I never thought I'd say this, but I'm starting to think the iPod is a true high-end audio component. What's changed? I heard it in my high-end system, docked into Wadia's 170i Transport ($379). I can now testify to the iPod's bona fides.
Thing is, an iPod, even one loaded with uncompressed AIFF or WAV files, isn't all by itself a high-end component, but teamed with Wadia's 170i Transport, aka, dock, an iPod is elevated to high-end status. The transformation takes place when the Wadia transmits the iPod's zeros and ones to an outboard digital-to-analog (D/A) converter in your A/V receiver, or even better, a standalone high-end D/A. Wadia's claims that the 170i is the first and only "dock" to extract a digital output from an unmodified iPod.
The 170i's digital out sends a 16 bit/44.1 kHz PCM digital signal to a D/A. The 170i does that for MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV files, but just be aware that it converts all but AIFF and WAV to 16/44.1. It can also pass 16/48 PCM, but in most cases 16/44.1 is what you'll get.
According to Wadia's national sales manager, Martin Cooper, iPods store MP3, Apple Lossless, and AAC files in Apple's own digital language, and when an iPod is nestled into a 170i it converts those files to 16/44.1 PCM. That way, the signals can be processed by the D/A in your A/V receiver or high-end D/A. MP3, Apple Lossless, and AAC files will sound "good," just not quite the same as the original CD. In other words, only AIFF and WAV files can be heard with bit-for-bit accuracy over the 170i. … Read more