IPOD or Archos?
Apr 14, 2004 at 9:06 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 23


500+ Head-Fier
Mar 23, 2003
Boston MA
How would you compare the 20gb Archos player for 200$ with the Ipod mini for 250$?

I mean the durability, the quality of the sound etc.

I can stretch the budget to 200$ max. What would you recommend?

Apr 14, 2004 at 1:38 PM Post #2 of 23
I don't think durability has ever been an Archos strong point. Know three owners and all of theirs have gone dead. I also happen to think the iPod is one of the most durable, so between these two the choice is easy. When it comes to DAP, I'd recommend any player over the Archos, this includes Creatives, iRivers, etc. Archos though has often been the 'cheap' alternative. Well include relatively recently. Also although the iPod sound quality is debatable, some calling it inferior to Zen and iHPs, some calling it simply more neutral, it's been a long time since I've heard anyone rave about the Archos in this department.
Apr 14, 2004 at 1:39 PM Post #3 of 23
I own a 2nd gen 10Gig iPod and have briefly listened to a co-worker's archos. I did not like the sound from the archos - noticeable background noise floor and not as lively as my iPod. You also can't beat the iPod user interface or the amount of 3rd party support in terms of accessories and software. I use my iPod with Shure E3 (formerly with Shure E2 as well as PX200 and KSC35 and sometimes Beyer DT250-80). I also use well ripped/encoded MP3 - rip with EAC, encode with LAME APX or APS. Decent headphones will reveal badly encoded MP3s (or any other badly encoded lossy formats for that matter).

I use my iPod every day at home, at work, in my car (hooked up to my car stereo via AUX input to CD changer). I have not had one single problem with it in the one year I've owned it. Battery life is still as good as the day I got it, as are the jacks for the firewire and headphone (which get exercised everyday switching between headphones and car input as well as charging and swapping music on PC using ephpod).

If I had to buy another MP3 player right now, I would definitely consider iPod again. The iRiver IHP-120 looks interesting just based on what I've read but have not used it first hand yet. iRiver is not in your stated price range though.

I did not spend a lot of time with the archos so take this into consideration.

You might also consider refurbished iPods or buying used through head-fi gear forum too to meet your pricepoint.
Apr 14, 2004 at 1:49 PM Post #4 of 23
I don’t think that you are really describing durability there blessingx...

an example of durability would be dropping the device and having it still work afterwards... the archos might hit its bumper [depending on model] and be undamaged... I doubt the ipod mini would survive...

while I agree that there are a larger number of complaints with some of the older archos models, if you don’t get a dud they are amazing players...

amol... I'm not quite sure which archos player you are talking about here? If it is one of the newer generation players I don’t think that you have to worry about it dieing on you.

and blessingx... its been a long time since you've heard anyone rave about archos' sound quality??? well here you go

all of the archos players that I have tried [my av320 and a JBR20, which both had similar sound] have superior sound quality... comparing my av320 to a Zen and an ipod there was no question that my player beat them out in that department... not to mention that my archos player can drive my AKG K271 Studio's with reasonable authority, something that cannot be said of the ipod or the Zen

edit... runswithscissors, what archos device are we talking about here? I thought the absolute reverse when compairing my av320 to an ipod...
Apr 14, 2004 at 2:27 PM Post #5 of 23
The iPod Mini is in short supply right now. Also, there seems to be a promlem with the headphone jack (not unlike the problems with the Zen Xtra). Users have reported distortions and Apple is investigating. Could lawsuits be close behind?

For further details, check out this thread on iPodlounge and read the Cnet news brief below.

iPodlounge Forums > iPod mini > iPod mini Problems? > help, the sound is crackling, heavy audio distortion here!!!

Apple investigating complaints of iPod static
Last modified: April 12, 2004, 7:23 PM PDT
By Ina Fried
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

Apple Computer said late Monday that it is looking into some users' complaints of sound problems with the iPod Mini.

Complaints ranging from crackling sound to interrupted play have been making the rounds on Apple enthusiast sites, including iPodlounge.

"Apple is aware of a few isolated reports online of iPod Mini audio static," the company said in a statement, adding that the device is covered by the company's standard one year warranty.

The device has been in short supply since it went on sale in February. Apple has pushed back the global launch of the Mini to try to satisfy U.S. demand for the $249 player, which holds 4GB worth of music.

CEO Steve Jobs debuted the Mini at this year's Macworld Expo in January. In February, Apple noted that it had 100,000 pre-orders for the iPod Mini. The company may update the sales figure when it reports earnings Wednesday.
Apr 14, 2004 at 4:47 PM Post #6 of 23
Let's face it....Archos has always had a bad rap here at Head-fi. From my experience ON CERTAIN MODELS, this is undeserved. There is a loyal Archos following out there...it's just not here.

Over a year ago, I settled on a recorder 20 (now referred to as a version 1), and I have yet to regret the decision. It has many pluses and minuses when compared to an ipod....but for the money, it's been a winner. I've compared it's sound to a 1st gen ipod (never heard the vaunted creative products yet), and I felt the ipod had a very slight edge to the archos recorder. Please read, "very slight". The ipod had just a little more life to the sound, and I had to really concentrate to hear the difference.

Certain archos models are garbage. The original 6 gig model had all sorts of issues as did the "studio" models. The newer recorders have a different audio chip and a much better track record. If I were to do it again with archos, I would probably select the ver. 2 jukebox recorder 20 "special edition". I have no experience with the pricier multimedia models...but philodox threw in his two cents and it seems to coincide with what I see on the forums.
Apr 14, 2004 at 4:55 PM Post #7 of 23

Originally posted by philodox
an example of durability would be dropping the device and having it still work afterwards... the archos might hit its bumper [depending on model] and be undamaged... I doubt the ipod mini would survive...

Actually a better example of durability would be how it stands up to normal everyday usage such as repeated use of the input/output jacks, charging/recharging, etc. What you describe above would be an extreme situation and an out-of-warranty repair should damage occur.


edit... runswithscissors, what archos device are we talking about here? I thought the absolute reverse when compairing my av320 to an ipod...

I listened to a friend's original jukebox20. He even admits it has some noise floor compared to my 2nd gen 10Gig iPod. Just calling it like I see (hear) it. Granted this is an older archos model and they may have remedied the sonics in newer models that I have not tried - hopefully this is the case. Hopefully the UI has improved too.
Apr 14, 2004 at 5:31 PM Post #8 of 23

Originally posted by philodox
I don’t think that you are really describing durability there blessingx...

For the record, two of the three Archos I know just died. No dramatic dropping or anything. One day... poof. They were both part of a home system. Archos are well known for this... as is the iPod for surviving drops.
Apr 14, 2004 at 9:04 PM Post #9 of 23

Originally posted by blessingx
as is the iPod for surviving drops.

haha.. no doubt. by all means, my Pod should long be dead. 20-30 drops, no problem. a little dented, a lot scratched, but she's alive and thats what counts.
Apr 15, 2004 at 12:57 AM Post #11 of 23
I got started on this whole portable audio thing about 3 months ago. I first wanted an ipod, but my partner objected to the cost. So when Amazon had the big clearance on the Archos JBR V2 - $20 off, $50 rebate, $20-ish gold box discount, and adding the $30 Amazon VISA credit, it was a no-brainer.

I've since had the chance to compare it to the ipod. Once my partner saw how much fun I was having with a DAP, he thought it would be cool to have a DAP and a set of speakers to use by the pool. (He's a total mac freak, so there was really no question what DAP he would get.) So I got him a 15gb ipod and a set of inmotion speakers for his birthday.

Overall, I've been very pleased with the Archos. It's not nearly as big as I was expecting, though it is substantially bigger than an ipod - front pocket-sized, not shirt or hip pocket-sized. Construction is nowhere near the ultra suave-bolla ipod standard - it's pretty clunky looking, with dorky-looking blue bumpers on the corners. On the other hand, those bumpers are really functional, I've dropped the thing on concrete a few times and there's not a scratch on it. It's a much more solid feeling device than the ipod, which is pretty dainty.

Functionally, the Archos is basic. By the standards of these gadgets, it uses pretty old technology. USB 2.0 and drag and drop to load music, though you can use freeware like Jukebox Synchronizer to sync it to your PC - available at this link. MP3 only - no other formats supported. The interface is folder-based, so you need to have your collection very well ordered. It only has a 2 mb buffer, so the disk spins up every minute and a half or so, which could mean a skipping problem - though for me it hasn't. I've been using it walking around and on cardio machines at the gym and have had nary a glitsch (except when I've dropped it, which usually results in a shutdown). Battery life for me has been somewhere between 9-12 hours - a bit of improvement over any ipod.

The Archos UI is odd, to put it charitably. Which brings me to the best thing about the Archos: Rockbox, open source firmware replacement that is still undergoing active development. See this link. You can either add Rockbox to the hard disk and leave the ROM as is, which keeps the unit at about a 10 second start up time, or flash it to ROM and get a start-up time of about 3 seconds. Very cool. With Rockbox, you can adjust whatever parameters are possible within the limitations of the Archos hardware - from sound settings, to text scrolling method and speed, to ff/rew speed, to the font on the screen, to the contents of the screen - more than I can handle. There are game plug-ins. You can convert video to a format that plays on the little grey-scale screen. Right now, the developers are in the middle of implementing "Talkbox,", in other words, making the menus talk, so that the unit can be easily used by the blind. Finally, if you notice a bug and post it on the Rockbox mailing list, chances are someone will fix it. For example, I use MusicMatch to rip my MP3s, and Rockbox wasn't properly reading the genre tags it generates. A post to the Rockbox mailing list brought out a couple of other users who had the same issue - and it was fixed within a week.

Build quality can be an issue. The first unit I had developed a problem with the headphone jack, which I probably exascerbated by using the straight plug on my PX100s and keeping the thing in my pocket. I returned it to Amazon and got a new one within days, which functions fine. (I also use a right angle adapter on the headphone jack now to minimize stress.) But frankly, after having looked at the message boards for a lot of the other DAPs, every one has its overall issues - ipod has battery life, the ipod mini has the headphone jack problem, Creative Zen Xtra has a terrible headphone jack problem, Rio Karma has problems with hard drives freezing and inadequate warranty support, etc. And from what I can tell, every model has its share of one-off lemons.

And there is an upside to having (relatively) simple, older technology - these things have been dissected no end by techie hobbyists. If you develop a problem out of warranty, chances are there's someone out there who can tell you how to fix it. Also, some have done a variety of hardware mods and can tell you how to do it if you're brave. For example, upgrading the buffer to 8mb, swapping out a bigger hard drive, or adding a higher capacity battery.

Sound quality is fine - I can't tell much difference from my partner's ipod, but then I haven't done a direct comparison.

Warranty shouldn't be a difference with the ipod - they're both a year, AFIK - unlike some others, which are only 90 days. Buy it with a credit card that doubles the warranty coverage and then don't worry about an extended warrant.

Would I buy the Archos again? For the right price, definitely. Full freight, at $200, makes it a much closer call. If you want an ultra-cool, plug and play consumer gadget, go with the ipod. If you don't mind a bit of tinkering, the Archos is a fine choice, IMHO better than some on this board give it credit for.
Apr 15, 2004 at 3:21 AM Post #12 of 23
FYI, here is a chart comparing Rockbox features to those of the native Archos firmware: link .

It seems as if the noisy playback issue is/was an Archos firmware that Rockbox fixed, although (as others have noted) it may also have been resolved by Archos in later models or firmware upgrades.
Apr 15, 2004 at 3:31 AM Post #13 of 23
I have an Archos Studio 10, which is an older model. It's been pefect for me and only has HD issues when the battery gets low. The Rockbox firmware is definitely the way to go. Maybe I got lucky but I've had it for over a year and it's still working just fine.

In terms of sound quality, it's better than an iPod if you use the line out to an amp. At the last NYC Head-Fi meet, I did a head to head with an iPod and a Rio Nitrus. While both of those players had much cooler features and UIs, the sound was a bit better when I use the line out and a decent amp than the iPod with the same amp and was much better than the Nitrus, which doesn't have a line out. I was even able to send an MP3 to the Nitrus owner so we were making comparisons based on the same exact file. Unfortunately, I couldn't do that with the iPod.

Bottom line for me is that I got the Archos for less than $200. It has served its purpose well. It's not as slick as the iPod and it only supports MP3 but I've enjoyed using it very much and think the sound is pretty darn good through the line out. I must admit though, that through the headphone jack the sound is not as good as the iPod. So if you're going ampless, then maybe the iPod is a better choice.
Apr 15, 2004 at 9:49 AM Post #15 of 23
okay, I own a newer Archos model, the gmini 200.
You won't hear me rave about the sound quality: though there is absolutely no background noise without the remote (the remote is absolutely crap!), the output is just ok.
But with a little tweaking in the eq-settings you can get decent sound.
There is absolutely no question about the built quality: it's great, sturdy, durable. It's actually smaller but thicker than the iPod.
As for sound: the iPod wouldn't be an alternative for my taste... But of course there are a lot people who like it. For the gmini 200 there is no such big community to get a lot opinions.
The gmini has a LOT more hardware/software features than the iPod, so I'm waiting for the new Karma 2. This device should sound better (than the iPod and the Gmini) and will be hopefully more duarble than the karma 1.

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