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fernande-mac
Sep 11, 2009, 05:43 PM
Is there a difference in the quality of sound coming out of the different iPod models?

I read somwhere that some older models have better sound quality than the more recent models. Can't find it, though.

So, I would like to know if anyone here has any knowledge on the subject.

Video quality is not an issue at the moment because the iPod does not really handle HD playback or output. So, I am going to leave that out of the discussion.

I am looking for the music player with the highest quality, fidelity sound. Basically,

HiRes/Lossless Encoding -> iPod -> HiFi connector -> HiFi receiver -> Crystal Clear Playback -> Me

Thanks!



Genghis Khan
Sep 11, 2009, 10:38 PM
I read somwhere that some older models have better sound quality than the more recent models. Can't find it, though.

I've noticed that distinctly myself. The older models had a very high quality sound, but the newer models have a run-of-the-mill sound quality.

This may be because only audiophile's can tell the difference...


I am looking for the music player with the highest quality, fidelity sound.

Unfortunately, I've heard better sound quality from korean souvenirs than the current round of iPods...
*true story*

chaos86
Sep 11, 2009, 10:43 PM
If I had that question I'd ask @patricknorton. He's a total audio-nut, and I know he's done lots of research on this exact subject.

Teej guy
Sep 12, 2009, 01:48 AM
There's an excellent hi-fi dock which grabs the digital feed from the iPod before conversion and does its own D/A really well...only I can't remember what make/model it is...let me get back to you on that. Since it does its own conversion, I don't think there would be any difference between models. Apparently though, there are some quality differences in the analog outputs of various iPod models. I think I read somewhere that the 5G iPod (the one just before it was branded iPod Classic) was the best of the bunch, although don't quote me on that.

MacKiddyWiddy
Sep 12, 2009, 05:06 AM
well all i can say is.... I feel that the flash drive iPods are better then the HDD ones like the classic etc... THe drive jumping is a problem for me when working out but sitting still or moving little bits there is no noticeable difference. SOme claim the shuffle to not be as good but in the end, its the ear phones you buy that make the difference, and all new iPods come with the same earphones http://macblog.***********/imgs/signature_SmileyFace.jpg

weckart
Sep 12, 2009, 05:38 AM
The 1st gen shuffle had better sound than all of its Apple contemporaries oddly enough, but generally iPods have middling to below average sound reproduction, even with decent headphones.

alphaod
Sep 12, 2009, 05:53 AM
5.5th Gen. classic, 2nd Gen. touch, 3G (not GS) iPhone and all their previous models had the Wolfson chipset which is better.

In other words, the latest models are all the same with the Cirrus Logic audio chipset which isn't as good.

CubeHacker
Sep 12, 2009, 10:14 AM
The 1st gen shuffle had better sound than all of its Apple contemporaries oddly enough, but generally iPods have middling to below average sound reproduction, even with decent headphones.

This is true. There was a website online that did some very detailed test showing how the 1st gen shuffle was able to sustain its bass response while all other ipods fell flat. This was due to a special double audio stage only found in the original shuffle. I don't think any of the new ipods feature this.

Pocket lint
Sep 12, 2009, 10:27 AM
Regrettably, iPods aren't the best music players out there if you want the best audio quality.

As such, one has to decide whether the trade-offs are worth it. Do you want the best music player, or do you want the best music player-cum-pseudo PDA/webbrowser thingy?

Cowon makes the D2 (and D2+) and some other great players. While the audio quality of the D2/+ are excellent, it's certainly not for everyone (much like iPods aren't for everyone).

fernande-mac
Sep 12, 2009, 10:46 AM
If I had that question I'd ask @patricknorton. He's a total audio-nut, and I know he's done lots of research on this exact subject.

Is he a member in this forum? I cannot find him.

Do you want the best music player, or do you want the best music player-cum-pseudo PDA/webbrowser thingy?

I am actually looking for best sound reproduction. Not interested in the bells and whistles because I will be hooking up the device either to my car or my stereo. The rest of the time, I will play directly from my computer. I will use it standalone rarely, e.g., if I am exercising.

Cowon makes the D2 (and D2+) and some other great players. While the audio quality of the D2/+ are excellent, it's certainly not for everyone (much like iPods aren't for everyone).

I looked at the Cowon D2+, but it does not support AAC or H.264, which is a deal breaker for me as most of my library is in those formats. :(

There's an excellent hi-fi dock which grabs the digital feed from the iPod before conversion and does its own D/A really well

This sounds promising.

5.5th Gen. classic, 2nd Gen. touch, 3G (not GS) iPhone and all their previous models had the Wolfson chipset which is better.

In other words, the latest models are all the same with the Cirrus Logic audio chipset which isn't as good.

So, basically, my 3rd iPod 40GB has better sound reproduction than the latest iPod classic 160GB, iPod touch 32GB/64GB or iPhone 3Gs?

That does not leave many options for an upgrade. . . :o

Thanks!

fernande-mac
Sep 12, 2009, 10:58 PM
Anyone has experience with the Sony Walkman X-Series?

It has impressive sound quality specs, and all reviews are very positive.

On the Mac its just appears as a memory card when connected, it doesn't show up like a iPod on the desktop nor does it appear on your iTunes. If you want to put music and videos on to a X series Walkman from a Mac, you have to do it manually with selecting and dragging the items you want into the certain folders which appear on the memory card on your desktop.

alphaod
Sep 12, 2009, 11:04 PM
So, basically, my 3rd iPod 40GB has better sound reproduction than the latest iPod classic 160GB, iPod touch 32GB/64GB or iPhone 3Gs?

That does not leave many options for an upgrade. . . :o

Thanks!

Almost; you'd have to have both very good headphones and ears to tell though.

fernande-mac
Sep 12, 2009, 11:52 PM
Almost; you'd have to have both very good headphones and ears to tell though.

I have good equipment and ears. That's why I started this thread.

As I mentioned before, I am only interested in audio quality. That's why the Sony Walkman X-series looks appealing even though is not fully integrated into iTunes. But then again, what other player besides the iPod is. . .

iPhone 62S
Sep 13, 2009, 04:57 AM
I've had a first gen iPod shuffle, a first gen iPod nano, iPhone 3G and currently have a iPod touch and iPhone 3GS and... I don't really notice the difference myself.

My headphones are decent - Sennheiser PX 100s to be precise - and I used them with all my iPhones and iPods except the shuffle.

I guess it's the sort of thing you only notice if you really concentrate.

Pocket lint
Sep 13, 2009, 07:07 AM
The D2/+ does support MP4/AAC - Although you're right that it doesn't support M4P, which is Apple's protected, storebought, format with DRM.

I haven't checked about H.264 as I don't use music players for video, but was merely talking about players with the best audio quality.

In any case, good luck with your search :)

fernande-mac
Sep 13, 2009, 10:32 AM
The D2/+ does support MP4/AAC - Although you're right that it doesn't support M4P, which is Apple's protected, storebought, format with DRM.

Are you talking from personal experience?

The reviews complain about the lack of support for Apple's commonly used formats and the Cowon spec sheet (http://www.cowonamerica.com/products/cowon/d2plus/) does not list it:


▪ Supports MP3, WMA, Ogg, WAV, FLAC, APE files
▪ Supports Xvid, WMV9 movie files

Pocket lint
Sep 13, 2009, 11:03 AM
Are you talking from personal experience?

The reviews complain about the lack of support for Apple formats and the Cowon spec sheet (http://www.cowonamerica.com/products/cowon/d2plus/) does not list it:

No, I do have the D2 (not the D2+) somewhere around my house, so I will check when I get back. Personally I use flac and wav on it. I don't even touch lossy formats.

However, the remark was made because one of my mates claim to be able to play back MP4-files (audio files, not the Mp4 video files).

Edit:
Btw, AAC/Mp4 are NOT an "Apple format" anymore than MP3 are. MP4, however it is the format apple chose to add drm to.

Edit #2:
http://iaudiophile.net/forums/showthread.php?t=24808

(it is supported if the suffix is .aac)

fernande-mac
Sep 13, 2009, 02:50 PM
AAC/Mp4 are NOT an "Apple format" anymore than MP3 are

I know. It was a badly constructed sentence. I should have said "Apple's commonly used formats".

http://iaudiophile.net/forums/showthread.php?t=24808 (it is supported if the suffix is .aac)

Thanks for the info.

Personally I use flac and wav on it

FLAC is not supported by the iPod, and WAV files are just huge. So, when I need to, I use Apple's lossless format.

Maybe, I should rethink my digitization strategy. However, we are talking about 5548 songs worth 25.27 GB of space. I am not in the mood nowadays to go back and re-record all my CD collection, or re-encode all the songs I have purchased from iTunes.


What do people do around here for digitization formats?

musio
Sep 13, 2009, 04:33 PM
i definitely notice a difference in sound quality.
My iphone is worse than my ipod classic
my 3gS is better than my 3g
my 5.5 is better than my 6th

alphaod - you seem to have some interesting info. Any more sources or reads?
i found this: http://www.meizume.com/general-meizu-m8/7490-iphone-3g-vs-m8-inside-story.html


Interesting thead

fernande-mac
Sep 13, 2009, 05:13 PM
my 3gS is better than my 3g

Did you mean "my 3G is better than my 3Gs"?


So, what is one to do?

I need an upgrade for my old iPod with at least 32 GB of storage.

The current offerings are the iPod classic 160 GB and the iPod touch 32 GB or 64 GB. I am not considering the iPhone 3Gs 32 GB because the prices are insane.

The main issue seems to be with the crappy amplified signal. However, if you use a dock or cable that acts as a line out and then you hock it up to amplified speakers (do cars qualify?) or amplified headphones/earphones (do you know of any?), then you should be OK.

Another option is to get a better portable player and suffer the consequences of a non-iTunes compatible device.

The final option is to live with the low quality, assuming your digital encoding is good enough and you have nice headphones/earphones.

FX120
Sep 13, 2009, 05:43 PM
One of the best portable players ever was the Cowon X5, which unfortunately is no longer in production and there has never been a true replacement. With 3rd party firmware, it would play back pretty much any format on the market with the exception of protected AAC files.

As far as iPods go, the first generation shuffle is king, followed by the 3rd generation iPod, followed by the first generation Mini, followed by the 5th generation iPod. And it's not because of the audio DAC, it's because of the headphone amplifier itself which Apple has *always* cheaped out on, hence the popularity of line out cords.

If you've got to have an iPod, I'd say go for a 5th generation, get a line out cord or use it with something like Sony's car interface.

Also, the 5th generation iPod can be modded with the Rockbox firmware for FLAC playback, in addition to many other great features.

ChrisA
Sep 13, 2009, 09:07 PM
This is true. There was a website online that did some very detailed test showing how the 1st gen shuffle was able to sustain its bass response while all other ipods fell flat. This was due to a special double audio stage only found in the original shuffle. I don't think any of the new ipods feature this.

I have a first gen Shuffle. You can only load 128Kbps files on it. It will not play higher quality files. There is an option in iTunes that offers to convert files to the required format before syncing the Shuffle. I'm always forced to use that featue every time I sync my shuffel as all my files are Apple Lossless format and the shuffle can't play that.

So, I seriously doubt the 1st gen Shuffle has the best sound as it can only play the 128K files

It may have better bass, I don't know but even if it dos, that does not equate to better sound.

What are you listening with? You'd need some good headphones to hear the difference

wpc33
Sep 14, 2009, 12:19 PM
fernande, you misread alphaod's comment. He said the iPhone 3G(2nd gen). The 3rd gen iPod has some of the worst sound of any iPod.

Also, I agree that the 5.5G has the best sound of any HDD iPod. I bought a 120GB Classic to replace my 5.5G. I hated the 6thGen's sound/laggy UI, and bought a 240GB iPod 5.5G from ipodzens instead. It's great.
*sigh of relief*

Scottyk9
Sep 14, 2009, 12:23 PM
I have a first gen Shuffle. You can only load 128Kbps files on it. It will not play higher quality files. There is an option in iTunes that offers to convert files to the required format before syncing the Shuffle. I'm always forced to use that featue every time I sync my shuffel as all my files are Apple Lossless format and the shuffle can't play that.

So, I seriously doubt the 1st gen Shuffle has the best sound as it can only play the 128K files

It may have better bass, I don't know but even if it dos, that does not equate to better sound.

What are you listening with? You'd need some good headphones to hear the difference

I have 2 first gen shuffle's - neither of them "force" the 128 conversion, this is an option only...

musio
Sep 14, 2009, 12:43 PM
wpc33 - you said 240gb ipod?? Can you clarify?


fernande-mac, no. 3gS is much better quality. It's quite well read on the net that this is the general consensus

Loge
Sep 14, 2009, 03:27 PM
As far as iPods go, the first generation shuffle is king, followed by the 3rd generation iPod, followed by the first generation Mini, followed by the 5th generation iPod. And it's not because of the audio DAC, it's because of the headphone amplifier itself which Apple has *always* cheaped out on, hence the popularity of line out cords.

The first generation mini had terrible sound quality; compromises were made for its (at the time) small size, the 3G iPod was also mediocre. Sound quality improved significantly with the first gen shuffle. The worst of all though was the first iPod Photo, which could not play back solo piano without significant distortion.

ChrisA
Sep 14, 2009, 04:00 PM
I have 2 first gen shuffle's - neither of them "force" the 128 conversion, this is an option only...

Try to copy an Apple lossless track onto your Shuffle. It will not let you.

So I say again, if the Shuffle can't even play a lossless track how can it have good audio? Or more accurately how would you know if it had good audio if if can't play lossless source material

fernande-mac
Sep 15, 2009, 12:31 AM
wpc33 - you said 240gb ipod?? Can you clarify?

I assume it was a refurbished model with a newer/bigger hard drive.


fernande-mac, no. 3gS is much better quality. It's quite well read on the net that this is the general consensus

This contradicts what alphaod said:

"5.5th Gen. classic, 2nd Gen. touch, 3G (not GS) iPhone and all their previous models had the Wolfson chipset which is better.

In other words, the latest models are all the same with the Cirrus Logic audio chipset which isn't as good."

So, technically, the iPhone 3G should have better sound than the iPhone 3Gs because it has the Wolfson chipset instead of the Cirrus Logic.

That's why I was confused that you said the iPhone 3Gs had better sound than the iPhone 3G.

fernande-mac
Sep 15, 2009, 02:29 PM
Now, just to be clear, when people talk about iPod's "sound quality", are they referring to the amplified signal from the headphone jack?

The line out sound should be equivalent in all models, right?

CubeHacker
Sep 15, 2009, 07:25 PM
Try to copy an Apple lossless track onto your Shuffle. It will not let you.

So I say again, if the Shuffle can't even play a lossless track how can it have good audio? Or more accurately how would you know if it had good audio if if can't play lossless source material

We are talking about the ability of the hardware in the ipod itself to output quality sound, not the ability to play different codec's. I'm pretty sure the first gen COULD playback apple lossless, if Apple were to go and update the firmware to give it that ability. However, Apple usually doesn't go and give old outdated models new abilities, so its left without lossless playback. You could always just copy a straight WAV file which is 100% lossless and i'm sure that would play back just fine. However, no one is forcing you to convert to 128kbps AAC files. Its just an option to squeeze as much music onto the devices limited 1gb storage space. You can easily stick 320kbps files onto the 1st gen shuffle and it'll play back and sound great.

CubeHacker
Sep 30, 2009, 07:02 PM
Well after a bit of searching, I finally found that article written about the iPod shuffle (1st gen).

Here is a quick expert from the article:

The iPod shuffle's near-perfect rendering of the square wave means that it uses push-pull output instead of the single-ended, capacitor-coupled output found in just about every other player. You just can't get this kind of audio performance from a single-ended circuit. I find Apple's audiophile approach exciting on several different levels. You can hear the improvement; will Apple incorporate the same technology in future hard drive players? And technologically, it's fascinating. My inner geek wants answers to half a dozen questions, including how they're generating the negative power supply voltage and whether they've gone with a capacitorless design. I've asked Apple, but so far the company is mum.

And here is a link to the review, along with the page that has the test and resulting data

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,1777890,00.asp
http://home.comcast.net./~machrone/playertest/playertest.htm

Would be cool to see how the current generation of audio players, such as the iphone, ipod touch, ipod nano, zune, etc, perform compared to the nearly 5 year old shuffle.

iPhone 62S
Oct 1, 2009, 01:49 AM
This contradicts what alphaod said:

"5.5th Gen. classic, 2nd Gen. touch, 3G (not GS) iPhone and all their previous models had the Wolfson chipset which is better.

In other words, the latest models are all the same with the Cirrus Logic audio chipset which isn't as good."

So, technically, the iPhone 3G should have better sound than the iPhone 3Gs because it has the Wolfson chipset instead of the Cirrus Logic.

That's why I was confused that you said the iPhone 3Gs had better sound than the iPhone 3G.

It's unoticable though IMO (I've had the 3G and now have a 3GS).

At this moment, though, my sound quality is terrible because my half of my headphones decided to die yesterday.

Erlend31
Oct 2, 2009, 06:20 PM
Cowon O2 has alac support (and a whole bunch of other formats). I use this model myself, got fed up with crappy apple SQ.
I can easily recommend the O2.

ChrisA
Oct 2, 2009, 07:42 PM
We are talking about the ability of the hardware in the ipod itself to output quality sound, not the ability to play different codec's.

The quality of the sound is limited by the quality of the source material. If the iPod can only play compressed format the sound just can't be any good.

How could you know it the sound quality is good if you've never heard it play good sound.

IIn almost all cases with ipods the limitation is the quality of the source material and the quality of the headphones or stereo system the iPod is driving

CubeHacker
Oct 3, 2009, 11:35 AM
The quality of the sound is limited by the quality of the source material. If the iPod can only play compressed format the sound just can't be any good.

How could you know it the sound quality is good if you've never heard it play good sound.

IIn almost all cases with ipods the limitation is the quality of the source material and the quality of the headphones or stereo system the iPod is driving

I understand where you are coming from, and yes its true that the source material is important to the overall sound quality. However when talking the actual hardware's design and playback ability, you need to leave the source material out of the discussion. And the bottom line is that the original Shuffle had outstanding audio hardware and sound quality. Whether the current generation of music players from Apple is similar in quality or not is whats up for discussion, not their ability to play back different audio formats.

And although I haven't tried it myself, i'm pretty sure the shuffle can play back uncompressed lossless files such as WAV or AIFF, although not too many songs would fit at those huge sizes.