6G iPod Classic and Sony X1060 side-by-side
Oct 3, 2009 at 11:42 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 23

estreeter

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Comparing 6G Ipod Classic (160GB) and Sony X1060

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Top Row - Samsung YP-Q1, Samsung YP-P2, Sony NWZS738
Bottom row - 1st Gen Touch, 6Gen Classic, Sony X1060
Misc - Grado SR325is, Carat Topaz, Marantz SACD

Disclaimer: this comparison assumes that none of us would buy a DAP without hearing it for ourselves - I dont have your ears or musical tastes. My advice is that you audition every piece of equipment you can, and try to buy from a retailer who has a 'returns' policy. Please frame any criticism of either DAP, or this comparison, wtih specifics : telling me that 'iPods suck' really doesnt give me a great deal to work from.

First up, in sheer value for money terms, the Classic is a bargain, IMO. Yes, you can go out and buy a Sansa Fuze, slot a 32GB SD card in it, and have a cheap player with great SQ and a lot of storage. I dont know what a 64GB card goes for in your neck of the woods (a little over a hundred here, I think), but here in Oz a 160GB player for $320 comes in at $2 per gigabyte. By contrast, I paid $640 for my 32GB X-series - $20 per gigabyte. None of that would mean anything to me if it sounded like Britney out of a transistor radio, but thankfully the Classic sounds good to my ears, and that is the first time I've said that about an iPod since my first gen Shuffle several years back. My first gen Touch is abysmal - veiled, muddy and lacking grunt - and I returned a Nano recently for a refund after no amount of Apple Lossless could revive the sparkly little handbag accessory, Any accusations of Apple fanboyism that may follow this comparison need to be aware that I spend a lot of my time trying to recommend *anything* but an iPod to those who as which player they should consider.

EQ
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Sony have some very clever guys working on their preset EQ - the 'Unique' setting lends everything a warm, glossy sound that I absolutely adore. By contrast, the Classic is brighter, but not uncomfortably so - the big surprise was that I prefer it with no EQ at all, having previously used Bass Booster on my Touch to try to breathe some character into the sound. On the Sony, I turned everything off except the 'Unique' EQ (possibly defeating the whole 'turn everything off' thing..) - apologies, but I'm addicted to it. I would suggest that you play around with the EQ on both players if you are trying to choose between them. I would also add that I doubt that a company like Apple releases anything with completely flat EQ - whether its the DAC or something that Apple have done with the signal, they clearly want you to like it from the moment you pick it up : purists may well be horrified by the very same sound that I found 'best' on my Classic, and I'm sure that many will question my choice on the Sony, but are we running a lab or listening to music for enjoyment ? Please experiment before coming back to tell me that one or both sound like two cats mating in a downpipe (unless, of course, you favour traditional Vietnamese music - in that instance, you will be extremely happy
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)

Amp
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Another area where the Sony really earns its keep is the digital amp. I am quite happy listening to any of my phones (k601 excepted - pigs to drive at the best of times..) from the X1060, and I dont have to crank the player right up. When I do, I am impressed by how well the sound scales and the fact that there is little degradation to SQ. Apple have been sued in the past for hearing loss (er, personal responsibility, anyone ?), and the Classic has a setting that locks the max volume in to about halfway when you first start it up - fix that and it can get very loud indeed. Loud, unfortunately, doesnt translate to 'better' - one area where you get what you pay for with the Sony. That said, through IEMs and most cans, both players should give you more than enough volume - the Sony would be a better choice if you want to drive certain cans, but neither of these is the HiFiMan : realistic expectations never hurt anyone
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Sound Quality
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Overall, I prefer the Sony, particularly with harder rock. When it comes to Diana Krall or Josh Groban, I think the Classic has an edge - I also like the way it renders the 'crossover' effect with percussion, and I dont find the brightness a deterrent. This is an area where I may have very different ears to many here, as I found the Classic particularly entertaining from my Grado 325is - a bright source into cans that send some shrieking back to their (vinyl) Mantovani collection. The thing is that the Grados retrieve a lot of detail from both DAPs, and render the bass magnificently : I also maintain that they improve markedly with more hours. Man up.
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If the Sony has a strength, its that it has a fuller, warmer sound that I personally enjoy : the Classic is a long way from 'cold' or 'sterile', but it does seem to want to analyse the digital signal a lot more than the very entertaining Sony. I also found the Classic a little thin in places, yet more detailed in others. Those with higher end IEMs may well enjoy that level of detail, but I prefer the overall warmth of the Sony.

Portability
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Both players are larger than their siblings, but the Classic is positively huge alongside other recent DAPs. Personally, I like the fact that Apple have installed something more substantial than whatever is inside the Nano (one Apple I really dislike..), but it means that it wont fit comfortably in one hand. Combine that with the least desirable part of the Classic, the click-wheel, and it would be a disaster for me to try to use this on the go - add the fact that it has a hard drive and the Classic wont leave my apartment. Ever.

The Sony is a better proposition, but the touch interface actually makes it less desirable for portable use than my NWZS738, a small player that is excellent for one-handed use, courtesy of its much better designed wheel controls. Where it does make a lot of sense is on my desk at work, where I can recharge it from my Netbook, and on holidays where I can use it airports and hotels : its not made of titanium, but has handled a few small falls thus far without incident.

Which one would I buy if I had 20:20 hindsight ?
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Thats a tough one, but I bought the Sony before this model Classic hit the stores (even then, I had trouble finding a Classic I could audition. Add the fact that even those who like iPods cant seem to agree on which has better SQ (Wolfson vs Cirrus Logic being the current battleground..)), and it had to be the Sony. I love its sound, albeit artificially massaged, and I think a flash-based player makes more sense for portable use. Throw in that sensational amp and its almost worth what I paid for it (Sony still list the RRP at $699 - imo, we are getting gouged).

For a bedroom rig, the Classic has more potential. its hard to argue that the money I would have saved on the Sony couldnt have been better spent as a deposit on something like the iBasso D10 and the necessary cabling. I can only go on what I've read, but the D10 could very well give the Classic the body I thought it lacked in places, based on the rave reviews the D10 gets here. Cant deny that the Classic opens up a whole world of docks and LODs and seriously expensive options like the Wadia and the Zeppelin : all I can say is that it might be time to step back and ask if you want to build a 5K system around a source that cost a couple of hundred. If the answer is 'yes !', then please post some pics
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Recommendations ?
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For those who dont want to overcapitalise, both will seem like poor options - by all means, get the Clip+/Fuse and enjoy them. Personally, I've paid more dollars in Sony and Apple taxes than I would have liked, but its so rare to find players that I like at the store audition : many are simply toylike crap, IMO. I strongly recommend that you audition as many different players as you can, preferably borrowing them from friends so you can get a better feel for them than you will in a ten-minute store audition.

Unless you want a dedicated bedroom rig, an office rig AND a portable player, owning 3+ DAPs is about as silly as it gets, but I'm happy that I now have more options and a frame of reference when someone starts banging on about how good their iPod sounds with this amp or that. Besides, its only money, and I can live on noodles for another 3 weeks or so.
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Hope this helps.

estreeter

Phones:
Grado SR325is, Alessandro MS-1, AKG K501, Ultrasone DJ, RE0, $80 Sony IEMs

Bitrates:
Everything from 128K AAC iTunes rips to 320K VBR MP3

Some of the music used in this comparison:
Killswitch Engage - This is Absolution
Disturbed - Enough
Josh Groban - February Song
Black Sabbath - Dirty Women
Korn - Word Up
Chemical Brothers- Three Little Birdies Down Beats
Diana Krall - Boy from Ipanema
Noiseworks - No Lies
Invertigo - Getting Personal
The Angels - Underground (live)
Evanescence - Bring Me to Life
Deftones - Digital Bath
Judas Priest - Heading out to the Highway (live)
G3 Live (Satriani, Vai, Petrucci) - Smoke on the Water (!)
 
Oct 3, 2009 at 11:55 PM Post #2 of 23

midoo1990

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excellent review man.so you think that the X sound artificial or not?i find my psp very digital and unreal,also a size comparison picture wont hurt
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Oct 4, 2009 at 12:02 AM Post #3 of 23

estreeter

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I dont find the sound 'artificial' so much as 'enhanced' : drums, vocals and guitar solos still sound much the same as they do from my Marantz, but many here would probably say that I stepped over the line the instant I turned EQ on - thats the 'artificial' part. Given that the recording engineers would have been playing with levels from the instant the musicians plugged their instruments into their amps, I can live with the 'artificial' aspect of most DAPs - where it get old is when you have something like Bass Booster on my first gen Touch and its a *necessity* ....

I'll try to take something better in the way of a photo, but as someone with a mobile broadband connection I know what its like to rack up download usage on ordinary photos - give me an hour or two.
 
Oct 4, 2009 at 3:16 AM Post #5 of 23

animalsrush

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nice write up. I do EQ my X and love the sound it gives. IMO it was worth every penny i paid for it( never heard anything like this since my Rio Karma)
 
Oct 4, 2009 at 4:09 AM Post #6 of 23

charlie0904

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IMO sony has a warmer sound, abit slightly coloured or altered(non-EQ) compared to ipods. ipods has a flatter response compared to sony. depending on music genre and your audio equipment to have your ideal player of the day.
 
Oct 4, 2009 at 9:12 PM Post #9 of 23

Shane D

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You seem to like the Sony more. Too small for me right now, but if the 64GB comes out I will definitely test it.
You are NOT kidding about the heft of the Classic. I have been playing with a co-workers' nano and the Classic is HUGE by comparison. Also, a lot heavier than I expected. I am thinking I will need some kind of sleeve to protect it and some kind of clip to anchor it to my waist or whatever.

With no previous DAP experience, I am pretty impressed with the sound of the Classic through Monster Turbines. Even better through a Harmon Kardon box. Also tested last night on my stereo (NAD C372 amp). Sounded every bit as good as my 15yr old CD player (Onkyo).

At this point I am one VERY happy camper!
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Shane D

PS: Thanks for the comparo!!
 
Oct 4, 2009 at 10:56 PM Post #10 of 23

estreeter

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Shane, I make no secret of the fact that I am in love with the Sony EQ, but without it I am forced to admit that the 'barebones' Classic sounds better to my ears. The thing that sells for the Sony for me is that amp - something the Sony engineers should be very proud of. I also like the SQ on my Samsung players, but their UIs are woeful : its tough getting the mix just right.
 
Oct 5, 2009 at 12:17 AM Post #11 of 23

Barry

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I had the previous version of the Classic and while it was clean sounding, it just did not sound like music to me. The Sony was more engaging. The question that I have is how you separated the effect of the EQ from the Amp. Is it not possible that some of the "enhancement" of the Sony came from the amp and not the eq? Or that the combination of the two matter?
 
Oct 5, 2009 at 2:06 AM Post #12 of 23

estreeter

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Barry, I couldnt separate the various chips in the Sony to tell you what is giving me the sound I am hearing - we arent talking component audio here - but I can only say that I like the sound that emerges from the headphone out, and I like the fact that SQ doesnt diminish as the volume level rises. Whether this is better VFM than coupling the Classic with something like the iBasso D10 is a question that I'll leave for others : both would have their pros and cons, but I like the portability of the Sony. Its sitting on my desk now, about to power a brand new pair of DT440s - doesnt get any better than new toy joy from a player that I'm confident has the juice to power fullsize cans, straight out of the box.

estreeter
 
Oct 5, 2009 at 2:10 AM Post #13 of 23

estreeter

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Barry, I couldnt separate the various chips in the Sony to tell you what is giving me the sound I am hearing - we arent talking component audio here - but I can only say that I like the sound that emerges from the headphone out, and I like the fact that SQ doesnt diminish as the volume level rises. Whether this is better VFM than coupling the Classic with something like the iBasso D10 is a question that I'll leave for others : both would have their pros and cons, but I like the portability of the Sony. Its sitting on my desk now, about to power a brand new pair of DT440s - doesnt get any better than new toy joy from a player that I'm confident has the juice to power fullsize cans, straight out of the box.

estreeter
 

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