What do you think of the Ipod's sound quality?

I have an 80gig Ipod classic. My sister gave it to me for my birthday 2 years ago. Recently I bought an 8gig generic mp3 player. The difference in sound is unbelievable. The cheap player sounds SO MUCH better than the Ipod. It’s like the difference between seeing the world through a dirty window versus having a pristine windowpane. The music has more depth and clarity and an overall more full sound.

I don’t think I can go back to listening to music on the Ipod.

So my question is really mult-part:
What do you think of the Ipod’s sound quality?
Do you use mp3 format or Apple’s proprietary format?
If you have music in both mp3 and AAC format, is there a noticeable difference?

My music is all mp3. I don’t use AAC. I suspected that Apple might have an inferior mp3 decoder partly because they might want to force users to convert to Apple’s proprietary music format, and partly because they might not want to pay for a decent mp3 decoder. However, the wiki article on the mp3 format states that all decoders should sound about the same because mp3 decoding is carefully defined in the standard.

It’s not worth it to me to convert some music over to the more proprietary AAC format from the more open MP3 format to test quality. So I’m hoping that I can benefit from the vast knowledge/opinions of the teeming millions.

Are you using the same headphones? Is the EQ set on either of your mp3 players? Is soundcheck turned on on your ipod? Those all can really impact the sound quality.

I think the ipod sounds great, though I have nothing else to compare it to. I think the headphones aren’t the best, but listening to it through a stereo sounds fine.
I have AAC and Mp3 files; I don’t really notice a difference, any differences I hear I usually attribute to different bit rates.

sprays self with Audiophile Off! before entering thread

I think the iPod delivers great sound–with these caveats, they are what are really going to influence your listening experience.

–Ditch the stock earbuds, they are tinny and terrible.
–Record your files at a high sample rate. This makes far more difference than decoder preference.
–Check to see what equalizer mixer your iPod is set to. Try a few different ones to see if that helps.
–Did you have the “automatically adjust audio levels” setting enabled on your iTunes library? This is bad, as it will overboost or overcompress the audio levels to the detriment of many songs, it especially kills high dynamic range classical music recordings.

I do all of mine as .mp3 256kBs and have no complaints, and to my ears 192 kBs is fine for out in public listening. If I’m in my quiet living room on good speakers, though, I can still tell the inferiority to an uncompressed CD.

If your iPod sounds crummy, I would first blame earbuds - bitrate - format in that order before blaming the player.

…and of course by kBs, I really mean kbs. Which means kbit/sec.

Also, I ask this to be helpful and not insulting, but are you entirely sure that when you say “…The cheap player sounds SO MUCH better…” that you may be used to hearing and preferring merely a louder, level-boosted balance (which is actually objectively worse)? Radio, and many newer engineered music, compress the ceiling/floor of the audio levels to make them sound “better” in noisy environments (car, headphones on the street, etc).

See “The Loudness Wars” article:


I’ll have to check my Ipod/Itunes settings. I may have the automatically adjust audio levels turned on.

No offense taken about the louder comment. It’s not that though. I dislike the compression that’s going on in most modern recordings. My comparison was done using Sony earbuds. They sound better than the stock Ipod earbuds but they’re not great either. Most of my mp3s are at 192 kbps or better. I really hope that you are right and that I have a setting wrong. About the only setting on Itunes that I made certain to change was the default setting to convert music to AAC.

—I’m going to go check those settings right now. . . .

Wow AVG and iTunes aren’t playing well together as noted in this GQ thread. So My iTunes is down. My iPod had the “normalize volume across all songs” on. My ears are fatigued–so I don’t know if that fixed my problem.

I find that my iPod sounds a lot better when I use my set of Bose ear buds.

I had a 30GB iPod “Video” that I thought sounded meh compared to non-Apple mp3 players I’d heard. That got stolen, and now I have one of the newer 120GB “Classic” models, whose sound I like very much. No doubt this is partly because, with the increased capacity, I’m now trying to get the highest kbs possible for each song. However, many of the files on my new iPod are identical to the ones on my old player, and even they sound better – these were the first files I installed on the new player, and the difference jumped out at me right away.

So, I don’t know. My subjective impression is that OP’s issue is not imagined, and that at least those iPod Videos from a couple years ago give an underwhelming sound.

I have an ipod touch which is… okayish. Don’t turn the EQ on for apple devices (at least the ones I’m familiar with) … it’s a software EQ that’s badly written and amps the hell out of everything.

It’s better to keep it unequalized and then get a pair of headphones that’s biased the way you prefer to listen to music, somewhat substituting the job of the EQ.

The headphone amp is pretty unimpressive and the audio hardware is middle of the road at best.

This works for most people - who couldn’t even tell the difference between a 128kbps mp3 file and a CD, who are happy to spend $300 on a music player and then listen to them on crappy earbuds… which they then blast at 100db. If you can hear earbuds across the room, chances are they’ll be deaf by 50.

Really, they’re alright for mobile listening. If you really would prefer something for audio quality I hear good things about Cowan players.