More Thoughts On the iPod Hi-Fi

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by Josh Ray on March 01 '06

 Ipodhifi Images Specstop20060228

So, yeah, Steve Jobs said the iPod Hi-Fi is audiophile-approved. I'm not sure if SJ is qualified to give such a designation, but one thing is certain: Steve could sell ice to the Eskimos. If you're not aware, Jobs is famous for his "reality distortion field" where he makes all kinds of outlandish claims that are usually complete BS but people eat it up anyway. In this case, I don't doubt Apple will sell one or two billion of these things regardless of how they sound.

However, his use of "audiophile" may be a good thing. I'm still trying to decide if, somehow, this could break the audiophile stigma that dominates this industry. Unlike outrageously priced sports cars, watches and clothing, any audio system over, say, $1000 is insane! Crazy! Bunch of audiophile wackos! Why? Beats me but somewhere along the line people stopped believing high-end equipment makes a difference. The general populace has no problem lusting after million dollar Ferraris and Bugattis. But $2000 speakers? Crack rock territory.

Maybe if his great lordship Steve Jobs starts talking up sound quality, people will be far more responsive to audio-specific advertising. At the very least, Bose now has competition in the $500 category which could, with a little luck, make people realize Bose is not the best of the best of the best. One can always hope...


I actually believe this to be a great thing for the high-end two channel audio industry. This is a piece (the iPod Hi-Fi) for enhancing enjoyment of music. It is most certainly a step in the right direction. It's free publicity for the idea that there can be improvements gained in sound quality for not a lot of $, and that the average music fan will appreciate it. It's the "in" for bigger and better things... that wonderful upgrade bug that keeps the high-end audio industry alive. Even our (audiophile's) once exclusive language is now being shared with a very big public audience... see Apple's description of "Elements of Great Sound" on the product's "Design" page: . Let's not get audiophile snobby against this very helpful event for our industry.
Steve Jobs may well be the greatest salesman that has ever lived. Anyone who can turn anything into a collective object of desire is worth the claim, but there's something about Apple and SJ that goes beyond that. Even with what I know by now, it is hard to me to picture the term "audiophile" without thinking about some middle-aged guys gushing over components with features that are uncomprehensible for the average joe and with five- and six-figure price tags to boot. That is the kind of image that does more harm than good to the industry. If the audio community had someone like Steve Jobs at their forefront, some things would be quite different. The iPod's cosmetic appeal cannot be denied, and it's not exactly cheap either, specially considering the lots of alternative MP3 players out there - yet everyone and their mother want one these days. That "want factor" combined with decent pricing, might be the missing link to increase high end audio's appeal beyond its limited niche market.
Keep in mind Jobs is supposedly a dedicated Levinson /Wilson Watt/Puppy owner. But I don't know if that makes his "audiophile" claim more sincere or more BS.
I went over to the apple webpage for this product. Boy, I had to laugh over a number of things. "Astounding form factor"!?!? I don't see what's astounding about a mutant marshmallow! In one place the sound is described as "vivid and bright", in another, "warm and vivid". The 80mm drivers are "handmade" and the little 5" woofer is "generous"! I thought to myself, "This thing probably gives out at 18Khz in the treble". Nope, I was wrong. Specs suggest a generous extension of 16 kHz. How's that for hi-fi? Apple can afford to do a lot better, soundwise, designwise, otherwise. I don't see why anyone would want this over a Bose JBL Altec or Klipsch dock. The only thing they got right was allowing for battery power. All the same, I agree with Josh that the use of the term "audiophile" in arenas outside hi-end audio is welcome. With most audiophiles collectively concerned about how they are going to cryogenically treat the wires in their walls, we have definitely lost any potential for mass appeal.
Hey Beto, I'll be that Steve Jobs! Lol, maybe not. Vytas, cryogenically treating the wire in the walls is just too funny. Non-audiophiles should never, ever, ever know about the crazy shit we get into. Power cables are great and all, but if the first thing a person sees is an ad for a $1000 cord or ugly room treatment, they'll flee to the hills. Daniel, lol, yeah, his rig does throw his credibility into question. Really, though, I wouldn't have pegged Jobs as a Krell/Wilson kinda guy. That's more Gates territory. I see Jobs with Linn or Chord or some slick and understated gear that only insiders have heard of. Gates seems more like a Wilson X-2 over-compensation kinda guy. Then, of course, there's Larry Ellison who would have his speakers custom built out of decommissioned Soviet nuclear submarines.
"Then, of course, there's Larry Ellison who would have his speakers custom built out of decommissioned Soviet nuclear submarines." Ahh yes, but this is the guy that would have to take out another loan to have those speakers built. The guy can't account for $13 Million he spent last year. That's $35k per day in "walking money". He pays $75 Million in interest each year on his float. And the one time he sells some ORCL, he gets sued, and LOSES. ;-) He's broke. Ohh, and the Million dollar Ferrari can't be used here. Everything it does can be documented on paper. That's not true of 99.999% of hifi.
OK, while highend manufacturers are trying to incorporate iPod/computer audio in their product line up, the load Apple himself came up with a (supposely) audiophile version! I just hope they keep going with, next, $1000 separates, $2000 super speakers, and on and on. That sure will revitalize the while industry! It's kinda interesting they chose rather retro, refined old boombox design.