Update: iPod 4G Audio Problems | iLounge News


Update: iPod 4G Audio Problems

Updating our earlier news story regarding headphone port static and hard drive noise problems in Apple’s new fourth-generation iPods, iLounge has remained in contact with Apple and our readers over the past several days in an attempt to help the company determine the nature and extent of the problems.

iLounge’s editors returned both of their affected 40GB iPods at Apple’s request for testing, and replaced them with two new 40GB iPods yesterday. One of the new iPods exhibits no problems. The other exhibits the exact same defect as before. This brings our internal total of tested iPods to five, two (one 20GB unit, one 40GB unit) without the static issues, and three (all 40GB units) with them.

Of the 158 responses we collected from our initial story on the defect, 85 readers posted the results of their own 4G iPod testing, and of that group, 54 readers (63.5%) reported no problems, while 31 readers (36.5%) reported the same problems we had found. While we emphasize that 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. For a full discussion of testing procedures, please click on the “More info” link below.

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I got my 4G 20GB from Shanghai today.  No static problems.  Tried Lossless… no problems.  Everything seems fine.

Posted by Fakie on July 29, 2004 at 4:46 AM (CDT)


My 40 gig from the apple store had this problem, apple techs didn’t know anything about it!

Posted by Michael on July 29, 2004 at 5:29 AM (CDT)


I tested my new 40G 4G unit shipped from Shanghai.  The unit does have this static issue. However, this needs to be clarified.

The noise does not exist when using the supplied headphones.  It also does not exist when using the line out on the dock connector.  I can only hear it when using an aftermarket headphone.

After playing with it a bit more, it is clear to me that the issue is a problem with the ground loop.  The noise occurs when the plug’s outer shell contacts the casing of the ipod.  If you look closely at the cord end of the ipod headset’s plug, you will see that the metal ring around the base of the plug is quite narrow.  The aftermarket headset that has the audible static during track changes, has a much larger metal base and makes contact with the ipod’s case.

Simply pulling out the headphone’s jack a mm or so (so that the back end plate doesn’t touch the ipod’s case) eliminates the problem.

To further confirm this, I used the now optional remote control unit.  When the same aftermarket headset is used through the iPod remote control unit, there is no static.

As far as I am concerned, this is a non issue that can easily be avoided.  It would be very helpful if those users who have the static problem specify whether they were able to hear it through the stock headphones and/or if they are using inline remote control as well.


Posted by Sam on July 29, 2004 at 6:34 AM (CDT)


Just to avoid confusion, I am not the same “Sam” that posted 3 threads above. :)

Posted by S. Sam on July 29, 2004 at 6:35 AM (CDT)


Interesting Sam - good work :) .

I don’t intend on using mine without a remote anyways, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

Posted by Moorish on July 29, 2004 at 6:57 AM (CDT)


since it seems the consensus is that it’s a grounding issue, i wonder why it’s more evident on 40gb, than 20gb. maybe the 40gb internals are more cramped up resulting in something touching something it shouldn’t?

Posted by sc on July 29, 2004 at 7:07 AM (CDT)


Hi folks - long time reader, first time owner and poster.  Boy am I disappointed.  I’ve waited through four generations and now this!

So, I did the audio test noted in Jeremy’s review (nice one) and had no problem.  I am using my grado headphones with this 40 gig, btw.  I deleted those tracks and loaded on about 100 or so other tracks (mp3 format).

Anyway, last night I loaded on some of my mp3s and when I brought the pod closer to my face (as I was drifting off to sleep with the backlight on), I noticed the static issue for the first time.  I’m heartbroken, of course. 

I wonder if this is something that might be fixed using firmware or if I should call Apple.  Any thoughts?

Posted by Jacofan in Chicago on July 29, 2004 at 7:41 AM (CDT)


This is quite possibly electrostatic pickup from the case, not a ground loop.  A ground loop occurs where the magnetic component of an interfering signal cuts across a closed loop.  By contrast, electrostatic pickup (presumably to the case here) is capacitively coupled by the electric field.

Depending on how the signal is getting into the audio section, they may be able to solve the problem by internal grounding or bypassing with capacitors.

Posted by ET on July 29, 2004 at 8:21 AM (CDT)


Sounds like I should wait until Apple works out the kinks on this before buying my first iPod. My question is, how long should I wait? If i wait a month, am I still likely to get one from this troublesome batch? Is it safe to wait two months? Is this similar to the problems I’ve read about with the Mini?

Posted by Esther on July 29, 2004 at 8:22 AM (CDT)


It’s called **  K A R M A ** !

Artificially restricting software updates for the sole purpose of profit motive helps Apple a lot and screws the ipod fans.

Now Apple’s getting screwed by the consumers.  Recalls always hurt the pocketbook.

<nelson>Ha ha!</nelson>

Posted by MC Dill Pickle on July 29, 2004 at 8:30 AM (CDT)


The static sound is a separate issue from the hard drive “static” squeel.

The static sound associated with some headphones is from the contact made by the metal base of the headphone jack coming into contact with the metal case of the ipod. A small piece of scotch tape over the headphone jack will fix this problem.

The hard drive squeeling is an internal hardware problem that is either associated with A. The whole 4G ipod release, or B. First run 4G ipods, depending on who you talk to.

I just called apple, and through a heavy Indian accent, was able to roundabout get a new ipod shipped to me. Hopefully my new ipod won’t be afflicted with the hard drive squeel.

Posted by GoodFellas on July 29, 2004 at 8:31 AM (CDT)


Appreciate the thought on the headphones, but that is unaccepotable, especially considering the price tag.

Posted by Jacofan in Chicago on July 29, 2004 at 8:45 AM (CDT)


I have a 4G 40GB iPod and it exhibits this problem.  I was not able to hear it with the included earphones, but it was readily apparent with my Sony EX71SL’s.  So, I believe this problem could be more widespread than indicated by this survey, as higher quality earphones are required to detect it.

Posted by Brian A in Dallas, TX on July 29, 2004 at 8:55 AM (CDT)


I have order the 4G 40GB online from Apple through the EPP program. If this issue presents itself, it will be returned. Anyone know if you can return an item purchased on line direct from Apple to one the Apple retail stores? I would do this and test the replacement in the store before leaving. I have called the Apple store that is near me and they said that they have not received any complaints about this issue for units they have sold so far.

Posted by ferillo in US on July 29, 2004 at 9:05 AM (CDT)


Just received my 4G 20GB iPod this morning.  I purchased it directly through the Apple Store online and it was shipped from Shanghai.  I performed the test for the static, HD access squel and did not detect the problem. 

I was using Apple Lossless encoding of an entire album, and used both the stock headphones and my Grado SR125’s and did not hear anything but music.  The HD access was sightly audible, but not through the headphones, just directly from the unit, which is to be expected. 

*whew*  I’ve been watching this thread all week worrying.  I am very pleased with my purchase so long as I don’t encounter problems down the road.

Has anyone purchased a G4 iPod right at launch that did not have problems, but then develop this issue in the weeks since?  If so, please post so I can have a heads-up.


Posted by feakbeak in Plymouth, MI, USA on July 29, 2004 at 9:50 AM (CDT)


Well if the problem only occurs with aftermarket headphones, and not the ones that ship with the iPod, then it sounds like the iPod is not defective.

If it works correctly with the included parts, then I dunno if apple should/could do anything to fix the aftermarket headphone problem.

Posted by Chris on July 29, 2004 at 9:53 AM (CDT)


Let me add that it isn’t defective unless it says it works with aftermarket headphones. Does the iPod claim to work with aftermarket headphones, or just the ones that ship with it.

I know it may seem funny to think it would say this, but it may be a way for them to cover their butts.


Posted by Chris on July 29, 2004 at 9:58 AM (CDT)


Units we have tested have [a] exhibited the problems even when using Apple’s included headphones, and exhibited the problems when using Apple’s optional remote. We did test A early on to confirm that this couldn’t be blamed solely on third-party accessories, and test B in response to a reader’s inquiry on that point.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on July 29, 2004 at 10:00 AM (CDT)


It’s not that the problem only occurs with aftermarket earphones, it’s that the low fidelity peformance of the included earphones tends to mask the problem.

Posted by Brian A in Dallas, TX on July 29, 2004 at 10:19 AM (CDT)


Just got my 20GB 4G ipod - no problems.
Shipped from Shanghai, ordered from Apple.

Posted by Happy Ipod Owner on July 29, 2004 at 10:22 AM (CDT)

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