Is the sound quality from all iPod models the same?

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by fernande-mac, Sep 11, 2009.

  1. macrumors regular

    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

  2. macrumors 65816

    Genghis Khan

    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...

    Unfortunately, I've heard better sound quality from korean souvenirs than the current round of iPods...
    *true story*
  3. macrumors 65816


    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.
  4. macrumors 6502a

    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.
  5. macrumors 6502

    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 [​IMG]
  6. macrumors 68030

    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.
  7. macrumors demi-god


    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.
  8. macrumors 65816


    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.
  9. macrumors regular

    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).
  10. macrumors regular

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

    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.

    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. :(

    This sounds promising.

    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. . . :eek:

  11. macrumors regular

    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.
  12. macrumors demi-god


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

    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. . .
  14. macrumors 6502a

    iPhone 62S

    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.
  15. macrumors regular

    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 :)
  16. macrumors regular

    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 does not list it:

  17. macrumors regular

    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).

    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:

    (it is supported if the suffix is .aac)
  18. macrumors regular

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

    Thanks for the info.

    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?
  19. macrumors 68000


  20. macrumors regular

    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.
  21. macrumors 65816


    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.
  22. macrumors G4

    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
  23. macrumors 6502


    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*
  24. macrumors 6502a

    I have 2 first gen shuffle's - neither of them "force" the 128 conversion, this is an option only...
  25. macrumors 68000


    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

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