Vowel perception strategies were assessed for two ‘‘average’’ and one ‘‘star’’ single‐channel 3M/House and three ‘‘average’’ and one ‘‘star’’ Nucleus 22‐channel cochlear implant patients and six normal‐hearing control subjects. All subjects were tested by computer with real and synthetic speech versions of [i, i, u, u, q, 1, c, v, a, ϵ], presented randomly. Duration, fundamental frequency, and first, second, and third formant frequency cues to the vowels were systematically manipulated. Results showed high accuracy for the normal‐hearing subjects in all conditions but that of the first formant alone. ‘‘Average’’ single‐channel patients classified only real speech [hVd] syllables differently from synthetic steady state syllables. The ‘‘star’’ single‐channel patient identified the vowels at much better than chance levels, with a results pattern suggesting effective use of first formant and duration information. Both ‘‘star’’ and ‘‘average’’ Nucleus users showed similar response patterns, performing better than chance in most conditions, and identifying the vowels using duration and some frequency information from all three formants.