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Old Feb 11, 2005, 11:35 AM   #1
ksz
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iPod shuffle sound quality a surprise

2004 was a frequent-flier year for me with just over 70,000 airmiles earned the hard way in Economy (no 1.5x or 2x accumulation rate), but who cares...I love to travel and my 30GB iPod goes on every trip (p.s. Etymotic's ER-6 and ER-4 acoustically sealed in-ear-phones work wonders in loud cabins). Hence I wasn't really interested in the new iPod shuffle until two days ago while browsing the local Apple Store.

I was stunned by the sound quality.

In fact, sound quality through my PowerBook has more "weight" across the frequency spectrum than my iPod. I consider the iPod to have a more "analytical" sound while the PowerBook has a "warmer" sound. If you're an audiophile or a hater of audiophiles you'll know what I mean by these terms. However, sound quality through the iPod shuffle was superior to both. It has more weight than my iPod and less blooming than the PowerBook. It is uncannily clear in the critical midrange and treble frequencies. I thought about it for a moment and wondered whether the complete absence of moving parts (and lack of mechanical and mechanically-induced noise) was a factor. Anyway, the technical reasons weren't so important; the sound quality mattered most, so I placed an order for the 1GB model.

Here, however, is a brief comment from PC Magazine. Note the statement in bold.

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1763754,00.asp

Quote:
The latest object of desire for iPod people is the signature-white Apple iPod Shuffle, available in 512MB or 1GB versions, both about the size of a butane lighter and weighing a miniscule 0.8 ounces. This highly competent player corrects sound-reproduction deficiencies of previous iPods and actually manages to do most competitors one better. Devotees of Apple minimalism will flip over the Shuttle, which pushes the principle to the edge. Other than a four-way rocker ring and play/pause button, very little disturbs the surface. In fact, there's no display. Songs play either randomly or in sequential order.
If you have an iPod shuffle, how would you compare its sound quality with that coming form a 3G/4G iPod or your laptop or desktop?
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Old Feb 11, 2005, 11:38 AM   #2
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I would agree that quality seems a bit better (for the Shuffle) through good headphones, although it sounds about the same as my 4G 'pod - to me - via the standard Apple 'phones.
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Old Feb 11, 2005, 11:50 AM   #3
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it's a for sure upgrade in sound quality from my 1G iPod. though, i was really hoping that would be the case.
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Old Feb 11, 2005, 11:56 AM   #4
Xenious
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I have a 30gig 3G iPod and a 1gig shuffle. I never thought the 30gig sounded that great through the standard headphones (sounds good through Bose noise cancelling tho), however the shuffle sounds great through the standard headphones. Without using audiophile terms I say it has more presence and a fatter sound. I've not tried the shuffle with nicer headphones.

Overall I would say the shuffle sounds better than my 3G ipod. Dunno if that is a fault of the EQ processing (I compared it to my 3G on EQ off) or it is something else entirely.
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Old Feb 11, 2005, 12:01 PM   #5
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awesome... now if i could only get my hands on one...
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Old Apr 8, 2005, 01:07 PM   #6
ksz
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In the April 12 print edition of PC Magazine, Bill Machrone states his views on the iPod Shuffle's sound quality (Shuffle's Got a Secret, pg. 57) and offers several notable soundbites:

"Apple's new iPod shuffle has stellar audio performance. In the bass registers, it blows away the competition, including its bigger siblings."

"You'd think that Apple would be touting the breakthrough performance of the iPod shuffle, but not a word."

Machrone performs some objective testing. In particular, he measures the Shuffle's ability to reproduce a 40 Hz square wave:

"The square wave contains the fundamental frequency and a theoretically infinite number of harmonics. The harmonics give intruments their distinctive timbre; sine waves are never found in musical instruments. Square waves are also the most demanding kind of wave for an amplifier to reproduce accurately, as the output voltage must rise instantly to the full amplitude, remain at that voltage for a period of time, then drop through zero to the full negative amplitude. ...
...
I tested the players with the 40-Hz square wave, with and without the load of a standard pair of Apple earbuds, and judged them on their ability to form a good square wave and sustain the voltage. Without the load, all but the iPod mini were able to form a good square wave. With the load, all but the iPod shuffle failed, in varying degrees, to sustain it. The speed with which the square wave sinks back toward zero indicates how long the player can sustain bass notes and their harmonics under load. All of the players except the iPod shuffle showed deterioration of the wave, but the ones that showed the least deterioration sounded best.
...
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? ... 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."
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Old Apr 8, 2005, 05:15 PM   #7
Loge
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I finally got a shuffle today after hearing many reports about its excellent sound quality. I've only listened to it a little so far, but it sounds impressive particularly bass.

It's important that Apple pay a lot of attention to sound quality of their music players as competition starts to kick in from cellphones and other devices.

I guess Apple are not too keen to stress the sound quality of the Shuffle, as that would be hard to do without implying the other iPods are not so good. I think it would be interesting to be able to see an objective comparison of the sound quality of the rest of the range (for example whether adding the photo capabilities have impacted the sound quality of the regular iPods).
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Old Apr 8, 2005, 06:05 PM   #8
ZaniCWB
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Interesting you notice that!

Yeah, I have an iPod mini 4GB (1st. gen) and my Shuffle (512MB) sounds better too.
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Old Apr 8, 2005, 07:12 PM   #9
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I have both the 512MB shuffle and a 60GB photo and the sound quality is almost identical to me, however if I were hard pressed I would say I actually prefer the shuffle.
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Old Apr 8, 2005, 07:25 PM   #10
ksz
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I was never impressed by the sound quality of the regular iPods. My 30GB iPod is just okay, but it rarely brings a smile of audio satisfaction. The iPod shuffle, however, easily brings smiles. After all the testing is done and all the opinions are read, the only thing that matters is whether you personally enjoy the music the machine is making. In case of my iPod 30GB, the answer is "not really", but in case of my little iPod shuffle, the answer is "definitely". There is perhaps nothing more I can say!
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