Apple devices and music have a long history together. Musicians and other creative types often use Mac, and iPod was a big step for portable music. Today, the iPhone carries the fax.
Whether you're an audiophile or just want the highest sound you can buy, high-resolution audio is exciting. While it's easy to build and maintain a high-resolution music collection on your computer, playing it on your iPhone or iPad isn't that easy.
Let's take a look at the sound of loud sound on iOS.
What is Hi-Res Audio?
There is no standard for high resolution sound, so this term essentially means higher sound than CD quality. It also means lack of lossy compression, such as that used for MP3 files.
Hi-res audio can come in many different formats such as Apple Lossless (also known as ALAC), FLAC, MQA and DSD. We mainly focus on ALAC and FLAC here.
What do IOS devices support by default?
You can play some loud sound on your iPhone or iPad out of the box ̵
Despite the FLAC support in IOS for multiple versions now, the music jacket won't play FLAC files either.
There are some reasons for the limit of 24-bit / 96kHz. First, this is the highest bit rate supported by EarPods that comes with iPhones. The second is that iTunes doesn't even allow you to transfer files with higher bit rates to the iPhone.
Let's start by solving the hardware problem. Then we will move into restrictions on software.
An extremely cheap piece of hardware can make a big difference
Like them or not, EarPods ships with iPhones are not the best headphones in the world . The problem with newer iPhones and iPads is that they don't have headphone jacks to let you connect to your favorite headphones. Bluetooth headphones are an option, but you do not get all the benefits of high sound over a Bluetooth connection.
Fortunately, there is a solution to the lack of a headphone jack that also has some surprising benefits. The lightness of the 3.5mm adapter sold by Apple (one of Apple's many adapters) is no longer included in the box with an iPhone, but it will allow you to connect to any headphones you want. The other advantage is the ability to play music up to 24-bit / 192kHz.
This is because the adapter contains a digital to analog converter (DAC). These take the digital signal coming from your phone and turn it into an analog signal that the headphones can use. The specific DAC in Lightning for 3.5mm converter is a 24-bit model made by Cirrus Logic that supports audio at bit rates up to 192 kHz.
As long as the headphones do not need much power to run, this cheap adapter will be your ticket to raise sound goodness. If you're looking for a set of headphones to pair with, we have a list of the best wired headphones you can buy.
Looking for even higher quality? It won't be cheap
If you have a set of expensive headphones and want even better sound quality, you might want to consider another DAC. There are many options that work with iOS devices and span a wide range of prices.
At the lower end of the price range you have the FiiO i1 Portable DAC. This probably provides comparable quality to Apple's adapter, but adds inline controls and a built-in microphone.
Moved up in price, AudioQuest Dragonfly Black will get you a significant bump in quality. It comes with a Lightning to USB adapter.
AudioQuest Dragonfly Red has even better sound quality and also comes with an adapter.
If you are looking for a top solution, love the sound enthusiasts Chord Mojo. That said, it is extremely expensive and you need a separate adapter or aftermarket cable to connect it to your iPhone.
The main quality of buying an external DAC is sound quality. They are not limited to just your iPhone or iPad. You can also use most of these with your computer or Android device.
On the downside, most of these are cumbersome compared to Apple's Lightning to 3.5mm adapter. This is especially true with larger models like the Chord Mojo. If you are listening at home or at work, this is not a big deal, but it can be a problem if you want to listen while on the move.
You also need the right software
We & # 39; I've already looked at the limitations of the IOS Music app. Fortunately, you're not stuck with it. There are many high-resolution music players for iOS, but here are some options.
For music you own: Vox Music Player
Vox Music Player is one of the most popular music players for iPhone. Not only will it play hi-res ALAC, but it does support FLAC, DSD and more. Even better, it's free.
When it comes to using all the features, you need to sign up for a Vox Premium subscription. This costs $ 5 per month, $ 50 per year, or $ 90 for a two-year subscription. For the prize, you get advanced audio settings, the ability to sync music from your Mac to the iPhone, and unlimited access to the cloud library for the music library.
Download: Vox Music Player (Free, subscription available)
For Streaming: Tidal
If you prefer to stream your music instead of To own it, Tidal is a better alternative to Spotify. Its $ 10 / month Premium subscription offers sound quality comparable to Spotify or Apple Music. Where it shines, it's a $ 20 per month Hi-Fi subscription plan.
The Hi-Fi plan lets you stream all tracks in lossless 16-bit 44.1kHz CD quality, but it's not the real drawing. With a Hi-Fi subscription, you also get access to the Tidal Masters. Tides make these available in the Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) format.
These streams are typically 24-bit / 96kHz quality, but the MQA format provides smaller, slightly streamable file sizes. If you like to listen while on the move but still want high quality, this is a great option.
Should you decide to sign up for Tidal, we strongly recommend doing it through the site. If you sign up through the App Store, you pay an additional 30 percent for your subscription to cover Apple's fees. There is no reason to do this, since you do not get any extra for your money.
Download: Tides (Subscription required, free trial available)
What about Hi-Res Audio on your Mac?
Many of the limitations mentioned above are not present on macOS. For example, iTunes has no problem playing 192kHz / 24-bit ALAC files. That said, a quality DAC and headphone amplifier will still help you get the best results.
If you are not using ALAC, you also need a different app than iTunes to listen to your music. Fortunately, there are many options available. For an overview, take a look at our list of the best hi-res music apps for macOS
Explore more about: Apple Music, Audiophiles, iOS Apps, Streaming Music, Tidal.