All iPads Best iPad or iPhone, for lossless music through headphones/studio monitors?

mtnbikerva1

macrumors member
Original poster
Sep 13, 2007
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What is the best Apple product for playing lossless music? Best built in DAC/chips..., I do not care about the speakers on the I pad or iPhone. I am only interested in what is the best device to play through studio monitors and headphones.
iPad vs iPhone models?
 
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alecgold

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Oct 11, 2007
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I'm curious as well. I would guess you would use some flac file, output through the lightning to a really good DAC and then to good speakers.

But my shure se846's only sound a little bit better then my AirPods. So I might not have the best ears for this. And I like the se846 more then my Bose qc35's because the Bode's are somehow tiresome. The grado rs1000's are nice and neutral as well, but open and I only listen to music on headphones when I don't want to hear coworkers.
Then again, only headphones I ever bought where the AirPods the others are hand-me-downs from a maniacal-audiofile-mad-coworker.
 

mtnbikerva1

macrumors member
Original poster
Sep 13, 2007
60
2
I'm curious as well. I would guess you would use some flac file, output through the lightning to a really good DAC and then to good speakers.

But my shure se846's only sound a little bit better then my AirPods. So I might not have the best ears for this. And I like the se846 more then my Bose qc35's because the Bode's are somehow tiresome. The grado rs1000's are nice and neutral as well, but open and I only listen to music on headphones when I don't want to hear coworkers.
Then again, only headphones I ever bought where the AirPods the others are hand-me-downs from a maniacal-audiofile-mad-coworker.
I use the Yamaha HS8 monitors or Sennheiser HD600 and ***** ASGARD 2 amp through my 6s+ headphone jack now. I also use aiff or alac as my lossless choice.
 

alecgold

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But wouldn't you rather have a serious good DAC out of the lightning with a good Amp then?
 

Stefan johansson

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Apr 13, 2017
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The sound quality in most devices from iPad Air/iPhone 4s and onward is basically the Same as the iPod touch,same sound hardware in all of them. I never noticed any quality difference between lightning port and headphone jack.
The sound player in all idevices is just a built in iPod,it's not a music studio sound system.
 

alecgold

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Oct 11, 2007
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The sound quality in most devices from iPad Air/iPhone 4s and onward is basically the Same as the iPod touch,same sound hardware in all of them. I never noticed any quality difference between lightning port and headphone jack.
The sound player in all idevices is just a built in iPod,it's not a music studio sound system.
What did you use in the lightning port?
 

alecgold

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I'm wondering how good a DAC is in there. There are other coming via kickstarter etc.
 

ayres

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Sep 27, 2010
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The sound quality in most devices from iPad Air/iPhone 4s and onward is basically the Same as the iPod touch,same sound hardware in all of them. I never noticed any quality difference between lightning port and headphone jack.
The sound player in all idevices is just a built in iPod,it's not a music studio sound system.
+1

i also had someone at schiit tell me that they can't discern the difference between a line out and the headphone out on apple's devices - if you're wanting to send the signal to, say, another amp. sure, take digital out through the lightning port, but in my experience, unless you're dropping some serious money on your setup, the difference is minor. this is assuming your headphones are can be properly amped from an idevice. if headphones need some extra juice, then run the signal to a more powerful amp.

so i've learned to be happy with the various idevices i've owned. i do keep a a fiio audio player around, but that's primarily because it can natively play many more file formats.
 

Jodiuh

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Sep 15, 2009
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Westone W40's sound duller out of an iPad Pro 9.7" vs an iPhone 6S Plus.

Is there a lightning to line out jack? Aside from that, a portable DAC might be a better option.
 

Chancha

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Mar 19, 2014
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iDevices almost never ship with a decent enough DAC and headphone amp on par with the iPod Classics. They are also subject to noise from circuitry which can be audiable if you have very sensitive gears.

The era with the 30-pin connector had an alternative route since one (or two?) of the pins were responsible for analog audio line out, originally intended for iPod docks and speakers. There were quite many HiFi equipments at that time taking advantage of this. But since Lightning is entirely digital, so you must use an external DAC via Lightning, or Lightning headphones etc which has built-in DAC+amp.

There are very few DACs out there with exclusive Lightning connectivity, so the most common way is to use a Lightning to USB dongle, or the USB3 Camera kit (which has a USB3 port + another Lightning port) as a stop gap, and then you can freely use any DAC with USB1/2 connection (literally every DAC made within the decade).

I personally use a small dongle sized one, the Audioquest Dragonfly Red, which is enough to decode lossless signals up to 24-bit 96kHz , and 2.1V output to drive earphones or smaller sized headphones (<78ohm).

For more ambitious setup I got a Fiio E17, on specs it suggests a max. of 150ohm but I can drive my Bayerdynamic DT1990 (250ohm) with good results. Anything with higher impedance (like 600ohm) will require larger amplification that is probably too bulky to be portable. Also there are folks who would like to push for very high resolution PCM or even DSD which of course require even more ambitious gears.

Studio monitors can use a less portable DAC, if you use an integrated amp chances are it already has built-in USB DAC, it may even have Airplay (although the audio quality via Airplay it is questioned by some). Some bookshelf active speakers also have built-in DAC and USB input which you can plug directly into the Lightning-USB dongle.

There is also a very alternative approach that is wireless, you can use something like the A&K XB10, which is a portable Bluetooth receiver and it can even drive ear/headphones with its 2.5mm balanced output. Many people use this with the iPhone 7.
 
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alecgold

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I have the iPhone 6s and use the se846 to dampen out the office noise.
They have released a new lightning cable that you can click on the mmcx connector earbuds. I like it a lot. Not because the sound is different, but because it is a nice, bit stiff, over-the-ear-cable that has a remote and microphone in the cable.
I'll be a sausage if I can hear a difference between the original cable, this lightning cable with remote or a $600(? Could be more) oxygen-pure-silver-custom cable my coworker uses.
I tried really hard to hear any difference, but at 40+ I guess I'm to old :(
 
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Jodiuh

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Sep 15, 2009
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I'm using a fiio A5 with some 250 Ohm Beyer 880's and would love to be able to insert a tiny DAC somewhere...but painlessly, like lightning to DAC to A5.

Any ideas?
 

Jodiuh

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Sep 15, 2009
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That's what I'm looking for, but I'd prefer the DAC a little larger than that, lol!

Still, maybe it sounds pretty good!
 
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Jodiuh

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Sep 15, 2009
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I have the same reservations :)
Wow, I just...I don't know what to type. :)

I actually considered the Chord MOJO with all the great reviews as I had been looking @ an HD700, but ended up getting Beyer's 880 w/ the A5 amp for $250 and it's definitely worked out for me. I can definitely see how some would not care for the 880's sonics and complain about it lacking bass and being shrill. I say this, because for years, I thought "warm" was what I wanted. Had a tube amp connected to a decent sound card with AKG Q701's, HD580's, even some Grado 325's.

Then I snagged some Westone UM Pro 30's and they did nothing for me. No sound stage, treble cut off, lots of bass. The 880's have a little lighter low end than I'd like, but the highs are there, the stage is huge. I've been very happy with them.

Anyway, ranting over. Just need/would like to find a good, small DAC to combine with the A5.
 
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