Using an iPod in 2024

Posted: March 21, 2024

As I’ve been diving into using tech in a more intentional way I stumbled on the idea of using an iPod again. I’ve always been a big music fan (growing up I would only ask for iTunes gift cards for my bday and xmas) and I’ve also been a big Spotify user. I remember using a VPN to run Spotify stateside in early college when it was only available in the UK. These days we are beginning to see the cracks in the streaming model and how shitty it is to artists. Also the endless ability to listening to anything has made me personally actually listen to less music. The choice fatigue is real. Also there’s the added benefit of owning what you listen to again. So I’""ve dusted off my old iTunes catalogue, purchased a used iPod 5th Gen, and started purchasing music again (mostly via Bandcamp and CDs).

For making the iPod a little more useable in the year of our lord 2024 I purchased an iFlash Solo hard drive upgrade along with a 128gb SD card. Installation was pretty straight forward besides the prying open of the iPod chassis. This is supposed to be easier on the 5th Gen iPods but it still made me nervous I would break something. After that it’s just unplugging and re-plugging of a couple cables you’re ready to click it all back together.

Side note I did not replace the battery in my iPod because I’m fairly certain it was upgraded previously by the seller based off the parts sticker and my battery life has been very useable. But, if you wanted to or needed to do this it’s also fairly straight forward. You also may not need to replace the hard drive but the spinning drives in 5th Gen iPods tend to fail as mine did within a couple weeks of use when I first got it. Swapping up to a more stable flash memory set up is definitely worth it IMO.

Next I installed Rockbox on the iPod. Rockbox essentially allows you to more easily drop files onto your player without needing to use iTunes, as well as increases the amount of file types supported and adds more extra features which you can read about in their documentation. I mainly decided to do this because Apple is no longer officially supporting iTunes, and the iPod management without iTunes on a mac especially is a total shit show. It also makes it easier for me to add files no matter what platform I’m on such as my laptop running linux. There are also some really cool themes that can be as clean and modern or as weird as you like. Here’s a link to the one I’m currently using. One bug/quirk I found is you need to transfer your files to it while it’s in iPod mode not the Rockbox UI or some of your files will inevitably corrupt. A little annoying but that’s usually how it goes with hacked software and once you figure it out it’s still easier than having to hassle with iTunes.

This will continue to be an experiment and I’m already diving into the rabbit hole of finding some decent IEMs. So far I can definitely see myself using this approach in the long run and probably eventually upgrading to a higher end dedicated player that supports higher fidelity formats. It’s also had the benefit of making me think more about what music I’m listening to and purchasing. This has really reignited the fun of hunting for that next album and reading reviews again.

I purchased all my parts and tools from Elite Obsolete Electronics. There's also a wealth of info and tutorials on youtube.