Better sound quality than the I-pod?

I'm finally ready to make the jump to an IPod like device. I've heard some say that though the IPod rules in terms of usability, there are better units out there for sound quality.

I'll probably get a larger disk size so I can record uncompressed for the best sound quality. I'll put up with some minor inconveniences to get a superior sounding unit. I've heard good things about the Sony's, Creative Labs and others for sound quality. Does anyone know which brands sound best?
What's wrong with the sound of the ipod? People like to bash who ever is at the top of the mountain. The headphones that you buy (don't go with ths stock Apple ones) will have more to do with the sound than any differences in the players.
You might want to take another look at using uncompressed files. Because they are so large, your hard drive will be constantly spinning to fill the the end your battery life will suffer dramatically. I use Apple Lossless with my ipod and at home to feed a usb dac. They sound fine and are bit for bit the same as AIFF files.
Do some reading before you buy..
Actually I've probably done too much reading. Negative comments I've read about the Ipod's sound seem to generalize that they're bass deficient and a bit bright/shrill.

I'm looking for an idea of relative sound quality between the best players where the supplied headphones aren't a factor. I'll be using seperate phones.
the I-river are far more musical sounding than the Apple products. Plus, if you find an IHP series from last year, you can play uncompressed WAV files, and they have an optical digital output so you can connect to an external dac, have a battery-powered hard disk as the source, and with a jitter clock, have what may be the best transport source available.

I have an Ipod, and find it easier to use, and the playlists are great. But the IRiver sounds better and the batterry charge lasts FAR longer.

The SHURE EC series headphones are great.
I have a Creative-Zen Micro and I'm very happy with the sound quality, size and features. Go to c-net for reviews and comparisons.
I wonder if those who say the iPod's bass is deficient and the treble is shrill have discovered the iPod's EQ feature. With certain EQ settings, both problems are easily remedied. And, set to the wrong EQ, both the bass and treble could sound wrong if not flat-out bad.
You need to go out and listen for yourself I guess. I'm pretty anal and I would never call the Ipod shrill. I have noticed that the bass is stronger using line out and an outboard amp versus the internal amp. I would never call it deficient though.
And while an optical out would be fun to play with, I don't think it can measure up (literally and figuratively) to a usb output from a computer.
Hi - This for Brooks question -

Just upgraded from a G4 to a G5. On the G4 I sent a USB signal to a Waveterminal, then took the SPDIF out from the Waveterminal to the DAC. Now with the G5 I use a Toslink directly to the DAC.

After a few days my preliminary impression is that the sound of the Toslink (Wireworld 5 SuperNova) is more detailed than the USB (which is awesome). It sounds a bit drier (sorry I don't have a better word) - maybe this reflects the lack of cable coloration or?

Anyhow both are very satisfying, musical solutions with the optical having the theoretical advantage that it is immune to RFI etc and electrically isolates the DAC from the computer which can't be a bad thing.

BTW I use Apple Lossless compression
Ipod connected to a Krell connected to a Thiel.

Wow o wow o wow

Sorry couldn't resist.
If you want to optimize the sound of the ipod get a autocharger and connect it to a jumpstart system with a 12 sla battery. Transforms the unit to a real sleeper using the headphone output with remote control through navipro ex.

You'd have to be a real contrarian not to get an iPod. It has the slickest and easiest to use interface (both software and hardware) and the most accessories. It's sound quality is very good for this type of product and can be improved to excellent if you take the time and effort.
Whether you use an iPod or another unit, the quality of your sound is most easily enhanced by adding high quality accessories. You will get the most bang for the buck with higher quality headphones, then a separate headphone amp, and finally a better headphone cable.

To add an amp, there is an aftermarket cable for the iPod that allows you to use the iPod line-out rather than that lower-quality headphone jack. (the jack is only accessible via the dock with the standard equipment). This lets you go out of the iPod into an external amp such as a Headroom which will give you much better sound quality.

There is an excellent web site devoted to headphones and music players such as the iPod: -- check it out if you want to really jazz up your personal listening experience.
Remember that I have no experience with any of these types of units. But what I'm hearing is that sound quality is so similar with all the units that the Ipod is a no-brainer because of it's superior design?

I can't imagine not going with the IRiver if it was really substantially better than the IPod for sound quality.. Do I have this right? Should I just go with the Ipod and forget everything else? Thanks!
Most agree the iPod wins for ease of use...both operationally and with the Mac or PC interface. If you have no experience with any device like the iPod or IRiver, you might choose to iPod for this reason alone.
Yes, Larry, iPod is a no-brainer. I'm can't vouch that iPod is absolutely the best in terms of sound, but I cannot see how you would regret purchasing an iPod. Frankly, I think Apple did a very impressive job in voicing the iPod. I agree with Brooks-- I don't associate bass-deficient and shrill with the iPod's sound in any way.
The Shure (ec3?) retailing for around $ 179.00 produce fantastic sound with the foam earplugs. I am an audiophile and am blown away by the sound quality. If you roll up the foam plugs and put it in the ear canal and allow it to expand in your ear; you have complete noise elimination and a very full bodied sound with the best bass response I've ever heard from headphones. Amazing.
I'm a true blue Mac lover...own a few at home, and my buddies have many iPods...

That being said, when it came time to buy a MP3 player - the iRiver iHP-120 won hands down for me (for all the reasons bluetrump mentioned above) plus one more..

The iRiver is the only MP3 player (that I know of) that can be used on either a mac or pc system. iPods need to be configured for one or the other, but can not load files or be managed from both - the iHP-120 can.

Optical output is the bomb as well....

I have the 40G iPod and think the sound quality is superb - not thin or shrill at all.

(1) I use it at the gym with a set of Shure E2c's and it provides very good sound quality. The key with in-ear phones is to get a good seal to the phones or else the sound quality plummets.

(2) At work, I connect my iPod via the direct output to a Emmeline SR-71 headphone amp and use a set of Shure E5c's. The sound now goes for good in (1) to absolutely superb.

All files on my iPod are in Apple Lossless - no equalization used.

I can't speak for the iRiver since I never did any comparisons - you've got some excellent advise from others above.

Hope this helps with your portable audio nirvana search.

All the best,
If you're just using a player for listening when you're comuting or in the car, etc, then having an optical out serves little purpose. The iPod is superior in every way to the iRiver. I've listened to both extensively (my girlfriend owns the 120) and my iPod is still much better. It's easier to use, can store and display digital photos (a useful feature, actually) and while you do have to configure it to use with either a pc or a mac, it works better with both than the iRiver, because the software it comes with, iTunes, is MUCH better than the alternatives (plus, do you really need to manage the device from two different machines, let alone two machiens with different OS's). I think the sound is only as good on any of these units as the cans you pair them with. If you're looking for plugs, then shures are great, otherwise it's grado all the way. Trust me, you're going to be sorry if buy something else.