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Review: Apple vs Google USB-C Headphone Adapters

Foulchet

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In my case (France so the EU version), the Lighning->Jack adapter is just a bit short to drive an AKG 712 Pro and has a slight "blurry" feeling overall. Like 2/3 of the iPhone 11 pro sound level was enough but the sound still sounded a bit lacking. I performed a fast AB (mostly blind because I did not remember at all what was plugged to what) on a Cayin HA-1A Mk2 (tube) amp to compare it to a Supreme FXIII based motherboard (Asus ROG Rampage Gene IV, a ~2012 high-end motherboard). the level was roughly matched with an Apple Watch mic and the motherboard sounded marginally better.
In short : for the price, this is a pretty good solution and technically enough for most people. I found it lacking afetr having compared to the Marantz CD6006 headphone out and I think only the amp part is really impactful in that case. Else I was satisfied overall.

I've ordered the Cayin iDac-6 Mk2 which costs 999 euros (less with summer sales but it is of course a completely irrationnal purchase but this will be my endgame) and it will be fun to AB them.
 
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nerone

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The headphone output of the Marantz cd 6006 is not good, Apple sounds better.
 

Saidera

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村上春樹 Haruki Murakami and the Apple iPod (and MD Walkman)

Today I ran for an hour and ten minutes, listening on my Walkman to two albums by the Lovin’ Spoonful—Daydream and Hums of the Lovin’ Spoonful—which I’d recorded on an MD disc.

A lot of runners now use iPods, but I prefer the MD player I’m used to. It’s a little bigger than an iPod and can’t hold nearly as much data, but it works for me. At this point I don’t want to mix music and computers. Just like it’s not good to mix friends and work.

This morning I ran an hour and fifteen minutes, listening to Carla Thomas and Otis Redding on my MD player.


I always listen to music on my iPod when I go jogging, and I have about 7 iPods with 1000-2000 songs on each one. I have about 7 of them, and today I'd like to show you some of the songs from the lineup.

What is the best music for running? If the rhythm changes in the middle of the race, it's very difficult to run, so it's better to have a consistent rhythm, preferably a simple rhythm. Ideally, the melody should be easy to sing along to, and if possible, the music should give you courage.

Before the event began, the refreshing background music playing in the hall was Murakami-san's running iPod on shuffle. What a nice touch. Murakami, who runs to "rhythmic, easy-running music", has five iPods in total: two for running, one for driving between his home in Kanagawa and work in Tokyo, one for Jazz and one for flying, which is mostly classical.

I put everything on my iPod from my CDs," he says, "and I'm amazed that I have time to do that. I'm very diligent," he said.

When he is driving, he says, he gets carried away by the music and drives too fast, and is sometimes caught by "people who have no blood or tears in their eyes". Murakami says he had to take a "very boring course" when he got a traffic ticket. That afternoon, he had to do community service, and the audience was shocked to hear that he was standing with a flag at an intersection near Shin-Yokohama station.

Murakami-san's place / Haruki Murakami's official website for a limited time: When I run, iPods are a necessity. I have three iPods with about 2,000 songs on each, and I listen to them while I run. It's a lot of work to get that many songs on there. It's a convenient but time-consuming world. For jogging, I tend to listen to American rock, because it's simple and easy to listen to, and for driving, I tend to listen to tribute albums. Then there are the soundtracks. If you look closely at the soundtracks, there are some rare tracks that are quite interesting. In the U.S., I buy them at second-hand shops for a dollar or two each, and then I extract them from there. Used soundtrack CDs are cheap anyway. I also have a travel iPod, which has jazz and classical music on it. I listen to it on the plane, mostly. I also have readings of Crime and Punishment and The Tale of the Rainy Moon. When it comes to this kind of thing, I'm a real stickler. I'm like a child.

The influence of music on my writing is huge: "I'm always rereading the text, checking the rhythm, the sound, the flow in my head. Sometimes I even read it out loud. I think I've learned a lot about writing from music.
 

Saidera

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It's not a far stretch to say that Haruki Murakami, like ASR, endorses the Apple sound, as implemented in Apple USB-C (CS46L06: 98dB SINAD / 113dB SNR).
 

Foulchet

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The headphone output of the Marantz cd 6006 is not good, Apple sounds better.

I do not know if at low levels the Apple dongle is better or not but the amplification (at least in my EU model) is just too weak. Plugged to an amp and using the Apple dongle I have not tested it and differences are probably minor but alone the CD6006 is hands down a winner at least for my headphones.
 

Saidera

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There has to be more dongles like these Meizus and Apples available across the world and not just online.
The Apple Adapter.
20210714_120149.jpg
 

Spcysls

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I saw a reddit post of someone driving the 6xx with the apple dongle coming out of an iPad Pro saying it can drive them with most music at 80% volume and rarely needs to go up to 90-100% so I will be giving it a shot as a cheap portable solution. I have a heresy and modi 3+ at my desk but I always find myself wanting to walk around the house with them and I don’t want a bulky usb amp as a solution. If they’re not good enough I’ll probably go with the Meizu dongle.
I tried the apple dongle with my ipad pro and it was as Amir said-sounded good but definitely lacked overall punch and low bass. I can’t find the Meizu pro dongle anywhere-only the standard model, so I’m going to wait for better portable products to release as we are in the golden era of amps and dacs. It’s not too bad to just use my airpods pro when I’m walking around my house and 6xx when I have my more powerful gear by my desk.
 

Saidera

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definitely? If it's an issue of driving power, or impedance or sth else, Meizu may be a remedy. If large phone companies sold dongles like Meizu's around the world...
 
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Spcysls

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That would probably still lack some punch as I like to listen to some songs quite loud and have a little headroom. I might get the E1DA 9038D as that wouldn’t be too bulky if I used a short usb c cable.
 

CuteStudio

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It's definitely an electrical potential related problem, but not a classic ground loop like that with active speakers for example.
The RME is an IEC Class II device with an external DC power supply. The problem occurs with USB devices and the mainboard audio (is that run via the USB controller?), however it is very variable in quantity. With the Topping E30 (DAC meant for desktop applications with seperate data and power lines) for example it makes about a 2dB difference from 110.x to 108.x, repeatable and definitely measurable, but that wouldn't constitute an audible concern. With the Apple dongle the effect is far, far greater.
With the dongle run from the laptop that is then plugged in via its power supply (also Class II), a 50Hz spike (and its second harmonic) becomes visible in the measurements, but the noise floor doesn't really change (and yes, I should use averaging to investigate such effects).
I suspect the dongle is just very sensitive to any supply voltage irregularities - don't let the snake oil brigade read that though :)
With the perfectly clean DC from a battery powered device - the way it was intended to be used - it just simply works best.

I just had a run-in with - perhaps - this problem, a terrible low level buzzing that I thought was a ground loop.

It turned out to be a poor quality USB PSU (IIRC the 2.5A unit it came with), so I would caution that it does seem quite sensitive to PSU quality. Perhaps there is a filter or different way of powering it with a decent supply, that would plug into the USB side (Perhaps before the USB A to C adapter I use). There must be quite a margin for sound quality improvement here: a previous super-cheap DAC didn't really care much about the PSU.
 

Darwin

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Despite a Hawthorne Stereo salesman telling me my Mac's built-in DAC probably sucks (in order to sell me a Bluesound Node 2i), I have some doubts that the audible clicks from the dongle are worth the (yet to be proven) possibility of worse sound from the Mac's motherboard. Maybe when I get some good speakers I'll be able to hear the difference. Now I just hear unnecessary clicks when the thing is supposed to be silent.
Apple is known and has been for a long time as having better Dacs than your average Windows laptop.
 

Saidera

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Apple dongle/adapter is a must for every single person on this planet...
 
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Apple is known and has been for a long time as having better Dacs than your average Windows laptop.
I wound up with a Topping EX5 DAC anyway. I doubt I notice the difference in DAC quality, but I wanted to eliminate an occasional ground loop and also power my HD600 headphones.
 

CuteStudio

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Does anyone run this Apple USB-C (on a Raspberry Pi)?
I'm getting some interesting 'run times' when playing 44.1k CD tracks through it.

It plays them all about 10% fast...

16 bits into the old PCM USB-B adapter...
{wpi:~ 45} date ; aplay -q --disable-resample --disable-format --device=hw:2,0 /tmp/mystery16.wav ; date Sat 31 Jul 17:38:39 BST 2021
Sat 31 Jul 17:43:02 BST 2021
= 263 seconds (correct)

24 bits into the Apple USB-C adapter...
{wpi:~ 39} date ; aplay -q --disable-resample --disable-format --device=hw:1,0 /tmp/mystery.wav ; date
Sat 31 Jul 17:09:21 BST 2021
Sat 31 Jul 17:13:23 BST 2021
= 242 seconds (10% fast)

16 bits into the Apple USB-C adapter...
{wpi:~ 49} date ; aplay -q --disable-resample --disable-format --device=hw:1,0 /tmp/mystery16.wav ; date
Sat 31 Jul 17:45:04 BST 2021
Sat 31 Jul 17:49:06 BST 2021
= 242 seconds (10% fast)

16 bits into the Apple USB-C adapter (no disable resample)...
{wpi:~ 50} date ; aplay -q --disable-format --device=hw:1,0 /tmp/mystery16.wav ; date
Sat 31 Jul 17:51:24 BST 2021
Sat 31 Jul 17:55:27 BST 2021
= 242 seconds (10% fast)

My theory is that it runs, by default, at 48k, so a 44.1k file gets hoovered up 10% faster.
Has anyone measured the duration of their songs on this. I don't think it's related to the Pi, but perhaps to Linux ALSA.

I could upconvert to 48k, but I'd prefer to dig a little further..!
 

CuteStudio

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Ok fellow Apple USB-C DAC fans, following further testing, by default, this device, in Linux (only tested on Raspberry PI, under ALSA) runs at 48k.
It doesn't seem to matter what flags you give aplay, it just does 48k.

So if you feed it a 48k file, it's very happy and the timing is perfect.
But of you feed it a 44.1k file, it plays about 10% fast (48/44.1 x too fast).

I did wonder why the vocals seemed to be a higher pitch than I'd been used to - this is why!
The world is speeding up (spiritually, and physically, some days are almost 2ms faster...).. but not that fast..
So check how long your songs last, and make any bitrate changes you need to.

It really does sound nicer at the correct speed :)
 

Frank Dernie

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Ok fellow Apple USB-C DAC fans, following further testing, by default, this device, in Linux (only tested on Raspberry PI, under ALSA) runs at 48k.
It doesn't seem to matter what flags you give aplay, it just does 48k.

So if you feed it a 48k file, it's very happy and the timing is perfect.
But of you feed it a 44.1k file, it plays about 10% fast (48/44.1 x too fast).

I did wonder why the vocals seemed to be a higher pitch than I'd been used to - this is why!
The world is speeding up (spiritually, and physically, some days are almost 2ms faster...).. but not that fast..
So check how long your songs last, and make any bitrate changes you need to.

It really does sound nicer at the correct speed :)
Surely it is the device sending the stream, ie the Raspberry Pi, which determines the sampling frequency communicated to the DAC?
It may be that the DAC has a default of 48kHz if not flagged otherwise but I can't think of any reason why one would "blame" the DAC rather than the hardware (or at least its software) feeding it.
 

CuteStudio

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Surely it is the device sending the stream, ie the Raspberry Pi, which determines the sampling frequency communicated to the DAC?
It may be that the DAC has a default of 48kHz if not flagged otherwise but I can't think of any reason why one would "blame" the DAC rather than the hardware (or at least its software) feeding it.

I don't know, it's buried in the Linux ALSA sound system.
Aplay does allow the bitrate to be specified, and to be told to, or not not to resample... but none of that made any difference.
The only thing that worked was to feed it a 48k file.
Easy for me as it's just a setting (Although I did need to tighten up my 48k conversion LOL), but I'd be interested in the findings of others.

Perhaps that's a way of setting up the DAC, to nudge it into 44.1k native, but I didn't look for that, or how to apply it.
Previously I just used a SPDIF converter and a DAC (which told me the bitrate) and aplay faithfully passed the bitrate on, and it all played at the correct speed. So aplay knows and works properly with other things...

... but the Apple USB-C under ALSA does appear to be unusual, at least for me!
 

Frank Dernie

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I don't know, it's buried in the Linux ALSA sound system.
Aplay does allow the bitrate to be specified, and to be told to, or not not to resample... but none of that made any difference.
The only thing that worked was to feed it a 48k file.
Easy for me as it's just a setting (Although I did need to tighten up my 48k conversion LOL), but I'd be interested in the findings of others.

Perhaps that's a way of setting up the DAC, to nudge it into 44.1k native, but I didn't look for that, or how to apply it.
Previously I just used a SPDIF converter and a DAC (which told me the bitrate) and aplay faithfully passed the bitrate on, and it all played at the correct speed. So aplay knows and works properly with other things...

... but the Apple USB-C under ALSA does appear to be unusual, at least for me!
The DAC just plays the stream it is sent so I am pretty sure the solution would be in the software running on the Pi
 
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