Differences in sound quality between ipod generations

jian

Well-known Member
Does anyone know whether a particular generation of ipod sounded better?

I'm referring in particular to the 4th generation onwards. To me, sound quality is more important than video playback, photos etc and was wondering whether it is worth buying a cheaper refurb.

Thanks.
 

Steven

Senior Moderator
All iPods upto 5.5G use Wolfson DACs. 6G uses Apple DAC. All iPods with line-out should sound good

Now apparently the thinking is 5.5G iMod > 6G > 5.5G stock. 6G stock headphone out is meant to be great. Of course the 6G is still relatively new
 

rodney_nz

Active Member
Thanks, but do you know what they are like standard via the headphone out?

Hi Jian, Im no expert in sound quality etc but I purchased some Shure E3c for my 4G Ipod and to me it sounded extremely dull compared to my 5G Ipod using the same files etc. .
May have just been my headphones combination but I prefer the sound from my 5G compared to my 4G
hope helps
 

spl23

Well-known Member
iPod 4G (iPod Photo) sounded dreadful. The headphone amplifier used was underpowered, and could barely drive the supplied headphones - you could hear very nasty distortion on piano music and the like. Aftermarket headphones with lower impedance (i.e. pretty much all the in-ear canal phones) made it sound unlistenable.

I've been very happy with the sound of my 5.5G iPod - a bit of hiss into low-impedance phones, but very nice otherwise. My 6G is on order...
 

Falp

Active Member

Steven

Senior Moderator
Which iPOD models have line out? :confused:
There have been cables which use the iPod's dock to bypass the internal circuitry of the iPod for many years
 

Falp

Active Member
There have been cables which use the iPod's dock to bypass the internal circuitry of the iPod for many years

Does that mean all iPOD models with dock have line out?
 

Falp

Active Member
Does anyone know whether a particular generation of ipod sounded better?

I'm referring in particular to the 4th generation onwards. To me, sound quality is more important than video playback, photos etc and was wondering whether it is worth buying a cheaper refurb.

Thanks.

I've read a few comments more than once that state the Shuffle 1G as the best sounding iPOD! ;)

Fortunately is the one I own...:D
 

Steven

Senior Moderator
Does that mean all iPOD models with dock have line out?
Not sure about Nano's but certainly full sized iPods yes

Line out docks (LOD) do not come cheap though but then if you're going to be feeding a portable amp you'd have realised portable audio can be expensive :p Check out www.aloaudio.com for a good start
 

spl23

Well-known Member
OK, have just done a quick back-to-back comparison of my 80GB 5.5G and my new 160GB 6G. I was using Shure E500 headphones, and listening to ~200kbs VBR MP3s encoded using LAME.

The first thing you notice is that the headphone output of the 6G is noticeably quieter than that on the 5.5G - half volume on the 5.5 is about the same as three-quarters volume on the 6. That's not great - looks like you will need to turn the new one up a lot more in noisy situations and may run out of volume.

The good news is that the headphone output on the 5.5 had a noticeable level of hiss on low-impedance phones like the Shures - this is significantly better on the 6. It could get annoying on the 5.5, sometimes being intrusive over quiet passages - no such worries with the 6.

Otherwise, there isn't much to separate them. Both sound pretty good to me on an initial listen - certainly the problems with the awful 4G seem not to have made an appearance on the 6, which is a relief.

Not tried the dock or video outputs yet...
 

lazymatt

Active Member
OK, have just done a quick back-to-back comparison of my 80GB 5.5G and my new 160GB 6G. I was using Shure E500 headphones, and listening to ~200kbs VBR MP3s encoded using LAME.

The first thing you notice is that the headphone output of the 6G is noticeably quieter than that on the 5.5G - half volume on the 5.5 is about the same as three-quarters volume on the 6. That's not great - looks like you will need to turn the new one up a lot more in noisy situations and may run out of volume.

The good news is that the headphone output on the 5.5 had a noticeable level of hiss on low-impedance phones like the Shures - this is significantly better on the 6. It could get annoying on the 5.5, sometimes being intrusive over quiet passages - no such worries with the 6.

Otherwise, there isn't much to separate them. Both sound pretty good to me on an initial listen - certainly the problems with the awful 4G seem not to have made an appearance on the 6, which is a relief.

Not tried the dock or video outputs yet...

Keep us updated with your comparisons. I'm looking to get a 160 Gb classic next week whilst on the States. It'll mostly be used for the car (assuming it's compatible with the head unit) so be interested in your findings.
 

SBanga

Well-known Member
Does anybody have any idea when goPod will work with the 6th generation iPods? Got mine today and it isn't the loudest of devices.
 

spl23

Well-known Member
And some more...

There is a major difference between the sound quality of the headphone socket and the headphone connector in the docking port (as used if you have the radio remote). The dock headphone connector is *much* louder - unfortunately, there is a lot more hiss on it than on the headphone socket. There is also quite a bit of random noise audible in the hiss on the dock connector - the 5.5G had hiss, but it sounded like pure white noise. This is more "noisy" hiss, for want of a better word, but it is at a similar level to the headphone and dock connectors on the 5.5G.

So:

5.5G - loud, hissy headphone socket; loud, hissy dock headphone connector
6G - quiet, non-hissy headphone socket; loud, hissy dock headphone connector.

There seems to be a trace of distortion on the dock headphone connector on the 6G as well - the headphone socket sounds (at the same volume) both less hissy and less distorted than the dock headphone connector. The headphone socket sounds good overall - the dock headphone connector sounds less good, to the extent that I probably won't be using it any more!

I'd guess that the dock connector is optimised for a high-impedance load, like an amplifier, (unlike the headphone socket, which looks optimised for low-impedance) and it sounds pretty good through my Denon AVR3805 - no hiss, no distortion, and not a great deal of volume unless the iPod volume is set to 100% - pretty typical for a portable device.

You can't get video out of the headphone socket on the 6G any more, but if you have the old universal dock, you can still get composite or s-video out of the socket on that. Watching H264 QVGA material with 128kb/s AAC audio, I was pleasantly surprised by the video out - without comparing back-to-back, it's difficult to be certain, but I felt it was actually a touch sharper than the video out on the 5.5G.

So, thus far, the good points outweigh the bad - the poor quality of the audio into a low-impedance load from the dock connector means the radio remote is a bit useless now, but the headphone socket sounds better than before, and the video is at least as good if not better.
 

spl23

Well-known Member
Does anybody have any idea when goPod will work with the 6th generation iPods? Got mine today and it isn't the loudest of devices.

I'd guess that the headphone socket is more current-limited than before (longer battery life = less powerful output amplifiers), and so to prevent clipping into low-impedance loads, they've knocked the maximum voltage down, resulting in it being quieter. I don't think goPod will do much for this - AFAIK the maximum volume limit is now applied to all iPods, not just those for the EU, so I'd guess you can't turn it off. In other words, I think this is hardware on the 6G, not software.

If you need more volume, get a radio remote and use the dock connector - it's noticeably louder, but see my comments above about sound quality.
 

spl23

Well-known Member
And just to add a bit of emphasis - throw away your radio remote with the 6G! I'm sitting here with The Blue Nile's "Hats" on, one of my reference recordings, and it sounds bloody fantastic through the E500s connected to the 6G's headphone socket - the headphone socket on the 6G is *much* better sounding than that on the 5.5G. I'd guess that the 5.5G was optimised for high-impedance loads on both the dock and the headphone socket, whereas with the 6G the dock is designed to drive high impedances and the headphone socket is designed for low impedances - a good compromise.
 

Steven

Senior Moderator
Not used the Shure E500s before but I have never ever had to turn a DAP above 1/4 volume since getting Shure E4's and then Westone UM2s

I presume you know how to get a seal? iPods with EU volume limit are damn loud still imo - with stock buds. I've looked after my ears granted but I cannot believe someone goes 3/4 volume with IEMs and not feel pain... whether 6G are quieter or not
 

spl23

Well-known Member
It depends - the E500s do take a bit more power to drive than the cheaper Shures. The first couple of albums I tried on the 6G were mastered at a low-ish volume, but having the volume up about half-way seems about right. (And just to confirm - I value my hearing, and I never turn any headphones up louder than sensible. I've got to the age of 37 still being able to clearly hear 15.625kHz scan noise from TVs...) But the 6G is definitely noticeably quieter than the 5.5G.

It also seems to be exactly the same size until you fit it into the Apple leather case, which fit the 80GB 5.5G like a glove - the 6G falls out of it as soon as you turn it upside down...
 

Steven

Senior Moderator
I'd understand that statement... if IEMs aren't low impedance and high efficient in their very nature. Each to their own and I do not want to sound like whatever but I am genuinely surprised that someone needs to push their player so much to get adequate volume out of IEMs
 

spl23

Well-known Member
Hmmm. IEMs are generally efficient because you are driving a very small transducer, so you don't need much power to do so. However, the E500 has three separate drivers (two bass, one treble) and a crossover - it will need more power to drive than a simpler IEM.

All that said, several people are now noticing that the 6G has a noticeably low-power headphone output, especially compared to the 5.5G. I don't think I did ever turn the volume up above half-way on my 5.5G...
 

Falp

Active Member
Sennheiser CX300 are so cheap... so good... and so more efficient than the iPOD stock headphones...:thumbsup:
 

kevH

Active Member
We need some clever spark like gopod to remove the Euro volume limit on these new iPods so we can all be adult and set our own levels :rolleyes:
 

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