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 recently bought a 40GB 4G iPod from CompUSA, and it has this defect.  I hope Apple addresses this issue, considering what they charge for these things.

Posted by Dan on September 9, 2004 at 9:11 PM (CDT)


Mine is one month old and I never noticed a problem. I tested with lossless files and ipod buds (shifting between files 15 - 20 min long) and still did not hear anything.  Then I switched to some AAC files and put on my SonyV-6 headphones, shifted between 20 min files and DID hear whirring and static - only for a millisecond.  On one switch I got a distinct click, but it never continued once the music started playing. I guess I should just consider myself lucky and leave it at that.

Posted by mackb15 in TN on September 9, 2004 at 10:36 PM (CDT)


I have 4G 20gb ipod. purchased last week.

when I put it on shuffle I occassionally get a
high pitched “brrrrrpp” noise between tracks. This doesn’t happen all the time. but about 1 in 5…

can anyone help me with this.  Thanks

Posted by Euan on September 10, 2004 at 12:47 AM (CDT)


I got the 40G 4th gen engraved version.  Mine had the problem.  I sent in in on the 2nd, got a new one on the 7th and the problem is gone.

One other problem also dissapeared:  The contrast control barely worked before, but now it goes to both extremes.

Posted by wck on September 10, 2004 at 4:56 AM (CDT)


Bought my 40g the day the 4G was launched. This defect is evident from day 1. Not noticable unlless you skip a few songs, so suppose I can live with it for now

Posted by Lee Caddick on September 10, 2004 at 8:45 AM (CDT)


I first noticed a similar problem when I was listening to my 4g (20g) ipod in the car.  I use the Belkin Auto Kit plugged into my aftermarket stereo.  at first i thought my speakers were blown out because of the static.  But I listened to the ipod with head phones and the static is still there.  I tried importing with various formats and turned on the error correction but that didn’t help.  The imported songs sound fine on my computer.  It really only happens when I listen to one album… i’ll have to listen to more to see if I’m right.

I think hearing the hard drive and hearing the static are two separate problems though.  My iPod is also afflicted with the hard drive sound problem.  It ONLY happens when my iPod is charging and it ONLY happens with third party head phones that touch the aluminum casing of the iPod.  This is why apple’s headphones aren’t affected… since they are purposely made to avoid touching the casing.

I think the best way to test the problem is to set the clicker sound so it comes out of the speaker but not the headphones.  When using apple headphones you will not hear the clicker as you scroll up and down.  Using 3rd party headphones that touch the case will allow you to hear the sound almost perfectly in addition to the hard drive sound.

It sounds like a grounding problem to me… but I’m no audio expert.

Posted by Sage on September 10, 2004 at 12:04 PM (CDT)


i have a 20g 4G iPod, and the sound is very loud with me. It depends on the position of the headphone plug. if pushed all the way in, i can hear everything going on inside the ipod, even the clicks when the clicks are not going through the headphones. if the headphone jack comes out just a bit, there is no sound from the hard drive and my music comes out clearly. it sucks

Posted by eric on September 10, 2004 at 12:45 PM (CDT)


I have a 4G 20gig Ipod.  I have had the static since day 1.  I bought the Best Buy 2 yr warranty with it.  I’ll look into exchanging it this week.

Posted by Mark Marty on September 11, 2004 at 3:50 AM (CDT)


Just received 4G 20GB from Apple. Serial is XX436, so it come off the production line the week before last. No audio problem to report (and no glue around the scroll wheel).

Perhaps Apple have fixed the problem on the QT? Or maybe I just got lucky.

Posted by seantest on September 11, 2004 at 4:46 AM (CDT)


Tested mine and shes good :]

Posted by Marc on September 11, 2004 at 12:16 PM (CDT)


Return my 4G 20gb because my scroll wheel had glue all around it.  Then, my scroll wheel didn’t scroll as much on the right side as it did on the left side which became quite annoying.  I have yet bought another iPod because of the audio noise issue.  I wish we can get some answers or comments from Apple asap!

Posted by Jazzy James on September 11, 2004 at 7:38 PM (CDT)


Hi, I have a 4G, I had no problems with it.

Posted by Bregt on September 12, 2004 at 6:09 AM (CDT)


I dont have this audio problem but I recently got my 4G ipod 40GB and notice after a couple of battery charges. If i leave the ipod and come back to it next day after the charge and not using it once, the battery that was full drops to about half and in about 10 mins the battery bar is empty but it runs for a long time 1hr+. but if i shut it off, it wont turn on till i charge it again. is the battery broke?

Posted by Boy on September 12, 2004 at 1:24 PM (CDT)


My 20G Australian is fine

Posted by Mot1912 on September 13, 2004 at 2:45 AM (CDT)


I’ve had my 20GB 4G ipod since 10/09/2004.  I have not noticed any audio problems as of yet.

Posted by Mike on September 13, 2004 at 5:18 AM (CDT)


I have had my 40gig 4G iPOD for about 5 weeks now and I have had zero problems with hissing or popping.  I have tested my iPOD on the following devices:

1. inMotion Altec Lansing Speakers (works excellent)

2. Bose Quietcomfort 2 headphones (incredible sound, no hissing)

3.  Apple iPOD included headphones (work good)

4. Apple headphones with included remote (works fine)

5. Apple headphones without remote (work great)

6. Monster iCable connected to JVC input in my vehicle (sounds better than cds)

7. Belkin FM Tunecast II (sounds great)

I love my iPOD!  Thanks to Apple for making a badass product!  :)

Posted by rmfa on September 13, 2004 at 9:20 AM (CDT)


I have had my 40gig 4G iPOD for about 5 weeks now and I have had zero problems with hissing or popping. I have tested my iPOD on the following devices:

1. inMotion Altec Lansing Speakers (works excellent)

2. Bose Quietcomfort 2 headphones (incredible sound, no hissing)

3. Apple iPOD included headphones (work good)

4. Apple headphones with included remote (works fine)

5. Apple headphones without remote (work great)

6. Monster iCable connected to JVC input in my vehicle (sounds better than cds)

7. Belkin FM Tunecast II (sounds great)

I love my iPOD! Thanks to Apple for making a badass product! :)

(this post was made my rmfa, NOT mike.  I don’t even know who that is.  The preview part of this board doesn’t work right.

Posted by rmfa on September 13, 2004 at 9:21 AM (CDT)


40 gig ipod. light static out of the left ear. exchanged for a new one (best buy) within the 30 days. all is now good.

Posted by robotoil on September 13, 2004 at 1:54 PM (CDT)


i’ve got the 40 gig, and it has the whirring in the ear bud from the hard drive. i don’t notice a static issue aside from the initial pop when i turn the thing on. it’s annoying, but i can live with it.

Posted by dburke on September 13, 2004 at 3:38 PM (CDT)


Got my new 40gb 4g iPod a couple days ago and it operates fine—no sign of the audio defect. Whew!

Posted by chashulme in Southern California on September 13, 2004 at 4:43 PM (CDT)


Looks to me as if Apple may have fixed this one on the sly?  People seem to be reporting more success over these past two weeks…

Personally - when I bought the 4G 40GB iPod last month (online from the UK Apple Store), it definitely exhibited the problem - moderate static when picking albums at random (on 128K AAC).  Got loud enough at times to obscure quieter tracks during the first few seconds of play!  Serial number of that unit started JQ431.

I returned the iPod at the end of last month, and I got a brand-new replacement through the post yesterday.  Defect issue has totally disappeared.  Serial number starts JQ435.

Posted by StanYau on September 14, 2004 at 3:21 AM (CDT)


I’m not sure if this is the same problem, but I just got a 4gen ipod free (guess how) but the point is that sometimes when i play songs, I hear a tiny bit of static, but for like a fraction of a second before the song even plays, not the 2-3 seconds that some people claim to hear, is this the same issue?

Posted by Poisonjam on September 14, 2004 at 6:58 AM (CDT)


A follow up post to one posted on the 7th on this thread.

Recieved a reply from amazon today (14th) after send it away on 4th.

‘I would like to apologise for the condition in which the item New
Apple iPod 20GB with Click Wheel - 4th Generation M9282B/A arrived. I
have placed a new order 025-0003667-9558741 for that item. There will
of course be no additional charge for this replacement order.This new
order is set to be delivered to the same delivery address’.

I’m a bit happier now, i’m just praying the new one doesn’t have the same problems.

Posted by Rufio(UK) on September 14, 2004 at 8:33 AM (CDT)


I am on my fourth 4g iPod, the HDD noise on the first and third was very obviously, anybody in any setting with regular headphones could hear it.

My second and fourth iPods had a very minor noise problem. It happens with HDD access, but it’s very minor and it occurs at the left channel. With tracks that require HDD access during playback, I can hear the noise during the song, but it require relatively quiet ennvironment and high quality headphones.

I am going to wait til they fix the problem to replace my iPod again. I am starting to believe this is as good as it gets with 4g ipod, until they silently fix the problem.

Posted by ayn on September 14, 2004 at 10:19 AM (CDT)


Had it for 3 days no problem best thing i ever purchased

Posted by rob on September 14, 2004 at 4:48 PM (CDT)


Just got a 4G 20 gig here in Taiwan today, part # M9282TA/A. It’s got the problem; I’m using Shure E3’s. I can rotate the headphone jack and then the noise will disappear but what good is that.

Posted by Gary on September 15, 2004 at 5:03 AM (CDT)


I received my 20gig 4G directly from Shanghai today and I don’t have the audio problem, things work great, and as far as the old “yellow glue” issue on the iPod and screen, that’s also old news.  Buy with confidence!

Posted by Simon on September 15, 2004 at 6:57 PM (CDT)



P.S - Is it fixed yet?


Posted by Jody on September 15, 2004 at 10:34 PM (CDT)


I’ve noticed the problem w/ both my 3G and 4G 40 giggers. What’s weird is the static is present in the same place on the same tracks in my iTunes library so makes me think this is some other issue - or perhaps the glitch appears during the iPod sync or theimportation of the track itself off CD? 99.9% of the time it will affect the first track on a CD. I’m rpping in AAC format at 128kbs - have since enable the “parity” option in iTunes for “improved audio quality” Anyone else notice the static scratch in iTunes?

Posted by Scott on September 16, 2004 at 1:46 PM (CDT)


Compre un ipod G4 en EUA y no tengo ese problema, creo que es una calumnia lo que estan diciendo del G4, ya que nadie a experimenatdo ningun problema.

Posted by ivan parra on September 16, 2004 at 2:59 PM (CDT)


No problem here. Got a 40Gb 4G iPod from Amazon yesterday (model M9268LL/A) and I hear no static or anything between songs when switching back and forth in lossless mode. Serial number begins JQ435.

Perhaps the issue has been resolved in newer versions?

Posted by Andrew on September 16, 2004 at 8:47 PM (CDT)


I haven’t tried to record it but I visually represented it on the PC using a spectrum analyzer program.  You could quite easily measure the sound level changes and the particular frequencies that were affected.


Posted by BRanger on September 17, 2004 at 7:20 AM (CDT)


thanks for the comments, i was about to buy a 4g 20gig but i think i will wait now.

Posted by Ben on September 17, 2004 at 11:45 PM (CDT)


Got a brand new 40g iPod directy from Apple - no problems so far…

Posted by McTobi on September 18, 2004 at 6:01 AM (CDT)


someone should test a “faulty” unit theough the line out on the dock. this would help isolate the problem, and maybe help find a solution. if there was no issue through the dock then we know that the problem lies with the headphone jack.

Posted by natericho on September 18, 2004 at 6:32 AM (CDT)


I purchased a 4G i-pod oblivious to word of any defect surrounding it’s abillities. It took me a few days to notice there was something not quite right as i could hear another noise in conjunction with the music track. Until i read this article i had put it down to poor audio quallity or blown headphones.
However i am glad to have found a diagnosis for this irritating problem. For those people who aren’t sticklers for good sound you probably wouldn’t notice, but i intend to return the defective unit tomorrow.

- A. Reid - Australia

Posted by Ali on September 18, 2004 at 6:55 AM (CDT)


I have a new 4G 40gig ipod, my second (the first had the standard hard-drive defect) that seems to have a slightly different defect.  When ever the hard drive is accessed, a sharp, high pitched tone (whistle, whine? It’s hard to describe) is heard in the headphones.  Although it’s not that audible during rock, it is unbearably disturbing while listening to some classiclal recordings that are very low volume such as solo piano or a capella vocals.  Has anyone experienced this?  Some have suggested that it’s a feedback problem caused by the interface of the metal headphone plug coming into contact with the metal sides of the ipod.  All attempts to insulate the plug from the ipod’s metal casing have resulted only in diminishing the volume of the whine, not eliminating it.  There is also some very low volume static apparent in the left headphone only.  I will be returning the         ipod as soon as I have the time, but I am very discouraged at this point because when talking to Ipod support, they “don’t know about any problems with the ipod,” and also have let slip that many of the ipods that you get when you do an exchange are “repaired” rather than new units.  It’s enough to send me running from apple permanently.

Posted by BA on September 18, 2004 at 12:11 PM (CDT)


I just bought a 4G 20GB iPod yesterday from my local Apple retail store. Everything is fine no noises or anything. I love it

Posted by IJustGotMyFirstiPod on September 18, 2004 at 3:29 PM (CDT)


bought my 4G 20GB the day they were released.  Can’t hear any problem

Posted by Cole on September 18, 2004 at 7:33 PM (CDT)


My 20 gig 4G has a defect, but it’s not having to do with the audio defect.  My battery is a dud.  It will charge to capacity, but won’t retain a charge for more than an hour, on or off.  And I live overseas… so apple can’t help me, even though I bought my ipod from a US vendor online.  Downside of being in the US military overseas…

Posted by alex on September 18, 2004 at 8:41 PM (CDT)


The newest models are designed to pause if the headphones are pulled out of the socket. To do this, there must be either a mechanical switch at the base of the socket, or an electrical current running through the headphones somehow, analogous to a carrier signal - if the headphones are pulled out, the current is broken, and the player registers this and pauses. Using an electric current would be neater and probably be Apple’s solution, and this may be the cause of the static and hard drive hum, in some way. I’m a materials engineer, not an electrical one, so I can’t explain it further than that. Oh yes: I have a 3G, and I’m sticking to that because I like it’s style.

Posted by Sentinel on September 19, 2004 at 2:05 AM (CDT)


Just one question, to all those who have “defective” iPods: Can you hear those noises even when connecting the iPod to a Hi-fi system via the Dock’s line out??

Posted by Mainyehc on September 19, 2004 at 9:01 AM (CDT)


My 4G 40GB has the problem.  I noticed it immediately and just thought it was part of Apple’s design.

Posted by Todd on September 19, 2004 at 11:54 AM (CDT)


(new member here, first post!)
just got my 4G 40GB. I have been put off by these audio problems but could not wait any longer…
I have been playing with for a couple of days now: no audio problem so far, no glue/residue on the click-wheel.
I tried with the Apple earphones and a couple of other ones (Philips, Koss).
Plug question: I would assume that it is easy for the analog part of the IC to monitor the current/impedance of whatever is connected
Dock question: maybe I am wrong: assuming that the iPod interacts digitally through its Fi-Wi connector with the dock, it means that the DAC is in the dock. If so, I would imagine that the whine/defect will not be present

Posted by Audiphil on September 19, 2004 at 12:02 PM (CDT)


It plain stinks that Apple won’t comment, but not at all surprising. If they admitted a problem they’d be obligated to fix every defective unit at considerable expense. By claiming ignorance or not admiting anything they can fix the units of those who complain, while hoping that the majority of purchasers don’t notice.

Apple did the same thing with the Mini problem. Months later they STILL haven’t admitted anything about the Mini. For those waiting for Apple to own up and make an official statement, it ain’t gonna happen. If anything, they may quietly correct the 4G problem the way some people think they did with the Mini.

Posted by Steve Ino on September 19, 2004 at 7:58 PM (CDT)



The fourth time’s a charm… this time I went to an apple store to get my replacement.  I unfortunately didn’t get to listen to the new ipod before taking it home, but lo and behold—it does not have the audio defect.  While it was a huge hassle, the time and work put in to get a fully functional ipod was worth it. 

I think that now I can say I’m happy with my purchase, but man, apple needs to get a handle on the manufacturing process / quality control of these things.

So—be persistent.  And try the apple store rather than mailing it in, if possible.

Posted by MJB on September 19, 2004 at 8:38 PM (CDT)


4G 20g assembled in china

has the whirrl sound, and overlapped with the first second of a song.  Same sound coming out when connected to an Amp.

I’m now an unsatisfied ipod customer.

Posted by jacob on September 19, 2004 at 8:53 PM (CDT)


Just tested mine and it doesn’t have the defect.

Posted by Chris U. in Leesburg, GA, U.S.A. on September 19, 2004 at 9:59 PM (CDT)


I just received a 40G 4G iPod and I do hear a high pitch noise for a few seconds through the earbuds (or whatever else I may be plugged in to).  However, it seems to do it only when I skip ahead a few songs or switch to a song that was not coming up in the next few songs or so.  Has anyone with this issue had theirs replaced?

Posted by revelator on September 19, 2004 at 10:20 PM (CDT)


My situation is slightly different, I only hear the classic problem (static, whirring) when using the line out PocketDock, NOT the docking stand line out.  No problem with and phones from the phone out.  All files are lossless encoded.  I have also notice some similar static at the very beginning of some tracks when playing lossless files from my computer (USB to Roland interface to DAC to headphone amp).  Anyone else noticed this???

Posted by bearwise on September 19, 2004 at 11:36 PM (CDT)


Ive had my 4g 20gb ipod for a couple weeks now and have not had any problems.

Posted by Nam on September 20, 2004 at 12:14 AM (CDT)


I got my ipod+hp yesterday. i just ran the “lossless” test. thank god, the ipod works without any static. what a relieve. i just need to get used to itune instead of musicmatch.

Posted by bootyup in ohio on September 20, 2004 at 6:32 PM (CDT)


Hi -
Just encountered this thread, so I ran the test on my iPod G4, 40GB - serial number beginning JQ435 which was delivered on August 30, 2004.

No sign of the problem - I loaded an Apple Lossless import of Jeff Buckley’s Grace (remastered version) - ran tracks back and forth frequently, and well beyond what I would ever do in a “real world” situation. Tracks jump from one to another immediately, no pause, no static.

I’ve only run the test with the supplied Apple earbuds.


Posted by skeletonpete on September 20, 2004 at 7:37 PM (CDT)


I’ve definaetly heard it every day and thought I was just going crazy or it was similar to the effect you get when holding a seashell up to your ear, as i tried to rationalize.

good thing i got a 2 year bestbuy replacement plan. I’ll probably wait til apple at least addresses the issue, since i don’t really need mine replaced yet, even though the screen got burned in from running the hard drive for too long (i use usb1 for transfers).

i don’t notice the whirring all of the time though, and yes its definately through the earphones.

stats: 4th gen 20gb

Posted by duck on September 21, 2004 at 11:13 AM (CDT)


i just got off the phone with an apple authorized retailer store and they said if i was not happy with it, or found a problem with it, i could return it to them in 20 days, and they would replace it or credit me back my funds, or if i did not, the apple 1 year warranty would kick in and mfg would take responsibility to replace it at apples discretion or fix it.

then i called Apple directly, and they sort of said the same thing.. The person i spoke to over there said they had never heard of anything like this, did not know this problem existed, so i told her this link to ipodlounge.com and told her to go look it up.. then she said if i ever had a “defect’ i could always return it… 

i guess ill go and make the purchase and if i am unable to get one without this issue ill just get my money back from the retailer, and wait till apple fixes it.

Posted by Mark on September 21, 2004 at 2:37 PM (CDT)


Hi All,

I do believe the problem, to a great extent, lies with the plug on the listing device used. My 4g 40g has the problem big time with my ER4P’s (large metal end), however with my A8’s (no large metal end) from B&O the problem dissapears. Looks like Britbonic and freak_tj have it correct. The contact with the case is the problem at least in my cases. A piece of paper butween the plug and the case on my ER 4P’s eleiminates most of the problem. Just push the plug through the paper and see if it make a difference. A thicker insulator may eliminate the problem completely.

I’d like to know if this fixes the problem for others out there.

Posted by tgiadp on September 21, 2004 at 4:35 PM (CDT)


Hi All,

I do believe the problem, to a great extent, lies with the plug on the listing device used. My 4g 40g has the problem big time with my ER4P’s (large metal end), however with my A8’s (no large metal end) from B&O the problem dissapears. Looks like Britbonic and freak_tj have it correct. The contact with the case is the problem at least in my cases. A piece of paper butween the plug and the case on my ER 4P’s eleiminates most of the problem. Just push the plug through the paper and see if it make a difference. A thicker insulator may eliminate the problem completely.

I’d like to know if this fixes the problem for others out there.

Posted by tgiadp on September 21, 2004 at 4:35 PM (CDT)


I have a Sonnet PodFreq and a new 4G 40 gig, and I can hear this whirring noise when the hard drive is searching, coming through the car stereo, which means it is coming through the line out connection in the dock. It is not a problem while driving, I can only hear it if the car is not running, as it is at a low level, but still, it should not be there. This is my first iPod, and I love it, but I do hope Apple finds a solution to this annoyance.

Posted by Dave on September 22, 2004 at 8:24 PM (CDT)


Bought my 4G 40GB from Digilife (Apple reseller in Perth) No problems here.

Posted by Christian on September 23, 2004 at 5:01 AM (CDT)



Posted by laurn on September 24, 2004 at 1:21 AM (CDT)


I tested my 4G from CompUSA today and it has the same problem. It was not noticable on the ipod headphones, but when I switched to my Sennheiser headphones (which does have a metal pin and collar), it was loud and obnoxious. Now, I have to decide whether to keep the headphone pin pulled out slightly to avoid the sound or take it back. I can’t think that another 4g would be any different, unless the little plastic collar in the unit was raised slightly to prevent the metal case of the ipod from touching the metal collar on the headphones. Thanks for the heads up.

Posted by Chad on September 24, 2004 at 7:19 AM (CDT)


I just got a 40gb 4g shipped from china, it dont have the defect.
It seems to be faultless atm.
Perhaps by now apple has corrected the problems.

Posted by Rich on September 24, 2004 at 4:01 PM (CDT)


I have a 40 gig which is 24 days old, and has already been into apple service.  I has all the problems explained above, quite loudly at times.  If the back of metal case is tapped in the right place sometimes it stops.  After the ipod was returned from service, the unit is not as loud as before, but still makes the noises.  Apple said they did not find anything wrong with the unit and just reset the software (re initialized the drive) and sent it back,  I guess it will have to be returned again….

Posted by tony on September 24, 2004 at 6:57 PM (CDT)


This is rediclous, I tried it with my friends who had ipods with the same songs for 30min, some of us had 3g and other had 4g, all different sizes bought at different times, none of us (24people) could hear it through the headphones. You can hear the HDD through the case occasnially, but that is expected. I think that alot of people are ‘hearing’ things because of this article. I do hope Apple has a press release about this problem, if one person has it, they should address it.

Posted by Derek on September 24, 2004 at 7:18 PM (CDT)


Received my hp ipod 4g 20 gb two days ago.  I have tested it thoroughly and no defect in audio.  Used multiple ear buds and various audio files.

Posted by Geckobros on September 25, 2004 at 12:06 AM (CDT)


I recently bought a 4G 20gb iPod off the Apple Website.  I tested it using my Sennheisers and my earbuds.  I hear no problems, the unit works great.

Posted by Sammyboy on September 25, 2004 at 10:33 AM (CDT)


I replicated this audio problem on a 3G iPod (yes, the one with the light-up buttons above the scroll wheel).  Metal from either the headphones or headphones extension cord touching the bare metal of the top of the iPod is what is causing this problem.  When I removed the headphone extension cord being used (which had metal protruding down below where the plastic stops and before the mini-plug itself begins) and plugged headphones in directly, the problem stopped immediately.  I repeat:  the high-pitched whine of the hard drive & static noise for a few seconds WERE REPLICATED ON THE 3G iPOD.  This is NOT a problem unique to the 4G click-wheel iPod nor can I see how it can be a defect of internal hardware manufacturing.  To avoid the problem with using a 3rd party (non-Apple) set of headphones or headphone extension cord, make sure there is a noticeable gap of space between the top of the mini-plug and the iPod when fully plugged in.

Posted by bjbear71 on September 26, 2004 at 4:05 AM (CDT)


I have noticed something with the headphones that came with the iPod they dont seem to sit flush with the iPod as if the plug is longer, but instead apple has put a small rubber ring around the top of the headphones, so they dont touch the bottom of the socket which is where the problem exists. so it seems they are covering themselfs from returns.
Although my iPod doesnt have the fault with different phones inserted, i still think its a cheap fix for a major issue.
Also the overall quality of the earphones seems to have been reduced as they feel more hollow somehow.

Posted by Rich on September 26, 2004 at 10:54 AM (CDT)


I recently bought the 20 Gig HP Ipod from buy.com and do not have tihs issue.

Posted by PowerDF in Denver on September 26, 2004 at 1:06 PM (CDT)


Got my 40G last Thursday. Very pleased to say mine if absolutely fine. So was my mates who got his a few weeks ago.

VERY very pleased with my new toy :0)

Posted by Roly in UK on September 26, 2004 at 2:05 PM (CDT)


Just ordered my engraved 20gb 4th gen. Phoned apple first to check, and they agreed if there’s the audio fault they’ll take it back and give me a new one. I’ll update whether it has the fault, and what happens if so in a couple of weeks.

Posted by Blake on September 27, 2004 at 12:06 PM (CDT)


Well, I’m on my third iPod in three days.  Each one has the defect.  I’m not sure if I can bring myself to go back to the store again. 

I’m sure they think I’m crazy.  And I’m a little tired of wasting my time going back to the store and waiting for an appointment at their so-called genius bar for someone to listen and say well, I’m not sure if I hear what you’re hearing - but hey - since you’ve already wasted another night of your life why don’t we exchange it for you?

I know they don’t want to see me again - which makes me feel guilty…but why should I feel bad?

Anyone else have to go back multiple times?

Posted by sparkle in NH on September 28, 2004 at 6:34 AM (CDT)


Anyone a lawyer?  How about a class action lawsuit?


Posted by Littlehorn on September 28, 2004 at 8:01 AM (CDT)


New iPod 40GB, tested in various configs including dock through Straightwire to Stax headphone amp to Stax SR Lambda electrostatic headphones (bought used a long time ago).

First, the audio out with this setup is stellar, convincing me that any money spent on better portable headphones (e.g. Etymotic) would be rewarded.

Skipping forward on Apple Lossless tracks from Clapton “Unplugged”, I reliably get a short silence after the first few seconds of music, then the music resumes. I also get this in normal use, e.g. near the end of long Grateful Dead tracks. This is buffer underrun, I’d bet it is generic to ALL 4G iPods. We’re talking stone cold silence here, no whirring, clicking.

There are two separate issues here: The brief silence due to buffer underrun, and the electrical cross-talk during the silence. The degree of cross-talk could definitely vary between units, and be proven by RECORDING this defect using line out. I have an Adcom tuner-preamp where one can very faintly hear the radio on other inputs during silence; Adcom tech support very politely laughed this off as within spec, telling me I should have bought separate components if I was that critical.

Under my cross-talk theory, ALL 4G iPods will exhibit this flaw to some degree (mine is stone silent), just as ALL PowerBooks have lousy Airport reception, but some are bad enough to warrant repair.

If this is the case, there’s no point in exchanging my iPod, and there’s no way I’m going back to not having one.

I am perturbed that the iPod is susceptable to buffer underrun in the first place; if this were a pacemaker, it wouldn’t get medical approval until they redesigned it. Think “wind instrument musician” looking away from the score to gulp for air every now and then. I’d rather the conductor would pause while skipping forward to the next piece, so everyone can catch their breath and then play flawlessly, so one could blame hardware OR software here. A $50 CD-R burner manages to write disk after disk without buffer underrun, by asynchronously getting its data. If anyone comes out with a music player that is verifiably immune to these troubles, it will put pressure on Apple’s iPod 5G design… A processor in the same reading group as these CD-R burners would probably both cost more and wear down the battery.

Posted by Dave Bayer on September 28, 2004 at 1:33 PM (CDT)


I hear there is a defect with the battery, mine seems to wear down quick but that might just be me

Posted by Khris on September 28, 2004 at 7:33 PM (CDT)


I’m from Toronto, 20GB 4G…and I love my iPod. Unfortunately this goddam whining happens every 7-8 songs for about 3 seconds at the begginning and its really irritating when i have my songs blasted through speakers and that ringing is hurting my ears. But what can I do now?

Posted by Zach on September 28, 2004 at 8:00 PM (CDT)


Phil is one smart fella, I would like to hear this sound…

I’m from SA, not buying untill apple at least makes a statement!

Posted by paul on September 30, 2004 at 8:32 AM (CDT)


my 4G started having a battery defect.  it would randomly shut off after the charge went lower than 50%.  the genius bar gave me a new one (!) and so far, BOTH have not had this audio defect.

Posted by Exvicious in Schaumburg, IL on September 30, 2004 at 8:46 AM (CDT)


I have a 4G 20 gb.  Mine only has the problem when I have it in the dock and a line out to my stereo.  When listening through headphones only (Apple earbuds or Sony regular headphones), I don’t ever hear it.  I’m not going to bother with it, as it doesn’t bother me that much, unless Apple decides to fix it for free without much ado.

Posted by Chris on September 30, 2004 at 12:32 PM (CDT)


I had planned to buy a 4G 40 gig 2 months ago, but after reading this held off. Will Apple ever fix this problem?

Posted by travis on September 30, 2004 at 1:13 PM (CDT)


For me, I noticed that when I used the Apple Earbuds (which do not fit comfortably for me) that there was no sound.  After reading about how the problem might be related to a short between the metal casing and the headphone jacks, I noticed that the headphones I’ve been using have a metal lip.

So, I tried ripping off a small piece of paper and put a paperclip through it, and then ran that down the headphone jack to create an insulator.  The noise went away - so that appears to be the problem for me.  I’ll see if there are any small gaskets available that would allow me to add this to any other headphones I aquire, rather than relying on a piece of paper.  I guess Saran wrap might work, too.

Is it Apple’s fault if a cheaply made headphone causes listening problems?

Posted by Scott on September 30, 2004 at 1:58 PM (CDT)


I’ve got a 20gb 4g, and it only does this when plugged into power, and it does it with any music file, not just max lossless format. :( :(

Posted by atomicfire on September 30, 2004 at 7:17 PM (CDT)


Have new 4G 20GB (2 weeks old) and I have the problem, though only barely noticeable, so not a disaster. Will keep an ear on it and see how it pans out if Apple start replacing in Australia.

Posted by buffy on September 30, 2004 at 7:32 PM (CDT)


Just bought a 20GB 4G Ipod from a reseller in Australia and it works flawlessly.

Posted by Damien on October 1, 2004 at 4:04 AM (CDT)


Does iPOD+HP has any audio defect?

Posted by nop on October 1, 2004 at 5:37 AM (CDT)


have a 4g 40 giga ipod… can’t hear the problem in the apple earphones, but i do hear the noise when i use the dock connected to a mixing panel… especially when i put up to gain… then i hear the HD reading…
verry phunny…

i guess the ipod should be earthed somehow…

Posted by mutz on October 1, 2004 at 7:47 AM (CDT)


Bought my 4G 20gig iPOD yesterday from Best Buy in Miami, it doesn’t have the problem :D .

Posted by JAC on October 1, 2004 at 4:51 PM (CDT)


Read this article, took a chance and bought a 4G 20Gig last weekend.  Had no problem for 3 days.  Now I hear the exact explanation mentioned in the write-up.  Whirling hard drive with light static.  After a few (4-5 seconds) it goes away.  Not sure what to do from here.  I guess I’ll start with where I got it.  Wish me luck, I’m betting that Apple is just going to ignore the whole thing.  I can’t believe that any company would admit that their product that is selling like “hot cakes

Posted by Matthew on October 1, 2004 at 7:54 PM (CDT)


I got a Shanghai 20G a few weeks ago. No problems with noise at all. Yesterday, I bought a pair of E2c’s, and suddenly the noise was there. I checked out the comments here, and tried lifting the plug out a bit. Noise went away.

The E2c’s have exposed metal at the top of the plug which contacts the iPod’s outer case. At least for the E2c’s, I’d have to agree with the assessment that the problem lies with that contact.

I’d hazard a guess that the iPod has a grounding problem. The unit discussed above that was repaired probably had a bit of copper braid judiciously added to connect the case properly to the innards’ ground plane or something like that. That’s a fairly common problem with electronic devices, but one which is usually caught during development.

Posted by Fred on October 2, 2004 at 12:51 AM (CDT)


Charles -

I tested out your theory.  The problem IS the metal to metal contact.  It doesn’t matter if it is the apple losless or m4a, when I use my (freshly aquired) ER-4p’s, and I press them down so the metal on the jaco is contacting the metal on the ipod case, I hear the noise, regardless of the format used to encode. 

Interesting.  I wonder if I could use one of those dental rubber bands as a gasket in between the two?

Posted by David on October 2, 2004 at 3:12 AM (CDT)


To all you people who suspect the problem is metal to metal contact between the ipod and the headphones can I suggest a thin coat of clear nail varnish to provide the required insulation. This looks a bit more elegant than paper or a gasket and is easily removed.

Posted by Andy on October 2, 2004 at 11:39 AM (CDT)


Would the nail varnish mess with the plastic on the headphone jack, or with the metal at all?

Posted by shooting35mm in Seattle, WA on October 2, 2004 at 1:51 PM (CDT)


my has it. I just switch the clicker to speaker and I don´t heard the static defect
anymore. try it, it works

Posted by giovanni on October 2, 2004 at 2:23 PM (CDT)


I have a 4G-40gig ipod (the second, because the first had the famous defect).  since buying etymotic 4p canalphones I have discovered that the new ipod has a similar but different defect: At the beginning of tracks when the ipod is first turned on and then later at times when hard drive is accessed I get a distinct monitor “feedback” tone in the left phone.  It is usually not too loud, but sometimes it is so apparent that it is painful.  Also, frequently, the headphone plug seems to lose contact with the jack so that only the left phone gets any sound.  After switching headphones, the better the headphone, the more apparent the tone is.  also, the loss of the right phone happens pretty frequently with any headphone.  Is this the same defect or a new one?

Posted by BJ on October 2, 2004 at 2:50 PM (CDT)


I have a relative in the US coming over in a week or so, and i really don’t know if i should get one. Some people say it’s no big deal, some say it’s aggravating.. I’m really confused… I really love iPods but i think im going to get one of those Creative hard-drive based Zens instead.
Apple sold all these devices all over the world and now they go “no comment” on their customers… not playing fair, IMHO.

Posted by Future iPod Buyer on October 3, 2004 at 6:34 AM (CDT)


I received my 20GB iPod (4th gen) last week (Sep 28th). My first reaction was that its the worst sounding portable audio device I have ever bought—totally to the contrary of rave reviews iPod have received. Now I know why…

1. I hope its a defect, because if it is not, it’ll mean the 4th generation iPods are unbuyable period. I am returning mine for sure.

2. I have investigated the issue. Many here have noted that a whirling (vvbbbrrtttsss..sssss.sssss) and unacceptably high hiss level is audible between tracks. That is not exactly true. It is not in between tracks, its always there its just that chances are you can’t hear it when the music is playing. I made two “songs” in wav format that is comprises only silence. And, I can hear it when seekinging between them and while they are playing. The hiss is likely to be more stable (sssstttt) when the songs are playing but occasionally it does blurb up a (vvvrrrttt..ssss) or two.

3. I suspect that its an electrical isolation issue. That somehow the VCC inouts of the Op Amp circuitry (the Wolfson audio chip in this case) is contaminated with an unstable voltage source associated probably with the 1.8” HDD.

4. Good luck and I hope your return policy hasn’t expired!

Posted by Dwight Looi on October 3, 2004 at 11:00 AM (CDT)


BTW, I think this DEFINTELY calls for a product recall if Apple wants to stay ahead in the music player market. You can’t hang your customers out to dry just because their return/exhange policy has expired and/or because they bought it in a counrry where the business culture generally do not support returns and exchanges for products sold (which is most of the world).

Posted by Dwight Looi on October 3, 2004 at 11:06 AM (CDT)


My new 4G has the problem.  I’m not bugged by it at all, though I hate to have any defect in a brand new device for which I paid so much.  If Apple offers a solution, I’ll take them up on it.  But at this point I just don’t have the time and energy to take them on over this.

Posted by Amit on October 3, 2004 at 3:42 PM (CDT)


4g 20gb bought from Best Buy for convienence sake, no issues.

Posted by ArcadeStickMonk on October 3, 2004 at 6:57 PM (CDT)


I just got my 20 gig 4G, and have now tested it. No problems yet…*fingers crossed*

Posted by Ryan on October 4, 2004 at 10:33 PM (CDT)

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