Warning: Don’t buy an European iPod, its volume is too low | iLounge News

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Warning: Don’t buy an European iPod, its volume is too low

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By Dennis Lloyd

Publisher, iLounge
Published: Monday, June 16, 2003
News Categories: iPod

The NEW iPods do have the volume cap that was introduced in the iPod firmware back to version 1.2.x already built into them. But Apple seems to have overdone it: the European iPod’s max-volume is so low, that you can’t use your iPod in crowded places like a subway or bus. You simply can’t hear the music at an efficient level! According to user’s tests the volume is about 25-30% lower then with the US version.

But not only the headphone jack is capped, also the line out: That means, that if you connect your iPod to a stereo at home or in the car, you have to turn the volume of that stereo way up what in many cases is causing sound-distortions.

There are plenty of people complaining about that on the net. What is striking is that Apple simply deletes those threads from their discussion board after a day or two.

There are many other bugs in the 2.0 firmware, but I’m sure Apple will address them. I’m also sure they will NOT change the volume cap as they officially refuse to comment on that in a detailed juristic way.

  • Apple does NOT inform about this volume cap on the iPod webpages.
  • Apple technicians told us on the phone that this cap is irreversible.
  • Apple claims European law to force them to implement this cap. This is NOT true! In fact it is a French law that is not valid for the rest of Europe. Also, there are people (including myself) who studied law who strongly think that this French law is against EU-law due to a EU principle called mutual-allowance (if you are interested, I’ll explain it in more depth).
  • It’s not about a law: it is about Apple being to “lazy” to find a way to provide European users except French with a different firmware. And don’t tell me about costs. I studied economy (as well as law) so I know enough about costs. I can think about 20 different ways to provide us with a new firmware that don’t interfere with French law and don’t cost a billion.
  • Now other personal stereo / mp3 player or whatever found in Europe (or even France) has a max volume that is that low. So Apple hase overdone it.
  • Until now, no one has found a way to put an US firmware on the European iPod.
  • However, there is one way to get around that problem to a certain degree: Select all tracks in iTunes, hit apple-i and then increase the volume-adjustment slider to about 80-100%. Re-sync the songs to your iPod. This will increase the volume on the iPod substantially. BUT: many users suffered from sever sound-distortions after doing so.
  • If you discuss this matter on the Apple discussion board, you will get plenty replies within a short period. Be sure to have subscribed to your topic by e-mail, cause Apple will delete it within a day or two.
  • If you have just bought your iPod over the net and want to return it, you always can return it within 14 days of your purchase according to EU-law without the need of mentioning any reasons.
  • However, if that 2 week period is over, I suggest doing the following:
  • Call Apple and complain. Some users had success and Apple took back their iPods.
  • If you want to fight for your rights, here is how to argue: “You have bought the iPod to use it in everyday life like an average mp3 player. Because Apple does NOT state on their web-pages otherwise, you can assume the iPod to have average features of an average mp3 player. Regarding the output volume, this is clearly not the case as can easily be proven. Most of other mp3 players sold Europe or French (in fact: 100% of those I tested) play at a substantial higher volume. Thus, the iPod does not have the features you had the right (!) to assume and clearly works not 100% as it is advertised. This gives you the right to return the iPod to your dealer as soon as you find out about that problem within an reasonable period that is not limited to 2 weeks.” Good luck.

To conclude:

I do think the iPod is a great product and I’m not returning my iPod for sure! It is the best mp3 player out there, in terms of style, use, functionality and simple joy of having it.

But Apple did make a huge mistake with that volume cap. A mistake that bad, that it really does effect the use of a very expensive mp3 player in a intolerable way. Heck even my Eur 30 Siemens mobile phone mp3 player plays louder and that was even made in and for Europe!

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Comments

1

I’m sorry, but the line out is NOT capped. It is genuine line-put, the same as all other device’s line out. It is one volt peak to peak, which is the definition of line level.

I have a 3rd Generation iPod in the UK, I use it fine on the london tube system every weekend. I would like it to be a little louder, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the end of the world.

Posted by Drewpy on June 16, 2003 at 7:59 AM (PDT)

2

I can tell you that from a cost/benefit standpoint, it probably is not possible to justify an iPod specifically for the French market.

Maintaining separate skus and the added support etc… all add to the cost of the product or cut into Apple’s margin.  Guess who is going to lose?  I don’t think the rest of the world wants to bear those costs to satisfy the regulations of the French government.

Studying Economics and understanding business are two separate things.  When you finish a graduate degree you’ll learn that.  Save the resume for job interviews.

Posted by Brett on June 16, 2003 at 8:21 AM (PDT)

3

The iPod is plenty loud enough with ear bud headphones. If you can’t hear it on a bus, or train, your either on some increadibly loud bus/train, or you have totally screwed up hearing. I have plugged it into my stereo, and yes it was a bit quiet, but turning the voume up a bit did the trick just fine. If your getting distortion from turning the volume up, you probably have a shity stereo/amp or somesuch.

Your argument to say to apple to get them to take your iPod back is utter crap. They do not say anything of the output volume on their webpage. They are not advertising anything about its output volume. The EU iPod is useable like any other MP3 player in that you can plug it into an Hi-Fi if you so desire, yes you have to turn the volume up, but so what? If it distorts, get a better stereo.

I imagine they hard limited it because firmware is rather hard to lock to a specific country without country specific hardware.

Studied law and economics did you, dont suppose you passed by any chance?

iPod owners are so bloody whiny these days.

Posted by Alex Stapleton on June 16, 2003 at 8:33 AM (PDT)

4

As Alex says, if you can’t hear the iPod at max volume, then either you’ll be ruining your hearing, or your earphones are lousy!

I have a pair of low-impedance phones, and I can’t turn the volume up beyond about a third…  In fact, with those in, I wish there was more control in the very bottom end of the scale! Even with the supplied earphones, I don’t think I’ve needed to turn my new iPod up beyond about halfway.

For listening in loud places like public transport, there’s a much better solution anyway: get some phones that fit tightly into your ears and block external sound. I’ve some expensive Elacin ones with Etymotic drivers, and they were worth every penny: they’re extremely comfortable, and even on the noisiest trains they block out so much that I can listen at a level way below what the external noise level would be, and still hear much more detail.

Cost is no object, either: SlicSound make some moulded silicone plugs which clip over your existing earphones and fit snugly in your ears - these have the same benefits of better bass response and blocked external noise. And they’re dirt cheap, too. (Disclaimer: I’ve no connection to this company. I’ve obtained a set, but not used them in anger yet.)

Posted by Gidds in UK on June 16, 2003 at 8:48 AM (PDT)

5

i bought mine in holland and it works just normal..
it’s as loud as my old iPod with the old software..

and it’s as loud as my old discman..

don’t have any problems in the subway or in the train.

Posted by HS-L on June 16, 2003 at 9:54 AM (PDT)

6

Having just read this article, I decided to test out the line out function. Let me just jog your memory from your article :

“But not only the headphone jack is capped, also the line out: That means, that if you connect your iPod to a stereo at home or in the car, you have to turn the volume of that stereo way up what in many cases is causing sound-distortions.”

I know for a fact you’re misinformed. Simply plugging the car jack into the headphone socket, does not make it a line out, its still a headphone jack, jack (sorry, couldn’t resist that).

The line-out is actually on the dock. Having taken a set of speakers, and connected the up to first the HEADPHONE jack, then the line out, the difference in volume is astonishing.

For in-car audio, I would suggest the purchase of a second dock (or use your existing one), and connect the car to that. You don’t need to supply power to the dock, simply having the iPod in the dock and plugging the car audio jack into the line out socket is enough.

I’m sure it won’t be long before some bright spark creates a cable that plugs into the dock, and has a headphone jack on it, thus circumventing the euro volume cap. And hey, if anyone reads this and does it I want a cut! wink

I’m perfectly happy with my 30gig iPod, AND I traded in a 20gig older model to get it.

Posted by Daniel Woolstencroft on June 16, 2003 at 9:55 AM (PDT)

7

Does the iPodlounge front page not have any sort of editor that checks whiny nonsense such as this anyway?

Posted by Alex Stapleton on June 16, 2003 at 11:25 AM (PDT)

8

Somehow i feel reading about an elephant. But it’s only a mouse, and a very little one. I’m Swiss and attorney, but nevertheless there are to many “!!!” in this article.

Owned a 20gig iPod (actually my girlfriend’s now), bought a 15gig and have no volume problem at all. And we use our “Drmmly” or trains very often here.

This article (sorry, have to write it) make’s me laughing. 

Posted by Fex on June 16, 2003 at 11:26 AM (PDT)

9

I’ve noticed my ipod has a very low sound level (i’m french).
I’m just planing to install the US firmware as soosn as it is available.

Posted by mushkin on June 16, 2003 at 12:10 PM (PDT)

10

So is there a method of doing lineout with the 2G model?

Posted by nate on June 16, 2003 at 12:50 PM (PDT)

11

If my fellow ipoders would stop to think about other people and other peoples different scenarios, they might have realised that this capped volume is actually a problem. I bought a European ipod, which has the same spec sheet as the American counterpart. I even paid more for my ipod than people do in America, but I have an inferior product. I wanted to be able to power my headphones, yes headphones are more comfortable than ear buds, and I cant because the ipod will not drive the headphones at a decent sound level. I for one am fed-up with being treated second rate by American companies when I pay no less than other people who live in a different countries. I dont see what added support is required for a French capped firmware over a ‘world’ uncapped firmware. It may cost a little more so introduce this fix, but if they dont then European ipods should cost less, as apple cant be bothered to support its customers outside America to the same extent as it does to those within. It is indeed lazy, and even more so as apple cant even be bothered to acknowledge it. It amazes me that apple can make such user friendly products but be so un-user friendly.

Posted by b0f on June 16, 2003 at 1:27 PM (PDT)

12

yep i hope everyone can realise that we all have different needs, and it would be ideal if Apple could cater to all of them. However it does seem quite worrying if you have to listen to music at full blast to enjoy it, perhaps it’s better to lay off earphones for a bit?

Posted by ibons on June 16, 2003 at 3:47 PM (PDT)

13

I have to agree with the post above concerning headphones. I prefer to use Grado SR60’s which although designed to be driven by portable appliances, still require slightly more driving than earphones. I find the output on the iPod to be the only dissapointing thing about it, it is definately lower in volume than both my minidiscman and my wife’s discman.

I bought some MDR-EX71SL earphones which are a marked improvement on the ones that ship with the pod, ie I can actually use them on the train. The phones are still to quiet though unless I have the volume set to well over 75-80% - which then bothers me since I hate having to set it so high.

It’s not that hard to release a software patch for this issue. The patch doesn’t need to be region specific all it needs is a legal disclaimer to cover the French region disclaiming all liability if you choose to install it and are French. Presumably if this was available from the Apple.com AMERICAN site it wouldn’t be covered under European law.

Sort it out Apple, you are hobbling a perfectly decent product.

Posted by GuyVer on June 16, 2003 at 4:09 PM (PDT)

14

Ok Guys!

Some of you are getting the point, others don’t. And there is no need for being unfriendly or rude infact, maybe you shoud think about your manners a bit. If this problem doesn’t bother you, why are you posting anyway.

—-> Brett
About “understanding” vs “studying”:
What about providing a downloadable updater that simply removes the volume-cap? That would NOT interfer with French law and it would NOT cost that much. So please, try to use your imagination and don’t tell me I don’t understand. Business is all about what can be done, and not about what can’t.

—-> Alex
Come on, can’t you be more friendly?
Normally I don’t reply to posts like that, but why not: infact, I pasted both studies, and that I did quite good. But that doesn’t contribute to a solution.

My arguement for returning is not that “utter crap” as you might think. I do understand that you have a problem getting the background-meaning of it, but belive me, it works.

—-> Daniel
Thanks for your advise, but yes, I know the difference about “headphone jack” and “line out”. I took the dock to my car stereo and tried it with the dock (hence “line out”) as well.

***** One Mistake I made:

I have to admit, I made ONE mistake in writing this article: turning up the volume on your stereo DOES not lead to sound distortions! Only turning up the volume via iTunes getinfo command causes these distortions (in some tracks).
Sorry, my fault. Appologies for that.


**** low volume CAN really be a pain:
For those who worried about my hearing. Thanks for your sympathy, but my hearing is good.
Think about that: About 20% of the music on my iPod is not Rock/Pop, but Classic. There are many classic tracks that have very low-volume parts in it. It is always (!) difficult to listen to classic music when your are in noise places. The only way you can get around that is by turning up the volume. But on my iPod, that doesn’t work, cause it is capped.
You might say that doesn’t matter.
I say, I spent Eur 460 for it and to me it matters.

I thank you all for your comments and thoughts. Even if some didn’t show the politeness they should have, I do appreciate all of them.

regards

King Aragorn

Posted by King Aragorn on June 16, 2003 at 9:45 PM (PDT)

15

Who’s going to develop and test that app to remove the cap?  Do you realize how expensive testing is, especially when you take into account the multitude of configurations for Windows based PCs?  Tech and customer service reps are going to have to be trained, that costs money as well.  Also, what about the costs associated wtih investigating this problem in order to see if it can be fixed?  Marketing collateral is going to have to be tweaked, that isn’t inconsequential.  I’m sure the EU will want it to be re-certified again which again costs money.

Add up the costs of all those activities and it turns out that costs are not inconsequential, nor is it a “simple fix”. 

All those activities cut into Apple’s margin.  If they want to raise the price of iPods in the Eurpean market and not pass it off to any others, I have no problem with it.

Imagination isn’t required.  I work in the tech industry and make these kinds of decisions on a daily basis.  Business in this industry is about doing the most you can within the timeframe allotted and with limited resources while doing your damndest to increase your margins.

Posted by Brett on June 16, 2003 at 10:25 PM (PDT)

16

All those activities and the costs associated with them are not going to cause iPod sales to increase, so why should they do it?  They gain nothing.

That’s the bottom line for Apple.

Posted by Brett on June 16, 2003 at 10:29 PM (PDT)

17

Hi Brett!

Thanks fou your comment. I do see your point.

What I suggest was meant to be more like that: Apple is going to release a Firmware Updater sooner then later because of the USB 2.0 support. All they would have to do is make the EU version of that updater and the US version just as they planned.
now they simply do NOT prevent the US updater (which can only be downloaded from the US website of course) to be applied to the EU iPod and letting it over-write the old EU firmware.
—> voila!
It’s the users fault if he does so cause Apple does tell EU users only to use the EU updater.

Infact, it will even be easier for Apple, cause the US updater will not have to have a checking-routine on whether the EU or the US firmware is on the iPod.

Not that difficult, you see?

kind regards

Aragorn

Posted by King Aragorn on June 16, 2003 at 10:39 PM (PDT)

18

If you 3rd gen iPodders are not happy with your toys, then complain to Apple. As many of us 1st & 2nd gen iPodders have found, your complaints will go unheard and your posts will be deleted. 

All I can say is Wah Waah! :p

Posted by DannieB on June 16, 2003 at 10:48 PM (PDT)

19

Yes DannieB, and that is why apple will never meet its full potential.

Brett—I see your point also, but I dont think you see mine. Why should European ipod’ers pay extra for a service that Americans get now for the same price? Apple should lower the price now then put back up to the same price as the American one, once they are both equal products. Youre suggesting that we pay extra for a product that America already gets for the same price.

Posted by b0f on June 16, 2003 at 11:49 PM (PDT)

20

How can it cost more for Apple to let us non-french-euro’s? They already distribute it to america, and when an update is released they will have one that detects where you are. Since it has to do this anyway, surly it would be a short job to change which category some countries are in (low volume or not).

Line-out is definatly line-out.. I generated a wave, encoded it into mp3 at 192 (100% normalized) put it on the ipod, measured the output of the line-out socket (the only one, which is on the dock) and it was genuine line-out (one volt peak to peak). It is defiatly not capped in any way shape or form.

Posted by Drewpy on June 17, 2003 at 1:37 AM (PDT)

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