If you would like to use an iPad as an audiophile centre piece for your headphones/earphones here are some ideas to get you started:
– Flac player app lets you play FLAC files.
– If you’re using a Mac you can download XLD software and convert Flac files to ALAC (apple lossless) files then you can sync your music to your iPad.
As iPads top at 64Gb, storage will be limited for high bitrate/sample music files. If you have an 16Gb iPad (like me) then space is a premium and you won’t be able have too many HQ music files on your iPad.
You should stream all your songs. In iTunes you can turn on your home sharing preference and stream all your higher bitrate music stored either on your laptop or desktop (Of course this is assuming that you have an Internet with WiFi connection or you can AdHoc). Plus, as the iPad is capped at sample rate of 48 kHz (higher bitrate songs can be transferred to your iPad) you can listen to music with higher sample rate (e.g. 96 kHz) in your iTunes library.
FiiO E6, E11,
ALO’s The National and The Continental
Accessories recommended: LOD (Line Out Dock) cable such as FiiO’s L9 ($14.95) or ALO’s The Cricket ($135). A LOD cable lets you bypass the iPad’s amp.
2) Products that “Officially” bypass the iPad’s DAC.
a) Fostex HP-P1 portable (battery powered) headphone DAC/Amp
b) Cypher Labs Algorhythm Solo (battery powered) — only DAC
c) NuForce iDo desktop headphone DAC/Amp
3) Products that “Unofficially” bypass the iPad’s DAC.
You have an iPad > Apple’s camera connection kit > USB cable to Desktop DACs that are compatible***:
Products tested that bypass the iPad’s DAC (more products will be added to the list).
a) FiiO E7 headphone amp/DAC (must set the usb charging setting to OFF)
b) FiiO E17 must be different from E7, does’t work.
c) Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 UBS DAC* > a headphone amp (e.g. portable amps like FiiO E11 or desktop amps like HiFi MAN’s EF-5 tube amp).
*(connected to AC/DC power source)
d) KingRex UD384 32bits/384kHz USB DAC** > headphone amp with analogue RCA input or digital Coaxial>
**(AC/DC power source OR if you want to be totally portable and achieve a cleaner sound, use KingRex’s U Power — a Li-ion battery pack)
Advantages of using an external DAC to the iPad’s DAC — better and louder sound. If you connect just an amp to your iPad, you might find some amps to be “underpowered” when driving particular headphones.
Accessories required for particular setups:
Apple’s Camera Connection Kit (must), USB cable, RCA to RCA to connect to a headphone amp with analogue input, RCA to 3.5mm cable, digital coaxial cable
*** NOTE: You’ll get an Accessory Unavailable Message - the iPad can not properly power this device (e.g. FiiO’s E10 does not work as a DAC as it’s not battery powered and needs usb for power).
When FiiO’s E6 was attached to a USB DAC, there was a degradation of sound quality. I tested different RCA to 3.5mm cables and same results. Either the connectors or the circuitry can’t handle the extra load of power — I’m not an electrical engineer so I can’t explain what’s happening inside. But the E6 seemed loud even when the volume level was turned down. It was akin to how speakers sound when not sufficiently amped. I’ll have to test this out a bit more.