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iPod vs. high-end audio

Author's pic

By Dennis Lloyd

Publisher, iLounge
Published: Friday, January 23, 2004
News Categories: iPod

Lee Gomes for the Wall Street Journal writes how, while attending CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, he ventured into another smaller venue showcasing the worlds most expensive high-end audio systems. While there, he tests his iPod and the sound qualities of MP3 compression or lack thereof with several high-end systems. His first test was on a $350,000 Wavac SH-833 amplifier connected to $150,000 speakers, and standing nearby was the designer of the amp, Yuzuro Ito .

“I plugged in my iPod and queued up a song by Franz Schubert. Mr. Ito, an elegantly tailored man, closed his eyes and listened intently.

After a minute, he rendered his verdict through an interpreter. Alas, he said, ‘the top of the soprano is not so good. And on the piano, you aren’t getting the natural body of the instrument. Overall, the sound is too clear—all the hues have been stripped away.’

But, he added gamely, ‘it’s really good for digital.’”

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Comments

1

What an absolutely ridiculous test.

This is so far from the truth of anything. So many factors contribute to the end result of the song on his iPod. Was it ripped to WAV? if so, what ripper & CD/DVD-ROM? Was it compressed? if so, what bitrate and encoder?


And how can this Mr.Ito know what the true sound, should sound like? The guy could have broken eardrums.

What an absolutely ridiculous conclusion… the iPod is a portable music player. They’re hooking it up to $500,000 systems and trying 1 song off it.

bah, stupid article.

Posted by on January 23, 2004 at 11:49 AM (PDT)

2

If he wants high end audio. WHY is he using MP3 when AAC is MUCH better. (shaking head with disgust)

Posted by olsonbw on January 23, 2004 at 11:56 AM (PDT)

3

Bah,

Stupid response!

The author stated explicitly that the songs were compressed at the highest bit rate for maximum quality.

Mr. Ito designed a $500K stereo system. Good chance he knows what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks he’s talking about.

The author explicitly states that he surveyed several different audiophiles and played more than 1 stinkin’ song!

The article was someone light, but with a fine point. That the Ipod isn’t bad in terms of sound quality. You can infer that others, such as the Creative labs Zen NX, which has better sound than the Ipod(I have an Ipod and a Zen), post similar results.

Why would anyone attack this author or his article. It illustrated the point that all Ipod/MP3 player owners can feel pretty good about their listening experience. He also implies that the the present being pretty good bodes well for the future as compression technology is still in its infancy and will only improve.

“Until you know it could be better, you don’t know that it’s bad.” Ain’t that the truth!

Margk

Posted by margk on January 23, 2004 at 12:07 PM (PDT)

4

Margk

Why would anyone attack this author or his article

cause everyone who thinks they are an expert on any board or forum is also a negative person.

It was an excellent article and very informative.

The first poster was anonymous so his opinion is irrelavant and flame-bait.

I agree though if he wanted to test capabilities he should have rep’d the iPod community with some AAC action.

Posted by RegalBegal in New England on January 23, 2004 at 12:14 PM (PDT)

5

Why is it that recently ipodloungers ##### about every news topic posted on the site? I don’t mean everybody, but I hey give the authors of this site a break, I honestly believe they’re doing the best they can - finding good news related to the ipod aren’t easy to come by.

Posted by Mikko on January 23, 2004 at 12:24 PM (PDT)

6

People read the news on this site with a great deal of apprehension because any negative news attacks their purchase of a very expensive and self-indulgent toy

Posted by Ipod user on January 23, 2004 at 12:35 PM (PDT)

7

It’s an interesting test… but NOT a blind one. That is the factor lacking in most audio “tests” I see thrown around.

No big deal, just an anecdote of a little encounter someone had at the CES.

(I don’t think people are attacking iPodLounge.)

Posted by Nagromme on January 23, 2004 at 12:52 PM (PDT)

8

This isn’t written as a real review as much as its a character piece about the lunacy of these audiophiles.  It is similiar to the shows about Las Vegas “whales”, it shows off a type of person that most of us will never be…

Posted by ptd on January 23, 2004 at 12:57 PM (PDT)

9

The article says that the author’s MP3s were ripped “at high bit rates for maximum quality.”  Note that he doesn’t write “highest”.  In fact, in a response from the author he states “I encoded the two main CDs I was playing for people…with the Fraunhofer MP3 encoder at 224 kbps Constant Bit Rate, via MusicMatch 8.1.”  Not “highest” by any stretch of the imagination.

As far as MP3 vs. AAC.  Sorry but I did my own listening test and decided that at the high end, MP3 beat out AAC.  YMMV.

Posted by hondo77 in Southern California on January 23, 2004 at 1:18 PM (PDT)

10

If you really want to learn about the strengths and limitations of different codecs and different hardware, then check out Hydrogen Audio.

You will find, for example, that sometimes a VBR MP3 with a rate around 200 can “beat” a CBR MP3 with a rate of 320.

And that at the high end, any difference between WMA, VBR MP3, and AAC are negligible. The difference between codecs only becomes apparent at sub-100 Kbps.

Posted by HydrogenAudio on January 23, 2004 at 1:19 PM (PDT)

11

Codec Discussion

Audio Hardware

Posted by Specifics on January 23, 2004 at 1:21 PM (PDT)

12

I’d even venture to say that MP3 is better at higher bit rates, because most of the devlopment of LAME seems to be centered around—alt-preset standard while most of the other formats seem to focus on low bitrates (128kbps and below).

Posted by Thejavaman1 on January 23, 2004 at 1:48 PM (PDT)

13

As far as MP3 vs. AAC. Sorry but I did my own listening test and decided that at the high end, MP3 beat out AAC. YMMV.

i so agree with this. i dont understand why everyone keep saying aac gives superior sound. everytime i test this format ripped in itunes it always comes out far inferior.

back to ipod vs high end audio, the ipod sound isn’t all that hot (i’ve heard many much better) but it’s a portable stereo - mostly for listening outdoors. the best and the worst sound the same in thick traffic; they all sound s**t

Posted by kades on January 23, 2004 at 1:48 PM (PDT)

14

I thought it was an interesting article.  Keep in mind these audiophiles aren’t fans of CD quality music either, which means the iPod did pretty well considering they thought it wasnt bad.

Posted by RoMoFo on January 23, 2004 at 2:41 PM (PDT)

15

I can’t beleive the ignorance of some of you. I love my iPod but it’s no high-end audiophile gear. Most people can’t hear the difference between 24bit/96k and, dare I say, cassette tape? Hah, maybe not, but if you think your really getting the full spectrum of sound out of your iPod, your not.  Don’t fret, that’s not what it’s for. 

Posted by jr on January 23, 2004 at 2:42 PM (PDT)

16

THis is the fist time in a year that, in looking at the news updates on this site, I laughed.  Literally laughed out loud.
It’s obvious that this was not a hardcore test for the iPod…it seems that the reporter simply wanted to see how well the iPod delievered on a super high-end system.  And the designer is obviously well-versed in the subject, given that he creates the means to play music.  He simply said that the soprano was not so good and the piano didn’t sound organic.  Now, this makes me feel damn good.  It means that I have something that smaller than a pack of cigarettes that can sound relatively nice on a $350k amp. 
You guys need to get a life and lighten up! 

Posted by iPodFunkfreek on January 23, 2004 at 3:02 PM (PDT)

17

For you brain-surgeons that don’t get it, it’s a COMPLIMENT to the iPod!
For god’s sake, someone moderate the dip$hit level in here…

SB

Posted by Jeezus on January 23, 2004 at 3:21 PM (PDT)

18

well, remember that comment about the audio being blanketed or in a small box? When listening to 128 kbs AAC and comparing it with CD, I also noticed this. The cool part is, at least I know that I explained it right to people who asked me why I’m starting to care about audio quality. However, I haven’t really had the same experience with mp3’s. With mp3’s it has usually been the obnoxious crunching or watery sound that comes out of those files.

I don’t see why everyone is so disgusted with the article. It’s common sense that the ipod playing compressed music will not sound as good as really expensive hi-fi systems.

Posted by Fiddytree on January 23, 2004 at 3:35 PM (PDT)

19

For you brain-surgeons that don’t get it, it’s a COMPLIMENT to the iPod!
For god’s sake, someone moderate the dip$hit level in here…

it doesnt take a rocket scientist to point that out. i think most of us know what the article says. it may be a boring discussion if everyone says “this guy is cool’ he’s complimenting on the digital sound of ipod and comparing it to a million dollar sound system. i have one too! isn’t it lucky for me to have bought one… just like this wonderful guy. oh he’s my hero”

Posted by kades on January 23, 2004 at 4:05 PM (PDT)

20

Duh.  Well, first, discussing audio codecs is almost as fractious as discussing politics or religions.  What sounds good is completely subjective ot the listerner.  If 96kbps MP3 sounds good to you, great.  If you cannot stand anything but live performance by the Wiener Philharmoniker at the best auditorium, great.

No big deal.

Posted by Ken on January 23, 2004 at 4:44 PM (PDT)

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