How does the iPod stack up
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dag655321

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This may have been discussed before, but the search function is not working, so I could not find anything.

I am wondering how the iPod stacks up against other sources. Let’s make the following assumptions:

1. I am using an iPod with its dock (or a similar line-out adapter), and not the headphone amp in the iPod.
2. I am using a "good" quality ($50 or so, and I know quality is not defined by cost) such as a Straight Wire or Kimber mini to RCA cable.
3. I am using a sub $1000 amp. I have not settled on a model yet, but those under consideration are SinglePower PPX3, Eddie Current HD25, HeadRoom Desktop, or HeadRoom Millet Hybrid.
4. I am using "good" quality headphones. I currently own Grado SR-60s and Senn HD-590s. I am looking into upgrading along the Grado line, but I was surprised (thanks to the Boston Head-Fi meet) how good SR-60s can sound with a good source and amp (such as the ones listed above). I love my SR-60s and it will be hard for me to part with them. So I guess the system should be designed around them.
4. I am using either uncompressed .wav files or Apple Lossless files (all ripped directly from CDs.
5. I am using a good (i.e. low jitter) ripper such as Exact Audio Copy, or Easy CD-DA Extractor.

With those assumptions made, how does the iPod compare to a sub $500 optical disc player. CD, DVD, SACD, and DVD-Audio players are all fair game. I am trying to put together a new rig with a quality source and amp, but I love the convenience and mega-storage capability of my iPod. 60 GB is a lot of space even for .wav files.

I might consider an upgraded external PC sound device, but since I listen mostly at work, I do not have control over the PC I am using. Storage is also somewhat limited.

I realize that this will be largely opinion based, but all opinions are welcome. In other words, please have at it.

Thanks


P.S. Any suggestions on interconnects is also welcome. I have not purchased any components other than the cans and the iPod.
 
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davvy

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In my opinion (based on having heard many computer soundcards, several digital audio players, several high end and multiple low end CD players) the Ipod is fine for portable listening and is great for convenience, but does not stack up against any source with any kind of audiophile quality.

In terms of computer soundcards it is clearly lower quality than an M-Audio Revolution (which costs less than $100 US) or any EMU card and roughly comparable to a Creative Audigy 2. In terms of CD players it compares to portable models but is bettered by any half decent standalone home CD player.

So IMO it is a waste pairing an Ipod with an expensive amp like the ones you mention. Paying $50 for interconnects is also way overkill. Personally I wouldn't bother with lossless on an Ipod either, because there is no way you will hear a difference over LAME alt preset standard MP3.

If you want a semi-portable setup to use at work and have that kind of money to invest, I would suggest looking at the Headroom MicroDac. You could either connect it to a computer via USB or get a DAP with digital out like the Iriver H series. I haven't heard one, but I have heard enough to know that it would be night-and-day better than an Ipod as a source. It should be good enough to justify using decent interconnects, lossless and a decent amp. There are a few other USB Dac options, but not a lot of info around on them (eg Perreaux).

Good Luck
 
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Kirosia

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You're going for some killer amps there, I think they may be overkill for an ipod and grado sr-60/senn HD590.
 
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dag655321

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Kirosia
You're going for some killer amps there, I think they may be overkill for an ipod and grado sr-60/senn HD590.



The amps may be overkill for an iPod but they play very nicely with SR-60s. Believe me, I was very surprised how good the SR-60s sounded with a "killer" amp. Even one that costs 10x more than they do. The PPX3 and the RSA Stealth were especially sweet.
 
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Kirosia

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You still may want to consider getting a higher-end grado and senn. That's a lot to spend for some low/mid end phones. (Yes I want you to spend more money! DO IT!!!)
 
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CPL593H

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warpdriver

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Wilson Audio, purveyor of fine high end speakers, has gone to demo's of their Maxx Series 2 ($45000 USD speakers), with iPods. They play the demo, and usually a few jaws drop when they show the source. Then then also play the same song through a high end CD player. And you know what...the iPod holds its own, it sounded completely marvellous even back to back with the high end CD player

Many other an audiophile magazine has also rated (in Canada, the magazine UHF Mag) the iPod in an audiophile application and it came out shining....with Apple Lossless, the iPod is capable of tremendous transparency, enough that even the pickiest audiophiles such as those at UHF Mag thought the iPod was a credible portable audiophile quality source. Of course, nothing beats a $10000 standalone CD player.
 
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Kirosia

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Quote:

Originally Posted by warpdriver
Wilson Audio, purveyor of fine high end speakers, has gone to demo's of their Maxx Series 2 ($45000 USD speakers), with iPods. They play the demo, and usually a few jaws drop when they show the source. Then then also play the same song through a high end CD player. And you know what...the iPod holds its own, it sounded completely marvellous even back to back with the high end CD player


There was actually a thread on this once. Many came to the conclusion that most people (non-speaker audiophiles) can't really tell the difference b/w a good sound component and a bad one. Plus the room acoustics and crap come into play. I'm sure they could've used almost any source and the masses would not be the wiser. Cmon, majority of consumers like bose and think all headphones/sources/etc sound pretty much the same. I used to. (didn't like bose though)

(not a knock at apple or ipod, they actually make good products)
 
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warpdriver

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Well, I was listening pretty carefully because I *knew* this was coming. If pressed, I would say the iPod lacked a bit of the coherence in the bassline, overall sense of rythymn, just a tad less resolution in the upper treble, but I have to say that it really held its own, and I was looking for differences, and was situated in the sweet spot. There would have been no hiding of the iPod's flaws if it wasn't up to snuff.

I came away with a higher regard for the iPod than ever before. Up till them I just used the iPod as a background music mass portable source, and this experience made me think the iPod was capable of more. This was also confirmed when my regular audiophile mag UHFMag sung the iPod's praises, and they pretty much tell it like it is....they aren't afraid to rip into products.
 
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zozo

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I use my ipod mainly at work as a convient source. Since my desk is always cluttered, I barely have enough room for the ipod and headsave classic amp. It's definately an improvement over the sound from the work issued computer. The ipod is a decent source; my biggest gripes are that it isn't very detailed has weak bass extension and impact when compared to a cd player for the same price.
 
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Elephas

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Using my ATH-AD2000 headphones, I've compared two SM3s (with different op-amps) and an SR-71 with my iPod 30GB line out/Apple Lossless and felt they sounded similar. The differences were very subtle and not easy to identify.

I've been reading claims that using a source such as the iPod, the SuperMacro-3 and Ray Samuels SR-71 may sound similar. But when using a Meridian CDP as the source, the SM3 sounds like a "toy" and the SR-71 would sound much better.

http://www6.head-fi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=127223

If a source makes such a significant difference, the iPod may not be such a good source after all.
 
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toor

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6moons audio has twice reviewed the iPod with hundred dollar cables and thousand dollar speakers/amps. The consensus was that the iPod could provide a very high quality experience worthy of mid-fi back ends, but that it can't compete with High end sources (duh!).

In my personal experience I agree with sozo (lack of bass and impact), and might pair very well with an amp that has nice tight bass. Would definitely upgrade your phones to though. Try the sr225 and a nice amp.
 
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jpr703

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I use an iPod with a Gilmore Lite (with the optional PS) and Grado 225s and RS-1s. It might not be quite as good as a high-end dedicated CD player, but it's pretty darn good. At 320K AAC you'd be hard pressed to tell it from a quality PCDP.
 
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Zanth

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Elephas
Using my ATH-AD2000 headphones, I've compared two SM3s (with different op-amps) and an SR-71 with my iPod 30GB line out/Apple Lossless and felt they sounded similar. The differences were very subtle and not easy to identify.

I've been reading claims that using a source such as the iPod, the SuperMacro-3 and Ray Samuels SR-71 may sound similar. But when using a Meridian CDP as the source, the SM3 sounds like a "toy" and the SR-71 would sound much better.

http://www6.head-fi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=127223

If a source makes such a significant difference, the iPod may not be such a good source after all.




That poster is relating a single impression. There have been plenty of folks (among them those who own both) who have remarked they are on the same level, one may exceed the other in a given area, but overall they are equally matched.

The iPod is a good source. It is very linear, using the line-out on the doc, I get much better bass than using the headphone output jack. I perhaps preferred the Rio Karma's sound overall (more warmth and easy peasy EQ'ing) but the iPod is nothing to scoff at. Really folks...technology is supposed to lead us to better sound at a better price! Again subtleties will be revealed with better sources, but a good amount of the material will be revealed using an iPod (lossless of course
)
 
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Hirsch

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Zanth
Again subtleties will be revealed with better sources, but a good amount of the material will be revealed using an iPod (lossless of course
)



Lossless not required.
Lame-encoded mp3 is fine with me. My current work rig is iPod photo into heavily modded EarMax Pro into L3000 (Moon Audio Silver Dragon mini-RCA cable, dock connector used). This sounds good to me. Yep, the Meridian G08 is a better player. So? I can't fit it in the case I carry to work.

IMO the iPod gives very little away to the Philips DVD-963SA, which is a recent $500 upsampling DVD/SACD/CD player. With some amps, the iPod sounds better than the Philips (even using lossy compression). I need to ponder this one a bit.

I can also verify that the iPod sounds surprisingly good powering a SinglePower SDS into Sony R10 headphones. However, in that rig, I'll go with the Meridian (maybe I'll rethink this if Virtual Dynamics comes out with a Master Series RCA to mini cable
)

Sometimes people see "iPod" or "sound card" and immediately leap to the "you need a better source" conclusion. Don't bet on it. You may have to pay a lot more than you think to get real improvement, and I'd go so far as to say that the iPod source will allow you to hear improvement from any amp/headphone alterations that you want to make. Ultimately, at the top end, the iPod will limit the performance of the system. Then again, right now I consider the Meridian G08 as the limiting factor in one of my rigs.
 
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