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