Apple recently announced a new music player, the iTouch, which is similar to the iPhone, except without the mobile phone feature. At the same time, it “refreshed” the 5G iPod video player (that I described below), calling it the “iPod Classic”, with storage up to 160GB. The external appearance is quite similar, but internally is quite different. Reports have been cropping up on poor sound quality, glitchy software, and incompatibilities with various programs.
Via reddit comes this analysis by Marc Heijligers at his HiFiVoice site. After noting that the new iPod (called the 6G, for 6th generation) sounded tinny and fatiguing. He then proceeded to run tests, comparing it with the 5G iPod, and basically found the following (quoting Heijligers):
- An uplift in treble (about 0.15dB at 15KHz).
- A strong modulation with 22k, causing a peak in the frequency extreme, and intermodulation distortion.
- A group delay that depends on frequency (i.e. non minimum-phase).
The culprit seems to be a change from the Wolfson D/A converter used in the 5G to a Cirrus converter. Heijligers hints that some corrections might be made by a firmware update, but knowing these kinds of converters, I think the problem is inherent in the Cirrus chip. His site has some interesting links related to the problem, including some to Apple Discussion Groups. It’s interesting to see what I would assume to be non-audiophile listeners (at least to the level often discussed here) complaining about “narrow-ness”, “compressed sound”, “confined … and not as warm”, “one dimensional & not musical at all”, and in summary: “… a less harmonic sound, less spatial (the scene is inside your head instead of around your head), a bit too much emphasis on high treble, and ‘less silence between the notes’. It sounds more technical, and less acoustical/realistic.” And these are all comparisons with earlier iPods!
- VERY Slow menu switching response
- Display of clock rather than song info when ?Now Playing?
- Inability to use existing AUTHORIZED 3rd party dock products (including Apple-advertised)
- Audio skipping during operation
- Slow connection to Macs and PCs
- Inability to disable ?split-screen? menus
- Lagging and unresponsive Click Wheel
- Camera connector not working
- Inability to use EQ settings without skipping and distortion
Via the fascinating Boing-Boing site comes word that the software incompatibilities are due to a bit of encryption added that only allows Apple’s iTunes to access the iPod’s database. This locks out any 3rd-party software and really leaves the Linux folks out in the cold, since there is no iTunes for Linux. Someone may find a way to crack this, but with the DCMA law around, this is legally risky in the U.S. As Cory Doctorow, who wrote about this, said: “I guess my next player won’t be an iPod after all.”
Update: The folks at ipodminusitunes (I wonder if they got the idea of this name from my post below?) have cracked the encryption and offered a solution to the Linux users. This still doesn’t help the sound problems, though.