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iPod Rackmount

Dan Appleby

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A really good idea came to me while I was at work today...


I see more and more engineers at gigs using an iPod for playback - I do it myself (it's convenient and I nearly always have it with me). Don't get me wrong, I love my iPod, but I always find them fiddly to operate, and if I'm using one at a gig I'm always worried about accidentally turning the volume down by catching the controls on the front - that and the cable you have to have trailing into your desk made of various adaptors, which always annoys me!


This got me thinking... It would be really handy if a manufacturer made a rackmount unit, that you can plug your iPod into (using the dock connector), that gave you full control over it using 'better' controls (easier access/'pro' controls like cue and auto pause after each song etc etc), along with a display that showed the track names and other info your iPod screen does. It could have balanced XLR outputs, maybe even AV outputs for playback of video.


I know there's going to the obvious arguments over the quality of mp3's, but if you encode them at a high enough bit rate (192kbps or higher) and do some listening tests against CD, the difference is minimal - your average punter wont hear the difference!


So would anyone use such a thing? I think it'd be a great idea - but that's just me!


Oh, and please don't steal my idea :P (if it's not been done already!)

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I picked up a line out adapter quite a while back. The adapter plugs into the docking port which gives you a 3.5mm stereo mini jack line out and a firewire connector. It's great as I don't have to worry about the changing volume, but it doesn't clip into place and also the proper VDC type 3.5mm connectors sometimes drop out the connector. If your in the warehouse on Wednesday I'll show it to you Dan, gonna be with you guys for the day.


As for a rackmount unit. I think it would be great, but could you justify the cost of it? Trying to get the information out of Apple which would be needed for the control/display would cost far too much. Saying that, how about a design spec.....


1U 19" unit in either white or maybe somehow lit by changeable LED so you chose you colour.

Docking area for iPod that would also charge the iPod (that's a great feature on my Alpine stereo)

How would you go about the control though? you couldn't have a click wheel

LCD display as you have said

output level display meter? so you can see if its a quiet bit of a song or not.


I just came across the following site. Should be possible to make a docking station type thing with balanced outputs, just not sure about control.


iPod pin out


If there are a few people who are wanting something like this maybe us blue roomers could come up with a design for something and make a few.

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One issue with iPods is that they tend to people's personal property. I don't know of any companies with iPods in hire stock to use for playback the way that, for instance, you'll have a CD player in a rack somewhere.


So whilst I appreciate that individual engineers might find this handy, I can't imagine many companies giving up a rack space (not to mention the £££ required) to make this part of their setup.


However, some kind of standalone dock, with big buttons for fat-fingered people like me, might be useful. If you are taking your iPod to the gig, take the dock as well, and just sit it somewhere close to the desk?


(Of course, at this rate, I wouldn't be surprised to see Digital desks including iPod docks on the top surface...)

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Ignoring the sound quality issues for the moment.. - they were discussed at length in this thread, including a pile of graphs...



I noticed in a recent flyer that you can now get DJ-style mixers with built-in IPOD docks - eg CPC part CS13242.



So technically, producing a rackable unit isn't impossible. Whether it's economic is another story...

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IMHO, if you are going to do this, why not got the whole way and make a rack mount mp3 player? Seeing as you lose the portability of the Ipod anyway.


For precisely the reason that the OP stated.


The whole point of this hypothetical device is so that people can turn up with their own ipod and "plug it in" to a cradle or rackmount slot without using silly wee cables. It's not to make a standalone rackmount MP3 player.

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This should be achievable. I've been playing with the idea of doing something similar in my car, similar to some commercial products available. There are some belkin and cheap chinese products available that allow you to control your ipod using the dock connector so a hack of one of these might be a good start...
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Surely a stand alone rack mount mp3 player would be handier with a USB slot for a USB pen/usb ended mp3 player, far handier (and I know this is for ipod owners but I hate the invasive things) which also had a remote dock station for an ipod.


Just my 2p

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I tell you what id use:


if I could have the functionality of a Numark iDJ2 (same as whast mentioned above, except it only needs 1 ipod to drive 2 playback busses - and you can plug in extra HDDs, ipods for extra tracks)

In a 2 or 3u rackspace that would be awesome!!

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The whole theory behind it (as bruce pointed out) is that it would just be a means to control your iPod via an easier-to-use interface, and give you a few professional features - like balanced outputs, an output meter, ability to cue up tracks and so forth. It wouldn't have any means of storage in the device itself - it would be a kind of control surface for iPod.


The technology for this already exists - several manufactures produce car stereo headunits that allow you to control your iPod from the headunit itself, so this is probably achievable.


If people are still worried about the quality of mp3's, it could even include a feature that only allows you to play files over a certain bit rate...


I should give dragons den a ring! :D

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...or bring back a rackmount minidisc player?

It can do proper controls, backlit display, balanced in/out, cuing, level meter, upto 80min of capacity (do you need more?) etc.


The other company who springs to mind is ASC, who did 'professional conversion' kits for portable MD players; wonder if they've entered the Ipod market?

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