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View Full Version : Which mp3 player is an audiophile's dream?




princealfie
May 4, 2006, 03:44 PM
Let's assume that we didn't care about the interface at all and were blind. If we listened to the music using the same file format which mp3 player wins on its sound quality alone (particularly for lowbit rates...)?

Personally I found the 4G and 5G iPod the best. I don't like the sound quality of the iPod mini very much and the 3G isn't the best either. (pretty sensitive hearing)...



Blue Velvet
May 4, 2006, 03:56 PM
Shuffle.

Haven't heard a Nano but same files with same headphones (Shure E3Cs) on a 4G 40gb iPod sounded noticeably worse.

Apparently, the Shuffle has a better headphone amp... so I hear.

WildCowboy
May 4, 2006, 03:57 PM
Back when the shuffle first came out, the surprising verdict was that it was #1. I haven't seen any analysis of the models that have come out since then.

rye9
May 4, 2006, 04:34 PM
What exactly makes the sound worse? Like, I have an iPod mini and some songs I have ripped at 160 in AAC sound kinda bad... like I have to turn up the volume so things arent so hard to hear... like the lyrics. Is that what ppl mean when they say the sound quality is bad?

WildCowboy
May 4, 2006, 04:40 PM
What exactly makes the sound worse? Like, I have an iPod mini and some songs I have ripped at 160 in AAC sound kinda bad... like I have to turn up the volume so things arent so hard to hear... like the lyrics. Is that what ppl mean when they say the sound quality is bad?

On some level, yes. But here (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1777890,00.asp) is a slightly more technical examination of it. (Be sure to click on his link to see the graphs too.)

Mord
May 4, 2006, 05:10 PM
5th gen, 4th had static issues, and from my own experience my 3rd gen is flakey, however my first gen was top notch producing crystal clear sound.

this is when i listen to music where it actually makes a difference, which is <1% of the time, when i'm listening to led zeppelin at ear bleedingly load volumes while cycling through the metropolis i call home i cant tell the difference.

mad jew
May 4, 2006, 05:14 PM
Yeah, the Shuffle's the best I've heard. FWIW, the 4G is better than the nano IMO, quite substantially.

AvSRoCkCO1067
May 4, 2006, 05:16 PM
I've only owned two iPods - a 2GB Nano and a 5G 30GB iPod - but my family owns two shuffles, a 4G iPod, and a Mini collectively.

I've listened to all of them; the 5G definitely sounds better than my Nano, and the shuffle does pretty well too...

~Shard~
May 4, 2006, 05:21 PM
The only comparison I can make it between my 3G and my brother's Nano, and honestly, I liked the 3G better. But, everyone's ears are different... ;)

Dagless
May 4, 2006, 05:50 PM
I've found the headphones and phone itself (ROKR) sound better than my iPod mini and 3G. Very good sound. very very clear but with depth. Pleased.

adk
May 4, 2006, 06:34 PM
Audiophiles don't like mp3s at all. It's a compressed and if you listen you can hear sound quality deterioration, and a general lack of warmth that you would get from a tube amp.

princealfie
May 4, 2006, 11:17 PM
any non-ipod ones too?

~Shard~
May 5, 2006, 12:40 AM
any non-ipod ones too?

Nope. :cool:

EricNau
May 5, 2006, 12:42 AM
any non-ipod ones too?
Do you realize where you are posting? :confused: :D

Scarlet Fever
May 5, 2006, 01:56 AM
Apparently, the Shuffle has a better headphone amp... so I hear. best pun of the day! :p

I would like to think i have a good ear, but honestly i can't pick the difference. I reckon all of them sound a little dogdy when compared to my EQ on iTunes.

What is it about the different iPods that would make them sound better/worse than others?

svalbard
May 5, 2006, 05:05 AM
Audiophiles don't like mp3s at all. It's a compressed and if you listen you can hear sound quality deterioration, and a general lack of warmth that you would get from a tube amp.

How many people use tube amps with their computers? Anyway, for audiphiles there is always Apple Lossless. And besides, once you ditch the audio snobbery high-bitrate MP3 / AAC is perfectly acceptable for portable use for even those with finely tuned ears and ridiculously expensive headphones.


I think for 'just listening' out of the headphone socket the Video iPod is generally the best iPod. If you consider yourself a rabid audiophile and go through the rituals of attaching a headphone amplifier to your MP3 player, then the iPod 3/4G monos offer the best sound IMO. Not sure about the 'Red Wine' mod for the 4G Photo, because the Photo as is offers the worst sound out of the recent iPods... I figure the modifications just brings the Photo in line with the 4G Mono. I don't think anyone's compared though.


As for non-iPods, most current machines sound 'different', not superior to the Video iPod (e.g. iAudio X5, Creative Zen Vision M), and some sound inferior (e.g. iRiver H10). For amplified set-ups the 3/4G monochrome iPods are I think very hard to beat with any other player. The Video iPod on the other hand does less well through the Universal dock, although it's somewhat better when you use something like a Sendstation Pocketdock (the two docks output their audio differently). Nevertheless what you get out of the Video iPod is pretty much the same as you get with other players which have Line Outs, such as the Creative Zen Vision M.


The bottom line is that the Video iPod is pretty good at everything, especially if you use fairly efficient, higher-impedance headphones like the Koss KSC-75 / Portapro... or in my case, mainly the 70-ohm Sennheiser HD25.

Boggle
May 5, 2006, 05:53 AM
Let's assume that we didn't care about the interface at all and were blind. If we listened to the music using the same file format which mp3 player wins on its sound quality alone (particularly for lowbit rates...)?

Personally I found the 4G and 5G iPod the best. I don't like the sound quality of the iPod mini very much and the 3G isn't the best either. (pretty sensitive hearing)...

I haven't experimented around w/ many different MP3 players Just iPod, Nano, & Creative Labs MuVo. The nano sounded best of the three I've used. But then I was given a really high quality set of headphones, and Wow! What a difference.

mwpeters8182
May 5, 2006, 07:02 AM
any non-ipod ones too?

The creative players are known for their sound quality. My friend has one (don't know the model) and it sounds great. I prefer the iPod for overall ease of use, but his player is nice as well.

EvilBeans
May 6, 2006, 10:59 AM
I can't say I've ever done an in depth comparison, but the Rio Karma is arguably one of the best sounding DAPs ever, not just for power output (55 mW per channel), SND, and such, but also for the amount of control it gives you over how it sounds with its user customizable 5-band parametric equalizer.

Just my 2 cents.

svalbard
May 8, 2006, 08:09 AM
I can't say I've ever done an in depth comparison, but the Rio Karma is arguably one of the best sounding DAPs ever, not just for power output (55 mW per channel), SND, and such, but also for the amount of control it gives you over how it sounds with its user customizable 5-band parametric equalizer.

Just my 2 cents.


The Parametric Equaliser was buggy. SQ = on a par with the 5G iPod. There's a difference in the way they measure it, but the power output levels of the slightly older iPods and the Karma is the same. Nice user interface though and great playlisting / shuffle features. Shame about the buggy loading software, the buggy dock LAN loading, and of course that Rio is now dead. Not to menthil that although it fit in the palm of the hand great, it was a bit of a tank :D Still, I'd have to say my second favourite player to date apart from the iPod.

EvilBeans
May 10, 2006, 05:39 AM
Hmmm, not sure what you mean by buggy EQ. The network dock could be inconsistent at times, but I've been able to make it work consistently by reflashing the firmware.

Either way, I'm very excited to see the next generation of Sigmatel STMP3600 based players come out: Think native support for all the Karma's features built into the chip.

And for the iPod faithful, I hope Apple finally wakes up from their coma long enough to give you folks a 5 band custom eq and gapless playback. Shouldn't be too much to ask of the undisputed market leader. ;)

Cheers.

makku
May 10, 2006, 11:12 AM
any non-ipod ones too?

Kenwood's HDD players probably have the best sound quality out of all the MP3 players with a hard disk. http://www.kenwood.co.jp/j/products/home_audio/personal/hd30ga9/index.html . It beats all my other players including Sony and Toshiba. Too bad it is not compatible with Macs though.

alienate
May 10, 2006, 03:11 PM
I've been able to make it work consistently by reflashing the firmware.

Read: "I've been able to make my car start consistently by reinstalling the engine."

cp2222
May 10, 2006, 03:31 PM
Interesting thread -- one point of note that I found very interesting and I have no explanation for as of yet. I build custom car audio sound systems and currently run a alpine 9835 head unit with the KCA-420i digital integration kit. Keep in mind this is digital all the way to the head unit of the car. All my music is in apple lossless as you can REALLY notice the difference between this and 192 mp3's or even 320 mp3's in bass heavy or cymbol intesive songs where accuracy is a must. Anyway, my 4g 40 gig ipod just died and I got a 60 gig video. Same exact music and songs that I normally listen to are for some reason not getting the same source output signal from the new ipod as before. Case in point. Been listening to '30 Seconds from Mars' album for the past month. Same album on my new video ipod I used to listen to at a volume level of 26 (determined maximum distortion threshold by measuring amp output maximums with volt/ohm meter). With the new video ipod I can only go up to 22 volume - past that there is noticeable distortion in the music output. Given the fact that the amps are configured to their 'distortion free' threshold as specified by the manufactuer -- the only reasonable conclusion i can reach is that the new ipod has a somewhat weaker output digitally to the head unit. This kinda doesn't make sense as it is digital still. So I am a little puzzled. However, I burned the song to a CD with Itunes and tried that and it plays at 26 just like before with my 4g ipod. In addition, I borrowed my roommate's 4g 40 gig ipod and synced my library and tried it and once again 26 without an issue. Anyone have any theories on this phenomenon?

EvilBeans
May 10, 2006, 09:59 PM
Read: "I've been able to make my car start consistently by reinstalling the engine."

Dude, don't start. I'm doing my best to respect the community and not bash the iPod. I really hope you can do the same.

svalbard
May 12, 2006, 01:50 PM
Kenwood's HDD players probably have the best sound quality out of all the MP3 players with a hard disk. http://www.kenwood.co.jp/j/products/home_audio/personal/hd30ga9/index.html . It beats all my other players including Sony and Toshiba. Too bad it is not compatible with Macs though.


It's SAID to beat all other players. What's said on various forums then eventually becomes the 'truth' regardless of whether it's accurate or not. All too frequently a digital amp is touted as superior sound quality because it's different, but to fail in actual listening tests. It is more realistically installed to save power, especially the way current BTL ASICs do things. More marketing BS like Monolith's claims of '24-bit delta sigma DAC' for example when they use a very similar (in fact, a lower model) codec to the iPod with the same DAC/decoding engine.

svalbard
May 12, 2006, 02:00 PM
Interesting thread -- one point of note that I found very interesting and I have no explanation for as of yet. I build custom car audio sound systems and currently run a alpine 9835 head unit with the KCA-420i digital integration kit. Keep in mind this is digital all the way to the head unit of the car. All my music is in apple lossless as you can REALLY notice the difference between this and 192 mp3's or even 320 mp3's in bass heavy or cymbol intesive songs where accuracy is a must. Anyway, my 4g 40 gig ipod just died and I got a 60 gig video. Same exact music and songs that I normally listen to are for some reason not getting the same source output signal from the new ipod as before. Case in point. Been listening to '30 Seconds from Mars' album for the past month. Same album on my new video ipod I used to listen to at a volume level of 26 (determined maximum distortion threshold by measuring amp output maximums with volt/ohm meter). With the new video ipod I can only go up to 22 volume - past that there is noticeable distortion in the music output. Given the fact that the amps are configured to their 'distortion free' threshold as specified by the manufactuer -- the only reasonable conclusion i can reach is that the new ipod has a somewhat weaker output digitally to the head unit. This kinda doesn't make sense as it is digital still. So I am a little puzzled. However, I burned the song to a CD with Itunes and tried that and it plays at 26 just like before with my 4g ipod. In addition, I borrowed my roommate's 4g 40 gig ipod and synced my library and tried it and once again 26 without an issue. Anyone have any theories on this phenomenon?


The KCA-420i takes an ANALOG signal from the iPod. The 5G iPod has the capability to output digital data now, but there are no head units yet to take advantage of it. The analog line out feed of the 5G is I do believe slightly weaker than the 4G.