Edit: Forgot to include noise-cancelling / in-ear / tin can headphones as an option. Thanks George! Jump to the choices if you want to skip the blah.


Another update: I really must strongly recommend noise-blocking earbuds or similar. I bought a pair which have rounded soft material on the bud – essentially a cross between an earplug and an earbud. They were relatively cheap (about £8 from Argos), and the difference is substantial. They claim 30dB reduction or such, I don’t know whether that is true, but I can say that for many situations 40% volume is now sufficient. They do take a little getting used to, but once you use them you won’t go back – and your ears will thank you. Happy listening!



Between my last post and now I have had the opportunity to load up my shiny new iPod Classic with some of my music and give it a spin, so to speak. Everything seems hunky dory (my Bowie collection is going on tonight), apart from the fairly major issue of volume capping.

It seems that Apple set a cap on all EU iPods due to a French law limiting devices to an output of 100 dB or somesuch. As usual, the internets are somewhat confused on the issue – I’ve seen posts blaming it on “the socialist EU government”, “EU health and safety regulations”, “the Frenchys” [sic], and Apple. Except the ones about Apple don’t blame it as such, just say they did it because a French law exists. Interestingly, I’ve also seen reports of this affecting our antipodean friends’ iPods, although I think this is probably because Apple feel that if someone is getting screwed in electronics they might as well screw the Aussies (and NZ) in case they start expecting not to get screwed. One day they have iPods that aren’t volume capped, then they start saying that $100 is a bit pricey for a video game, actually. It’s a slippery slope.

Anyway, I don’t really care *why* my iPod is capped (well I do, but I’m not going to moast about it any further*), I just want to know how to fix it. Now, had this been an iPod Touch I might have been in luck, as apparently you can edit a certain .plist file, or just jailbreak it. Alternatively, had it been an iPod Nano or another model of a certain generation, gopod might have worked, but it doesn’t. Apparently, there isn’t much you can do to fix a current model iPod Classic (160 GB) due to the firmware being encrypted.

However, user maniacco posted on the macrumours forums (linky, page 3 for that post, but the whole thing is worth reading) saying that deleting the iPodPrefs file (in a hidden directory called “iPod Control”) made things louder for him. As an aside, he does say it may be due to the placebo effect, which I find pretty insightful. Try it, it may work for you. Back the file up first, of course.

Another user (Wills) posted the following:

I also bought an Ipod classic 80 gb from the UK after I had an american one and was dissapointed from the volume cap 🙁
Tonight reading the forum and looking for solution I also tried couple of things using iTunes. And I managed to make it sound louder!!!

1. First look at you iPod settings and SOUND CHECK must be ON and the volume limit must be set to maximum.
2. I connected the ipod to my laptop and waited until iTunes show up on my screen
3. I clicked on EDIT and choose the PREFERENCE option (last one)
4. After second window was open I clicked on PLAYBACK and choose the SOUND CHECK option on. SOUND ENHANCER was already set to HIGH.
5. Then I clicked OK and waited until all my songs were adjusted.
6. I disconnected the iPod from my laptop
7. Then I changed the SOUND CHECK option on my Ipod to OFF.
8. Now you can try is the volume different 🙂 You can also fiddle a bit with the EQ settings and choose the best for you. I prefer R&B.

It definitely worked on my iPod.

I’m skeptical, as I can’t see how this would work around the firmware-based cap. However, I did both of these things and blow me if it doesn’t seem louder. it may be that it is now loud enough for me, or it may be that I had a particularly quiet ride into work. My (highly unscientific, subjective) tests conclude that my new iPod is definitely quieter than my own one.

(The test for those that are interested is to play B.Y.O.B. by System of a Down on full volume. If I can listen to that without discomfort I know it’s too quiet. This is how I originally noticed it was too quiet too.)

Choices

The question is, what the hell do I do if I still find it too quiet? As I see it I have 4 options:

  1. Grin and bear it. Less than ideal, although the iPod does work, and it doubles as a portable hard drive.
  2. Return the iPod Classic and buy an iPod Touch for either jailbreaking or the plist mod. I’m loathe to do this as I’m paying significantly more for something with less storage and a lot of facilities I don’t need. it also seems wrong to reward Apple with additional money for a limitation they imposed.
  3. Return the iPod and buy a different MP3 player. This is certainly possible, however it does require me to re-research the market (and trustedreviews doesn’t seem to have reviewed anything worthwhile in the last 3 years) and possibly end up spending a lot of time and money to end up with something inferior. Potentially. I could end up with something much better for cheaper, but I doubt it. Time is against me here.
  4. Buy a Boostaroo for £20 or so. Upsides: it should work, it’s an amp. Downsides: increases the effective cost of the iPod to £200ish; requires batteries which will require replacing periodically; another device to carry around (and potentially fail). Despite this, it is actually quite tempting – it means I get to keep my iPod Classic, which is so far otherwise fine. It can also split (duplicate?) signals, which is pretty cool.
  5. Buy noise-cancelling / in-ear headphones. Another tempting (and to be fair, the most sensible) option, except these tend to be even more expensive than 4, and I’m not sure about comfort – I’m very picky with my earphones. The other concern I have is that by blocking out weltjammer (I totally made that up, I mean world noise) I will step in front of a car by accident. I do pay attention, but the problem is if my mind wanders at the wrong time, I’m not going to have my ears to override my brain. Tough.

It’s a tough call. Well, between 3 and 4 (and 5, now that it is included) anyway. I will do some preliminary research and see if anything jumps out as an iPod killer, although I’m not that hopeful – it didn’t when I was looking to replace my broken one. Meantime, I will see how I go with my capped iPod.

(* Okay, just a little bit more. According to the Wikipedia page, the 1.1 firmware update made the cap even worse. Also, how difficult would it have been for Apple to leave people be? Make it an obscure option in a file somewhere. Leave the firmware unencrypted. Anything, really. But no, not only did they make it incredibly difficult (I won’t say impossible), but they send Cease and Desist notices to those that *do* figure it out. There’s no need for that.)