There’s been a fair amount of noise made about a late-model iPod audio anomaly. Specifically, some fourth-generation iPods and iPod Photos emit short bursts of static when the hard drive spins up. This problem is hardly universal and often manifests itself only with headphones other than those supplied by Apple. While the issue generates a fair amount of press and some heated threads in Apple’s Discussion Forums, the steps for addressing the problem are often overlooked.
Although none of my iPods suffer from this problem, I’ve talked to others whose iPods are affected. In nearly every case, the iPod exhibited the problem only when used with third-party headphones. An examination of these headphones revealed a metal base that comes in contact with the iPod’s metal case. This metal-to-metal contact causes the noise. Once an insulating material is placed between the headphone’s plug and the iPod, the noise disappears.
If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, Solution 1 is to slide a very thin, non-conducting washer down the post of your problem headphones (a small piece of Teflon tape that masks the metal on either the headphone plug or iPod will also do the trick). This breaks the metal-to-metal contact and the noise vanishes.
Solution 2, of course, is to return your iPod to an Apple Store and demand a new one. When doing so, be sure to bring along the headphones that most clearly broadcast the noise so the Genius can take a listen. If you wish to make your argument even more convincing, plug those headphones into some of the floor models in the store and find one that doesn’t make the noise. If your exchange is challenged you can then reply, “But I don’t get the noise from the iPod over there. There must be something wrong with this one.”