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Older iPod vs. Classic iPod (and iMod) SQ

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
This is a post from another thread on 5/5.5G vs. 6G iPod SQ, which Vinnie asked me to repost here:

As it looks like you know, there have been a number of discussions on this here. I'll weigh in. I've been able to compare a 4G, 5G, and 6G iPod and a 5.5G iMod, w/ both HP and line outs on all of them. Several docks for the iPods, including an expensive ALO, and the ALO cable for the iMod. iQube when any of them are amped.

The key issue here ended up being distinguishing between what you might call "underlying SQ" and noise. Both the HP outs and the line outs on the 4G and 5/5.5G iPods are noisy - there's hiss and other distortion that doesn't belong to the music. The 5/5.5G is better but it's still there. When I got my 160GB Classic it immediately sounded much better, because there's much less noise, again from both the HP and line outs. My IEMs -- SE530s and UE11s -- both hiss annoyingly from the 5G; they don't with the 6G. To my ears the music sounds a lot bettter from the 6G; there's more music and less noise.

The 6G was still frustrating; it didn't sound as satisfying as I wanted. So I bit the bullet and had a refurbished 5.5G iModded. I'd read all the same threads you probably have, with widely different opinions on the results, from "night and day" to "can't tell the difference." And there's Vinnie's big thread, saying that the 6G can't be iModded but that he sees at least a small difference between its SQ and iMods. I was very nervous about doing this; it's expensive and some amount of trouble and I was afraid that it would all be for nothing.

I can tell you that to my ears it's a simply massive improvement. Everything about the music is better - silence is absolute, all the ranges are better, bass is extraordinarily better, separation of voices and instruments is better, all of it. SQ is still heavily dependent on source; well-recorded music will stop you in your tracks, while less well-recorded sounds, well, lesser. But even rotten recordings - I've been listening to old Decca Billie Holiday - sound good. I don't have have the experience I've had with all the other DAPs I've ever used, where I'm listening and constantly wishing they sounded better somehow. It's just good. I had it at a weekend party recently with a bunch of people who are audiophiles/in the music business, and they were poleaxed. That never happened with an iPod...

So here's what I think is going on. As a lot of people say/think, the DAC on the earlier iPods, and thus what I'm going to call "underlying SQ," probably really is better. But the rest of the path is poor, so you get good underlying SQ with noise and other distortions. (The iMod fixes this, so you get good underlying SQ without the problems.) The DAC on the 6G probably really is worse but the rest of the path is better, so you get poorer underlying SQ with much less noise. If you read Vinnie's long thread on this, he's really saying two things: 1) the 6G can't be iModded, since the trashy parts in the path out of the DAC have been eliminated, and 2) the SQ still isn't what it should be, meaning probably that the DAC is lower quality.

So here's a way to make sense of the dispute about the earlier/later iPod SQ. Some people hear the much cleaner signal out of the 6G and think it sounds better. Some people hear the better underlying SQ of the earlier iPods, somehow listen past the noise, and think it sounds better. I think this really may be a case of what you like. Overall the 6G sounded better to me, because the noise always really bothered me. Others, I think, are focusing on other things. Your taste, your call.
post #2 of 9
Hi barbes,

Thanks for the great post!

Enjoy your iMod!


EDIT: Forgot to mention that barbes told me that he ordered the 240GB hard drive from rapidrepair for his 5.5g iMod. It is estimated to ship to me in March. Once I receive it and install it, I'll confirm if it works out!
post #3 of 9
Very informative post. So if my understanding is correct overall in terms of quality it goes Imod>classic>5g>4g. I have noticed the 4g is much warmer than the 5g. I guess preference also plays a very large role in determining SQ. Just like you said some people look past noise and hear better SQ on 5g/4g. People who can't get past noise like 6g the best. I think the most important part is that you can't get a imod and buy a cheap amp and expect it to blow you away. Your only as strong as your weakest link.
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Um, not exactly. Some people will prefer the earlier models and some will prefer the Classic, for the reasons I outline. But the potential of the earlier models is much greater, and you get that full potential with the iMod.
post #5 of 9
I received my iMod weeks ago and had my ALO iMod Cryo SXC cable done well over 400 hours. I admit I haven't had the time to quietly listen and concentrate on the iMod without work going on, but I could pick up the difference between the iMod and my friend's 5G.

It was hard when it came to comparing my latest Nano, but after awhile, I could discern that the iMod does better overall. My experience with the Nano is that it sounds clean and the bass is punchier as compared to the 5G, but the iMod does better across the sound spectrum.

I also note that the iMod retains the warmth while remains as clear, if not, better than the 6G. I also tried both with headphone out and found the 6G to be better at that department.

It is true the decision between a 6G and the iMod is about personal preference. It may not feel worthwhile if you feel the 6G does just fine, but to me, getting all the clarity and eveness while retaining the warmth is really worthwhile.
post #6 of 9
Nice description Barbs.

i love using my iPhone just for the ease of use and convenience, but for anything critically listening the imod is so much deeper than the iPhone. The 6G is a little better and not nearly as noisy as the iPhone and or 2nd Gen iTouch, my iPhone has all kinds of crazy low level back ground noise. I have a customer that has dog ears and he also reported all kinds of faint pops ans such on his iPhone, I do not really mind this with my phone. The 6G does a real good job at the top end but is thin in the low end compared to the imod. Thats my super truncated take on them.

post #7 of 9
hoping to know how the 240gb drive, if it will work with the imod
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
It looks like it does. There are a couple of reports out there already - it seems to work fine. Vinnie did mine last week and it's in the mail back to me, but he reported success.
post #9 of 9
oww makes my heart pump 10x faster....hummm
240GB...sound so good
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