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IPod & component systems - sound issues?

 

New member
Username: Daves666

Post Number: 8
Registered: Oct-04
Posted this to the Amp & digital forums but didn't get much; maybe you guys have some insight:

I've been thinking seriously lately about upgrading my home stereo to take my audio experience to the next level. I've also been moving away from CDs and have my iPod connected to my receiver.

So I wonder if there are inherent limitations/problems with using the iPod as a source in a better system? [I'm leaning towards getting a NADC 320bee Int. Amp, and a decent set of speakers]. Would the iPod itself have a negative impact on the sound quality in a configuration like this?

Thanks for any advice you might have!
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 2292
Registered: Dec-03
Dave,

I have checked out an iPod for sound quality. It certainly gives "CD quality" provided the files are in 16 bit, 44.1 kHz, same as CD. That means a CD-sized playlist takes up about 650 MB, and you would get the equivalent of 15 CDs on one 10 GB iPod, or about 100 CDs on a 60 GB.

Most users value the compression that allow then to use smaller files, and so get many more on the hard disc, but there is no question that it comes at the expense of resolution.

The other thing you might consider is sending iTunes files (which can be up to CD-quality, and beyond, such as DTS 5.1), either from iPod or from your computer hard disc, to an Apple Airport Express Bass Station. That can supply an analogue or a digital signal to your amp or receiver. The digital goes by TOS-link optical cable. I am completely unable to tell the difference between the sound from the CD player and computer digital feeds, from the same CD tracks. The analogue feed from the Bass station, however, probably will not be up to the quality of that from a good CD player. I think that is true of iPod, too, but it is a fairly subtle difference. The analogue signal from the iPod is small - you will need high gain on the amp.

I am not moving over to this way of doing things, because I have a large collection of CDs and LPs (also some DVD-A discs). The iTunes from the music store are in compressed aac format, I think; not really hifi. So you need the disc in the first place to make the high-resolution files; you might as well just play the discs.
 

New member
Username: Egreen1976

Mount Vernon, NY United States

Post Number: 2
Registered: Oct-04
Playing music from an airport express via optical input is something i do regularly. the real question for you to ask yourself is this. You will lose quality because of file compression, and the better your equipment the bigger the difference. BUT the convenience of using itunes or an ipod is UNMATCHED. For me it is worth what i consider to be a minor loss in quality. When i am in the mood for quality i pop in SACD or DVDAs. But usually i set a playlist and let it rip. You lose nothing by having both options and I have yet to hear of an "issue" wiht connecting an ipod or airport express to ANY system.
 

New member
Username: Daves666

Post Number: 9
Registered: Oct-04
Thanks for the advice you guys.

I understand perfectly the quality/bitrate/size compromises of digital players. I guess I was wondering if there were any other hardware-related sound issues I should be aware of. One of the things I've learned on this forum is the impact that seemingly neutral hardware can make on sound [receivers and integrated amps].

The obvious advantage of the ipod is to be able to take a wall full of 2000 CDs and replace it wth a tiny white box...makes it hard to resist!

D.
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 2303
Registered: Dec-03
Edward and Dave,

I think most computer-literate listeners to recorded music will will follow you, and the whole market will be different in a few years. I also think SACD and HDCD, which you can't share or copy, are last-ditch attempts by the industry to keep on selling packages. Unfortunately, DVD-A is now going the same way, with sound-degrading copy protection, though it started as an honest move to give higher resolution and multichannel, I think.

The nice thing about iTunes and other software is that you can choose your format and resolution, so where you want to go in the trade-off between file size and sound quality is up to you. iTunes can go a little beyond CD quality in sampling frequency, up to 48 kHz for wav or aiff files, but 16 bit is the maximum sample size. If Apple would introduce 24 bit sampling and 96 kHz, then it would become as good as DVD-A. I think you can do that with StudioPro, which is still less than a cheap CD player.

For me, the compression problem with aac is that it is seems to have a threshold level below which it assumes nothing is happening, and gives digital zero, to save space. Probably one can tweak it to stop that. Above that threshold the sound is amazing.

So in my opinion you can certainly get hifisound from iTunes. I see no reason why Apple should not include an optical digital out in iPod. Probably they calculate the market is not there to justify the extra cost.

Personally, I like my collection of CDs and LPs, Dave, but many people share your view.

When my son got an iPod I tried it out for sound quality, using a movement of a Mahler symphony. If it is of interest, I put the results, my opinions, and some compressed files here.

BTW my son wiped the CD-sized aiff files from his iPod - he wanted thousands of songs in his pocket, in place of fourteen minutes of CD-resolution Mahler.

99% of iPodders would do the same, I am sure!
 

New member
Username: Jliverpool

Post Number: 9
Registered: Oct-04
My wife has an ipod so this thread peaked my curiosity. What input on the back of my receiver would I hook up the Ipod to? Or do I need another piece of equipment?
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 2304
Registered: Dec-03
John,

Any spare analogue two-channel audio input, such as might be labelled "Aux", "Tape", or "CD". Except "phono" (for turntables) because of the RIAA phono equalization (contrary to what I said on that link). You will probably need the gain (volume) control up very high compared with other sources and inputs, but do not be afrain to rack it up; the effective power is the signal strength (low from iPod) times the gain. If it is not loud enough even at high gain, you may need an extra pre-amp, which is what I used for that test, since I already have one in my system. You will be able to hear something and check it out even with without that.

You will need an ordinary analogue connecting cable with a mini-jack-plug at one end and whatever your receiver takes, most likely two RCA plugs (also known as "phono plugs"), at the other. Or some sort of adapter to get to the same effective connection. That's all. No need to spend more that a fiver on the connector. You may already have one for a Walkman or something similar.

I would be interested to know what you think.
 

New member
Username: Fishpatrol

Cincinnati, OH

Post Number: 3
Registered: Oct-04
Just replied to the Amp forum thread before coming here. If you do hook your iPod to a system, use the Dock. That way you get a line-level out, which is a significantly stronger signal. Not sure the quality's any better (on my little Yamaha speakers at work, at least), but you won't have to crank the gain.
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