iPad as streamer…

… it’s stable, has a superb DAC no matter the iteration & a huge display. Additionally, silent DC power when unplugged… I use them wired with the Apple lightning -3.5mm connector or wireless using an AirPort Express , line output RCA.

Lossless CD-quality, whether playing CDs or Tidal.

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Yes me too.
The music is preloaded on the device so no dropouts and hard wired.
Only for mainly background tunes but an iPad or iPod in an Arcam dock and fed to my amp with Linn Silver RCAs.
Does a good job on a radio app too. :+1:t2:


Apple are known for letting AAC have higher frequency range on Apple products (not Android).

Apple do have the worlds best silicon engineers AND best operating system to work with.
I’d like to think real benefits can come from such an ecosystem.

As an aside, using three ‘non Apple’ devices to play local files (Afro Celt Sound System - “Release”) this morning, using Digital Output; there were HUGE differences in quality (to those that notice the effects of going from tier 3 kit to tier 2 kit probably more easy to discern)…

The lowly FiiO M11+ which has independent power supplies and great circuit layout, dual clocks etc etc… sounded vague by comparison, and voices that were veiled by comparison. It didn’t track high frequency instruments at a low volume level very well during complex passages etc.
Jumping up to a Questyle QP1R led to a huge audio improvement. (To be fair I also moved from COAX to TOSLINK/‘Optical’)
Voices now had edges to them and conveyed their sense of recording space much better. Albeit slightly grainy in sound vs the next part used…
The Questyle QP1R widened the soundstage, improved the layout/‘layering’ of rows of instruments with respect to placing them with greater depth range on the ‘stage’. (they could be grouped more obviously and held space better, rather than becoming ‘vague’ sense of instruments)…
Up to the Astel and Kern SP2000T (again, fibre optic); which lost the grain on voices and made all edges a little softer, but with the much better staging/layout that the Questyle QP1R brought…

It is hard to say based on a brief test- the two to sort between really is the A&K and the Questyle product.
The Questyle QP1R has NO RADIOS inside, and whilst an ‘older part’ it has consistently proven one of the better transports I own.
The SP2000T was left inplace on a ‘sense’ that it was the most analogue of the players, and is certainly the ‘fatigue free listen’ of the three (“best of” on this criteria)…

The vocal clarity and improved sense of stage, setup of instruments on the stage, and nuances like height all come through on bettertransports.
I wasn’t looking for bass or ‘specific freuncies’, and the sheer amount of variance between these three players DIGITAL outputs was HUGE.
The A&K kinda feels like it is doing some sort of Digital Upscale or change to the digital feed (akin to the Denon CD players that make all digital output AL24’d).

I still feel the Questyle is ‘the one to beat’, and for their basic pricepoint in the second hand market, might prove useful to many punters who want to hear what a ‘good transport’ can actually do.

of course they have NO SMARTS, and are slow/clunky affairs to interface with…
(but they sound great)…

I did find that Apple Music, when played via the FiiO M11+ (COAX OUTPUT), if fed via a reclock box, could sound decent ‘CD Player’ quality.
In fact the only times Apple Music has sounded GOOD to me (beyond enjoying the music variety), was when feeding via a 20 year old consumer CD recorder that reclocks the signal going through it.
The FiiO M11+, when used this way (via a ‘reclock’), actually makes an Apple Music feed, that is still the worst (digital) source in the house, actually sound like music. (when compared to the same feed not reclocked, becomes very ‘ho, humm’)

Apples architecture circumvents a lot of issues, is my understanding, sure…
In a world of homogenised ‘good setups’ and many enjoying their setups however they may actually sit, without care to extract its’ best… I am sure Apple music/ ‘iPads’- work wonders for the masses. (certainly is their goal by design)

To make Android ‘tablets’ get to be ‘top end transports’; generally requires reconfiguring the part turning off 20-50 operating system settings to 'get in the ballpark.
The devices are useless for anything OTHER than music streaming, pretty much, once set this way.
(ie don’t expect to watch youtube whilst streaming, with sensors to see if you still have it in hands, and features like ‘double tap screen to wake’ engaged.
Oh and any system update is MOST LIKELY going to reset your defaults and require a decent reconfigure to get back to ‘dedicated music mode’.

That being said, when Android is highly configured (everything OFF), running software like Onkyo HF Player (has an inbuilt PCM to DSD ‘on the fly’ feature; great for Sabre DACs as an example); it can turn a ‘do everything device’ into a ‘slightly subpar’ Digital Audio Player (DAP).

Nothing touches owning a dedicated DAP, except for dedicated seperates for the home rig, but they have a few power issues to circumvent to get equal to mid tier DAPs, and RF protecting a ‘tiny’ DAP is reasonably easy vs large box home seperates.

Many paths to the summit.
I do agree that the digital transport quality of (older) iDevices I used used to seem ‘pretty good’, and is an established ecosystem, and what MANY choose to use as their NUMBER ONE method to stream digital audio.

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Compared to what? And what are you playing through (amp, speakers)?

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Good questions…

DACs I’ve used to compare…

Rega DAC-R
CAL Sigma 2
Moon 100D
Moon 300D
Supernait V1

Speakers … either Castle Chesters or Monitor Audio Studio SE20 25th Anniversary


Currently Magnum Dynalab MD208

Past… Naim 5italic & Supernait V1.

Also a Pioneer CD transport feeding Coax to the Rega … a useful reference source.

There’s a Moon 280D I’ll be using to compare next week…

When iOS devices had analogue headphone connections I found considerable variation in sound quality between different iPhones and iPads, but as you are using a Lightning port, that’s irrelevant because you are not using a DAC in the device, as it’s in the adapter.

I tried one of those adapters once and found it to sound very poor, so I bought an Audioquest Dragonfly instead which was a huge improvement.


Same here, I had been often very disappointed with the poor quality of DACs in iOS products, some have been appalling… certainly some of the iPods. Evidently DAC quality was not important for these products. Later iterations of iPhone and iPad use blue tooth or a digital interface which off loads the DAC function to the remote device and some of those like the Airpod Max are quite good, especially when on the move.
I have found, like you, attaching a DAC such as a Dragonfly to the iPad via the usb camera interface the best option and the iPad or iPhone can act well as a good digital source.

iOS is better behaved with varying sample rate audio… pretty important for streaming, compared to OSX.

Not at all in my, and seemingly others’ experience, see above. Which particular product did you think had a good DAC output?
I agree they can act well as digital sources feeding externally connected DACs, but the inbuilt DACs have been often poor to mediocre, depending on product, when you have been able to connect analogue devices directly… which of course is now not supported.

Not sure we agree with your view on the DAC quality.

However, as a transport with a lightning->SPDIF converter, the iPad is a very good source.

Scary quite how close iPad into nDAC via SMSL PO100 Pro gets to an NDX2 as source (given the gap in cost). We’re still using this whilst naim drag their heels implementing Tidal Max into firmware (and RPi into SMSL will be our medium term solution for Tidal Max into office SuperUniti until we upgrade there).


I prefer my iPad untethered to my system.

Have you tried Apple’s Universal Control?

If it works, the iPad can control the hardwired to your DAC connected Mac.

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A very scientific answer - thank you


I have no issue whatsoever with the SQ from the humble Apple Lightning-RCA. Objective testing is revealing…


Mind you, a good deal of the streaming of Tidal I do is wireless… using an AirPort Express 2nd gen. The main system uses the Rega DAC, fed optical & the office system uses it as a standalone DAC.

Again zero issues with SQ…


I’ll be doing a good deal of A/B comparisons up against a dedicated streamer this week. It won’t be a Naim, no chance of a demo unit… the Moon dealer is pleased to let me try their demo 280D.

An aside… for years I’ve used an ancient iPad with 30-pin AV cable to play my archived CD collection. If there’s any SQ difference between that & the same CD played via the transport & Rega DAC it’s indiscernible whether listened via headphones or speakers.

Thanks for that… this may be a simpler means cracking optical output however…

Lightening to USB converter, plugged into my CD player to use its DAC.
The best thing is it cost me nothing, just a little bit of up-cycling.

Well, we wanted SPDIF output. The SMSL offers simple conversion from USB to SPDIF or Toslink. Turns out the MQA decoding is very useful, as lots of Tidal hires is still MQA.

We only needed the USB to SPDIF converter, already owning the Apple Camera adapter (lightning to USB). The SMSL was less than 1/2 of the price of the one you link.

The SMSL and the device you’ve linked are only two of the 100s available. But the SMSL is very well reviewed, and we’ve found it sounds excellent. And you can charge iPad via Camera adapter when using it, another benefit.

Yes one of the issues is that lightning /usb C interfaces on the iPad are quite electrically noisy, they are not designed with hifi in mind, so the better connected devices like the Audioquest USB thumb drive DACs have more focus on noise decoupling, and I think sonically they benefit from this.
I have not played with lightning/usb c SPDIF converters, but the same would hold true to avoid noisy FM/Phase noise in SPDIF framing, and coupling into the end DAC. This applies both to Toslink and coax.

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Quite… I’m partial to the optical output from an AirPort Express or Apple TV for this reason.

Right - but the issue I describe would be identical whether Toskink (fibre) or coax.

Common mode noise flowing through the coax is however prevented with Toslink of course

sadly science and musicality started to diverge (strongly) when all DAC chips coming to market targetted ‘for phones’ (power sipping and pure spec sheet warfare were ‘the needs’ by consumers/format compatibility whilst being cheap to implement generally using ‘cheap’ filters etc)

I am more of a BurrBrown /Wolfson person, generally speaking, iseally using an off chip dedicated silicon for several filters…

‘Yes’; its the circuit and not the chip.
I have a Sabre DAC chip in a Burson Conductor V2+ which is more musical than most (ie flogs an “AKM 4499” Topping D90 for musicality), due to implementation…
Burson figured out, via listening tests, that the particular Sabre DAC chip they were implementing sounded better in ‘two channel mode’… (worse specs though).

Most of my favorite (DAC as a) circuit implementors have worked specific chips for years and oniw how to squeeze the most from them.

of course a nice class A output stage/no opamps/valves can all highly alter the DAC sound.

…true that the best measuring parts (spec sheet warfare/‘objective facts’) doesnt correlate with ultimate ‘sound quality’ (subjective traits)…

As an example- I went out of my way to get the ‘pre Sabre’ D90. Whilst you would have to fast A/B switch with any other capable DAC to show the Toppings weaknesses; tuned for musicality wasn’t strong, even vs DACs of budget(ish) pricepoints from a decade earlier.

If one doesnt notice the difference then it is all for nil, for THIS topic.
I use PCM output from my source rather than Dolby Digital/‘Atmos’; the massively improved audio quality, to me, when doing so justifies doing so.
I am happy using older DACs (/DAC chips too in modern kit) if the sound is the focus.
(I buy a DAC for musicality, not ‘spec sheet capability’)


having looked at your amp and DAC (etc) via reviews- I find this fairly hard to see as true (always).

depending on musical genre should be some noticeable differences.
nice amp btw, but the DAC will sound its’ best using COAX/Toslink inputs.

when I listen between DACs mostly they spund similar /‘the same’; but then SPECIFIC parts of tracks can reveal very large differences between them.

By the time my daughter was auditioning equipment -she knew to build a list of familiar test tracks, and I liked her selection (male vocal/femal vocal/four piece studio(mainstream)/made for radio/her fav genres(Tool and NIN))

her five/six tracks allowed her ears to pull apart familiar music.
DAC differences MAY reveal themself during fast AB switching, but in our house, we are happy leaving plugged in for a month often listening from a room away.
we can easily hear when we have MUSICAL parts in the chain… and some parts that pass a fast A/B test fail when viewed over longer time periods.
they all sound very similar, yes, “until they don’t” (familar test tracks can prove useful here, as well as ear training/knowing what to look for;sure, but musicality may not be easy to pick up in fast A/B switching with excited audience…)

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