Do you really need an external DAC to get the most from Apple Music?

Just_Me_D

Ambassador Team Leader, Senior Moderator
Moderator
Jan 8, 2012
59,852
663
113
Visit site
No you do not, but having one can indeed be beneficial. I bought one off of Amazon a few years ago out of curiosity and really enjoyed the boost in power and sound. With that being said, it’s not practical for listening to music on the go.

I rarely use it at this point, but every now and then I’ll have the urge to.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Laura Knotek

tadpoles

Well-known member
Jul 20, 2015
782
12
18
Visit site
I have several external DACs and heaphone amps. Even they, paired with an good set of headphones, take wonderful advantage Apple’s lossless and high quality codecs but as stated above they’re not necessary to enjoy the music. If you decide to invest in said equipment you don’t have to spend a lot.
453befc2e99564a98535a9a8e33095b0.png
 
  • Like
Reactions: Laura Knotek

scruffypig

Well-known member
Feb 16, 2014
2,113
19
38
Visit site
This is misleading since Apple Music doesn’t require an external DAC for use with Apple Music. Apple doesn’t offer music in DSD format for example, or any other music format not compatible with their own DAC.
 
  • Like
Reactions: FFR

Up_And_Away

Well-known member
Aug 27, 2021
1,215
49
48
Visit site
(Not speaking of ultra hifi room audio system) The most dramatic improvement you can get out of Apple Music is getting a very good quality wireless headphones or TWEBs. This will by far make the most dramatically noticeable improvement in audio, again lossless or not. One of the best things Airpods and subsequent other HQ wireless brands have done is to expose substantially better quality audio to a much much wider audience, and make it matter to them. Imho, for most, very good audio quality is learned, it’s not a Eureka! I’ve discovered very good quality audio. Sadly IME to many, good quality audio was simply thumping bass (Stairway to Heaven just need thump? Ok…).
A DAC-wired headphones-lossless stream is getting up to as good as it gets but that difference is notable to audiophiles, a bit of difference to veteran HQ wireless users, not worth it to newer HQ wireless and others.
 

Wotchered

Well-known member
Oct 29, 2013
3,208
91
48
Visit site
I’m happy enough with the Apple dongle and a pair of wired “final E3000”s these have the best clarity I have found, if a little short on bass.
I am not going to spend thousands on something I listen with 8hrs a week max.
 

FFR

Well-known member
Nov 7, 2012
3,351
424
83
Visit site
Apples spatial audio + AirPods Pro > dac.

You can’t call yourself a true phone enthusiast without experiencing it. Even android bloggers agree .
1a167dea6793dd25cb7b5c45b976887a.png
 

scruffypig

Well-known member
Feb 16, 2014
2,113
19
38
Visit site
An external DAC doesn’t accomplish much more, since the DAC Apple uses in their wired ear buds and Lightning port to headset adaptor is already sufficient to deliver the bandwidth and quality that Apple Music is encoded at.
 
Last edited:

tadpoles

Well-known member
Jul 20, 2015
782
12
18
Visit site
I don't mean to start a controversy and I don't want to be an "audio snob". This is gonna be challenging because I realize not everyone HAS or wants to spend money on a "reasonaable"-quality external DAC and and wired headphones. The tube headphone amp pictured below is from Woo Audio. Also pictured are two headphone amps from Burson Audio. The DACs are from Oppo and DacMagic. Wired headphones are from Grado, Sennheiser, and AKG. Wireless headphones are Sony and Soundcore. I don't purport that this is "high-end" but its closer to "Mid-Fi" and it sounds good and reasonably accurate to me.

I have a AudioQuest Dragonfly Red (external USB DAC ~$200) which is said to sound "good" by some reviewers. With my decent-quality CANS it sounds like poo next to the Bursons, Woo, and Oppo. Poo. The clarity is markedly decreased (for these headphones). My iPhone 14 PM can't properly drive my wired headphones. They all lack bass coming directly out of the iPhone. This is why the external DAC and headphone amps were necessary FOR ME.

All that to say this: Apple Music sounds better to ME via the above-noted DACs and wired headphones than it does through my girl's Airpod Max's or my Sony WH-1000xm3 or Soundcore wireless headsets (hey, I need SOMETHING for the gym and long runs).

Why?

Clarity. Detail. Bass.

Most (not all) wireless cans pump up the bass so much that you'd have to use an EQ to try to correct it (and most people don't). It can be fun, sometimes, but it is not accurate and can be fatiguing. This doesn't even mention clarity and detail which the wireless CANs I've listened to never seem to get right.

You don't, in my opinion, have to be an audiophile to appreciate accurate audio.

Now, most aren't gonna spend $1000+ pursuing accurate audio. ...but some might spend $500-$600. ...which is why I mentioned the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt. Airpod Max headphones (or less) are not what you get when you're seeking accurate audio. They're what you seek when convenience and budget are the priority. They're noise canceling (great) bass heavy-ish (fun) well-constructed cans.

I am an audio enthusiast but not an audio snob.

You've read in posts above that wireless headphones are your best choice for Apple Music. I disagree. ...but only because accuracy is my pursuit. Believe it or not, you can spend almost $20K just on headphones pursuing "accuracy". You can spend more on DACs, pursuing accuracy. To me, that's crazy but <$1000 is not. Most aren't gonna spend that or anything close.

What are your priorities?

An audio enthusiast's perspective.
581eb9f3a3c057f5d740e7906b543603.jpg
5dfff7134f8926adc8cd1dd6fd5b4622.jpg
fb182c4a810f7eee699b88067c4581f8.jpg
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Laura Knotek

Laura Knotek

Well-known member
Jun 15, 2012
2,687
7
38
Visit site
Another thing to keep in mind is that one doesn't need to use Apple products to listen to Apple Music lossless. I have Android devices but listen to Apple Music lossless. With my ifi HIP DAC 2 and Beyerdynamic 70 ohm headphones the music sounds amazing. Otherwise Samsung isn't nearly as good as LG was.
 

scruffypig

Well-known member
Feb 16, 2014
2,113
19
38
Visit site
But you do need to be an Apple Music subscriber, which does limit the devices you can use. The music isn’t yours to keep. You are only renting it.
 

Trending Posts

Members online

Forum statistics

Threads
260,677
Messages
1,767,803
Members
441,256
Latest member
emii28