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Driving DAC from iTunes?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

What is the best way to obtain digital output from iTunes to drive a digital-to-analog converter?


Options, with pros and cons, that I can think of include:


1.  USB port from computer running iTunes


  • Easiest way to get direct digital signal from the iTunes music while maintaining iTune library advantages
  • Seems to mean I have to use the computer that has my iTunes library... but is there a way to make a second computer behave like an iPod, i.e., synch with my iTunes computer and play its music (otherwise I have to keep my DAC and my iTunes computer within cord's length of each other)
  • And then how do I tell the computer to play its file into its USB port rather than its speakers?


2.  iPod or iPhone with Lightening Connector


  • This adds an element of portability (which is not useful unless the DAC is also portable) as well as smooth integration with iTunes library
  • However, though the Lightening connector puts out the digital signal from the iPod music, it seems you cannot get to it... Apple connectors include their own DAC that converts the signal to an analog "Line Out" signal, right?  And there is no USB output from a iPod or iPhone.


3.  iPod or iPhone with (older) 30-pin Connector


  • I vaguely recall that some manufacturers (e.g. CEntrance HiFi-M8?) offer the ability to read the digital signal from the 30-pin connector of older (gen 4) iPhones and iPods... right?
  • Or do they just use the analog line out that is on the 30 pin connector (and that went away with the newer Lightening connector)?


Anyway, it seems both counterproductive and degrading of sound to rely on an Apple DAC, then do something or other to get it back into digital form just so an audiophile DAC can again convert it to analog.


Thanks for any insight!

Edited by ruthieandjohn - 6/11/14 at 6:53am
post #2 of 4

On PCs when you plug a USB DAC (or DAC/amp) into the Win computer's USB port, audio is automatically sent to the USB port.

Are you looking for something that is portable?

post #3 of 4

First of all, what type of device are you using as the source?  


Second, if we're talking about computers, I don't believe you can route audio SPECIFICALLY from iTunes, you have to run all of your computers audio signal, with some exceptions. On Mac OS, you can specify for alerts or OS prompt noises to not run to the DAC, in which case they play through the default output source (like on board speakers), but any other audio say from a browser or something will also get sent along with the iTunes signal. There are some other app's (again, on Mac) that let you direct their audio signal exclusively, but I don't know of any way to do that with iTunes. I'm not sure about PC and what they allow in this regard.


The old 30-pin connector devices can send unconverted digital signal out to an external DAC, and I think Lightning can do this as well, BUT only on certain devices with the "made for iPhone / iPad" official branding on them, such as the Sony PHA-1, PHA-2, and some others. These devices tend to cost a lot more than other DAC's. I believe at the moment, the PHA-1 is the cheapest device that will accomplish this.

post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

On PCs when you plug a USB DAC (or DAC/amp) into the Win computer's USB port, audio is automatically sent to the USB port.
Are you looking for something that is portable?
No, not looking for portability.

Source will be either PC or iPod running iTunes. Happy to even invest in another source, since I'd think that with the DAC and amp already separate, the source is just a source of digital samples, so it should be simple, right? But I have essentially all my music in iTunes, and I rely on its infrastructure of download, playlists, and search.
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