Product Review

The iPod: Bench Tested

Part I

March, 2007

John E. Johnson, Jr.




● 80 GB Storage

● Codecs: MP3, Apple Lossless

● 2.5" Color LCD Screen

● Ports: 1/8" Stereo Head Phone, USB 2.0 for
   Charging and File Transfer

● iTunes Software for Recording and Transfer

● Ear Buds Included

● Dimensions: 0.55" H x 2.4" W x 4.1" D

● Weight: 5.5 Ounces

● Price: $349 USA; White or Black




A couple of months ago, I did something I never thought I would do: I bought an iPod.

Cynthia has had one for several years, and Susan got one last Fall. Both were birthday presents from me.

The reason I didn't purchase one for a long time was MP3. It is a lossy compression format, meaning that some of the musical information is lost in the compression process, and is not returned when you play the music.

But, when I discovered that Apple had added the "Apple Lossless" codec to iTunes, I decided it was time for me to have one. This codec compresses the original music files from CDs, but when the files are played, they have all the content of the original.

So, I ordered one, in white (makes it easier to find on the shelf), and even got the optional, free engraving on the back with my name and Secrets' website address.

It arrived a week later.

I downloaded the iTunes software (currently version 7) from the Apple website, installed it, and connected the iPod to my computer using the included cable that has a proprietary connector on one end - for the iPod - and a USB 2.0 connector on the other end - for the computer.

In Use

Although the iPod itself has a very solid, well built feel in the hands, and menu navigation is simple, I want to say right now that I don't particularly like the iTunes software. I thought maybe it was just me, but my staff tells me they feel the same way. So, I guess I am not alone.

What is this "Sync iPod" nonsense? If this is Apple's idea of logical menu structure, I disagree. Of course, I have been using a PC for more than 20 years, and am used to its "Are you sure you want to delete this?", "Are you really sure?" multiple clicks to get things done approach. Perhaps I am just too old to do things the "awesome" way.

For me - and others I have spoken with (all PC users) - I would like the iPod to just show up as another drive on the computer. You copy your music files onto your computer into whatever directory you want, convert them to Apple Lossless or MP3, move them to a folder that you name whatever you want, then drag and drop the folders into the iPod. All the metadata (music track names, length of tracks, etc.) are attached to the music files, so they automatically go along with them into the folders. On the iPod, as a hard drive, you rename the folders anytime you want, rename the files (music tracks) anytime you want, delete files by highlighting them and pressing Delete. You move files between folders in the iPod, not in iTunes and having to click "Sync iPod". Bottom line: include both interfaces, the standard iTunes for users who like it, and the drag and drop to the iPod as a hard drive approach for the rest of us.

The irony is that my staff, who all seem to have an iPod, tell me that iTunes is the best of all the MP3 player software. Geez! The others are worse than this? Time for some programmers who specialize in user friendliness to get involved.

OK, enough criticism.

Oh, wait a minute, I am just getting started.

So, after a trip down to an Apple store, and having the very knowledgeable clerk tell me that "Sync iPod" is "awesome", not nonsense, and helping me get the now crashed iPod back into working condition, I went back home and loaded some music into my computer, stored them as Apple Lossless files (I bought the 80 GB version just for that reason, knowing I would be storing my music in lossless form, which takes up a lot of space), "Synced" the iPod, and headed off for my daily 3 mile exercise walk.

I used the included set of ear buds, shown in the photo below.

OK, so now I discovered that there are ear buds, in-ear phones, on-ear headphones, and around-ear headphones. I didn't know that. I didn't need to know that, until now.

The ear buds kept sliding out of my ears while I walked. I tried wrapping the cable over my ears. I tried hooking part of the cable through my jacket. I tried everything. The ear buds would not stay in place. When they slid out of my ear canals, I lost all the bass.

But wait. There was no bass to begin with. At least not nearly as much as I thought there should be.

The highs were detailed, maybe a bit harsh, but the midrange was weak, and the bass was just barely there.

Even if I used both hands to stick the ear buds into my ear canals and hold them there, nope, not much bass at all.

Keep in mind that I used the "Off" setting in the EQ menu, as shown below. Activating Bass Booster does crank it up, but audible distortion occurs (I can hear it). I prefer low distortion, with no EQ. Like most audiophiles, I don't want to use tone controls (EQ) because of the artifacts they produce.

So, now what?

Click Here to Go to Part II.

Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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