iPod as a source 80 gig model, lossless

Have any of you tried using an iPod with lossless cds ripped as a format as a source for your home high end system? Is it a non-starter, listenable, pretty good, enjoyable, or fantastic?

I'm used to cd players in the $2k to $3k range, currently Cary 308T. Stiff competition I know. Perhaps absurd. Or perhaps not?

You tell me.

I'd sure love to have that convenience of choosing a different album with the same ease as changing the volume!

I will stick my Ipod in my systen if I am having friends over doing other things. background music only. there is no way an Ipod can be considered in any mid fi system let alone high end. Everything has it's place
I agree completely. I have the 80 Gig model with everything burned in lossless, and I use the "line out" into my big rig with a decent $80-type cable. It doesn't sound nearly as good as my Modwright Signature Pioneer universal player (~$800), so I can't imagine it would be even close to your caliber of disc player.

One thing I can't say for sure is if iPods benefit from the kind of cables people routinely use for higher end gear ($500 a meter and so forth). I've been too worried that the iPod is so limited as a source that there wouldn't be a point in investing serious cable money in it.

However, maybe another 'GoNer has had a good experience with high end iPod cabling...
I agree with the first two posters. An iPod playing non-compressed files is roughly as good as what I have been able to accomplish with a wireless music server so far, but is in no way even remotely as satisfying to me as a good CD player.

As to using expensive cables, it seems a very bad move to spend more on cables than on the source component itself. Better source, cheaper cables is a much better strategy.
Interesting. Would you mind providing more information on the sound quality? E.g., is the iPod as a source missing detail, soft bass, overall artificial or grainy sound, etc. I should have been more clear in my question.
Hmmm. I feel the need to disagree a bit here. I am currently using an Empirical Audio Wireless Offramp through an RCA digital cable to a Spectral SDR 2000 DAC. Sound is challenging my Linn CD12 reference source. Rest of system:

Spectral DMA 360 monoblocs
Spectral DMC 30 SL preamp
Dynaudio Evidence Temptations
All cables are MIT Oracle 1 reference
Dedicated 20 amp circuits

Streaming Apple lossless files (burned and downloaded) from iTunes.


If you have anything wireless that sounds close to a CD 12 you give me hope. I clearly need to buff up my approach, because it certainly hasn't worked out that way for me yet.

Turns out that cables are really important because the key to optimizing an iPod as a source is to use the line out on the bottom of the case - not the headphone jack. Amazing to me that our entire high end industry went for the easy money headphone jack solution and proceeded to charge a fortune for it.

Here's what they didn't tell you.

The line-out is a constant output. It is not controlled by the wheel on the iPod. So you are getting signal after the DAC before it goes through the pre and the amp.

The Pocket Dock is an example of a widely sold unit which allows the iPod to keep charging while providing the audio out from the dock. SIK also makes a couple of nice variants.

Naturally there are some folks who have figured out how to build really exquisite cables for this very weird pin - which technically is a "USB 2.0 0.5 mm pitch stroke type connector DD1 series".

This work is driven by the HeadFI crowd who utilize the iPod because it fits so well with their headphone amp battery powered packages. These are terminated in a mini, but they can also be terminated as an RCA pair.

These are a bit cleaner because the builders only cablethe audio out pins and do not cable the power pins - i.e at some point you will have to stop using the iPod as a source and recharge it. Given that the big units will go 8-12 hours this may or may not be an issue.

The ever inventive Drew at Moon Audio has done some nice work - you'll need to scroll way down his Headphone & Portable Cable section to see his Silver Dragon offering.

Another company I have worked with is http://www.aloaudio.com/ You want to talk cryo Jena wire, silver in Teflon, litz, cotton, silk etc just bring your pen. The work is stunning and sounds great. Slowly being overwhelmed by success but they have been willing to build whatever you need in the past. One big difference is that in HeadFi land cables tend to be a few inches while we need longer stuff.

If you really want to do everything you can, you get Vinnie to do an iMod - though now you are back using the headphone jack out but its all been rebuilt.

My guess is that if you do Apple Lossless and come out the dock with a premium cable it will be very enjoyable, though probably not as resolving as what you are used to. On the other hand, after you fire up a Playlist or put it on Party Shuffle its game over for anything but the most critical listening.

If you really want the great solution that will send your Cary running for the hills, take a look at the work Gordon Rankin is doing over at Wavelength audio.
Chris: The Empirical Audio Wireless is a huge improvement (should be; see their web site) over the stock Airport and obviously the choice of DAC is critical. I started out thinking that this was going to be strictly for background music and have been very pleasantly surprised.

I've used my 60gig iPod photo as a source with WAV files and a Signal Cable Silver Resolution cord going from the line-out. It's OK for background music, but does not have the PRAT of either my my Muse DAC or Modwright Sony. I much prefer the convenience of the larger interface of a laptop and iTunes, and the sound via my U24 and DAC is outstanding to my ears, and can best the iPod alone, and is very difficult to distinguish from an original disc. The problem with the iPod is that, even using the line-out you are limited to the less than desirable internal DAC. There is one company that is making a device that bypasses the DAC and gets a digital output to feed to a DAC, but, last time I checked, it was at a ridiculously high expense. Monitor Audio made claims to this effect, but when asked, the company denied the iDock's ability to utilize digital output. Line-out is definitely the way to go to avoid the added grunge of the iPod op-amp. In my version a simple Apple iDock gives you a mini-headphone plug line output at the bottom. Earlier iPods had this standard. Can't speak to the iVideo.

Marco - no question that there are much better ways to play digital music then an iPod. It's a convenience or form factor thing. Makes no sense with a nice rig in place. But nice by the pool, on a boat, at the mountain cabin, the guest bedroom etc.

David - IME many of the people who come looking for this kind of advice are computer newbies (this is very generational). Old school audiophiles arre looking for the sort of guaranteed performance they are used to with their Denon or Wadia or whatever - you push the button and it works. That is why I recommend a wired solution, the odds tilt a bit more in your favor - truth is even then there is still no guarantee.

Looks like Steve has unleashed another one of his conceptual breakthroughs. Anxious to watch it roll out and to see market acceptance. Remember that you still need a DAC after the Offramp...

Yes - this stuff works really well and inexpensively compared to getting equivalent performance from a traditional rig with its tweaks, power cords, ICs and all the other folderol.

Marco's U24 set up is inexpensive - I ran one into a fully modded TriVista, a nicely modded Squeezebox is in the realm of the reasonable as are an ever growing number of USB DACS.

Watch for wireless USB coming soon, and the new WiFi standard 802.11n
listenable, fine for background but not for critical listening.
FWIW, I purchased an Apple TV and it beat my Arcam CD92 senseless.

I was willing to trade-off sound quality for the convenience of Apple TV's GUI, but I was gladly surprised. So this may be an option for you.

The convenience of playlists can never be overstated. My system is a Blue Circle NSCS and Von Schweikert VR2s.
BCH, please describe in more detail. Are you saying that you drive sound from your computer (iTunes lossless?) to Apple TV wirelessly and then the Apple TV drives your high end rig? Is the DAC in the computer, Apple TV, or external?
Hi Art,
The DAC is in the Apple TV (should be a Wolfson, like the ipod and newer Arcams). There are 2 choice: playback from the apple tv internal hard-drive or streaming. I use the Apple tv internal hard-drive, with my music ripped in apple lossless.

The apple TV does have a toslink (optical), but I don't have an external dac.

I can't hear any difference between streamed lossless and the playback from the hard-drive in the apple tv, but I know that the streaming can be tweaked to sound pretty good (some driver swapping, etc...)

Whatever doesn't fit in the Apple TV's HD, I stream from my computer. BTW, Apple Lossless is a very good format size-wise (about 300MB per CD, average).

Hope this helps.
I think the ipod is fantastic when you are not in your primary listening space. For this I am now using slim devices Transporter which is hard wired to my Apple G5 with CDs ripped in Apple lossless.
I got to get into this :-)

Can I keep my cd library on the Apple TV's HD?

I think that's what you were suggesting BCH but I'm not sure.

Hmm... Seems to me there is confusion in this thread that may not be evident to all--the difference between an iPod as a source v. Apple Lossless as a source.

Even with good cables and Apple Lossless files, I find the iPod a pretty terrible source--hooking the iPod up to a stereo via a line out. The reason is that the DAC inside the iPod is, well, a DAC in a piece of consumer equipment that prioritizes size and cost. It is compromised.

On the other hand, you can get very good sound from Apple Lossless files that are sent digitally to a standalone DAC--Marco's solution with the U24, Drarmi's solution with the offramp. In those cases, the Lossless file is decompressed with a piece of software (e.g., iTunes, foobar) on a computer, then sent via (in those cases) USB to a USB to PCM converter, then into your DAC. That isn't really using an iPod as a source because you can do this whether you have an iPod or not.

Two very different kettles of fish that may explain the difference between good and bad results.

There are no real solutions I've seen for taking digital audio out of the iPod and converting to a PCM stream that can be fed to your DAC. There is one out there (I think), but I don't call that a real solution 'cos its like $2K. You can build a nice music server for that.
Just in case you don't share Edesilva's view on what's "real," here is a real solution for taking a SPDIF or AES/EBU digital siginal out of an iPod, so you can use an external DAC:

Edesilva writes:

The reason is that the DAC inside the iPod is, well, a DAC in a piece of consumer equipment that prioritizes size and cost. It is compromised
I'm not sure that's the reason. Wolfson make some pretty good DACs. I'm sure it's priorities were size and cost, but holy mackerel - look at the volume those DACs are moving in. That'll keep your costs down.

According to Vinnie at Red Wine Audio, you can get a pretty nice signal off that DAC.

Metralla, make no mistake, I think the iPod is a fantastic bit of engineering. The fact that it makes respectable sound when played through a high end rig is pretty stunning. Just hard to compete with something like, say, the Spectral DAC mentioned before.

Barring something like MSB, that is. Which, in due deference to Kana, I still think is kind of an unreal product--for the price, I think I might go a very different direction in digital audio. (The MSB was, in fact, what I was thinking of, just didn't remember the name.)