Using iPod Classic as music server

I finally decided to organize my music on a "server" using an iPod Classic that I got as a hand-me-down from one of my grandsons. In order to replicate music as accurately as possible I'm ripping CDs using Apples lossless CODEC. My understanding of these formats like FLAC and ALAC is that accuracy of replication is 100% and I'm finding that playback using earphones or good buds at least, seems that that is so.

However, when playing through my system, although good, playback using the iPod is not the same as when the source is the CD player. The information seems complete and obviously better than compressed versions I've heard but resolution and detail in the upper frequencies seems to have been softened.

My ability to compare these two sources is straightforward because I can have the same track playing on both sources and A/B using the source selector on the preamp. Now il get to my question.

First I need to say that the present system performs extremely well for my listening tastes so I'm not questioning the existing components. However, there are at least the 2 new issues of concern; one is the quality of the CD transport in the computer and the other is the quality of the iPod playback. I don't mean to imply that the playback from the iPod is terrible. As a matter of fact, it sounds quite good but a little softer/warmer than I prefer for critical listening.

There must be a reason why dedicated music servers are expensive and I'm assuming it has to do with reproduction quality as with other components in a system. I've never seen one so don't even know the process(es) for downloading music to them but, for several reasons, I want to pursue the use of a digital server of some kind. I'm, therefore, asking for corrections of my assumptions as well as some guidance toward making an intelligent choice.

My present system is: Shanling S-100 CD player, Peachtree Audio Nova as a preamp, Peachtree Audio 220 amp and Martin Logan Odyssey speakers.
For the ipod classic you could use the Wadia 170i ipod dock that takes the digital out of the ipod to your favorite dac.
A big improvement over the ipod alone in my opinion.
For stand alone music server there are a lot of options,I use the Apple mac mini with external hard drive ,usb out to m2tech hiface usb to rca converter and then to dac.
I have used and recommend the Olive HD04 and HD06 units and Bryston BDP-1.
Sonos is another good choice ,work out of the box solution with great company back up.

I have heard digital playback from iPods, iPhones, Mac mini's and solid state server. I have compared directly to the CD on the same equipment and the. CD always sounds much better. I don't know why but it does. This is running through my DCS Puccini and a friends DCS Scarlatti stack. I don't know what the issue is but a big difference to me.

Perhaps something like the Bryston referenced above has a better transformer and components and that will make the difference.
playback using the iPod is not the same as when the source is the CD player.

I'm not sure what you are comparing. Playback from your computer vs. iPod?
Maybe the master clock in the CDP is superior to whatever is inside the iPod. The CD (or computer) is controlling jitter and possibly has a better DAC. Thus, better sound.
Are you using the 30 pin connector on the iPod or the headphone jack? You will get significantly better results using the 30 pin connector, but in my experience the DAC on the iPod cannot compete with a CD player. Something like the Wadia essentially turns the iPod into an external hard drive and should improve your listening experience. There is another product that I have seen on Music Direct that appears to do the same thing. I have never been curious enough to pull the trigger to see how they do.
Hi,you & I are trying to do the same thing with a ipod classic,you already have Peachtree electronics,so this should work great for you.Buy a used Peachtree idac,it is a ipod dock & DAC (it also has a lot of other digital inputs} then just plug your ipod into it & connect the outputs to your preamp,this will bypass the dac & power supply in your ipod & will sound way better than just hooking your ipod to your preamp.It comes with remote & will change tracks on your ipod.You can go to Peachtree & download the manual for these even though they are no longer available.These listed for 1000.00 new & you should be able to buy a used one for half of that or less,i think there is one on Audiogon now,i bought mine from e-bay for 380.00 with manual,remote,ipod adapters for different ipods,it is like new. this will make a huge difference in the sound quality of your ipod.This also has about 5 other digital inputs including usb that you could connect to your computer to play music files.You may even improve the sound of your Shanling,by connecting the outputs of it to the idac.I have magnepan 3.6 speakers & this setup made the highs sound way better & the overall sound was also greatly improved.
The analog section of the ipod is pretty bad. You can't expect it to perform in the same league as your Shanling. It would be no different than if you were to take a portable walkman style CD player and put that against your S-100.

If you want to use your ipod with good results, you'll need to run it through some type of dac. Someone above mentioned the Wadia. I would go with something like that.
I have downloaded all my CDs to my Mac Mini. They are played through a M2Tech HiFace using Audirvana and an Eastern Electric DAC. I synch my 4 ipods to the Mac Mini using each for a separate genre or style. All of my music is in Apple Lossless and is synch that way to my classic ipods. I can carry my entire library of music everywhere I go. I have an apartment away from my home. I use a Pure i-20 dock ($99)from the 20 pin connector and the digital out to another DAC there. The i-20 dock takes a pure digital signal out of the ipod without using any Apple conversion. It is a pure digital stream. The digital stream is identical to any other source be it computer or digital out from a CD player. Thus, I have all my music in both places. Another advantage is with the i-20 you can use an ipod Touch and wi-fi to stream any internet music source and also get a digital stream, although it will be a compressed and lossy stream, whereas the Apple Lossless from your classic ipod will be lossless. I liked the i-20 so much I bought two to have a spare but have not used it. Highly recommended.
I started out my hifi hobby with exactly that - an iPod Classic.

It was mated to a Wadia iTransport which was hooked up to a Benchmark DAC (the DAC1 Pre was the flagship then). The Wadia was the first of its kind - an iPod digital dock - it basically took the digital data from the iPod, bypassed its (frankly quite shoddy DAC) and passed it to an external DAC.

The DAC1 Pre was also (as its name suggests) a preamp. So all I needed was a couple of mono blocks to drive my speakers.

I then upgraded the power supply of the Wadia and made all sorts of upgrades over time.

These days, of course, you can go for much cheaper options than the Wadia. The Pure i-20 dock does pretty much the same thing for a whole lot less and it even includes a pretty decent DAC inside if you don't want to spring for a new one.

But here are the downsides.

One, controlling the playlist from the iPod is not much fun. The remote on my Wadia allowed me just the basics - pause/play, and track forwards and back. There's no way to change albums or playlists unless you get off your ass and walk to the iPod on the dock.

Two, you'll find that 160GB will get filled up pretty easily especially if you start ripping more of your CDs.

Three, as you've discovered - there's something different about playing back even a bit perfect copy like Apple Lossless on the iPod. I know you'll hear comments like "bit perfect is bit perfect". But give this a try. Rerip or convert some of your Apple Lossless songs into AIFF format or WAV format. Sync them to the iPod and listen to them again. I suspect you'll hear an improvement. And AIFF takes up even more space than ALAC (Apple Lossless) so the iPod's 160GB would start to look even smaller.

If you have a spare PC/notebook lying around and a have a respectable DAC already in your system, I'd recommend having a look at JRiver. It will import the music already in iTunes and even sync your iPod for you - but that's not the main thing. The PC can be used as a pretty decent music server.

All you need is to hook it up to a DAC. If your DAC is new-ish circa 2-3 years, you should have asynchronous USB connectivity. Use a USB cable to hook the computer to the DAC and voila. Instant music server. The good thing is that storage is cheap and you should be able to use a large HDD to keep your music library going for a long time. If your DAC is older, you can grab one of those asynchronous USB-SPDIF devices that provide a way to connect the PC to a SPDIF input on your DAC.

If you are a Mac user and already have iTunes installed, just buy a copy of BitPerfect from the App Store, and download the free Remote app from Apple on your iPhone or iPad. Then hook the Mac to the DAC (either using the DAC's USB input as mentioned in the PC example) or a USB-SPDIF connection.

Hope this helps.
I second the Pure i20 recommendation; great product, and you can't beat the price. It also has coax and optical inputs, and video output.
Lowrider, I use an iMac for ripping CDs to iTunes using Apple's lossless CODEC; from there, I sync to the iPod. For playback I'm using the inexpensive (here's where my biggest problem might be) Gigaware docking station as an experiment into the server world. Before the dock I tried using the headphone jack out to the preamp and that was pretty unacceptable.

One of the recommendations that I read was to use a DAC between the dock and the preamp and, although I have been a fan of their use, based on the deficiencies that I've experienced so far, I don't think that would help. I already have 3 DAC's which I've used in the past to attenuate or soften some of the brightness that I find uncomfortable but, because the sound I'm missing has mostly to do with detail or resolution in the upper frequencies, it seems that a DAC might exacerbate the problem.

From what I've read here, the Wadia 170i would likely be an improvement over the dock that I'm currently using and after a little more research it will likely be my next step.

I don't pretend to have the best ear in the world for judging sound quality especially where differences are subtle but, in this case, the difference in sound quality from CD to iPod are obvious even to me. Like I mentioned, though, I'm going to opt for the server approach in some form even if it's only for background listening.

I would like to reiterate that I'm in no way implying that use of the iPod as a server is not a good choice. It's just that I've been trying for over 50 years to achieve what I have now, which is a system that better suits my listening than nearly all past attempts regardless of name brand or expense. After all the time, money and effort, I want to minimize compromise as much as economically feasible.
I have the perfect thing to deliver good sound quality for you, and its not expensive. Beats Wadia and other digital docks. I use one myself.

Its the Pure i20 digital docking station. Has an excellent DAC inside and delivers low-jitter. Only $85 on when its on sale.

I have compared it to expensive DACs, over $1K and it usually beats them. If you put a good linear power supply like a on it to replace the wall-wart AC adapter, it will probably beat $5K+ DACs.

This is simply a no-brainer. Just get it.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Good to hear that Steve N.
You can make a great streaming system for cheap using Logitech media server (free, run on any computer on your network), Pure i20 dock with any idevice running ipeng with play option (about $12 for the software) and another idevice running ipeng for control ($10 software).
I ordered the i20 this afternoon and will report back after I try it out. As far as the Peachtree Nova goes, I'll keep it because it has so much latitude of use as well as having a great front end. I already gave the Gigaware dock to a friend who will use it for background music in his store.
Well, I finally got the i20 but still have nothing to report. The ad for the i20 dock lists the iPod Classic as one that it works with but fails to mention that the 60GB Classic does not support it. To evaluate it for my purpose which was to play lossless ripped and synced music files using the iPod as a music server, then, means that I'll need to buy a different iPod.

However, as a result of my more recent research I think I'm spinning my wheels if my understanding that mobile devices are limited to 64KPS is correct. If this, in fact, is the case the i20 will not be the solution to my attempt to achieve high quality reproduction and it will be relegated to a Pandora One player using my iTouch.

Before I invest in another iPod somebody please tell me that my understanding of this issue is incorrect.
Ah. The one you have isn't the Classic even though they share a similar form factor.

The older model the iPod Gen5 and Gen5.5 (60 and 80GB max respectively) aka iPod Video actually have a pretty decent DAC inside (Wolfson). Guess it was in the old days when the margins were pretty high. The newer ones use a much cheaper (and generally accepted to be worse DAC, Cirrus Logic I think).

You can modify the iPod Video to remove the cheap caps internally and replace them with better quality external caps to improve the sound quality. It's usually called the iMod - which were sold by RedWineAudio.

My iPod Video does work with the Wadia iTransport but in a limited capacity. I'd have to select the songs I want to play first, hit Play, then dock the player. Because once it's docked, the screen becomes "locked" and it displays a Wadia dock connected logo.

You might want to see if this works for you.
Thanks, Doggiehowser. My iPod is, indeed, the 60GB model that won't work with the Pure i20 dock so I haven't yet been able to determine if the quality will be acceptable for my listening. I'll go ahead and buy another model iPod which will work with the i20; I can always use the 60 in a dock in another room.

In the meantime, a friend gave me his old first generation Apple TV which I finally got synced with my iTunes library and the sound is quite good. Because I doubt that the iPod / dock combo will be much / if any better, I may abandon the idea of using the iPod in my main listening area altogether. For that decision I need some advice. BTW, I would be interested to know what the bitrate using the Apple TV is when playing music from my iTunes library that has been synced from CD. In other words, is lossless ripping from CD a waste of disk space?

I have the upgraded Pandora One the sound quality from which is only a little better than iTunes downloadable music which is pretty bad. It serves a good purpose, though, in that it allows one to preview specific artists' music before purchasing their albums.
The iPod dock will definitely be better. You can also reclock it with Synchro-Mesh to make it even better:

Power supply and coax cable both make a big difference here.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio

If you have an Off-Ramp, is there any benefit to using the Synchro-Mesh, or does the Off-Ramp reclock just the same?
AppleTV IIRC resamples the audio to 48kHz.

If you want to use this route, I'd recommend getting an Airport Express which will send out 44.1kHz

Both will work with Airplay from your iTunes server
I appreciate the input and if I understand the full meaning, it looks like the only way to experience CD quality sound is to use a CD. That being the case, I'll suspend further experimentation and replace my 60GB iPod with a model that will work with the Pure i20; I'll still use that or the Apple TV for background listening.
On e you have an iPod that will work with your dock you should be very close to CD capability. If you had a CD player that also had a digital input you would, in theory, be using the same DAC with different transports. I don't know how much difference there would be between your lossless iPod files and Redbook CD, but it should be negligible for anyone willing to use an iPod in the first place (not intending any judgement with this statement just suggesting that using an iPod is likely an indicator that your gear isn't likely the elite extreme high end). I don't know if I could tell a difference in my system or not.

I have heard computer audio that I preferred to the $30k Clear Audio turntable that had been playing seconds earlier and I have also preferred a similar turntable over CD in a direct A to B comparison. Bottom line is that CD, computer audio, and vinyl can all be great!
Thanks, Mceljo. To explain this situation more in detail, because the digital inputs on my preamp are already populated, my connection is through a California Audio Labs Alpha DAC. I'm not really complaining about the sound that I heard using this setup with another iPod; it's just not as good as the CD player. I was simply not enough educated on the subject not to expect that it would.

I use Pandora with this setup also and the sound seems even less acceptable, but in both cases their use is so convenient that I'm willing use them for the bulk of my listening. It's not perfect but is pretty acceptable if I'm not actively scrutinizing detail.

I've recently started using the Apple TV generation one mostly for listening to all music that I've downloaded (?) to its hard drive. This is by far the most straightforward way that I've found so far to organize and play music. Once again, though, the quality seems lacking in the same way as with the ipod choices.

The bottom line is that I'm very happy with these technologies and will continue using them without complaint.
I am continually impressed with the sound quality of Pandora. It is not equal to my CD player, but sounds great for background music considering that it is a compressed format. I suspect my receiver is doing a great job with it.
+1 Mceljo. I've got Pandora 1andI enjoy it very much.