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How does the quality of the DAC in the iPhone 6 compare with the 5?


Ajax

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Hi All,

 

A non audiophile friend recently remarked on the significant improvement in sound he found with his new iPhone 6 over his previous iPhone 5. Does anyone know the quality of the DAC inside the iPhone 6 and whether or not Apple has actually improved it (or the filters or the analogue output) over the iPhone 5?

 

The reason I ask is that I recently replaced the speakers in my car (BMW X3) and included a sub for a very significant increase in sound quality. THE sound quality is further improved when I plug in my existing iPhone 5 into my car AUX input vs using the USB input. i.e. when I use the DAC inside the iPhone 5 the sound is much better than using the car's (BMW X3) preamp/DAC.

 

My iPhone 5's contract has just expired and I am considering purchasing either an iFi NANO or PONO (while still using the AUX input) but would prefer to use the convenience of simply upgrading to an iPhone 6 and just using that alone without the hassle of extra devices or an external DAC.

 

Can anyone please shed some light on the sound quality of the iPhone 6 vs 5 and the quality of the DACs used.

 

Thanks in advance

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You mention the Pono in your post. What I can say is that I compared the Pono player to my iPhone 4 using Sennheiser Amperior, Etymotic ER4P and Bose QC15 headphones and the the Pono won by a large margin with the Sennheise Amperior headphones and the Etymotic earbuds (and by a more slender margin with the Bose, probably reflecting their lower sound quality).

 

I am aware that this is not exactly the question you raised, but this suggests that there may be benefits to getting a Pono player. It is not as convenient to carry around as a player embedded in your phone, but for your practical need it does not seem to be problem: you simply could leave the Pono in your car, if Sydney is safe enough.

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Hey, 6 is more than 5. 6 is better right?

 

Honestly, even an iPhone 6 has pretty darn good performance.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Hi Guys,

 

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I have read very positive reviews on the PONO and the iFi Nano (connected to the iPhone) and am confident either will do the job very well.

 

My wife and I intend travelling around Australia (in our car) and also through Europe this year (in a hire car) spending most of our time in Italy (my son commenced boarding school and I recently sold my business and home) and we will be free spirits for a few months. I therefore will be carrying these devices with me and the iPhone 6 with a local country's sim card would obviously be the simplest and preferred option as when travelling less is best. It will also cost virtually nothing on a 24 month plan.

 

I have an open mind at this stage and may well purchase a PONO or an iFi NANO. Would the iFi Micro be a better choice and is it portable" i.e. will it play IOS devices without external power?

 

However, before committing I would like to read get some technical insight so would appreciate if anyone can point me towards any reviews or technical measurements / information on the iPhone 6 audio components.

LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

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BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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Just my two cents, but I ordered on of the Ponos and was decidedly unimpressed with it against my iPhone 5. And an iPhone6 is even better. That's with the headphone output. This opinion is liable to get me shot quickly.

 

I do have an iFi iDSD Nano, and it works tremendously well with the iPad, but I have never tried a Lightening to USB connection on my phone. Might work, might not.

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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The only concern I'd have is that an iPhone has a relatively short battery life compared to most portable media players (though not necessarily "audiophile" ones) and that's shared between all the other functions of the phone as well.

 

With a separate device, if the phone dies you still have music.

 

However, before committing I would like to read get some technical insight so would appreciate if anyone can point me towards any reviews or technical measurements / information on the iPhone 6 audio components.
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
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Just my two cents, but I ordered on of the Ponos and was decidedly unimpressed with it against my iPhone 5. And an iPhone6 is even better. That's with the headphone output. This opinion is liable to get me shot quickly.

 

I do have an iFi iDSD Nano, and it works tremendously well with the iPad, but I have never tried a Lightening to USB connection on my phone. Might work, might not.

 

I haven't done this with the Nano, but my Micro works brilliantly with my iPhone 6 Plus. It comes with the Lightning to USB connector, both devices run on battery (up to 12 hours or so), and sound is wonderful.

 

That said, I'm not quite fanatical enough to walk around with that contraption in my pocket ;) On the airplane, etc., I just listen to music straight out of my iPhone - I only set up the whole "rig" in a hotel room or some other place I'm going to be for at least a couple of days.

John Walker - IT Executive

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The only concern I'd have is that an iPhone has a relatively short battery life compared to most portable media players (though not necessarily "audiophile" ones) and that's shared between all the other functions of the phone as well.

 

With a separate device, if the phone dies you still have music.

 

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

 

Hi All,

 

Thanks everyone for their help and input. I copied this quote below from Ken Rockwell's enthusiastic review of the iPhone 6 Plus that Sceptic kindly provided a link to.

 

My thought is that I should start out with the iPhone 6 and then if I need further sound improvement to purchase the iFi Micro or Nano. Anyone know of any quality differences between I'm not sure of the differences between the 6 and 6+ besides the screen and battery size?

 

"I tested a Beyerdynamic A200p DAC and headphone amp at the same time I had the iPhone 6 Plus in my audio lab, and the iPhone 6 Plus beat it! The iPhone 6 Plus has less distortion, flatter frequency response and much better ability to drive low-impedance headphones with low distortion than the dedicated portable amp!

 

While all iOS devices have always sounded great if you have good transfers, the audio output of the iPhone 6 Plus is now so improved that it sounds and measures about as well as professional reference DACs like the Benchmark DAC1 HDR, and better than many consumer DACs.

 

The iPhone 6 Plus even has flatter response than the Benchmark DAC1 HDR! Of course an iPhone and a plug-in-the-wall professional DAC are intended for entirely different pupposes, but if the 1 volt RMS output (6 dB less than good outboard DACs and CD players) and 3.5mm jack do it for you, there's no reason not to use the iPhone's output for critical listening.

 

The iPhone 6 is a better analog audio source than many audiophile products, but the cottage industry created around selling you DACs and other accessories you don't need doesn't want you to know. Remember that accessory dealers, manufacturers and publications that accept advertising from these makers have a vested interest in trying to create FUD about the iPhone's audio quality. Don't beleive them and listen for yourself.

 

Apple has more smart engineers and far more resources than any other audio specialty company. It makes perfect sense that the iPhone output should be spectacular.

 

No longer do you need to waste money on DACs and headphone amplifiers, at least for most portable (low-impedance) headphones. Save your money and spend it on more music instead".

 

Very compelling recommendation as I own the Benchmark DAC1 HDR.

LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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  • 1 month later...
Hi All,

 

Thanks everyone for their help and input. I copied this quote below from Ken Rockwell's enthusiastic review of the iPhone 6 Plus that Sceptic kindly provided a link to.

 

My thought is that I should start out with the iPhone 6 and then if I need further sound improvement to purchase the iFi Micro or Nano. Anyone know of any quality differences between I'm not sure of the differences between the 6 and 6+ besides the screen and battery size?

 

"I tested a Beyerdynamic A200p DAC and headphone amp at the same time I had the iPhone 6 Plus in my audio lab, and the iPhone 6 Plus beat it! The iPhone 6 Plus has less distortion, flatter frequency response and much better ability to drive low-impedance headphones with low distortion than the dedicated portable amp!

 

While all iOS devices have always sounded great if you have good transfers, the audio output of the iPhone 6 Plus is now so improved that it sounds and measures about as well as professional reference DACs like the Benchmark DAC1 HDR, and better than many consumer DACs.

 

The iPhone 6 Plus even has flatter response than the Benchmark DAC1 HDR! Of course an iPhone and a plug-in-the-wall professional DAC are intended for entirely different pupposes, but if the 1 volt RMS output (6 dB less than good outboard DACs and CD players) and 3.5mm jack do it for you, there's no reason not to use the iPhone's output for critical listening.

 

The iPhone 6 is a better analog audio source than many audiophile products, but the cottage industry created around selling you DACs and other accessories you don't need doesn't want you to know. Remember that accessory dealers, manufacturers and publications that accept advertising from these makers have a vested interest in trying to create FUD about the iPhone's audio quality. Don't beleive them and listen for yourself.

 

Apple has more smart engineers and far more resources than any other audio specialty company. It makes perfect sense that the iPhone output should be spectacular.

 

No longer do you need to waste money on DACs and headphone amplifiers, at least for most portable (low-impedance) headphones. Save your money and spend it on more music instead".

 

Very compelling recommendation as I own the Benchmark DAC1 HDR.

 

I am listening to iPhone 6 right now with Grado headphones. The channel separation is the best I've ever heard. The echo timing of the original music is just perfect and I'm furious that I've listened to crummy digital audio for the last twenty years. I thought computers weren't susceptible to jitter for some stupid reason. I haven't tried out the DAC's with the camera connector which I have. I have a cheap unpowered Muse I got for ten bucks that isn't as good as the iPhone 6 DAC. I am looking at buying an iFi Nano, but am wondering if it will really improve on the iPhone at all. My computer is complete garbage and I can't listen to it anymore due to jitter. Listen to any cymbals on the iPhone compared to computer. It's not close. The timing of the music is all off. I am setting up my iPhone as a source for my audio system. Streaming it from the iPHone. Also I like the Windows Server 2012. Doubt the iPhone can be beaten. Seriously.

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Hi Ajax,

 

What iPhone's audio player you use? Standard iTunes?

 

Best regards,

Yuri

AuI ConverteR 48x44 - HD audio converter/optimizer for DAC of high resolution files

ISO, DSF, DFF (1-bit/D64/128/256/512/1024), wav, flac, aiff, alac,  safe CD ripper to PCM/DSF,

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If Apple would only implement a crossfeed option into the OS, the iPhone would be near perfect sound quality wise. Of course you have to ignore the terrible Music app.

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If Apple would only implement a crossfeed option into the OS, the iPhone would be near perfect sound quality wise. Of course you have to ignore the terrible Music app.

 

I've also been very impressed with output from the iPhone 6+.

 

The internal DAC is limited to 24/48, so all output is resampled as needed, but the overall sound and built-in amplifier for headphone use works very well for a portable player. Paired with a suitable (i.e., efficient, low resistance) headphone and any of the add-on music players and you're just about set, even for hi res music.

 

Connecting to an external DAC via the camera connection kit (i.e., using the iPhone just as a digital transport) adds an additional level of functionality.

 

Wishlist:

 

Native support up to 24/96 - I don't think it's reasonable to ask them to support higher sample rates, but 24/96 would be a big win

Global crossfeed and EQ - Editable by the user, with ability to save user presets

Ability to use SD cards for effectively unlimited capacity - I know this one is a long shot given Apple's design aesthetic ;)

John Walker - IT Executive

Headphone - SonicTransporter i9 running Roon Server > Netgear Orbi > Blue Jeans Cable Ethernet > mRendu Roon endpoint > Topping D90 > Topping A90d > Dan Clark Expanse / HiFiMan H6SE v2 / HiFiman Arya Stealth

Home Theater / Music -SonicTransporter i9 running Roon Server > Netgear Orbi > Blue Jeans Cable HDMI > Denon X3700h > Anthem Amp for front channels > Revel F208-based 5.2.4 Atmos speaker system

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I've also been very impressed with output from the iPhone 6+.

 

The internal DAC is limited to 24/48, so all output is resampled as needed, but the overall sound and built-in amplifier for headphone use works very well for a portable player. Paired with a suitable (i.e., efficient, low resistance) headphone and any of the add-on music players and you're just about set, even for hi res music.

 

Connecting to an external DAC via the camera connection kit (i.e., using the iPhone just as a digital transport) adds an additional level of functionality.

 

Wishlist:

 

Native support up to 24/96 - I don't think it's reasonable to ask them to support higher sample rates, but 24/96 would be a big win

Global crossfeed and EQ - Editable by the user, with ability to save user presets

Ability to use SD cards for effectively unlimited capacity - I know this one is a long shot given Apple's design aesthetic ;)

 

John, your wish list does sound a little like a list of capabilities the Pono already has. :) (Though admittedly cross feed and EQ would have to be done offline.)

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

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John, your wish list does sound a little like a list of capabilities the Pono already has. :) (Though admittedly cross feed and EQ would have to be done offline.)

 

Yes, there any number of other devices (Pono, iBasso DX90, FiiO and A&K's line of players, etc.) that have great high resolution playback - but then I'd have to carry another device.

 

I know, I'm greedy - I'd just like all of that in one device: my phone, which I have with me all the time :)

 

PS - Every once in a while, I look at the other devices that are out there and think, "I needs me one of those" ;) But, like the upcoming Apple watch, I realize it's something I would *never* use: having everything available on one device - my phone - is simply too compelling.

John Walker - IT Executive

Headphone - SonicTransporter i9 running Roon Server > Netgear Orbi > Blue Jeans Cable Ethernet > mRendu Roon endpoint > Topping D90 > Topping A90d > Dan Clark Expanse / HiFiMan H6SE v2 / HiFiman Arya Stealth

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Yes, there any number of other devices (Pono, iBasso DX90, FiiO and A&K's line of players, etc.) that have great high resolution playback - but then I'd have to carry another device.

 

I know, I'm greedy - I'd just like all of that in one device: my phone, which I have with me all the time :)

 

PS - Every once in a while, I look at the other devices that are out there and think, "I needs me one of those" ;) But, like the upcoming Apple watch, I realize it's something I would *never* use: having everything available on one device - my phone - is simply too compelling.

 

+1 .. I could have written these exact words myself.

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Just my two cents, but I ordered on of the Ponos and was decidedly unimpressed with it against my iPhone 5. And an iPhone6 is even better. That's with the headphone output. This opinion is liable to get me shot quickly.

 

I do have an iFi iDSD Nano, and it works tremendously well with the iPad, but I have never tried a Lightening to USB connection on my phone. Might work, might not.

 

I won't shoot you, but I may send you a gift certificate for a visit to your neighborhood audiologist. ;-)

 

My experience is that Cirrus has done an excellent job of making incremental improvements to the audio circuitry in each successive generation of iOS devices since they got the contract. I found the 6 to have better transient response straight out of the headphone jack than the 5, although both still benefit from a quality external DAC/amp connected via Lightning.

 

If you're a strong believer in the benefits of hi-res, then that is a strong point in favor of the Pono Player (which I own and like very much). Another point in favor of the Pono Player is that, at least in my experience, it does work well with 128 gig micro SD cards, so that it can provide a total of 192 gigs of storage vs. 128 for a maxed-out iPhone 6.

 

I rarely connect the Pono Player to the audio system in my car, because I don't like having cables in places where they might interfere with operations. I "settle" for the iPhone 6 via Bluetooth, because it also gives me hands-free phone operation.

 

P.S. Lightning to USB, via the Camera Connection Kit, works fine with the iPhone 6 and Nano iDSD; just remember to turn on the iDSD before plugging in the USB cable, or you will get the dreaded "this device wants too much power" message.

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John, your wish list does sound a little like a list of capabilities the Pono already has. :) (Though admittedly cross feed and EQ would have to be done offline.)

 

+1. I extensively compared my Pono player to my iPhone 4 using Sennheiser Amperior headphones and 16/44 material: the difference is night-and-day, with the Pono player delivering more precise, more natural, more enjoyable sound than my iPhone 4. Then, the big drawback of the Pono is that it's yet another device to carry with me.

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Hi All,

 

I have been listening to the iPhone 6 in my car via the headphone output with good results.... certainly better than via the lightening output to the car's USB input i.e. the iPhone's DAC is superior to the car's preamp/DAC.

 

I have also been listening using the lightening output (via a 30pin adaptor) into the dock of my powered Akimate Micro + speakers. I've been banging on about these speakers for along time now but genuinely feel they are excellent value at $350 (creek amp and epos speakers).

 

Mini+ B

 

I compared the direct dock connection with my iPhone 6 using the lightening connection into an HRT iStreamer DAC connected into the back of one of the Akimate's RCA connections using simple sighted A/B testing. I only did this for a short time but felt the iStreamer had the edge marginally - the bass seemed tighter and had more slam, however, that could have been placebo at work and the difference was not night and day. Certainly not worth the effort of dragging around another device with its own power requirements.

 

I usually listen to the Akimates blu tacked to my balcony (I have an all weather outside power outlet). I can't leave them outside in bad weather and it is extremely convenient to carry them outside and plonked them on the timber handrail and drop the iPhone 6 into the dock. It is really inexpensive good sound and although it obviously won't stand up against my Devialet Ensemble ($10k) or my Benchmark HDR into Adam A7 active speakers ($3.5K new or $2K 2nd hand), it brings me a lot of convenience and joy - certainly better than a boom box.

 

I make up lots of different playlists with lossless quality using iTunes and find the iPhone's 128 Gig provides me with over 2,000 songs in ALAC with easily enough space left over for photos and apps etc.

 

Product

 

In summary, I think ripping CDs with iTunes (with error correction on and using the ALAC format) and playing back using your iPhone 6 via the lighting out directly into the dock of well made powered speakers is an incredibly easy and inexpensive way to get into hifi. The iPhone 6 will easily hold more than 200 albums and if you don't want to make playlists just rotate your library every few months say.

 

The Akimates have 3 analogue inputs so you can use as desk tops and connect your computer via something like the $200 iFi Nano DAC = $550 for a total system that is reasonably portable and also has good sound that will provide a lot of pleasure.

 

Hi Boris,

 

I use the standard iTunes app - is there other software you would recommend?

 

All the best,

 

 

Ajax

LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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Portables are a really interesting area of audio right now. I'd be interested to hear your detailed comparison between your iphone6 and your Macmini as a source in your main system. Currently my lowly Huawei Y300 is giving me the best digital playback I've ever heard using Tidal. I tried iphone5 and ipad and both sound poor in comparison (all HO out) but will give the iphone6 a try. QUOTE=Ajax;415405]Hi All,

 

I have been listening to the iPhone 6 in my car via the headphone output with good results.... certainly better than via the lightening output to the car's USB input i.e. the iPhone's DAC is superior to the car's preamp/DAC.

 

I have also been listening using the lightening output (via a 30pin adaptor) into the dock of my powered Akimate Micro + speakers. I've been banging on about these speakers for along time now but genuinely feel they are excellent value at $350 (creek amp and epos speakers).

 

Mini+ B

 

I compared the direct dock connection with my iPhone 6 using the lightening connection into an HRT iStreamer DAC connected into the back of one of the Akimate's RCA connections using simple sighted A/B testing. I only did this for a short time but felt the iStreamer had the edge marginally - the bass seemed tighter and had more slam, however, that could have been placebo at work and the difference was not night and day. Certainly not worth the effort of dragging around another device with its own power requirements.

 

I usually listen to the Akimates blu tacked to my balcony (I have an all weather outside power outlet). I can't leave them outside in bad weather and it is extremely convenient to carry them outside and plonked them on the timber handrail and drop the iPhone 6 into the dock. It is really inexpensive good sound and although it obviously won't stand up against my Devialet Ensemble ($10k) or my Benchmark HDR into Adam A7 active speakers ($3.5K new or $2K 2nd hand), it brings me a lot of convenience and joy - certainly better than a boom box.

 

I make up lots of different playlists with lossless quality using iTunes and find the iPhone's 128 Gig provides me with over 2,000 songs in ALAC with easily enough space left over for photos and apps etc.

 

Product

 

In summary, I think ripping CDs with iTunes (with error correction on and using the ALAC format) and playing back using your iPhone 6 via the lighting out directly into the dock of well made powered speakers is an incredibly easy and inexpensive way to get into hifi. The iPhone 6 will easily hold more than 200 albums and if you don't want to make playlists just rotate your library every few months say.

 

The Akimates have 3 analogue inputs so you can use as desk tops and connect your computer via something like the $200 iFi Nano DAC = $550 for a total system that is reasonably portable and also has good sound that will provide a lot of pleasure.

 

Hi Boris,

 

I use the standard iTunes app - is there other software you would recommend?

 

All the best,

 

 

Ajax

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I have been listening to the iPhone 6 in my car via the headphone output with good results.... certainly better than via the lightening output to the car's USB input i.e. the iPhone's DAC is superior to the car's preamp/DAC.

 

Hi Rexp,

 

As I understand you used standard iTunes audio player, isn't it?

 

Best regards,

Yuri

AuI ConverteR 48x44 - HD audio converter/optimizer for DAC of high resolution files

ISO, DSF, DFF (1-bit/D64/128/256/512/1024), wav, flac, aiff, alac,  safe CD ripper to PCM/DSF,

Seamless Album Conversion, AIFF, WAV, FLAC, DSF metadata editor, Mac & Windows
Offline conversion save energy and nature

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Oops that's Ajax quote (I was quoting him) but I think he is using itunes

 

I understand. Catch beging quote :)

AuI ConverteR 48x44 - HD audio converter/optimizer for DAC of high resolution files

ISO, DSF, DFF (1-bit/D64/128/256/512/1024), wav, flac, aiff, alac,  safe CD ripper to PCM/DSF,

Seamless Album Conversion, AIFF, WAV, FLAC, DSF metadata editor, Mac & Windows
Offline conversion save energy and nature

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Well I just spent this evening with the iPhone6 and it's just as bad as the iPhone 5, so won't be buying it. Is there any difference between the 6 and 6plus which Ajax is using?

I am listening to iPhone 6 right now with Grado headphones. The channel separation is the best I've ever heard. The echo timing of the original music is just perfect and I'm furious that I've listened to crummy digital audio for the last twenty years. I thought computers weren't susceptible to jitter for some stupid reason. I haven't tried out the DAC's with the camera connector which I have. I have a cheap unpowered Muse I got for ten bucks that isn't as good as the iPhone 6 DAC. I am looking at buying an iFi Nano, but am wondering if it will really improve on the iPhone at all. My computer is complete garbage and I can't listen to it anymore due to jitter. Listen to any cymbals on the iPhone compared to computer. It's not close. The timing of the music is all off. I am setting up my iPhone as a source for my audio system. Streaming it from the iPHone. Also I like the Windows Server 2012. Doubt the iPhone can be beaten. Seriously.
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