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Review: Apple vs Google USB-C Headphone Adapters

paudio

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It's pretty much all I use around here and cheap enough that they just remain on the end of the headphones as they get moved around!
 

Jimster480

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It's pretty much all I use around here and cheap enough that they just remain on the end of the headphones as they get moved around!
What headphones do you have? Because the dongle does not have that much power, so I would imagine you mostly use IEMs.
 

staticV3

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What headphones do you have? Because the dongle does not have that much power, so I would imagine you mostly use IEMs.
It can drive all of these full-size headphones to 94dB SPL, which is louder than I could could comfortably listen at:
most sensitive headphone review 2024.png
 

paudio

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What headphones do you have? Because the dongle does not have that much power, so I would imagine you mostly use IEMs.
Heaviest thing is a DCA Aeon 2 Noire and on my computer I run it 30-40% volume. I have to max it out on android though as the dongle is not as loud on there.
 
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staticV3

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Heavest thing is a DCA Aeon 2 Noire and on my computer I run it 30-40% volume. I have to max it out on android though as the dongle is not as loud.
You can use USB Audio Player Pro to get the full volume even on Android.

You can play music using USB Audio Player Pro directly, or just use it to unlock the volume, then use other Apps like Spotify etc with full volume.
 

AudioSceptic

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A2155 -20dB (50mV) 16 ohm SINAD

View attachment 370104

A2049 -26dB (50mV) 16 ohm SINAD

View attachment 370105


(ADC is the RME UFX III - Mic inputs 40dB gain - for the above)

NB: @staticV3 Your measurements are 20Hz-20kHz, the above are <10Hz-24kHz, which gives a 0.8dB lower SNR (and SINAD) for a flat white noise.
So they are coherent.
Forgot to say before: thanks for doing this. It's great to see these accurate measurements.
 

DrSapolskyRocks!

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See here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...luetooth-dac-headphone-amp.17386/post-1302123

This only gets rid of the additional Android limiter btw.
The EU voltage limit stays intact. Only some Apple computers can disable that.
So the hardware in the EU Dongle is capable of full 1 Vrms, but only with devices in Apple ecosystem? Any idea how Apple is implementing this on a hardware level, considering Non-Apple devices are locked at 0.5 Vrms regardless of any changes made on the software level.

Also can you share some insight regarding Apple DAC on the newer MacBooks here? Many thanks!

 

staticV3

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So the hardware in the EU Dongle is capable of full 1 Vrms, but only with devices in Apple ecosystem?
Correct.

Any idea how Apple is implementing this on a hardware level, considering Non-Apple devices are locked at 0.5 Vrms regardless of any changes made on the software level.
Sadly, no.

Also can you share some insight regarding Apple DAC on the newer MacBooks here?
I cannot, sorry.
 

paudio

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In my experience M1 macs have great headphone out. 2019 16" MBP as well
 

L5730

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That's what I figured...but then why can the laptop output more voltage?
I am thinking that we're in this odd situation because of things like this:

Manufacturers of personal music player are kind of being directed to reduce the playback volume level. A laptop isn't a personal music player, nor is a HiFi, nor is a battery powered DAC/HP amp. Quite how the voltage translates directly to a dB pressure level out of headphone/ear buds/IEMs depends on the efficiency of the drivers, oh and of course just what loudness the material being played is. It all seems a bit wishy-washy, but I doubt companies would bother implementing something for a geographical area if they didn't have to - perhaps a misinterpretation?
 

rongon

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So the hardware in the EU Dongle is capable of full 1 Vrms, but only with devices in Apple ecosystem? Any idea how Apple is implementing this on a hardware level, considering Non-Apple devices are locked at 0.5 Vrms regardless of any changes made on the software level.

After reading the measurements and review of the Apple USB-C to Headphone adapter, I figured it would be worth the $9 USD to try it out with a little Raspberry Pi music player I'm putting together. The local Best Buy had the Apple dongle/dangler in stock, so I went for it.

I figured it should sound decent with its output connected to my stereo system, which consists of a passive input selector/volume control (50k dual-gang log-taper stepped attenuator) with RCA jacks for ins and out feeding a Behringer A800 amp and JBL Studio 530 (passive) speakers.

I normally use an older version Topping D10, which I'm pretty happy with. I think it sounds good and it's been completely reliable. I knew the Apple dongle would have only 1/2 the level out compared to the D10, so I compensated by turning up the volume when listening to the Apple. (I don't get bent out of shape if I have to turn the volume up to 2 o'clock for a moderate listening level.) The Apple dongle was recognized by Moode Audio with no issues. I tried it out and I think Best Buy must be selling the EU version, because the output level was really low. To my ears, the sound from it seemed 'thin' and 'washed out' (sorry for the non-technical descriptive language, but I can't communicate what I hear any other way). The bass seemed kind of weak and the general presentation seemed a little fuzzy. It just wasn't any fun to listen to. The sound was probably acceptable in technical terms, but it seemed just blah to me.

I went back to the D10 and there was that nice sound again, immediately apparent and obvious. All I can say is that the D10 sounds 'bigger' and more 'full sounding'. Definitely more fun. I was listening to a FLAC-8 rip from CD of Sarah Vaughan "Brazilian Romance" at 16bit/44.1kHz resolution. Sassy sounds closer to me from the D10, more forward in the mix. There's more of a sense of depth to the recording. There's a lot going on in that recording; hand percussion, nicely recorded drum set, piano, electric keyboards, horn solos, electric bass, a string section, studio reverb on some things, all sorts of stuff. I played the same song ("Romance") through all the various DACs, at a fairly low level, with the level balanced as best I could without measuring.

To me, the two DACs do definitely sound different, even with the D10 turned down two stops on the attenuator. That really bothered me. Shouldn't the Apple dongle sound just as good as the D10 if I turn up the volume to match levels? Perhaps the Apple dongle I got is limited to 0.5V rms max out from a Raspberry Pi (??).

The next day I hooked up two other little DACs I have hanging around, one a Turtle Beach Atlas Edge USB-A to 3.5mm headphone dongle based on an AKM codec (discontinued, sold as a PC gaming accessory) and the other a Behringer UCA-202 (USB sound card with fixed level RCA outputs). To make a long story short, I ended up liking the Behringer better than either the Turtle Beach or Apple dongles. I actually liked the sound of the Turtle Beach dongle better than the sound from the Apple one. (That was a surprise.) NwAvGuy measured the UCA-202 max output at just shy of 1.2V rms (13 years ago), which might be >+6dB compared to the max output of the Apple dongle if it's an EU version.

Anyway, long story short, as a DAC from a Raspberry Pi running Moode Audio into a stereo system, I like the sound from the Behringer UCA-202 better than either dongle, but (perhaps predictably) not as much as the sound from the Topping D10.

However, I have to admit this could be a case of liking the loudest one best, as this was a sighted, completely subjective comparison. But I didn't have a pre-determined favorite, and I expected the Apple was going to be very good (they have such a good reputation for making quality stuff). Oh well. Take it for whatever it's worth, or not worth. I'm just sharing my experience with the thing, that's all.
 
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staticV3

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After reading the measurements and review of the Apple USB-C to Headphone adapter, I figured it would be worth the $9 USD to try it out with a little Raspberry Pi music player I'm putting together. The local Best Buy had the Apple dongle/dangler in stock, so I went for it.

I figured it should sound decent with its output connected to my stereo system, which consists of a passive input selector/volume control (50k dual-gang log-taper stepped attenuator) with RCA jacks for ins and out feeding a Behringer A800 amp and JBL Studio 530 (passive) speakers.

I normally use an older version Topping D10, which I'm pretty happy with. I think it sounds good and it's been completely reliable. I knew the Apple dongle would have only 1/2 the level out compared to the D10, so I compensated by turning up the volume when listening to the Apple. (I don't get bent out of shape if I have to turn the volume up to 2 o'clock for a moderate listening level.) The Apple dongle was recognized by Moode Audio with no issues. I tried it out and I think Best Buy must be selling the EU version, because the output level was really low. To my ears, the sound from it seemed 'thin' and 'washed out' (sorry for the non-technical descriptive language, but I can't communicate what I hear any other way). The bass seemed kind of weak and the general presentation seemed a little fuzzy. It just wasn't any fun to listen to. The sound was probably acceptable in technical terms, but it seemed just blah to me.

I went back to the D10 and there was that nice sound again, immediately apparent and obvious. All I can say is that the D10 sounds 'bigger' and more 'full sounding'. Definitely more fun. I was listening to a FLAC-8 rip from CD of Sarah Vaughan "Brazilian Romance" at 16bit/44.1kHz resolution. Sassy sounds closer to me from the D10, more forward in the mix. There's more of a sense of depth to the recording. There's a lot going on in that recording; hand percussion, nicely recorded drum set, piano, electric keyboards, horn solos, electric bass, a string section, studio reverb on some things, all sorts of stuff. I played the same song ("Romance") through all the various DACs, at a fairly low level, with the level balanced as best I could without measuring.

To me, the two DACs do definitely sound different, even with the D10 turned down two stops on the attenuator. That really bothered me. Shouldn't the Apple dongle sound just as good as the D10 if I turn up the volume to match levels? Perhaps the Apple dongle I got is limited to 0.5V rms max out from a Raspberry Pi (??).

The next day I hooked up two other little DACs I have hanging around, one a Turtle Beach Atlas Edge USB-A to 3.5mm headphone dongle based on an AKM codec (discontinued, sold as a PC gaming accessory) and the other a Behringer UCA-202 (USB sound card with fixed level RCA outputs). To make a long story short, I ended up liking the Behringer better than either the Turtle Beach or Apple dongles. I actually liked the sound of the Turtle Beach dongle better than the sound from the Apple one. (That was a surprise.) NwAvGuy measured the UCA-202 max output at just shy of 1.2V rms (13 years ago), which might be >+6dB compared to the max output of the Apple dongle if it's an EU version.

Anyway, long story short, as a DAC from a Raspberry Pi running Moode Audio into a stereo system, I like the sound from the Behringer UCA-202 better than either dongle, but (perhaps predictably) not as much as the sound from the Topping D10.

However, I have to admit this could be a case of liking the loudest one best, as this was a sighted, completely subjective comparison. But I didn't have a pre-determined favorite, and I expected the Apple was going to be very good (they have such a good reputation for making quality stuff). Oh well. Take it for whatever it's worth, or not worth. I'm just sharing my experience with the thing, that's all.
The Apple dongle defaults to -20dB UAC2 hardware volume.

To get the full output on your Pi, you may have to set the UAC2 hardware volume to 100% manually, using Alsamixer.

Also, I highly recommend you get a basic multimeter. It's extremely handy for confirming output voltages of your HiFi gear, measuring channel balance, LFX, etc.

IMO, a DMM should be part of every audio enthusiast's toolkit.
 

rongon

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Well, I have several multimeters, both digital and older analog one too. I didn't use a DMM because I didn't think it was necessary for the kind of gross/subjective comparison I was doing. I also didn't want to hassle with installing test tones onto the thumb drive to set levels with decent accuracy. I guess I could do that. It wouldn't be that difficult.

However, the info about the UAC2 hardware volume is new to me. -20dB is a LOT of attenuation! Definitely noticeable.

I'm not adept with Linux stuff at all. I'm running Moode Audio on the RPi. In the Moode GUI, I set the ALSA volume to 100, set its volume control to 'disabled' as opposed to 'hardware' or 'software' (which sets max level to 0dBFS). I don't know if Moode's ALSA controls override whatever defaults Apple sets in their dongle DAC.

I could SSH into the Pi. I haven't done that in a long time, but I have used PutTy from my Windows PC to do that. Any direction on what commands to enter at the terminal?
 
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staticV3

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Any direction on what commands to enter at the terminal?
 
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