Sunday, January 06, 2008

Wadia iTransport iPod dock

Stereophile reports about most interesting iPod related third party hifi-equipment (below just some extracts, see full text here).

Wadia Digital, Inc. announced that it will debut the $349 iTransport iPod dock in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) January 7, 2008. Certified by Apple as "Made for iPod®," the iTransport bypasses the iPod's internal D/A conversion to output an S/PDIF signal, "providing CD-quality resolution from full-resolution from file formats such as .WAV and [Apple Lossless]."

It also outputs component video signals for "up to DVD-quality" video.

I thought it was impossible to bypass the iPod's DAC. "So did we," said Wadia president John W. Schaffer. "Then we discovered the little-known fact that Apple had a process called 'authentication' that allowed mobile electronics companies to bypass the iPod's internal DAC."

"Authentication" refers to Apple's authentication chip, which essentially tells the iPod that it's okay to output raw digital audio or video data to the chip-enhanced component. The authentication chips are only available in Apple products or from products made by Apple-licensed third-party developers. After Wadia first began developing what became the iTransport, Apple opened up the authentication program to more third-party vendors. The iTransport may be the first audio product of its kind, but it probably won't be the last. But however you slice it, being firstest is a great coup.

"I think Apple approved our working on the iTransport because of our reputation as a high-end component manufacturer. Apple thinks of the iPod as a high-end source, so it made sense to them," said Schaffer.

In addition to its RCA S/PDIF and component video, the iTransport also sports a pair of RCA analog outputs, although that signal is apparently derived from the iPod's internal DAC.

"When you hear the digital output of the iTransport using full-resolution files like .WAV and Apple Lossless, you realize that it is a hi-rez source—and now that the iPod Classic has a 160GB capacity, there's no excuse for lossy compression," observed Schaffer.

The iTransport is compatible with "all current models," which means that models produced before the authentication program was implemented won't output digital or video—as I understand it, models that early don't output video anyway. I've posted a list at the end of this report.

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