Sound Quality of the iPod?

Discussion in 'iPod' started by MACDRIVE, Jul 1, 2007.

  1. MACDRIVE macrumors 68000

    MACDRIVE

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    Clovis, California
    #1
    Right now I'm listening to streaming radio on SKY.fm at 96K on my PowerBook with a pair of Bose TP-1's. The sound quality is pretty good, but how well do the iPods sound?

    I've never owned an iPod, so I'm just trying to get a general idea of their sound quality. :)
     
  2. Hmac macrumors 68020

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    May 30, 2007
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    Midwest USA
    #2
    They're excellent, but the limiting factor isn't going to be the iPod, it's going to be the earphones you use and the quality of the audio compression. You can enhance the quality of the earphones by spending up $450 for a pair of Shure SE530's. You can enhance the quality of your ripped CDs by using a high-quality MP3 encoder like iTunes-Lame (free) instead of AACs in iTunes.
     
  3. blackstone macrumors regular

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    #3
    AAC is actually a more advanced codec than MP3, so you should get better sound quality at a given bitrate with AAC than MP3. I'd say you should go with somewhere between a 160 kbps and 256 kbps rip with AAC, depending on the type of music you're ripping. If you want more control over the process, or if you find that there are skips in the sounds (from scratches on the CD, or whatever) then use Max (free) or another similar application to tweak the settings and use more aggressive error correction.
     
  4. pianoman macrumors 68000

    pianoman

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    #4
    to increase quality of a sound file, you can import using Apple's Lossless encoder via iTunes. this increases the file size quite a bit, but if you're an audiophile or simply want the best sound, it's an available option.
     
  5. blackstone macrumors regular

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    #5
    The OP says he is mostly satisfied with a 96 kbps Internet stream, though, so lossless (which is, in my opinion, already serious overkill) would basically be eating up the OP's disk space for no good reason. Even audiophiles have difficulty distinguishing 256 kbps from lossless in blind tests, and 256 kbps files are way smaller.
     
  6. MACDRIVE thread starter macrumors 68000

    MACDRIVE

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    Feb 17, 2006
    Location:
    Clovis, California
    #6
    Hmac

    blackstone

    pianoman

    Thank you all for the replies. You guys have been very helpful. :)

    One last question: is Lossless for iTunes purchased songs as well as ripped CD's or just for ripped CD's only? Also, I'm assuming that Lossless does not apply to streaming radio, correct?
     
  7. pianoman macrumors 68000

    pianoman

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    May 31, 2006
    #7
    "regular" purchases on the iTS are 128kbps. purchases from the "iTunes Plus" Store are 256kbps. there is no option to change this.

    you can specify in iTunes preferences (Advanced > Importing) the rate you want your songs imported into iTunes (between 16 and 320kbps).

    lossless does not apply to streaming radio.
     
  8. blackstone macrumors regular

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    Dec 12, 2005
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    Washington, DC
    #8
    Yup, Pianoman has laid it out pretty well. The only thing I'd add is that streaming audio is usually MP3 between 64 and 128 kbps.

    You might want to just rip a few CD tracks and listen (blind, if possible, with a friend picking the tracks) to see what you think. My personal sense of how various bitrates sound is as follows (your results may vary, of course):

    64 kbps MP3 -- really nasty, lots of artifacts
    96 kbps MP3 -- still kind of nasty, but fine for background music while I'm working on something else
    128 kbps MP3 -- still a lot of artifacts, but acceptable as long as I'm not being too critical
    128 kbps AAC -- some artifacts, but unless I'm listening closely for them I can't hear them
    160 kbps AAC -- a lot fewer artifacts, extremely hard to distinguish from the original CD except for certain very demanding types of music (e.g. classical)
    192 kbps AAC -- extremely hard and maybe impossible to distinguish from the original CD
    256 kbps AAC and higher -- impossible to distinguish from the original CD
     
  9. MACDRIVE thread starter macrumors 68000

    MACDRIVE

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    #9
    blackstone, pianoman, you guys are AWESOME! Thank You! :)
     
  10. Killyp macrumors 68040

    Killyp

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    #10
    If you find 96 kbps is enough, then an iPod will sound fine to you.

    I personally think they sound very good, but there is a better player out there in terms of sound, but it's not as practical...
     
  11. lamina macrumors 68000

    lamina

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    Mar 9, 2006
    Location:
    From Canada, living in Seoul
    #11
    I'd say the biggest limiting factor of iPod's sound quality is its lack of programmable EQ. Give me a 5-band EQ and I'm happy as a pig on ship. Seriously.

    One may argue that a custom EQ would take up too much processor time and therefore result in diminished battery life, but how much different would a custom EQ be than a preset one?

    PLEASE, Apple. Give us a custom EQ.

    Edit: Of course, the bitrate of content has a lot to do with quality as well. You can however make a 128kbps MP3 sound not as bad if you can customize the EQ. I encode music I really care about (Such as my Tool collection) in Lossless AAC. I'm by no means an audiophile. My pair of Bose Triports really reminds you how crappy 128kbps AAC or MP3 can be, though.
     

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