Apple iPod causes paradigm shift, home stereo makers like Sony to add iPod connectivity

“Bill Macomber can’t remember the last time he bought a CD, much less listened to one. In fact, he no longer owns a CD player, other than the one built in to his laptop computer. The 32-year-old Los Angeles video editor listens to his music almost exclusively on one of the two iPods he owns, amplified by a $150 device called an iPal: a single, compact speaker, powered by a rechargeable battery,” Ethan Smith writes for The Wall Street Journal. “Mr. Macomber is the kind of consumer that Apple Computer Inc. is targeting with its new iPod Hi-Fi, a portable speaker system that Apple claims will reintroduce digital music aficionados to high-quality audio. Mr. Macomber used to be a minor-league gearhead, subscribing to what he calls ‘fancy audiophile magazines.’ In the digital age, he’s become less of a stickler, trading quality for convenience. Even though digital music is typically stored in compressed formats that sound demonstrably worse than CDs, he says: ‘It’s good enough.'”

“When it comes to music, consumers are increasingly trading quality for quantity. Many would rather have the ability to store thousands of songs on portable devices — and have a constant soundtrack to their lives — than own stacks of CDs and listen to high-quality sound tethered to an expensive living-room system. The shift is causing big reverberations in the audio industry. Sony Corp., has already pulled the plug on an expensive high-end audio line. And electronics makers including Sony are adding features designed to allow for easier integration between their midline stereo systems and portable players like iPods,” Smith writes. “To try to recapture some of the iPod crowd, electronics manufacturers are adding features to their home audio systems designed to make them easier to use with portable digital players. Samsung Electronics Co., for example, will include USB ports on the front of two sound systems hitting stores this month, to allow users to play music directly from MP3 players. Two other models from the company will include an adapter to let users attach a portable XM Satellite Radio receiver the company also makes. Neither model will work with Apple’s market-dominating iPod, though. Sony is set to roll out similar features on eight to 10 audio systems, with a simpler, headphone jack-like interface that is to work with any music player, including the iPod.

“Sony hopes to lure customers by promising better sound quality in digital devices. The company is touting a sound-processing technology called “digital audio enhancement” designed to restore some of the sound quality lost in creating the compressed digital files stored on portable devices,” Smith writes.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If you think Sony is going to “restore lost sound quality” from compressed digital music files, you probably also think that their digital music players (do they still make those?) hold umpteen zillion songs per GB* with batteries that last for 1,000 hours per charge**. Anyway, it is very interesting how much impact iPod is having on “Hi-Fi” home stereo habits, so much so that even Sony feels compelled to include iPod connectivity. That’s a much better decision than the usual Sony move of trying to block it with some convoluted proprietary Sony-Only connection scheme.

* 15-second song average at 0.02 kbps
** Estimated. Based on 6 hours actual use per 1,000 hour period.

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  1. Onkyo makes a $99 iPod dock which not only allows you to play your iPod through their receivers, but allows you to control it with their remote. Sony, Samsung and others may not step up to the plate, however there are some in the industry who see potential in offering iPod connectivity.

    Why in the world is Samsung offering connectivity to MP3 players other than iPod. Who owns one of those?

    MW: “ask” as in ASK the consumer, not the nerdy engineers, what they want

  2. It is stories like this that add up to a big deal. The more the entertainment electronics industry makes itself compatible with Apple’s products, the closer Apple comes to dominating the center and controlling aspect of that industry. I look forward to other consumer electronic products vendors doing the same.

  3. Any reciever or radio worth a damm has a audio input jack of some sort.

    For instance the Bose Wave Radio has RCA input jacks (red and white plugs), with a simple stereo mini (small headphone jack) to RCA breakout cable one can connect just about any Mp3 device, cd player etc.

    So all this is just marketing bull$h*t.

    Most music is recorded in stereo (using two microphones) however some of the newer stuff is now either recorded in surround sound or processed to sound good on a 5.1 system.

    There is a special cable to send this format from a iPod to a 5.1 reciever. It’s a Monster Cable, can’t find the link. 🙁

    Of course the iPod hifi is a joke, what was Apple thinking? Steal Bose Wave Radio sales?

  4. heh. I guess I might have to dig out my old three piece Cyber Acoustics Mac Audio Amplified Computer Speakers with 26 watt sub-woofer and dual mini G3 iMac styled satellite tweeters. The sound quality is sorta .. well .. just sorta. But it has interchangeable plastic tweeter cover cones in all the original fruity iMac flavors with matching interchangable color logo buttons for the sub-woofer, even.

    Maybe if I jazzed that puppy up with some good speakers and a bunch of wattage? err … nahhh. Regardless, it’s just dripping with retro cool. ahaha ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  5. MacDude, Apple will probably sell a lot of iPod Hi-Fis and the rest of the iPod speaker market will adjust their products to make them more competitive with the features and sound quality of the Hi-Fi. Remote controls and digital optical audio inputs are going to become much more common in the future because of the Hi-Fi.

    Many people will love the simplicity of the iPod Hi-Fi. Apply will be successful where Bose failed–they will be able to convince the masses that you don’t need a complicated system to get great sound.

  6. That iPal is made by Tivoli, who makes great radios. I have had a Model One for a couple of years now, and love it. They have exceptional analog tuners that can pick up stations that most digital radios can’t reach. Well worth checking out…

  7. “Bill Macomber can’t remember the last time he bought a CD…”

    I can. In fact, almost all the music on my iPod is ripped from CD – all 14+ gigs of it. After all, CDs don’t include any DRM and you can pick your compression ratio. And as far as sound quality to goes, all my MP3s sound just fine to me, whether they’re playing through my 5.1 system or my JBL On Tour speakers.

    My girlfriend just bought the Bose SoundDock. The sound’s great. I haven’t seen the iPod Hi-Fi in the flesh, but I prefer the way the SoundDock looks. The only thing it lacks is an LCD that displays the contents of your iPod on the remote.

  8. I bought a Sony compact stereo last November that my son hooks his iPod up to.
    Sounds great.

    And only cost $190.
    Oh yeah, it also has a CD player, am/fm tuner, cassette player and detachable speakers with wiring to put the speakers at least 10 feet apart.
    Looks nice, too.

  9. The thing that really troubles me about the iPod hi-fi is how Steve purposely puts so many limits on the use of it.
    Use it only for iPod only.
    Well, I got CDs, too. Where do I play them?
    Yes, I do listen to the radio. Can´t with Apple hi-fi. (Oh yeah, I could shell out another $49 and buy the Apple radio attachment…)

    So much for Apple giving a person choices. Truth is Apple is very restrictive trying to limit one´s choice to Apple only.
    That ain´t gonna´ fly. I ain´t gonna´ buy.
    So there is my freedom to choose.


    This is one thing that is never going to make the Apple top 10 sellers list.

  10. So, the Apple HiFi is ugly and overpriced. Maybe Apple is using it to show companies like Sony how to make money with iPods. All the while Apple is solidifying their stranglehold on the market, just like they are doing in the automotive market.

  11. MDN: “Anyway, it is very interesting how much impact iPod is having on “Hi-Fi” home stereo habits, so much so that even Sony feels compelled to include iPod connectivity.”

    Sony also has portable music devices that can connect via USB. See picture in Sony link above.
    And these USB connections on Sony (and other company) compact stereo systems have been available for months – MDN, get out and visit an electronics store sometime and don´t just go to the computer games section….

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