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MacBytes
Jul 22, 2004, 11:37 AM
Category: Reviews
Link: SHOOTOUT: Apple\'s New iPod vs. Sony Walkman NW HD-1 (http://www.macbytes.com/link.php?sid=20040722123720)
Posted on MacBytes.com (http://www.macbytes.com)

Approved by Mudbug

ALoLA
Jul 22, 2004, 12:39 PM
48kb ATRAC sounding the same as 128kb AAC? Something doesn't sound right there, as least based on what I've read from other posts. Also, out of curiosity, if Apple used a 48kb AAC as their basis for numbers of songs and battery life, what would the numbers be?

millhouse_man
Jul 22, 2004, 12:41 PM
You can't compare the total number of songs and the hard drive capacity! Even if those people who tested the sony, which used a lower bit rate, and thought it sounded the same as the iPod with the higher bit rate, every audiophile will be able to tell the difference, as well as many others.

stcanard
Jul 22, 2004, 12:45 PM
48kb ATRAC sounding the same as 128kb AAC? Something doesn't sound right there, as least based on what I've read from other posts. Also, out of curiosity, if Apple used a 48kb AAC as their basis for numbers of songs and battery life, what would the numbers be?

Hmm, site's probably been slashdotted or something because I can't get there.

Who's doing the review (is it CNet or another anti-Apple area)? Everything I've read is that bitrate for bitrate ATRAC sounds worse than AAC, WMA, or even MP3 so if they're claiming 48kb atrac sounds as good my best bet is they were re-encoding the ATRAC files into AAC for the test.

Mudbug
Jul 22, 2004, 01:40 PM
48kb ATRAC sounding the same as 128kb AAC? Something doesn't sound right there, as least based on what I've read from other posts. Also, out of curiosity, if Apple used a 48kb AAC as their basis for numbers of songs and battery life, what would the numbers be?

it would be exactly the same as Sony's numbers - the bitrate refers to the size of the chunks of data at each second - so assuming the same music files are encoded, one at ATRAC, one as MP3, one as AAC, one as Ogg, etc... they'd all be the same size. 48 bps = 48 bps = 48 bps. It's a matter of the clarity of the audio when compressed to that low of a bitrate that is the question/concern.

dizastor
Jul 22, 2004, 02:45 PM
It's probably just me, but it's odd to see "Tera Patrick's Mac360", because last I heard she was doing adult films.

Ok, back to the discussion of Sony's craptacular new walkman.

Bendit
Jul 22, 2004, 03:02 PM
You can't compare the total number of songs and the hard drive capacity! Even if those people who tested the sony, which used a lower bit rate, and thought it sounded the same as the iPod with the higher bit rate, every audiophile will be able to tell the difference, as well as many others.

The shootout isn't titled "what player is best for the audiophile".

An audiophile doesn't listen to any compressed music or music on a portable player.

Where do most people who aren't just people with too much money and brand whores (ie 90% of the people on this board) use their iPod? They use it while exercising (running, walking, etc), while commuting, or walking through a busy road. You think anyone will notice the audio quality at these times when you're pushing your body to the max, heart beating loudly, metals clanging, people talking, trains stopping, buses going, people stinking, and cars honking? NO.

Bendit
Jul 22, 2004, 03:03 PM
Believe it or not. Just because the bitrate is lower doesn't mean the quality is equally poorer. It could very well be just as good. Just lilke Apple says a 128kbps AAC file is as good as a 192kpbs MP3. You have no trouble believing them do you?

Chip NoVaMac
Jul 22, 2004, 03:09 PM
Apple has a winner as most of us already know.

Had the Sony MiniDisc and hated their format (though I wish the MiniDisc had found a home withcomputers). Use my iPod much more. And iTMS is the winner for me at least (love the older catalog).

nagromme
Jul 22, 2004, 03:10 PM
A few reports have said 48kbps is "good enough" but I wouldn't call than a consensus yet. Sony themselves uses 132kbps for their online sales. I believe the format is actually different flavors of 8TRAC for downloads vs. rips, but this certainly raises a big question.

If nothing else, this means that fitting the advertised number of songs ONLY applies to ripped CDs--NOT to songs you buy from Sony Connect! Unless, perhaps, you wish to waste time and quality by double-compressing manually.

In other words, even if you ignore quality entirely, the 20GB NW-HD1 fits LESS Sony Connect music than the 20 GB iPod fits iTMS music. 4,850 songs vs. Apple's 5,000. Oh, and the Sony costs $100 more and isn't available yet :) Or for the same $100 grab a 40 GB iPod.

And apparently, Sony used 132 for ripping CDs as well! The default is NOT 48!

And 132 kbps is nearly triple the data being read from HD, vs. the 48. That means more drive spinning, and only about 1/3 as much music can be cached before spinning up again. Does that affect Sony's 30 hour battery claim? I suspect so. Not that I need to play music for 30 waking hours without an outlet in sight anyway.

And here are the blind listening tests showing 132kbps 8TRAC (not even 48) sounds worse than 128kbps AAC. Worse even than Microsoft WMA (Napster et al), in fact:

http://www.cd-rw.org/news/archive/5257.cfm

gerardrj
Jul 22, 2004, 03:45 PM
People who don't know about technology should not write comparisons about it.

TomSmithMacEd
Jul 22, 2004, 04:11 PM
Umm, I lost the link, but what happened to that report, that showed the comparison of quality between mp3, aac, wma, and some other format. In many of the tests based on either 128 or 133 for atrac's case, atrac was under WMA for a lot of them. Now that is just bad.

speedballs
Jul 22, 2004, 04:13 PM
For the average user the iPod is still to expensive to buy. Most people are fine with less storage but cheaper price. That's where the mini comes in. So I don't see how, even with 13,000 songs and longer battery life, Sony can keep up with the iPod.

stcanard
Jul 22, 2004, 04:19 PM
Believe it or not. Just because the bitrate is lower doesn't mean the quality is equally poorer. It could very well be just as good. Just lilke Apple says a 128kbps AAC file is as good as a 192kpbs MP3. You have no trouble believing them do you?

Well in this case I have read several articles from other sources that claim 128kbps ATRAC is noticeably worse than 128kbps AAC.

I have read (actually I haven't because the site was down when I tried) one article claiming 48kbps ATRAC is indistinguishable from 128kbps AAC.

I know where my skepticism lies.

Plus if Sony had developed a technology with 400% better compression than everyone else ... the battle would have been won a long time ago.

Bendit
Jul 22, 2004, 04:22 PM
A few reports have said 48kbps is "good enough" but I wouldn't call than a consensus yet. Sony themselves uses 132kbps for their online sales. I believe the format is actually different flavors of 8TRAC for downloads vs. rips, but this certainly raises a big question.

If nothing else, this means that fitting the advertised number of songs ONLY applies to ripped CDs--NOT to songs you buy from Sony Connect! Unless, perhaps, you wish to waste time and quality by double-compressing manually.

In other words, even if you ignore quality entirely, the 20GB NW-HD1 fits LESS Sony Connect music than the 20 GB iPod fits iTMS music. 4,850 songs vs. Apple's 5,000. Oh, and the Sony costs $100 more and isn't available yet :) Or for the same $100 grab a 40 GB iPod.

And apparently, Sony used 132 for ripping CDs as well! The default is NOT 48!

And 132 kbps is nearly triple the data being read from HD, vs. the 48. That means more drive spinning, and only about 1/3 as much music can be cached before spinning up again. Does that affect Sony's 30 hour battery claim? I suspect so. Not that I need to play music for 30 waking hours without an outlet in sight anyway.

And here are the blind listening tests showing 132kbps 8TRAC (not even 48) sounds worse than 128kbps AAC. Worse even than Microsoft WMA (Napster et al), in fact:

http://www.cd-rw.org/news/archive/5257.cfm

You have to use Sony software to add songs to the device. As it's putting the files on it converts the files on the fly to 48kbps, no matter how high the original quality is.

stcanard
Jul 22, 2004, 04:27 PM
You think anyone will notice the audio quality at these times when you're pushing your body to the max, heart beating loudly, metals clanging, people talking, trains stopping, buses going, people stinking, and cars honking? NO.

I did a bunch of testing for just that reason. I was trying to squeeze a lot of music into a 128MB sd card to listen to while I was riding my bike. Now, at 35kph there is an awful lot of outside noise.

The results were very definitely that 96kbps (MP3) was the lowest I could go before it sounded tinny even under those consitions. 64 was bearable, but I noticed enough that I didn't want to use it.

48 was unlistenable.

To reiterate what I said in an earlier post -- if sony has even come up with 100% better compression than everyone else (theirs at 48 sounds as good as everyone else at 96) they would have won the battle by now. After all this compression format had a headstart over Apple in the minidisc format.

But instead everything I read says ATRAC is actually worse at the same bitrates.

The disappearance of this link off the face of the earth certainly doesn't do anything to reduce my skepticism.

Superdrive
Jul 22, 2004, 05:01 PM
I guess the difference in the two formats might be least noticeable when the listener is listening through headphones. I know that 128kbps MP3 sounds fine on my Apple Pro Speakers. But, when I plug the iPod into my car, that 128kbps is much worse than 192 or even AAC. I don't call myself an audiophile, but the loss is there. Call me skeptical...

-or Superdrive

Chealion
Jul 22, 2004, 05:05 PM
At best, this is a flawed comparison.

48 ATRAC vs. 128 AAC. I'm not even close to being an audiophile (I find 128 MP3s just fine) and I can hear the world of the difference.

Besides, Sony saying it can hold 13,000 songs is gay. No one in their right mind actually puts songs at that low/high of a compression.

If Apple played the same game, Apple's 20 GB could hold more then the Sony player because AAC can go all the way down to 16kbps.

And ATRAC is not a format one would like. It's exceedingly proprietary and heavily DRM'd.

It's not a very well done review, but does attempt to compare the differences for those who don't know technology.

jbembe
Jul 22, 2004, 05:08 PM
Well, give them some credit, they already declared the iPod the absolute winner. However, they make the competition appear much closer than it is by minimizing the difference in the encoding rates and trying to play down the fact that for the same price you can have twice the storage capacity. They do emphasize the versatility of the iPod, however what this ultimately means is that the iPod could hold the same number of the same quality songs (assuming ATRAC isn't 400% better compression format as others have stressed) and an equal amount of other files like contacts, notes, and backups of your hard drive.

Also, who did the test that they cite? "However, in a recent test, listeners couldn’t tell much difference between the higher bit rate. Apple says 10,000. Sony says 13,000."

Sounds like a bogus test to me.

nagromme
Jul 22, 2004, 05:14 PM
Two (EDIT: three) points:

1. the 48kbps numbers are for "ATRAC3+"... so in theory, that "plus" could offer the same quality at 1/3 the size. Of course nobody expects that is the case, but real tests on the "plus" will have to be done.

2. Ouch! Double-compressing isn't even optional? And you have no control over your music's bitrates?

You have to use Sony software to add songs to the device. As it's putting the files on it converts the files on the fly to 48kbps, no matter how high the original quality is.

3. From the article... you can't use the NW-HD1 to store non-music files?! It's not a portable HD? If true, that's even worse than the Dell DJ, which will work for file hauling--but ONLY if both machines have special Dell software installed. Kinda defeats the purpose of having your files in your pocket anywhere you may need them.

Chip NoVaMac
Jul 22, 2004, 06:06 PM
Besides, Sony saying it can hold 13,000 songs is gay. No one in their right mind actually puts songs at that low/high of a compression.

Sorry for being picky here, but the term gay as used use it can be considered to a negative, not to just Sony- but real people.

Unless "gay" as the same use as "fag" does in the UK; meaning a cigarette. :)

winmacguy
Jul 22, 2004, 06:53 PM
I think the rest of the industry is missing the point. If you really want to listen to quality music the average person will listen to music directly from their CD on their stereo. For ease of use and taking your entire CD collection with you you could download from iTMS (in respective country) at 128kbps .aac or you could rip your CD collection to your iTunes library at what ever bit rate your prefer for the the quality of music you want and with the "ease of use" that comes standard with Apple.

If a Sony MD with songs loaded at 48kbps ATRAC format suits your needs then you will be a happy customer.

Fortunately for 3 million+ people around the world and counting iTunes and the iPod and/or iPod mini fulfils that need.....

Just my 2 cents. :)

gwangung
Jul 22, 2004, 07:18 PM
Sorry for being picky here, but the term gay as used use it can be considered to a negative, not to just Sony- but real people.

Unless "gay" as the same use as "fag" does in the UK; meaning a cigarette. :)

Yeah...I don't buy that PC stuff that says there's nothing wrong in using a term that refers to a group of people as a synonym for something bad. That's insulting, y'know?

punter
Jul 22, 2004, 07:28 PM
People who don't know about technology should not write comparisons about it.

Very true.
They compared the price of the 40gig ipod vs the 20gig walkman? WTF? There's a direct comparison available in the 20gig ipod, which is cheaper.

I'm glad the review puts ipod on top, but this comparison stinks.

broken_keyboard
Jul 22, 2004, 09:15 PM
AAC files suck. It's probably true that they can get the same quality at 48kbps by simply using a different format.

JordanNZ
Jul 22, 2004, 09:55 PM
AAC files suck. It's probably true that they can get the same quality at 48kbps by simply using a different format.

The simple answer to this is.... "NO".

And in terms of lossy formats.. AAC does not 'suck'.

iMeowbot
Jul 22, 2004, 10:12 PM
And here are the blind listening tests showing 132kbps 8TRAC (not even 48) sounds worse than 128kbps AAC. Worse even than Microsoft WMA (Napster et al), in fact:

http://www.cd-rw.org/news/archive/5257.cfm
These tests do need to be revised. Sony's current codec is Atrac3Plus, which uses "oversized" source samples to improve quality at a given bit rate. It's definitely an improvement over the older Atrac3 used in published comparisons, but I'm not one to judge how the newer codec stacks up against AAC.

iMeowbot
Jul 22, 2004, 10:20 PM
3. From the article... you can't use the NW-HD1 to store non-music files?! It's not a portable HD? If true, that's even worse than the Dell DJ, which will work for file hauling--but ONLY if both machines have special Dell software installed. Kinda defeats the purpose of having your files in your pocket anywhere you may need them.
It does have a disk mode, accessible from Windows only.

montex
Jul 23, 2004, 01:07 AM
I can't believe you guys are debating the compression rates when all you really need to do is look at the damn things and you know the iPod is a superior player. Really. Look at them. The Sony player is butt-f***in ugly. It actually makes the Dell DJ look good.

Sony's tired, overwrought "tech" look is so last century. KISS! (Keep It Simple, Stupid) Get with the new century and design products that are designed for human beings. There has to be more than one Jonathan Ive on this planet.

Abstract
Jul 23, 2004, 02:59 AM
Umm....yes, a 40GB iPod is the same value as a 20GB Sony because they're both the best product sold by each company. She should stick to making porn films and stop doing reviews.

stcanard
Jul 23, 2004, 12:07 PM
I have read (actually I haven't because the site was down when I tried) one article claiming 48kbps ATRAC is indistinguishable from 128kbps AAC.

Okay, now that I can finally get to the article, the claim is even more ludicrous than I intially thought.

They're claiming that "some people can't tell the difference", without a single link or anything to back it up. For all we know some people is the 5 year old they took off the street.

This one definitely gets binned as not worth the effort I put into writing about it.

themadchemist
Jul 23, 2004, 02:32 PM
Also, who did the test that they cite? "However, in a recent test, listeners couldn’t tell much difference between the higher bit rate. Apple says 10,000. Sony says 13,000."

Sounds like a bogus test to me.

I think the test was conducted by those stalwarts of the music industry, BusinessWeek.

da_bulls
Jul 25, 2004, 06:24 PM
Hmmm. I think your spelling needs some work. The porn star "Tera Patrick" (delicious) seems to be a different looking person than the writer, "Tera Patricks."

Regardless, the review was decent. It compared top of the line iPod vs. top of the line Sony Walkman. The iPod, while not perfect, was excellent right out of the gate with iTunes (compare iTunes to Sony's proprietary solution) and made more excellent with iTunes Music Store.

From what I could tell, she didn't claim it to be a technology review, but a product review, for which the end result was a good one. The point wasn't ATRAC3 vs. AAC vs. anything, it was iPod (the package) vs. Sony's Walkman (the package). iPod won but there is competition (albeit not much: yet).

For most users, the total number of songs capacity isn't a big deal as most users have less than 1,000 songs. The biggest issue, brought out clearly by Ms Patrick"S" was the value-- it's tough to beat something that's so good already.

To carve a successful and growing niche in this market pioneered by the iTunes, iPod, iTMS trinity, Sony/Microfuds/Coke/Napster/ et al, will have to beat the Apple solution on BOTH price and features; total value.

How easy is that going to be?