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Is there a DAC that sounds better than the Ipod/Ipad line out ?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I have seen a lot of discussion about bypassing the Ipod's dac, and there seems to be some options available to bypass the internal dac and extract the digital signal out of the device. However, there seems to be no clear concensus as to whether bypassing the internal dac really does gain anything or not. Does it improve the sound quality significantly ? Has a dac been found that if fed the digital output from the Ipod results in much better sound ?

In other words how good/bad is the internal dac and analog output section of the Ipod ?

Would like to hear comments on this matter.

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 12

Supposedly the Cypher Labs Algorhythm Solo and the Fostex HP-P1 provide better sound by bypassing the iPod internal DAC. I don't know how much of a difference there really is, and I probably never will, because those devices are very expensive. Someone in a much higher income bracket may well enjoy them, but it won't be me. 

post #3 of 12

Clas and HP-p1 are the obvious choices. I am not sure if it will be a hugh difference in sound quality if you travel by public transport:)

 

I am eye balling the new Clas -db. the bypassing of the internal DAC will see an improvement in sound quality but mind you you will need good headphones and good cables connecting the boxes.

post #4 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by goodsound View Post

I have seen a lot of discussion about bypassing the IPod's dac, and there seems to be some options available to bypass the internal DAC and extract the digital signal out of the device. However, there seems to be no clear concensus as to whether bypassing the internal DAC really does gain anything or not. Does it improve the sound quality significantly ? Has a DAC been found that if fed the digital output from the IPod results in much better sound ?

In other words how good/bad is the internal DAC and analog output section of the IPod ?

Would like to hear comments on this matter.

The cheapest external DAC I know of for the iPod's LOD port is the HRT iStreamer, $155.

post #5 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

The cheapest external DAC I know of for the iPod's LOD port is the HRT iStreamer, $155.

Is that a portable DAC? thought that that one was Desk top only not that the Clas is small

post #6 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by gidion27 View Post

Is that a portable DAC? thought that that one was Desk top only not that the Clas is small

The HRT iStreamer is more a desktop DAC, but you can carry it around in a backpack and plug it in when your sitting at a desk.

I thought when I said the price of $155, I assumed you would pass on buying it anyway.

post #7 of 12

that really depends on how resolving the rest of your system is, including your ears.

 

The ipod amp is more of a weakness then the DAC is, even if there is nothing special about the ipod DAC.

 

Ipod DAC's seem to be a waste to me because even if they can be (and usually are) better then an ipod, you're still limited to using 16/44 anyway.  this may not be a limit to you.  But you're also asking for it to be portable, what's the point in being portable if you're carrying all these extra boxes around, all sucking up battery power and all much more expensive than the ipod itself.  If you need something transportable to do critical music listening somewhere other than home is one thing but I'm not sure how an audiophile level system on the go really helps you out too much.  It's cheaper and easier to just improve your home system.  If you want digital off an ipod you can use the iPure which is <$90 and then feed the signal to any DAC you want (though it does include it's own DAC).  Or you could just take the signal from your computer.

 

But in the end, people have different needs than I do and it's only up to you.  Is it better? probably.  Do you care?  beats me.

post #8 of 12
Most people seem to forget about the Go-DAP X. It's cheaper than the CLAS & the HP-P1. I have the CLAS & Go-DAP X myself. Each have their own merits.

As for better than the iDevice DAC, that's a matter of personal opinion but to my ears, yes.
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:

Originally Posted by tme110 View Post

The ipod amp is more of a weakness then the DAC is, even if there is nothing special about the ipod DAC.

Do you mean the headphone amp ? or the line out opamp ? or both ? My original question pertains to the line out analog only.

post #10 of 12

the headphone amp.  I know what your question pertained to - the point was that since you are using the lineout you're already skipping the worst part of the ipod path
 

post #11 of 12

If you can just use your iPod/iPhone/Touch through it's line out on the go, the iPad is compatible with many self-powered DACs (ie, no part - not even the USB receiver chip - gets power off the USB input). I was a a Sennheiser even recently and everyone who saw my set-up always had to peek at the back, then scratch their heads. I always just thought people were aware of threads like this one.

 

700

 

There are other portable (battery-equipped) and reasonably transportable (small form factor, external PSU, etc) DAC-Amps out there, just check that thread - although at some point they stopped updating the list when it was clear how and why they work, but in case what you're looking at isn't mentioned anywhere, just ask the manufacturer if every component in it runs off the PSU and not through the USB power.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

The HRT iStreamer is more a desktop DAC, but you can carry it around in a backpack and plug it in when your sitting at a desk.

I thought when I said the price of $155, I assumed you would pass on buying it anyway.

 

Doesn't have an headphone output though, so he'd have to lug an amp around too.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tme110 View Post

the headphone amp.  I know what your question pertained to - the point was that since you are using the lineout you're already skipping the worst part of the ipod path
 

 

Don't they use an integrated DAC-headphone amp chip, so technically much of the difference is basically where the signal goes? The 4g/5g iPods also had that but those older Wolfsons had clean if maybe rolled-off earlier treble (I think some Cowons have the same chip); the 6g/7g I think measured better but flatter so there were a lot of people who preferred the older one.

post #12 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by goodsound View Post

I have seen a lot of discussion about bypassing the Ipod's dac, and there seems to be some options available to bypass the internal dac and extract the digital signal out of the device. However, there seems to be no clear concensus as to whether bypassing the internal dac really does gain anything or not. Does it improve the sound quality significantly ? Has a dac been found that if fed the digital output from the Ipod results in much better sound ?

In other words how good/bad is the internal dac and analog output section of the Ipod ?

Would like to hear comments on this matter.

 

Thanks!

Probably everyone has a different opinion as to what is a "significant" improvement in sound quality.  More so when cost of the improvements is added to the equation.

 

I first added an LOD > Pico to my iPhone 4s - thought it made a modest improvement to sound quality.   Better dynamics, somewhat improved transparency, better base definition.  But trying to isolate specific musical details as to why it was better was a challenge - it was the musical whole that was more engaging.  The add ons ($500) cost as much as the source.

 

I've since added a Solo -db.  It made what I believe was another modest improvement in sound quality - mostly in transparency.  It was a little easier to identify musical details that were "better", but adding it wasn't an epiphany.  Where I might use the LOD > Pico as a portable, the CLAS pretty much stays on my desktop.  Even if one went with the Solo -R, we are still looking at an additional $600 + with cables.

 

The sound quality straight from an iDevice is actually pretty good - I would be pretty happy with just that if that was all I had.  Through good compatible headphones, it can be quite satisfying.

 

There are rumors that Audioquest might come out with a iDevice compatible DAC / headamp similar to the Dragonfly.  It was originally thought that it might become available early next year, but I have heard rumors that the new Apple lightning connector might have affected those plans.  But if they do manufacture it, and it comes in any where near the Dragonfly price, maybe $300, it could be a game changer for many.  A "significant" improvement in sound quality and truly portable.

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