Best cost-effective way to incorporate iPhone 7 into stereo system

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Waspinators, Oct 8, 2019.

  1. Waspinators

    Waspinators Forum Resident Thread Starter

    So, I've got a pretty modest system in the living room (Onkyo TX-8220 receiver, Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Pioneer PL-S40 turntable, all into a pair of Polk TSi200 speakers). Nothing special, but well mastered CDs and records sound great to my ears through this setup. What I'm looking to do is find the best, cost-effective way to stream music from my iPhone 7 without degrading the sound quality.

    The receiver has Bluetooth connectivity, which is fine for low-level background music or internet radio, but I'm considering subscribing to Tidal to have access to CD quality tracks (perhaps in an attempt to curb this pesky CD buying habit), and would like to see what you folks think is the right option to get the most out of lossless streaming from the phone. I realize this topic has been done multiple times, but I've exhausted the search option and still find myself scratching my head. For now, I've just been plugging the iPhone directly into the line-in on the receiver through the lightning-to-3.5mm adapter and a 3.5mm to RCA cable, which sounds pretty good but I've learned this apparently constitutes double-amping and significantly reduces dynamics.

    It seems the general consensus is to use an Apple Airport Express or Chromecast Audio to send the tracks through AirPlay/WiFi, though I'm wary of going this route as both products are now discontinued and I've heard using AirPlay can result in jittering or lagging if anything interferes with the WiFi signal. Would I be better off purchasing a small DAC like an Audioquest Dragonfly or a Schiit Modi 3 and connecting to the iPhone via a Lightning-to-USB3 adapter, then into the receiver's line-in or optical input? I'm not too hellbent on keeping everything wireless, mostly just finding the best cost-to-SQ ratio to stream lossless tracks.

    Any suggestions are appreciated!
  2. jheyesen

    jheyesen Member

    I suppose some of this depends on your definition of cost effective but a lot of folks think highly of the Bluesound Node 2i. A very capable network streamer with a well regarded built-in DAC. It supports AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth, but more importantly has native integration with Tidal, Qobuz, Amazon Music, etc. So you can end up using your iPhone more as a remote control and letting the Node handle the stream (either via WiFi or ethernet).
    russk likes this.
  3. merlperl

    merlperl Forum Resident

    Sherman Oaks, CA
    Funny I just jumped into these waters...

    what I did was buy a Cambridge audio DAC magic plus and the BT-100 blue tooth accessory for it. Total was about $400.

    DacMagic Plus

    This dac upsamples to 24/384k and sounds pretty amazing even with my AAC files. With uncompressed files it’s jaw dropping.
    Easy to set up and use as well.
  4. 4011021

    4011021 Forum Resident

    Chromecast Audio if you can still find it.
    Big Jack Brass likes this.
  5. whoman4says

    whoman4says Forum Resident

    They're everywhere and lb for lb possibly the greatest hi-fi product ever (unless anyone else can think of a £20 gadget that fits the bill?)
    4011021 likes this.
  6. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Vallejo, CA
    This is what I would do. But a lot of it comes down to if you want to be able to hold the phone and control things remotely or are fine with having it tethered (and presumably close) to the system.
  7. Waspinators

    Waspinators Forum Resident Thread Starter

    This is what I'm leaning towards, as with the Dragonfly I'd be able to tell if a hi-res file is being properly decoded by the color of the LED light, and not worry about anything potentially being resampled through a WiFi signal (I've heard the Airport Express only does 44.1/16 and the Chromecast has upsampled to 48khz with certain firmware updates). Though it would be nice to be able to use the phone as a remote, my main concern is being sure the files are being played "bit perfect", particularly hi-res tracks.

    Now, I've heard that connecting the iPhone to a receiver's line-in through the Lightning-3.5mm adapter and a 3.5mm-RCA cable results in "double amping" which affects audio quality. Would I not be "double amping" as well using something like the Dragonfly to plug a phone into the line-in? Is double amping even a thing?
  8. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Vallejo, CA
    Yes, you would still be double-amping as the Dragonfly is a headphone amp. However, it is designed so if you have the volume at max you're supposedly bypassing the volume control. I had good results with the original Dragonfly back in the day, but unless you plan on taking advantage of the headphone amp feature I'd just get a similarly priced DAC with no volume control. You mentioned the Schiit Modi, another good option for about the same price is the Topping D30.

    As your receiver has a built-in DAC, another option would just be to get a USB-to-SPDIF converter and use it between your phone and receiver. But the prices of the "good ones" are so close to the range of DACs you're looking at there might not be any point. Plus, it might be good to have something with its own power supply as to not drain your phone's battery.
  9. KOWHeigel

    KOWHeigel Forum Resident

    Manlius, NY
    this knockoff lightning-to-usb adapter works for my iphone. I use it to turn my iphone into a Roon endpoint but should work for any other music program you install on your phone.
  10. dougotte

    dougotte Vague Waste of Space-Time

    Washington, DC
    I only just started playing w/ streaming from iTunes/Apple Music because I started a 30-day trial of Apple Music.

    I have an old Pioneer N-30, which was recommended to me here by ukrules. I bought it for around $250, I think. It has a horrible small screen, but sounds nice. I had been using it to feed a few downloads from a USB drive.

    I tried it the other day to feed Apple Music streams from my Mac via AirPlay. It works flawlessly. I haven't tried it from my iPhone yet; I'd rather use the Mac due to a bigger display.

    Edit: I forgot to mention that the N-30 remote will send commands to Apple Music (pause, skip, etc.). Maybe this is standard with a streaming device via AirPlay; I don't know.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2019
  11. mr clean

    mr clean Well-Known Member

    SW indiana
    I have a iPhone 7 and we bought a adaptor like this. I use it to watch movies from netflix when camping. You can have phone charging while using. It should work.

  12. mr clean

    mr clean Well-Known Member

    SW indiana
    I didn't see someone above already said this.
  13. brimuchmuze

    brimuchmuze Forum Resident

    Are they still everywhere? Haven't seen any for some time, since they were discontinued.
  14. whoman4says

    whoman4says Forum Resident

    Yeah, if you Google them, there are plenty still available. I picked up 3 for £20 recently and used them to group some other speakers around the house (and as backup in case the main one ever dies!)
    brimuchmuze likes this.
  15. SMc

    SMc Forum Resident

    Austin TX
    Don't worry about "double-amping" as the Apple adapter only puts out a maximum of one volt as opposed to your cd player's two volts. You might have to turn up your receiver but the dynamics will still be there.
  16. Mmmark

    Mmmark Forum Resident

    Honestly man, I'd just stick to the cable. Crank the volume on the phone to max, and use the amp knob to control actual playback volume. I would be surprised if you'd hear any difference vs. a wi-fi alternative.
    SMc likes this.
  17. jtw

    jtw Forum Resident

    iPhones don't have a line out?

    Is that double amping a real issue? A cd player producing a line out signal still has to do some amplification, doesn't it?

    Do all apple products now give us access to a digital signal? One used to need specialized hardware to extract it.

    You don't like the sound of music files stored on your phone, using either the DAC in the iPhone nor the DAC in your receiver?

    Sorry. I know at least a few of the questions are lame.
  18. sjsanford

    sjsanford Forum Resident

    Not a 3.5mm jack. Just the Lightning port. See this: iphone 7 ports - Yahoo Image Search Results
    The iPhone will natively output data up to 24/48 through the Lightning port... and hi-res output is possible but for this the iPhone needs *software* like the Onkyo HF Player app, which overcomes the 24/48 limit. (There are loads of forum threads about that piece of software.)
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2019 at 8:17 AM
  19. aarodynamic

    aarodynamic Well-Known Member

    If you're using iOS primarily then go with Airport over Chromecast. Chromecast is great if you're using Roon or an app that natively supports the Chromecast protocol, but not every iOS app supports it.

    If you go with an Airport then you're getting Airplay support which works losslessly with every iPhone app.

    If you want something that is currently supported then you could build your own RoPieee XL using a Pi 3B+, an Allo DigiOne, and one of Allo's custom cases. If you were going to spend any more money than that then it would probably just make the most sense for you to upgrade to a receiver with built-in Airplay.
  20. MikeJedi

    MikeJedi Forum Resident

    Las Vegas
    I would imagine the AQ Dragonflies would be the best bang for your buck IMO ...

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