We have compiled a list of the best audiophile DACs for iPhone users. These are the Top 5 models that will give you the best sound quality.
Best DACs for your iPhone: Intro
iPhone users often complain about the sound quality of their headphones. They say that the sound is too tinny, or there is not enough bass. The problem might be due to the fact that the official Apple Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter designed for iPhones doesn’t provide enough power to drive the high-end headphones marketed toward audiophiles.
To solve this issue, you may need an external DAC/Amplifier combo with a built-in audiophile DAC along with a robust amp section to drive those power-hungry (low sensitivity) hi-fi headphones. The sound that comes from their headphone output will provide you with a sound that’s head and shoulders above what you get from the Apple dongle.
One of the main issues regarding buying a portable DAC/Amp for an iPhone is the need to connect to Apple’s proprietary Lighting jack. Most DAC/Amps are primarily set up to connect to a USB-C port like those on Android phones. In order to use the iPhone’s Lightning jack to transfer music from the phone, you either need to purchase an Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter ($29) and plug the DAC/Amp into it or grab a DAC/Amp that has it’s own Lightning connector or Lightning OTG cable.
Most of the portable DAC/Amps on our list either have a built-in Lightning connector or a Lightning OTG cable, so you can use them without buying an Apple adapter, but there is one really good-sounding option that requires one. Check out our list of The 5 Best Audiophile DACs For Your iPhone!
If you want to learn more about DAC/Amp combos and how they work, check out our Digital-To-Analog Converter (DAC) Buying Guide (2022):
Here’s our shortlist of The 5 Best Audiophile DACs For Your iPhone (2022):
- FiiO JadeAudio KA1 Headphone Amps Tiny Amplifier USB DAC ($55)
- SHANLING UA2 Portable USB DAC Headphone Amp w/Lightning Adapter ($95)
- Hidizs S9 Pro DAC & AMP + LT02 USB-C to Lightning Cable Bundle ($129)
- AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt USB DAC/Amp ($329)
- iFi GO bar Ultraportable DAC/Preamp/Headphone Amp ($329)
1. FiiO JadeAudio KA1 Headphone Amps Tiny Amplifier USB DAC ($55)
The FiiO JadeAudio KA1 is a lightweight DAC/Amp combo with a built-in lightning connector for iPhones. That means there’s no need for a separate adaptor.
It has decent power for driving various headphones, and the sound is extraordinarily smooth and expansive for a $55 DAC/Amp. It also decodes MQA so you can get hi-res playback from TIDAL.
If you’re looking for an amazingly affordable way to play hi-res music files on your Apple phone, then the FiiO JadeAudio KA1 is an excellent option.
2. SHANLING UA2 Portable USB DAC Headphone Amp ($95)
If you’re looking for an affordable balanced headphone amplifier, then the SHANLING UA2 Portable USB DAC Headphone Amp and its optional Lightning Adapter are perfect for you. We love the compact metal casing, the detachable OTG Lightning Cable (swappable to USB-C), and the balanced output option. Both the balanced and single-ended outputs can drive a wide variety of headphones, and the detachable cable makes it easy to use with an iPhone.
The sound is also excellent, especially on the Balanced side with its excellent separation and tonal balance. If you don’t care about MQA, the Shanling Audio UA2 is a top-flight DAC Amp Combo available for a song. (Full Review)
3. Hidizs S9 Pro DAC & AMP + LT02 USB-C to Lightning Cable Bundle ($129)
The Hidizs S9 Pro DAC & AMP is a very good product because it comes with a lot of features. Hidizs promised a commanding balanced dongle DAC with clean, transparent sound for your smartphone, and that’s pretty much what you get. It’s quite clean and transparent for the price point, and its output puts it at the top of the game in terms of power.
With Its detachable cable, which can be swapped between USB-C and Lightning, you can connect it to your computer via USB-C port and connect it to your phone via a lightning connector. It also has a 3.5mm single-ended jack and a 2.5mm Balanced jack for flexibility. (Full Review)
4. AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt USB DAC/Amp ($329)
This compact USB DAC/Headphone Amp is a powerhouse! The latest addition to the acclaimed Audioquest Dragonfly line, the Dragonfly Cobalt, is the best yet. It has the most power and the cleanest sound (thanks to a flagship ESS DAC Chip). It’s also the smallest and lightest DAC they have ever made. In addition, Cobalt has a depth to its sound that we’ve never experienced in a USB DAC/Amp. It’s also an MQA renderer.
If you want to use it with iPhone, you will need to purchase an Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter ($29) separately, but it’s worth it to get the spacious, detailed sound this DAC/Amp is capable of.
5. iFi GO bar Ultraportable DAC/Preamp/Headphone Amp ($329)
The iFi GO bar Ultraportable DAC/Preamp/Headphone Amp is the best portable audio device you can buy right now. With the Go bar, iFi Audio set out to make the most potent and capable ultra-portable DAC/Amp combo. Consequently, after putting it through its paces, I have to say iFi has knocked it out of the park.
While it’s just a touch larger than the competition, there is no other USB DAC/Amp in the ultra-portable category with the same power, features, and refined sound quality. As a result, this product, which is about the size of a pack of gum, can competently drive flagship headphones, a fact that changes the game. It also does full MQA decoding. In addition, it comes with a Lightning OTG cable right in the box, so you can start listening right away! (Full Review)
To learn more about getting the best sound from your iPhone, check out our article Lightning DACs and Camera Adapters: How To Get The Best Sound From Apple Music Lossless:
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I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My hunger for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.