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iPods Aren't Working Well Enough As "We-Pods"
iPod generation is losing touch with joys of collective listening due to sub-standard equipment
By Mi2N
(more articles from this author)
2009-03-02
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A generation of music fans brought up on a diet of personal listening via their MP3 players are losing touch with the joys of shared music due to the growing availability of cheap tinny speakers with in-built iPod docks. Manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon and developing low-cost, low fidelity iPod accessories in a market estimated to be worth US$1.8 billion annually [1].

Despite the huge sums spent on iPods and MP3 players, many shoppers are buying low quality speaker systems. iPod-specific speakers frequently deliver poor quality sound, according to genuine customer reviews of speakers collated by Reevoo.com.

Sam Bostock, home entertainment category manager at Reevoo.com, said: "People are buying speakers for their iPods that offer high convenience, but often they sound no better than a clock radio."

Shoppers browsing for iPod speakers at Reevoo's network of 60 of the top UK online retailers outnumbered shoppers for stand-alone speakers by 2 to 1. But the ratings from genuine customer reviews collected by Reevoo were reversed. Stand-alone speakers scored 8.5/10 or more twice as often on average as iPod speakers. Reviewers commonly complained about hiss, interference and crackling in reviews of iPod speaker systems.

The average price of a pair of stand-alone speakers with a score of 8.5/10 or more was 122 versus 90 for the best performing iPod speakers. Despite the lower average cost of dedicated iPod speaker systems, they also fared worse on value for money, with an overall score of 8.4/10 versus 8.9/10 for stand-alone speakers.

According to Forrester Research, more than 160 million iPod devices have been sold since the iPod first launched in 2001. Critics of MP3 players and iPods have referenced the relative lack of emotional engagement that listeners experience when connected to their device. Reevoo argues that poor quality sound via cheap iPod speakers is doing little to introduce music fans to the pleasures of collective listening.

"Long gone are the days of listening to an album via a turntable on a hi-fi," said Sam Bostock. "The trouble is that when we do get together to listen to music, we're compromising the quality by listening through poor quality speakers."

"People are being seduced by the convenience of a plug-in set of speakers or a unit with a dedicated iPod dock. The reality is that for a similar price, shoppers can buy a set of relatively high-end speakers that they can connect their iPod to via an amplifier and a low cost lead."

"The iPod generation of today run the risk of never experiencing the true quality of music, as we did with CDs and vinyl. People aren't experiencing music as collectively as people did a couple of decades ago; today it's much more about the personal experience but when music is opened up into a social setting, it seems people aren't making sound investments and instead going for cheaper, lower quality speakers to play their music."

Disappointed customers offered the following reviews of dedicated iPod speakers:

"A pronounced hiss can be heard when the volume is turned up above the low to mid range (general listening) level. There is also some 'fluctuation' of the sound at higher levels."

"The sound quality is shocking (even when wired up)."

"Hissing/interference noise that didn't go away."

"Terrible crackling when iPod plugged in, and a whistle when the iPod is charging and playing music at the same time."

"Sound quality is awful."

"Sound poor and lots of BUZZ."

"Bass isn't that strong (weaker than a decent 2.1)."

"The sound quality is very poor."

If quality of sound through iPod speakers is an emerging issue, quantity of sound stored on iPods isn't. iPods have enabled a new generation of music lovers to take an unprecedented amount of music with them. Today, iPods are capable of storing up to 160GB, enough capacity to store 2,500 albums or more or the equivalent of approaching half a tonne of vinyl.

The Top 5 Speakers, with sound quality rating (out of 10):

1. MORDAUNT SHORT AVANT 902i (9.1)
2. Wharfedale Diamond SW150 (9.1)
3. ACOUSTIC ENERGY AEGO M (9.1)
4. Acoustic Energy Aego m System (9.1)
5. EPOS ELS SUB SUBWOOFER (9.0)

Bottom 5 Speakers:

1. AQSOUND WIRELESS SPEAKERS (6.1)
2. Hitachi Ax M133 (7.2)
3. PHILIPS SPA3200 (8.2)
4. Mission M33I (8.4)
5. Tannoy F1 Custom (8.4)

Top 5 iPod Speaker Docks:

1. Bose SoundDock (9.5)
2. Harman Kardon HKGO Play (9.4)
3. ONKYO DSA1X IPOD DOCK (9.1)
4. Intempo IDS-05B (9.1)
5. ALTEC LANSING E3508 (9.1)

Bottom 5 iPod Speaker Docks:

1. I WANT IT IW150 (6.6)
2. Gear4 BassBox iPod Speaker (7.0)
3. Griffin Wireless Speakers (7.7)
4. Gear4 Blackbox 24/7 (7.9)
5. INTEMPO RDI iPod Speaker with DAB (8.2)

[1] Research cited by Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS18845+03-Oct-2008+BW20081003


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