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383 posts

Ultimate Geek
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Topic # 111838 16-Nov-2012 11:39 Send private message

I've been downloading quite a few albums from the likes of HD Tracks and playing them on my iPod Touch with the FLAC Player app. I realize the Touch has hardware limitations as to the bit rate it can output etc, but as the owner of a new iPad 3, I've been reading that with the help of a Camera Connection Kit from Apple when plugged into a DAC (Digitial Analog Converter), it's possible to output 24 bit music.

Has anyone done this?

What DACs are available in New Zealand? In the Auckland area? I've seen some on the Computer Lounge site, but they seem to only have the Firestone brand, which range from the reasonably priced to the quite expensive, and I haven't a clue whether they'd work or where I'd start.

Is it worth doing at all?

Any help appreciated.



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  Reply # 718193 16-Nov-2012 11:47 Send private message

The iPad 3 has superb output quality already, as per the measurements at Golden-ears. Some debate about pros and cons of 24-bit music, and to be perfectly frank I doubt you will actually hear any audible difference between lossless down-sampled to 16bit Vs true 24-bit play. If you did it will be a marginal difference at best, since in blind studies people cannot reliably tell the difference between 320kbps MP3 Vs FLAC, let alone FLAC at 16 Vs 24-bit. For the considerable expense involved I don't think it is justifiable.

Also, you'll probably need to upgrade your IEMs/headphones to add to the expense, otherwise they'll be the limiting step.

To get a DAC that can do 24-bit, and is at all improved over the inbuilt one in the iPad3, and to get a headphone capable of reproducing what will be a tiny difference (at best) you are probably looking at a cost upwards of $2000. Obviously some will want to try and chase that unicorn down regardless, but for myself, even as someone with a massive investment in audio I cannot see this being at all worthwhile.




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  Reply # 718203 16-Nov-2012 11:55 Send private message

NZtechfreak: The iPad 3 has superb output quality already, as per the measurements at Golden-ears.


Really? I've never tried listening to music on my 3rd gen iPad as I've found the audio quality from my iPhone 3GS/4S and 1st gen iPad to be pretty medicore compared to my Macbook Pro. Have they improved the audio hardware in the 3rd gen iPad or is it just my misperception of the older devices?

I've heard that the 1st gen iPhone had a Wolfson DAC but cost cutting put an end to that in later models.



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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 718207 16-Nov-2012 12:00 Send private message


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  Reply # 718218 16-Nov-2012 12:15 Send private message

I don't believe the DAC is where I would start - but I would certainly look at a headphone amplifier to drive your cans correctly. The difference between DAC's is rarely staggering, and most of the noticeable difference is on top end rigs where the end user is chasing their version of perfection.



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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 718226 16-Nov-2012 12:32 Send private message

I'm wondering if something like THIS would be suitable (although it doesn't mention the iPad in the Compatibility section)

As I said, I know absolutely nothing about DACS/amps.


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  Reply # 718236 16-Nov-2012 12:49 Send private message

alasta:
NZtechfreak: The iPad 3 has superb output quality already, as per the measurements at Golden-ears.


Really? I've never tried listening to music on my 3rd gen iPad as I've found the audio quality from my iPhone 3GS/4S and 1st gen iPad to be pretty medicore compared to my Macbook Pro. Have they improved the audio hardware in the 3rd gen iPad or is it just my misperception of the older devices?

I've heard that the 1st gen iPhone had a Wolfson DAC but cost cutting put an end to that in later models.


Yep, the iPad3 audio output is extremely highly regarded.

Older iDevices did use Wolfson DACs, and they later changed to Cirrus Logic DACs (not sure is cost a driving factor there or not, I think Cirrus Logic had low-power DACs for mobile purposes before other manufacturers and that may have been a driving factor as well). Cirrus Logic also make very high quality DACs though, albeit with a different sound signature (in general Wolfsons are considered to be warmer and also sound more 'musical' than the Cirrus Logic ones, which are considered more neutral, more detailed, and less warm - as far as I understand it from reading listeners impressions).

The iPhone 4S has exceptional sound quality for a phone, bested only by the iPhone 4 really, and certainly better than older iPhones regardless of the DAC in use. It is probably outputting less volume than your Macbook, and I would think that is why you perceive the Macbook as having the better quality sound (scientific studies have shown that increased volume is appreciated subjectively as better quality, for even as little as a 3dB volume increase, and that is why serious comparisons between audio gear are always volume-matched).


Dunnersfella: I don't believe the DAC is where I would start - but I would certainly look at a headphone amplifier to drive your cans correctly. The difference between DAC's is rarely staggering, and most of the noticeable difference is on top end rigs where the end user is chasing their version of perfection.


QFT. An amp is certainly a reasonable thought.


da5id: This is the sort of thing i've been reading - http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/audiophile-play-ipad 

And these sorts of thread on Head-Fi - http://www.head-fi.org/t/559390/ipad-or-ipad-2-and-24-bit-files 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/625493/ipad-with-24-bit-files-high-storage-capacity-portability-bit-perfect-configurations-that-works 


If you're going to be reading about 24-bit music, why not try this fairly scientific piece explaining why it isn't a good idea:

http://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html


You're welcome to come to my place Sunday afternoon David and listen to some 24-bit Vs 16-bit music on my rig with a $600 DAC/amp and several sets of headphones individually worth > $1000 each if you want to see if there is any noticeable difference. You could even do a blind A/B test in Foobar if you want to see whether you can detect any difference. I will say this for 24-bit music - there will be audible differences between some 24-bit and 16-bit music for the simple fact that 24-bit recordings have generally been lavishly remastered compared to previously release versions of those albums. Still don't think it's worth paying over the odds for 24-bit music when the same CD and ripping to 16-bit FLAC will border on being orders of magnitudes cheaper.


An excerpt from the piece I linked to:

Empirical evidence from listening tests backs up the assertion that 44.1kHz/16 bit provides highest-possible fidelity playback. There are numerous controlled tests confirming this, but I'll plug a recent paper,Audibility of a CD-Standard A/D/A Loop Inserted into High-Resolution Audio Playback, done by local folks here at the Boston Audio Society.

Unfortunately, downloading the full paper requires an AES membership. However it's been discussed widely in articles and on forums, with the authors joining in. Here's a few links:
This paper presented listeners with a choice between high-rate DVD-A/SACD content, chosen by high-definition audio advocates to show off high-def's superiority, and that same content resampled on the spot down to 16-bit / 44.1kHz Compact Disc rate. The listeners were challenged to identify any difference whatsoever between the two using an ABX methodology. BAS conducted the test using high-end professional equipment in noise-isolated studio listening environments with both amateur and trained professional listeners.

In 554 trials, listeners chose correctly 49.8% of the time. In other words, they were guessing. Not one listener throughout the entire test was able to identify which was 16/44.1 and which was high rate [15], and the 16-bit signal wasn't even dithered!




Twitter: @nztechfreak
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383 posts

Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 718266 16-Nov-2012 13:14 Send private message

Thanks NZTechFreak.

All good info. :)

BTW, my home setup (in my room) is:

a Pioneer amplifier, VSX-515, to
2 x Athena AS-B1 Audition Series bookshelf speakers.

I've got an old Sony DVD player plugged into the amp to play discs on.

I'm wondering if it's possible to introduce the iPad somewhere in this chain and listen with the headphones (I have the Audio Technica ATH-M50 headphones).


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  Reply # 718274 16-Nov-2012 13:18 Send private message

da5id: Thanks NZTechFreak.

All good info. :)

BTW, my home setup (in my room) is:

a Pioneer amplifier, VSX-515, to
2 x Athena AS-B1 Audition Series bookshelf speakers.

I've got an old Sony DVD player plugged into the amp to play discs on.

I'm wondering if it's possible to introduce the iPad somewhere in this chain and listen with the headphones (I have the Audio Technica ATH-M50 headphones).



You'd probably want to get a LOD (line out dock) for the iPad3 into that setup.




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  Reply # 718334 16-Nov-2012 15:16 Send private message

NZtechfreak:
alasta: Really? I've never tried listening to music on my 3rd gen iPad as I've found the audio quality from my iPhone 3GS/4S and 1st gen iPad to be pretty medicore compared to my Macbook Pro. Have they improved the audio hardware in the 3rd gen iPad or is it just my misperception of the older devices?

I've heard that the 1st gen iPhone had a Wolfson DAC but cost cutting put an end to that in later models.


Yep, the iPad3 audio output is extremely highly regarded.

Older iDevices did use Wolfson DACs, and they later changed to Cirrus Logic DACs (not sure is cost a driving factor there or not, I think Cirrus Logic had low-power DACs for mobile purposes before other manufacturers and that may have been a driving factor as well). Cirrus Logic also make very high quality DACs though, albeit with a different sound signature (in general Wolfsons are considered to be warmer and also sound more 'musical' than the Cirrus Logic ones, which are considered more neutral, more detailed, and less warm - as far as I understand it from reading listeners impressions).

The iPhone 4S has exceptional sound quality for a phone, bested only by the iPhone 4 really, and certainly better than older iPhones regardless of the DAC in use. It is probably outputting less volume than your Macbook, and I would think that is why you perceive the Macbook as having the better quality sound (scientific studies have shown that increased volume is appreciated subjectively as better quality, for even as little as a 3dB volume increase, and that is why serious comparisons between audio gear are always volume-matched).


Thanks for the detailed answer - that's really interesting to know.

I'll need to have a careful listen to both the iPad 3rd gen and iPhone 4S and maybe also give it a try with an amp. I have to admit that I've never done this before despite having owned these devices for a number of months because of my own preconceptions of poor harmonic performance.

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  Reply # 718344 16-Nov-2012 15:41 Send private message

alasta: Thanks for the detailed answer - that's really interesting to know.

I'll need to have a careful listen to both the iPad 3rd gen and iPhone 4S and maybe also give it a try with an amp. I have to admit that I've never done this before despite having owned these devices for a number of months because of my own preconceptions of poor harmonic performance.


 

Be interested to hear your thoughts on it, never listened to an iPad3 myself, but read an awful lot of good things about it.



FWIW here is a link to the Golden Ears measurements for the iPad 3:
http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&ie=UTF8&prev=_t&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=auto&tl=en&twu=1&u=http://ko.goldenears.net/board/index.php%3Fmid%3DGR_Mobile%26document_srl%3D2104844&usg=ALkJrhgYG6G0n5eQXl7Q6QxOO7wd3zWcZA




Twitter: @nztechfreak
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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 718398 16-Nov-2012 17:33 Send private message

Where's the best place in NZ to go for a DAC/amp, or do you guys order them online?

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  Reply # 718421 16-Nov-2012 18:36 Send private message

I've mostly purchased online, since the ones I've wanted aren't available here (most of them aren't, for that matter).




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  Reply # 718660 17-Nov-2012 10:56 Send private message

As with all amps / DAC's... listen first, then purchase.
I guess specialty stores will be your best port of call for audio kit. On-line computer retailers will seldom have any knowledge in audio quality, so all they can do is compete on price... but it's not a bargain unless it's the right bit of kit.

da5id : I think there's a good NuForce headphone amp / DAC with line-out capability (either RCA or coax) as well as USB in for iOS products. I've listened to it before, and for the money I was happy.
Icon iDo...
http://www.nuforce.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=25&Itemid=188/index.php



383 posts

Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 719006 18-Nov-2012 11:54 Send private message

Thanks for all your help.
Will def look further into it.


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  Reply # 719009 18-Nov-2012 12:05 Send private message

I had a decent listen to my 3rd gen iPad tonight and I have to admit it's much better than I expected. I suspect that the built in amp is just a bit weak because it really comes to life when I use an external amp (Fiio Alpen) even though my Sennheiser MM550-X probably aren't difficult to drive.

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