What’s the Best Way to Get Hi-Res Audio from My iPhone to My Amplifier

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Q I have a Yamaha WXA-50 amplifier, and I would like to play hi-res audio from Apple Music and get the full benefit through the amp. In my mind, I would buy a DAC capable of connecting through USB to my iPhone, then to my amplifier’s digital audio-in. Most DACs seem to only have RCA outputs, but it seems to me that the purest experience is to “stay digital” until the amplifier converts to analog. Is there something I’m not thinking about correctly? Thanks in advance. Also, I listen to S&V through the United States National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled. Thanks for making S&V available to me! —Jeremiah Rogers

A First, you’re welcome! And thanks for listening! We’re thrilled you can take advantage of that service to get your S&V fix.

Your seemingly simple question led me down a rabbit hole of “what if…?” ideas trying to find the best way to get a digital signal from your iPhone to your Yamaha WXA-50 (or really any amplifier). The crux of your question seems to be: “What’s the best way to get high-resolution audio from my iPhone to my amplifier.” First, we can rule out Bluetooth. Former editor Al Griffin already answered this question, which boils down to this: “Bluetooth tech transmits audio wirelessly using lossy compression that discards data [and] even the latest version… uses lossy compression.” Sony’s proprietary LDAC implementation gets close — 32-bit/96 kHz — but Apple doesn’t support that.

Your Yamaha does support Apple Airplay, which can deliver audio using Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) at up to 24-bit/48 kHz; not full hi-res but technically “better than CD” at 16-bit/44.1 kHz. But that’s still a far cry from the 24/192 you probably want to enjoy.

You mention a DAC — which stands for digital-to-analog converter — but want to have the “purest experience” by staying digital. This would be some kind of digital transport from your phone to your amplifier. The closest thing I’m aware of is Apple’s Lighting Digital AV Adapter ($49) that sends digital audio/video over HDMI, including hi-res audio, according to Apple. But your Yamaha doesn’t have an HDMI input.

For your installation, your best bet is getting Apple’s Lighting to USB Camera Adapter ($29) and a quality USB DAC like the Audioengine D1 or DAC3 or AudioQuest Dragonfly, though both of those can only handle 96 kHz, not 192 kHz. Another option would be Cambridge Audio’s DacMagic 100, which is a bit more expensive but offers a lot more flexibility, has an asynchronous USB input, and handles 192 kHz signals. You can make an analog connection to your Yamaha amplifier from any of these.

Of course, you could bypass all of these workarounds and opt to use a different streaming service that offers hi-res listening that Yamaha MusicCast natively supports, like Tidal.

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3ddavey13's picture

I challenge anyone to tell the difference between the same 24-bit audio file sampled at 48 or 192kHz. There was a good reason 44.1 kHz was chosen for CDs. All audio data above 20kHz is inaudible, and that's for people with excellent hearing. There is one thing I don't understand, though. According to reviews of high-end DACs, 24-bit data is truncated to 19 to 20-bits, at best. So what good is 24-bits? What exactly is "high-resolution" audio? How about it, S&V? A technical article explaining both PCM and DSD and exactly what quality of audio we are getting from our hi-res audio files with our 32-bit DACs!