There have been so many discussion or even argumentation between people regarding which iPod type is the best. Actually, if it’s about audio, you can’t compare directly between one product to another, because every audio product has its own characteristic. Like in this case, iPods. As we all have known, iPod by Apple have so many types back when the iPod firstly launched up until now. You will always find it a bit difficult to compare which iPod is better.
The interesting point which usually people use as comparison between iPods is it Audio Chip. Some other people may say it DAC ( Digital to Analog Converter ) or some others say Digital Audio Converter. That various terms actually comes from the same thing, the audio chip. Apple, in the process of developing iPods, used only two brands of audio chips, Wolfson and Cirrus Logic. And the comparison which one between those audio chip makes better iPod sound came up right after Apple decided to use Cirrus rather than Wolfson.
Which iPod use Wolfson audio chip? Here they are:
iPod 1G & 2G (WM8721), 3G (WM8731), 4G(WM8975), 5G (WM87588G) and 5.5G (WM87588G)
iPod nano 1G (WM8975G), 2G (WM8975), 3G (WM1870)
iPod Touch 1G (WM8758BG)
iPod mini (Wolfson 8731?)
iPhone (WM8758BG) and the iPhone 3G (WM6180).
In summary, all the early iPods up to 5G Classic used Wolfson chips.
Then, which iPod use Cirrus Logic audio chip? Let’s check this out:
ipod ‘Classic’ 1G , 2G & 3G (CS42L55) (These are also known as 6th 7th and 8th gen iPod)
ipod nano 4G (CS42L58), 5G (CLI1480A), 6G (CLI1544C0)
iPod Touch 2G (possibly CS42L58)
iPhone 3GS (CS41L61) and 4(338S0589), 4S (338S0987)
iPod Shuffle 4th Gen (CLI1544C0)
The letters between bracket is the name of the chipset. You can browse or googling to find its datasheet if you want to.
What actually the reason behind the Apple’s decision to use Cirrus Logic rather than Wolfson? Is it caused by the quality issue or just the price? Well, as a person works as R&D Engineer in one of Electronics Leading Company, I may think it’s because of the price, although I’m not 100% sure about that. But, I think, Apple will not only consider the price. Quality is also important.
Then, some people curious with the characteristic of the Cirrus Logic which Wolfson can not afford. Some review on the internet said that Cirrus Logic are actually better than Wolfson. For me, If I am reading an audio review say that something is better than the others, I will ask my self, “Better in what aspect?” You can not say this is better than that only, because as I have said earlier, in audio world, it is dificult to compare something with another since every audio thing has its own characteristic.
So, the question is, what is the characteristic of Cirrus Logic Audio Chip? and what about Wolfson?
Cirrus Logic has the good point in audio precision, crisp, detail and clear sound. That’s why some people will say Cirrus Logic is better, since if we hear it, directly we will found the clarity and detail are so amazing. But it has a drawback, if you listen to it for a long time, it will be fatiguing after a while.The other disadvantage from Cirrus Logic Chip is it lacks of 3D imaging. The detail and clear audio produced by Cirrus Logic create the sensation like being in the middle of the performance. You will feel you are surrounded by several instruments. But, it seems that the instruments located very near to you. You slightly could not distinguish which instrument is nearer than the others. That’s why, the 3D imaging effect of Cirrus Logic is not so good.
Than, what about Wolfson? We have to admit that in the clarity and detail aspect, Wolfson was left behind the Cirrus. Wolfson also lacks in audio precision. But, actually the difference was not so visible, you will find it’s hard to determine the lacking of the audio precision, if just say, you only listen to usual music, with usual headphone. But, the plus point from wolfson is its 3D imaging effect is so wonderful. And, you will find Wolfson is so comfortable to listen for a long time.
Every people will have their own objectivity regarding which one is better. As I said, “Better in what aspect?”
Wolfson and Cirrus Logic has its own characteristic. They have its own strong point and also weak point. It depends on you to determine which one is better. If you like detail and clarity, then Cirrus Logic is better. But if you like 3D imaging and comfortability, than Wolfson is better.
For me, my self, I prefer Wolfson than Cirrus Logic because 3D imaging is just awesome. For you? just prove yourself.