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iPod sound quality comparison


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#1
Jajo

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Went to the local Apple retailer today to get an iPod Nano 2gb. Since I had my headphones brought with me, I thought I'd just compare the sound quality between the players just for the fun of it. I loaded the same song (AAC 192kbit/s) to an iPod Shuffle 512mb, iPod Nano 2gb and an iPod Video 60gb. The result was somewhat unexpected!

First off: the Nano

My first impression of the Nano was that it sounded good, about equal to my laptop's builtin headphone output (a Dell Inspirion M70). The nano had a neutral sound but I very soon felt like I wanted to go on with the test and switch to the next player.

Second, the iPod shuffle

I was expecting this little player to play well for the money, bot not really compete with the nano. I don't believe how wrong I was. WOW! The first second of the song really blew me away. The shuffle had everything that the Nano didn't have - deep bass, controlled sound, very easy to listen to, and I couldn't stop listening to the song. It was easy to follow the tune and understand the music.

At this point, being really surprised, I decided to open up the equalizer in the Nano to make sure everything was set flat

Second round for nano

After double checking the flat settings in the equalizer (they were flat!) I listened to the nano again. The biggest difference is indeed that the Shuffle plays the music without strain. Playing the nano as loud as the shuffle gave a very metallic sound that was hard to withstand for long.

I called for the shop assistant and explained. He smiled at me but gave it a try. He was also surprised, he didn't admit the difference being as big as I did, but he couldn't deny that the Shuffle was superior. He fetched another nano just to make sure that the unit was working correctly, but there was no difference.

The iPod video 60gb

The video iPod was better than the Nano, but still not in the same league as the Shuffle. The video performed well sound-quality-wise but was not as fun to listen to as the Shuffle. I still listened longer with the shuffle and enjoyed the tune, lyrics and song better with the shuffle.

Conclusion

I used the same headphones. None of the iPods had the Equalizer or sound check enabled. The shuffle outperformed the other players. Both on sound quality and how easy it was to follow tune and lyrics. I had to buy a shuffle instead, even though I miss the display. But the sound quality was so much better the display didn't matter. I know sound is subjective, but this was really scary! I am now listening to the shuffle, and it sounds excellent. I didn't know my headphones (Grado SR80) was this bloody good! And I can play loud...

Anyone else experienced the same?

/ jajo

#2
Swad

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Great post, jajo. I'll move it to the Buying discussion and Reviews forum. :happymac:

FWIW, I've found the quality of the iPod video to be very high... much better than my old Dell DJ and even the 4G ipod I had.

#3
Jajo

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I've found the quality of the iPod video to be very high... much better than my old Dell DJ and even the 4G ipod I had.


Yeah - it is easy to misunderstand my post to say that the quality of the iPod Nano or iPod Video was bad. The iPod nano was ok with a minus, the iPod video was good. But the iPod Shuffle was, in my ears, fantastic.

All iPods are quality players, but the shuffle delivers more sound quality than we pay for whilst the Nano delivers more in looks and slim design than it does in audio if I am the judge.

An explanation of the Shuffle performance could be that it is using a different chip (from Sigmatel) than the others. Although I do not worship scientific studies when it comes to something as personal as audio and music, (where listening experience comes first and specifications sheets second), this link is very interesting and shows that the shuffle has a technical advantage over the other players in the test (Mini being one of them).

http://home.comcast..../playertest.htm

/ jajo

#4
lunchandamovie

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I actually have both a video iPod and iShuffle. I'll always love my Shuffle and the quality is much more "surround sound" feeling than by iPod, however, I am dependant on my videos or I would switch back ;)

#5
bwhsh8r

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download go pod, its free and unlocks your ipod so its louder, pm me if you need a link.

oh, and the better the headphones the better the sound too, i just got a pair of sennheisers and they are great! the ones that come with the ipod are not very good (and i blow them out all the time=pair # 5)


max

#6
sandmanfvrga

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That is SO weird the shuffle sounded better. I have a Mini and I love it. Great sound.

#7
proh26

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To the sounds quality, Video is the best! Processing all types of music easily.
nano is very odd! Only Electronic music can feed it. (I like this one)
Shuffle, Cheap chip, with great design. Best 4 Pop.

#8
davemill

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Here is the original article analyzing the audio output of the Shuffle. It explains the Shuffle's superior audio performance:

http://www.pcmag.com...,1777890,00.asp

Here's another technical analysis from the same guy:

http://www.machrone..../ipod_nano.html





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