Diablog: The Innies and Outties of iPod Systems

Do I get to pick a topic for a change?

Sure, why not? What do you want to talk about?

Innies and outties.

This is what I get for letting you choose a topic.

No, I'm serious. Isn't that what you've been writing about lately with the Denon S-301 home-theater-in-a-box system and the Monitor Audio i-deck?

I still fail to see how we're going to get away with talking about our navels.

Well, metaphorically, that's what we do. And as perfectly indifferent as I am to those stupid boxes you spend most of your time reviewing, I thought there was an important contrast between these two systems, and having read your reviews, I can definitely say that you totally missed it.

Missed what?

Do you think I'm going to tell you right away? No, go on and stew for a bit. What's the single most important thing that about these systems?

Well, with the Monitor Audio i-deck, it's the fact that it connects an iPod. The Denon is a Dolby Virtual Speaker system which means it gets surround-like effects out of two speakers. But if iPod compatibility is the key feature of the i-deck, you're probably talking about the Denon's iPod compatibility too.

Good doggie. Here's a biscuit. Now that you've figured out what they have in common, where's the contrast between an innie and an outtie? It's as plain as the big red nose on your face.

I've got it! One protrudes and the other doesn't. The Denon connects the iPod with a supplied cord.

Right! And the i-deck connects...

Directly into the docking connector on the bottom of the iPod. Or most iPods, anyway. The iPod just drops into place.

Exactly. And...?

Because the i-deck has a protruding thing, that makes it an outtie, whereas the Denon has a jack, which is more like an innie. Wow, I think you're onto something here.

The question is, which is better?

Well, they both connect the iPod while bypassing its analog headphone preamp circuitry.

Bad dog. You're thinking like an audiophile again. Think like a human being.

From a practical standpoint, the Denon's cord requires two connections, one for each end of the cord, whereas the Monitor Audio system has only the one docking connector that fits right into the iPod. So hooking up to the Denon takes a few seconds longer, but only if you don't want to leave one end of the cord permanently connected to the system. In other words, only if you're house-proud.

You wound me. But you're right, the dangling cable would bother me, and isn't it good that one of us cares how this place looks?

Sure. But there's another point that you missed, and considering the amount of time you spend dusting, I'm surprised you missed it.

Which is?

The i-deck's exposed docking connector is constantly vulnerable to dust, especially since it points straight up. Theoretically, it might eventually get so clogged as to stop working. Of course this whole dust angle is very speculative because longterm use is something we reviewers rarely get to evaluate. But I'd advise anyone who buys the i-deck system to protect the outtie with that plastic cover that came with your iPod's Apple-supplied USB/docking interconnect cable. The Denon's jack -- an innie and therefore recessed -- is less vulnerable to dust even when empty and you can always protect the cable by throwing it in a drawer. Or you might leave one end of the cable connected to the system and protect the other end with Apple's plastic cover.

OK, here's another biscuit. But there's still one thing you've missed.

And that is?

That is, which one is cooler?

I guess that depends on what happens after you make the connection -- in other words, which user interface you like better. The Denon system reproduces the iPod controls on your video display. Whereas with the Monitor system, you just key in your usual playlist or whatever on the iPod itself and go. I think this is a question of taste.

Waffler. But OK, you make some good points. Now, don't you feel a lot better than you would if we'd spent this time talking about signal-to-noise ratio or another one of your usual soul-destroying preoccupations?

Did you say something?

Mark Fleischmann is the author of the annually updated book Practical Home Theater. For links to the latest edition, visit www.quietriverpress.com.

Steven P's picture

Your never alone when your schizophrenic, "SHUT UP, DON'T LET HIM TALK"My wife just loves cords dangling, NOT!!!

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