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Okay, so after spending a lot of time doing research and waiting for my budget to catch up with my upgrade plans, I decided to just keep it simple and add a nice quality stereo preamplifier (with HT bypass) to my system and incorporate it into my existing HT set-up. I decided on a Mapletree Audio Designs Line 2A SE preamp from Dr. Lloyd Peppard.


It just so happens that, a couple of months ago, a friend of mine gave me an iPod Nano that she didn't need anymore. I downloaded a few songs from iTunes and used the little earbud things that came with it...neat little device. Then I heard about a company called Audio Line Out who offered all sorts of mods, tweaks, and cables. Though a little pricey, I went ahead and ordered an iPod-to-RCA cable made with Vampire Wire and some nice quality parts. I figured I got the Nano for free, so why not spend a few bucks on a nice cable that will allow me to use it with my Mapletree that was on the way.


Anyway, this past week both items arrived on the same day. It's my first tube preamp, so I spent a half hour reading through the manual and what not, getting everything hooked up. I connected the iPod to one of the inputs and fired it up. At the time I'm writing this, I've recreated this process for two other people, and all three of us have been absolutely blown away by how good things are sounding. I played Robin Thicke's "Lost Without U", one of the iTunes downloads, and it was just ridiculous. Nice crisp, deep, thumping bass...clear, warm vocals...it's arguably the best sounding track I've ever played on my system, and this is a compressed download on an iPod!


Now I'm sure that the biggest factor here is the Mapletree. It's an incredible value, maybe the best value in preamps going today, though I don't have enough experience with all that's out there to say that definitively. All I know is that my system is SINGING right now, and I have what is basically CRAP as a source. My Denon 2900 Uni player won't play CDs anymore, so I had to take it out of my system. I'm going to focus on a nice outboard DAC as my next upgrade, but until then I'm thrilled with how this little iPod is playing these compressed files on my rig.


I figured that my Outlaw 950 would be embarrassed once I got a real preamp in the mix, but it's more of a slaughter than I could have imagined. I don't care how far receivers and pre/pros have come in terms of 2-channel quality, a stereo preamp makes one HELL of a difference.


Here's a review of the preamp I went with in case any of you guys want one to add to your short list: http://hollowstate.netfirms.com/hoffmanreview.pdf
 

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Does that cable you ordered allow you to bypass the built in wolfson DAC on the ipod? I don't know if your mapletree preamp has a DAC or not.
 

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Discussion Starter #3

Quote:
Originally Posted by gus6464 /forum/post/12944995


Does that cable you ordered allow you to bypass the built in wolfson DAC on the ipod? I don't know if your mapletree preamp has a DAC or not.

I asked the ALO guy to explain what the difference is between using this cable and one that uses a mini-plug from the headphone output. Here is his response:


"The Headphone jack of the ipod is meant to drive low impedance headphones. The headphone output stage in the ipod has a volume control and internal amp that all means more in the signal path to degrade the signal. Your also basically amping a amped audio signal when using the headphone jack. Now the line out on the bottom of the ipod does not have the headphone output stage, volume control and extra routing in the signal path. In short the line out was meant for output to a proper amp. So thats part of the reason why my ipod cables are better. The other part is the material I use for the cable. I use the best sounding stuff I can find, using the best sounding connectors."


I'm not really into boutique wires and all that, and I don't know what credit to give to the ALO cable, but this particular set-up is extremely impressive! I had really been fearful of spending any money on iTunes downloads because I'm not much into headphones and I've spent a few bucks on a decent audio rig. I'm still going to continue to buy CDs obviously, but at least now I know I can buy a tune or two off of iTunes from time to time and still have really good sound.
 

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The new Wadia 170 iTransport will allow you to bypass the internal iPod DAC. This is the first unmodded & Apple supported product to do this.


Get a nice DAC and you can have excellent sound from the smallest music server, an iPod Nano.
 

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Quote:
All I know is that my system is SINGING right now, and I have what is basically CRAP as a source.

Clearly, you are underestimating the quality of your source. If you aren't getting garbage out, you surely cannot be putting garbage in. 128kbps AAC is not CD quality, but it's really not that far from CD quality. You could pass a blind test, but you might not pass it the first time you took it.


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Quote:
The Headphone jack of the ipod is meant to drive low impedance headphones. The headphone output stage in the ipod has a volume control and internal amp that all means more in the signal path to degrade the signal. Your also basically amping a amped audio signal when using the headphone jack. Now the line out on the bottom of the ipod does not have the headphone output stage, volume control and extra routing in the signal path. In short the line out was meant for output to a proper amp. So thats part of the reason why my ipod cables are better. The other part is the material I use for the cable. I use the best sounding stuff I can find, using the best sounding connectors."

This isn't 100% crap, but it's close enough. The 'best sounding connectors" are snake oil. If you're bypassing the headphone jack, that might make a modest difference. But I bet you'd have been just as happy with a simple mini-to-RCA cable. (Not anymore, though!)


What's important, though, is that you're happy. Probably it's partly the preamp, and partly the surprise at how good a compressed file could sound. Whatever it is, enjoy!
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Comp.Audiophile /forum/post/12947674


The new Wadia 170 iTransport will allow you to bypass the internal iPod DAC. This is the first unmodded & Apple supported product to do this.

This is a wonderful device.
 
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