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Sound Quality Difference between MP3 players?

Discussion in 'Headphones, Earphones & Portable Music' started by satwar, Aug 25, 2005.

  1. satwar

    satwar
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    I'm looking at the simple memory stick type mp3 players (currently most have 1 Gb capacity). Is there any sound quality differences between the players or is the difference all in the headphones or speakers you use?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    :hiya:
     
  2. satwar

    satwar
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    Bump.

    I hope this question isn't being ignored because it's silly. I'll bump up to the top of the list for one more go around.
     
  3. David Mackenzie

    David Mackenzie
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    Everyone argues about this, it really comes down to personal preference. Everyone I let listen to my iPod side by side to my Sony HD-5 agreed with me that the HD-5 sounded a lot deeper and better, but there are Apple fans who stand by the iPod sound quality.

    So no - it's not just the speakers/headphones. The player makes a difference too - as do the files that are stored on it.
     
  4. Falp

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    If had to buy a 1Mb player it would be an iPOD Shuffle 1GB...

    If you don't need a screen of course.
     
  5. satwar

    satwar
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    Yes I've heard good things about the sound quality of the shuffle, possibly better than the HDD iPOD models. I've also been attracted to the clean design of the new Sony network walkmans (3-line organic display), but I haven't read much about them yet.

    Thanks for the help. I had read about the boosted bass response of the Sony versus iPOD.

    :)
     
  6. Falp

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    I like bass, not boosted bass or boosted anything...

    The sony NW-E75 has (an intolerable) boosted bass...
     
  7. Sasso

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    I thought you were just complaining about how the shuffle had a lack of bass?

    By boosted bass he probably meant that it just had more, not that it was artificial. But even it it is artificial, more bass is better, as long as it can be adjusted.

    The E405 (series) look stunning, only way to find out if the SQ is good is to test one with decent headphones.
     
  8. extremelydodgy

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    Among flash players in my experience, there's not a huge difference in sound quality since they are much more similar in terms of relative quality than hard disk based players. However different machines have different things you can do with the sound.


    -----------------


    Getting onto the hard disk players where the sound quality argument is more interesting :D Among the current batch of players I have, in a mixed objective-subjective test (first a listening grading, then measuring, at identical callibrated volumes), the Sony HD5 interestingly comes last.


    The iPod is among the best, but certain things need to be satisfied before it is... and some may not feel that's worthwhile.


    The iPod has a well known problem which affects a surprising number of players, but not the iRiver H100/H300 or the Sony HD5 (which has some interesting tweaks). Many players have to some degree a loss of bass when low impedance headphones are inserted. This 'fall-off' is often discussed these days and you can do some research about it. It is not an iPod specific issue, but the iPod probably displays it the worst out of all the DAPs in production at the moment. It also still lacks a good EQ at this point.


    The falloff can affect judgement of sound quality. As far as the HD5 is concerned, with lower impedance phones of around the 32-ohm mark it has a noticeably lower sound quality than the iPod, but it does have more bass because as said before the HD5 does not suffer from the fall-off. This may lead some to say the HD5 has better sound quality. It does not... far from it.


    Overcoming the falloff is pretty easy, but it does require a financial outlay. You simply put a bigger resistance onto the headphone socket. This means going for headphones which are over a certain impedance range. Say 60 ohms (Even at that level thre is still a slight falloff on the iPod, but it is far less noticeable). Even then, there is no guarantee you will like the iPod if sound quality is not your first concern, since the iPod as previously said lacks a decent EQ. The Sony EQ with ATRAC is very usable (albeit further degrades the sound a little).


    A good halfway house if you want maximum tuneability of the sound with the assurance of half decent sound quality is the iAudio X5, although you give up tag based browsing. The X5 has slightly better sound quality than the HD5 as is, does not suffer from the bass fall-off as much as the iPod, and has an array of EQ'ing and sound 'enhancement' features that those who can't distinguish colour from quality will love more than the Sony. And moreover, the effects work in every codec that the X5 supports, unlike the Sony.
     
  9. mdsjack

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    And what about the noise reported about sony nw-hd3 on a few reviews?

    can anyone confirm that the sound is clear and there are no background noises?
     
  10. Falp

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    Not lack of bass, I use it mainly inside my helmet and then it lacks bass.
    In all other uses everyone loves it's bass...

    As for EQ... I'm tired of EQ for more than 10 years.

    As for the E75 chrome looks... it looks good for the owner, my 14 yr old cousin... :rolleyes: But it sounds much better with... my iPOD headphones!
     
  11. Sasso

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    I don't get it, how does your helmet stop the bass?
    I've never heard it so I can't personally comment on the sound, so I commented from what I have heard. (Soon ill be able to hear one)
    Ipod headphones are pretty good for standard ones, but not that good.

    For the HDD models, for some reason people find the HD5 sounds better than Ipod, and so do I. There must be something that extremelydodgy can hear that everyone else doesn't. Won't high resistance phones make the volume lower? There is a fix someone posted where you lowered the volume tags of all your songs and then there is a ipod volume booster that makes up for it, then the eq works and you have more bass, i dont get how it works, unless the volume booster actually boosts the power of the ipod itself? The HD5 distorts when you set it to a high volume.
     
  12. Terraliptar

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    Satwar,

    I own Sennheiser HD600s, Etymotic ER-4Ps and Shure E5s (bought in that order). I had ordered the Etymotics from the US on the basis of reviews but they had far too much treble and a distinct lass of bass. Fans of the Etymotics kept saying that the bass was natural/neutral. Was I then to believe that the rich, beautiful bass of the Sennheisers was boosted? Dream on. After that I bought the dual-driver Shures and have been extremely happy with both the bass and treble on them. They are by far the best portable headphones (and canalphones) that I've ever owned.

    Originally I had an iRiver IFP-195 DAP and had to boost the bass to get a decent sound out of it but unfortunately the bass sounded artificially boosted. When I got the Sony NW-E107 the default bass was superb and definitely didn't sound in the least bit artificially boosted. For me, the Shures and the Sony were a match made in heaven.

    Fanboys (and maybe I'm one) will always defend their choice of player/headphones and attack other people's so I think that you should take Lyris' advice and buy/borrow a decent pair of headphones and test the players out for yourself. It's the only way to be sure.
     
  13. extremelydodgy

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    Sasso, the iPod has a 30mw per channel amp output when 'de-restricted'. The Sony has a 5mw per channel output when 'de-restricted'. The Sony's amp also has a few issues with higher-impedance phones, whereas the iPod actually even powers the 300 ohm Sennheiser HD650 headphones to a reasonable listening volume without distortion or sounding 'strained'. As I may have said elsewhere, with the Sony you are limited to headphones in a certain electrical range, and even some very portable headphones are borderline driven by the HD5's amp. The iPod has no such problems.


    I guess part of the problem is that we have different measures of sound quality depending on our experience. I have very good ears, but they aren't unique. What gives me better perspective is better experience (and not with just high-end gear). Here I'm occasionally arguing the point with the sort of people who say for example that the Sony MDR-J20 h.ear is a great earphone... There isn't much way you'll be able to tell good source from bad with a pair of those.
     
  14. Falp

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    GoPOd doesn't work on my iPOD Shuffle...:(
     
  15. Sasso

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    I see, so does GoPod actually increase the power output? It would be great if there was one for the HD5.
     
  16. extremelydodgy

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    No, it just de-Eurocaps the iPod. The iPod as I said has a far more powerful amp than the HD5.
     
  17. shadowritten

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    Sort of people meaning moi, I assume?

    There's no argument at all, in fact. I know the MDR-J20s are crappy in the broader spectrum of headphone technology. I believe I've just recently posted as much on here. But, to their credit:

    a) They're inexpensive at around £15, so I don't care if they get damaged while I'm out and about (can't say the same for a $3,000 pair, now can we?)

    b) They deliver more of a punch, bass-wise, than many equally cheap alternatives that I've tried (including stock buds from Sony, Archos, Creative and Philips, as well as models by JVC and Panasonic), without drowning out mid-range presentation or compromising bright, clean treble

    c) They're incredibly comfortable to wear for prolonged periods - and as I've mentioned on here before, I'm listening for anywhere up to 8 hours daily

    d) They even come in white, specially for iPod fans.


    Can I assume you've tried them with your 'very good ears'? And that you've not made your judgement call on them by comparing them with phones that are in no way their equivalent?
     
  18. shezzy2k

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    Isn't the real point here that you shouldn't have to do all this, and should be able to compare sound preferences as standard and within your budget.

    For example, If I had a skoda, I could make it handle better than a BMW if I spent loads of money on it...but would it be worth it?

    I don't consider myself an audiophile and have no idea what constitutes good ears, but I know what sound I like and surely that is what matters most. I listened to both the Sony & iPod and preferred the sound of the Sony...it's that simple to me.
     
  19. shadowritten

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    Might this be a good place (and time) to beg the question: Why would anyone expect a DAP of between £200-£300 to contain an amp capable of driving comparatively high-end cans? My view is that if you want equipment that can deliver the best from expensive phones, you ought not to be looking at a DAP to do this. In any case, surely the point about sound quality is also something of a futile one when discussing compressed formats? These aren't, per se, hifi - which is what good cans are meant to reproduce, no? This is why I stick to cheapo phones that satisfy sufficiently for everyday use under very much less than ideal listening conditions.

    I'm sure the day I own a Linn, Arcam or Marantz (etc) system, my view will alter ...
     
  20. shadowritten

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    With you all the way on this one. If I shell out £300 on a player, I'd expect to have to spend NO MORE than an extra £50 on new phones (and even then, I'd want to spend less). Manufacturers should not be let off the hook by arguments that urge we spend ludicrous £££s more on cans simply to compensate for their technical ignorance/arrogance/sheer laziness ...

    And in answer to the '... but would it be worth it?' part: no, it wouldn't. The pace of innovation has quickened to such an extent now that everything's virtually obselete the second it leaves the production line. Which is why I don't expect DAPs to last and will happily save up to upgrade as and when I feel a new model might offer me some kind of advantage over my current one. Case in point: swapped the Zen Touch 20GB for the Sony NW-HD5H because it had larger storage, longer (removable) battery, smaller dimensions, lighter weight, line out, better sound colouring with its EQ (note that I choose my words carefully here), and most important of all, gapless playback.
     
  21. extremelydodgy

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    Try the Sennheiser PX10. Similar half in ear fit, though headbanded. £4 more.


    You will never get me talking definitively about things I've not had. I won't even talk about things I've tried which I don't think I've tried for long enough.
     
  22. extremelydodgy

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    If you like it better, that's fine. But does that translate to superior sound quality? Not necessarily. I do sound quality evaluations based on the quality, in terms of the cleanliness of the sound and the way it conveys the music faithfully. I then run player measurements. This is however you look at it an evaluation of quality which cannot be changed on a player. If you like added bass, that's flavour which can be changed.


    That's not to say the iPod has sonic issues, the same as the Sony as functional issues as well as a relatively incapable audio stage which happens not to have the iPod's tics. Some of the issues can be overcome by phones which have certain characteristics. And they don't have to cost as much as mine do... I just use it because I can, and because it works. In fact, you can start from just $20.


    If you want to put it in car terms with the engine as the sound quality, the Sony is a BMW with the base-level engine. It's good enough, drives pretty well and it works fine, but when called up to really deliver it can't. Comparatively speaking sound quality wise, the iPod is an Alpina with a duff exhaust. Not too difficult to get around. Once you do it's a lot better.
     
  23. shadowritten

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    Thank you. I'll order them right away ... :thumbsup:
     
  24. shadowritten

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    Nice analogy ...
     
  25. extremelydodgy

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    Adding to the analogy, the better a driver you are, and if you can put on high-end handling upgrades such as better suspension, the less you need driver aids and the more you can make the most of the engine ;)
     
  26. shadowritten

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    The Sennheiser PX 10s, a quick question: How comfortable? I'm guessing a tad more so than the equilavent Sonys, judging by the wider headband?

    I'm off on hols from Monday, so I'll order them on my return and report what difference they make once I've had a play around with them.

    Thanks again for the tip.
     
  27. extremelydodgy

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    Although it might be better to spend your money on a good pair of phones rather than putting it into multiple cheapos. The PX10's not bad at all, certainly compared to the J20, but you can certainly do better.
     
  28. shadowritten

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    H-type is the only sort I want/can wear comfortably for on the go. Don't mind on the ear at home. Any suggestions for other H-types?
     
  29. extremelydodgy

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    The W09L? I've been intrigued by that for a while actually since they look so similar, and because the PX10's drivers don't seem to come from the MX line. It is possible that one's OEM'ing for the other but using different drivers. I have to remember to get the W09L the next time I'm able to. As far as comfort goes, no worse and no better than phones of this type. It's more diffult to accidentally pull off than the J20 for sure.


    H-type?
     
  30. shadowritten

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    H-type - as in Sennheiser PX 10, MDR-J20, etc. Probably using wrong term.

    These W09Ls ... which manufacturer, please?
     

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