How to Play Hi-Res Music on iPhone

iPhones are one of the best smartphones in the market, especially when it comes to audio. However, it is still a mystery why Apple smartphones do not support hi-res audio natively. Even some mid-range Android smartphones come with a high-quality DAC and support native high-resolution audio.

This can be really frustrating as an iPhone user if you want to listen to hi-res music. However, you don’t need to wait for Apple to fix this problem. There are a few steps you can follow to work around this problem and listen to hi-res music on your iPhone. So, if you are wondering how to play hi-res music on iPhone, keep reading.

What Audio Formats Can the iPhone Play?

Straight out of the box, iPhone can play MP3, WAV, AAC, AIFF, and ALAC using the Apple Music and iTunes apps. However, there is no native support for FLAC and DSD files, not even through the Files app.

The hardware of the iPhone can play hi-res audio, but the software in the phone does not allow it. Meanwhile, if you play music via a Lightning to 3.5mm converter, your audio quality is limited to 48kHz.

So how do you solve this problem? Well, if you’re listening to music on headphones using a Lighting connector, it bypasses the DAC of your iPhone. This allows you to use an external DAC coupled with the right app, allows you to play hi-res audio on iPhone seamlessly.

What is Hi-Res Music?

Short for high-resolution, hi-res audio is a term used for audio playback higher than 44.1kHz or 16-bit. It is also commonly called CD quality and needs a capable DAC to play smoothly.

Hi-res music offers a higher audio quality than standard music formats, with richer tones and details. It provides for an immersive listening experience, given that you listen on a pair of very good headphones.

How to Play Hi-Res Music on iPhone

To successfully play hi-res audio on your iOS smartphone, you need to buy a USB-to-Lightning connector and an external DAC unit like the Dragonfly Red by AudioQuest. From then on, the process is fairly simple.

  1. Transfer hi-res audio files to your iPhone from your computer via iTunes, or download them directly on your iPhone from a trusted website.
  2. Connect your headphones to the DAC unit via a 3.5mm jack. You can use any headphones, but hi-res audio sounds better on higher-end headphones that have better audio drivers.
  3. Next, plug the DAC into the USB port of the USB-to-Lightning adaptor. Now plug the Lightning side of this adapter into your iPhone.
  4. You can now start playing high-resolution music on your iPhone with an app that supports high-res audio. You can use Qobuz, Tidal, Deezer, Vox, or any other app that you like.

How to Transfer Hi-Res Audio to iPhone?

You can download hi-res music files on your computer and put them on your iPhone using iTunes.

  1. Connect your iPhone to your computer and open iTunes (make sure you have the latest version).
  2. On the top left, a small iPhone icon will pop up. Click on it.
  3. Next, open the File Sharing tab and choose any app that lets you transfer files.
  4. Open the app and drag all your hi-res audio files and drop it into the folder. Click on Done and the new files should now appear in your music player app.

Building a Hi-Res Music Kit for Your iPhone

If you are going to listen to hi-res music regularly on your iPhone, it’s a good idea to invest in a kit that will allow you to squeeze the best possible quality out of your hi-res files.

First, you need to buy a good pair of headphones like the Grado SR80e, Sony WH-1000XM4, Sennheiser Momentum 2.0, or AKG Y50. Then, you need a good DAC like the Chord Mojo, Cyrus SoundKey, or the Audioquest DragonFly Red we mentioned earlier.

If you don’t mind a bigger kit that looks beefier, then you can get even higher quality sound with headphones like Beyerdynamic T1 (Generation 2) and a DAC like the Chord Hugo 2. It might be overkill for some people, but it’s worth investing in if you’re an audiophile. Lastly, make sure you have a good USB-to-Lightning adapter(stay away from the cheap ones).

Experiencing difficulties with your Device, check out our “How To” page on how to resolve some of these issues.

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