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Old Sep 5, 2008, 12:25 PM   #1
daneoni
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Why do sony players sound better than iPods?

First off i'm an Apple fan and not a hater...i own 2 macs, 1 iPod, 1 iPhone, AEBS yada yada

Anyway one thing i've noticed is Sony MP3 players tend to pump out better sound than iPods, now that doesnt mean iPods are crappy sounding, far from it. They sound pretty good but sony players have the edge IMHO when it comes to audio quality (and no, i dont listen to 128k AAC files...the lowest i have is 192kbps but most of my tracks are 256kbps/Lossless nor do i use the stock headphones).

Is it just down to the audio chipset used?. Apple uses Wolfson/Cirrus right?. Do Sony make their own chipset or what?
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Old Sep 5, 2008, 01:25 PM   #2
Chris Bangle
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Im not a great fan of ipod sound quality, even with different headphones and high bit rates. I remember putting a song onto my XDA mini S and listening to it with the standard basic cheap headphones it came with. I was astounded, the sound was crisp(not sharp or harsh), had far more bass and overall sounded far better. This was the exact same file as well, (Danity Kane, Come Over interlude, had a bit rate of 192k) I compared between ipod 5g and my ipod mini and the XDA, The 5g was definatly better then the mini(ipod) but my XDA had it beaten by miles.


A few years before that, I remember listening to a song on my mini, then comparing it with the same song on minidisc through my brothers sharp minidisc player, (it was a brick) and the ipod sound sounded like I was listening to radio compared to being, I cant think of a metaphor, what im trying to say is that the minidisc was miles better, obviously in this case bit rates were different and minidisc is far superior medium for high quality audio playback. But this was comparing a music from a device that was made in 1999 to the mini which was 2003 I think.

Since then I have grown up a bit and we've lost the charger for the minidisc player so I cant do an iphone/minidisc comparison. But I think the iphone is on par with the 5G, maybe better, but im not sure.
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Old Sep 6, 2008, 01:35 AM   #3
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The chipset is only 1 part of it, the rest includes the amplifier, as well as the overall signal path. I think it's not a matter of just having the right specs, a lot of design and dare I say art has to go into engineering optimal sound from a DAP.

I have personally been a lot harder on iPod sound quality in the past, but I think the current crop of units is pretty good. The first iPod I ever bought was a 3G iPod, and I sold it a week after I bought it because the bass response was horrible in my opinion (I'm sure I could've found a better set of headphones to complement it, but didn't get around to it and bought a Rio Karma instead.) Later I bought a 1G iPod Mini, and was 'okay' with the sound until I heard the 1G iPod Shuffle I bought for my wife- the difference was instantly noticeable, the Shuffle was better.

Starting around the 4G or so though, I now consider most music players to be close enough for me. More than anything, they all sound different- each has their own sound signature.

I think the current Apple players strike a good balance between clarity and full overall response, but then again I am pretty used to them. I've heard other well-regarded players such as the Sony's and the Sansa Clip. Maybe if I really listened closely and did a full comparison with different kinds of music I might find one of those preferable, but again it's no longer a huge difference in my experience so other factors come into play (interface, features, etc.) At this point, AAC support is one of the biggest factors for me, which excludes most other players, unless someday I find something that REALLY knocks my socks off.
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Old Sep 6, 2008, 04:12 AM   #4
nanofrog
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Originally Posted by madmaxmedia View Post
The chipset is only 1 part of it, the rest includes the amplifier, as well as the overall signal path. I think it's not a matter of just having the right specs, a lot of design and dare I say art has to go into engineering optimal sound from a DAP.
Correct. At some point, the digital signal must be converted to analog (DAC stage), followed by amplification. These two areas are where most fall flat.

Sony has had a few of the upper management and designers that were audiophiles, so audio quality was a major design criteria. This history goes back quite awhile, and was the reason a CD was 74min.
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Old Sep 6, 2008, 04:16 AM   #5
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Sony supplies a IEM with theirs which sounds and isolates better than Apple's earbuds.
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Old Sep 6, 2008, 04:44 AM   #6
nanofrog
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Sony supplies a IEM with theirs which sounds and isolates better than Apple's earbuds.
IEM (In Ear Monitor method of noise reduction?)

To me, it's fairly simple. Sony designs audio equipment, and their engineers have experience with such circuits, and it's a design priority.

Apple's priorities are different. They build computers and gadgets, so audio quality falls behind everything else. Even if they do have a few engineers that have experience with good audio circuits, it gets sacrificed to unit cost and industrial design.
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Old Aug 3, 2009, 08:06 PM   #7
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sony uses toshiba amplifiers for most audio applications, nw-hd5 my favorite dap uses a panasonic amplifier and the newer miniaturized flash based players like the nw-s705 use sony's own single chip d/a converter + amplifiers. however, the new a800 series and thereafter use cirrus logic chips and still sound exceptionally good. So it's not the components being used but the way they are tuned and put together that makes all the difference between sounding crappy like a sansa and exceptional like a hi-end mini-disc player.
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Old May 20, 2011, 02:03 PM   #8
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Is this still true? Does Sony sound better than iPhone4?
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Old May 20, 2011, 09:48 PM   #9
iEvolution
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Yes this still holds true, iPods (iPhones use the same DAC as the touch model does) are definitely not made for those who are looking for sound quality. The only interest an audiophile would have with an iPod is the iPod Classic's space.

Cowon seems to be the go to brand for digital music players for those who are concerned about battery life and sound quality.

Sansa/Sony are better than the iPod line as well, though to be fair the 6th gen nano and the 3rd/4th gen shuffle are pretty decent sounding compared to the other models.
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Old May 21, 2011, 02:36 PM   #10
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It's a tricky situation, I used to love my nwz-a826, but since it broke and I got an nwz-a845 and I've got disappointed with sony, it's like my macbook headphone out, full of noise. And the audio quality was worse than the older molder it replaced.
My iPod classic so far I'm happy with it, but I use it with an sennheiser ie8 and it sounds ok.

Now looks like sony doesn't care much about their walkman line. Too bad nowadays mp3 players are merging with cell phones.
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Old Jul 14, 2011, 04:24 AM   #11
JimFoster
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I am at present trying to find out which phone delivers the best sound through the head/earphones. My SGS2 is a great phone but it isn't a great DAP. I might have to hunt through the phonearena reviews and see what the forthcoming Windows Phones, Androids and iPhone 5 bring.
I have even thought about using an old minidisc player I have. What is the best DAP and what is the best phone for an audiophile.
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Old Jul 14, 2011, 05:52 AM   #12
walkie
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Nowadays is difficult to find hi-fi modern music due to the "Loudness war":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war

So I think the quality of a portable music player relies on how sensitive a player is to this phenomenon that introduces clipping, distortion and lack of depth to our modern music, producing ear fatigue especially when using headphones.

I've been installing personal music projects of all kinds for many years: in my car, at home etc. and I have "well educated ears", and IMHO modern iPod based devices such as iPad, iPhone etc. sound very good to me.

Last edited by walkie; Jul 14, 2011 at 06:05 AM.
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Old Jul 14, 2011, 11:03 AM   #13
andrewlgm
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Almost every mp3 player I have ever used tends to sound so much better than anything I have ever put my hands on from apple. The first iphone had a terrible sound quality it was simply impossible for me to listen to it. I usually carried around a creative zen vision M or a sandisk. They sound light years away in quality and depth.

I currently own the iphone 4 and ipad, and I can sincerely say the quality has increased, but when you pair both up with a decent pair of headphones ($200 and up), the sound disappoints. Cowon, creative, sony, archos all produce better sounding products at a much cheaper price than the cheapest ipod. I just got a creative zen m300 4 GB for $40 from amazon to go running and paired up with a Klipsch S4 pair of headphones for $80, they sound quite superb. The iphone 4 on the other hand, not so much.

I don't know what it is, but I guess it's all the cramming. An iphone does so many things at once, it's got to be bad at something. It's no excuse for an iPod though. It's made for music, so I'd expect it to be much better at it.
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Old Jul 15, 2011, 09:29 AM   #14
decafjava
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Are there any actual tests out there or is this all just subjective?
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Old Jul 15, 2011, 10:32 AM   #15
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Are there any actual tests out there or is this all just subjective?
Isn't sound quality all but subjective ?

What sounds great to someone may sound dull or lacking to another and vice versa

I got to admit that Sony and Creative portable music players DO sound better than the quality I get from my iPhone 4 & iPod Nano Touch (Lossless music files)

But with that said, the sound quality I get in my iPhone 4 and iPod Nano Touch is much better and improved compared to the former models of iPod and iPhone.

I have a pretty good set of in-ears from Phonak and B&W - and I actually think the overall sound quality I get from my apple lossless music and even the 256 AAC music files is fine. Not excellent, but fine
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Old Jul 15, 2011, 10:58 AM   #16
imahawki
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For serious listening on an iPod/iPhone you can get digital signal out which bypasses all the problems being discussed here. But its not a portable solution by any means. It would be more for a desktop "audiophile" solution.
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Old Jul 15, 2011, 11:13 AM   #17
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I don't remember Apple marketing iPods and iPhones as "audiophile" quality, must have missed that.

Far and above anything else, the quality of the headphones/earbuds can affect your listening pleasure.

I bought some expensive-ish headphones (over the ear) and the difference in sound quality was astounding. Real BASS, bright highs, details I had never heard before in many listenings to various songs on a variety of output devices.

Wow.

So, yeah, get something better than the Apple earbuds and you will see a massive improvement in quality just from that change alone. Also don't forget to tweak the iPod settings, there is a preset "equalizer" feature that is utterly flat in its default out-of-the-box setup.

Of course i have a bit of hearing loss from years of seeing bands in tiny clubs, concerts and working in industrial mfg where the noise levels were always high, so I need to crank the volume up more than most ppl would it seems.

Music playback is *all* subjective, but if you don't at least try to tweak things to your liking, you cant just call a particular product "excrement" due to its out-of-the-box experience.
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Old Jul 15, 2011, 12:27 PM   #18
imahawki
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I don't remember Apple marketing iPods and iPhones as "audiophile" quality, must have missed that.
They don't, but that doesn't mean you can't use it for that. At Rocky Mountain Audio Fest there are people extracting the digital signal from an iPod and using it as the front end for $50,000+ systems.
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Old Jul 15, 2011, 02:26 PM   #19
accessoriesguy
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well I not know much about that, but does the same apply for macbooks and macbook pros? I know DJ's use them a lot. Sorry I am not an audiophile or whatever and I probably could not tell the difference.

I only know that sound seems better when your getting it from an expensive media player
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Old Jul 15, 2011, 10:21 PM   #20
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Yeah, specifically the classic is lagging behind as far as sound quality goes. The latest nano is a much better sounding iPod in comparison.

My Sansa Fuze+ sounds much cleaner even with higher end headphones (specifically Bose Around the Ears, Klipsch Ones, Sennheiser HD485s). So head phones are not the only factor.

The "loudness war" is certainly a contributing factor but the chip inside the mp3 player can make all the difference in the world. Circus Logic isn't a company known for great sound quality but that is the company that produces the audio chip for the iPod Classic model.
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Old Jul 16, 2011, 03:16 AM   #21
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Are there any actual tests out there or is this all just subjective?
Pretty much subjective. But if you purchase a pair of cheap, but average Sennheiser CX-300 headphones for $30 and you plug it into an iPhone 2G, an iPhone 4 and a Cowon D2, you can follow the progression in music quality quite clearly. Change the pair to a $500 Grado Labs RS 2 headphones and you'll be able to hear so much hiss, noise and degradation in an mp3 or acc file being played from an iphone 2G, you'll never listen to it again.

The file quality matters, the compression matters, the device playing the files matter, the headphones matter. But if you don't have a device which has a quality sound chip, then you might as well always use the stock apple white earphones. I find it pretty ironic that apple became the greatest tech company in the world selling music players that sound terrible with terrible earphones. Of course most people could care less about it. Remember those ipod commercials from 7 years ago. People dancing on screen with those white cords around their bodies and a beautiful metal piece hanging from their hands? That's all that matters.

ps. cnet, anythingbutipod, iaudiophile, etc usually do tests. check them out
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Old Jul 16, 2011, 06:40 AM   #22
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I'm quite happy with the sound of ipods and Etymotic earphones. I bought a Sansa Fuze after hearing all the hype and found it had a very overdone treble. I understand Sony's lower end is slightly boosted. I would have bought one to try, but they don't support gapless playback and they seem more expensive than ipods.

I really don't care too much these days. the quality of the recording is a far greater factor IMO.
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