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What is the sound quality of iPhone, iPad, iPod (Touch)?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by dlangendorf, Sep 12, 2012.
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  1. dlangendorf
    I was wondering if Apple improves the sound quality with each iteration of its devices.
    In other words, is the 4 or 4S any better than the 3? We'll have to wait and see, but I wonder if the 5 will be any better than the 4s.
    Additionally, I have a bunch of older iPhones in the house which I could repurpose as just music players, but if the sound is worse on older devices maybe it's not worth it.
    I realize the quality of sound depends on the source and the rip -- I'm doing mostly Apple lossless or FLAC (via FLAC Player on all but the iPod Classic and Nanos) -- but I'm curious to see how the sound quality of the device itself fits into the equation.
    Thanks for any input . . . 
  2. Apo0th3karY
    I'm curious about the actual specs behind it too.
    I know for certain that my iPod Touch (3rd gen) is superior in sound quality when compared to the iPod Classic (4th Gen) and any iPod nano. It's because of the Cirrus DAC chip included in the iPod Touch g3 (as far as I know it's only the 3rd gen), and iPhones and iPads I'm pretty sure have the same chip, if not similar quality.
    I was wondering if it'd be worth my while to get portable amp/DAC for my iPod touch myself, considering the Cirrus chip does a good job, and my CKM500s sound great without being amped.
    I'm hoping this at least helps, but I'm also wondering the exact DAC chips of iNano vs iClassic vs iTouch vs iPhone vs iPad and if it is worth while to amp the iTouch.
  3. MLee
    This site has ipod and iphone DACs listed:

  4. bigshot
    I have most of the gens of the ipod and the ipad and iphone too. I've done line level matched listening comparisons. They're all as good as a standalone CD player. They all sound perfect. Buy whatever has the features you want. Don't worry about sound quality.
  5. Steve Eddy
    Here's John Atkinson's summary of the measurements he made on a third generation iPod back in 2003:
    The iPod's measured behavior is better than many CD players—ironic, considering that most of the time it will be used to play MP3 and AAC files, which will not immediately benefit from such good performance. But if you're willing to trade off maximum playing time against the ability to play uncompressed AIFF or WAV files, the iPod will do an excellent job of decoding them. Excellent, cost-effective audio engineering from an unexpected source.
    And the actual measurements here:
    ultrabike likes this.
  6. dlangendorf
    Thanks everybody for the links. Got some reading to do. 
  7. bowei006 Contributor
    Like Steve posted, yes they are, they generally if not always improve every generation with better measurements and subjective praise with every generation. DAC and amp measurements from 4 to 4S were improved and what not. So yes, even now Apple still subtly holds to their root claims or device usage where they put in a custom "high end" Cirrus Logic Chip on their computers and portable devices with good intergration. This doesnt mean anything until you realize that everyone has an iPod and that these come standard. 
    Of course the amp is the largest limiting part of their sound in terms of the two DAC and amp. That's why we use LOD's and what not. The new iPhone 5 and new players may get problems though now with the Lightning adapter port as it's full digital out with a DAC in the adapter itself and as some have pointed out, yes a DAC is not expensive but with what most charge for accessories, being Apple and what not, for $29 it is unwieldadly to believe that the DAC and implementation inside is even "good" as it's just "there". However this should mean that new B and W and Bose speakers that support Docks will now have to use their own DAC's in their also....which if you actually think about it, leaves MORE room for error as they can just whip whatever DAC they want into there 
    Tim941 likes this.
  8. rikardoliepa
    I have tested for long period 2nd touch and 6th classic. Classic was better, but still nothing special, compared to cowon, teclast x19gd and mostly to rocoo ba.
  9. bowei006 Contributor
    They arne't "sepcial" but compared to many other mainstream consumer ones..it's a option
  10. bigshot
    From the very beginning, iPods had stone flat response, no audible distortion at all, and a noise floor in the basement. Any improvements, if there really have been any improvements, are on paper only.
    Sterling2 likes this.
  11. poikkeus
    My experience mirrors bigshot's. I didn't care for the sound of the 1-3g iPod - but that was years ago, of course. Starting at around 4g, sound was quite strong, and has remained solid since then. 
    I sense that major improvements/variances in sound may come from the ear-gear you use, but that's another discussion. Blogs have been written on the differences between the various IEMs and earbuds.
  12. bowei006 Contributor
    And now this year we get Earpods, from initial reviews, they aren't fully special and may or may not be worth $30 but as standard earbuds that are now included on their products, they are said to be someof the best stock included mass company sold earubds now.
  13. proton007
    I've never used the stock apple earbuds, ever.
    The new ones supposedly 'direct sound into the listener's ears'. I wonder where other earphones/headphones direct their sound to.
  14. proton007
  15. grokit
    Agreed that the iPod 5g sounds best, straight out of the headphone jack. Noticeable difference over the Classic and iPhone 4s. The 4g is next for me, followed by an old iPod Mini.
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