The Bite of the Apple

Longtime Stereophile reader (and EFF senior staff attorney) Fred von Lohmann sent us a message pointing us to rumors that iPod Classics running v1.1 firmware were outputting DC through both their dock connection and headphone jack. He included a link to, which bills itself as "an independent provider of information about Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod and iPhone digital media players, accessories, and related software."

The article cited a discovery by correspondent "Nine" that he had measured 500mV of DC coming out of the analog outputs when the iPod was turned "off." (Technically, one pauses the iPod and locks it; the device then powers down when it doesn't receive a command within a certain interval.) A DC amount of 500mV is extreme enough to shut down most DC-coupled headphone amplifiers—and could potentially damage certain models.

Most users of iPod Classics on both HeadFi and on the Apple users forums reported only that they had experiences "hiss," "static," or "buzzing" upon changing the player's firmware from version 1.03 to 1.1. A few users reported the upgrade as either "bricking" their iPods (rendering them incapable of turning on or resetting) or of removing their stored music files (remember kids, always back up your files). The users who reported bricked iPods indicated that Apple did replace them.

Stereophile contacted Apple, requesting an official response to the reports, but Apple declined to comment.

"Apple is pretty much a fortress when it comes to publicly disclosing stuff like this," said one Apple expert. "They even occasionally delete entire topics on the Apple forums."

For the moment, it looks like users of iPod Classic running the v1.03 firmware should hold off on updating until we can confirm the DC offset rumor.

Wired's Eliot van Buskirk is also reporting on problems owners of 5G and earlier iPods have playing iTunes Movie Rental files: They don't. Some of the G5 iPods are only a few months old, so their owners naturally expected that, with the launch of iTunes Movie Rental at MacWorld this month, their iPods would play the files.

Not so, they have discovered. Apple has again kept silent on this issue, other than confirming that movie rentals will work only with the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPod Classic, and the new iPod Nano (G3). If that list looks familiar to you, it did to us as well—so we went back to our article about Wadia's iTransport and sure enough, these are the models using Apple's authentication chip.

Van Buskirk speculates that the issue is that earlier models lacked a "secure digital clock" that would authenticate the rental duration and prevent consumers from outfoxing the rental terms by resetting the iPod's clock. It's a good hypothesis—but beautiful hypotheses are ruined by ugly realities all the time.

The true test of this one will be whether or not Apple releases a firmware patch. I wouldn't bet on it.