I can't resist asking why on earth you would want to do this?? As you say, the ipod quality is very poor, and that won't change no matter what you hook it up to.
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For the best sound quality you'd want to bypass the DAC and amplifier inside the iPod by connecting it to one of the external docks that pick up the digital information directly from the drive in the iPod. Then you're getting the music at the resolution of the original file, which can be anything from a low-resolution mp3 to full CD or higher resolution. At that point the iPod is just a storage device with an interface for selecting the music.
Several companies make docks, Wadia was the first but there are a number of them out there now. I haven't heard the PURE i-20 but it's fairly inexpensive and has had good reviews here.
the external dac will certainly provide better sound, but if you have been downloading from itunes or converting cds at the 128 ACC import setting inorder to fit as much music as you can on your ipod your are getting compressed sound. If you have been importing at WAV or equivalent you'll get closer to the orginal cd sound, takes up a lot more ipod G space so you need one with a fair bit of Gs - difference in space between the2 import settings is like 5-6 times,but music sounds a heel of alot better. Might also consider besides the dac an ipod transport like the Wadia 171
I can't resist asking why on earth you would make such a preposterous claim??
Sure, if you are referring to poorly-encoded, low-bitrate files played through crappy earbuds at high volume in noisy environments, you might have a case; but used as a means of storing and playing digital files, an iPod can compete with transports costing many times its meager price. Load in some high-quality files and hook it up to a decent (or better) DAC, and if you still think "the ipod quality is very poor, and...won't change no matter what you hook it up to," you may be forced to drop the "Lears" portion of your moniker! ;-)
Your retraction is accepted, and I will be circulating a petition to have the moderators change your handle to "Lears(extremely_wise)fool." ;-)
I probably would have let the entire matter slide had I not read your recent post concerning "build quality":
Many audiophiles will refuse to even listen to a piece of equipment that they think doesn't come up to their often extremely arbitrary "build quality" standards. Many others equate Build Quality with Cost, and assume that higher cost equals "better." For me, the bottom line should always be, does it sound better or not?When the Compact Cassette first hit the scene, I remember a full-page ad in Rolling Stone trumpeting the fact that you could now take the latest Stones album and slip it into your shirt pocket before heading out to the big party. Amazing! Except that now, for $129, you can buy an iPod Nano that's about the size of a wristwatch and is able to store as much music as 20-30 LPs! Throw in another twenty bucks, and you get twice that capacity.
When you consider that this device completely eliminates annoyances such as tape hiss; wow & flutter; dropouts; tape jams, stretches and breaks--and by the way, has no moving parts--you've got yourself a pretty amazing device. And all this for a price that a "truly serious" audiophile would probably be willing to shell out for an "ultra high-end" LP sleeve. ;-)
Bottom line, this very affordable piece of technology is a music lover's dream. No doubt, better digital reproduction can be achieved, but only at a cost of thousands of dollars. For 99.96% of the population, the weak link in their system will not be the iPod, but everything downstream of it: DAC, preamp, amp, and speakers.
So as you pointed out, do not dismiss a component too hastily based on its perceived "build quality" lest you throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.
No, it wasn't ignorant, figuring out the connection options among the universe of devices isn't easy or intuitive. But, if you do want to get a digital signal from the iPod so you can connect directly to the digital input of your player you'll need a device like the Pure i-20 mentioned in an earlier post or one of the other similar devices from Wadia, Cambridge Audio and others.
They don't convert the output of the iPod to a digital signal, they take the digital information that's stored on the iPod and route it to the DAC in your Quad player before it passes through the DAC and amp that are built into the iPod.
One notch back from that in terms of sonic quality is to use a dock or cable that sends a 'line out' analog signal to the input of a preamp or integrated. That signal will have been converted from digital to analog by the iPod's internal DAC but not sent through the amp-on-a-chip that's in the iPod.
Another consideration is the resolution of the files on the iPod. If you have low bit rate mp3 files on the iPod they're never going to sound like CD or higher resolution files no matter how you extract them from the iPod.
As an aside, I love the iPod, iPad, iPhone, iTouch devices, I think I own six or seven of them, but expecting a device that's designed completely around portability and convenience to sound as good as high resolution files on a music server or even a CD player seems unrealistic to me. And the pursuit of that is a waste of money, from my experience.
I don't have any experience with the Quad players but according to the owner's manual the CDP-S player does not have any digital inputs but the CDP-2 player has both optical and coax digital inputs.
If you have the CDP-S you won't be able to use it between the Pure I-20 and your preamp, you would plug the analog outputs of the I-20 into line inputs on your preamp.
If you have the CDP-2, though, you could send either the optical or coax output of the I-20 to one of the digital inputs of the CDP-2 and then connect one of the analog outputs of the CDP-2 to your preamp. That way you would be bypassing the built-in DAC of the I-20 and using the one in the CDP-2 instead.
With the CDP-2, whether the optical or the coax digital output of the I-20 sounds better as a digital source, and whether the I-20 DAC or the Quad DAC sounds better, is just a matter of listening.