Tuesday, May 10, 2005

iTunes + iPod = Digital Fecal Matter: PART 2

Reason 3 – The Headphones & The Volume

After plunking down $499, you’d at least think you were getting quality goods. The headphones that come with the iPod—the little white earbuds they always show on the commercials—are atrocious. Everything sounds tinny and the sound begins to distort if the volume is turned up or if anything with bass is playing.

So why do people keep using the headphones? Because they’re white (the headphones—that is—not the people wearing them). Having an iPod is a status symbol, but no one knows you own one if it is buried in your backpack or pocket. The only way of signifying your ownership is to wear the crappy headphones.

Standard Response 1: “Why not just turn on the EQ feature?” I would if it didn’t make everything sound like AM radio.

Standard Response 2: “It’s your headphones.” Maybe. The standard headphones that come with the iPod are a part of the problem. The sound does get considerably better with a pair of Sony’s, but the Sony’s sound amazing with basically any other audio source.

Standard Response 3: “It’s probably the quality of your MP3 encoding.” Good point, but every MP3 I have (encoded anywhere from 128kbps to 384kbps) still sounds like crap.

Why is the volume so low on the iPod? You have to put the volume up to around 75% to get any details at all. Otherwise it sounds like you’re listening to your Oldsmobile’s AC DELCO. There have been numerous reports about volume restrictions in European models of the iPod, but I’m not sure if they have those restrictions in the US. Perhaps digital sound output would help the problem (see ARCHOS).

Reason 4 – The “OFF” Button

Again, form and function blend together to create a nuisance. The “Play” and “Pause” button are the same button, which is fine. But, you’re supposed to also turn off the machine by holding down that same button. Three functions + one button = debacle.

So it sound simple enough, just hold the button down and you’ll be fine. Sometimes you hold the button down and nothing happens. Sometimes you hold the button down and the machine turns off, but the second you remove your finger, it turns back on again. Sometimes it just pauses the song you’re playing. Sometimes it just un-pauses the song. If Apple insists on having as few buttons as possible, then how about merging the “Off” button with the “Hold” slider on the top of the unit?

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