We all know real audiophiles are spending tens of thousands of dollars on hand-made tube amps, investing many hours re-biasing their systems, and straining their ears and frequency meters with the dulcet tones of pink and while noise generators to balance their rooms. (Oh, and let’s not forget cleaning vinyl—lots and lots of vinyl!) But the digital audio revolution hasn’t gone un-noticed by this crowd, and the lure of digital media players like Apple’s iPod is strong. The problem, of course, is that when you connect an iPod to your pristine home system…you’re listening to digitally compressed music converted to audio by the iPods better-than-most-but-still-sub-par consumer digital converters. Wouldn’t it be great if iPods had a true digital output, so you could pump that delicious portable digital audio (stored in a lossless format, of course!) through your Manley, Apogee, TNT, or other audiophile-quality converters?
MSB Tech is here to make those audiophile dreams come true by way of its iLink, a combination of after-market iPod modification and iPod docking station which offers audiophiles true digital output for use on their kick-ass systems. MSB Tech modifies stock iPods to enable digital audio to be sent to the iLink dock, which can then output the music to a music system via Toslink optical, RCA coax, or XLR AES/EBU, effectively making the iPod a high-end digital audio source on a level with a good-quality CD player. (Of course, you’ll want to store iPod audio using uncompressed, lossless formats, not MP3 or AAC.) The iLink dock charges the iPod, and includes an RF transmitter which enables the iPod to be moved around the listening room while maintaining pristine audio quality.
If you think storing uncompressed audio eats your iPod’s storage capacity…well, it does, but the numbers are still impressive. A 30 GB iPod can store about 75 CDs of uncompressed audio (about 90 hours); an 80 GB iPod can store about 200 CDs, or 240 hours of audio.
MSBTech will be happy to perform the conversion on your iPod, or you can order a new, pre-modified iPod from them. But it won’t come cheap: the iLink with iPod Upgrade runs $1,995, while the iLink with upgraded iPods run $2,249 and $2,349 for 30 and 80 GB models—but you have your choice of black or white. The iPod upgrade itself is $199, with additional upgrades only $99 apiece. But it’s a bargain at any price…especially since you’re tearing out all those walnut and teak cabinets for more transparent surfaces anyway, right?