MSB promises ‘audiophile iPod’ with iLink | iLounge News

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MSB promises ‘audiophile iPod’ with iLink

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MSB Technology has announced the iLink, a new iPod docking system that aims to produce true CD-quality sound. To use the iLink, a fifth-generation iPod must be modified to bypass the DAC (digital-to-analog) converter, enabling bit-perfect CD quality digital audio output. Your music must also be encoded in the Apple lossless format.

“iLink is the world’s only iPod docking station that offers a true digital audio output,” the company says. “This is done by modifying the iPod to allow digital audio to be sent to the iLink and output via Toslink optical, coaxial or balanced AES/EBU format. With this output, audiophiles can transform their iPods into a high-end source and achieve sound reproduction on a par with a good CD transport.” The iLink also comes with an RF transmitter, and charges the iPod when docked.

The iLink system and iPod upgrade service are sold together for $1,995. The upgrade service for additional iPods is $199 each. You can also buy an iLink system and a new, upgraded 80GB iPod for $2,349.

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Comments

21

Maybe with your lousy headphones, but I have custom made Ultimate Ears, and I for one welcome any improvement on the DAC currently included, as it is pretty useless. Obviously it’s not to be expected for anyone who uses the term “teats on a bull hog” to understand. Shouldn’t you be colouring something in rather than wasting everyone’s time?

Posted by stadidas on December 28, 2006 at 5:13 PM (PDT)

22

It seems the debate over audio fidelity always comes down to the subjectivity of what an individual can hear.

No, not everyone can hear the difference between uncompressed linear PCM (or even Apple Lossless) and 128kpbs AAC.  Personally, I think that’s sad, but I accept it for what it is.  I don’t dog people who think Apple’s awful earbuds are great; I’m content in knowing that I know the difference.  So I’ll spend my money however I please.

This product isn’t for me, but I’m sure the intended costumer is going to enjoy it.

Posted by LawLaw Land on December 28, 2006 at 5:22 PM (PDT)

23

I was trying to keep it a secret, but I managed to find something that will play CD quality audio for a fraction of the price. It’s called…a CD player. Seriously, if you’re that big an audiophile just listen to your CDs.

Posted by rainking187 on December 28, 2006 at 5:28 PM (PDT)

24

ok, after this one, i’m going home.

thank you stadidas and lawlaw for your comments.

stephen, what kind of cd player were you using? i thought it was fairly common knowledge that the DAC in the iPod was designed for efficiency more than audio clarity… so i’m wondering what kind of “home CD player” you are referring to. most of the people who use our products prefer outboard DACs when using lower quality CD players.

rainking, you would be very hard pressed to find a CD player that offers comparable digital quality “for a fraction” of the price. as i mentioned previously, people buy our $10000 CD transport because it’s worth the money. it’s an ugly box, i assure you they wouldn’t buy it for looks.

the tech behind these products is not something you can simply write off because you haven’t bothered to look it up. take a trip to wikipedia and look up how digital data is transmitted and how it becomes a sound.

it’s quite fascinating.

Posted by curtis on December 28, 2006 at 6:04 PM (PDT)

25

Don’t sweat the criticism here, Curtis. Commenters at iLounge seem compelled to negatively comment on any iPod accessory that doesn’t suit them, whether they are in the target market or not.

“Who would want a pink iPod case? That’s for girls! That’s stupid!”

“Who would want an iPod case made for kids? Kids shouldn’t have iPods! That’s stupid!”

“Who would spend $2,000 on an iPod accessory? That’s too much money! That’s stupid!”

Believe it or not, girls, kids, and rich people who care deeply about audio quality all own and happily use iPods.

No, MSB doesn’t expect to sell a million of these iLinks. And me? I’m happy listening to my iPod through $20 aftermarket earphones. But I’ve seen enough to know that there is definitely a market for an item like this.

I hope it succeeds. I want the iPod market to be as inclusive as possible.

Posted by BJ Nemeth on December 28, 2006 at 7:24 PM (PDT)

26

Don’t real audiophiles eschew digital audio altogether for the $10,000 turntables?

Posted by wco81 in West Coast on December 28, 2006 at 8:55 PM (PDT)

27

I find this product intriguing but fail to see what you gain over the Redwine Audio IMOD for 4th gen ipods. The imod seems to offer high quality output with more flexibility for a fraction of the $$. Similarly, the Olive products are alternatives.

Posted by Traut on December 28, 2006 at 10:14 PM (PDT)

28

“i hope you’re kidding and not saying that the years and millions of dollars in testing and research put in by companies like Kimber and Monster and others can be negated by a coathanger.”

I see you have never taken an electronics or physics class…

BTW, “millions of dollars in testing and research put in by companies like Kimber and Monster” should read “millions of dollars in marketing put in by companies like Kimber and Monster…”

Posted by LectricInjuneer on December 28, 2006 at 11:23 PM (PDT)

29

“AIFF, or apple lossless, uses about half the memory of a WAV file. so it’s compressed, but it’s not lossy.”

AIFF is not the same as Apple lossless.  AIFF is actually most similar to WAV.  They are both uncompressed file formats.  AIFF and WAV files are identical in size.  Apple lossless is about half the size of both AIFF and WAV files.

Posted by me on December 29, 2006 at 1:43 AM (PDT)

30

Presumably, this is a device for home use. What advantages does this have over more robust devices like Slim Devices Transporter, or similar products at similar price points?

I ask this because I have a wireless set up that consists of a dedicated Mac Mini music server ($500) and Slim Devices Squeezebox ($300) that streams 250GB of bit perfect music wirelessly to my stereo system. It’s far more capacious and flexible than the iPod set up would be, at less than half the cost of this thing.

I’ve been an audiophile, and continue to enjoy good music on great sounding systems. But this just seems like a cynical ploy that serves no real need.

Posted by bucephalus on December 29, 2006 at 2:20 AM (PDT)

31

bucephalus, I see quite the same problem. For the money you can also throw in a “mid-fi” DAC (AQVOX, Benchmark, whatever) along with the Mac mini + Squeezebox / Airport Express, which you can expand ad infinitum with extra Firewire Harddrives. I really fail to see much application in the home market. Especially since the iPod itself has to be modded, so you cannot just have someone walk over saying “hey, let me play you this new song”.
Now I gather the basic product could be downsized to something that would fit in a regular iPod-dock attachment (sized like all those bluetooth remotes and such) and just come with optical output. Now THAT would sell to all those guys over at Head-Fi who are crazy enough / travel enough to own something as over the top as the Headroom Microstack and still have to cling to their ancient iRiver DAPs.

Posted by Bad Beaver on December 29, 2006 at 4:55 AM (PDT)

32

Curtis:

I just don’t see who the target audience is for this product. I’m a serious music listener- I’ve got all my CD’s ripped to Apple Lossless, stored in a 1TB drive, which I then beam to my hifi with Airport Express. The DAC in the Express seems to me to be awfully good- I can’t tell the difference between the music coming that way and the actual discs playing on my CD player (all Naim system).  For my Nano, I convert stuff to 192AAC.

Wouldn’t pretty much anyone with the interest and the cash for your product pretty much be better off using a similar system, whether Express or Slingshot or whatever? Most likely they have a TB of audio files, like I do, and very few 128AAC files they have purchased from iTunes.

I’m open- tell us exactly what demographic this is designed for.


Andrew

Posted by afolpe on December 29, 2006 at 5:52 AM (PDT)

33

the squeeze box sounds like a great product, and you should definitely stick with it if you’re happy with the sound quality.

one difference between what we offer and the wireless systems you’ve all mentioned is that our product is designed for the ipod, not for home computers. we could have designed a wireless digital output for the computer that would have been really cool, but we wanted to use the platform of portable media for this product. we think that when the demand for hi-fi grows, sources like itunes will eventually sell lossless downloadable music. we’re trying to get a few of the reference cd companies we work with to do this already. basically, we’d like to see the ipod replace the cd.

our engineering team has been making high end products for over 20 years. this is not our jump into the audio market, it’s our jump into the iPod market. i’m sure the products you’ve all mentioned are great, but i can say with some confidence that our product will sound better on a hi-fi system. i’d rather not get into specifics about our design, but let me pose the questions as this:

if money wasn’t involved and you were looking for the best possible digital output for your ipod, would you go with the peripheral designed by people who make wireless keyboards, or the people who have blown away reviewers with hi-fi audio equipment for over 20 years? keep in mind that there is more to these products than their clocks… we’ve invested a lot of time in research to figure out why things sound the way they do.

our testing room is equipped with our CD/DAC for $10k, our $15k amps, and some new speakers we’ll be offering (hopefully) at $20k a pair. they have diamond tweeters, though i don’t think that’s the coolest aspect of their construction. in this room, i can guarantee that you would be able to hear a difference between the wireless digital system and what we’re bringing to market. we can hear differences between the actual CD and the iPod. i really wish all of you were going to CES, we could do blind comparisons and make things really interesting.

next week we’ll be sending out the first batch for review, i will let you all know how it goes.

Posted by Curtis on December 29, 2006 at 12:21 PM (PDT)

34

I’m sure you make a superb product- it’s just that I don’t see why anyone with a large lossless collection would want to keep a fraction of it on an iPod (even the biggest ones are tiny, relatively speaking) just to play it through your device, rather than simply playing it off their computer directly. it’s your business, but i suspect you’d make a lot more money making the absolute best way to get music off your computer to your hifi, rather than off your iPod to your hifi.

andrew

Posted by afolpe on December 29, 2006 at 1:36 PM (PDT)

35

If the iPod had a lousy DAC, direct digital out might be needed, but that isn’t the case. The Wolfson DAC in the iPod is the equal of the DACs in home CD players.

That’s a good one. I’m thinking that this however doesn’t explain why I think my Gigabeat S and Zune actually SOUND BETTER than my 80GB 5.5G. Just ‘cause Apple uses the silicon in their devices it mean that it’s the absolutely best there is? Yeah, right.

Don’t real audiophiles eschew digital audio altogether for the $10,000 turntables?

I guess that counts me out, by your definition. My current table only went for $1600. On sale. But that didn’t include the stylus. Or the tonearm.

Posted by flatline response on December 29, 2006 at 2:20 PM (PDT)

36

The specs to the Wolfson DAC in the 5g iPod are 100dB SNR / -88dB THD line level
/ -72dB THD headphone / DAC Sampling Frequency: 8kHz - 192kHz. It runs off of clean battery power. If you require better quality than that, your ears must be 14k gold.

See ya
Steve

Posted by Stephen Worth on December 29, 2006 at 8:34 PM (PDT)

37

I love audiophools who judge sound quality by the price tag. All a pile of money will buy you that you can’t get with a reasonable amount of cash is the undying love of high end stereo salesmen.

See ya
Steve

Posted by Stephen Worth on December 29, 2006 at 8:49 PM (PDT)

38

I love “audiophools” who judge sound quality by the specifications.

“So what if your headphones sound better to you, mine have a flatter frequency curve”

Posted by aaron-xp on December 30, 2006 at 1:37 AM (PDT)

39

A flat frequency response is a baseline. From there you add equalization to your taste. Buying colored headphones is like ordering food with too much salt. It’s better to order food with the suggested balance and add salt to taste.

That said, very few audiophiles have made any effort to achieve an overall flat response. If they did, they would realize the clarity, presence and balance that they are looking for when they spend too much on fancy wires and black boxes.

See ya
Steve

Posted by Stephen Worth in North Hollywood, CA on December 30, 2006 at 12:44 PM (PDT)

40

“These sorts of devices are for the sorts of people who actually enjoy LISTENING to music properly, and not the run of the mill iPod user who loves how cool the white crappy ear-buds look.”

gee, that’s real nice.  i have 20% hearing in my left ear and what’s there ain’t real good but i just love to LISTEN to music.  i have no need for high end stuff, the crappy ear-buds get as much through as the expensive stuff.  but hey, elitists snobs can’t imagine that someone with limited hearing could actually enjoy LISTENING to music, could they.  you people annoy me to no end.

Posted by rick on December 30, 2006 at 6:11 PM (PDT)

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