Why I hate the iPod
I grew up using Apple computers. In 1985, when the Mac came out, my parents bought one. I loved the Mac, even though all of the games I wanted to play were IBM-based. So when the iPod came out you would think I would love it, right? Incorrect-amundo my friends, I hated it. I called it back in 2001, when it hit the market- iPod will kill the car audio industry. Flash forward to 2008, the car audio industry as a whole held a 12-volt summit to discuss what the hell happened to car audio. I was there and when that mic was passed around, I was the first to grab it and I proclaimed “It’s all our own damn fault!”
There were MP3 players before 2001. I had one, it was a Creative Labs Nomad HDD player. It was cool, I didn’t have to worry about skipping or scratched CDs, but I didn’t use it in the car. I had a competition system and I was not going to play crappy MP3s through it. That is paramount to buying a Formula 1 car and trying to tow a trailer with it, it just doesn’t make sense. I knew it was all over the day I saw Alpine come out with an iPod adapter for your car- the industry killed itself in one fell swoop, giving up its precious market share to a $200 device. Now iPods are a billion dollar industry by themselves. That used to be car audio money.
The problem is that the industry saw the iPod as the next big thing, which it was, but we lost sight of what built this industry- good audio, not integration of an iPod. When you plug an iPod (iPods in particular) to a car audio system, it is the equivalent of playing a tape through an FM radio station. You are taking compressed audio (even if you use FLAC or other lossless codecs), playing it through a small device that was designed to output to .25” ear bud speakers into the radio. iPods castrate music. The software in the unit cuts out the low frequencies so that the earbuds don’t pop. This kills bass output when you plug it into your car.
When I listen to my Samsung P2 while mowing the lawn, exercising or whatever, I use Skull Candy full-size headphones with the built-in bass shakers. This emulates the feeling of bass frequency output. I really like the headphones. Occasionally I will plug my P2 into the wife’s minivan while on a road trip, the stereo is bone stock and sounds like crap anyway. Plug an iPod into a high-end car audio system and you quickly become aware of the differences. Try this- play a song through you iPod and then play the same song through a real CD (not a burned MP3) the difference will likely amaze you, even on a stock system.
By kowtowing to the iPod generation, the car audio industry forgot how to market quality sound to today’s youth, the bread and butter of car audio. We exchanged quality audio for a few tie-in sales of adapters. The manufacturers have started to realize this and are now trying to show what car audio is all about- QUALITY SOUND. Too many young kids have never heard a really impressive car audio system. Their friends don’t buy amps and subs, the local shops are not out there with demo vehicles and flash rides trying to get kids to hear what audio SHOULD sound like. That leaves the rest of us, the last generation of true audiophiles to teach the younger kids what their music could and should sound like.
So what are you gonna do? Crank it up til your ears bleed or plug that iPod back into to your dash and listen to Englebert Humberdink while you grow old and your soul dies?