Being an Apple fan has its ups: the iPhone 4, iMac, iPad, and its downs: Apple Hifi, long Mac Pro cycles, and the iPhone 6.
The latter is, in my opinion, the ugliest thing to come out of a post-Jobs Apple. Its release-day images were ugly. And with it finally in hand, I sprang immediately for a case. The bulging camera lens, the curved sides, the curved glass - the travesty.
But like every iPhone from the iPhone 4 on, it sounds great. In fact, volume-matched, it rivals the best players I have heard. Lachlan pointed out its worst failing: screen and/or EMI noise, which is a real bugger. But many expensive audiophile players make funny noises. The Plenue D, for one, makes funny noises between tracks. And only Apple players flawlessly return gapless albums no matter the format played. (RMAA: Plenue D 24-bit.)
So, while it’s poor form to do so, I’m tempted to give Apple a full pardon - at least where sound and playback quality are concerned.
The numbers also bear out in theoretical performance not far south of high-end DAPs, and when volume matched a volume I consider ‘too loud’ or ‘on the Chase’, equivalent to Chord's Mojo, the highest performing portable devices you can get your hands on. (RMAA: Chord Mojo 24-bit.)
Not everything is perfect: the iPhone 6’s stereo performance isn’t great, and, at full volume, under the load of an SM2, THD ramps up to 70x its unloaded result. Still, under the same load, the AK380’s balanced output ramps THD from 0,0005% to 11,3%, or an increase of over 22.000x. Single ended, it ramps up by 764x base THD. To its credit, the AK380 starts with a 3x less THD than the iPhone 6. (RMAA: AK380 24-bit.)
In other words, the iPhone 6 performs well. I put as much trust in its audio playback capabilities as I do any high-end player and any price. Add the fact that it can play DSD and other non-sanctioned formats through the use of apps, its UI is smoother, faster, and it gets much better battery life than most of the competition and the recipe for greatness is clear. If only it wasn’t so ugly.
With that preamble out of the way, let’s get onto RMAA scores.
The following Rightmark Audio Analyzer tests were conducted through this equipment.
Source: Apple iPhone 6
ADC: Lynx Studio HILO LT-TB
Computer: 2012 27" iMac
Cables: 1,5m Hosa Pro 3,5mm stereo to dual 3-pin XLR (around 8$); and/or bespoke y-split 2,5 TRRS to dual 3-pin XLR made by Musashi Sound Technology.
NL - no load
SM2 - Earsonics SM2
ES7 - Audio Technica ES7
DT880 - Beyerdynamic DT880/600
24-bit all loads results @+0dBV - headphone output
24-bit unloaded result summary @+0dBV - headphone output
If its clarity, minimal background noise, and great dynamic range bookended the story, the iPhone 6 would be my pick for best portable audio player. Unfortunately, it is packed into a bloated, ugly body, gets a bit janky with screen noise, and shares otherwise good battery life with the rest of your life.
Great sound. Ugly body. Great phone.
Two out of three ain’t bad.