Portable DAC and Iphone

I would like to be able to get decent music out of my iPhone for headphones and perhaps putting in my system.

However, from what I read on at least one review was that the iPhone sucks and adding in say a Audioquest’s DragonFly only makes it suck a teensy weensy bit less.

Perhaps a Chord Mojo would be better?  In that case though it is pretty expensive and large for listening while mobile and then I wonder if that is wasteful and I should just get an amp or separate DAC solution and say screw it to portable.



I use to have an old Sennheiser headphone hooked up to my Iphone 7. Average sound. Since I travel a lot for work, I decided to take spend the money on a decent rig!

My new  travelling set up is HIFIMAN 400S headphones, Dragon fly red, I phone 7 .

All my cd`s are burned in the AIFF format in my Iphone 7.

It does sound pretty good , to me I emphasize to me. And the rig is easy to travel with, which is a plus. DAC needs no power plug. It is strictly a traveling rig, but I do enjoy it very much. It is also highly recommended by TAS /STEREOPHILE magazines reviewers.

You can spend a lot more money for a better rig, but for me, spending about $ 550 gives me a sound I LIKE! Hope this helps.

To the OP, lets face some cold hard facts

(1) The quality of the audio medium varies widely - choose wisely ...

-- All mp3 or even mp3 360 quality recordings (compressed format) have a crap Resulting washed audio signature with a truncated rolled-off top-end and chopped off bass response from the crap file format compression. Sure .... They DO SUCK comparitively to CD quality at 16 bit / 44.1 kHz digital recording format .... or better. So go hi-Rez..,, full-stop.

(2) the quality of the audio player hardware and its build components

IiPhones only have an internal built-in crap quality "as-cheap-as-you-can-g0" internal DAC that is chewing gum price-build , so accordingly that intuitively dekuvers on,y very very low audio quality performer at best because it is produced at an ultra minimal component quality price-point in lockstep...

.pits just a mass marketed PHONE in stock form .... and it’s not any high-end player in stock form . It was never designed to be one and it won’t play hi-Rez so don’t expect it to produce above low-fi performance.

so mod the kit herein .... hence the workaround for hifi.

I suggest two things:

(A) Read more reviews in the first part , and then personally physically go audition the subject piece first to get a meaningful appreciation --pro or con -- before forming an biased opinion based on an uninformed pure hear-say experience.

To imply that the addition of a quality AQ microDAC / headphone amp is just more useless crap and somehow deliver only a sliver above a total suck-out in audio performance could not be farther from the truth .... the microDACs/ headphone amps (with quality-build cans or in-ear monitors) bridge the IPhone hardware shortfall nicely

The following us just a sampler of the many reviews with a common theme: the AQ and its whole genre work great performance wise and none of the reviews imply that the units still suck, Rather it is the opposite.





Quality build Headphones - a bona fide critical necessity

You don’t want to wear brown shoes or $15 running shoes with a tuxedo . Scrap the crap quality 25-cent earbuds and bypass any temptation to fake it via the cheapo POS "gonna chintz it and try and fake it " kit

Gi invest in decent audiophile quality mobile headphones -- say .... roughly for discussion purposes .... at $400-ish and up ... (in-ear monitors, on-ear or over-ear) .... you only get what you pay for ... again full stop.

If you chintz it here, the rest of any improvements won’t get you to OZ. The degree of improvement will be an epic quantum leap .... full stop repeated.

MicroDac/ headphone amp -a bypass of the 25-Cent internal DAC in the iPhone is a BIG BIG audio performance upgrade

I have the AQ Dragonfly for my iPhone and my laptop and I also have a "higher" mobile headphone amp/ TEAC DAC (3X price of the AQ) . The latter is a bit better but they both sound and work great and the AQ is a marvel at its pricepoint .

Scrap the internal crap iPhone audio player app and go get a proper hi-Rez format player capable one

in order to play hi-Rez on an iPhone (it won’t in stock format ) it is important to bypass it and go get the ONKYO HF hi-Rez app player in the App Store...cheap at $14-ish. The player plays hi-Rez and even at a 24/96 file format medium with the external microDAC , it sounds impressive now.

The takeaway

the iPhone hardware shortcomings and like result from the POS cheap stock ear-buds or cheapo crap headphones form limitations using the iPhine as an audio player that "suck" in stock form


The limitations have been by-passed by quality add-ins and you can now play audiophile hi-Rez at 24/96 streaming on TIDAL or go download 25/96 and be prepared to be summarily impressed

Tons of related discussion at Head-Fi.org, portlandlay (if you've not yet visited there).
simply put, here are some notes:
-I DID burn my cd`s on my mac book pro in AIFF, which is uncompressed format
-transfer that music to my Iphone in the same format/I phone has 128 GB capacity, hen listen with the Audioquest/Hifiman set up. 
To answer your question, I believe that the combination gives me a better sound.
I enjoy the sound stage, instrument clarity and almost a warm sound.
It is a very affordable solution for me , since my budget was 500 dollars.
If you want to spend money, you probably can get better sound for a bigger expense.
Hope this helps.


This is from YOUR link:

DragonFly Black and Red with iPhone
After the experiences described above, there were no more surprises: Having now abandoned both hi-fi system and computer in favor of my iPhone 6 Plus, I didn’t expect to hear grand sound from either of the new DragonFlys—and I didn’t.

The fact is, even after confirming that its equalization function—available by selecting Settings, then Music, then EQ—was disabled, music played from my iPhone, with or without an outboard DAC, seemed to conform to a hi-fi–like curve, with boosted and blurry bass and, to a lesser extent, boosted highs.

That’s not to say that my iPhone was incapable of giving minimal musical enjoyment—or that the DragonFlys were incapable of wringing from the experience just a bit more information and involvement. But that’s all it was: a bit.

Read more at http://www.stereophile.com/content/audioquest-dragonfly-red-black-usb-da-headphone-amplifiers-page-2…

Also, I do use Tidal for my downloaded content.  It certainly us much better than MP3 even streamed from bluetooth.

I put this out there to see what real folks were hearing rather than professional reviews which tend to be like movie critic reviews at times.

For the record, I have a simple Yamaha AVR (right now),  piping music with my headphone jack on my iPhone 6+ to speakers I like and a very good recording and I was very happy listening to it.  

Portlandlay - 

Just to contribute to this thread.

I have a Sony PHA-2 that I have used with various iPhones (currently iPhone 7) and headphones and the difference is night and day - it sounds exceptional and has massive power and will drive pretty much anything.

Other things I really like about it is how it's designed.  The unit comes with 2 rubber straps that allow you to strap your phone directly to it - it has a built in rechargeable battery that runs for several hours making it a fairly portable setup.

The volume control is really really nice - perfectly sized and very smooth allowing you to dial in exactly the volume you need at any given moment - Also, the placement of the volume control is perfect so that as you're holding the unit in one hand, the knob rests exactly against your finger for perfect adjustment.

Other great benefits of the unit is that it has several inout and output options.  If you wanted to, you could use the line out jack and run it into a main system.

One thing that I don't like about it is that it only runs on batteries and cannot be charged while in use so using it i a main system as a dedicated DAC would be a bit of a pain.

That said, I compared many different options and while there are others that sound good, the truth is most of them can't match the portability and ergonomics that I was looking for.

I've been wanting to try that new Oppo unit for a while - looks sleek and has a nice finish and is dirt cheap, but given how happy I am with my current setup, I'm not making it a priority-

Also, every DAC chip has its own signature sound and I've never really gotten into the ESS product line -and have always preferred other chips more (Burr Brown for example)  - just a matter of personal taste.

The Chord has great reviews but the form factor is a deal-breaker for me.

The Dragonfly has its place - certainly portable but in order to connect it to the iPhone, you're going to need a cable adapter - also a deal breaker for me and they don't have the juice to drive power hungry cans like I use now - Might be perfect for in-ears though.  But IMHO, it probably isn't that much of an upgrade over the surprisingly good $9 lighting dongle that ships w/ the iPhone 7 (did you realize that there's actually a DAC/Amp in that thing?).

At the end of the day, it will come down to your specific needs and tastes but regardless, any dedicated amp/DAC will be an improvement over the phone's internal junk - big time.

Thanks Greg and I will check out the Sony.  One thing I did see on the web that differs from you experience was a test on the new iPhone 7 dongle.  

Measurements show it to be inferior to the headphone jack only iPhone 6+

“The results are clear: with an iPhone 6S, the dynamic range worsens by 4.5 dB(A) for 24-bit music files. For the iPad Air, it worsens by 3.8 dB(A). The signal also gets worse for 16-bit music files, even if they aren’t that drastic: the dynamic range worsens by 1.8 dB(A) and 3.1 dB(A) for the iPhone and iPad, respectively."

I appreciate the input everyone.  I have some homework to do.

I do think that a very good set of headphones will help regardless.  It’s just how much more the DAC will improve things.
Yesterday I ordered some new over ear headphones on a whim.  I had some pretty mediocre pair but yesterday I tweeked the plug and now they are dead.

These are what I got. https://www.amazon.com/Philips-SHP9500-Precision-Over-ear-Headphones/dp/B00ENMK1DW/ref=sr_1_1?s=elec..

I got them at Newegg for $55 and for that money they are worth trying.

So I getting a DAC may be priority one now.  Does anyone have experience with the FiiO E10K USB DAC?