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ipod classic as audio source - sound quality problem


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19 replies to this topic

#1 of 20 OFFLINE   felix_suwarno

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Posted November 16 2008 - 06:28 AM

hi guys. i use ipods as audio source, for music listening. i have tons of cds and i need a device which can help me put everything only in one place. 3 years ago i bought a 60gb ipod. my gears at home: monitor audio gold signature gs10 and gslcr, with svs pb10isd and denon avr2802. and then i needed more space, and i bought the 160gb ipod. WRONG MOVE!!!! The airiness of my gold sigs were not there. I noticed it immediately. The bass, while heard, didnt sound warm at all. and there were distortions on everything, especially female voice. somehow i felt the sound that came from the sound system didnt really envelope me. i thought : - the rear gs10s were new, they need exercise. so i let them sing for 2 days straight. - something is wrong with my new hometheater room. perhaps the carpeted walls. and then i plugged in my old 60gb ipod, and everything sounded GREAT!!! i am gonna ditch the newer ipod. seriously.

#2 of 20 OFFLINE   Leo Kerr

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Posted November 16 2008 - 11:24 AM

I seem to recall seeing somewhere a site critiquing a number of the different iPods, and I think there was another one apart from the old "classic" that still sounded good. I can't remember where, but other people have noticed these issues.. Leo

#3 of 20 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted November 16 2008 - 01:24 PM

Try turning down the volume on the iPod. It sounds like it may be overloading the input stage of the receiver.

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#4 of 20 OFFLINE   felix_suwarno

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Posted November 16 2008 - 11:18 PM

johnrice, i tried that and it didnt improve sq at all. the new ipod classic is a piece of junk. seriously. is there any other recommended alternative? thx

#5 of 20 OFFLINE   chuckg

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Posted November 17 2008 - 04:30 AM

You may never get great sound out of an Ipod, or any other MP3 player, since all of them compress the audio to an incredible degree. Is it possible to use something larger, with less compression, like a PC audio server?
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#6 of 20 OFFLINE   Leo Kerr

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Posted November 17 2008 - 12:38 PM

Thing is, you don't have to compress the files to a millionth their size. But the different 'pods have different outputs. Something that seems a reasonable recommendation might be an external "headphone amp" that takes the strain off of your iPod, and maybe provides better service. Or some sort of... impedance matching device to convert a driven headphone into a proper "line level" out. There's almost certainly a solution out there. Leo

#7 of 20 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted November 17 2008 - 05:22 PM

Felix, How exactly are you connecting your iPods to your audio system? You're not relying on the regular headphone outs, right? If you're using an iPod dock, which one? I haven't really tried using any iPods for serious listening on my main audio system. But I read that the headphone outs are more or less junk for this purpose, and even the separately available, current model iPod dock (w/ the remote included) isn't that great. I do actually have the old iPod dock that used to be included w/ some of the old iPods -- mine is the 60GB iPod Photo from maybe 4 years ago. I don't use that dock for my main system, but have passed it off to my daughter for her iPod Nano connected to some old, Yamaha sat/sub speakers (originally pretty good for computer use). Anyway, if you had just been running headphone out straight to your system w/out a dock, I'd suggest trying a dock instead, probably preferably the old version dock (though it might not actually matter which one). _Man_
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#8 of 20 OFFLINE   Brent Hutto

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Posted November 18 2008 - 05:58 AM

You need to be using the line outs. There are various complaints about the headphone-output sections of the different iPod models but none of them are exactly audiophile quality, at least not if "audiophile" means people that spend hundreds of dollars on interconnect cables. For that matter the line out probably isn't the equivalent of a $1,000 SACD player but it does make a difference to my ears. I find that my iPod 5G's line out to an external headphone amp driving a Senn HD595 headphone sounds great. I don't think you'll hear any difference at all between two different iPod Classic models if you use the line out through an inexpensive adapter. The big differences are all in the headphone-out amp-on-a-chip section.

#9 of 20 OFFLINE   felix_suwarno

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Posted November 19 2008 - 04:17 AM

Oh yea, i used the headphone out. I didnt use any ipod docks simply because i thought the headhone out was enough. See, what i am trying to say is that i have two ipods from different generations and i connected them using the same mean, on the same system, and they sounded vastly different. Man Wai Fong, are you sure the docks would provide MUCH better quality ? I mean, i am not sure about the 160gb Ipod. I read somewhere else that the soundchip is not as good as the previous generation; so i thought that using a dock might not help. is there any other alternative to ipod? I want 160 gb of space for my wav files, portable, and hi quality sound. Or perhaps I should just for advice on getting the best out of my current ipods. Any help? thx

#10 of 20 OFFLINE   felix_suwarno

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Posted November 19 2008 - 04:25 AM

wait a minute. an external headphone amp? how is it supposed to fix sound quality caused by low quality sound chipset? i am too lazy to find the links to websites that said that the 5th gen ipods used cirrus logic chipset, while the newer ones are using a wolfson. i also read about ipod classic's sound quality issues at wikipedia. I am skeptical about fixing the sound quality problem using just an external headphone amp or an ipod dock. The 60gb ipod sounded GREAT to my ears! I cant believe that the newer one sounded like crap. It seems like Apple didnt have quality control anymore.

#11 of 20 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted November 19 2008 - 05:18 AM

It's not surprising that the (variable) headphone out would be inferior and get worse for certain subsequent generations to boot -- that's just how things tend to be when cost-cutting comes into play. Afterall, most people buying an iPod just won't know the diff anyway.

RE: the suggestion of using headphone amp, I assume you'll still need an iPod dock (or similar) to get the separate line out from the iPod and not rely on its regular headphone out.

Finally, if you're using WAV files, you might want to consider using Apple's lossless compression codec instead. That will save you a ton of space, especially when it comes to classical music (to my own surprise). The only downside I've noticed w/ that is I can't seem to get gapless playback that's fairly essential for certain pieces of music unless I combine the tracks that need that -- maybe the newer versions of iTune and iPod firmware solved this. Well, also, I guess the extra processing needed might eat up a bit more power though I'd think no more than the extra HDD usage needed to handle much larger WAV files. Anyway, if you use Apple lossless, maybe you can still fit all your music in that 60GB iPod and not need the 160GB upgrade. Posted Image Posted Image

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#12 of 20 OFFLINE   Brent Hutto

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Posted November 19 2008 - 06:29 AM

I have a little white plastic adapter that plugs into the "dock" connector on the bottom on my iPod and then has a 1/8" mini-jack to which I connect my headphone amp with a patch cord. Not asking the gutless amp-on-a-chip in the iPod to drive the complex load of the headphones makes a pretty recognizable difference in sound. That said, I have plugged the variable-volume "headphone" output into my stereo and then done the same with the "line-out" from my little adapter on the "dock" connector and (without doing a double-blind test mind you) thought it sounded better with the "line-out" arrangement.

#13 of 20 OFFLINE   Scott Strang

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Posted November 19 2008 - 11:47 PM

Does anyone make an adapter for ipods to give them a S/Pdif out? I just got an Ipod classic 120gb model and I was amazed that it sounded as good as it does. I've tried my best phones which are Grado SR-80's as well as JVC HD-A990's and Sony MDR v6's and it sounds pretty good with all of them. I also tend to use only 320 kbit to straight WAV's on mine which helps a lot. It really sounds pretty decent. The sound quality becomes considerably worse one you get to 192 and lower. NEVER recompress your mp3's as the sound gets drastically worse when doing so. Cascading compression is a serious problem with TV audio and radio station audio. The new IPod does something that my old Creative Labs Zen Micro 6gb could not do; utilize EQ w/o distorting prior to headphone out.

#14 of 20 OFFLINE   Abel1337

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Posted November 20 2008 - 03:06 AM

Sounds too good to be true

#15 of 20 OFFLINE   felix_suwarno

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Posted November 20 2008 - 05:00 AM

Man Wai Fong : I am using an old receiver. How do i connect an ipod dock to the receiver? Sounds like a dumb question, but i am really busy to do my own research on this subject. If i had more spar cash i would upgrade my receiver ASAP. I know there are receivers out there with ipods in mind.

#16 of 20 OFFLINE   Brent Hutto

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Posted November 20 2008 - 05:21 AM

I'm not sure what seems too good to be true. The "dock" connector on the bottom of the iPod makes available line-level audio prior to being sent to the headphone amp section of the iPod's chipset. So that gets amplified by a somewhat more robust (higher current, drives complex loads better) low-power audio section in the external headphone amp. The result is better sound through the headphones. And routing that same line-out signal to your stereo gives better quality than running it through the iPod's headphone driver and then into the stereo. Nothing magic about it, just skipping one rather puny audio amplication stage and the coloration it introduces.

#17 of 20 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted November 21 2008 - 08:14 AM

I wouldn't bother w/ those new optional features for newer receivers since they charge extra for them -- probably more than the cost of the standard dock and might not be reuseable for the next receiver you buy after that -- unless they can actually move the DAC-plus-line-out section off the iPod and into the receiver itself to possibly improve quality. Even then, it's not really worth it to me since I can usually just pop my CDs (or SACDs) into the player instead. For the iPod dock, just use a decent mini-plug-to-stereo-pair splitter -- pretty standard stuff you can get from Radio Shack or similar. My old one actually came w/ that. _Man_
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#18 of 20 OFFLINE   felix_suwarno

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Posted November 30 2008 - 04:36 AM

Man Wai Fong : thanks for the reply. So, how about the newer 120gb Ipod...how does it compare, sound quality wise, to the older 160gb Ipod? Let me say this again, the older 60gb Ipod is MUCH better than the 160gb. I dont think using any kind of dock would boost the 160gb Ipod's sound quality. How about alternatives to Ipod? Is there any device out there that has 160 gb hard disk space in it, plays WAV files, and has excellent sound quality when connected to a sound system, and is priced under 500 dollar?

#19 of 20 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted November 30 2008 - 09:41 AM

Felix, You really need to try the dock (or something similar) to bypass the cheap headphone opamp on the iPod -- this aspect would be true of most headphone outputs you find on any non-highend A/V gear, not just the iPod, as it's the one area that makes sense for them to cut corners. Maybe there is some affordable 3rd party solution like Brent mentioned, if you don't want to spend the $50-60 on the official dock. I haven't tried those myself, so don't know. _Man_
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#20 of 20 OFFLINE   gonzo nixon

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Posted November 30 2008 - 01:27 PM

couple of obvious things I'm sure you've tried... 1. make sure the eq on the Ipod is set flat...there will be distortion if not 2. restore the Ipod to factory default in Itunes, reload it and start over from scratch...there may have been errors during sync