iPhone friendly portable amp/dac/dap?

I am looking for something for my iPhone and Dunu Zen. I have a BTR5, which is fine as a bluetooth/AAC streamer. However, wiring it isn’t practical due to the camera connection kit requirement.

Here is the absolute ideal:

Bluetooth/AAC (must have this)
MFi for single wire (no CCK)
Airplay / Wifi
Not pay an arm and a leg.

This is a surprisingly hard list to fill in the audiophile world at any price. I have found a few that qualify or mostly qualify. I have to basically give up MFi or airplay. That is ok, since only one or the other is necessary

Here are the things I have found that mostly qualify:

Shanling m2x (no MFi)
Shanling m5s (no MFi)
Fiio Q5s (no airplay)
Fiio M15 (no MFi, too expensive)

It should be noted: I ordered the Fiio M6 based on it’s “for iphone” marketing. I assumed it would have the same iPhone friendlyness as the Fiio Q5s. It doesn’t support bluetooth/aac or MFi wired according to the specs. It hasn’t even arrived yet and I know it is getting returned based on that.

I also have the Fiio Q5s-TC incoming to see if I can live with it wired. If I can, I don’t need airplay. If I can’t live with it the shanlings are the only reasonable options I have found that have bluetooth/aac and airplay.

The other way to go, is a DAP that has android/google play/apple music. This would fully eliminate any need for bluetooth/airplay, and take the job entirely away from the iPhone. But, this appears to be another rare thing?

Fiio daps don’t support bluetooth/aac until you get to the M15. Are these spec errors?

Thoughts? What is out there that I am missing?

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In terms of a pure dap, ibasso dx160 is looking good. I think it’s one of the few that is fully google play and apple music enabled.

This is starting to look appealing. I can’t confirm that it also has bluetooth/aac. That would make it quite nice from my perspective (doesn’t list it, but most BT 5.0 devices have aac)

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The just arriving hiby r6 2020 should also work. But it’s 800 and I don’t really want to spend more on the dap than the headphones. I would rather put more money into headphones and use the btr5 or q5s.

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I’m not sure that I understand your use case. In fact, I’m sure I don’t understand your use case. It’s probably because I’m an old fart, and although I use the iPhone and Apple ecosystem, I still haven’t found the need for a DAP. Why are you looking for both wi-fi and bluetooth? My iPhone serves as a holder of more files than I need, and certainly is fine streaming (usually Tidal). If I want to connect via Bluetooth to my phone, and ALSO get a better DAC, my iFi xDSD does that job respectably well.

However, in the above instance, I know I’m getting lesser quality than a wired connection through the Camera dongle to the DAC. The xDSD is happy with AAC.

Please explain what I’m missing here. Storage? It doesn’t have to be you that schools your crochety old elders (Actually that’s just an act, not the elder part) ahem!!!


The goal is to have the best audio quality while staying as wireless as possible. And to do it with one device. There are three primary scenarios.

  1. At home, while on my mesh network, airplay is wireless but also full quality. No hit from Bluetooth compression. The quality will be as good as the source.

  2. While out of the house, bluetooth is convenient. I don’t need to rely on wires or a wifi network or hotspot (but I still could). The cost is potentially sound quality.

  3. Finally, having a wired option is nice for dedicated listening. Or traveling (think airplanes or hotels) MFi is desired so the CCK isn’t needed.

I use my iPhone all day for work (most of the day while listening to music). So having wires connected is really not going to work. I can barely tolerate the apple dongle when the fiio btr5 battery is dead. Scenarios 1 and 2 are essential. The camera connection kit is far too much bulk for something going in and out of my pocket hundred times per day. Right now I am writing this on the iPhone as I walk around my house doing other things. Wires would make it difficult.

As mentioned, skipping the iPhone, and coming right from a dap may also work, as long as said dap includes apple music (very few do). And can download from streaming services (to local storage) for out of house listening. This would cover all required scenarios. But I won’t give up apple music to do it (I have hundreds of playlists and such)

Does that make more sense?

I guess it does. I can’t concentrate on work and listen to music at the same time. Plus, I use the office phone more often at work than my iPhone. If I could concentrate and listen to music while I worked, and was using the iPhone, I’d simply ditch the Apple camera dongle and use my Audeze LCDi3 with Cipher Cable for quality wired, or if I wanted more freedom the Cipher Bluetooth. Both exceedingly iPhone friendly. The LCDi3 works well as a mic also, so calls aren’t a problem. Plus the fit can be adjusted - depending on what you do with ear tips and clips so that you can still hear room noise for when the UPS guy delivers a box that you need to film as you open it.

When I say use my phone, I mean email/text. I work in technology, and the only thing I can’t do while listening to music is webex.

Isolation is also an issue. The audeze planar IEMs all bleed sound (open back). In some of these scenarios, I need that not to happen. One of them that is discontinued had dsp that made it awesome. I would have tried that one. (Is that what you have?) otherwise the audeze house sound annoyed me. (Lcd-x was a hard no)

I was also considering closed back over ears, I just liked the blessing 2 dusk sound so much I ditched over ears for IEMs. I quickly bought the Dunu Zen, and I currently know of nothing I would consider an upgrade to it. Sidegrades, yes. Upgrade? No.

Now I want to keep the Zen on my head all day. And I would like to do so with as high audio quality as I can manage without making the iPhone hard to use.

So, dap.

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The is also the Chord Mojo with Poly, but together they are pricey. I used to have the Mojo/Poly combo and moved on to the FiiO Q5S. Not having wireless wasn’t to big a problem for me though. The Bluetooth works well enough. Overall I recommend the Q5S; it’s not too expensive, it feels solid, it has plenty of power and connection possibilities, and it comes with a bunch of connectors.

As a side note, I recommend Neutron Player for IPhone for the player.


Yeah, the q5s is great as long as I am happy with bluetooth (which I am currently on the btr5). Being able to plug it in via one cable when I want to may be ideal.

Will see!

In general, the heavier I use a device, the less I like one that does everything. You may want to consider two devices, one for the road, and one for home. Battery life on streaming music all day is brutal on a phone and a dac, so it may not be practical to have one unit just on that one factor.

You may also want to consider that airplay 2 is limited to 16/44 playback.

If it were me (and my advice is worth exactly what you paid for it) I’d be rolling with a android based dap to load Apple Music and tidal apps on. I’d like this because I have been a phone power user, and introducing battery life concerns to my day is a no-fly. Honestly, since I’m a cheapskate, I’d be rolling an iPod touch with a dragonfly dac rubber banded to it. Cheap, good battery, all the apps you need, lots of aftermarket accessories and should integrate with your accounts easily.

In fact. Now I kind want to do that. Rubber band my hipdac to a iPod and I’d be in dog walking heaven.


Don’t think about it like home vs mobile. It’s mobile vs mobile. The difference is that one mobile usage has a wifi network available. Hence airplay as a wireless answer when the network is available.

I don’t think “let me pickup the other player and swap cables” I just leave. And if what I am carrying can’t do it, it just won’t happen.

I did not know airplay converts everything. That may sway my decision.

I agree that an android dap with all the streaming services or a dedicated ipod/phone may be the easiest answer.

Or maybe just live with a wire to the q5s if I want more than bluetooth.

I have several options arriving this weekend. Will see what works.

The Cipher cable contains the DAC and does EQ. I have both the iSine 20 and the LCDi3 that replaced it. Both with Cipher cables. The EQ is very flexible and is set by an app. Yes they leak a little sound, but that’s okay in my situation. Nothing like the leak from an open back headphone, the drivers aren’t that big and the design is an IEM so it doesn’t work as hard as a headphone.

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The idea of that is interesting to me. Not sure how the dsp works. On airpods max, there are internal mics that track the actual output and adjust. How could that happen on an IEM?

Anyway, audeze sound drives me up a wall. So, I don’t think it would work for me, but, I do wish more brands would take that kind of approach.

The annoying thing there is I love planar sound. Just not planar bass response (so far).

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Ear man TR-amp. I like this portable amp for two reasons, it has usb c input, it has a charging port that is also usb C. So you can charge it and feed it signal at the same time with separate usb c cables.

It does have a built in battery. But you can connect a portable phone charger to it and get unlimited use while the unit is charging.

I just see it great vs ifi, which you can only use or charge; not both at the same time. The cabling with C is great too, as you will always have a stable connection. The ifi connection is no where near as stable with otg connection and the earman provides 25% more power roughly in comparison to the ifi Nano black label at an equal prices.

No Bluetooth unfortunately, however you maybe able to get an external Bluetooth receiver and use it to feed the unit via usb c input.

It’s up to you, but if you could I’ll try to sacrifice Bluetooth for a quality unit

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As far as I can tell tr-amp is not mfi certified. On an iPhone it is likely to require a CCK. Which would make it too cumbersome.

My guess, is to stay wired to the amp, I will use a lightning to usb-c cord that is short enough to fit in a pocket, but long enough to allow me to leave the amp in the pocket and the phone in my hands.

If that doesn’t work, only something like the apple dongle can work. (the btr5 might work if it didn’t need the CCK as it could be attached to the back of the phone with silly puddy).

Or, of course, bluetooth, airplay or a dap (either fed from the phone or standalone streaming/files)

Any of the MFi dongles that can use a direct to lightning cable would technically work as well. Just haven’t loved any of them yet.

I think all you need is this and it’s a solid connection. It won’t pop out or anything.

I know they are tough to deal with, but my experience with the Nano is far more annoying task. So that’s why I suggest it.

I think the 3 ft cable would be great. The only other thing is Earman sparrow, but that unit will juice your phone battery. Which is why I see the Tramp as a better option and has better options

Did you send a link to some product?

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It’s hard to tell. an MFi cable doesn’t necessarily mean it will work as the connector to a random dac. Otherwise apple’s own cables would always work (they don’t). Now, supposedly, there are some cables that effectively do the same thing as the CCK without the bulk. However, I have not yet been able to identify which do this.

Example, the dx3pro worked great through the CCK. So did the m200. But neither worked with a direct cable. However, the tempotec sonata hd did work with a cable because the device itself is MFi certified (or possibly, they included a cable that does what the CCK does, but I think I did it with my cables too).

I expect the Q5s to work with any MFi cable including apple’s own. (If it doesn’t it will be going back just based on that as it’s not truly an MFi device).

It’s very frustrating apple walled garden annoyance. I have a similar cable to the monoprice coming in. I will seed if it helps with the BTR5.