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View Full Version : Which iPod has the *BEST* sound quality?




mattcube64
Feb 17, 2009, 07:20 PM
I've been looking at different forums and blogs, and everyone says something different. Some swear by the third gen, while others can't let go of their original white Shuffles.

So, just out of curiosity, out of all the iPods released; which one do YOU think produces the best sound?



Hurd111
Feb 17, 2009, 07:39 PM
I don't think any ipods have superb quality, but if quality has been maintained throughout the years, I dont think there should be much difference.

Benguitar
Feb 17, 2009, 07:53 PM
I don't think there is much difference, my guess if there was to be one with any difference would be the current generation iPod Classic 120GB.


But again, if you want really good sound quality get yourself a good pair of Bose or Sennheiser Headphones, a current gen iPod and update your songs to the "iTunes Plus".


That is what I do and I can notice a difference.

Teej guy
Feb 17, 2009, 08:51 PM
I don't think there is much difference, my guess if there was to be one with any difference would be the current generation iPod Classic 120GB.


But again, if you want really good sound quality get yourself a good pair of Bose or Sennheiser Headphones, a current gen iPod and update your songs to the "iTunes Plus".

If you want really good sound quality, I'd stay far away from anything with Bose on it.

The folks over at http://www.hydrogenaudio.org should be able to answer your question about the sound quality of iPod units over the years. You might actually be able to search the forums there and get the answer without having to ask.

alphaod
Feb 18, 2009, 12:22 AM
I would say the 5th generation iPod is best.

TuffLuffJimmy
Feb 18, 2009, 12:26 AM
If you're looking for the best sound quality you probably don't want to be looking at iPods. I'm sure there are other MP3 players with way better sound quality.

NT1440
Feb 18, 2009, 12:29 AM
If you're looking for the best sound quality you probably don't want to be looking at iPods. I'm sure there are other MP3 players with way better sound quality.

IF your looking for sound quality, you shouldnt be looking at MP3's period.

TuffLuffJimmy
Feb 18, 2009, 12:34 AM
IF your looking for sound quality, you shouldnt be looking at MP3's period.

Well that's true. I should have said "portable music players" MP3 is definitely not aiff, or flac.

NT1440
Feb 18, 2009, 12:38 AM
Well that's true. I should have said "portable music players" MP3 is definitely not aiff, or flac.

no sir.

I have absolutly no problem with mp3 tho, I actually get annoyed by people who bitch nonstop about it.

TuffLuffJimmy
Feb 18, 2009, 12:43 AM
no sir.

I have absolutly no problem with mp3 tho, I actually get annoyed by people who bitch nonstop about it.

If I'm ripping a CD I always do it in Apple Lossless, just for same measure, especially since storage is so cheap these days. However, I must admit, I really can't tell the difference between Lossless and lossy.

NT1440
Feb 18, 2009, 12:49 AM
If I'm ripping a CD I always do it in Apple Lossless, just for same measure, especially since storage is so cheap these days. However, I must admit, I really can't tell the difference between Lossless and lossy.

Well yea id do the same just because, but I was talking about when huge debates rage over things like flac vs ogg vs aac, it gets a little out of hand seeing as our range and what we pick up is so limited.

miles01110
Feb 18, 2009, 02:33 AM
Well yea id do the same just because, but I was talking about when huge debates rage over things like flac vs ogg vs aac, it gets a little out of hand seeing as our range and what we pick up is so limited.

It doesn't matter for most genres- rock, pop... anything that is loud and tends towards the low end of the spectrum. It becomes important in genres like classical where you typically have sound coming from both ends of the spectrum. lossy formats tend to flatten off either end, and the difference is notable to the trained ear.

johan.k
Feb 18, 2009, 07:12 AM
... which one do YOU think produces the best sound?

None of them. IMO, it depends how good your ear/head-phone is.

Cromulent
Feb 18, 2009, 07:38 AM
None of them. IMO, it depends how good your ear/head-phone is.

Is that based on any actual testing? As far as I know the iPods are just as good as the other portable players on the market.

I have read in the past that the iPod Touch and iPhone were noticeably better but like most things in audio it is probably just rubbish based on opinion rather than testing.

ilovemacs84
Feb 18, 2009, 07:51 AM
I agree - it all depends on your headphones!

Samuriajackon
Feb 18, 2009, 07:59 AM
Is that based on any actual testing? As far as I know the iPods are just as good as the other portable players on the market.

I have read in the past that the iPod Touch and iPhone were noticeably better but like most things in audio it is probably just rubbish based on opinion rather than testing.

Yo, so i did a bunch of sound crap in highschool and the one thing i learned very well from working from theater equipment is that all sound stuff has a range(of what tones it can and can't produce) the range for the iPOD should be listed at apple, but more importantly the range for all headphones should be listed on the side of the container they come in...for example,

the iPod lists 20Hz to 20,000Hz, and without looking it up i think that's the range that humans can hear, but the impedance is 32ohms. If you have headphones that are 32ohms at limit to certain decibel rate.

Google headphone reviews to get good headphones, it helps. I can't tell the difference between 320and 224Kbs MP3's, but I can tell the difference between good and mediocre headphones.

anti-microsoft
Feb 18, 2009, 08:05 AM
The quality is roughly the same all round, Classic is best IMO. Te only thing I did notice was when I switched from Nano to touch, the volume capabilities are far superior on the touch.

Ams.

Sesshi
Feb 18, 2009, 08:14 AM
The current iPods have the best compromise.

Arguably the third generation had the best quality when used with Wav and a line output, but that's not terribly practical.

The Fifth were the first to take a decent crack at eliminating the bass loss evident when using regular low-impedance earphones, without significant degredation of sound quality.

The current machines have the fewest codec issues to date, the most stable sound quality with a wide variety of phones (loads), and generally decent absolute sound quality. The result of the compromise is pretty much up there with the best of the rest in terms of what you can buy these days, and better than some overhyped-by-the anythingbutiPod-crowd machines from manufacturers like Cowon.

The current Nano is my general favourite as a music player. It's snappy, handy and finally feels pretty much as well put together as a Sony. The Classic, when you start filling it up, kills the 'iPod experience' due to it's sluggish response. The EQ remains broken across all iPods, so if you call being able to define custom EQ 'sound quality' then you're best off looking elsewhere.

Consultant
Feb 18, 2009, 09:06 AM
Red Wine Audio iMod (iPod mod)
http://www.redwineaudio.com/iMod.html

You need good quality headphones to take advantage of such a conversion.

ceres
Feb 18, 2009, 09:27 AM
Got to agree that Nano 4th gen, itouch 2nd gen and Classic share the same innards and reproduce audio the way it was recorded. The roll-off from past generations is gone with these players even when loaded with low impedance phones.
The noise floor on the current line-up is also VERY low which you will positively notice (or rather not) with sensitive IEMs. The current Nano is the best DAP I have owned. I still prefer the controls and options from the latest Sonys but the perfect finishing and itunes integration tip the scale in favor of the Pod.
As Sesshi pointed out the EQ is still dysfunctional.

Mr Skills
Feb 18, 2009, 09:43 AM
The first thing you should realise is that you should take anyone's opinion on this sort of stuff (even mine!) with a pinch of salt, not just because these things are so subjective, but also because making a meaningful comparison between models is much more difficult than people realise.

For example, you tend to perceive sound with more top and bottom end as being higher quality initially, although with extended listening this can be fatiguing - which is why cheap hifis are always so sparkly and subby, to fool you. So a quick a/b test may not be accurate. Also, very tiny increases in level can have a pronounced effect on high and low end perception (you perceive louder things as brighter and fuller, but the mids don't feel like they increase at the same rate). So very slight, almost imperceptible differences between the volume of two devices might make you think one sounds better than the other. Also, a high-ish noise floor (i.e. a tiny bit of hiss) might initially make you think one device sounds worse. But your brain tends to filter out this sort of constant background noise over time, so it might skew your opinion against a better-sounding product.

And those are just three quick things off the top of my head. But having said all that, and on the understanding that it's totally unscientific and just my impression without serious testing, I'll give you my opinion anyway ;) I am a professional audio engineer (see "my job" in the sig), so I have well-trained pair of ears, but when I listen at home for pleasure I am not an "audiophile" (I think I just threw up a little bit). So in terms "listening for pleasure" without getting too picky about it, I think they all sound pretty good (My main experience is with a 2G, a 4G and a 1st gen iPod touch).

But if you really pushed me, I'd say that the 4G is not quite as full sounding as the 2G (but maybe it doesn't go as loud? And maybe I used to keep more songs as AIFFs? And maybe I changed my headphones at some point? I can't remember). I am pretty sure, though, that the iPod touch sounds better than the 4G. Slightly punchier sound, better transient response - and that's definitely with the same files and the same headphones. If I had to guess, I'd say they use better quality components on the earlier models of each form factor, as that's when it's getting reviewed.

But honestly, they're all pretty good, and a good pair of headphones makes 20x the difference between the best and worst model of iPod (and if you're connecting to a hifi, do it with the dock connector).

ChrisA
Feb 18, 2009, 12:37 PM
The current iPods have the best compromise.

Arguably the third generation had the best quality when used with Wav and a line output, but that's not terribly practical.

The Fifth were the first to take a decent crack at eliminating the bass loss evident when using regular low-impedance earphones, without significant degredation of sound quality.

Just to add one thing: The Shuffle can't play lossless formats and is "out" if you are looking for the "best".

Also if "best audio quality" is what you need then you are likely driving some high end headphone or stereo gear. If you are using earbud style phones then those are the weak link, not the iPod.

wpc33
Feb 18, 2009, 01:47 PM
Geez
I don't wanna pick a fight, but none of you guys know what you're talking about. You're just spouting opinions, guys.
There has been a lot of actual research on this. :rolleyes:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod#Hardware
The Classic changed from the Wolfson chip to the Cirrus, changing the spacial feel and low-end. Some, including me, think the Cirrus sounds harsh and bright.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod#Audio_performance

I had a 4G and it sucked. The 5G is considered to have the best sound. It eliminated most of the issues with bass that earlier models had and it had the Wolfson chip. I have had 4, 5 & 6G iPods for about a year each, and the only one that sounds "good" is the 5G.

Read it and weep:
http://members.chello.nl/~m.heijligers/ipod/Performance/measurements.html
http://blog.wired.com/music/2007/09/ipod-classics-s.html

I personally, replaced my 5G 80GB for a 120GB Classic. I regret it, despite the tougher case, and HDD.
I am buying a 5G logic board, and I'll see if the swap works out.


And hey, since most of us here are just talking out our rear-ends, I'll chime in with my own anecdotal evidence. The iTouch sounds great. I went to the apple store and compared my regrettable Classic with the same song on the iTouch, and it was way better.

Mr Skills
Feb 18, 2009, 03:23 PM
which one do YOU think produces the best sound?

Geez
You're just spouting opinions, guys.

:rolleyes:




There has been a lot of actual research on this. :rolleyes:

...

Read it and weep:

Well I read it, and I'm pretty close to weeping. :D

It's a bunch of graphs comparing frequencies and voltages. As someone who works in sound for a living I would never use these things to make up my mind what sounds best - although it might make interesting reading after I've decided.

Sesshi
Feb 18, 2009, 04:57 PM
Even if it is 'just a bunch of graphs', the first question I'd ask is... why is he using the PM G5's built-in codec? That's 'point and laugh' grounds right there. Did he buy into the JRDF that anything with an Apple logo on a computer takes on mythical qualities? It's just a bit odd. I do most of my measurements on a Fireface 800. And that gets measured before I start measuring.

Oh - and wpc33, before you start calling people out, make sure you actually understand what you're linking to.

Muncher
Feb 19, 2009, 12:13 AM
Just to add one thing: The Shuffle can't play lossless formats and is "out" if you are looking for the "best".

Also if "best audio quality" is what you need then you are likely driving some high end headphone or stereo gear. If you are using earbud style phones then those are the weak link, not the iPod.

It depends on the earbuds you're using. If you've got a pair of high end Shures, that's a different story.

chrono1081
Feb 19, 2009, 12:39 AM
If you want really good sound quality, I'd stay far away from anything with Bose on it.

+340982038409

Bose is completely over rated. Their sound quality isn't bad, but coupled along with the price they charge for it Bose is trash.

I used to sell surround sound and what I always found funny was the people who would come in with their little consumer reports magazines and want to see the bose junk that we sold. I would let them hear Bose, then I would let them hear Kef and every single time they'd walk out with Kef (or something other then Bose)

Really Bose is not that great. Their $300 headphones sound worse then my $80 v-Modas (which sound really good)

SkyBell
Feb 19, 2009, 12:48 AM
I'm one of those people that think the 1G Shuffles have the best quality of any iPod. Others will disagree, but I often choose to listen to my 1G Shuffle instead of my 1G Touch because the quality difference is very noticeable.

I've worked with a good range of iPods, and I have to say: stay away from the 3G nano. Maybe the one I used was defective or something, but it was pretty terrible in quality. (However, the 2G nano is my runner up behind the shuffle, and probably the best option overall, IMO.)

TuffLuffJimmy
Feb 19, 2009, 12:56 AM
I'm one of those people that think the 1G Shuffles have the best quality of any iPod. Others will disagree, but I often choose to listen to my 1G Shuffle instead of my 1G Touch because the quality difference is very noticeable.

I've worked with a good range of iPods, and I have to say: stay away from the 3G nano. Maybe the one I used was defective or something, but it was pretty terrible in quality. (However, the 2G nano is my runner up behind the shuffle, and probably the best option overall, IMO.)

YES!!!!! The second generation iPod nano was the best iPod ever. *Followed closely by the fourth generation nano.