Nov 23

For me the number one criteria for buying an iPod is audio quality. Some people will go for looks, size, or battery life, but for me it’s which iPod sounds the best – not just through the headphones but also into my stereo.

This article discusses the reasons for the difference in quality of the sound output of the various models of iPods and iPhones, which iPod sounds the best, and why. This article mentions old iPods but it is not out of date. I personally think that the 10 year old  iPods mentioned in this article are better than the current 2016 lineup in terms of sound quality.

Why I wrote this article.

Back in 2010 I was driving along listening to U2 on my iPhone 3GS. I wanted to change to a different song that was not on my iPhone so I plugged in my first generation nano and instantly I noticed the sound quality was much better on the iPod nano than on the more expensive iPhone. This led me to do some listening tests using the same song.  The iPod nano definitely had better quality audio. It had a better bass response and was not so harsh in the high-end. So not all iPods are same. This got me wondering why. IT turns out that there are different audio chips used in different iPods. There are also different other parts, but I think the main difference comes form the Audio chips that are used.

Please keep in mind that  listening tests are personal – some people like huge bass, some like warm sound, some prefer a sound that is as authentic as possible. The main two audio chips used in Apple devices are Wolfson and Cirrus. It turns out that all the devices I prefer seem to have the Wolfs chip in them. But some people say they prefer the Cirrus devices! The main point of this article is for you to see the reason for the differences, so that you can find the iPod you prefer.

I like clarity. I like to feel like I am there. I am also sensitive to any slight increase in the midrange or treble that will make the music sound  harsh – especially over long periods. Oh, and  I like to hear the very low bass. I’m not a bass head who wants it loud, but I want it to be there, and I want it all to be there.  So I am talking about purity of sound in this article.

 

The Best iPods:

1st place: 5.5th Gen Classic

First place goes to the 5.5th Gen Enhanced iPod – the last iPod released in the 5th Generation iPod family.  Be careful not to confuse this with the 6th generation ipod called Apple iPod ‘Classic’ which looks almost identical. The 6th Generation has the aluminium front. The 5th Gen family has a plastic front case.

First place: the  5th gen enhanced A1136

2nd place: 5th Gen Classic

A very close second place to the rest of the 5th Gen classic family. Looks identical to the 5.5th Gen. Read this article for how to tell the 5 and the 5.5 apart.

3rd place: 4th Gen Classic

Third place goes to the 4th Generation iPod family including iPod photo, iPod colour and U2 edition iPod.

Third place: The 4th Gen ipod family including ipod photo, ipod color and ipod U2 edition. A1059 and A1099. They have a Wolfson Audio chip.

 

4th place: 1st Gen Nano

Now keep in mind that the 1st Generation Nano also has flash memory instead of a hard drive, which makes it a great contender for the best overall second hand iPod. In fact the price of these Nano iPods has been rising over the years and you will do well if you can find one for under $150 second hand!

4th place: 1st generation nano! A1137 (has a Wolfson chip)

 

 Worthy Mention: The Shuffle

The first generation shuffle had a 'Sigmatel' audio chip.

The first generation shuffle. Has a SigmaTel audio chip.

My first gen and 2nd Gen Shuffle also sound great, as does the iPhone 4S.  [I have been informed that the 1st Gen Shuffle uses a ‘SigmaTel’ audio chip that has outstanding audio quality. I have not confirmed this.]

Why is there a difference?

Read on for a discussion on the differences.

CONTINUE READING >

197 Responses to “Which iPod has the best quality audio?”

  1. Jeb says:

    I just knew my nano sounded better than her phone. Now I can rub it in her face and tell her why. thanks mang

  2. Matt says:

    So I am thinking about upgrading either my iPod 4g (60gb) or my iPod 5.5g (80gb). Obviously with the 5.5g I have a newer iPod with a larger capacity and a better screen, but the Red Wine site says that to upgrade the 5 or 5.5g it will require an additional cable from ALO Audio which runs an additional $195. So for the same $250 upgrade, I can get my 4g ready to rock right away, or I have to spend another $195 to get my 5.5g up to snuff. Since, as you said, the 4g is a close second, is the 5g really worth spending an additional $195 better?

    • admin says:

      The 4G is much easier to do the mod to because it has room inside for the capacitors. I’m not sure if there’s any discernible difference, might depend on the rest of your setup – see the red wine forums.

  3. Matt says:

    Thanks for your thoughts. I really am leaning towards the 4g, even though it is 20gb smaller and older, simply because it’ll be ready right out of the box, rather than having to spend another $200 before I can start enjoying it.

  4. Steve says:

    Hold on a bit, I have it on good authority that a home based imod option will be available in the new year.
    The guy undertaking the project is an electrical engineer and already produce,s portable headphone amps.
    I quote “a piece of cake ” and “he charges how much”, it will be far cheaper and he is working on the project over the Christmas period.

    Steve.

  5. Gaz says:

    here is question. im currently listening music by using my iPad and i noticed the audio quality with iPad is much better than any devices out there even better than sony.. what do you think about that? does iPad has special chipset?

    • admin says:

      Even the worst ipods have better sound than most of the competition, so yes likely the ipad sounds better but what Sony device are you comparing it with?

      • Gren says:

        I have an Ipod touch.

        Ipad

        Ipad2 and a macbook pro all with excellent sound, but none hold a candle to my 18 month old Sony Walkman sound quality better by a mile, just a pain to sync.

  6. admin says:

    ipad 2 does not have wolfson audio chips

    http://nokiainside.com/?p=1821

  7. Jason says:

    I have an iPod 6g (80 GB) and while the Cirrus Logic chip in it is very good, I think the sound output is a little lifeless compared to my iPod nano 1g (2gb). My nano 1g needs a lot of repair; new screen/battery/front-back faceplate and headphone jack, as sound output isn’t as clean as I remember. I noticed that the iPod 4th generation (including color/photo) uses the same DAC as the nano 1g.
    Rather than repair it or buy a manufacturer refurb nano 1g (4gb), I’d rather get an older iPod with a decent amount of space for $40 more. Does the 4g sound the same as the nano 1g out of the headphone jack?

  8. admin says:

    Yes 4g sounds great.

  9. John Har says:

    I can confirm that iPod touch sounds worse than every other iPod. I have an iPod shuffle 4g and an iPod touch 4g, and the shuffle is much better. It’s a shame that it only has 2gb space.

  10. Andy H says:

    Great article, is there a considerable difference between the ipod nano 4g and 6g in terms of sound quality?

  11. A.L. says:

    John Har – Your Ipod Touch is 4G? That’s using the Cirrus audio chips.

    To author: Why is Wolfson superior to Cirrus? Any technical specs?

  12. Tram Do says:

    I have a Nano 5th gen and to be honest, listening to it make me feel like the sound is floating somewhere above my head. It is very irritating because most of the songs from my playlist are lossless.
    Can you suggest me some earphone models (lower than $50) that are compatible with my Ipod model and better than the sucking free Apple ones?
    Thanks in advance:D

  13. Taimoor says:

    Hi guys! My Nokia N79 beats ipod touch 3G in terms of sound quality…

  14. tmo says:

    none of the older ipods can rival the ipad 2 and iphone 4 through headphone out thought, only with imod line out+amp then we’re talking…although the newer ipods are picking up on sound quality as well.

    …they might be using a ‘better’ dac chip, but the technology is 5-6 years old

  15. adam says:

    if im using a pocketdock to access the audio line out, does the audio still run through the wolfson chip, is there a difference in sound using line out 5th gen vs 6th gen or is it just the headphone jack??? ;)

  16. thomas says:

    i mean besides ipod

  17. Lee says:

    Thanks for this info. I’m no audiophile, but this confirms my thoughts that of all the iPods I’ve owned, the Classic had lesser SQ. If I compare my current setup (iPod Touch 2g vs Motorola Defy), I can clearly hear a difference, ie: Defy has lesser SQ, so that must be the Wolfson chip in the Touch.

  18. Lee says:

    @ thomas

    not sure what chips they use but Cowan players sound great (apparently better than iPods). Much discussion in sub-forums over at Head-fi.org.

    As a side note, in iPhone / Touch etc… you can have apps with better EQ selection. There’s not much difference when listening with no EQ, it’s probably the volume limits of each device, though I’m sure I hear a slight difference, it could be due to choice of ear / headphones having more or less impedance.

  19. Lavkesh says:

    I am sorry but I dont entirely agree with your article. I own the supposedly best iPod 5g Video 30 GB and the iPhone 3Gs and can for sure say that the output on the 3Gs is cleaner and almost as full. I pair them both with my Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi Pro’s.
    The iPod 5g Video also gives out slight static hiss which is not the case with the iPhone.

  20. Kevin says:

    Recently has compared iPad2, iPhone4 and iPod Touch4G.
    iTouch is very bad.
    iPad2 is much better than iPhone4 at lows, cleanliness, dynamics, etc. I love its sound – its the first Apple sound that I like. iPad2 uses Cirrus Logic, not Wolfson.
    Unfortunately, I have not ever listen to Ipod 5G.

    It is interesting – where would you place iPad2 in your quality list?

  21. Jason says:

    i knew it, odd thing is the article says the 6th gen classic has the other chip, but i ve always thought my classic sounds better than my wifes 1st gen touch, but i knew there was a difference!

    • admin says:

      Yes – what sound you ‘prefer’ can be personal. What some call ‘clean and clear’ others might call ‘harsh’. This depends on the frequency response, and some people prefer a not-flat frequency response. Some people prefer more or less bass, etc. So by better I guess what I mean is a reasonably flat frequency response, but also the actual sound quality. For me I like to listen with a very well known song. Some speakers/amps/devices bring out subtle parts of the song that are not there in another setup. So I like to have a good mix to test it on where absolutely everything in the recording is there, it’s clear, and each has it’s own space, they are not all over each other. So anything I focus in on, a violin, a guitar, a background vocal, a cymbal, I can hear. If you know a recording well, you can notice some things ‘missing’ on some devices! It might still sound ‘good’ but it’s not all there!

  22. asimpleson says:

    I hope apple engineers give heed to such important dissections (inputs) for their products.

    Lets all hope that these autopsies and biopsies yield in ‘best’ sounding ipods/iphones in the future. It would be nice to see future ipod classics >160gbs with a fifth gen like quality.

  23. gibson says:

    hi mate, would u mind to clarify wad is the meaning of this sentence”Unfortunately none of the wolfson powered iPods are still for sale from Apple, but you can pick them up from ebay second hand fairly easily.”

    is that mean even though ipod 5th nowadays, all without wolfson chip inside?

    would u mind which one has it?(i mean which year of production) or give me the link where i can get it, yeah i realised as well, when i comparing ipod nano 2th,5th,6th and 3g(ipone) i realised my mate 5th bought from japan in 2009 has better quality…

    • admin says:

      Hi gibson – we’re talking about the iPod classic and the current one is not 5th Generation, it’s 7th. Check out everymac.com for a description of which model is what generation.

      • gibson says:

        hahaha im reading your post regarding to which ipod has better sound, and i realised after i compared nano 2g,5g, iphone 3g and classic 6th using ue triple fi 10 with custom cable jane…5th nano has crispy sound, followed by ipone 3g…and 6th classic….ermmm now im confusing will be 5th beat 5th nano regards to sound quality….

  24. gibson says:

    just realised get confused between nano 5th and ipod 5th hahaha the one that u mentioned the big one is 5th ipod nano or?is it the one on the pic?hahaha almost bought 1 ipod nano 5th from ebay…LOL

  25. Gyan says:

    Regarding to only audio excellence, it’s Sony Walkman that iPods of any generation can’t match

  26. Chris says:

    So which has the better audio quaility. Ipad or Ipad 2 ?

  27. tushar says:

    hey….is there any difference in the sound quality of ipod touch and iphone 4s..i mean to say that is there any difference in the quality of earphones of the above 2

  28. gibson says:

    just bought a cowon x7, i would like to say, it the best, even compared with ipod 5th gen with imod inside+amp i will still suggest cowon x7 due to the price and the jet effect…

    i word just tottaly different world compared to apple product…
    (sorry no offense or etc) reply in here just give a knowledge to a music lover ^_^

    • gibson says:

      but not recomended due to not a good item, many problems…one of the example, the file doesnt not show up in the mp3 player…LOL

  29. Randy Winters says:

    I would like to know about the products that plug into the Ipod on the bottom for improved sound? Between the Ipod and the phones. Do they work? If so which one is best.
    My Ipod has a model # MB 565LL. Which generation is that one please.

    Thanks, Randy

  30. Yavor Balabanov says:

    The initial post was quite intriguing.
    I’ve owned 1G shuffle and sound was amazing – like hearing the same thing for the first time. It was possible to focus on the background music in any track.
    Then I lost it and went with Ipod Nano 2G/4GB – nothing bad – but nothing similar.
    Then came iPhone 3GS – still the same.
    Last I’ve tried Sony – but still unimpressed.
    And then …

    The last shuffle leaves iPhone 3GS, ipod nano 2G in the dust.

    There 2 directions I find it better – definitely larger spectre and definitely higher volume … with this tiny guy you can use any headphones and it sounds just better.
    And also a note on the apple headphones that came with shuffle – they are more like the original shuffle headphones – superb quality, though I guess it will benefit from some nice foams.
    I’ve also noticed those are made in Vietnam instead of China.

  31. Gary says:

    I have been an iPod junky since I got a 20gb 3rd gen when they came out. Since then I’ve owned a pile of various models.
    That said, I wholeheartedly agree that the 5th gen has the best quality audio output on the headphone jack. My 30gb iPod Video goes with me everywhere.

    I would like to know how much output power is coming out of each models headphone jack but have not been able to find that spec listed. Anyone know?

  32. casey says:

    Well this is discouraging, because my dear old 5G seems to be dying. I got a 32gb ipod Touch 4G as an early Christmas present, and I sounds horrible compared to the 5G. All the wifi and apps are nice, but decent-sounding music is higher priority for me.

    I was thinking about returning the Touch and getting a Classic, but apparently that’s not any improvement. Bummer.

    • carlo says:

      Oh yes it is! I have an 80GB classic and did side by side comparisons before i returned the touch.And it is definitely better overall sound quality.I assume that apple used some different parts in the audio path.Even though they both have Cirrus chips.The salesperson at futureshop has comfirmed this also.Many people,workers ,customers have said the ipod classic sounds better then the touch.Both with Cirrus audio chips.Maybe the auther can confirm this.Or find out if they have different model audio chips.

  33. Mark says:

    Do NOT buy an iPod touch if you care at all about sound quality. I own 4 ipods and a few Sansa Clips and recently got a Touch and it sounds terrible. It’s harsh and fatiguing to listen to. My old iPod Photo sounds like heaven compared to it. The 4g is just really in your face and sounds completely overboosted like everything is shoved up 6db. The eq presets do NOTHING. Unlike on older ipod where the eq would enhance the sound depending on of course the music and your headphones, with my same headphones using ANY eq preset just drops the sound so much at each frequency I thought my Touch might be defective. Sure it alters it, but in a way like any other iPod I own. Beware if you are at critical about sound quality DO NOT BUY A 4G TOUCH! Wait until next fall when the real Touch 5g will be out with new DACs. Btw I’m not some sort of audiophile either, I just can’t believe how harsh the sound is compared to my older iPods.

  34. Mark says:

    Sorry that one line should read:

    “Sure it alters it but in a way UN-like any other iPod I own”

  35. dudetski says:

    Actually the Mini 2g also has a wolfson as it has been opened and verified many time on the web. I did extensive tests on an all the unmodified ipods and iphones. The 5/5.5g truly is better. One surpise however was the HTC HD2 with beat the 5.5g (Unmodded) even with a line out from the ipod versus headphone jack of the HTC device. File used was FLAC (Rockbox on the ipods).

  36. Audrey says:

    After reading all the info and comments on here I am totally confused. I am considering buying an Ipod for the first time. I want it just for listening to music, so I wasn’t looking at the Ipod Touch with all the extra features. I am not an audiophile, but I do appreciate good sound quality. If I want to buy something “new” that is available right now, what is the best option? Or should I be waiting for an improvement over what is currently out?

    Thanks

    • admin says:

      The new iPods are fine – shuffle, nano, classic all sound good. There’s nothing wrong with them.

      It’s just that they are not the best iPod’s that Apple have ever made.

      • T says:

        Thank you admin,
        Based on this dialogue, I purchased a used 5th generation iPod and love it! I was wondering, what is the best volume setting on the iPod to play music into an auditorium PA system, and what are the optimum settings for a home stereo system? Should I turn the volume on the iPod all the way up, or somewhere lower? Again, thanks for your expertise.

      • admin says:

        I normally have the iPod about 2/3 to get a good signal out and plug it in the line-in or through 2 DI boxes.

  37. akram says:

    does the i pod shuffle have a wolfson audio chip??

  38. akram says:

    which is the ipod with a wolfson audio and also lightest on pocket?

  39. Gary says:

    Anyone in the United States that’s looking for a 5 or 5.5g should check your local pawn shop. I’ve seen piles of them for $75 or less in good condition. Craig’s list is also a good place to look.

  40. Oser says:

    do the later fifth generation ipods with 80gb have wolfson?

  41. T says:

    You mentioned that you plug the iPod into line-in or 2 DI boxes when connecting it to a mixing board.
    Would the line-in be 1/8 inch to RCA into AUX inputs on the board, or 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch into a channel for EQ possibilities?
    And, would you explain the use and benefit of the 2 DI boxes? How are you rigging them and why are you using two, and are you splitting 1/8 inch into the boxes? Again, thank you.

    • admin says:

      Yes, Some Mixers have RCA inputs so you can plug iPod straight into the RCA in.
      Mixer channel inputs are usually balanced XLR mono and I use 2 Di boxes because Di boxes are generally mono.
      Yes – iPod stereo lead goes to two mono RCA which I convert with an adapter into 1/4 inch (6.5mm) into DI boxes and then two XLR into two mixer channels.
      Yes – I plug into a channel for EQ, or because you have a long distance to run.

  42. worldover says:

    just bought an iphone 4s 64gb white

    its sound quality is just terrible,the volume is low and there is no bass.

    i have tried 3gs before and the volume was more,it also had very good bass

    went to nearest shop to check,i check sony walkman and it sounded great(both volume and bass).i also checked ipod classic i suppose(it has aluminum back and sounded great too(volume and bass).

    i also tried out ipod touch and ipod and iphone 4s,they all sucked.

    I went to apple store and they said it was a headphone problem,the headphone they checked out with has a slight increase.(though i would have to check again.)

    is this a phone problem or headphones as the apple store said?

    remember walkman and ipod classic worked great with my headphone which came with the iphone 4s but sucked on other apple devices

  43. Azure says:

    That’s odd because my new 4S 64Gb White is the best…iPod I ever listened to..
    The sound quality through the jack is simply Stunning…. It’s dead silent when pauses in a track occur, the balance among lows, mids and highs is simply Excellent and the soundstage is very wide…Of course it has (like every Apple product) its “sound signature”…You can love it or hate it, like in every kind of audio equipment you listen to…Even among “hi-Fi giants”…
    But the numbers of the iPhone 4S speak for themselves…And they are great numbers..I had several iPods, plus the ones I listened to occasionally…
    And the 4S is by far among the very best…My previous favorites were the Nano 5G and the Shuffle 2G, but the 4S is simply superior….
    The Nano and the shuffle were “euphonies” but tended to color the sound and they lacked the STUNNING detail of the 4S….It’s so detailed and so “deadly quiet” that (unfortunately) shows all the limits of the digital recording and of the compression…I can’t imagine to listen to 128Kbps average Mp3s or aacs with the 4S!! It’s going to be a nightmare…..
    But if you feed it with 320Vbr Aacs or Mp3s (Lame) It blows you away…

    Even the (horrible) stock earbuds sound “decent” with the 4S….
    With my AKG In-Ear you simply take off to another planet….And I’m talking about 30/40 bucks earphones…I can’t wait to listen to it with earphones like Shure, Klipsch and others….

    Regards…

  44. T says:

    The Apple Store in the US has a program where for $59 US they will take a 5th generation iPod as a trade, and replace it with a totally reconstituted one. (right off of the serial number)
    They represent that it is the “identical unit” with new battery, components, case, screen etc. The question the retail types couldn’t answer is if the audio chip in the reconstituted iPod is a Wolfson.
    Would you recommend making the trade or should I keep the original and look to replace the battery elsewhere?

  45. george housy says:

    hello i have a question

    there much difference in quality between ipod touch 1G to iPod classic 5G?

    have a graph for ipods, as the graph of the iphone?

    I have an ipod touch 1G, iPhone 3G and a iphone 4G, which is better?

    thanks..!!!

    • admin says:

      If you can’t hear any difference then none is better for you! But if you can hear the difference, then this article explains why and helps you find one you like. If you use headphones you may not notice any difference. If you play through a good stereo you may hear the touch 1G and iPhone 3G sound better than iPhone 4G for example.

  46. jeff says:

    After reading endless reviews, I bought a 1g Nano(4G), 5.5g iPod(30G), and 6g Classic(80g). I found that the Nano was #1, 5.5g was #2, and the Classic was
    pretty sad in comparison. As for the 3g and 3gs phones their as bad as the
    Classic iPod’s sound quality.

  47. Napster says:

    So this explains it! I am trying to revive our 1st gen Nano and I am comparing the SQ with newer smart phones and the difference is huge!

  48. anonomis says:

    i have an ipod classic 7th gen brandnew that i got for christmas in 2010 and the legal bar or information says wolfsan
    does that mean it has a wolfsan chip in it?

  49. Gabris[LT] says:

    Hello, I have 2 ipods – mini 2G and shuffle 2G,
    mini 2G(A1051)- you can increase its sound quality, by the schematics near output it should have 100uF capacitors in fact 50uF, changed to 100uF, much better sound :) bass deeper, frequency range got better, also changed its microdrive to 8gb CF card :) only thing that sucks – ipod mini at -20C after 1min shuts down due to battery. better change it to li-ion, because Li-Po uses chemistry with water sometimes.
    Shuffle 2G(1204)- if to compare with mini, mini is much better, but if use in ear earphones sounds better than mini. But be aware that ipod shuffle may easy malfunction(go dead) if it sees some sort of liquid, even when you are running in the morning etc.
    My overall – Ipod Shuffle is great for trips, small, smaller earphones. Ipod mini great for performance, but it’s big and I’m using Koss KTXPRO1 with it. :)
    Phones I’m using – Koss KTXPRO1 and some in ear that I bought in the shop for 5 euro. :)

  50. Anon says:

    Thanks for the review which was pretty good.
    I knew that different models had a different audio chipset but didn’t know which ones.

    I do notice a difference in sound quality between my older iPod models vs the new ones esp. the iPhone 4. I use high-end IEMs (Shure SE530) and encode music files at its highest mp3 format @320k so I can tell the difference in sound quality. Don’t like using AAC FLAC since some other mp3 players don’t support it (well)!

    FYI… unless one has “superior hearing”, many studies and various online forum discussions have noted that one really can NOT tell the difference between a (nicely encoded) 320k file vs a FLAC file.

    • admin says:

      True – it’s hard to tell the difference between 320k and a lossless one, but even if you cannot tell the difference, it WILL make a difference if you re-encode it to say a 128kbps file, because re-compressing a file is double lossy. This is the golden rule for audio or photos or video: when you compress you should always compress from an original or a lossless version. So importing as Lossless has this added benefit if you plan on exporting it later.

  51. I’m getting rid of my iPod Touch 4G and getting an iPod Classic 5.5G 80GB. I miss the good ole days of toting around my black 30GB iPod 5G, and I’m bringing the good times back!

    Thanks for reaffirming my suspicions that the 5G has the best audio quality of all the iPods I’ve listened to.

    • Will Booth says:

      I did exactly the same thing when I got my new P5s, and I don’t regret a thing :D I don’t miss my touch and I love having the old 5th gen back.

  52. huy says:

    I have an iPod Touch gen1 (out of warranty) and a new iPod Classic gen7. Is it able to replace the Cirrus chip in my iPod Classic by the wolfson chip from iTouch gen1? If it is impossible, could you suggest some tips to make the sound better?
    Thanx in advance.

  53. Eugene says:

    Will this affect how it sounds in a car that has ipod integration in the headunit?

  54. judex says:

    List like these -and they are all over the Internet- are frustrating. Did you do you do a BLIND comparison/rating on these? I can’t tell from your bare-bones descriptions (thin?) what you did to come up with these judgement except that you know the preferred models use Wolfsons! To my ears alone, the nano 6g sound than than the Wolfson-based iPods—cleaner mids and less coloration. However, like you(it seems), I didn’t do a blind side-by-side comparison. In this light, I would ask that if you publish your opinion, could you push yourself a bit and describe in detail the sound quality differences that you noticed between the models. .

  55. Yue says:

    I own iPhone 1, 3G, 4 and 4S. And from my listening I totally agree that iPhone 1 is the best. It has deeper, richer, more powerful bass. iPhone 4 sounds ‘clean’, because it’s lack of bass. I really hope Apple can improve sound performance in future products.
    At the mean time, NuForce Icon iDo seems a solution for me, it is a DAC and Amp for iOS devices. Anyone can review it?

    • David says:

      I also own all iterations of the iPhone and I concur that the iPhone (1st Gen) had slightly more bass. However, the iPhone 4S seemed a little more refined and brighter. I used the same AAC song on both devices and used my B&W P5s without an amp.

      Have you or anyone else tried an iPod Video 5g, due to its DAC? Is the NuForce Icon iDo any good?

  56. Eddy says:

    Wanna ask, if we are using LOD to use external portable ampli.. is still impact the output sound quality when using/not using this wolfson chip in the ipod/iphone? Thanks.

    • carlo says:

      Yes .Definitely.Some will say you need to bypass DAC to take full advantage.Like the Wadia DAC dock.But i have used a portable headphone amp as well as a DAC and my Onkyo receiver and they do improve the sound output.

  57. Josh says:

    Why was my comment deleted? I simply wanted to know if the iPod Nano 3rd generation has a wolfson chip, because two other websites are claiming it. Does it?

  58. Pedro says:

    Does the “new” ipad have a wolfson chip?

  59. Wayne says:

    Check out http://buyersguide.macrumors.com/

    The iPod Classic hasn’t beed updated for almost 3 years!!!!

  60. Jose X. says:

    My 30GB U2 iPod has a sound glitch: about 2 – 3 seconds into each song there is a noticeable dropout. It happens with every song. This started recently after a long period of non-use.

  61. Pedro says:

    Can someone PLEASE!!!! tell me if the “new” iPad has great sound quality similar to the iphone 4s or the wolfson chips…..(what kind of audio chip does new ipad have…is it wolfson…or better/great)

  62. thomas says:

    hi guys.. i own an ipod touch 1g 8gb & i agree that wolfson is the best audio chips for apple.. not only bcoz of my own listening experience, but i also think that the reason that apple ipods become famous & a must have for music lovers out there is main bcoz of its superb audio quality.. all the 1st gen apple portable audio players are the reason why they bacame very famous.. it’s just like a very nice movie.. people want more that is why there comes part 2, 3 & so on.. but still the original part 1 is the best bcoz that is the reason people wanting more, simply bcoz it is the best & they are really satisfied with the film.. same goes with the apple ipods.. the first one obviously makes it famous..

  63. Edison says:

    I’m planning to replace my ipod mini gen 1. It seems that it can’t drive my denon ahd1100 headphone.When the music has lots of bass, it sounds like its drowning the music. I’m planning to buy an ipod touch 4G will there me much sound improvement?

  64. Pedro says:

    ANSWER MY QUESTION PLEASEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! (look above for more information)

  65. Dee Iva says:

    I just bought the new iPad and the sound is much muddier than it is on my iPhone 4 and not as loud. I have to change the setting to treble booster for it to sound as clear as my iPhone. Basically I think the iPhone is better for music.

  66. Antti says:

    Do the sound problems lie in the dac chip or the amplifier? I recently bought a 4th gen iPod Touch after 2nd and 4th gen Nano and it sounds like some one is farting in the can. Both my Nanos beat it by a large margin. Would a separate portable amplifier help? At the moment I’m running 32 and 80 ohm head phones with it.

  67. David says:

    I recently tested the iPod 5G (A1136) and an iPhone 4S, with the same song from iTunes, and the iPod 5G seemed a little louder, had warmth, and a wider soundstage. However, the iPhone 4S was still good though. Of course my iPod 5G is stuck in “disk mode” after words. LOL!

    It seems the only successful and portable DACs are from Cypher Labs and Fostex, although I don’t feel like paying almost $600 for a portable DAC. :) I heard the iMod, from RedWineAudio are good, although I don’t trust the reliability of the iPod 5G anymore.

    My portable amp/USB DAC that I use is the iBasso Audio D-Zero. When used with an iPhone it only uses the the amp section of this great little device.

    David
    http://www.youtube.com/davidsdiego

  68. David says:

    This is very true! I compared the iPhone 4S with the iPod 5G (A1136) and the iPod was way louder, had a warmer sound, and a wider soundstage. The difference was astounding, although the iPhone’s sound wasn’t terrible either.

  69. FixedHD says:

    Hello!

    Today I opened up my iPod Mini 1st Gen to swap the HDD for a 16GB CF Card and for a new battery. Beside that now I have a supercool modded iPod Mini I can confirm the Wolfson 8731 inside the Mini:

    http://www.abload.de/img/unbenannt-15ydei.jpg

  70. Mesh says:

    I have the Ipod 5.5 80gb model number MA450CH. Does this one still have the wolfson chip?

  71. jay says:

    oh man. I have a first gen nano and was thinking it’s never going to break, time to upgrade. I was excited thinking the sound quality will be a lot better. Oh well lol!

  72. Michael says:

    Have managed to acquire two iPods as of lately, an iPod mini (2nd Generation) 4GB with a Wolfson WM8711LG that needed some repairs (ended up replacing the drive and battery, stripped the glued-in end caps and polished the inner frame back to chrome) and an iPod 5G 30GB with a Wolfson WM87588G that is brand new, in box, and had simply never been sold when they were still commercially available.

    In testing, playing back the exact same portion of the exact same track and file, the iPod 5G has a noticeably clearer sound to it without the harshness. Everything is well balanced and it makes for a real pleasurable listening experience. The iPod mini isn’t as clear, but it is fairly close. It definitely sounds a bit warmer, and like the 5G it doesn’t sound harsh when listening to it. However, switch to the MacBook (Late 2008) with a Cirrus Logic audio chip in it and immediately I could hear the difference, the Cirrus chip has clarity, but it has harsh highs that forced me to turn the volume down a couple of notches. It’s certainly adequate, I have no complaints about the audio it produces for a computer, but there are moments where I need to pull the headphones away and take a break, and I think this could be the reason.

    For daily use I believe the iPod 5G would be best, but as mine is in excellent condition i’m hesitant to use it in those situations where it’s likely to be exposed to harm, and for that the slightly more rugged iPod mini is a perfect stand-in.

  73. Michael says:

    I’ve also managed to snap a photo of the Wolfson WM8711LG, taken from an iPod mini (2nd Generation) Logic Board.

    http://img403.imageshack.us/img403/410/wolfson.jpg

  74. Sovon Halder says:

    I am terribly confused with the iPod models. In wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod] they claims that there are 6 iPods in the Classic category & in this thread the author have mentioned that there are iPod 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G & 5.5G which aren’t from ‘Classic’ series. ‘Classic’ series starts from here iPod ‘Classic’ 1g( and known as iPod 6G ). But in google I found everywhere that 5.5G Ipod is often called iPod Classic 5.5G (same model, picture wise). So are models from 1G iPod to 5.5G iPod called Classic iPod ?

    • Wayne says:

      I think classic just means that original iPod shape so yes 1g, 2g etc. The 6g has the original shape AND Apple have actually named it classic.

  75. Giuseppe says:

    I’ve always felt that my 5.5G iPod had an excellent sound quality; and since it can easily be modded to play practically every important type of audio format and with 80GB is still very roomy, I’ve never felt the need to look elsewhere.

  76. rolph says:

    hey i was planning to buy a new i pod i m confused b/w nano 8 gb 6th generation and shuffle 4th gen.
    please help!
    are their any suggestions other then these two?

  77. yof says:

    This is awesome information and what exactly I need.

    I’m still wondering about if I should use a dac from line out or audio aux out for my iPhone 4? I’m thinking of getting the ODac by nwavguy for line out. or should I stick to audio?

  78. ken1w says:

    Of all the iPods and iPhone I have owned, the one that provides amazingly good sound quality is the first white iPod shuffle (with the USB plug). By comparison, the 2nd gen “clip-on” iPod shuffle REALLY sucks.

    I also think the 3rd gen iPod (with orange glowing buttons) has great sound. It is distinctly “richer” to my ears, compared to the 4th gen iPod. Too bad its battery was of poor quality. I don’t own a 5th gen (or later) “big” iPod.

    • Antron says:

      I second that. The 1st Gen Shuffle is the best iPod, imho. I even dare to say it comes quite close to my Cowon.

  79. Damien L says:

    Hi author,
    I don’t know if you want to add this or not but the Samsung Galaxy S3 has a Wolfson WM1811 DAC in it and has gotten very good reviews on the sound quality.

  80. VW says:

    Any chance iPod touch 5G will be added to the test?

  81. PAolo says:

    Just will add,

    Fw 1.2.1 on my ipod 5G is amazing. The last of the firmware’s in that series (fw 1.3? not sure) is horrible with a terrible equalisation and poor soundstage and bass.

    So do downgrade to 1.2.1 it’s amazing…
    My Galaxy S is very very close to the Ipod5G but still lacks a little top end warmth and magic.

  82. David W. says:

    Having read the discussion on 4th – 5.5th Gen iPods I get the sense that purchasing one of these may still give me a non Wolfson Audio Chip. If this is correct, is there some other way to be sure I’m getting the optimum audio chip when purchasing a 5.5 generation classic through eBay? Thanks in advance for any feedback.

  83. David W. says:

    Thanks for the feedback. If buying through Ebay for instance, how do I make sure I’m buying a 5.5 generation and not a 6th. This obviously assumes the seller has advertised it as a 5.5 but either doesn’t know or … I assume the worst and hope for the best.

    • Guillermo S says:

      I have purchased a number of 5th Gen iPods from eBay. There are 2 key ways to make sure your buying a 5th Gen and not a 6th (and believe me when I say that a lot of people who sell them don’t know the difference) 1) The 5th Gen has a clear, plastic front to it. Its a solid color in front with a clear plastic “shell” that’s about 1mm think. It drops off suddenly at the edges. While the 6th has a brushed aluminum front that tapers at the edges when it meets with the body. This type reflect almost zero light. 2) This is probably the easiest method: The 6th Gen iPods have a split screen showing the album art and other information to the right. While the 5th Gen has a very basic screen with no split and only text in the menus… Hopes this helps anyone who reads.

  84. Alejandro says:

    I just compared the ipod classic 4th generation Photo with its previous 4th generation B&W screen and the difference is huge, the B&W is far better, the audio is crisp and natural, but PHOTO is not as good, I think you should make a diference Between this products.

  85. I just purchased the newest Ipod Touch and was absolutely horrified at the sound quality. I tweaked what few things there were and put the volume up as high as I could and it was still awful. Then I compared the same song to my 1st gen Nano and got really angry. This article puts it all in perspective. Guess I need to exchange this for one with a Wolfson chip. :-0

  86. thing50 says:

    With the ipod touch 5th Gen there are apps that will ‘enhance’ the audio quality. I tried two of them the first one being ‘My tunes pro’…I found it to have a good expansive sound although the audio feels a little forced and in your face its a big sound…also it had to update the music library ( I have over 3000 songs) which took time and I just wanted a quick music fix so I tried another one which was ‘Sonicmax pro’ which uses the BBE enhancement, I found this one to be more clinical and a truer sound whilst the sound stage was not so large it was the more natural option of the two, and it had the plus of starting straight away unlike the ‘my tunes pro’ which started getting more and more frustrating…well I now just use the Sonicmax pro and its a big improvement over the basic sound of the ipod touch 5th gen.

  87. JmBa says:

    I have to disagree with the author regarding the 3gs, I’m in love with the sound compared to a previously owned 4s. If you look that up I’m not the only one who says it.

  88. Mic says:

    I got miself iPod nano 3th gen after reading this article, I’m listening to music on my HD 595 from Alack files. I must admit that they sound great! Its a perfect match in my opinion. Maybe the soundstage is not that wide but its deep. Everything else is perfect. I also have Sony xperia Z smartphone and the sound of it is just horrible! While its a great phone its a horrible music player. Ipod beats it by 10 times. I got it very cheap and its only 4 gb so my next one will be 5 gen classic.

  89. Ricky says:

    So what has the best sound out of all the iPod shuffles? Since they’re hardly mentioned in the article, even the best one – what’s it like compared to an iPhone 4? Is the bass as good or no where near compare to the iPhone 4? I was thinking to get the iPod shuffle 3rd gen what chip has this got? Has got good bass compare to the iPhone 4?

  90. weejoe says:

    Being from Scotland and also being a huge apple fan I am extremely proud that our country helped in the design of the worlds most incredible machines, hardly surprising as we in Scotland make the best stereos, you may never have heard of them as only very few can afford one – Linn stereos – see here – (http://www.linn.co.uk/systems/see-the-range/klimax). I come from the same village (Blackburn) as SuBo – see here – (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Boyle) and now live in the next village where the man who found the anaesthetic qualities in Chloroform inventor James Young Simpson – see here- (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Young_Simpson)

    Infact if you have time, have a look and see the things we either helped invent or invented because we’re such a great wee country, just wish we’d done the iPod/phone/pad/Mac lol, \m/
    http://www.magicdragon.com/Wallace/thingscot.html

    Peace weeJoe

  91. Shawn71 says:

    what is the DAC used in Ipod Shuffle 2G (1GB model)?

    • thomas says:

      the ipod shuffle 1st gen use SigmaTel audio chip.

      it has a very good sound quality it feels like there is a cool breeze sound not hot or warm…

      and has excellent rich of bass

      that kind of sound that i never forget

  92. Lance says:

    The Touch 4G is terrible compared to the 2G.

  93. Marsh says:

    I began to wonder about the differences three years ago, when I first connected an iPod video generation 5 to my stereo. Prior, I had just accepted that mobile audio players sounded like dried sandpaper. However, I was loaned an iPod video with a white plastic face and broken screen, and I heard a sound that really grabbed my attention. I used a new set of Monster Cables ipod 3.5mm jack to gold plated machined RCA plugs. I pressed the play button and when the music began, it had great bass, defined midrange and none of the sandpaper that my iPod Touch Gen 2 had. Stereo separation was excellent. This was better in every department than the muddy and colored sounding Meridian 598 DVD player, the bland Monarchy DAC, or dry and grating-steel as the Marantz CD-65II. I wasn’t even this impressed with the Rega Saturn. I did hear sound as good or better from a Denon 4308CI, but nothing else in this price bracket. What confounds me is why Apple would take a good sounding design like the Gen 5 iPod video and do away with it all.

  94. simon says:

    well…
    I have bougth several ipod video 5.5 and modified them (for the fun of it ipod 5.5 are so easy to modify) : replaced battery and replaced the hard drive with a tarkan board, compact flash adapter –> sd 128gb.
    Tried with ssd but the cheapest and better response is the tarkan modification.
    No more hard disk failure,
    I also just bougth a brand new sealed ipod touch 1st gen.
    my choices:

    1.ipod video 5.5 & ipod touch (they sound similar through line out)
    2 .ipod touch’s (2,3,4)
    Z. cowon: j3 and z2 poor reliability, not even able to play gapless with big files awful players

    The only mod i didn’t try yet is: bypassing apple caps with audiophile caps. (called the IMOD)

    there’s a big fuss around the Imod….: “it’s good/great but….”

    All my tests are done with a marantz class b (from the 70’S) amp with axiom speakers.(i bought that kit from a friend and the friend had taste because it sounds like heaven to my hears jazz,funk,pop, even ray charles !!!)

    When you buy a refurb ipod 5 or 5.5 they don’t change the wolfson chip: they simply replace the main board if needed.

    Ah…..oui…

    there’s always the posibility to match your ipod touch(if you don’t like it), with a “digital extractor”, that extracts audio from the ipod in a numerical way (no ipod sound involved) … cambridge audio does it (as example), the remaining thing is hook it to a sound system that has digital input (optical or spdif), usually home cinema has one of them…

  95. Herby says:

    There is definitely a sound difference. Bought a 7G and sold it soon after. There is a 3D / natural harmonic and realistic sound with the 5.5G. Its sounds like how I heard the songs back when they were released. I found my 5.5g better than my 5g as well for interest.

  96. gian says:

    hello wayne, im terribly late in this conversation but i’d like to know what firmware you use in your ipod 5.5g. is it the latest apple firmware 1.3? or 1.2.1 as mentioned in a comment above? or is it something else? what would you recommend? thanks for your help!

  97. Summs says:

    The other main benefit of the 5 gen is that it can be flashed with the Rockbox firmware which is awesome and improves the sound further as well as being able to play lossless format and allows drag and drop etc. All the things Apple won’t let you do
    its also free!
    This would negate the whole issue of Apple firmware.
    It does not damage the ipod and can be reversed, who would though! since it kicks ass

  98. Steve says:

    I’ve taken the advice I read here and bought myself a pre owned iPod 5th gen classic. After suffering both my old iPhone4 and now my iPhone5s I cannot believe how three dimensional the music sounds and far better stereo imaging. I can now listen for hours on end unlike previously when 5 or 10 mins were all my ears could cope with. The operation is a little clunky, the hard drive doing it’s stuff and the screen resolution is a shocker after using the iPhone but I’m happy. Lets hope the device isn’t too worn and dies on me as I’ll be lost without it!

  99. moe says:

    Ive been honestly searching for a solution for my car’s needs. I installed a high quality JBL system powered by two alpine amps and an alpine head unit.

    Ive been on the HUNT to finding a better quality portable audio device that would crush the sound output of my Ipod Touch 7th gen!

    Thanks to this website i was lucky enough to find a 5th gen Ipod classic and boy, the sound difference in my car!!

    Thanks for all the info!! :D

  100. Theo says:

    Great article, and thanks for it. Can you, or someone else, explain why the 5.5 would have better audio than the 5, given that they both have the same DAC chip?

  101. Tim Davenport says:

    Is all this testing based on output from the Headphone Jack?
    This means that internal D/A and headphone amp are evaluated. What I want is a separate external D/A convertor with audiophile quality circuits and a line out RCA jacks that feed into a stereo amplifier. Does such a thing exist for Gen 5?

    • Wayne says:

      Correct – this is all based on a stock standard iPod output, although the tests are using the line-out from an iPod dock which is far better quality than the headphone output. There are many external D/A circuits to do what you describe, just google ‘D/A converter lightning’ or ‘D/A converter iPod dock’ or something like that. Once you use an external D/A the model of iPod makes no difference at all – it’s only being used as a storage device.

      Or check out http://www.head-fi.org they have some god reviews.

  102. Farabby says:

    I already try & i prefer iPod touch 1st gen, bcs have wifi for video/email/etc. All iPod/Nano with wolfson is good I think. But I heard iPod touch series have competitor 1st gen vs 3rd gen both most have good audio quality, is that true?

  103. Timotius Dana says:

    how about the SQ between ipod 5.5th gen vs ipod touch 1st gen? both of them use same wolfson chip

  104. Charles henry says:

    Thanks, your article helped me comparing my ipod classics.

  105. Eddie says:

    I read your column and acquired s 5.5 iPod and compared my music between my new iPhone 6 plus and Yes the iPod 5.5 just simply sounds like it has more music when it plays . The iPhone 6 sounds clear nice but doesn’t have the “meat ” of the iPod thanks

  106. Valentin says:

    wait a sec… I don’t understand what is ipod 1G 2G 3G…

    Is it different from “classic” 1G 2G 3G?
    Does anyone know the truth?

  107. Thanks for this. I brought out my old school iPod shuffle first get and went to use it, but I noticed it sounded terrible compared to my iPhone 5. I wasn’t able to listen to it. This would explain as to why

    • Jacob Salazar says:

      Those 1st gen iPod shuffles (despite what this website says) are actually supposed to be some of the best sounding iPods Apple ever made!

  108. Zach says:

    how an ipod nano 7th compares to the previous nanos & ipod touch?

  109. Geryon says:

    All iPods have really bad sound quality and no bass. What little it does have is distorted and clips. Even a low grade sony minidisc player has better sound despite having low quality ATRAC coding.

    That said the software interface for organising the music is good. iTunes is horse shit though.

    • Cody says:

      Have you owned each version of the iPod and compared them in a controlled manner, ie double blind listening tests? If not, your opinion is formed on either confirmation bias or expectation bias.

  110. Al.M says:

    I was loaned an Ipod Classic 5th gen 2 years ago with CD material recorded at the highest rates on itune settings and was surprised how good it was and have been convinced ever since. My audio system is quite hi-end and the differences can be heard among sources. Compared to my Meridian 506 20 bit CD player using the same material it is about 80-90% as good. The CD player has more depth and imediacy but given that 80% of my song collection is now on the ipod vs 20% in CDs the convenience factor far outways using the CD player and you can take this anywhere with you. Using the LOD connector on the ipod makes about 30% improvement. The difference vs CD quality can be improved by selecting amps and speakers that suit the ipod sound such as using electrostatic speakers and valve amps etc, although that requires more expense and effort of course.

  111. hidehide says:

    Apple has recently released a lightning universal dock, is there any information on what DAC it uses? I found listening through the dock is much better than from the iPhone/macbook..

    • Wayne says:

      I’ve been searching and can’t find any specs. I emailed Apple and no reply. I’m not sure if it’s a line-out or a headphone out.

  112. Baz says:

    The Ipod Classic Gen 5, 5.5 & Ipod touch 1st Gen all use the same Wofson Chip (The WM8758BG).

    Please Correct the page details…

    So, why isn’t the Ipod Touch 1st Gen regarded in terms of the same sound quality as the Gen 5 & 5.5?

    • Wayne says:

      I thought there was a WM8758BG and a WM87588G? I may be wrong.

      iPod tough is still very nice audio. But there are other components in the audio path apart form just the DAC chip, that’s why for example 5.5th gen is slightly nicer than 5th gen even though they have the same chip.

      • Baz says:

        The links to the pictures of the gen 5, the gen 5.5 & the ipod touch 1st gen show the same Wolfson Chip. (WM8758BG).

        I have the ipod Touch 1st gen. It has a great,wide sound stage.
        I wish it was a little bit warmer sounding. Even with a LOD cable attached, & using a Fiio E12 amp. I still find it bright. I wonder if there is the same issue with the Gen 5, & Gen 5.5?

  113. Bazzy says:

    Cowon D2. That’s all I have to say.

  114. Vai sebastian says:

    thanks brother, this article so helpfuly.

  115. Paul says:

    I have a 5.5 Gen iPod in White that I’m looking into selling. Anyone interested?

  116. Cody says:

    Having read through this page a the following comments, what stands out is the absence of controlled listening tests. People are very susceptible to expectation bias – the preconceived expectation that a change should exist. Also, confirmation bias – the support of a hypothesis based on reading text that shares the same belief system.

    When the listener’s knowledge of which device/DAC is playing has been removed, as in double blind tests, the listener must soley rely on hearing to differentiate between the devices and identify which is which. This is where alot of “hi-end” cables, power cords, monster amps and tweaks are found to be placebo, ie imagined.

    • Wayne says:

      Yes that may be true to a certain extent. Not just placebo effect but also personal listening bias as to what sound a person prefers.

      When I did the imod on my 4th gen iPod I thought it sounded better. But when I did blind trials I couldn’t hear a difference. That’s why I haven’t made any claims about it here. I tried on various members of my family though, and my wife could hear a difference – she is a musician.

      Initially when I first noticed any difference, and when I first published this article, I was expecting my newer devices to sound better, but they didn’t. Then after investigation I found some data that backed up my observations. So that went against my bias.

      I do agree that now I have formed an educated opinion I may be biased in my listening tests.

      There have also been numerous times that these results have been confirmed. For example I whack my iPhone on a PA when I am setting it up so that I can get some sound out. Then 20 min later I am trying to EQ the PA and having problems making it sound good. Then I realise that I haven’t plugged in my good old 4th Gen iPod. Unplug the iPhone, plug in the iPod. Sounds great.

      But yes some blind A/B test would be good.

  117. David says:

    If you want to stay iPod, then the ultimate is a 5.5G classic iPod with the Red Wine Audio modification – often known as the iMod. To increase battery life and cut down on noise you can also fit a solid-state disk to these as well.
    I use this device with a Graham Slee Voyager headphone amp to play lossless files through Grado and Denon headphones – the results are stunning – in my opinion… 😉

  118. Christoph says:

    Is the audio quality of the iPod relevant when connected via 30pin / lightning or only when using headphone output?

    • Wayne says:

      It depends, the iPod can send line out audio out the 30 pin dock or it can send digital audio. Out the lightning it can only send digital audio. So irrelevant when using lightning connector.

  119. andrej says:

    I just bought me an ipod touch 4G with 32Gb for listening music. How is this model(what chip does it have)?
    Thanks!

    • Wayne says:

      It will be fine, chances are you won’t notice any difference between it and a better one unless you listen in a really good stereo, even then you may not notice any difference.

  120. Azure says:

    Funny thing is I had several iPods (Nano 4th and 5th gen., Touch 3rd gen.) and 4 iPhones and with all honesty I must say that iPhone 6/6Plus are the best sounding devices apple ever made. How to find out? Forget headphones (doesn’t matter if they are stock white buddies or a pair of Klipsch)…Connect your iPhone’s line out to a decent set of speakers straight to it…A 2.0/2.1 Logitech or Creative system is enough, so that the internal DAC is engaged (if you connect through Lightning you need converters somewhere before speakers)….Voilà….

    Test made….iPhone 6 is FAR (and I mean it) superior to any previous Apple Device I owned… No noise, no crosstalk, exceptional stereo image, clean and crisp sound without being Harsh and a precise clock. I can’t say the same thing for iPod Nanos,iPod Touch, iPhone 4s and 5 which were more than decent through earbuds/earpods but an absolute disaster connected to any powered system. And one day i connected one Nano and the Touch to a half-milion dollar system, including a Neve console, Dynaudios air and apogee Sound card…

    Regards

  121. Serge says:

    According to the new audio metrics – statistical difference testing – the nine Apple devices (tested so far) are arranged in the following order (first are best):

    – iPod classic (2009)
    – iPod shuffle 4G
    – iPhone 4-6
    – iPhone 3G
    – iPod shuffle 2G

    http://soundexpert.org/portable-players

    • Wayne says:

      That’s interesting! Yes the best iPod according to sound expert.org (the iPod Classic 2009) corresponds to the 4th and 5th Gen iPod which I gave first, second and third places. It will be interesting to see the results if they test a nano.

  122. […] you trust the opinion of Macintosh How To then the iPod Nano with the Wolfson chip is the best audio quality. Checking the breakdown of Nano […]

  123. […] quality differences in those 4 years? You may want to read up on that and make your own decision. Which iPod has the best quality audio? – Macintosh How To Have you backed up your iTunes Library this week? If not, you are risking losing your music […]

  124. peter says:

    if anyone can help me on this id be grateful
    I recently purchased fiio x5 2nd gen and even though it can handle more than the famous classic ipod (which I have but not sure if its a 5th gen?…around 7 years old plastic front so possibly 5th?)I just find x5 isn’t so gutsy as my old ipod and also when I did comparison on an old fashioned stereo track with drums in left channel etc…..,I noticed that ipod revealed more of the drum sound particularly clearer as well whereas x5 was faint sounding and wooley….im using senheiser hd25 headphones that I mostly use for travelling but use at home when noise leakage is an issue with wife around……these headphones are used by djs and bbc camera men etc…..so they would let you hear almost anything…..
    what I wanted to ask was what makes have wolfsen chips in dacs that I could possibly plug my x5 into just to bring it up to better soundstage than what it is right now….
    its a shame apple killed off ipod and didn’t persue it further with dsd etc……..

  125. Wayne says:

    Someone has asked about the 1st gen iPod Shuffle. I personally love the sound. But I didn’t include it in the article because I could not find what chip it had. According to this thread it was a SigmaTel audio chip!

    http://www.head-fi.org/t/580987/has-ipod-changed-their-sound-chips-cards-from-generation-to-generation/15

  126. Shyam says:

    Nice article…I am in search of a good iPod classic. After hearing the audio quality on an old iPod classic I am totally in love with it. Off late I found a seller giving away his old iPod… Its model number is MA446ZP.
    When I search on internet it says…its 5th generation enhanced. This is black color, 30gb capacity.
    Now I would like to know if this different from 5.5gen and 5th gen?
    Does it have Wolfson chip on it? Only if its worth having the best audio quality, I would buy it. Please advise…I am in urgent mode.

  127. Sebastien says:

    Hi Wayne,

    I’ve been trying various external DAC amplifiers.
    I was wondering if you could evaluate the specs of the DAC I’ll be getting on Friday. Here is the link.
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00MFMW29I/ref=ya_st_dp_summary#featureBulletsAndDetailBullets_secondary_view_div_1460608024175

    I’m also gifting my old 4s which I’ve loaded with 4000+ tracks to an old friend as an “ultimate walkman”.Are there any aftermarket chip mods that you recommend for a 4s?
    Lastly, which has better audio, the 4s or 6s?
    Thanks, Seb

  128. Shyam says:

    Atlast I brought a iPod 5 enhanced… This was a used one… But in a good condition. Thank you for the reviews and classification. Love the quality of the audio.

  129. Tuula says:

    Nano 1st gen? You kidding right? I had two of those pieces of sh…t and blew the headphone jacks on both with different headphones, and they didn’t even sound well to begin with.

  130. Mike says:

    I’ve had a few iPods 5G+ over the years and pretty much any laptop with good headphones (I think Grado SR-60 is the bare minimum) produces cleaner audio output than the iPods I had. Except the iPod Mini 2G!

    Right now, I have an iPod 5.5G and Mini 2G. Both have been upgraded using big SD cards. (No need for lossy compression; everything is encoded Apple Lossless, from real CDs, not iTunes rubbish.) I bought a cheap mini just for podcasts in the car and was blown away by how much better the Mini sounds than the 5.5G, even crap mp3s sound better!

    I’m using the same set of Grado SR80 headphones on each and there is no contest: listening to Peter Gabriel’s So on 5.5G, his voice sounds harsh and the loud bits almost sound clipped; on the Mini, it is like a different, better album with clear, detailed sound revealing effects I didn’t even notice on my old 5.5G.

    Now since both of these are second hand, it is possible my 5.5G is not what it appears. Are the parts interchangeable with 5th gen. iPods? Could you post pictures of these good audio chips?

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