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Stephen Mejias
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Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

Last week, on our homepage, we asked:

"Should an iPod dock be considered a standard component for a high-end audio system?"

The question seemed appropriate due to Krell's release of their KID iPod dock. The results were interesting, with 56% of our respondents saying No (or Double-No!) and 41% saying Yes.

The comments were nothing if not passionate (and often funny). For instance:

"That'd be like spreading caviar on a hotdog!" [Sounds good to me.]

and

"Did Krell also vote for Sanjaya Malakar as the next American Idol?" [I sure as hell didn't.]

Then, there were others, like H.Williams who declared the iPod to be nothing more than "a passing craze" and Martin who said, "The higher data rates might sound better (I use default) but I have no interest in finding out." Responses such as these surprise me.

Now, as I'm just becoming acquainted with the pleasures of the iPod and even beginning to play around with Red Wine Audio's iMod, I'm especially interested in your thoughts on this.

Maybe we asked the wrong question, however. Should it be a standard component?

Should a CD player be considered a standard component? A turntable?

All up for debate, I suppose. But does the iPod dock have its place in a hi-fi system?

Hell yeah, it seems to me.

Elk
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Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

"Does the iPod dock have its place in a hi-fi system?"

Sure.

1) High quality sound can be obtained from lossless files stored on an iPod, especially if played back via an external DAC.

2) If one owns an iPod or other mobile device there may be times when it is simply convenient to enjoy the music stored on the iPod, even if stored in a lossy format.

tomjtx
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Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

sure it has a place. But if you have a Transporter or SB>great DAC it is not very necessary.
Since you need your music on a hard drive anyway to put it on the Ipod why not just stream directly to the audiophile system using whatever great DAC you have.
The Ipod is a great portable device which can be taken to a party but there is nothing it can do with digital files that a good streamer can't do better.
IMHO

BTW, I have 3 Ipods and love em

RGibran
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Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

FREE YOUR MUSIC

RG

bobedaone
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Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

I have an iPod (4GB Mini, green) that I use in the car or with my Shure E2c earphones on the go. I also have a Nyko Stereo Link, which is a dock connector-to-stereo RCA cable that is simple and sounds very good. I love Apple products. In fact, this iPod of mine came free with my iMac G5. My computer's hard drive is crammed full of music, and its primary role (other than web browsing and work) is music server. Having a music server setup (Apple Airport Express/Audio Alchemy DDE v1.2/PS3), I can't see why an iPod dock would ever be an attractive audiophile option. I'd much rather get a Transporter or a Sonos system. The iPod is all about portable enjoyment for me. Sure, I have a means of connecting it to my stereo, but nothing fancy. It's a novelty. If I had the money, there would be a Transporter on my rack faster than I could move my CD player to the secondary system. I'm a member of the iPod generation, but I don't see the hi-fiPod catching on.

Regarding your query of what should be considered standard components, I have to include the CD player and turntable, for sure. Someday, all high-end companies will offer component streamers, a la Transporter. A component that I don't think gets enough credit is the tuner. Another thing I'd get if I had more green is a Magnum Dynalab tuner. I have an NAD 4020A right now, but I like to dream. Anyway, I won't give the iPod dock component status just yet. I'll admit that it's cool, but it's not for me, nor will it be in the foreseeable future. Enjoy your iMod, though!

Regards,

Erik

Monty
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Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

I agree with you about tuners. I love my tuner.

jkalman
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Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

What is wrong with caviar on hotdogs? It beats the sh** out of plain old mustard...

bifcake
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Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

The answer to whether iPod has a place in a high end system is "it depends".

It depends on:

a) Is the iPod DAC good enough to be considered "high end"

b) Is the iPod a good enough source to be used with an external DAC in a high end system

c) Are there any inherent iPod flaws and/or limitations that would make it a lesser platform than say a hard disk based music server?

Answers to these questions will determine whether an iPod has a place in a high end system.

CharlyD
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Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?


Quote:
a) Is the iPod DAC good enough to be considered "high end"


The DAC in the iPod is from Wolfson, and the associated circuitry is equivalent to a budget CD player. The performance is good but hardly equivalent to anything considered "high-end".

Quote:
b) Is the iPod a good enough source to be used with an external DAC in a high end system


The iPod has no digital output. There is a vendor who will modify your iPod to allow access to the unencrpyted bitstream, but I'm uncertain of the legality (see DMCA).


Quote:
c) Are there any inherent iPod flaws and/or limitations that would make it a lesser platform than say a hard disk based music server?


Well sure.

  • The maximum disk size of the iPod is 80Gb whereas networked attaced storage (NAS) devices can easily exceed terabyte capacities.
  • A NAS device can be attached to a network allowing access by other networked devices. The iPod has no network capability.
  • The iPod will never allow playback of files encoded via WMA (Windows Media Audio). Most networked media players support that codec as well as the AAC and MP3 used in iPods.
  • And what I consider to be most important, a NAS solution will allow delivery of high-resolution (greater than CD) , multichannel (>2) content. The iPod will ony give you what the internal DAC can support.
  • ohfourohnine
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    I agree basically with Erik B: Occasional use in main system, simple connection. We have an early generation iPod full of Christmas carols in lossless. Hooked up to the main system during the holidays it does just what we want.

    bifcake
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    There you go. Good answers and based on these, it's easy to decide whether or not an iPod belongs in a high end system.

    mchale
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    It's another analog output... Into another analog input... is the iPod D/A that much worse compared to everyone else's? If you're playing uncompressed or losslessly compressed files whats the big deal??

    bobedaone
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    I don't think it's an issue of quality so much as it is about other technologies, like music servers, being superior in terms of flexibility and capacity. The iPod is a viable source, but other digital options are likely more appealing to many people.

    mchale
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    I'll buy that It's hard to deny the market force of the iPod, it's a very attractive market for any manufacturer. I'm actually surprised it's taken this long for mainstream "Hi-End" companies to hop on the bandwagon.

    Red Wine Audio
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?


    Quote:
    It's another analog output... Into another analog input... is the iPod D/A that much worse compared to everyone else's? If you're playing uncompressed or losslessly compressed files whats the big deal??

    Much worse? The Wolfson DACs used in the 4th and 5th/5.5 Gen iPods sound really good (obviously, using Lossless or WAV files for best quality). It is what follows the DAC that limits performance, IMO

    Wolfson knows how to make a great sounding DAC, and there are quite a few of high-end CD players that use their DACs. Wolfson DACs tend to sound more warm and musical instead of being analytical/sterile sounding.

    Best regards,

    Vinnie

    mchale
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    It's always interesting to learn what the mass market is used to. Apparently it's now used to Wolfson DAC's. Vinnie, do you have any examples of other companies that use the identical DACs??

    Red Wine Audio
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?


    Quote:
    It's always interesting to learn what the mass market is used to. Apparently it's now used to Wolfson DAC's. Vinnie, do you have any examples of other companies that use the identical DACs??

    Hi mchale,

    Well I don't believe this has anything to do with the market being used to something. I was simply stating that in my opinion, the DAC chip used in the newer iPods sounds very good (again, when lossless or WAV files are used).

    I don't believe any other company is using the identical DAC, as it is OEM for Apple.

    Best regards,

    Vinnie

    Windzilla
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    Hot dog nights and caviar dreams

    what is this world coming too, Ipod docks and hi-fi, opera singers on Idol TV

    mchale
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    Re: Hot dog nights and caviar dreams


    Quote:
    opera singers on Idol TV

    I saw this the other day.. amazing. I guess he'll be quitting his job as a cell phone salesman!

    mchale
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    Hi Vinnie,

    Thanks for the reply. I am curious as to why you focus on cleaning up the analog signal after the DAC as opposed to taking a digital feed before the signal hits the DAC.

    Red Wine Audio
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?


    Quote:
    Hi Vinnie,

    Thanks for the reply. I am curious as to why you focus on cleaning up the analog signal after the DAC as opposed to taking a digital feed before the signal hits the DAC.

    Hi mchale,

    This is a good question.

    When you say "as opposed to taking a digital feed before the signal hits the DAC," this can be done, but what would you do with it? Let me explain:

    The digital signal feeding the internal Wolfson dac is not S/PDIF (which is commonly used to transmit to an external dacs coax input, or converted to optical via Toslink). S/PDIF does not exist anywhere in the iPod. The only way to get S/PDIF is to tap the native clock and data signals that feed the internal dac (and you mentioned above) and feed them out to another board that would need to be designed to convert to the S/PDIF format in coax or Toslink form (e.g. MSB iLink does this... at $1995 and you need to send in your iPod to get modded to tap the digital signals).

    However, S/PDIF itself is not such a great way to transmit digital data. The process of creating S/PDIF, transmitting it, receiving it (in the external dac) and converting it back to native clock/data signals (e.g. I2S) required by the actual dac chip used by the external dac device adds more complexity and jitter.

    As mentioned above, the iPod already uses a very good sounding Wolfson dac that is not fed with S/PDIF. The digital signal paths are very short and very clean inside the iPod. The unit is powered by battery power, so the power is very clean as well.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions.

    Best regards,

    Vinnie

    mchale
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    Hi Vinnie,

    I know some guys that are working on an amplifier that eats I2S. How does that grab you??

    Red Wine Audio
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?


    Quote:
    Hi Vinnie,

    I know some guys that are working on an amplifier that eats I2S. How does that grab you??

    Hi mchale,

    So these amplifiers will have a built-in dac with an I2S interface on the back panel? If this is the case, the iPod would be a really sweet transport... I2S can be grapped and sent out of the iPod (there are unused pins on the dock connector that I can wire to). Please let me know more details about this amplifier if available (make/model/etc.).

    Not having to use SPDIF would be a great thing!

    Thanks,

    Vinnie

    mchale
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?


    Please let me know more details about this amplifier if available (make/model/etc.).

    Thanks,

    Vinnie

    Will do...

    dormston
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    I have been watching this one for a while and terrified of adding a new line of thought...until now...tee hee...

    I have no problems with the sound quality of some of the newer generation digital stuff and at the risk of suffering the wrath of the multitude, even a Bose docking ststion, or reasonable leads into a mid / towards top AV amp, the iPod is quite okay for most casual listening (?) however, my difficulty is eyesight...all these crazy minature buttons and text size that would cause a bat to need glasses in dim light...amd as for remote controls...goodness...degree in rocket engineering required!

    I love the technology and even the sound, and yes, the idea is brilliant...I even went and bought one of those 40 gig juke boxes (now probably 80 or 160 gig latest version!)...but guess what...I cannot listen to more than maybe two or three albums at the same session to get the nuances...sometimes maybe evem just one at a sitting...and filing those tracks is just a nightmare...The Four Seasons...one of the greatest pieces of classical music EVER and produced by countless of the greatest orchestras /conductors and spilling over into crossover genres in so many fantastic ways...audiophiles pressings or
    bog standard CD...THERE MUST BE HUNDREDS...how do you file and replay them???

    And yes, I am computer literate and can use a big screen with the big buttons if the need is a must, but that misses the whole point of a credit card sized gizmo...eh...which needs a high cost / high end big box to produce decent sound...

    dormston
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    Okay, maybe I did not make my point very clear - that was a serious question (or two...tee hee...) so allow me to expand a little...

    Copyright laws (pretty much across the world these days?) prevent me from duplicating or otherwise replicating from one original media format to another for anything other than my own personal use. Many older formats (such as cartridges, cassettes or vinyl) contain specific statements which depending on 'legality' of original manufacturers being able to make such statements valid, even specifically preclude, for example, taking old 8 track music and putting it onto "any other format" - of course if I do not have the original case, sleeve, box or whatever and purchased just the media itself, then I suppose that would be a whole new can of legal worms - but for the meantime let us just assume full covers / sleeves and the likes on my media.

    So there I am with maybe around say ten versions of exactly the same 'basic music' - my example of the Four Seasons would probably not be far wrong for dozens of audiophiles (?) who will most certainly have their own favourites on ordinary and heavy grade vinyl, half or slow speed recordings, special metal pressings, cartridges, cassettes. reel to reeel tapes (again maybe several quality standards of each) CD's Mini Discs, SACD's and so on...and all of that is not to say anything about special recordings with maybe various conductors / band members / guest artists / special mixes / studio and live recordings and so on and on and on...we all have them...of that I feel very sure indeed? Or perhaps maybe I should say...those of a certain age...which might be where I loose the plot when I think about it to much...

    The one major point about an iPod (or anything digital) is that I can do it easy.

    No, I am not being silly...just think about it for a moment...I can take any media known to mankind (at the moment!) and transfer it to a CD or computer, full stop. I guess we can call it 'forwards compatible' to give it name?

    Never has there been a time for the average home music nut to be able to do such magic things without huge investment to reach studio standards - I would not mind betting that maybe one in ten thousand audiophiles of all time could record something which was 'backwards compatible' - say for example a cassette onto a piece of vinyl...impossible with very few exceptions? Whilst forwards compatible gives me the ability to take practically any old mangy piece of black plastic with scratches, clicks, pops, jumps and then using any one of dozens of available software proggies - I can even restore the sound to something like new!

    So, back to me sitting at a computer with ten versions of my favourites. Which one do I use for my iPod? All ten? All listed and catalogued and indexed? All with sleeve notes, legal statements, lists of artists, details of recording venues? Where do all my great works of art in the gatefolds or CD booklets go to get electronically filed? Will I be able to able to tell exactly who was conducting that brilliant Four Seasons recorded in Venice in the church that Vivaldi used to play in - without the sleeve notes? Will I be able to tell for sure I am listening to my treasured first pressing of Led Zep ZOSO rather than a later pressing I use for everyday listening? How will I know that the Dylan track from Blond on Blond genuinely came from one of the first ever gatefolds? Choose the perceived best and sell / bin the rest? (This would fit nicely into the modern disposable world!) And, indeed, the one over-riding question to them all...who cares...should I care?

    Sadly I do care. My interpretation of the 'laws of copyright' are that basically you as a home user are permitted (just about in most cases) to do anything you want with the original media for your own personal use, and (a very important 'and') whilst you have legal ownership of the original media. I daresay I might be corrected by some whizz lawyer on this forum (?) but I think that if you retain the music recorded by you from the orignal media and then dispose of the original to make a few pennies (huge heaps of pennies in some cases I guess!) or even just throw away the original, then that is breach of copyright, full stop. (I have researched this extensively and there might be a loohole if you you retain the copy and can prove you did own the original at one time and that it has definitely has been destroyed.) And I also think that applies to most countries in the world.(?) This is logical and very fair to artists, manufacturers and even users if you think about it carefully- regardless of how many millions of words are raised by us poor ripped off end users with a whinge against the big bad recording companies for trying to make too much profit...there is no escape if there is to be justice and fairness...

    As a side issue and for information to anyone interested, I did actually try selling some original media plus back up CD's on eBay without keeping a copy for myself to make sure I stayed within the law. I also listed them as having completely free back ups so I could not be accused of making profit from the copies. I figured I would be okay doing this and at the same time providing some 'younger' generation folks with no record players a least a baseline to maybe get into vinyl if they were thinking about it. So, anyway...after maybe twenty emails between ever increasingly more qualified lawyers at eBay...I was prevented from any sales. The legal eagles did agree that many hundreds, if not thousands or millions of sales by folks often openly stating that they had "gone digital" and no longer needed the originals, were in very clear breach of copyright laws and as with many law enforcement issues such as copyright, the millions are too many to prosecute, so we will go after the poor sods like me who are too honest for our own good...(well, they never said that exactly but what they were doing to me was quite clearly expained thus!)...look Mr Quality Control, we stopped another one of those bootleggers...and with much heart searching, I had to agree with them because they are, strictly speaking, correct in every way. Even the subject of selling used iPods with music still on them, or old tapes of radio programmes, or any home recorded media with music still on it, was all discussed and...all not legal in the true definition of the law ...impossible to either monitor or prosecute...but illegal nonetheless...

    So, back to the topic question and my answer would be a very simple 'yes' the iPod belongs in any system anywhere. Quality of sound out will be in direct proportion to sound in. Quality of sound in will probably be as good as the media it came from with an equation of some kind involving bit rates and transfer speeds and all that - and, most importantly for the purists, any music produced specifically for digital media will probably be heard at its best when reproduced on the players it was intended for, if not now, then certainly in years to come - just the same as an old chunk of vinyl will always sound 'different' on a proper record deck, I guess? (Note I did not say 'better...tempting though it might be...) In a few years from now all these debates about sound quality will be redundant anyway (?) as old stuff wears out - even CD's have a shelf life - but the mighty digit can only get better! Bill Gates was not far away from the truth when he said it makes life so much easier with only one system to worry about...

    My second answer would be a resounding 'no' if the iPod is to be used as a direct replacement for original media played on proper matched media players - whatever the genre.

    Unless it has been done by a professional in a studio for a specific purpose - however good I or anyone reading these forums might think we are at taking any format and changing it into something else...we are not as good as the folks who make the originals (yes, some of you might be and all power to you...but you are a minority of the exceptionally highly skilled!).and the huge problem for me (and millions like me, apart from pushing tiny buttons with big stupid untrained fingers) is that I just cannot afford to go buying another several thousand digital copies of collections which have already taken me years to compile...or even more years to transfer onto a matchbox size gadget and completely loose all the sleeve notes...and pictures...and booklets...and coloured boxes which are easy to find on a big bookshelf...

    The iPod has taken on a life of its own for a reason, and that seems to be because they work. Individual iPods are getting towards unlimited capacity and surely more music than the average person can ever listen to in a lifetime, I think there is a huge risk that quantity wins every time over quality. Or maybe I am looking at this the wrong way...instead of chasing the 80gb and beyond, maybe we should go back to those smaller and cheaper low capacity versions but more specialised...imagine if you will a preloaded iPod with the entire back catalogues from artists such as Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Bowie, Pavarotti, Previn, LSO, Mozart, Springsteen, Armstrong, Lloyd-Weber, Gershwin and all the rest, preloaded with all their music, films of concerts, stage shows, original big screen movies, books in electronic format, all the pictures from albums and all the other information I was rambling about earlier...the iPod becomes the media AND the player...massive boxed sets of music, books and DVD's all in the one little gadget which has the potential to be integrated into any high end mega bucks system of any kind...makes you think, eh?

    All of which might go some way towards explaining why there will be a huge yes and an equally huge no to the question of where an iPod fits into any pure hi fi / music system, for a few years yet...

    Elk
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    As to one of your points, cataloging and organizing music on a music server is indeed a big pain - particularly if you listen to classical music.

    dormston
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    Indeed...I see my five star rating has sunk into the nondescript and will undoubtedly fall of the scale soon...tee hee...truth hurts and thank you for supporting one of the major problems I have with staying legal whilst still going digital.

    dormston
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    Okay...difficult questions maybe and I end up communicating with myself...so this update will be brief...my last three high street retail buys:

    Porcupine Tree Fear of a Blank Planet: On case - some stuff about apparently complicated licence but nothing definitive apart from the little copyright logo. On disc " Unauthorised duplication is a violation of applicable laws"

    Sonic Youth Daydream Nation (inspired purchase after a chat with one of the guys in the shop when I asked him about them...I read your comments in another posting Stephen!) :On Case nothing much apart from the copyright logo. On disc "Unauthorised copying, hiring, lending, public performance and broadcasting prohibited"

    Jack Nitzsche The Lonely Surfer (Collectors Choice): On case "Unauthorised duplication is a violation of applicable laws". On disc nothing definitive apart from the 'Made is USA' and copyright logos.

    I know some subjects must have been thrashed to death in the past few decades and must be amazingly boring to a huge number of folks, so I assumed easy answers on a posting discussing very high end iPods/Mods/ players and maybe even some folks telling me I was an idiot trying to cause problems...I promised this would be brief...so...

    Exactly where do I find permission to transfer any one of these onto a computer, change the format of the recording, put it on an iPod and then maybe play it to an audience of my friends on a docking station?

    bobedaone
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    Ripping a CD to your computer in any format is perfectly legal. You are also well within your rights to play the music on your iPod for a group of your friends. What you may NOT do is take those tracks and burn CD-Rs for said friends. You also may not make the music available for download to anyone else.

    Using your computer (or any other storage device) as a server to play music that you have paid for is legally acceptable and very cool. Rip freely!

    lionelag
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    In the United States, the right to fair use, including personal backup of digital media, is guaranteed by specific provisions of the US Code (Title 17). Those same provisions permit copyright holders to copy protect material (and make it illegal to break the copy protection), but it's generally all written down there.

    As I understand UK Copyright law (probably more relevant to you), technically all backups *are* illegal-- I recall Marcel Berlins of the Guardian having fun with Gordon Brown for this (back when GB was Chancellor) after Brown mentioned having the Beatles on his iPod during an interview (since the Beatles are not yet legally sold in MP3 or AAC format). I'm sure if you poke around the Guardian's website, you can find chapter and verse on it.

    (I'm an attorney in Pennsylvania, am not a solicitor or barrister in the UK, and don't mean this to constitute legal advice, etc. etc.)

    bobedaone
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    Oops! I forgot dormstrom is across the pond! Everyone should follow the laws of their respective countries, not my decidedly domestic advice! Thank you and carry on.

    dormston
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    Do I ignore stuff like this as pure politics then?

    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060215-6190.html

    bobedaone
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    That's awfully troubling. I don't share my music, which is why I'm so bothered that the RIAA wants to prevent even ripping the media. This, to me, is one more nail in the recording industry's coffin. If they focused on signing talent and curbing compression, they might not be in so much trouble.

    dormston
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    Yes, I read some of that and may I say you certainly can represent me anytime...super response and fantastic info.

    Politics in UK obviously as bad (oops, that was typo...I meant as good1) in UK as US at the moment then...so basically all of my many words seem to be about correct...changing formats is for the legally authorised techies?

    Ho hum...all power to the artists, producers, record companies et al then...I guess my several tons of old vinyl and even more 8 tracks tapes, cassettes and mini discs will never get to my iPod legally until your senators / our labourites decide it is okay?

    dormston
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    Re: Like Spreading Caviar On A Hotdog?

    Indeed.

    I seem to be heading towards being a real pain for asking what I genuinely thought were simple questions relative to the iPod type technology...and beyond...the folks in this case have apparently taken time out for about a year to regroup and consider...or whatver else they might do in the meantime...

    Not such an easy subject methinks...fully loaded iPod versus old top of the range 8 track replayed via decent amp and speakers / headphones...mmmmmmm...only one winner...legally...

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