Nano SQ comparison: 4G vs. 3G
Dec 21, 2008 at 10:06 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 18

SierraHotel01

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Feb 15, 2008
Posts
364
Likes
0
I kept reading about the new chipset in the 4G Nano, and couldn't imagine it wouldn't result in a different sound signature. Couldn't find any detailed comparisons here.

3G Nano:
CPU - Portal Player
DAC - Wolfson

4G Nano:
CPU - ARM
DAC - Cirrus Logic

Several here suggested it wouldn't be worth an upgrade for SQ alone; that there wouldn't be a discernable difference between the two.

Well, temptation got the better of me, so after a quick trip to Fry's last night, to pick up a black 8G Nano 4G, here are some initial impressions (after 4-5 hours of dedicated a/b testing):

Rig:

Apple Lossless files-->3G/4G Nano-->ALO SXC 18G LOD-->Mustang (@ 250 hrs.; low gain setting)-->Westone 3's (@ 250 hours). Nano EQ = OFF.

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

Summary:

Wolfson: warmer, muddier, "clippier", more mids-emphasis, less detail, more congested (signature: more like the copper Cryo Dock sound)

Cirrus Logic: more resolution, more balance, more dynamic range, faster, less congested, cleaner attack, nice decay, more high frequency sparkle/air, more 3-dimensional (signature: more like the copper + silver SXC 18G sound. Or, like a 5MB photo vs. a 3MB photo).

I definitely prefer the Cirrus Logic DAC over the Wolfson, primarily due to better dynamic range, resolution, balance, and air.

To these ears, upgrading from a perfectly good 3G Nano, to the 4G with its new chipset, is definitely worth it, IF.. you have top of the line amp, LOD, and phones.

Otherwise, it might sound like just an equivalent, but slightly different flavor signature (flatter, more detail emphasis).

--------------------------------------------------
Track impressions:

First thing I did, was break out Bella Sonus; Enamoured; which (imho) is still the best "test vector" for this kind of rig (..thanks Ray).

example - From a Standstill:

Wolfson DAC: would clip just a bit on the very bottom of the sub bass, and on the middle register piano fortissimo's during the extended intro. The voices, while warm & lush, were somewhat Grado-like - a bit "in your face". Percussion was warm and impactful. High frequency percussion was smooth, accurate and detailed.

Cirrus Logic DAC: first thing I noticed was that it had better dynamic range; it rode the sub bass perfectly, all the way down. Tight, no clipping, and noticeably faster. (That alone was worth the price of admission). Voices resolved better - noticed the singer's breath more, probably due to increased detail, not quite as warm.

example - Big Blue Ball w/Peter Gabriel: 4G / Cirrus Logic DAC renders Gabriel's voice much better. Noticed details, nuances previously missed. Percussion leading edge transients more detailed, nice decay. Rhythm guitar sparkles way more, as do sticks on a high-hat.

example - Wendy Stark; Child of Transference: I thought this was a flawed recording (bothersome low frequency clipping on intro to Animus Anima. Otherwise, not considered by me to be a well-engineered recording (on the 3G). Well, the Cirrus Logic DAC rescued this recording. Fixed 99% of the issues.

example - Jimmy Buffett; track - Happy Christmas: Cirrus Logic DAC changed this from a ho-hum recording, into something more engaging.

example - Arlen Roth; track: Unchained Melody: this can be an unforgiving recording on lower quality gear. The Cirrus Logic DAC was a pleasant surprise. Opened up more detail, opened up and sweetened what bass there is, and overall - just made it more engaging.

One thing that surprised me is the tendency of the 4G Nano / Cirrus Logic DAC to significantly improve tracks that I previously thought were not engineered well in the studio (well, they were: the details & dynamic range just weren't getting "D'd-to-A'd" well enough).

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

Conclusion: my ears definitely prefer the 4G DAC / sound signature significantly more than the 3G. (ymmv). I also like the form factor, screen, & click wheel more now too. For $139 - use your 3G Nano as emergency back-up. You'll notice a difference.

I'm really digging the 4G!

Kudos to Apple Industrial Designers: I was worried I'd miss the perfect planform match between the 4G Nano and the Mustang. Was very pleasantly surprised. And the 4G is insanely thin and light - very elegant packaging, Apple guys! The large radius of curvature on the back of the 4G enables a secure velcro bond to amp. All in all, a nice feeling to the package when held in hand. For some reason, I didn't like the click wheel on my 3G - I kept over / under shooting selections - just felt clunkier than others I'd used. The 4G click wheel works better for me - must have been a slight s/w or sensor change. The screen is also way better - love the vertical orientation & curvature - bright, easier to read (disabled Cover Flow). My SXC LOD fits tighter in the Nano lineout - maybe because the 3G had been used so much (18 mo.'s)

Side note: ended up with an extremely well balanced "back-up rig".
3G Nano-->Lil' Knight LOD-->Tomahawk-->SE530.
The components match perfectly!
 
Dec 21, 2008 at 10:23 PM Post #2 of 18

Headphile808

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Nov 26, 2008
Posts
2,739
Likes
10
Terrific review SierraHotel01. You made me change my sig, 1st I had a 3G nano listed. Now I've changed to the 4G. That Cirrus Logic DAC is something else. Thanks, glad I read this before purchasing.
Happy Holidays
atsmile.gif

Headphile808
 
Dec 21, 2008 at 10:41 PM Post #3 of 18

SierraHotel01

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Feb 15, 2008
Posts
364
Likes
0
Quote:

Originally Posted by Headphile808 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Terrific review SierraHotel01. You made me change my sig, 1st I had a 3G nano listed. Now I've changed to the 4G. That Cirrus Logic DAC is something else. Thanks, glad I read this before purchasing.
Happy Holidays
atsmile.gif

Headphile808



Thanks. Just trying to spread the Christmas cheer (and spend other people's money for them - lol).

Merry Christmas to you & yours.
 
Dec 22, 2008 at 12:31 AM Post #4 of 18

abitdeef

Formerly known as ihatepopupads
Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Posts
6,453
Likes
3,335
Nice comparison, I also think the 4g sounds better than the 3g. Are you sure apple is using a cirrus codec on the 4g though? I know there using a wolfson on the new iphone 3g and touch, it's an apple part but a wolfson chip. Anyways I just wish apple didn't change pin configuration on the new ipods, the 4g didn't work with my car dock
frown.gif
 
Dec 22, 2008 at 1:34 AM Post #5 of 18

Brabus9999

New Head-Fier
Joined
Nov 28, 2008
Posts
37
Likes
0
Hi SierraHotel01,

Thanks for the comparison. I can't help but wonder why Apple doesn't introduce an audiophile oriented DAP i.e. iPod Pro, for consumers such as those on this forum. Surely there is a market for such a player?

BTW, is your Nano 4G completely silent with the volume turned all the way down, or can you still hear the music playing from the headphone out?

Gritt
 
Dec 22, 2008 at 5:38 AM Post #6 of 18

SierraHotel01

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Feb 15, 2008
Posts
364
Likes
0
Quote:

Originally Posted by Brabus9999 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Hi SierraHotel01,

Thanks for the comparison. I can't help but wonder why Apple doesn't introduce an audiophile oriented DAP i.e. iPod Pro, for consumers such as those on this forum. Surely there is a market for such a player?

BTW, is your Nano 4G completely silent with the volume turned all the way down, or can you still hear the music playing from the headphone out?

Gritt



Great minds think alike: I had EXACTLY the same thought, today.

We here at Head-Fi should organize a petition to Apple:

Resource the Cirrus Logic DAC- replace it with a higher end DAC chip (e.g. from Analog Devices - a $10 part, instead of a $3 part - then charge an extra $50 bucks retail for the iPod Pro!). This approach would minimize non-recurring engineering, since it wouldn't involve any board logic or layout changes: no redesign & re-qualification of a new signal path - just swapping a part number on the bill of materials.)

PS: The 4G Nano / Mustang / W3 rig is DEAD SILENT at Zero volume!
 
Dec 22, 2008 at 6:43 AM Post #7 of 18

Brabus9999

New Head-Fier
Joined
Nov 28, 2008
Posts
37
Likes
0
In addition to replacing the DAC, I would also increase the power coming from the headphone out, and add a better EQ; the Touch would be the perfect platform for such an endeavor IMO.

BTW, what I wanted to know was, is your Nano silent from the "headphone out" with the volume turned all the day down. Because I can hear some music playing through the headphone out even though I've adjusted the volume to zero.

Gritt
 
Dec 23, 2008 at 4:20 PM Post #11 of 18

SierraHotel01

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Feb 15, 2008
Posts
364
Likes
0
Quote:

Originally Posted by uberburger101 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Nice write-up there, SierraHotel01. I haven't done a comparison between the Nano 3G and 4G, but I do prefer my 5.5G iPod to the new 120GB Classic. I'm a sucker for warmth.
tongue.gif



uberburger101: yeh, I know what you mean about liking a warm sound signature, as opposed to cold and analytical (haven't touched my Ety's for awhile now; it's probably also why I love Ray's Tomahawk & Mustang sound signatures, and the SE530's).

I didn't mean to convey that the 4G Nano, with its Cirrus Logic DAC, wasn't warm - it is.

To me, it sounded like it kept all the [good] warmth: eliminated low frequency bloat & clipping, and added detail across the entire audio band.

Just did a quick refresher a/b comparison. Now that my ears are "calibrated" to the Cirrus Logic DAC, the Wolfson sounds slightly bloated & muddy.

I'll take the Cirrus DAC any day!
 
Dec 23, 2008 at 5:56 PM Post #13 of 18

darkninja67

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Apr 15, 2005
Posts
3,252
Likes
15
Thanks for the write up SH. My final portable rig will be 4G Nano > qusp LOD > P-51 Mustang > Shure SE530. It should do the trick me thinks.
 
Dec 23, 2008 at 7:30 PM Post #14 of 18

Jalo

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Dec 18, 2007
Posts
3,415
Likes
856
Does anyone know that if the Classic 120 uses the Cirus Logic chip?
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top