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  1.    #1  
    I ran a rather lengthy test of the TouchPad against a HiFiMAN 601 MP3 player, using 3 sets of headphones. The results were mixed, if you are an HP homer, you might not want to click on the link. The writeup is long, so the Cliffs (spoilers ahead)

    The TouchPad performance was serviceable in the audio department, but with beats enabled there is a definite emphasis on bass, and with some music, disabling beats made the sound much cleaner. Headphones with a bass heavy sound signature (like Beats) are going to sound bad from this thing, as it adds too much muddy (and not particularly deep) bass. But with a more balanced set of cans (that doesn't require much amplification), the audio from the touchpad does just fine.

    <staff edit>

    Notes: stupid wordpress clipped my picture, oh well. Also, Carl and Josh, developers of the Audiophile HD app: Thank you for your help, you made the review possible.
    Note 2: If the indexer in Audiophile HD is giving you problems, have no fear, it's being worked on, and there might just be a fix in the next release that improves your experience greatly.

    EDIT: I had originally placed a link to my own personal blog here, but that is against the rules, I am sorry mods, here is the post, and now sorry to the person who clicked on this thread, because it's long!

    HP has gone and done it. They finally got to market with the Touchpad, and it is a very solid little tablet. In fact, I am typing this blog post in the WordPress app with my Bluetooth keyboard on the Touchpad right now. But part of the marketing for the Touchpad has been the inclusion of “Beats” audio in the device. Beats is best known for their wildly overpriced, and entirely mediocre line of headphones that are marketed by Dr. Dre, and various other celebrities in the business. They have brought the world of high priced headphones to the mainstream, but they aren’t known for their quality. In fact, at every price point, far superior, but less stylish, headphones exist.

    Beats audio has also been crammed in to HP laptops. Nothing that HP advertises about Beats audio (insulation, perhaps slightly beafier than normal amplifiers, etc.) is particularly revolutionary, but common best practices amongst companies that want their headphone jacks to spew music that is anything other than awful. But they also claim to have some fancy signal processing Mojo going on, and I thought it wouldn’t be fair to simply dismiss that aspect of the HP’s tablet, so instead I will give it a go, pitting it against one of the most wonderfully musical PMPs available: The HiFiMAN HM-601. HiFiMAN produces MP3 players, headphones, and amplifiers aimed at audiophiles, and the 601 is their entry level offering.

    The Cans

    For this test, 3 pairs of headphones will be used, along with an assortment of music. The first pair of headphones, and the best, is a truly delightful set of reference grade cans: AKG Q701. Identical to K701s, but like the Beats, sporting the endorsement of a man in the business: Quincy Jones, producer of a few little known albums that sold modestly well, such Michael Jackson’s Thriller, to cite an example. These headphones are, again, great, but they have also been described as “Ruthlessly revealing,” by a member of the HeadFi.org forums. And that is accurate, if your source is anything less than great, they won’t sound good. However, Renee Olstead’s voice coming through them is one of the most euphoric experiences I have had listening to music. Truly breathtaking.

    Next up will be a complementary set of cans. While the Q701s are simply great for country, jazz, and classical, their bass output, while deep and tight, lacks impact. So I will also be using a set of Pioneer DJ headphones, specifically HDJ-1000s. I would like to use the 2000s, which have the impact of a DJ headphone, but still maintain incredibly accurate mids and highs, enough so that I know people that use them in the studio, but alas, I don’t have a pair on hand. The 1000s are still a great headphone, with great sound for rock and hip-hop, and as I said, they will complement the AKG set nicely.

    Finally will be my travel headphones, my ThinkSound TS01s. A great set of in ear monitors (IEMs) that I don’t leave home without. Originally released as Thunders, the more bassy counterpart to their Rain stablemate, Thinksound makes very good headphones for their price. It doesn’t hurt that I find them to be about the most handsome headphones on the market, either. With a classy cherry finished wood and white earpads (alternatively, you can get a “chocolate” finish with black earpads, and I will likely go with that complementary color scheme when I pick up a pair of TS-02s).

    The Music

    I did my best to select a variety of music, and to match the right music to the right headphones. I broke it up in to two groups, the slightly more bass heavy group being tested with the Thinksound IEMs and the Pioneers, and the more balanced music running through the AKG reference headphones. Some of the latter group had to be thrown out, but more on that later. The following music was selected (sorry if it doesn’t fit your taste, this isn’t a technical review, so I selected from my own favorites):

    Bass Heavy Group

    Hells Bells – AC/DC (FLAC)
    Back in Black – AC/DC (FLAC)
    Tell Me Baby – Red Hot Chili Peppers (FLAC)
    Empire State of Mind – Glee Cast (FLAC)
    Unfaithful – Rhianna (320k MP3)
    Back 4 U – Jurassic 5 (320k MP3)
    Future Sound – Jurassic 5 (320k MP3)
    Bass Light Group

    Stars Fell on Alabama – Renee Olstead (FLAC)
    Lover Man – Renee Olstead (FLAC)
    Summertime – Renee Olstead (320k MP3)
    Take My Breath Away – Jessica Simpson (320k MP3)
    Barbara Ann – The Beach Boys (224k MP3)
    Piano Man – Billy Joel (320k MP3)
    Whatever It Is – Zac Brown Band (256k MP3)
    The Results

    I want to start this section with a disclaimer. The TouchPad “lost” this showdown, but it should lose it. I was testing for sound quality, and HP can hype up Beats audio all they want, but the HiFiMAN is no iPod. It’s a purpose built music player aimed at audiophiles. It’s big and fat, to fit in higher quality components. Its screen is simple, it won’t play a video, and it looks like it’s out of the 90s. This wasn’t a test to see if the TouchPad would win, but how close it come to a tie. The HiFiMAN can’t access the internet, or run apps. It’s no convergence device. I plan to retest the TouchPad against my ZuneHD, a test in which it might stand a fair chance, if the goal of the test it to see which sounds better. The question being asked here is this: How does it compare to the reference? So if you think I am down on the TouchPad in the following paragraphs, bear this in mind.

    First, the bass heavy stuff. With some music, the TouchPad truly held its own, with some…not so much. There is a clear emphasis on the low end with Beats Audio. With my larger DJ headphones, several songs sounded very distorted. Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and Jurassic 5 sounded downright awful out of the TouchPad, but the J5 recording of Future Sound also sounded bad with the HifiMAN and Pioneer cans. Back 4 U (the other Jurassic 5 song) was a marked improvement on both players, clearly a better recording that the live Future Sound, but still muddy from the TouchPad. Across the board, with Beats enabled and the bassy HDJ-1000s plugged in, the bass overwhelmed the mids, partially hiding certain sounds. Empire State of Mind sounded muddy and bad with Beats enabled, and downright musical from the the HiFiMan 601, but turning Beats off on the TouchPad made things much more bearable. Suddenly the mids were audible, no longer drowned by distorted bass. Parts of the music in every instance were inaudible on the TouchPad, but very much present on the HiFiMAN.

    When I switched from the HDJ-1000s to the ThinkSound TS01s, things got brighter for the TouchPad. The Glee rendition of Empire State of Mind was still pretty bad from HP’s tablet, the crash cymbals were noticeably harder to make out, for example, but I don’t think the highs were being rolled off (I could be wrong, I didn’t do any technical testing), rather I think they were drowned, again, by the bass. The rest of the songs from the list were quite good from the TouchPad with the TS01s, Rhianna’s Unfaithful is clearly a bad recording, but it actually sounded better from the TouchPad than the HiFiMAN. The Beats audio made the sound more full, it sounded distant and tinny from the HiFiMAN. The fact that any song actually sounded better from the TouchPad is a true notch in its belt.

    Things got ugly again, however, when I switched to the AKGs. If anyone thinks that HP put a good headphone amplifier in the TouchPad, I will just put that right to rest. I completely discarded the Beach Boys and Billy Joel because the amplification wasn’t powerful enough to drive the cans with those recordings. The Renee Olstead tracks were serviceable, but had to be played with the volume maxed (I was using Audiophile HD, and I left the sound on it at +0, but had the device sound maxed, and I have the TouchPad volume increase light installed, the volume on my HiFiMAN was plenty loud at 50%). Adjusting the volume in Audiophile HD, however, added too much distortion. The Jessica Simpson track was loud enough, but lacked detail in the mids. A perfect example is that near the beginning of the song there are three finger snaps, they come through clearly from the HiFiMAN, but are barely audible from the TouchPad. Finally, the Zac Brown track actually sounded very similar, and very good, from both devices.

    What to Take Away

    As I said, the TouchPad was not purpose built, but HP has marketed their Beats audio, and I wanted to test their claims. What you can take from this, though, is what type of headphone you would need to get the maximum sound from this device. Firstly, cans with a bass heavy sound signature are going to sound muddier and more distorted than they would otherwise. The Pioneers just sounded bad in the TouchPad, but they sound great in other players. This also means that anyone that wants to match Beats headphones to their Beats enabled TouchPad really shouldn’t do that. Monster products are overpriced any way. People who know music hate their headphones, the Pros aren’t bad, but at $350 you can do much better. Still, I would recommend against anything with a similar signature. Again, they are going to sound muddy and distorted.

    The other thing to note is that if you have a headphone that requires amplification of any significant amount, you shouldn’t use them with the TP. You will have to play them at a volume that introduces distortion in to your music. To sum up, even if you are a bass head, I think you are going to be more happy with a balanced headphone that will still provide a significant amount of bass when paired with this tablet (the TouchPad’s sound signature is VERY bass heavy) but it won’t be distorted, but instead a deep and controlled bass. And make sure you don’t pick a headphone that needs amplification. There isn’t any from this device. All of that being said, as a second audio device, the TouchPad will suffice. The sound, while not great, is good enough with the right headphones.
    Thanks to Carl and Josh, developers of Audiphile HD, their app made this review possible, couldn’t have played the FLAC files without it!
    Last edited by reggieb; 08/16/2011 at 02:40 PM.
    Blasphemous webOS fan, using Android (with a big phone buying problem)
  2. #2  
    Wow. Pretty good and a lot of good information. I used my Touchpad for multimedia all the time and it is good to see how it compares to a dedicated device. Do you think the Prepare app that increases the sound level will cause a lot of distortion?
  3.    #3  
    Quote Originally Posted by k4ever View Post
    Wow. Pretty good and a lot of good information. I used my Touchpad for multimedia all the time and it is good to see how it compares to a dedicated device. Do you think the Prepare app that increases the sound level will cause a lot of distortion?
    The lite version, which you can find in the forum (I don't think you can get it through preware) is alright. It doesn't add much in the way of distortion, but the full version does. I had the full, and rolled over to the lite, and the sound is a LOT better. (it was on the lite, not the full, for this test, by the way)
    Blasphemous webOS fan, using Android (with a big phone buying problem)
  4. #4  
    Who wants to bet that as soon as HTC rolls out stuff with Beats Audio, it will be universally hailed as a brilliant audio technology that will make Justin Bieber sound like Pink Floyd?
  5. #5  
    Quote Originally Posted by GodShapedHole View Post
    Who wants to bet that as soon as HTC rolls out stuff with Beats Audio, it will be universally hailed as a brilliant audio technology that will make Justin Bieber sound like Pink Floyd?
    Op can do a comparison test when that happenes.

    ---
    galaxy tab tapatalk
  6. ishpuini's Avatar
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    #6  
    Thanks for posting this! I wasn't aware of the bass emphasis of the Beats system, but suspected it (feared it?). I listen to a lot of classical music and jazz, in which too much bass emphasis can ruin the experience. I read however that Beats can be disabled? Is this easily done? (sorry if you wrote this in the blog post I missed it)

    Note that I still don't have a touchpad, but it's one of my decision making elements.

    Wim
    Touchpad 32GB and German O2 unlocked Palm Pre sharing the same profile
  7. #7  
    I thought Beats was a combination of hardware and software stuff. In my extremely limited listening thus far, I can say that the TouchPad does sound superior to the Pre+ on my car stereo. For what that's worth.
  8. theprawn's Avatar
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    #8  
    Quote Originally Posted by ishpuini View Post
    I read however that Beats can be disabled? Is this easily done?
    It can easily be disabled, it's a toggle in the Sound settings.
  9.    #9  
    Quote Originally Posted by GodShapedHole View Post
    Who wants to bet that as soon as HTC rolls out stuff with Beats Audio, it will be universally hailed as a brilliant audio technology that will make Justin Bieber sound like Pink Floyd?
    Well, that depends on who you ask, Cnet might still praise it (they have also praised Beats headphones), but head on over to a place like HeadFi and the general consensus is that it pretty much guarantees that HTC's audio is going to get worse.

    Quote Originally Posted by ishpuini View Post
    Thanks for posting this! I wasn't aware of the bass emphasis of the Beats system, but suspected it (feared it?). I listen to a lot of classical music and jazz, in which too much bass emphasis can ruin the experience. I read however that Beats can be disabled? Is this easily done? (sorry if you wrote this in the blog post I missed it)

    Note that I still don't have a touchpad, but it's one of my decision making elements.

    Wim
    Yeah, it is very easy, it's just a setting under "Sounds and Ringtones." For jazz, though, I will stick with my HiFiMAN. For pop, I think the TouchPad is alright. Once you have listened to jazz/classical with a set of good headphones from the HFM, you become a little spoiled. That being said, you could get by with the TP. Another option is using the Audiophile HD app to turn down the bass.

    Quote Originally Posted by bcorbino View Post
    I thought Beats was a combination of hardware and software stuff. In my extremely limited listening thus far, I can say that the TouchPad does sound superior to the Pre+ on my car stereo. For what that's worth.
    It is a combination, but most of the hardware stuff is pretty standard practice (although it is very good practice) for making a decent headphone jack. And I believe that it sounds better than the pre+, it's tough to make great sound come out of something that small that also has to do a bunch of other stuff, with multiple radios running, it is just physically more difficult to make that work. All of those extra electronics add interference, if you add significant isolation for the headphone jack, you are taking up space that can't go to a good DAC/amplifier. Convergence devices have to necessarily make compromises. Not the fault of HP/Palm.
    Blasphemous webOS fan, using Android (with a big phone buying problem)
  10. samab's Avatar
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    #10  
    Quote Originally Posted by bcorbino View Post
    I thought Beats was a combination of hardware and software stuff. In my extremely limited listening thus far, I can say that the TouchPad does sound superior to the Pre+ on my car stereo. For what that's worth.
    It is a combination of hardware and software.

    On the hardware side --- Beats Audio uses a dedicated audio chip. But on a mobile phone and on a tablet, EVERYBODY uses a dedicated audio chip. The ONLY people that has integrated audio chip are the desktop PC users who usually has some kind of cheap Realtek audio chip that is integrated deeply within the AMD/SIS... motherboard chipset.

    On the hardware side, the TouchPad has a higher powered amp (2x2W) vs. other tablets which usually have 2x1W amp. But the funny thing is that only TouchPad users complain about the volume problem.

    On the software side, the Beats Audio Profile uses the same kind of dynamic compression techniques that SRS WOW/TruBass uses. SRS has been in the audio business for 30 years and has a bunch of audio patents --- AND --- I still turn the damn thing off on my Windows Media Player. On the other hand, Beats is a celebrity-fronted start-up back by Monster Cable --- both of which have zero experience and zero patents in the industry. I turn SRS off because I don't like the sound and SRS sucks a lot of CPU cycles (and slows down my PC).

    On the hardware side, the TouchPad's audio chip can do the SRS WOW/TruBass (or the cheap imitation as in Beats Audio) with hardware acceleration while other tablets' audio chip cannot.
  11. #11  
    I dunno. I have beats solo HD headphones and I really like the sound coming from the touchpad. True there is more emphasis on bass, but not overly so. I compared the beats phones to my shure ear buds and they are dramatically different. Shure buds have much louder mids I think. It's really just a matter of preference. I really like the soloHD phones while listening to 192kb internet radio. You hear more of the subtle sounds you usually don't pick up on regular headphones. The Touchpad could really use a mixer of some sort though.
  12.    #12  
    Quote Originally Posted by Weaser999 View Post
    ..my shure ear buds...
    If you don't mind me asking, what model are your Shure IEMs?
    Blasphemous webOS fan, using Android (with a big phone buying problem)
  13. #13  
    I have Shure SE535's and they sound amazing with the Touchpad. However, these 535's make pretty much any device that I've used them with (my Pre minus and my ipod) sound really good so my opinion might be biased.
    Achill3s' Palm Pre: Modded and patched to death!!
  14.    #14  
    Quote Originally Posted by Achill3s View Post
    I have Shure SE535's and they sound amazing with the Touchpad. However, these 535's make pretty much any device that I've used them with (my Pre minus and my ipod) sound really good so my opinion might be biased.
    I have never used the 535s, but I am sure they sound pretty amazing. Shure makes good headphones, but I wouldn't spend that much on IEMs. Not because they aren't worth it, but I prefer full size headphones, I only use in ears when I am on the road.
    Blasphemous webOS fan, using Android (with a big phone buying problem)
  15. #15  
    After having the TP for a couple of days I can say that the statement "Listen to music the way the artist intended" is nothing but a bunch of bull.

    If the artist intended muffled bass and basically butchering mid-bass and midrange then yes, by all means enable Beats.

    I understand the hardware side, using dedicated processors, eliminating interference etc but that's nothing new. HP could have done this without Beats.

    In this day and age marketing sells (Unless you're HP).

    My Galaxy S phone runs circles around the Touchpad. The Galaxy S phone uses a Wolfson WM8994 dedicated chip and it's VERY powerful.....

    Instead HP decided to go with BEATS, pay them royalty, thus raising the price of the Touchpad and in end still have a crappier product.

    Marketing won over Engineering in this case.
  16. samab's Avatar
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    #16  
    The TouchPad uses a Wolfson WM8958 chip which is more powerful than the Wolfson WM8994.
  17. #17  
    Quote Originally Posted by samab View Post
    The TouchPad uses a Wolfson WM8958 chip which is more powerful than the Wolfson WM8994.
    Then why's it sound like crap? compared to my GS?

    So basically, Beats is killing it.

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