iPod 4G Audio Defect: The Details and Test | iLounge Article


iPod 4G Audio Defect: The Details and Test

This page is a central hub summarizing known information on an audio defect affecting certain fourth-generation (4G) iPods. Our previous news stories on the topic are available here, here, and here.

What is the Audio Defect: “Users of affected iPods will be able to hear a hard disk-like whirring sound in their earphones, coupled with several seconds of light static at the start of a song that has just been loaded. This should not be confused with the quiet hard disk loading sounds that an iPod makes, which sounds are not audible through earphones, or with normal static-like compression artifacts in your audio.”

Who is affected by the Audio Defect: iLounge initially believed that the Audio Defect was limited to a small number of units, perhaps only 40GB iPods, as three of iLounge’s four total 40GB test units have now exhibited the problem. However, user comments subsequently established that both 20GB and 40GB units are affected. The exact number of problem units is not known, or for that matter knowable. iLounge has been gathering user input for three weeks, and emphasized “that [while] the results of our inquiry are comprised of strictly voluntary submissions from readers, and should not be taken as scientific or conclusive, they do suggest that the problem may be more widespread than we had originally hoped.” The most recent requests for positive or negative test results have yielded hundreds of responses from users around the world. Approximately 42% of responding iLounge users reported the audio defect in one or more of the 4G iPods they purchased or received in exchange.

How can you test a 4G iPod for the Audio Defect: “To test your iPod while eliminating the possibility that static from your music or headphones may be responsible, use iTunes to encode several three- to five-minute compact disc tracks using Apple’s Lossless Audio encoder, transfer them to your iPod, then connect the earbuds packaged with your new iPod. Find the directory or create a playlist with only the Lossless tracks, and skip back and forth between them. Hold your iPod at a distance or cover it up so that you can’t hear its normal internal hard disk sounds. If your iPod has a problem, at the start of each loaded song, you should hear a loading pause, then a whirring sound and light static in your ears at a normal volume level. If it does not have a problem, the song should load and play without audio interference.”

Common misconceptions regarding the Audio Defect:

  1. The problem is not caused by Apple Lossless encoding. iLounge’s testing procedure recommends Apple Lossless solely because large file sizes cause more frequent accesses to the iPod’s hard drive, therefore more quickly revealing the problem on an affected iPod.
  2. The problem is not caused by Chinese manufacturing per se. iLounge posted details regarding its test units (shipped from Shanghai, China) in an effort to help Apple and possibly affected users identify a specific plant from which affected units were being produced.
  3. The problem is not limited to orders coming from the Apple Store or to the United States. Issues have been reported in 4G iPods purchased from different stores in different countries.
  4. The problem is not the same in all affected iPods. iLounge has now heard affected iPods where the noise is only audible in one of the two headphones, and others where it is audible in both headphones at once. Some affected iPods appear to make the sounds loudly, while others appear to be more mild.
  5. The problem is not identical to problems in prior-generation iPods. Some users of older third-generation iPods and iPod minis have reported similar sounds that appear only when charging and using accessories connected to the Dock Connector port. The current problem manifests when the iPod is not connected to any additional hardware save headphones, and typically can be heard overlapping the music with static.
  6. The problem does not exist in a unit just because it makes hard disk access noises. Every iPod contains a hard disk that loads data in chunks during playback, and this hard disk is not supposed to be silent - but you shouldn’t generally hear it inside your headphones. Hard disk access noises coming from the iPod’s case (and audible without using headphones) are totally normal. The Audio Defect only exists when you can heard the sound of hard disk accesses accompanied by static coming through the headphones attached to the iPod. Some users have reported that audio played through the Dock Connector port exhibits the same issues.
  7. Added Aug. 23, 2004: The iPod’s part numbers are of no aid in sorting problem units from non-problem ones. Apple’s two current model units (M9282LL/A - 20GB, M9268LL/A - 40GB) are uniformly identified by these part numbers, and contrary to rumors that have been floating around, to the best of iLounge’s knowledge there is no “fixed” M9282LL/C or M9268LL/C version of either product.

What is Apple’s official position on the Audio Defect? (Updated 9-17-04) We have continued to request comment from Apple regarding the Audio Defect, and in response to a September 16 inquiry, an Apple iPod team representative responded on September 17, 2004 that “Apple does not have any comment at this time.” We had previously noted that Apple had not commented on the record to iLounge since late July, at which time the company indicated that it was still looking into the issue. Some users whose units exhibited the problem have reported receiving exchanges from Apple Store locations and certain other Apple-authorized retailers.

What is iLounge’s position on the Audio Defect? Our concern is first and foremost for our readers, and we take pains to promote iPods and related products that provide the most trouble-free and positive experiences for our readers. iLounge informed Apple Computer of its findings immediately after discovery in an effort to minimize the Defect’s impact upon iPod users, and provided its own affected units to Apple for testing. In the absence of further official comment from Apple, iLounge continues to consider this issue a serious one, and thereby reluctantly but strongly cautions its readers to purchase their 4G iPods only from retailers with complete return policies, or to hold off on 4G iPod purchases until Apple confirms that the issues are being addressed.

Is there a fix for the Audio Defect? (updated 11-1-04) As pointed out in early October by reader Jeff L. (and reported in iLounge Backstage), an almost identical problem was identified by Rio, makers of the Carbon audio player, which agreed to alter its manufacturing processes to eliminate the problem in their hardware altogether. We believe that this is the most appropriate course of action, as it requires owners to expend the least effort themselves to get fully working hardware. iLounge users have recently reported that they have returned 4G iPod units to Apple for repair and received fully working units in exchange, indicating that Apple is capable of diagnosing and remedying the problem. As a temporary solution for users who are not as concerned about the cosmetic appearance of their iPods, some users have reduced Audio Defect-related noises by placing a piece of tape or plastic between the iPod’s headphone port and the flat metal edge of the headphones’ plug, preventing any metal-on-metal contact other than the tip of the headphone plug. Thanks to JC and others in the thread for pointing this out.

Are there any updates on the Audio Defect? (updated 11-1-04) None officially through Apple. As iLounge has previously reported, a similar (albeit quieter, in our testing to date) defect appears to exist in the new iPod Photo, as well.

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I did the test using Apple Lossless and had no problems, but at other times I think I’ve experienced this. Seems strange. I’ve got a 20gig 4G purchased in Australia from a reseller.

Posted by Spencer on August 20, 2004 at 11:33 PM (CDT)


Just tested and I don’t have the problem. I have a 20gig 4g

Posted by Killa on August 21, 2004 at 11:04 AM (CDT)


Damnnnn, I seem to have this with my 3G iPod (20 GB). Any thoughts on that? Are other 3G users experiencing similar symptoms?

Posted by Gaurang Patkar on August 21, 2004 at 2:30 PM (CDT)


I have a 20gig 4G and I hear no static/whirring.

Posted by John on August 21, 2004 at 2:50 PM (CDT)


i got mine the last week of july, direct from the apple store online. through ups tracking, i saw that it was shipped from shanghai, china.

i’ve had the audio defect from the start.. but i got mine laser engraved, so i don’t know if and how i can get mine exchanged. has anybody tried exchanging a defective ipod that was engraved?

Posted by shireen on August 21, 2004 at 3:16 PM (CDT)


I strongly endorse iPodlounge’s position on the Audio Defect. I was in the U.S. last week and close to buying a 4G iPod (my first Apple product by the way) but delayed the purchase after learning of the defect. I think Apple’s official position not to address the issue is detrimental to their sales and the iPod’s success.

Posted by Michael from Switzerland on August 21, 2004 at 3:52 PM (CDT)


I noticed a noise very similar to what has been described, and noticed that the headphone jack was not quite seated correctly.

Although the sound went away when I seated the headphone in, I wonder if the sound is from a short of some sort, or if the metal contacts are too loose in some iPods.

Posted by Scott on August 21, 2004 at 4:06 PM (CDT)


No problems with a 4G 20gig. Tested using 20 minute + classical music pieces encoded into Lossless.

Posted by Daniel from UK on August 21, 2004 at 5:06 PM (CDT)


Mine’s fine.

Posted by Richard on August 21, 2004 at 5:28 PM (CDT)


Used the test process above.  No problem here on my 4G 40gig.

Posted by Jon on August 21, 2004 at 6:17 PM (CDT)


I do have the problem on my 4g 20 gig.  Mine is pretty faint, and I only noticed it after reading the article (of course I notice it all the time now).  I went to the local Apple store, but couldn’t get the guy there to notice the sound.  I didn’t have high hopes since it’s hard to hear in normal room conditions let alone an open showroom.  Maybe I’ll try again in a few weeks.

Posted by Jeremy on August 21, 2004 at 7:23 PM (CDT)


Mine was bought at the Apple Store in the EU and was shipped from Ireland three days later. All 33gb worth of tunes are apple lossless, and using line out or headphone out, with or without amp, with low and high ohm cans… no problems at all. The same thing can be said for the 3g ipod.

Posted by Herbie T. Turtle on August 21, 2004 at 7:27 PM (CDT)


2 4gens, no probs. Lucky me.

Posted by Sam on August 21, 2004 at 7:32 PM (CDT)


I just tested my iPod for the defect and I only heard whirring sounds from the device, not through the hearphones.

Posted by Steve on August 21, 2004 at 7:40 PM (CDT)


i have 4g 20gb and it always happens but idont mind…but if you use like every single minute it would get annoying

Posted by Jacob on August 21, 2004 at 10:55 PM (CDT)


Gaurang, my 3G 40bg has also experienced this from time to time.  It’s rather unsettling, but it doesn’t happen very often, and resetting usually solves the problem.

Posted by Scott S. on August 21, 2004 at 11:37 PM (CDT)


Thanks for the heads up guys. I was just about to get myself a 40gb iPod but I guess I’ll wait now.

Posted by Neil on August 22, 2004 at 12:20 AM (CDT)


I’m delighted to say that my new 40Gb 4G doesn’t exhibit this problem! Yaay…:-D Used 4 Apple Lossless tracks, switching between them quickly…no static/whirring.

Posted by Nihal in Melbourne, Australia on August 22, 2004 at 2:14 AM (CDT)


I tested and I have the problem :( I have a 40GB.

Posted by Euclid on August 22, 2004 at 4:52 AM (CDT)


I’m on my third 4g iPod 20gb - same issue, though this one is slightly more faint, it still bothers me - I’ve gotten all of mine at the Apple store in Austin Texas.

Posted by fudgebrown in Austin, TX on August 22, 2004 at 7:07 AM (CDT)


I have 4G 20 GB purchased from Apple reseller in Australia and I have this problem as well. As I encode most of my CDs to Apple lossless format, I can hear the whirring and statics quite often. It gets annoying when I play tracks that start with calm/quiet intro.

Posted by feargone on August 22, 2004 at 8:46 AM (CDT)


Copied a Rammstein live album which has some “quiet” moments before each song on the CD. Copied them to my 4g 20gb iPod using Apple Lossless and it doesn’t seem to have a problem. I am sad to say that my Apple iPod headphones, after a week of use, the left earbud plays alot quieter than the right earbud.

Posted by fjl307 in Wyoming and Mexico on August 22, 2004 at 3:09 PM (CDT)


I have also done the AL-Test from iPodlounge with my 4.Gen 40GB iPod + Apple earbuds. I couldn’t hear any static noise. But than I have used my Plantronics Audio .90 computer headset and I heard the static/whirring. The plug of the Plantronics Headset has a lot of metal. When it’s plugged in the iPod, there is a contact between the headset-metal and the metal of the iPod case.

So. Does an non-infected iPod produce the same static/whirring, when you are using earbuds that have a direct contact to the iPod case?

Therefore I don’t know if my iPod is defect or not!?

Posted by freak_tj on August 22, 2004 at 3:39 PM (CDT)


Three 4G 20gigs - no problems

Posted by nope on August 22, 2004 at 4:36 PM (CDT)


“So. Does an non-infected iPod produce the same static/whirring, when you are using earbuds that have a direct contact to the iPod case?”

I get the static noise when using both earphones with a metal ring at the base of the jack as well as one that is has a plastic ring. Neither of them come into contact with the case either.

Posted by a on August 22, 2004 at 4:43 PM (CDT)


My 40G 4G is fine. I’ve had 3 (exchanged for cosmetic issues) none of them had it.

If you have it, just exchange it within 3o days and you should be okay.

Posted by The Dude on August 22, 2004 at 5:55 PM (CDT)


Yep, I’ve got the noise. I noticed it before reading anything about the issue. 7 Day old 4g 40 Gig. I can definately hear a whirl and then a few clicks at the start of every track. Sometimes even louder than the actual song. (Quiet bits) What Now???

Posted by Bent1 on August 22, 2004 at 6:05 PM (CDT)


I have a 4G 40GB and have the problem. I notice it most often with my Etymotic ER4P headphones.

An earlier posted suggested that part of the problem is may be related to the direct metal contact that occurs when using certain headphones or other 1/8” stereo connectors with the headphone jack. The Etymotic has a metal surround and I hear the noise everytime. The Ipod earbuds have a plastic ridge that there is no contact with the case. the ER4P’s have a large metal bottom that extends come in contact with the case of the Ipod.

I haven’t done extensive testing but it would seem to me that this makes the most sense. By connecting the headphones to both the signal ground and the unit ground, it may be setting up a ground loop that causes the sound to be heard thru the headphones.

Posted by Britbonic on August 22, 2004 at 7:25 PM (CDT)


i have a 3G 10GB iPod and I get the static noise But I don’t hear the Whirr,However the satic noise only comes with the Apple earphones

Posted by Adrian From Australia on August 22, 2004 at 7:59 PM (CDT)


I have a 3G 10GB iPod and I get the static noise But I don’t hear the Whirr,However the satic noise only comes with the Apple earphones

Posted by Adrian From Australia on August 22, 2004 at 8:00 PM (CDT)


then the headphones are broke, if your warantee didnt expire u can get a new pair for free

Posted by fasttra in New York on August 22, 2004 at 10:44 PM (CDT)


Got a 4gen 40gb from amazon 3 days ago.. tested, everything is fine.

Posted by redban on August 23, 2004 at 12:57 AM (CDT)


just got my 4g 40gig today, tested with stock earphone… no such problem but there has some quality issues.

My dock little bit chipped at the top conner and when I wipe my finger accross the ipod and clcik wheel, i noticed that the left side of the click wheel is a little higher than ipod’s face.

Posted by noname from AU on August 23, 2004 at 3:11 AM (CDT)


I dont have any problem with my 3 weeks old 40g 4g iPod. I’ve tried it with the standard and sennheiser px200 earphones…

Posted by Lajos on August 23, 2004 at 4:59 AM (CDT)


I have a Rio Karma and I don’t get this issue, the audio is also of better quality which is a bonus.

Posted by Steve on August 23, 2004 at 6:43 AM (CDT)



I just got a 4th generation 40GB IPOD. I sorted it out updated downloaded my songs and i had been waiting for this for weeks on end. I was not disappointed. Occasionally there is a whirring sound at the beginning of a song but i don’t cry about it because it isn’t doing any damage to my ipod. What you have to remember is that it is looking for 1 song out of 10000, and you worry about a 3 second whirrr at the beginning of a few songs. BE HAPPY, DON’T WORRY

Posted by James on August 23, 2004 at 7:15 AM (CDT)


“I have a Rio Karma and I don’t get this issue, the audio is also of better quality which is a bonus.” By Steve

Hey, what does Rio have to do with iPods? I think you’re at the wrong site dude.

Posted by Bnkr on August 23, 2004 at 8:16 AM (CDT)


I own a 4G 40 GB iPod and I’ve experienced the described problem, although (as noted) without Apple Lossless Encoding.

I plug in my included earbuds and skip between large-sized tracks encoded at 320 kbps and I get a small click about every third time I skip.  Sometimes it’s pretty quiet, and others it’s pretty annoying.

If it can be fixed, that’d be great, but I’m still satisfied with my iPod overall.

Posted by LadBoyTick in Las Vegas, NV on August 23, 2004 at 9:53 AM (CDT)


I have an older 3G 10GB and it’s ok. A newly purchased 4G 20GB and so far none of the mentioned noise as far as I can tell. But my recently purchased & received mini seems to experience it. Is there a way to tell where these units were made other than on the back plate that says China? Also upon reading other peoples comments, no one else owning a mini has mentioned of a problem? Maybe I’ll swap out the headphones to see if anything changes. I would like to see other people comment who own mini’s that just recently purchased them. Because maybe it’s just me being too sensitive after reading the article.

Posted by Mike from Chicago on August 23, 2004 at 10:37 AM (CDT)


Yeah, mine has this problem too.  It isn’t very loud with the earbuds, but when I use better headphones it is VERY annoying! Called Apple… told that it was a cache problem… that’s it.  Asked if it would be fixed with firmware… no comment…  Let’s all cross our fingers!

Posted by Robert D. on August 23, 2004 at 11:15 AM (CDT)


In response to the person concerned about returning an engraved iPod:

I just ordered my 20gig 4g yesterday, before finding out about this problem today.  I called Apple today, concerned that I wouldn’t be able to exchange my iPod because it is laser engraved (personalized).  The person assured me that if there is a defect that Tech support can’t resolve over the phone, the item still falls under warranty policies, regardless of engraving/personalization, and can be returned for repair or exchanged depending on the specific problem.  I assume they would just swap the engraved back of the defective one with the back of a new one.

Posted by Mark LeSage Ph.D. on August 23, 2004 at 11:33 AM (CDT)


How can the Rio Karma have better quality than IPOD when it is just an inferior knockoff. IPODS cost more and sound better everyone knows this!

Posted by audio on August 23, 2004 at 1:04 PM (CDT)


just got my 4G/40gb delivered from Shangai this morning.

performed the audio test using the earbuds and so far it works great…

Posted by nate on August 23, 2004 at 2:43 PM (CDT)


Got my 4G/20gb at Best Buy.
No audio defect

Posted by EM on August 23, 2004 at 2:52 PM (CDT)



Just remember that the audio-problem is often not recognizable with the apple earbuds because there is not contact to the ipod case.

More info ....
http://discusssearch.info.apple.com/webx?[email protected]@.6897964a

Posted by freak_tj on August 23, 2004 at 3:32 PM (CDT)


seem not to have problems with my 4g 40gb from apple store.

Posted by rao on August 23, 2004 at 3:45 PM (CDT)


Just bought a 40GB ipod from Australian reseller, no problems here !

Posted by Grant Burton on August 23, 2004 at 3:49 PM (CDT)


Have had two 4g 20 gig ipods, both have the problem (whirring when hard drive winds up)...no longer worried I enjoy the unit and am not going to worry about it anymore.

Posted by dukka on August 23, 2004 at 3:53 PM (CDT)


Mine makes the sound…it’s only for the first couple seconds so it’s not as bad as everyone makes it out to be.  I will get it replaced when Apple decides to start fixing them.

Posted by Scott on August 23, 2004 at 4:16 PM (CDT)


Mine is 4 days old and I have the problem. So if I take it back to the Apple store I bought it from, will they replace it without any hassle? I thought it wouldn’t bother me but it gets really annoying when I’m listening to music at night.

Posted by nobuteru on August 23, 2004 at 4:43 PM (CDT)


My 40gb 4G from best buy doesn’t have a problem

Posted by jimbo on August 23, 2004 at 6:12 PM (CDT)


After hearing the many reports of crappy 4G iPods, I bit the bullet and went down to Best Buy and picked up a 20GB with the Best Buy 2-year replacement plan for $40 extra.  It did have a small scratch across the screen but I can’t seem to detect the audio defect, even with Apple Lossless-encoded tracks.  Mine says that it was assembled in China.

Posted by Swift1113 on August 23, 2004 at 7:58 PM (CDT)


Just sent in a request for a 2nd replacement of an iPod from Amazon and was told they cannot send replacements due to the numerous people exhibiting the static noise problem and only refund me at this time. I think that definitely shows the problem is pretty widespread.

Posted by sc on August 23, 2004 at 8:57 PM (CDT)


a little question: does the “audio defect” hear at the start of each song played or once when you skip backward or forward or in some other way?

i suppose to have no problems but, after using eupod program and boosted volume at 70%, i hear a very mild noise only at loud volume when i skip backward.

Posted by ciropizza on August 24, 2004 at 4:18 AM (CDT)



i have a question for who experiences this problem:

do you hear it at every start of a song or only sometimes, for example when fast skipping?

‘cause i suppose i don’t have this problem -i made the test- but now i heard, after boosting volume to 70% with euPOD, a very mild hard disk sound only when i skip through songs backward or forward fast.

I can’t understand if this sound could be generated by euPOD or maybe not…

Posted by ciropizza on August 24, 2004 at 4:24 AM (CDT)


one question: do you hear the noise at every start of a song or only sometimes?

many thanks

Posted by ciropizza on August 24, 2004 at 4:26 AM (CDT)


sorry for the clones: i can’t see the “next” button :|

Posted by ciropizza on August 24, 2004 at 4:27 AM (CDT)


got a 4g 20gb, live in uk but ipod bought from USA. Mines finnneeee!:D

Posted by Mrsprout on August 24, 2004 at 6:23 AM (CDT)


No problem un my 4G 40G purchased at AppleStore and manufactured in China. But the use of the equalizer gives some strange side effects and distortion using the high quality MP3 setting.

Posted by Jan on August 24, 2004 at 8:39 AM (CDT)


Assuming the problem is only with high end in-ear headphones (Shure, Eytomic), and phones that have a metal ridge that makes contact w/ the unit itself (which makes sense as I experience the same thing on my powerbook unless I nudge it out a bit), then what do we do.  I haven’t recieved my iPod yet, but figure it will “work” with Apple earbuds, but will be “defective” with my E2c headphones.

I have gotta find something unnoticable/plastic ring to wrap around the headphone jack.  Any ideas.  I am thinking the smallest amount of plumbers tape, or the tiny elastics you use for braces.

By the way, while I have been able to remove the static and whiny noises while using my powerbook, i have never been able to fix the Hard Drive spin sound issue.

Posted by vickbabu on August 24, 2004 at 9:04 AM (CDT)


BTW, I think a lot of this is mass hysteria, phychosomatic.  Just to test, anyone with a powerbook and in ear headphones, do you hear the hard drive spin?

Posted by vickbabu on August 24, 2004 at 9:08 AM (CDT)


i’ll bite on this one….

i had two ipods on which i could hear the problem most prominantly with the apple earbud and in-ear headphones but not as much with my sony or AKG headphones (both cans).  the latter both had wide metal ends.

i’m not sure about the “short to the case” theory because it appeared that on mine there was no metal touching the case at any point.  i even purposely shorted the connector to the case and the problem didn’t change.  wiggling the jack or pulling it out partially seemed to have no effect either.

i’ve used the same headphones on my PB, and i hear no hard drive noise (can’t say the same for my PC at work, though….).

as always, YMMV, but i thought i’d share my experiences…..

Posted by david on August 24, 2004 at 1:16 PM (CDT)


I bought a 20gig 4G online at Apple.com at the end of July.  I don’t experience this problem though

Posted by TK on August 24, 2004 at 5:46 PM (CDT)


Absolutly no problem here.

Posted by Fine on August 24, 2004 at 6:04 PM (CDT)


Just an update:  I took my 4g 40 gigger back today and got a new one…it’s fine.  So obviously there is a quality issue with some of the new 4g’s that are trickling out nowdays.

Posted by Scott on August 24, 2004 at 7:56 PM (CDT)


I hear the whirling noise and static almost everytime I play a song. This is my 1st ipod(20GB) and I assumed the sound was normal being the 4th generation.

Posted by Dan on August 24, 2004 at 8:45 PM (CDT)


Hey guys, me and my roommate had a problem with the 4G where we can hear static through the earphones before the start of a song only when using non-stock earphones. Is this a defect? Or is it just how it is? Thanks.

Posted by speedybluedragon on August 24, 2004 at 9:34 PM (CDT)


I had this problem with my 40 gb 3g IPOD.  After I experience this for a prolonged period of time my headphones that apple supplied me with died and since I’ve received the new headphones from them I have not had a problem with it.

Posted by Jason on August 24, 2004 at 9:34 PM (CDT)


oh one more thing, my earphones do not make any contact with the metal portion of the ipod, so it’s not a short which is causing the static. Also the static can only be heard from the left side. Thanks again.

Posted by speedybluedragon on August 24, 2004 at 9:36 PM (CDT)


20gb had static in the left channel when using the wheel to move the volume up/down.  Most noticeable while using the supplied buds.  Seinheiser’s had less, but still apparent.  Returned to Amazon, now waiting for a replacement from a “amazon 3rd party” seller.  Appears that Amazon has possibly given up on taking a loss on the latest Apple ipod products.

Posted by zeram1 on August 24, 2004 at 10:17 PM (CDT)


Extensive testing tonight with three generations of iPods, including my whine/static affected 4G/40 revealed—conclusively—that metal-to-metal contact between the mini-plug and iPod case is the culprit. There is, however,  an unexpected twist to that conclusion—but let’s begin with the equipment used for these tests:

Three iPods: 1G/10, 3G/40 and a 4G/40. The music on both the 1G and 3G is mp3 encoded, so I had to switch from album to album to test for the noise. My 4G/40 is all Apple Lossless, so song-to-song switching was enough. Critical design difference to be noted: on the 1G, the area of contact at the headphone jack is all plastic. On both the 3G and 4G (which appear to be identical, or very close to it), the contact area surrounding the headphone jack is metal,

Five different headphones/earbuds. Three of them had plastic contact areas surrounding the mini-pin: Apple ‘buds, Koss Porta-Pro and Sennheiser HD 580. Two of them had metal contact areas: Sennheiser PX-100 and Etymotic ER-4P. Here are the test results for each iPod:

1G/10 (plastic contact area around ‘phone jack): I could not reproduce the whine/static noise with any ‘phone or ‘bud, no matter how many times I tried.

3G/40 (metal contact area around ‘phone jack): No whine/static noise using any of the three phones/buds with plastic contact areas. Consistent whine/static noise—reproduceable every single time—with the ER-4P. And, if I pulled back on the plug just a bit so the metal contact area wasn’t touching the case, the whine/static noise was gone. Once again, this result was reproduceable every single time. So, it’s the metal-to-metal contact, right? Not quite. Here’s the twist—I could not hear the noise a single time in repeated tests with the Sennheiser PX-100, which also has a metal contact area, though not gold plated like the ER-4P

4G/40 (metal contact area around ‘phone jack): The results were absolutely identical to those of the 3G/40. Even the whine/static noise sounded exactly the same, including its volume. 


Posted by Charles on August 24, 2004 at 10:33 PM (CDT)



My conclusions:

1) This is not a 4G-specific problem—I consistently heard the identical problem in the 3G.
2) Metal-to-metal contact is the culprit, but not all ‘phones or buds with metal contact areas will produce the problem. How is that possible? It may have something to do with the way a specific ‘phone or earbud is wired. It may have something to do with the electrical conductivity of the specific metal used in the contact area of the ‘phone or bud. I just don’t know.

3) You can hear the noise consistently with the ER-4P—and just as consistently you can eliminate the noise by pulling the mini-pin out just a hair, which breaks the contact.

I hope these tests will help to shed additional light on the causes of this problem.

Posted by Charles on August 24, 2004 at 10:34 PM (CDT)


i’ve had the audio defect from the start.. but i got mine laser engraved, so i don’t know if and how i can get mine exchanged. has anybody tried exchanging a defective ipod that was engraved?

my girlfriend has a mini ipod with an ingraving and it had a defect. what you have to do is get a certain website that you need to go to. to get this, just call the apple store and they should have it.  the website will have u fill out all of this information, and within a week they will send u a box to send ur ipod back to the factory in.

hope i was some help. good luck.

Posted by mat on August 25, 2004 at 1:06 AM (CDT)


Just verified on my 4G 20Gb iPod: I don’t seem to have this problem (phew). I don’t know if this is of any use: my iPod was bought yesterday at the Apple Store in The Grove (Farmers’ Market) Los Angeles.

Good luck guys,

Posted by Alberto R.S. on August 25, 2004 at 1:53 AM (CDT)



I cannot - under any circumstance - reproduce your results.  Isolating the headphones does not eliminate my hard drive access noises.  I am glad that you can eliminate your problem, but your “conclusive” results do not work for everyone.  I continue to wonder if there are 2 different problems that we are all combining in this discussion.

I have completely isolated the headphone jack from the metal of the iPod and it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever.

I have tested it by pulling the jack away a bit, and by using electrical tape to cover the metal of the jack.

I have used the following eqpt:
(3) different 4G 40GB iPods
(2) 2 different 4G 20GB iPods
Sony MDR-EX71
Etymotics ER-4P
Shure E5c

I did note that each iPod had a slightly different levels of the hard drive whine sound.  Also, some of them only had the noise in one channel (the left).  I could also measure the differences with a spectrum analyzer.


Posted by BRanger on August 25, 2004 at 8:21 AM (CDT)


I have a 4g 40gig with that issue. It is a very faint sound with the standard earbuds, but when i use my Shure e3c’, I hear loud and clear.
When will Apple fix this issue, which 1/2 issues I have with it. The other issue is its uncanny ability to pause in a middle of a song for no reason.

Posted by frogfat on August 25, 2004 at 1:15 PM (CDT)


I retract my earlier comments.  After receiving my 4G 20GB today, I haven’t had any problems, nothing like that of my powerbook output.  I only hear the faintest hard drive spin.  No static caused by the headphone jack either.  I do have a question, the volume is supposed to click when you adjust it right?  I am using E2cs and I haven’t had any problems.

Posted by vickbabu on August 25, 2004 at 2:57 PM (CDT)


I have a 3G 20GB.  I get this shrieking shrill of a noise when tunes spool-up.  It’s extremely annoying (especially for a $300 product).  I hear it through my computer speakers, ear buds, and iTrip (Griffin FM modulator). I actually returned my unit to Apple 2 months after I purchased it and they returned it to me and said “the noise levels were within acceptable limits” according to Apple standards.  For those of you who are testing your units, test through the headphone jack.  This problem does not occur by playing through docking port.  Apparently the decoding happens outside the unit (i.e. via iTunes) when played from this direction.

Posted by harry on August 25, 2004 at 3:08 PM (CDT)


I guess if Apple considers the hard drive noise to be “normal” then I won’t be an iPod owner after all.  I was pretty excited about it, but I refuse to pay $400 for something with this problem.  I have a week or so before my money back period expires so I’ll give it a few more days then return it.  Maybe it’s time to look for a better alternative if Apple wishes to maintain silence.

Not good for Apple…  If this was my first Apple purchase I definitely wouldn’t own a new PowerBook right now.


Posted by BRanger on August 25, 2004 at 3:45 PM (CDT)


Um… Why is this such a big issue?  Aren’t we exaggerating a bit?

Posted by Joe on August 25, 2004 at 4:36 PM (CDT)


Well, I use the lossless codec so I even get to hear the hard drive access noise very frequently.  And yes, with the Shure E5c you can hear the squeal noise quite clearly.  I would image as you move to better and better phones that it becomes that much more annoying. 

I feel lucky that my current iPod only does it on the left side.  The last one I had was on both sides, and even louder than this one.

I do not feel it is acceptable at all.  If I had paid $100 for the devide I might be more forgiving, but at $400 I am not.  Besides, I did not invest in nice headphones just so I could listen to high-pitched squeals.

I will most certainly move on to another manufacturer’s product if Apple doesn’t fix this soon.


Posted by BRanger on August 25, 2004 at 5:46 PM (CDT)


You know… I was hoping that this issue was blown WAY out of proportion when I ordered my 4G iPod.

Alas - my 40GB iPod arrived the other day and, guess what, evil static comes through the headphones (Sony MDR-D77 and Sony MDR-EX71) when doing disk accesses.

Gah.  This is my first iPod, and I’m very pleased with it overall, but it’s just a bit, well, disappointing when this happens, eh?

I think I’m going to wait this one out until Apple sort the issue, then I’ll return my faulty unit.

Posted by StanYau on August 26, 2004 at 4:09 AM (CDT)


I’m in the UK so mine shipped from Holland and my Ipod does not exhibit any signs of this audio problem

Posted by Kwan_G4 in Derby, UK on August 26, 2004 at 5:28 AM (CDT)


My 40GB 4G iPod doesn’t show any of the audio problems described on this site. I tested it with the supplied earphones as well as my Sony Studio headphones and couldn’t hear static noise with MP3, AAC and Apple Lossless files. It seems that I’m very lucky! I bought the iPod a few days ago in Germany.

Posted by Andy on August 26, 2004 at 6:17 AM (CDT)


It seems this issue can be FIXED by Apple, if you send your iPod back ! I’ve returned my iPod to Apple, in Holland (i’m from France) and i’ve check the status of the repair : it says “Original Product returned”... It means my iPod has been REPAIRED, and send back to me.

So, it seems Apple is able to fix this audio issue !


More infos, when i got my iPod back (tomorrow)

See’ya ! ;-)

Posted by NiCO on August 26, 2004 at 10:09 AM (CDT)


I use Etys and notice this whirring and static but it is intermittent and seems to be song-specific. Can this be? Anyone else have it happen in this manner?

Also, if purchased via Apple, is it appropriate to attempt an exchange at an Apple store?

Posted by G from Seattle on August 26, 2004 at 10:23 AM (CDT)


My 4G 20gb has not showed signs of this. However, I do not use the Lossless encoding. I either enjoy my music at aac and mp3 or if I am recording and want clearer sound I go for the fullness of WAV. With those three: no problems here. I probably won’t even try the lossless. No need.

Posted by curt on August 26, 2004 at 10:38 AM (CDT)


My iPod exhibits this problem only when using my iTrip.  I can actually hear the noise playing over my car speakers.  I don’t have the problem with the iPod headphones or my Shure E3Cs.

Posted by joelmole on August 26, 2004 at 10:45 AM (CDT)


No problem with Shure e3c’s and yes with Senn PX200’s, which have a jutting metal bottom, as opposed to e3c’s, which have a metal bottom encapsulated in plastic.  Still don’t think its a big deal either way.

Posted by Joe on August 26, 2004 at 3:58 PM (CDT)


I bought 4G 20GB iPod from Apple Store,Japan(online).I could hear ‘hard disk-like whirring sound’ in left earphone and the other day I brought my iPod to Apple Store,Ginza’s Genius Bar.After all,I and genius couldn’t hear the noise there,he gave me a new earphone.But I can still hear noises in left earphone.Yesterday,I decided to send iPod to ‘iPod Service’.

Posted by TAKESHI on August 26, 2004 at 4:37 PM (CDT)


Bad news for me.  My first 4G 40GB had the “whirring” sound through my Etymotic 4Ps, not the static problem reported elsewhre; returned to AppleCare and replacement for new unit was made.  Replacement unit has the static issue!  Unacceptable for a $399 product with the Apple logo on it.  I’m going to wait out a few more months before returning this one.

Posted by John on August 26, 2004 at 5:53 PM (CDT)


40GB, 4th gen iPod from Best Buy in SF Bay Area. No Problem over 2 weeks. iPod earbuds and Bose QuietComfort = Both OK, no audio defect.

Posted by Tim in SF on August 26, 2004 at 5:53 PM (CDT)


I got my engraved 40Gb Ipod4 Direct from Apple UK, after always using Sony ATRAC Memory stick Devices, It appears I have this “audio fault” I had asumed the initial whirr and static was a trade off with using HD rather than a form of flash media, and if I hadnt read this article with no prior pod knowledge I really wouldnt have made it too big an issue, but the only way I can imagine it would bother would bother you is if you want to skip tracks every 20 seconds, however it would appear this trait is not common to the Ipod family and I will be definately be sending it back until I get one without this error.

Posted by squee in UK on August 26, 2004 at 6:18 PM (CDT)


Mine has the same problem, but I’d hardly call it “subtle”.  Yeah, it’s not louder than my music, but it’s loud enough that I can’t imagine *not* noticing it (I noticed it before reading about it here).  Maybe some units are affected more drastically than others ...

Also, is the secondary whine (after the “ramp-up” noise) staticy to you all?  To me, it’s a pretty clear whine that lasts 2-3 seconds into the tune.

4G 40 GB iPod from Shanghai (with a 2-day layover in export controls).

Posted by Jet Tredmont on August 26, 2004 at 6:41 PM (CDT)


<<has anybody tried exchanging a defective ipod that was engraved?>>
posted by John

I have (because of another defect, not this issue)—there’s no problem with it ... they will engrave a new iPod and send it to you if that’s what it takes

Posted by nyorker on August 26, 2004 at 9:18 PM (CDT)


Sigh, just when I was about to buy one as well :(
I bought a Palm Tungsten when it just came out and had a small problem which I returned only for it to be sent back again.
So there’s no way I’m buying a new Ipod until Apple sorts it out. Great to see a site that’s not blind to the product it’s based upon.

Posted by Dom on August 26, 2004 at 9:56 PM (CDT)


Just bought one 5 minutes ago off the web site, now i read this. darn!

Posted by Dennis on August 27, 2004 at 12:18 AM (CDT)


Is it me. Or do all the 4G’s appear to have the problem just in varying degree’s of severity. We have tried 3 4G 40GB. 2 noticeably had it the 3rd one had it very slightly. Im betting loads/most people won’t ever notice unless someone pointed it out to them. And all these people saying that there 4G IPOD is fine, should make sure they are trying it with other head phones (i.e not the apple ones). Surely we are rapidly approaching the point when Apple should be making an offical comment.

Posted by Sav Man on August 27, 2004 at 2:55 AM (CDT)


Okay…. If this default is slightly, Apple why probably not exchange your unit !
They don’t repair it, and just send your iPod back, same default !


If your about to buy a iPod, then go to buy a iRiver ! Much Much better quality !

Posted by NiCO on August 27, 2004 at 3:32 AM (CDT)


Hey, just got mine today.  Mine has the problem, but if it wasn’t for ipodlounge.com, I would definately not have noticed.  It is so subtle that you’d need to listen in carefully to notice it.  I think this whole thing is a bit exaggerated (well at least for me it is).  Go do yourself a favour and get the iPod.

Posted by Milche on August 27, 2004 at 3:42 AM (CDT)

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