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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source iPod
I ripped a number of my CDs using iTunes' Apple Lossless encoding for maximum fidelity. When I played songs back on my stereo system from my iPod, the music was thin and reedy, but when I played the same music back using iTunes on my computer, the music sounded virtually as good as from a CD player.

I assume that the digital-to-analog circuitry in the iPod is not nearly as good as those on my computer, so the same music sounds much better coming from the computer than from the iPod. Since I like to listen to music while I'm working at my computer, using iTunes on my computer as jukebox source is a no-brainer. Just plug the headphone jack into a high-level input on your stereo. I use a 17" G4 Powerbook; your mileage may vary.

[robg adds: I'm running this hint in order to see what others think: I've never actually used my iPod connected to the stereo, and was curious to see if others have noticed a definite audio quality difference between an iPod and a Mac as the music source on a stereo system. Share your experiences if you've tried both...]
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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: kirkmc on Jul 06, '07 07:47:52AM

When you connect the iPod, do you connect it from the headphone jack? If you have the iPod running through a dock, the output is better. I do this often, and it sounds fine to me. Perhaps you have EQ on, or something else that's affecting the sound quality?

Kirk

---
Read my blog: Kirkville -- http://www.mcelhearn.com
Musings, Opinion and Miscellanea, on Macs, iPods and more



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: tricil on Jul 06, '07 10:25:08AM

for what it's worth, I use an audio interface (a presonus firebox) with my MBP (i'm a musician) this drives the speakers even more (it's basically like an amplifier with how loud it is)

it's also capable of 24bit/96khz sound but i haven't been able to get up to 96000 without audible glitching so far, but that's another story (and hopefully a hint)....



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: DanFrakes on Jul 06, '07 11:28:29AM

What Kirk said -- make sure you're connecting via the iPod's dock-connector audio output, rather than the headphone jack.

---
Dan Frakes / Senior Editor, Macworld / Senior Reviews Editor, Playlist



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: lokon1979 on Jul 06, '07 07:49:50AM

A hints? I do this since day 1 i've got my first Mac and 1st gen iPod! And i believe many other do this since iTunes 1.0!



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: DougAdams on Jul 06, '07 07:50:43AM

Kirk beat me to it. Eq settings and Sound Enhancer make a difference here, otherwise, none that I can tell.

---
Doug's AppleScripts for iTunes
http://www.dougscripts.com/itunes/



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: kirkmc on Jul 06, '07 07:54:22AM

I knew Doug would reply to this one! :-)

Kirk

---
Read my blog: Kirkville -- http://www.mcelhearn.com
Musings, Opinion and Miscellanea, on Macs, iPods and more



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Not the iPod.
Authored by: dbs on Jul 06, '07 08:05:03AM

Converting 16-bit 44kHz digital audio to analog output is so trivial these days that I doubt a functioning iPod's output is significantly worse than anything else. Indeed the specs on such parts are usually identical to those found in desktop PCs.

If you're hearing a distinct difference from the same audio file then it is almost certainly either an issue with the output level from the iPod (too low, analog static from the input amp and possible noise from other sources; too high, clipping at the input circuitry) or the equalizer in the iPod. It might possibly be that yours is physically broken as well.



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Not the iPod.
Authored by: magir on Jul 06, '07 08:47:33AM

I disagree. The d/a-circuit in a good amplifier is often better than the one in laptops or most sound cards. This is especially true for the Airport Express, where digital audio is much better than analog.

I can also confirm, that the dock output is usually better than the headphone jack.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: dan55304 on Jul 06, '07 08:05:43AM

I've always played music from my iPod, through an Apple dock with remote, to my stereo while I work. I've never noticed a difference in quality. However, when I play music through iTunes on my Mac it was through an Apple Express. Maybe the wi-fi route isn't as good as a plug.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: captainbonehead on Jul 06, '07 08:32:44AM

Sounds like either an impedance problem or lack of level. I use my 3G iPod for source when running front-of-house, and never have this kind of problem. I've even ripped my "desert island" CDs as Apple Lossless, which I use for getting familiar with new rooms and systems.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: nmerriam on Jul 06, '07 08:41:35AM

I suspect it's settings or the headphone jack being used that is causing your problem. I have an iPod dock connected to my stereo and it sounds fantastic, the same as my HTPC which is connected via digital optical.



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My experiences with sound outputs on Apple products
Authored by: felixkunze on Jul 06, '07 08:44:02AM

I have had some varied experiences in this area and I've tried out various things.
I currently play my music via a Sony Stereo system. My speakers are quite good. My conclusion is as follows:
In 2004 I had my iBook and a 4th Generation 20GB iPod. The sound quality on both was the same, I never noticed any difference. Then I got myself a First Generation iPod shuffle (white plastic). I plugged that into my stereo and ta-dah... the sound quality was a lot better. I checked around a bit online and it seemed that the Shuffle's audio playback ability was better than my 1400 USD iBook.
Now I have the most recent iPod (80GB) and a 2006 iMac. Both seem to have similar sound quality although the iMac sometimes seems to do a little bit better.
Overall the looser in my opinion is the iBook but problems seem to have been sorted out in recent hardware.
I can say I've had a lot of trial and error on this subject, I listen to a lot of music and when you listen to certain songs on the same speaker system, on 2 different devices, without EQ or any other settings turned on, you can tell the difference between the various devices. But for low volume listening on a low quality stereo system, I don't think it makes a difference.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: murat on Jul 06, '07 08:53:40AM

My PowerBook and MacBook Pro definitely sound better than my iPods. I did some testing a while back and the dominant factor in the difference in sound quality is the decoding. It should surprise no one that a Mac has more horsepower than an iPod to do really good MP3 or AAC decoding. Depending on the source material, the differences can be quite dramatic.

Older iPods are worse than newer iPods.

The difference in quality was much, much smaller when I compared playback of uncompressed AIFF files.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: jsumners on Jul 06, '07 09:20:40AM
It doesn't really matter. Both devices are only capably of a frequency response of 20Hz to 20KHz on their output connections. No matter how much more power the PowerBook has over the iPod, both are limited to the exact same frequency range.

http://developer.apple.com/documentation/Hardware/Developer_Notes/Macintosh_CPUs-G4/15inchPowerBookG4/3Input-Output/chapter_4_section_16.html

http://www.apple.com/ipod/specs.html

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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: kuginomura on Jul 06, '07 09:32:46AM
this assumes that the only meaningful measure of sound quality is frequency response, which is certainly not the case.

there are a couple of reasons your computer might sound better than your ipod:

1. you are using the headphone output of the ipod when you really should be using the dock. the line out via the dock doesn't get passed on to the same caps as the headphone out, which is awful in most ipods. you can get these caps upgraded to audiophile quality, if that matters to you: [link:http://redwineaudio.com/iMod.html]. i had it done on the 4G ipod and the transformation is night and day.

2. EQ and sound check on itunes may give you a fuller sound or more bass, etc., but that doesn't mean the quality of the signal is actually any better than it is coming out of your ipod...

certainly, there are other reasons as well...

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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: kuginomura on Jul 06, '07 09:34:58AM
oops, here's the redwineaudio link: http://redwineaudio.com/iMod.html

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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: DavidRavenMoon on Jul 07, '07 11:20:26PM

"No matter how much more power the PowerBook has over the iPod, both are limited to the exact same frequency range."

And so is our hearing! 20Hz to 20KHz is as much as we can hear, and most people can't even hear up to 20KHz.

---
G4/Digital Audio/1GHz, 1 GB, Mac OS X 10.4.9 • www.david-schwab.com • www.myspace/davidschwab • www.imanicoppola.net



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: Dammacx on Jul 06, '07 09:30:33AM

At Work I plug my iPod into My Mac (G4 733) and play it that way it it always sounds good. Have a good set of small Altec speakers and a good woofer connected to the mac so when I pump it up it always sounds good. This seems the best and easiest way to both keep all those music files off my work computer and also to not have to worry about having a song on my home computer/iPod that I don't have at work.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: sjmills on Jul 06, '07 10:15:45AM

"Thin and reedy" sounds like the plug was not plugged into the jack all the way, or the cable has the polarity reversed on one channel, or if the iPod has more than 3 contacts (I'm not sure if newer iPods have a 4th contact like the iPhone does), that might be causing some problem.

For years I've used my 1st generation iPod in my truck, plugged into an aux input on the stereo. And I also use a 3rd (I think - I can't keep track) generation iPod for playing break music in our band, plugged directly into the board.

Since the originator obviously has some problem going on with the iPod->stereo connection, this isn't a valid hint (like robg surmised).



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: rspress on Jul 06, '07 10:30:39AM

I would make sure Sound Check is turned off in iTunes. I would also make sure all sound enhancements (such as EQ and sound check) on your iPod are turned off as well. If you are hooking your iPod to a stereo the best way to go is via the dock connector and RCA jacks for line level output. The line out connector on most docks work well for this.



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Line out vs headphone out
Authored by: tifighter on Jul 06, '07 11:03:19AM

Signal quality should be as follows:

1: Optical out of newer macs. The conversion takes place in whatever device you send the optical signal to that then converts the digital to analog.

2: Line output of iPod. The iPod handles the conversion but bypasses the iPod headphone amplifier.

3: headphone out of either the mac or iPod. Conversion and amplifier used internally.

With that being said there are still the variables of the decoder, converter and amplifier of both the iPod and mac. The audio quality is only as good as the weakest link in the signal chain. Personally, I use the line output of my iPod when tuning PA's at venues and find it much better than the signal that goes thru the headphone jack. I can definitely hear that headphone amp muddying things up. As for the macs headphone/stereo output, it sounds comparable to the iPods headphone output when all things are equal (no eq, sound enhancer, volume compensation).



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Lossless
Authored by: macgruder on Jul 06, '07 11:12:18AM

I don't think there is any point in Lossless for playback purposes. Practically any blind test ever done has found it almost impossible to distinguish between a 256 AAC and a CD on a decent system let alone out of a Mac. Lossless is great for backups of music (if you want to throw away your CDs) but is pretty much overkill if you have your CDs anyway



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Lossless
Authored by: sjc1204 on Jul 07, '07 09:24:14AM

That's subjective - everyone hears differently.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: Peachie on Jul 06, '07 12:08:37PM

I remember reading somewhere about some 3rd party tests run on the ipods, and it was determined that the frequency response curve from the headphone jack was not nearly as good as the dock interface. If you are interested enough in the frequency response graphs, I'm sure it can be googled.

In the car I have noticed that playing through the tape deck seems to give better response than FM transmission, but again the headphone jack is not as good, so I use a belkin power/audio adapter that interfaces through the dock connector for both power and audio out to the cassette adapter.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: nerkles on Jul 06, '07 12:10:03PM

The headphone jack on a Mac is not the best output either. Try using a USB audio device (like Griffin's iMic) for even better sound.

Also, if you're going through the iPod's headphone jack, you should definitely tweak the volume setting and EQ. But a better move is to use a dock connection to get a clean line level signal.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: hamarkus on Jul 06, '07 12:32:18PM

Should the best choice not be to use the optical audio-out available on most Macs?



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For older macs, use an Audio Advantage Micro
Authored by: sr105 on Jul 06, '07 01:48:56PM
I bought one of these Audio Advantage Micro adapters and use it for digital audio out of my mac. I originally bought it so I could have sound at work.

http://www.turtlebeach.com/products/micro/home.aspx

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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: Zombilly on Jul 06, '07 06:11:16PM

While using my ipod through my home stereo, my music sound great, but using iTunes out of my g4 iMac with the same wires creates a strong hum out of my stereo. I have tried using a electricity filter with either the mac or the stereo with no change. Any one have the answer to this problem?



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: Westacular on Jul 12, '07 12:51:37PM
Sounds like you're experiencing a mains hum, possibly caused by a ground loop. Try it with the iMac and the stereo plugged in at the same outlet.

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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: DocC on Jul 06, '07 08:05:14PM

As several posters have noted—and assuming you have a reasonably high quality audio system—using an optical connection to deliver the signal provides the best audio results. The digital-analog decoders found in most audio equipment are better quality than what Apple uses, so moving the conversion there is the best thing to do.

Switching from an analog to optical cable (routed via an Airport Express) produced an audible improvement in sound quality for me. (Your mileage may vary. (:>))



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: QuickJimbo on Jul 06, '07 10:31:35PM

I can't comment on a Mac versus an iPod as a sound source, but I can assure you that the sound quality coming out of a G5 iMac is inferior to a hi fi cd or dvd player. I've conducted tests comparing Apple Lossless and CD's played on the Mac versus an 8 year old hi fi Kenwood CD player and a recently purchased mid range DVD player.

The Mac was tested using the headphone out, a Griffin iMic and an edirol (rolland) UA-30 usb/digital converter and in every test, the hi fi equipment sounded much fuller and better. All iTunes sound enhancements were explored where it was found that "none" was best. We even took a lossless file and burned it to a CD to ensure the original information wasn't compromised and used this on the cd and dvd players.

The sound inputs were piped to a high quality valve amp to large, well tuned stereo speakers.

We get a lot of convenience with the computers and ipods, but we don't get hi fidelity. I think the digital to analogue converters let us done every time.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: TGV on Jul 07, '07 12:48:59AM

I'm using an iBook G4 and its sound when connected to the hifi is quite bad. However, when I hook it up through a Tascam US-122L interface, it sounds a lot better. Haven't tried an iPod, but yes, it's the quality of the DA conversion and the rest of the pathway.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: sjc1204 on Jul 07, '07 09:22:31AM

I'm trying to go all Mac as well and have had decent luck.

I use an Intel mini with a massive external drive for my iTunes music library . I don't have a keyboard or mouse connected to this computer so I'm using Front Row on the display I use for all my TV/DVD watching. iTunes prefs are set to import and then eject discs and then grab album artwork so it's fairly automated. For any admin or tagging I need to do, I use VNC which is very reliable.

Always ripping to Apple Lossless, I'm using a toslink optical cable to my Denon AV Receiver which powers some Paradigm Reference monitors. I also have 2 Airport Express units on two other systems in the house.

The fidelity on the system with the mini / toslink config is darn good and while it's not full blown CD quality, it's very close. The convenience and ability to have this great looking interface on my TV with beautiful album covers is worth the slight hit.

Now, the systems with the AE units don't fair so well. I can hear the fidelity hit and it does bug me.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: makip on Jul 09, '07 04:28:16PM

Have you also used an optical connection from the AE's to each of the receivers, or just a regular headphone cable?



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: okohll on Jul 08, '07 05:05:04AM

I used a Sony minidisk recorder to do the digital/analog conversion from the optical out, then output that to an amp. Sound is much clearer than direct output from headphone jack of mac mini or powerbook G4.

I found minidisk recorders were much more plentiful second hand than amps with optical ins. You don't have to actually be recording for the d/a conversion to work, it'll just pass through.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: delight1 on Jul 08, '07 08:44:01AM

I have an old g3 ibook, so this might not matter compared to newer computers, but my ibook sends a LOT more power to the head phone jack then my ipod.
Enough power is sent through my headphones (and these are the newer ipod kind) that the jack is quite hot to when touch.

If this is still the case with newer models, could this just be that the computer overcomes the resistance of long wires better then the ipod?



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: gblanco on Jul 09, '07 09:25:15PM

I think you're misinterpreting what you are seeing.

Since the impedance of the headphones doesn't change, the sound pressure level coming from the headphones is going to be proportional to the power that the signal source is producing. Is your iBook really a LOT louder than your iPod?

About your plug getting hot, the conductors in the plug are much bigger than the wires connecting the plug to the headphones, which in turn are much bigger than the wires that make up the voice coils in the headphones themselves. For the plug to be getting hot due to current passing, you'd have to be sending Amps through it, which would melt the wires (not to mention the voice coils in the headphones). I think it is more likely that the plug is just inserted into a hot iBook, and it is the heat from the CPU that is warming your plug.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: smerdonw on Jul 08, '07 09:33:28AM

I am using two Macs to handle my music and movie needs. I have a PM G4 Cube with a 750GB drive to store my ripped CDs and DVDs. I've ripped the CDs on the Cube using iTunes and share it to every computer in the house via Ethernet and Wireless. Can't remember which format I used, but it meets my needs for now. I've ripped the DVDs and use Matinee and DVD Player on a Mac Mini (G4) hooked up to a Sharp LCD and Altec Lansing FX6021 in my living room. I have over 80 movies available at my fingertips. I have an EyeTV 250 and Griffin RadioShark hooked up to the Mac Mini as well. It functions as a DVR and stereo as well as having access to my library of music and DVDs. I'd like to combine these two machines into one in the future but am just awaiting the motivating reason and funding.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: beezerboy on Jul 08, '07 02:56:24PM

I have used my 3rd gen iPod with my stereo using the iPod dock with good results, but I now use Airport Express. The Airport Express is channelling my G4 server upstairs and I am controlling it with a G4 iBook or my IBM laptop. The stereo quality is much better through the AE than direct from the iPod. Most of my music is recorded with no compression from CDs.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: eagle on Jul 08, '07 06:32:07PM

For the best possible sound output, use an optical connection to a high-quality DAC, and run the output of that into a tube amp.

Second best, run the DAC's output into a solid state amp.

Third best, connect the computer optically to a solid state amp.



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Use a Mac instead of an iPod as stereo system source
Authored by: cosmicpop on Jul 09, '07 04:51:38AM

I actually find that my iPod Nano has significantly better sound quality than my MacBook when connected to the stereo via the headphone jack.

With the Macbook, the vocals on most tracks seem strangely echo-y and faint, and bass isn't really bassy. With the iPod, I find that the sound quality is really excellent ,with enough bass to give the room a good shake.

Equalizer settings are identical on both the iPod and MacBook.



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mp3 will allways be a compromise
Authored by: carpidom on Jul 27, '07 03:27:29AM

... and not an audio sound norm. It's a way to "transport" music fast and light (portable). There is a reason why compression causes soundloss, and that is because the sound "range" (equaliser) and all its detail gets "cut off"at both ends (depriving the listener from a 2-50.000Hz freq response).
It's impossible to fit all the mechanix into a square inch or so because a reference cd player weighs 30lbs in circuit paths, stabilization, chassis, isolation, filters and casing. That is if you want more then music from a can...no offence.



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