External DAC+ Lighting Headphones w/DAC

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by Lawney, Sep 28, 2016.

  1. Lawney, Sep 28, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2016

    Lawney macrumors newbie

    Feb 24, 2011
    Big question that might not be answerable right now...this concerns the whole Lightning headphone/USB Type-C Headphone migration that is about to occur. We're already seeing super high-end lightning headphones for the iPhone.

    My question is this: for high end audio, enthusiasts will use external DACs for their computers. Does the fact that lightning headphones contain their own external DAC located along the cable make using a high-end external DAC in the future completely incompatible with these new lighting headphones?

    I'm just trying to wrap my head around some kind of future DDC (digital-to-digital converter) of some sort. Is there no market for a high end desktop amplifier of some sort? Are all of these new headphones stuck within their own little worlds?

    I believe USB Type-C has an analogue audio pin in the spec. Does lightning have an analogue audio pin as well? As that's probably how the lighting to 3.5mm converter works? Is that the answer? And are current high-end lightning headphones being produced with an analogue passthrough in mind?

    edit: turns out the apple lightning to 3.5mm converter has a tiny dac inside...
  2. danielwsmithee macrumors 65816

    Mar 12, 2005
    In short an external DAC and AMP are completely pointless with a lightning cable that already includes a DAC/AMP and in many cases a DSP.

    My guess is pretty soon someone will generate a USB/USB-C to lightning adapter for those type of headphones. So you'll stay completely digital until the lightning cable internal DAC.
  3. Mac 128 macrumors 603

    Mac 128

    Apr 16, 2015
    I don't see anyone buying a high end set of Lightning headphones which don't have a detachable cable. So worst case is you leave an analogue cable plugged into your Mac's outboard DAC and use that to connect your headphones instead of the detachable Lightning cable.

    The other possibility is that Apple will release new MFi specs which allow Lightning connectors on headphones to bypass the internal DAC and pass the incoming analogue signal directly to the transducers, with the proper recognition chip. So, imagine a 3.5mm source to Lightning output adapter. Rather than including an ADC and power supply to drive it, converting analogue to digital just to get it into the headphones, only to be converted back to analogue; instead, it's a simple port converter, with a chip that instructs the Lightning connector on the headphones to bypass its internal circuitry and pass along the analogue signal. The power from the audio signal would be enough for that. So you'd only need a simple adapter to use a native Lightning set of headphones with your outboard DAC, or any 3.5mm jack.

    If Apple does update their Lightning specs, then I'd sure wait to buy my Lightning headphones until after they release the new Macs to see what happens with Lightning and adapters for them. So far I've heard nothing despite the fact there's no way to use Apples included Lightning EarPods with anything else, making them supremely inconvenient to use.
  4. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    I have two issues to deal with, and this thread is a good launching point IMHO to address them. I do want an iPhone 7/7+ and will likely fork over for one in the coming weeks (the lack of a jack doesn't bug me so much) and my 9-year-old Benz has an AUX jack but no power supply in the glovebox. I've never been thrilled with BT-related "sound" and have passed on BT headphones and the like as IMHO I prefer wired solutions; in the Benz, however, there's road noise to deal with so that's a wash but it's some sort of convenience that I'm after for my driving entertainment. In the house, I have a couple of DACs - a Schiit Bifrost Multibit for the home office and a Dragonfly Red for the road offices - the Red works OK in the car if I have a plan for playing music or pull over to deal with my mood changes (my Benz is pretty hopped up, but traffic is what dictates my mood or my path from point-to-point). My point of relevancy here?

    I'd been searching for - and found - a portable, wireless DAC that rises above most of the others, and recently ordered a Celsus Sound Companion One Amp/DAC - AirPlay in, a several hour capable battery, mini-jack out plus several other features. And, it ships with a Lightning adapter. I read about and liked the reviews when it was costing $600 but popped for one when the price was marked down to $250. It goes in my Benz's glovebox and talks to my iPhone 6S+ via AirPlay and talks to my Benz via the AUX mini-jack; I use it with my rMBP via the included USB adapter. I don't know if the price drop is related to a discontinuation or a model change, but I don't care - it's portable, sounds great, and that's pretty much it. I'm looking forward to the new interface options, but this thing should tide me over until then...


    Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RLHDQ42/ - not a personal affiliate link, as I don't roll that way

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3 September 28, 2016