Pure i-20 iPod Dock

Analog output from an iPod

For years I have been looking for a reasonable solution to poor audio quality from iPod devices. Their sound has gotten worse and worse with every succeeding generation, and the only way to obtain quality, outboard digital-to-analog conversion has been to purchase two expensive bulky and cumbersome devices: one to translate iPod digital to common standards and then an outboard digital-to-analog converter. The cheapest combination of products I could find cost about $700.00 and took up a lot of space.

The PURE i-20 fixes all that for $100.00. As a dock it also powers iPod-type devices, and provides both video and audio outputs, including analog audio far superior to any iPods (using its own built-in converters) and digital audio for conversion by high-end devices. Finally, its supplied remote control provides greater control of your device than the Apple Remote can.

Although the audio stored in most iPods is compressed, the compression algorithms used are about the best available, and very good. (I’m an audio engineer and remember discussions at the high end of the mastering community when AAC encoding was introduced and the reaction was very positive.) This means iPods have the potential to deliver high-quality sound, but they don’t.

Most of the sound quality issues people complain about with their iPods/iPhones comes from the circuits which convert the digital music signal to an analog one, for headphones and connection to our stereo systems. Among enthusiasts the consensus is that the analog output from iPods has gotten steadily worse for years.

IPods provide a digital signal output through the bottom connector (which would permit high-quality conversion to analog) but it’s hard to access electronically. Until the PURE i-20 came along, there was no reasonably-priced way to improve the audio quality of iPod playback. As mentioned below, it took combining different expensive devices (a special dock with digital outs and a digital-analog convertor). The PURE i-20 outputs a digital signal and ALSO an analog one using its own digital-analog convertor.

I’ve used the PURE i-20 two ways- I’ve listened to its internal analog-digital convertor, and connected its digital output to an outboard $400+ audiophile convertor: the PURE was remarkably competitive with the outboard unit.

A total winner, in my eyes.

-- John Etnier 06/28/11

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