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iPod named Stereophile’s Editor’s Choice and Budget Product of the Year

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By Dennis Lloyd

Publisher, iLounge
Published: Wednesday, November 26, 2003
News Categories: iPod

In its December 2003 issue, Stereophile magazine has named the iPod as the Editor’s Choice and Budget Product of the Year. Our informant, Bill S. notes that the Editor’s Choice ‘usually goes to $30K CD players and so forth.’ Click ‘Read more’ for an excerpt from Stereophile magazine.

Reprinted with permission from the December 2003 issue of Stereophile magazine: www.stereophile.com

STEREOPHILE PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

The formal voting procedure consists of two steps: First, each of Stereophile‘s hardware reviewers is asked to nominate up to six components in each of the seven categories. To be a contender, a product had to have been reviewed in Stereophile between the November 2002 and October 2003 issues, in a full Equipment Report, a Follow-Up review, or in one of the regular columns by Sam Tellig, Art Dudley, John Marks, or Michael Fremer. That way, only those components could be nominated for which a writer had put his opinion in print for public scrutiny. We then put together a ballot form that lists all components nominated by three or more writers and/or editors. This process ensures that most of the nominees in most of the categories will have been auditioned by most of the reviewers.

Each of the magazine’s editors and reviewers gave three votes for his first choice in each category, two votes for his second choice, and one vote for his third choice (if any). JA tallied the votes; address complaints and compliments to him.

2003 Editor’s Choice: Apple iPod

Not much needs to be said about my choice for 2003. The admission may not earn me any points in politically correct audiophile circles, but Apple’s cute little iPod was the product I most enjoyed using this past year. Its large-capacity hard drive and ability to play back uncompressed AIF and WAV files pushes it ahead of run-of-the-mill portable players, while its intuitive, playlist-based interface is a harbinger of how all of us will be surfing our recorded music libraries in the near future.

Barry Willis said it best in a private e-mail: “The iPod is a groundbreaking device, a paradigm shift of the first magnitude. A designer can do anything with a big enough development budget and unlimited number of chips. While the result may be impressive, it is not really a great leap forward, given the prohibitive retail cost and cumbersome implementation. Packing the iPod’s level of performance, accessibility, and ease of use into such a small, sleek package ranks right up there with some of the great inventions of all time.”

I’ll give Chip Stern the final word: “As the stalking dawg for a new class of audio products, the iPod represents part of a long-term survival scheme for two-channel audio.”

Amen to that. Hook up an iPod to a pair of in-the-ear headphones like the Etymotic ER-4s or the new Shure E5cs, and you have true high-end sound to go. Now if only it had an S/PDIF digital output!

2003 Budget Product of the Year

Apple iPod

Everyone was surprised by this one.

Holding tight to their audiophile morals, Wes Phillips and John Atkinson did the unthinkable dirty deed: They went on a run with the fashionistas and rubbed shoulders with the beautiful people to get to know Apple’s sexy white box a bit better. Someone had to do it. Could true audiophiles take this cute little gadget seriously?

JA found that the iPod’s measured performance was better than that of many CD players, while WP was most impressed by its ease of use and lack of a single playback standard, allowing it to support even hi-rez digital files.

JA: “Excellent, cost-effective audio engineering from an unexpected source.”

WP, channeling a different Apple: “Baby, you’re a rich man!”

Stephen Mejias: “I still can’t afford it.”

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Comments

1

I’m definitely surprised by this. I would expect them to choose something like the Creative Zen due it’s higher sound quality, so far the best of the majority of the reviews that I have read. Anyway, I’m still glad they chose the iPod!

Edit by Jeremy Horwitz, March 2005: iPodlounge has deleted a collection of negative and derogatory comments from “audiogeek” on our site, which we discovered have been posted by a writer for competing publications. As he has trolled and posted obnoxious comments in a number of threads, picking fights with our readers and editors, he has been banned from the site, and we strongly oppose his repeated mischaracterizations of various products and our editorial opinions. This comments thread was affected by his posts, and has therefore been modestly edited. If any of the other comments below do not make sense in the context of these deletions, we apologize.

Posted by bg1 on November 26, 2003 at 10:49 AM (PDT)

2

> I would expect them to choose something like the Creative Zen due it’s higher sound quality

Ask yourself who is more likely to buy a series of full-page adverts in a magazine that pimps $30K Cd Players.

Creative? Not likely.

Apple? Very likely.

Advertising dollars buys a lot of reviews!

Posted by MoneyTalks on November 26, 2003 at 11:05 AM (PDT)

3

Also, they probably didn’t even review the Zen, so it wasn’t eligible for the award.

Posted by gti on November 26, 2003 at 11:22 AM (PDT)

4

Of course it is! On both counts. What else even comes close, especially for audiophiles?

Posted by Lupowolf on November 26, 2003 at 12:11 PM (PDT)

5

We tested several players .. notably a new Creative Zen and a 2nd gen 10GB iPod. 

One of the tests put 1.5, 2 and 2.8KHz test tones (in .wav format) on all the players and we used a spectrum analyzer to look at the results.  We were surprised to find harmonic distortion (particularly third order) was about 3 dB lower on the iPod.  The iPod equaled or (barely) beat the Zen in other tests.

No one makes an extremely high quality player, but the iPod is the best we have tested.

Posted by steve on November 26, 2003 at 1:49 PM (PDT)

6

“Now if only it had an S/PDIF digital output!”

I noticed that the original hardware for the iPod features built-in support for SPDIF…

http://www.portalplayer.com/products/fact.htm
“I2C Serial Control Interface and S/P-DIF”

So I guess Apple must have dropped it to cut a couple dollars off their costs. Which is kind of greedy considering the high cost of the iPod.

Please you guys review the new iRivers 20GB with the TOSLINK and tell us how they fare?

Posted by PortalPlayer on November 26, 2003 at 2:01 PM (PDT)

7

I’ve owned both of them, and you’re right it’s all about preference. One thing for sure is my iPod isn’t very loud at all compared to my old Zen. I feel sorry for people with volume restricted units! As for the accuracy of the sound, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two, but then again I don’t listen to anything with extreme bitrates on $400 headphones either. Anyway, I still love my iPod compared to the Zen. But the new iRiver is pretty tempting ...

Posted by bg1 on November 29, 2003 at 4:55 AM (PDT)

8

>Ask yourself who is more likely to buy a series of
>full-page adverts in a magazine that pimps $30K Cd
>Players.

>Creative? Not likely.

>Apple? Very likely.

>Advertising dollars buys a lot of reviews!

As someone who spent many years as a magazine editor (Australian Macworld) and even more as a reviewer I find this sort of comment both ill-informed and offensive.

When our magazine came to choose the Editor’s Pick of product of the year absolutely no consideration was given to past or present advertising. Remember that a technology magazine often lives or dies by the quality and range of reviews - letting advertising affect that will cost you readers and a slumping readership affects advertising revenue much more than bad or missing reviews of advertiser’s products.

Tony Williams

Posted by Tony Williams on November 30, 2003 at 2:08 PM (PDT)

9

Audiogeek,

It is funny…..people are not Anti-Apple - actually most people have never touched an Apple product…..

....but it is Apple fans who are Anti-Everybody else.  Many Apple oriented publications (internet, magazines, etc,) are always bashing everyone else because they feel like they are always being targetted.

You go read non-Apple publications…and you know what?  Either they don’t talk about Apple since they are not interested or they actually praise wonderful products such as the iPod.  So to all those Apple fanatics I tell you….you keep barking at everyone else and guess what…..there is no one on the other side hearing you…..you are alone in your own world of anti-Apple conspiracy.

Posted by Anti-? on November 30, 2003 at 5:02 PM (PDT)

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