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Exclusive: iPod 4G Audio Problems?

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Monday, July 26, 2004
News Categories: iPod

picIn extended testing of Apple’s new fourth-generation iPods, iLounge has discovered and reported to Apple an apparent manufacturing defect affecting the headphone jacks of certain new iPod hardware. The defect manifests as audible static and noise interference in the earphones that is most prominent whenever a new iPod’s hard disk is accessed. Similar interference was not detectable through line out (Dock Connector) output.

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.

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.

iLounge has confirmed that this interference does not affect all new iPod hardware. Of the three units we purchased for evaluation, both of the 40GB iPods exhibit the same problem, but the 20GB iPod does not. Unfortunately, some new iPod users have reported that the problem exists in their new 20GB iPods, as well. The units we know to be affected were manufactured in China, shipped from Shanghai, and ordered directly from Apple.

An Apple representative is currently looking into the report, and the company has had no further comment. Please report your findings using the Comments link below.

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Comments

61

I can hear the noise and it’s quite annoying. I have a 40 GB that was shipped from Shanghai, i buoght it from the Apple Online store two days after the release. I use Sony MDR-V600 headphones, (the big studio type phones). It’s not as noticeable through the ear buds that shipped w/ the unit.  I loaded a few mp3’s in to compare, and the search time between seems too short to hear the noise. This sucks becaue i use mainly the lossless encoder, which takes a bit longer.

Posted by RedEarth on July 27, 2004 at 6:20 AM (PDT)

62

I am expecting my 40gb G4 iPod, ordered through the Apple Store and shipped from Shanghai, today.  I will run test, but all my files are either MP3 or AAC, as I have not really used the LossLess setting.  Has anyone noticed the above mentioned problems with AAC files?

Posted by Kcooper on July 27, 2004 at 6:31 AM (PDT)

63

I have this feeling, apple introduces its products without extensive testing.

Posted by Sanil on July 27, 2004 at 6:51 AM (PDT)

64

Reminds me of the problem 1G iPods still have with uncompressed audio (wav): In regular intervals (whenever the disk is accessed) the audio stops for a fraction of a second. Apparently the internal buffer runs empty before new data is put in, a simple math error. I reported that bug years ago, and it still hasn’t been fixed…

Anyone knows if 4G iPods play wav files without those interruptions?

Posted by Gerd on July 27, 2004 at 7:06 AM (PDT)

65

I don’t have a 4g but my 3g does the same exact thing when I have it plugged into the dock while listening to the headphones through the headphone out. It does not do it through the line out. Also if I pull it off the dock it goes away immediately.  It is really a non-issue in my case since I rarely ever listen to the headphone out while connected to the dock, but sure as shat it would piss me off big time if it happened while not docked.

Posted by Big Fil on July 27, 2004 at 7:11 AM (PDT)

66

There has been some discussion on Apple’s iPod forums about a “range of serial numbers” thought to be affected by the audio problem.  Does anyone know anything about these numbers, where to find them, or if they even exist?  If not, does someone mind posting the serial number of their 4G 40GB (thought to be the ones that are shipping from Shanghai) that is really having this problem?  Thanks, and I hope we can all get to the bottom of this.

Posted by Kcooper on July 27, 2004 at 7:55 AM (PDT)

67

I have a 20GB G4 (also originated from Shanghai, thanks fedex!) and I notice the same thing wrt hard drive spin up noise at the start of a high-bitrate track.  Since it’s the first iPod i’ve owned (i’ve used a few, but never long enough to notice anything odd about them), I thought this was normal to happen occasionally with hard-drive based players.

After speaking with Apple support, i was told that they were aware of the issue, that it is due to caching of a track, don’t intend for that noise to be audible, and to “be patient, be vigilant and watch for updates.”

Posted by newbiePodder on July 27, 2004 at 8:05 AM (PDT)

68

I’m sorry, but who cares?

If you have to go well out of your way to create the PERFECT conditions to hear it… SO WHAT?

I could understand if audio playback quality was being affected, but it’s just before the song starts?  I could care less if the thing BEEP before every song, as long as it doesn’t screw with my music.

And I have Shure E2c in ear phones, so you’d think I’d notice if there was any electronic sounds.

When I get home I test it out, but some people really need to get a life.  Seems like people complain about every tiny miniscule little potential defect in Apple’s products.

Just listen and enjoy.  Don’t whine about “if I had known I wouldn’t have ordered…”  you will never notice this problem if it’s as small as the story makes it sound.

Posted by Reid on July 27, 2004 at 8:07 AM (PDT)

69

I have been annoyed by this form the moment i received my 40g on thursday shipped from china.

I think the problem occurs when the metal base-plate of the headphone jack comes in contact with the metal ipod casing.  It is clearly an internal ground loop issue.. something is messed up.
it is much more noticeable using normal sealed headphones rather than the earbuds.  You can also hear CPU noise as you cycle through the menus.  Similar issues happen with powerbooks sometimes.  If you put a piece of tape around the jack so the metal doesn’t contact then there is no problem !  Nice hi-tech fix
What did we really expect Apple to release a product that wasn’t flawed?

Posted by C on July 27, 2004 at 8:32 AM (PDT)

70

I just got the 40gb ipod and have noticed the static. It seems to get worse when I turn the volume up, and only in the left plug. I think that might be a seperate problem with the headphone.

However, I can definitely confirm that there’s intermittant static coming from the HD. This is my first iPod and I just thought it was normal.

It’s really annoying. I hope they get it fixed.

Posted by Menelaus22 on July 27, 2004 at 8:46 AM (PDT)

71

THey will probably deny it and deny it then fix it secretly.  I thought i ordered a 4g 20g ipod yesterday but the order screwed up thankfully.

Posted by Andrew on July 27, 2004 at 8:48 AM (PDT)

72

I purchased my 20gb 4G iPod at the Apple sStore in Sacramento.  While I havent had the static issue, I did have an unusual experience in which mine suddenly stopped playing music and the screen went to the Apple logo.  I tried the reset and It worked just fine afterwards.  Anyone else experience this??

FYI the song playing was a track by O.A.R. that I bought from iTMS

Posted by Tim'meh on July 27, 2004 at 8:54 AM (PDT)

73

4G 20Gb ordered from Apple, shipped from California warehouse: No problem through earbuds. Didn’t test lossless but did confirm disk was spinning during song changes by holding it.

I did hear static (more a squeal actually) through belkin cassette adaptor once - happened to be on a song change, but I attributed it to the adaptor not the ipod. I’ll keep my ears open.

Posted by gopoddy on July 27, 2004 at 8:58 AM (PDT)

74

I have a 4G 40GB from Shanghai and I can’t seem to recreate this.

Posted by Ilya on July 27, 2004 at 9:03 AM (PDT)

75

Bought my ipod 20 gig from the apple store at la jolla, san diego. Tested with 6 lossless encoded songs - no problems.

Posted by rishio on July 27, 2004 at 9:06 AM (PDT)

76

I have a 20 gig shipped from Shanghai, and I can definitely hear the static/high pitched whirring in my earphones.

Posted by scarymary on July 27, 2004 at 10:36 AM (PDT)

77

So there’s no gapless playback and additionally static noise between tracks? That’s the “best” mp3 layer? LOL

Posted by Sebhelyesfarku on July 27, 2004 at 10:59 AM (PDT)

78

4g 40GB ipod. Used lossless test and it seems to be okay. I’ll write back if it sounds different on a pals g3 40GB.

Shipped from china on the 23rd. Bought direct from apple. First time iPod owner. Waited until I thought they iced it. Been buying apple products since 1992. Bitten many times. Ouch.

Posted by watts on July 27, 2004 at 12:01 PM (PDT)

79

I am on my second iPod 20GB because of this exact problem. I posted an original thread here at the apple forums -

http://discussions.info.apple.com/webx?14@55.xFFXaAahsCO.2@.68976a4d

Mine occurs every few songs, maybe every 5 or so, the song will pause before the song starts, then you hear the whirring sound through the headphones, then the song starts, along with the hard drive spinning up etc. I may just sit this out until there is a firmware update, or just take it in later for a replacement -

Posted by Johnny on July 27, 2004 at 12:03 PM (PDT)

80

I just received my 20GB 4G iPod today and it works great.  No problems with static at all through the headphones or the dock connector.  It was shipped from Shanghai and for some that might be curious I put in the order on the 19th of July and just received the unit today on the 27th.  Hope this helps.

Posted by Michael on July 27, 2004 at 12:05 PM (PDT)

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