Between the iPod Classic and me: Searching for the ultimate music player

To my point of view, Apple did something right. Woah, I'm sure I'm breaking rules here by saying that but yep, I've been using Apple mp3 players forever. My first iPod was the iPod Nano 2G years years YEEEARS ago. I still have it laying around somewhere in my room, but that thing is old, I remember that I bought it when I was in middle school so yeah, old as balls. After that, I started lusting for an iPod Classic but the price was really out of range for me. So instead, I got a second iPod Nano, this time the 3G which worked fantastic but the design was really really awful...

Let's move a few years in time, in highschool a guy from my class aproached me once and told me he had an iPod Touch 64GBs, he knew I was really into music and he sold me his iPod Touch 4G for dirty cheap. And that's what I've been using for almost 5 years now... But I really don't like the iPod Touch, feels way too much like an iPhone and I've always been a fan of the wheel design.

A couple days ago, something came to me like a miracle: you can buy iPod Classics for cheap and mod them! After an afternoon of researching I found a guy that makes PCB boards that are capable of holding from one to two or four SD cards, as well as M.2 drives and you can connect them to the motherboard of the iPod just like the old HDDs. After a small research on local craiglists here in Spain, I came across with a broken iPod Classic 5th gen 30GBs, in black, just like the one I used to want many many years ago.

I guess I'll post here my process of modding it, nothing too serious (you can find all the info online) and it's not really hard, but I want to write this thread anyway for the personal achievement of finding the perfect MP3 player. I don't want Internet connection, nor the capability of playing videos or showing photos.

But... as always, there are problems. First one: the iPod seems to be broken, but I'm not 100% sure what is wrong. It's stuck in the black screen with the Apple logo, and seems like the problem is coming from either the HDD or the motherboard. If it's the motherboard --> I'm fucked. If it's the HDD... Well, it's an easy fix! As well as modding the storage I found out I can put a battery that it's four times bigger than the original one in terms of usage.

So sit down and relax, and join me in the journey of transforming this iPod into the best MP3 player I've ever had. I have ordered the iFlash card as well as some opening tools, and as soon as I have them here I'll post an update.

If you want to do this yourself, all the info is in here and there are plenty of videos on YouTube. If you want to do the same, make sure you get a 4th or 5th gen iPod Classic (also known as iPod Video), they are the most reliable iPods ever made and the best sounding as well (those two iPods have the best DAC Apple has used in a MP3 player ever).

I'll post pictures as soon as all the parts are here!


Good luck.
Maybe I'll try this on my iPod Video.

I'll post all the process here! Waiting for the parts right now.

Having a dedicated music player would be convenient for me rather than using my phone. I remember I had a 120GB iPOD during mid/high school and I loved it however I lost it one day. Such a shame.

So do you have to do some kind of soldering? I did some before in high school so it wouldn't be too bad. ipod ssd

unrelated, but amusing.

ipod classics are great, I guess that's the reason they stopped making them. Companies just want to sell stuff that last about 2 years so people can keep buying crap.
I bought a used 6th gen ipod classic. I had to change the battery and although I made a very sloppy job, it works fine. It got rockbox.
I like to get to get the 5th gen to compare the sound.

No soldering, the pcb connects with a ribbon cable, actually, with the same ribbon cable as the original HDD does.

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As far as I know the 5gen is the best sounding iPod they've ever made. Well, 5 and 5.5gen, both have that lovely DAC that makes your 0 and 1s sound like glory. Which is kind of funny, I'll end up listening to lo-fi Black Metal most of the time so...

That's... a monstrosity.

Good news! I've already got the parts (at least the iFlash Adapter as well as the opening tools, still waiting for my SDs). So let's begin right?

I bought an iPod Classic 5.5 gen (called iPod Video as well) a few weeks ago for dirty cheap. It was cheap basically because the iPod looks like it's broken. It does boot but it gets stuck in a black screen which you can't see almost due to the low level of brightness of the screen with the Apple logo. The only thing I could do in this situation was a forced reboot (menu + select buttons held for a few seconds), but that was all. In this picture you can see exactly what I mean about the black screen.

After googling for a few days for troubleshooting, looks like the problem was the HDD that comes originally with the iPod. You CAN hear it spinning while you boot the iPod and while you use it. I've came across..., well, weird solutions. One of them (that seems like it works, it didn't worked for me) adressed a very simple problem: the HDD was stuck, so all you had to do is drop the iPod to the floor. Exactly, just drop it from a relatively high distance. Others would recommend you to simple smash the iPod by the back into your knee. Well, I did them all (my knee hates me now, these iPods are STURDY) and this stupid device is still broken.

While googling, I came across this website that sells an adapter that works as a replacement of the original HDD. By switching from a HDD to solid state/flash storage, 80% of your future problems with your iPod will be gone. For real. The only problem you'd encounter would be a battery problem or a headphone jack problem. Besides that, you are good to go. As you can see, the prices seem really good and it includes free shipping so it was a win/win situation.

IMPORTANT --> If you decide to do this, I'd highly suggest you to choose the flash storage route instead of the SSD route. Why, you may ask? Well, as I expected (and the instructions of the iFlash adapter confirmed me), the iFlash Sata is more... Finicky:
1. It gets really hot when you sync all your music (via iTunes or iTunes alternatives)
2. Power draw is really high with mSata drives, specially the high capacity ones (480GBs and beyond). This means that you really need to keep an eye on your battery: do not let the battery go below 20% or the mSata drive will enter Power-Loss Mode.
3. You are also limited when it comes to syncing due to the heat, the instructions suggest to limit the syncing times to around 2 hours, then let it cool and continue.
4. Price/performance. Even if you are going to work with FLAC data, an SDHC Class 10 card will be more than enough for your needs. Plus, it's relatively cheap to get a +250GB iPod with a iFlash Dual and two cards instead of the iFlash Sata and one mSata drive.

So, you are willing to do this? Are you with me? Okay, let's continue. I've received the package today (sorry I forgot to take pictures) but my order includes:
1) iFlash-Dual (comes with the iFlash in an antistatic bag, along with two small rectangles of padding to stop the iFlash from moving around)
2) Flexible Pry Tool (I would say you need to order this yes or yes, it makes really easy to open the iPod)
3) 4pcs Opening Toolkit (Waste of money, get the metal spudger instead)

First of all, I'd highly HIGHLY suggest you to buy flexible pry tool and the metal spudger from the website. I've bought only the pry tool, along with the opening tool kit and I wish I would have gotten the metal spudger instead of the plastic kit. A guitar pick is handy, if you don't have one just go to a music store (they are really cheap) or simply borrow one.

This is everything I needed to mod my iPod Classic, but keep in mind which iPod do you have! iPod 4th gen will need this adapter to connect the iFlash to the motherboard, iPod 6.5th gen will need a new zif ribbon cable for some reason as well (you can get it here) But why stop here? The website offers a DIY audio mod to enhance the audio quality of the device, but for this mod you will need some soldering techniques.

IMPORTANT --> If you do not know which iPod you actually have, click here

Okay, now the scary part. Let's open the iPod and see it's guts! There are plenty of YouTube tutorials that show how to properly open the iPod. I'd suggest you to check them out. The iFlash website already has a small guide that shows you how to open it, but they are only photos. If you want to see what you are going to encounter, check the following video.

A quick tip!: start opening the iPod from a corner, it's easier to insert the flexible pry tool. Once you have that inside, move it up and down and slowly pry the tool. Once you have a small gap, insert a guitar pick or your metal spudger and move along SLOWLY. Please, DO NOT RUSH or you will break your iPod. Take your time, this is like making pasta, it takes time if you wanna make something impressive.

Once you separate the front side to the back side, do not open it like a cookie box, you need to detach the battery ribbon cable. Once you do that, simply flip the HDD and you are good to go. Before doing anything with the adapter, plug all the SDs that you are willing to use in the adapter.

IMPORTANT STEP You need to format the SDs. All info here.

After formating the SDs, plug them in the adapter and connect everything. If you want to change the battery, now is a good time to do it, you will find all the information necessary here. I'd suggest you to mount everything (the adapter to the motherboard and plug the battery). Plug the iPod to your computer and hopefully once you turn it on, the screen is going to tell you that you need to restore the iPod (we changed the HDD with all the OS inside). Plug it into iTunes and let it do it's thing. Hopefully a few hours later you'll be using your brand new iPod with flash storage!

So, this looks cool and you are willing to do this? Well, let me tell you: not all iPods are the same. If you are looking for good audio quality without doing anything that requires soldering, the iPod Classic 5th gen and 5.5th gen is the best sounding iPod ever released. Sure, it's scary to open the iPod at first, but once you watch a couple videos it's ggez. The very first iPod gens are great because they are really easy to open and work on, but sadly the adapter doesn't work with them. Ipod Classic 6th, 6.5th and 7th gen have a maximum capacity cap of 128Gb for iTunes, I'm not 100% sure if this is just for iTunes or you can use other software to manage your iPod...

What's left? Well, if you want you can buy a new back cover if yours is really scratched. You can install Rockbox as well! All the information is in the iFlash website I believe. You want to do this but you are tired of using iTunes? I don't blame you, iTunes sucks. Use foobar instead! TekSyndicate did a small series of videos about this amazing media player, and luckily for you, Logan talks about using Foobar as an alternative of iTunes. All the information is in the following playlist

I'm not sure if you can use MusicBee or other players like that, probably you could, but I'm not sure. If anything just simply drop a comment and I'll add all the information here.

Right now my iPod is half open and charging, once it charges, iTunes will recognice it and I will start restoring it. I will post a small update once my SDs come home, so I can take out the placeholder and end this project as well. Any questions or anything, post them here!

Troubleshooting time!

The iFlash works, yay. But my placeholder SD doesn't. I've looked up at the compatible SD card list and looks like mine is not compatible... But so far we got out of the black screen with the Apple logo thingy. And looks like the screen is a bit broken (three thin black lines appear in the centre for some reason), I'm not sure if that's just a bug when you don't have any storage inside the iPod or it's just the screen itself. I'm not that worried, a new screen costs 20 bucks and changing it is really simple.

As soon as my SDs come I'll post a new update.

I thought about going this route but settled on a Fiio X1 nearly the same thing just a hell of a lot more reliable.

Damn, Fiio's stuff is really cool but really expensive (at least for me). Probably I got everything for less 150 euros so yeah, I'm good!

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