Apple is fully committed to Hi-Res audio and offers a large part of its Apple Music library in Hi-Res. Unfortunately, listening to Hi-Res on your iPhone or iPad isn’t easy. Here’s what you need.
High-resolution audio, better known as Hi-Res audio, is music with a higher bit depth and sample rate than standard CD-quality audio. The first thing you need to start listening to Hi-Res on your iPhone or iPad is, well, some Hi-Res music to listen to.
Apple Music offers a sizable portion of its catalog in Hi-Res, but it’s far from the only source of Hi-Res audio on your iPhone. We’ll look at other options later.
One important thing to note is that there is currently no way to listen to true Hi-Res audio over Bluetooth. There are higher quality Bluetooth codecs like LDAC, but these still compress the original’s audio for delivery to your headphones or earbuds.
Until there are better wireless options, you’ll need wired headphones. Of course, removing the headphone jack on newer iPhone and iPad models makes this more difficult. Apple makes a Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Adapterwhich allows you to connect headphones, but again there are limitations.
While you can technically listen to high-resolution music with the headphone adapter, you’re limited to 24-bit/48kHz. You can listen to higher resolution music files or streams, but they will be downsampled to 48kHz, so you won’t get the full quality.
For true Hi-Res audio on your iPhone or iPad, you need to bypass the internal digital-to-analog converter (DAC) by using an external converter.
Connecting an external DAC to your iPhone or iPad doesn’t feel like the “Apple method,” but it’s far from a hack. apple even states that you need an external DAC for Hi-Res listening in a separate documentation.
The good news is that most DACs you buy will work with other phones and computers, not just your Apple device. That means you can use them to listen to Hi-Res music from different devices. You’ll probably want a DAC/headphone amp combo for ease of use, but you can buy them separately if that works better for you.
While DACs can get expensive, they come in a fairly wide price range. That FiiO NEWK3, for example, costs $99 and combines a headphone amp with converters capable of playing files and streams up to 384kHz/32-bit. It also supports DSD files (another type of high-resolution audio files) up to DSD256.
The FiiO NEWK3 has an integrated headphone amplifier and supports the most common Hi-Res formats. If you’re looking for an easy and affordable way to boost your iPhone’s sound, then this is it.
Most DACs you will find use a USB connection instead of Lightning. That means, depending on your device, you might need one more piece of hardware to complete your setup.
All current Apple iPhones use a Lightning connector. That means you’ll need a dongle unless your DAC includes a Lightning cable or adapter. Both Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter and the Apple Lightning to USB3 camera adapter works depending on whether you need USB 3.0 or not.
This works for smaller DACs powered by USB. If you’re using a larger powered DAC, make sure it’s plugged in. Then connect the adapter to your phone and the USB cable from the DAC to the adapter.
As long as your DAC is USB compliant (which the vast majority of them are) it should work once plugged in and powered on. Plug in your headphones and listen.
If you’re using an iPad with a Lightning connector, the iPhone method directly above works the same way. However, if you have an iPad with a USB-C port, using a DAC is much easier.
As long as you have a USB-C cable or USB-C adapter for your DAC, it should be ready to go. Again, most of these devices use class-compliant USB audio, so plugging in and powering on your DAC should be all you have to do.
There are two ways you can listen to high-resolution music on your iPhone or iPad: streaming services or your own library of music files. Streaming is pretty easy, so let’s take a look at what it takes to use your own high-resolution files.
iPhones and iPads both support MP3, AAC and ALAC, as well as uncompressed WAV and AIFF audio files. While iOS and iPadOS both support FLAC format, you can’t use them in the Music app like you can with ALAC files. The only way to listen to FLAC is in the Files app or with 3rd party music apps.
Moving these files to your device is easy, especially if you use the Music app on macOS or iTunes on Windows. Both apps make it easy to sync your high-resolution library to your iPhone or iPad over a wired connection. However, using Apple formats like ALAC will generally make your life easier.
While Apple is obviously promoting the Apple Music Hi-Res catalog, it’s not the only streaming service with lossless audio and Hi-Res. Amazon Music HD and tide Both offer Hi-Res audio, although Tidal subscriptions come in multiple tiers, including some that don’t offer Hi-Res.
For a more in-depth look at which service is the best, take a look at our guide to which music streaming service offers the best quality.
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