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May 20, 2010

iPod mini 6GB

A new hard drive, 50 percent larger. New colors. Better battery life. New audio performance? The original iPod mini caused quite a stir when it was introduced, but the audio performance, especially in the bass, left something to be desired.

Actually, it left a lot to be desired.

Audio enthusiasts complained about the bass response right from the outset, even as people snapped up minis by the millions. Hey, I've got one. And I don't regret it one bit. Weak bass or not, it's been the source of many hours of listening pleasure. The 6GB version of the mini gave Apple the opportunity to right some wrongs, as well as take aluminum anodizing to new heights. The question is, did they?

I breathed a sigh of relief when I ran the first tests on the iPod mini 6GB because Apple had, in fact, addressed the bass performance. It's not stellar, but it's noticeably better than the original mini.

This is the octave-band sweep, snapped while a sweep was in progress. The vertical bars are unimportant; the recorded peaks show the response at each 1/3 octave measuring point.

The amount of droop at the lowest frequencies is typical for players of this class, and is largely caused by the load from the standard iPod earbuds; when the iPod is unloaded or playing into a high-impedance load such as a car stereo or a headphone amplifier, the response is much flatter.

Even with the falloff at the low end, the 6GB mini sounds better than its predecessor. There's more bass there. Switching back and forth between an original 4GB mini and a 6GB with the same earbuds and the volumes set to the same level, there's a subtle, but noticeable improvement.

The 40Hz square wave test is about the harshest thing I could come up with to wring out the bass response. The unloaded response is noticeably better than that of the original mini. Here's the original 4GB mini:

This droopy-looking curve above shows that the original mini can't make a decent square wave even with no load.

The 6GB iPod makes a decent-looking, if not exceptional square wave, a much more promising foundation for bass performance.

The 40Hz curve of the original 4GB mini with the earbuds attached is a complete mess.

The 6GB mini is a big improvement, but the 32-ohm earbuds manage to pull the voltage down to zero by the end of each half-wave. The result: it still runs out of steam in the bass.

more to come....

Posted by machrone at May 20, 2010 09:34 PM