Latest iPod Configuration -- Any New Hope?

I know there are several threads on the pieces of this question, but I hope this will be a convenient all in one place update for iPod users who really care about the sound.

I was an early adopter for iPod with great hopes for portable, audiophile sound. I know they are fine for convenience, working out blah blah blah, but that was not my main goal. Rather I wanted truly portable and truly high end sound for traveling. And even 20 or 30 uncompressed CDs would be wonderful and -- maybe Im weird - but more than enough for most plane flights!

In the end, I got frustrated and kept hitting dead ends even with the so called experts, so at this point, I have two iPods, several sets of headphones, some noise cancellation headphones, one of the original top of the line Headroom portable amps, circa 1996 with D Cell outboard battery pack, a 9V battery powered Grado headphone amp, and expensive custom earpieces gathering dust in my drawers.

I have tried the Apple lossless scheme and for me, it is unacceptable, not to mention the devious tricks which apparently limit the number of times the files can be copied.

Maybe some of you have cracked the code, but I have had nothing but problems trying to easily "tag" uncompressed files.

In addition, it seems WAV files drain the battery life and cause brief skips in the operation of the hard drive.

Taking my iPod for the first time for months today on my motorcycle, I was reminded that the Etymotics high end headphones DO NOT play well with the wimpy internal amp of the iPod.

I was so disappointed, that I thought I should somehow velcro the Grado amp into my bike jacket or something, but aside from the geeky complexity of this there is no line level out?!

You get the idea...

Dont get me wrong, its a great little gadget for casual listening.

But WHY isnt it so so so so so so much better?!?!?!?!?

Or have I missed something?

Thank you.
CW, good questions.

I bought my iPod last summer with similar, but maybe not with as lofty hopes. I wondered if it would sound good in my 2 channel rig. I bought an Audience Conductor [not the AU24] adapter and connected it to my preamp and was pretty disappointed. I borrowed a set of Sennheisers from Viggen, but the little iPod had a big problems pushing it. I have good luck with a pair of Grado SR60s at work and a set of Koss KSC-50s with a Channel Island headphone amp for late night Tivo listening at home. I bought a Dension car adapter for the iPod, but have yet to install it. What I like about this unit is that I'll be able to control it using my car CD player controls.

I'm surprised to hear that the iPod has trouble powering the Etymotics. I've never heard that before, but that's good to know. When I take it on the plane next week, I'll bring along the stock earplugs and the little Koss headphones.

What is it about the Apple Lossless you don't like? The fidelity? Compression? For my use I find it completely acceptable.

I guess getting back to my earlier statement, I probably did have less expectations of its performance than you did. It does almost everything I'd hope for. Sounding good through my stereo would have been the icing though.
Disclaimer: I don't own an iPod, and haven't used the following product.

A company called Simpl Acoustics developed a headphone amp, exclusively for the iPod. It may (or may not) be the solution you're looking for...
Check out these links, for more info:

'Hope that helps! Good luck.
With a couple thousand songs of Apple Lossless and Shure e5C headphones, I feel my 60 GB iPod is a pretty solid piece. The sonic quality is good enough for me considering that it's just a fancy MP3 player, and the value of having only those tracks I really want burned into my iTunes is a clincher.

All in all, I'd have to say I'm pretty satisfied.
I haven't listened critically to an iPod and don't own one. However, I own and have traveled extensively with a Creative Zen Touch and an iRiver iHP-120. Both these players support uncompressed WAV.

I use the Zen to drive Etymotics ER-4P's and with a Headroom Total Airhead portable amp to drive Sennheiser HD-650's. The iHP-120 drives both transducers directly. Of these two, the iHP-120 has better sound but it is still not audiophile quality.

Recently I purchased a Overture limited edition transportable DAC from It's about the size of the iHP-120. The Overture has an optical (Toslink) input and this can be driven with the optical line out from the iHP-120. The Overture DAC is very good. If you put the Overture's output into a Ray Samuels SR-71 portable amp (about the size of an iPod) driving Ultimate Ear UE-10 Pros, Senn 650's or whatever your flavor of earphone is, you get a three box solution that is probably going to do about the best that can be done in the transportable department until someone (Headroom?) comes out with something more integrated.
Strange as it might seem what I enjoy sometimes having listened a lot to an album on my iPod is actually hearing how much better it sounds on my main system.......

Doubtless CW over time technology will bring the fidelity to match the convienance of the iPod.
We only have a decade or two to wait I reckon. The telephone age was about making connections with other people. The internet age added access to information and content we wanted that other people had. The coming Multi Service Single Access, Next Generation All-IP networks blah blah will add the ability to connect us with our own stuff. When we are away from our home (and loved ones - our music), whether we want to see what's going on at home, or open the front door for the plumber, have something downloaded to the home server, or get access to our music, photos, or videos, or turn on the heating you will just need a network connection and a connectable device. So you won't need an iPod to carry your music around with you but you will need to carry around some kind of connectable portable DAC with a headphone amp. It may just be your mobile phone. At that stage flexibility will be the key and if you want high res encoding schemes you will be able to get them, it will just cost you more.

The more things change the more they stay the same. The any to any telephony network architectures will come back into vogue and today's chaotic underperforming IP protocol will be unrecognisable and as anachronistic as the wild west of the past, and today's cable TV broadcast architectures will be a thing of the past. The key things holding it back are short-sighted regulators, internet socialism, telecommunications executives that lack the imagination to change their business model, Hollywood and the two big music conglomerates that do not want telephone monopolies anywhere near their value chain, etc - but most importantly a massive investment in replacing copper with fibre. This isn't science fiction. It is already more economic for a telecommunications company to put fibre to the home into greenfields suburbs (new subdivisions), they just cannot justify doing it where there is perfectly good copper, and because they really don't know whether they will be allowed to get a return on it (for the reasons outlined above). But check out what the likes of SBC are up to and you can see it coming.

Sorry guys. That was a bit off topic wasn't it. I feel better now I have had my rant.
Which Etymotics do you have? The ER-4 is not designed to be driven by sources with limited drive capabilities such as the I-pod, the ER-6 is a better choice.
herman - the er-4p is indeed meant to be driven by portable devices. the er-4s, however, is not.
There are many Entymotic earphones. I have the high efficiancy ones. Call "Jamie" at These things are wonderful - almost as good as my Sennheiser 650's.
I dunno, my Rio Karma driving the Shure E2Cs and playing 320k MP3s sounds pretty darn good to these ears. Just got back from a full-day trip on my motorcycle and the tunes were great.

If you're looking for "audiophile" quality in a noisy environemnt like that, you're being completely unrealistic. Nonetheless, I found the sound to be quite good, and the earphones didi a respectable job of cancelling the wind noise, too.

Cwlondon, a few comments:

First, I'm using an ipod with APS and APX mp3 into Shure e5's unamped. I Tried the "portable" amp thing with a few different headphones and the whole setup drove me nuts.

The reason why I am using mp3 and not .wav is because I have never ever ever been able to hear the sound difference on any headphones--ever. I'll be the first to admit that I haven't tried every headphone there is. However my experience with some highly rated ones (Senn 600's, Ety 4s (with 4p adapter cable), the Shure e5's I have now and a few others), has just shown me that headphones (or the ones I tried at least) are seriously flawed and simply not capable of the detail and resolution that allows one to routinely distinguish between high bitrate mp3s and .wav. On my main system, there's often quite a difference. I think the problem here is not the ipod so much as it is the limitations of headphones in particular. I got the e5's because I thought the sounded "fun". At first I was horribly disappointed. I was expecting highend sound and they weren't close (neither were the Senn's or Ety's IMHO). If I go away for a week or so, after a few days of being away from my stereo, I start to enjoy the e5's even more. When I come back and listen to my stereo, I think they suck.

Basically, while the ipod is an overpriced piece of plastic I think it takes a bad rap from the audiophile community. I've said this many times on here before, but I think the VBR mp3 also takes a bad rap (generally from people who have never tried it). I would never chose the mp3 given a choice where it was equally practical to use .wav--with the ipod it clearly is not though. Headphones however, in my experience, are the truly flawed portion of the chain.

Your point about headphones is curiously counterintuitive to me.

Shouldn't transducers just next to, or even IN, our ears be capable of resolving fine detail and differences? I have never liked them, but dont many audiophiles go on and on about their Sennheiser 600s or whatever? The pros them in the studio during mastering blah blah blah?

Of course one way to test thsi theory is to simply run this iPod type stuff into your big rig.

As you can read in another one of my threads on this same subject, I found the difference between WAV and MP-3 files wasy to discern EVEN IN MY CAR. A PORSCHE. CONVERTIBLE. WITH AN ILLEGAL STAINLESS STEEL EXHAUST?!?!?!?!?!?! We're not talking Maybach here.

(Not sure what the exact MP3 settings were but I did use the geeky EAC and LAME encoder.)

So to respond to the points above about driving motorcycles and horrible signal to noise ratios, I disagree.

No offense, but maybe those posters could save a lot of money on audio equipment and not care.

I dont think I have the worlds most golden ears, but I have been at this for about 25 years and I am well tuned into the differences of good and bad audio.

I once heard an audio salesman in the 70's complimenting the allegedly golden ears of one of his colleagues, saying the "trick" was "knowing what to listen for".

Isnt that a bit like saying the "trick" to expert wine tasting is to not be suffering from a cold and congestion?

A lower noise floor - of course - contributes to a greater sense of dynamics, a greater sense of detail etc.

But I dont need perfect dead silence, the worlds greatest speakers or some gifted ability to "know what to listen for" to detect a hard edged, strident, fatiguing, compressed sound being blasted directly into my ears.

If you brought a lawnmower into your listening room while cranking your analogue and vacuum tubes, it wouldnt make your stereo sound BAD?!?! It would just add noise.

So with headphones, on a motorcycle, in an airplane -- I still wish these things sounded better, but despite the progress which has been made its still all processed cheese to me.
Here are some suggestions:
Rip all your music using EAC FLAC -> convert to WMA lossless -> Apple lossless. (Delete WMA lossless afterward)

This ensures perfect CD ripping and you can keep all the files in an open format and still use iPod. Need a lot of HD space though.

Get an iPod line out add-on. It's about $30. Basically hooks up to the bottom of the ipod connectors. Hook that up to a decent portable headphone. Then, pick up your favorite headphones. For example, Senn HD650 for quiet room and Eytmotic ER-4 for airplanes. Total price: $1500.

This headphone system should rival a regular audiophile stereo system under $10-20k easily.
Hi Folks, I just got my I-pod a few days ago so I'm way behind on the tech talk. I started loading songs from CD to i-tunes, then over to the ipod. After i loaded about 40 cd's I erased them off I-tunes as not to bog down my comupter. The next time I up-loaded to my i-pod it erased the 40 cd's that I spent 2-days loading. What are you folks doing, leaving all your stuff on I tunes? I have about 600 cd's and that's a lot of memory(40 gig?)

Please advise

More dumb questions to follow,

Hi Glen,

Yeah, I went through exactly the same thing when I first got my iPod.

I leave all my music files on a 400GB LaCie Firewire drive. If you make any changes to your iTunes library like changing titles, artists, descriptions adding or deleting songs, unless you have "automatic update" turned off your iPod will be "updated" automatically when plugged in.

You should be able to turn automatic updating on or off in I think the "advanced settings" of your iTunes preferences. However, if you want to leave it set to automatic but still have the option of mounting the iPod in "manual update" mode look at this:

Apparantly, you just hold own Command+Option as the iPod is mounting and it will override the auto setting and mount the iPod without updating it. You can then do everything manually.

I think it's a good idea to keep all your ripped files on your hard drive. Definitely make sure it's a non-boot drive so any system problems won't cause you to lose your music files. The music files can also contribute to fragmentation of your start up drive, which is another reason to keep them separate.

Hi Glen, You need to turn off the iPod's auto-sync feature to do this. With your iPod plugged in, go to iTunes. On the lower right of the window you should see a small iPod-looking button. Click it to open up the iPod options panel. That's where you can turn off the auto-sync feature.

Here's why: By default, the iPod assumes that it should mirror whatever is in your iTunes Library. Say you buy a stack of CDs over the weekend. On Monday you import them all into iTunes. The next time you plug in your iPod, it would load all of those tracks. Say after listening to those tracks you realize that song 3 is the same song the tarantula ninjas sang when they beat up and torched your car, an event you do not wish to remember. Delete it from iTunes, and the next time you plug in your iPod it will be gone from there as well.

It's really a nice feature, if you have the HD space to keep your music library on your computer. Which is a good idea anyway. I've had two iPods in the last couple years, and maybe twice I've had an issue with it where the iPod needed to be restored (which deletes all of the files on the device). Having a backup saved me from reripping my entire collection, which counts in my book as a "Really Good Idea"(tm).
Thanks for that info guy's, I did in fact figure out the manual OVERIDE thing last night. I've got it set to only upload the songs I have checked in my i-tunes library.

So how much was that 400 gig firewire drive Gunbei? I'm definetly interested in adding more memory to hold my whole collection especially since the I-pod is only 20 gig.

I like this thread especially the talk on how to improve the sound.
Good deal Glen!

Here's a link to the drive I use:

You can buy it direct from the them or most online computer stores. I have the 400GB which LaCie sells for under $400. I keep my iMovie and iDVD projects on it. Are you using a Mac or PC? If you're using a Mac, places like MacMall, MacZone, Mac Connection, MacWarehouse, etc. carry those drives.

Have fun!
Thanks G man, I've got lot's to think about
Next dumb question - Will I have a problem moving my I-tunes library from one hard drive to another

Thanks in advance

Hi Glen,

You should have no problem at all.

If you elect to keep your music files in both locations, I believe the next time you launch iTunes it will sense that you have two locations and ask which library you'd like to use.

If you move your files to the new drive and delete them from the other partition, iTunes will prompt you with the same question.

At that point, All you have to do is choose the new folder and you're good to go!

Have fun!
Thanks Dean, I'll let you know how it goes
OK now I really need some "new hope"

Just when I thought I had struck an acceptable compromise by using Apple's "lossless" format instead of insisting !!
on the purest WAV files, guess what?

I now figure out that my first generation, barely used, iPod WILL NOT read my iTunes library, even though I have updated the software?!?!?!?

So now I am really going to put my foot down:

I dont care about 800,000,000 songs

I will never believe that the latest MP3 algorithims are indistinguishable from master tapes

I dont want big brother Apple telling me how many times I can duplicate their allegedly lossless file, even though I just paid $.99 cents for it

I just want this:

10 CDs? 20 CDs? MORE than enough!

Perfect, "bit for bit" read at 1x speed, EAC copied WAV files, PLEASE

TAGGING from the internet in this format, so my audiophile music says more than track 1, track 2 etc

LINE LEVEL outputs from the iPod so I can use it with my GRADO battery powered headphone amp

and DECENT battery life (while playing WAV files) with NO hard drive skipping

Is There Any Hope?
Hey Carl,

You're using a first generation iPod with a current version of iTunes? I'm wondering if you need to perform a firmware upgrades to your iPod in order to make it more compatible with iTunes.

Finding a cable connection thru the iPod dock rather than the mini plug would be my preferred route as well. Does anyone know if one exists?

I get hard drive skips no and then and bad freezes three times. I have a 4th gen 40GB with click wheel which I've heard has this problem. When it happens th eunit becomes totally nonresponsive and the only recourse is to let the battery drain so the unit will shut down by itself.

I'm using Apple Lossless compression and have about 30 or 40 albums on my iPod. I sometimes get weird skips on certain albums only, which I'm suspecting is related to them not being ripped cleanly. That or it may be the sector those files are sitting happens to be fragmented.

I'm doing everything on a hotrodded Apple Cube. I know it's frustrating Carl, hang in there.
Hi Guys,

I have my I-pod fully load now with 18 gig out of my cd collection. I haven't had any major problems yet. Personally I just except the i-pod for what it is. I don't expect the sound to be that great, but as far as the over all experience it's wonderful. If I desire to travel around the world I know I have a lot of my favorite tunes with me. Next I plan on buying some excellent headphones so I'm all ears if you guys have recommendations please give me an idea of pricing too. I would like to stay under $500.00 if possible. Also who's selling them discounted?

After that I'd like to start thinking about some sort of travel system with external speakers, but let's just go one step at a time.

Picture your self in a boat on a river with tangerine tree's and marmalade sky's. Then flip on some tunes...AH Life is good :^)

Take care