What’s Wrong with the iPod?

Posted on 11. Jul, 2009 by in Other Products

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!”

ipodThere 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?

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4 Responses to “What’s Wrong with the iPod?”

  1. Rick Steinman

    28. Jul, 2009

    I do not agree, when you sell an ipod cable with the Radio you are adding to the sale not taking away, the kids in my area always want the big sound of a full blown system complete with subs and amps.
    I also use ipods as a solution for certain problems like when all the OEM indash changers break down and no one has the parts to fix them and the dash is so integrated with the radio you can’t change it without a major custon project I will sell them an interface for an ipod so they have something to listen to. You say the mp3s sound so bad because of compression.
    Well the ones I install sound fine to me as compared to other digital and analog devices such as Sat Radio with it’s swirlly low kps sound or FM Radio with it’s reduced highs for lower noise when in multipath distortion. Or even tapes which have far less bass and fidelity then ipods. In many cases the compression helps us to hear the normally quitter sounds in a otherwise noisy environment.
    Lets face it real HiFi never really works in a car unless you are playing it with the engine off. If you really want to blame anyone for the slower Car audio bizz blame the Car companies whe make it harder and harder to install a good radio in it, and the lack of government support to keep a radio delete package available. I remember when the new cars would line up in front of the store in September.I also feel that the aftermarket suppliers have sold the retailers out by dealing with the Auto makers suppling them with OEM equipment they have ignored us the retailers.Some like Panasonic have given up completely on the after market.I would also say that in preferring the Big Box store over the Mom and Pop stores they belittle the business and are putting their eggs all in one or two baskets. Soooo stop picking on the ipod.

  2. JeffersonBryant

    29. Jul, 2009

    I appreciate your comments. Having been on both sides of the fence (retail\manufacturer), I have seen things from a different perspective. I am not saying that the iPod does not have its place, and you can certainly make a few extra sales off it, however, the industry-wide reaction 8 years ago was the starting point. It signaled a move away from fidelity and towards simple convienance. Apple didn’t set out to harm the car audio industry, but as a group, we let it cloud the issue. The latest iPods do not sound that bad, but the early units, which is what I referring to, were horrible. It became a novelty to have 1,000 songs in your pocket, the fact that it didn’t sound as good didn’t matter. There is a lot of blame to go around, but in my opinion, it all started with the iPod.

  3. A. Webb

    03. Nov, 2009

    Oh, it’s worse than that. The iTunes software to add music to the iPod crashes WIN XP which has otherwise been stalble.
    Face it. Anything Apple is crapple. It deliberately acts out when used on any MSoft application.
    I can’t even say what I’d like to because this page wouldn’t not be PG13, it would be XXXX.

  4. Ben

    13. Feb, 2010

    Just plugged the ipod into the car with exactly the results you describe, specificaly lost bass (mostly), is there anything I can do to get it back? I have a 5th gen nano.

    Thanks

    Ben

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