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MP3 players forum: Who HATES iPod's sound quality?

by: equazcion May 13, 2005 5:31 PM PDT

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Who HATES iPod's sound quality?

by equazcion - 5/13/05 5:31 PM

Okay, maybe "hate" is too strong a word. But I had to get your attention somehow.

The real question is this: Do you hate the fact that everyone talks about how great Apple's iPod is because of its sleek looks and controls, while very little attention is paid to the way it sounds?

Worse yet, do you feel like you shelled out $300 for a pretty, sleek little music player that looks nice and makes you feel cool, but doesn't really play music all that well?

While Apple continues to refuse to release the audio performance statistics of the iPod, such as "signal-to-noise ratio" (normally a pretty decent way to measure of sound quality), major reviewers continue to all but ignore what would seem like a vital area of comparison. Sure, sound is fine for the average consumer. But what about us sound geeks?

It's been suggested that iPod's sound is great, but the headphones it comes with hinder the output quality. Ok, try this: Get your best set of headphones and plug them into your computer. Listen to an MP3. Then plug the same headphones into your iPod, and listen to the same MP3. If you've followed those steps, I shouldn't have to say any more.

Sure, the sound quality certainly isn't terrible. I can live with it, if need be. But for $300, I expect more, and no amount of flashy exterior can make up for that. If you buy a new Mercedes and find out the engine isn't quite as good as your dad's '95 Civic, you're gonna be pissed, no matter how nice a paint job you got.

I am therefore looking for an iPod alternative. I want to see a clear comparison of iPod's SOUND QUALITY versus its competitors' SOUND QUALITY. Not looks, features, or anything else I can already find in any standard brainless review. I want to know which MP3 players have better sound quality than iPod, so I can go out and buy one!

Since I haven't seen any reviews like that yet (I'm not optimistic since everyone gets sexually stimulated just by looking at an iPod), I would like to start this thread. I would, if possible, like for replies to come ONLY from those people who have listened to the iPod's sound and judged it to be INADEQUATE. I would then like to hear about an iPod alternative that you've tried, and what your experience was. I would of course ESPECIALLY like to hear from those of you who found a player with better-than-iPod sound quality.

I'm sure I will have to deal with those who feel the need to defend iPod because of a romantic attachment. I expect this, and if it helps to avoid such encounters, to you iPod lovers, I respect your position and respectfully disagree.

So, here are the rules. I use the term "rules" loosely since of course I can't actually enforce any real rules:

I'm looking specifically for alternatives to the Apple iPod 20GB, 4th Generation. So basically, we are looking at hard-drive-based portable MP3 players with around 20GB of space.

Here's a primer of some models I'm curious about, but if you have something else you'd like to review and share, it would certainly be welcome:

iRiver H320
Dell DJ-20
Creative Zen Touch
Rio Karma
Sony Network Walkman NW-HD3
Cowon iAudio M3
SoniqCast Aireo 2
Archos Gmini XS200

Remember, when you post, try to focus on sound quality rather than looks, features, battery life and so forth. Try comparisons based on listening to an MP3 file copied to a few different devices, like your computer, then an iPod, and then your iPod alternative(s), and rank each one. Of course make sure you use the same MP3 file for all three, as well as the same headphones each time.

Thanks in advance to everyone who posts!

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