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The Big Fat iPod Post

handoferis

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IMG_5761.jpeg

In the same vein as the PowerPC Mac thread, here I am again with the iPod thread. They're a lot of fun and still have a place today (I've yet to see anything better at Just Doing Music than an old iPod).

Why?
Playing music on a phone fucking sucks. It inherently encourages you to do other shit instead of paying attention to your music, and your phone feels completely happy to just duck your audio out to beep at you or ring whenever it feels like. Add to this the fact that most people are streaming music now, not only are you being told what to listen to by some faceless corporation, the device you're listening on gets to decide whether you're interrupted or not. Stop letting your phone be the boss of you and put your music back in your own hands.

Additionally, given how little artists get for streaming plays, you're better off buying on bandcamp for small artists and pirating the rest.

What?

There are a number of maintainable iPods - basically all the ones that originally came with hard drives. For most of what you'll want to do with them you'll only need a #00 screwdriver and a pry tool or two. Most of these are pretty easy to obtain but there's a few that are a bit of a chew to deal with, so a quick bit about all of them:

1st and 2nd Generation:
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These are pretty cool but usually sell for absurd prices cause of scalpers and "I know what I have!" types. They're also an absolute chew to deal with - you have to have a FireWire port to sync, won't take flash upgrades at all (you lose FireWire, so, any way of talking to the iPod), and have very small storage (5GB for the first generation!) that's difficult to upgrade (you can only swap single-platter drives between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd gens so maximum you'll get is 30GB). The screens are also quite poor (whether from age or just early LCD tech) and they're not compatible with all the fancy iPod dock ecosystem junk.

The first generation has a real wheel that spins, while the second is a solid-state laptop-trackpad type thing. You can tell these apart mostly by the amount of recessing on the wheel and the firewire port flap thing on the second gen:
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3rd Generation
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By far the coolest looking iPod they ever made with the wackiest control scheme - all the buttons are capacitive and touch sensitive, so they're pretty durable, and it has some badass backlighting. Unfortunately it's also a chew, but less so than the first and second generations - this one only requires FireWire to charge. This means you'll need a FireWire cable + port on computer or wall wart. However, this often means people are selling them at bargain prices cause they think they don't work after plugging them into USB. Can be flash-modded but is extremely picky about what it wants to work with, and you lose FireWire syncing. Some people have made cables that hook the FireWire charge cables up to USB power delivery. You have options, but it's largely not easy.

iPod mini
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Screeching swerve to briefly discuss the most popular iPod of 2004-5. Originally gimped by their tiny 4-6GB storage, these little guys have a new lease of life now, as one of the cheapest to buy and easiest iPods to expand storage on and own. Works like a treat over USB no problem, and you can swap the tiny microdrive out for a compact flash card or CF to SD adapter without much trouble at all. Only caveat is these have such a small screen that they don't display the album name on the now playing screen. There are two generations of these - you can tell from the text colour on the clickwheel and the label on the back. First gen minis can see up to 128GB, second gen up to 256GB.

Fourth Generation (Mono + Color)
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The classic white iPod. Does come in two variants, the older monochrome variant and the newer version with a color screen. No syncing problems (none of that past this point), and will happily flashmod up to 256GB with a couple of cheapo adapters. Replacement parts are fairly widely available for these models, so if you get a beat up one you're probably not in too much trouble. The color display variants are slightly thicker. Both are great options, and as a small bonus the color display one can display album artwork. Both of these models go for fairly cheap still for some reason.

5th Generation (video)
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We're now getting into the realm of "enthusiast" iPods. Originally available from Apple in black or white, these guys were the first to play video and have a much larger and improved screen to match, though there are better options for that now (I'll admit I've been watching King of the Hill on mine though). What makes them cool is that there are loads of aftermarket parts floating around for them - you can get various different color faceplates, clickwheels and back panels (or even brand new ones in the original colors). You can do big battery mods on these with a thicker back panel, and flashmod up to 1TB without things getting too fucked up. Word of warning, the aftermarket faceplates are more scratch prone cause they use poorer quality plastic (thanks China).

6th Generation (iPod classic)
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By far Peak iPod, these were the last proper iPod Apple ever put out, and are available in a few iterations. If you're looking to flash mod with a large capacity, you'll want to look for the thin-backed 160GB second revision from 2009-2014, as the others use a weird addressing scheme and can't see more than 128GB of storage. Avoid the thick-backed first revision 160GB model as it's a hacky mess inside. These guys have the same availability of aftermarket parts, including colored faceplates etc. - I've actually swapped all the case parts on mine as they're quite often dinged up coming from eBay.
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Word of warning: These are such a fucking asshole to open it's unreal. You have to work extremely thin implements in and manually unlatch at least six clips rather than prying. I watched so many videos and nothing could prepare me for how much of a trauma this was. If you go ahead with this, for fuck's sake please buy a chainmail glove, because you WILL cut your hands trying to get in. Don't buy one of these in nice condition, cause you will ding it up trying to enter - and you will have to enter, as these guyses batteries love to swell. Just get a nasty looking one and replace all the case parts after you fuck 'em up getting them apart.

Other iPods (nano, shuffle, touch)
Avoid these. They're fucking brutal to open and you can't upgrade the storage. Later iPod touches have okay storage but they're basically just phones so you're back at square one.

How?
The good news - these still work just as well as they did in the 2000s, and software support is still very much there. The latest version of iTunes for Windows, and the latest macOS support all iPods ever made assuming you can plug them into the computer.

You can get into most iPods (except the 6th gen as mentioned above) with a cheap metal pry tool and you'll need at most a #00 Philips screwdriver (5th-6th gen, iPod mini) or a Torx T5 screwdriver (1st-4th gen). The rest is ZIF connectors and plugs that can be taken apart by hand.

Flashmods are easy on iPods that like them - you can either get fancy ones from iFlash (iflash.xyz) that are slightly more expensive but always work (iFlash Solo or Quad for 5-6th, iFlash ATA for 3rd-4th), or a cheap green ATA to CF (3,4) or ZIF to CF (5,6) board and a CF to SD adapter. iPod mini is the easiest by far in that you can just get a CompactFlash card (though a CF to SD adapter works too).

If you've been into streaming for a while you might wonder where to get music - I mostly buy/download from Bandcamp or use ytmdl to yoink music off YouTube with tags at 320kbps mp3. There is something therapeutic and fun about curating your own music library instead of just letting some algo do it for you, I highly recommend it.

What else?
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There are more advanced mods you can do as well. One of the ones I do fairly often is swapping out the iPod's piezoelectric clicker for a taptic engine from an iPhone 7/7+ - this turns the annoying click noise into haptic feedback which is super nice, but you need a soldering iron and fine tips to work in the cramped spaces involved.

In a similar vein of requiring a soldering iron, you can sneak a bluetooth transmitter in and hijack the iPod's power and headphone jack output so you can use them with wireless headphones - I haven't done this yet but it does seem like fun.

Additionally there are a bunch of wacky accessories to look through from the peak of the iPod's popularity, speaker docks, FM transmitters, breathalyzers (yes) and, uh, vibrators.
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h00

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Good post. I'd be curious on how battery life compares across the various generations. One of the biggest pluses for me in having a dedicated mp3 player is being able to use it for a week at a time without having to charge it.
 
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handoferis

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Good post. I'd be curious on how battery life compares across the various generations. One of the biggest pluses for me in having a dedicated mp3 player is being able to use it for a week at a time without having to charge it.
For best battery life you're probably looking at 5th or 6th gen cause you can get fatass aftermarket batteries that far exceed the capacity of the originals. Some of the people that have done them with the "3000mAh" aftermarket battery (more like 1950mAh actual) report rarely ever charging their iPod.
 
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handoferis

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Basic taptic + flashmod in an iPod classic (5th gen). About to go soup this up to a larger taptic engine so I thought I'd post a pic before I couldn't anymore
 
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Quinault Victory

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The 1.8" Toshiba HDDs were hilariously unreliable in my experience, so I see the CF mod as a necessity instead of just something that's nice for the battery life. I bought my 4th Gen brand new back in the day and went through four HDD replacements before my AppleCare ran out, then eBayed a 60GB HDD out of an iPod Photo, then finally a CF mod in 2009 once that drive died too.

The Rockbox port is solid, at least on my model. I don't use the FLAC support but the drag-and-drop is really nice. No iTunes. With the "Flattery" theme you can barely even tell, but my favorite is "Smooth".
 

handoferis

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What do you guys think is the cheapest deadicated mp3 player. Is it just the ipod mini?
iPod minis pretty much go for next to nothing, so I'd say so yeah. Bonus is if it's really beat up you can take it apart, remove the screen plastic and sand it down to the raw aluminium and progressively buff it up to a full chrome finish.
 
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Yabba

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iPod minis pretty much go for next to nothing, so I'd say so yeah. Bonus is if it's really beat up you can take it apart, remove the screen plastic and sand it down to the raw aluminium and progressively buff it up to a full chrome finish.
Great! I think I'll get a mini. Thank you for helping me decide
 
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handoferis

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Great! I think I'll get a mini. Thank you for helping me decide
Re: getting a mini - watch out cause the ones with gray clickwheel and no GB value on the back are first gens and can only take up to 128GB of flashmodding - the later ones where the clickwheel matches the case colour (and have a storage amount on the back) can take up to 256. If you don't need more than 128GB either is fine afaik.

When taking apart make sure to watch a vid and have the right tools cause it's easy to scuff em up or break the clickwheel cable. You'll need one of those thin metal shiv type opening tools, some v v thin plastic picks or iPod opening tools, and something with a point on (spudger with a hook or curved esd tweezers) for removing the clickwheel cable from its socket.
 
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Mew

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hello guys

i have a large and ever growing library of content ranging from music to entire anime series'.

how would getting an ipod video compare to one of those cheap Android "mp3 players"? basically all my videos are mkv and all my music is FLAC, i was wondering if ipod supported this.

i was thinking of revamping my media setup with a dedicated media player and phone separate, but the market is rather lackluster. i feel i might just be better off getting another galaxy s10e without SIM card, because at least that would support VLC and be fast enough to properly playback large 4k videos with custom subtitles and they are also hella cheap now. only con is that it's hard to find a flash moddable one in US because they only allowed flash modding on exynos models (weird).

i'm hesitant to buy one of these android ones because i don't really know what i'm getting. there's not many people who actually want media players so it's a sad case of an undersaturated market. i'm also hesitant to buy ipod because it might not support the majority of my library.

perhaps i'm in the wrong market as i do not want a "music player" but rather a "media player". idk, i feel alone in this situation.
 
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whiteVHS

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The Rockbox port is solid, at least on my model. I don't use the FLAC support but the drag-and-drop is really nice.
Holy shit thank you for bringing Rockbox to my attention. Just installed it on my 120GB iPod Classic (6th gen i believe). I haven't used it in forever because my music library is strictly FLAC and OGG format. Now I can actually use it again.
 
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Emmy Fitz

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I got a 120 GB iPod classic for Christmas at some point around 2009 and used it all through high school until losing it skating in 2017-ish, bought another one immediately after and it was my primary way of listening to music for years. By the time the 2010s closed, I'd finally just converted to streaming full time. It's so much more convenient to switch between 85% of what I want to listen to.

That said, I still use my iPod classic for specific things. High-res CD rips, digital albums not on Spotify, /mu/ file sharing rips, etc. It's still a great device. I honestly think it'd be better to raise children with an offline electronic like that to still have them connected digitally and allow them to explore with different types of music but be protected from the internet.
 
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My older sister used to have a ton of those, also i pod nano and mini, it was the shit because i got the oldest ones when she got a new one ajsdkljsadklsda, even tho i still preffer the mp3 sony walkman, i could simply pass the mp3 files and done, with the ipod i had to install the fucking software every single time in a cd rom
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I got a 120 GB iPod classic for Christmas at some point around 2009 and used it all through high school until losing it skating in 2017-ish, bought another one immediately after and it was my primary way of listening to music for years. By the time the 2010s closed, I'd finally just converted to streaming full time. It's so much more convenient to switch between 85% of what I want to listen to.

That said, I still use my iPod classic for specific things. High-res CD rips, digital albums not on Spotify, /mu/ file sharing rips, etc. It's still a great device. I honestly think it'd be better to raise children with an offline electronic like that to still have them connected digitally and allow them to explore with different types of music but be protected from the internet.
120GB, daaaang that's a lot, specially in 2009, that was the same capacity of my ps3 when i was a little kid back in 2012
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Emmy Fitz

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120GB, daaaang that's a lot, specially in 2009, that was the same capacity of my ps3 when i was a little kid back in 2012
View attachment 69797
Oh damn, I didn't know that hahaha Yeah, it has seemingly endless storage. I've never even come close to running out.
 
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nakadashi

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I used to have a 5.5 gen, but I dropped it and replaced it with a 5th gen 30gb. Spoiler: that search feature is something you'll really miss. I flash-modded my 5th gen but it being so lightweight made it feel like a cheap toy lel, so I put its hard drive back in it. I like the idea of putting videos on it, but to do so you have to downgrade the quality so much it's almost comical. Movies sound fine, but music videos sound kinda squeaky. You don't really notice it in the iPod, tho, so I guess all audio gets compressed.

I also own a 4th gen photo. I like how bulky it is and, design-wise, I think it is peak-iPod. Also, I much prefer the Chinese/Kanji font used in this model compared to later ones. Korean characters look kinda square-y, imo. I don't have firewire, so it takes a long long time to charge.

I also own an iPod Touch 7th gen, which a lot of collectors don't really like (it is not as retro, or retro-at-all since it is still getting updates) but it is truly an amazing piece of technology and I use the hell out of it.
 
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