iPod touch audio quality


Q: Is there any difference in sound quality between the iPod touch and the iPod classic models? Do they both use the same sound chip and process? I own a first-generation 80GB iPod classic with upgraded IEMs and I have a large library of music at 192kbps AAC, all of which sounds terrific. I like the new iPod touch a lot but have never switched since its storage size was always too small. However, now that a 64GB version exists I’m seriously considering one. Will I lose anything in audio performance in going to the iPod touch?

– George

A: From our testing and comparisons, the audio quality of the second and third-generation iPod touch models is essentially the same as the 2007 iPod classic models. As we noted in our review of the second-generation iPod touch in the fall of 2008:

There is one big audio change, and that’s the iPod touch’s sound chip. Months ago, long-time iPod audio chip supplier Wolfson Micro made clear—with minimal discretion—that its chips were not going to be included in either the upcoming iPod nano or iPod touch refreshes, which were then unknown. Lo and behold, the new devices arrived, and both of them sound like the Wolfson-chipless 2007 iPod classic—they’re cleaner, with a nearly non-existent static noise floor that’s as well-suited to audiophile-grade earphones as free pack-ins. That’s really good news for those who hope to use the iPod touch with better headphones; to our ears, this version is a big step up over the prior touch.

Our review of the third-generation iPod touch notes that these models appear to still be using the same chip and provide the same level of audio quality:

As noted in last year’s review of the second-generation iPod touch, a major improvement in sound quality was achieved when Apple changed audio chips—the audio chip was “cleaner, with a nearly non-existent static noise floor that’s as well-suited to audiophile-grade earphones as free pack-ins.” The same is true for this year’s model; using very high-end multi-driver earphones, we couldn’t detect any difference between the two iPod touches when listening carefully to the latest audiophile-polished remastered Beatles albums, amongst other tracks, and this is a great thing; independent of all of its other abilities, the new iPod touch remains an excellent audio player.


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Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.