I got an iPhone 7 a few days ago and had it away with me on a weekend break
with limited opportunities to play with it. 


Well, on this list there’s always someone who wants to know what the phone
speaker sounds like. To dispense with that question quickly, it’s the best
sounding iPhone (that doesn’t have a Plus in its name) I’ve heard so far.
Not surprising, as it has two tiny speakers instead of one so Voice Over and
books on Voice Dream Reader sound very pleasant. I don’t listen to music on
a phone speaker and am always surprised when people give this aspect of
audio serious consideration.


Of course the iPhone 7 is the infamous one where they got rid of the audio
jack. So I took my trusty B&w P7 headphones, my ancient and cheap but
much-loved (for sentimental reasons) Koss Porto Pros and my Bluetooth
Plantronics BackBeat Pros and the lightening ear pods that ship with the
device. No DAC except the little lightning to 3.5mm convertor supplied by


Here are my first impressions and I have to emphasis they were entirely
subjective with no attempt at rigor. Imagine my shock when I tried my P7s
and thought they sounded awful! The mid-range was thin with a hardness I
never noticed before. The base was there but not particularly extended. The
music sounded kind of flat with no real involvement. For the first time I
felt I knew what was meant when components were described as unmusical. When
I then tried my Koss Porto Pros whose basic design hasn’t changed since the
1980’s and which at one point retailed at around £25 I actually thought they
sounded better but with the qualities described above still present, perhaps
with more space and a warmer tone. The Bluetooth BackBeat Pros sounded the
best with musicality restored and a warmth replacing the hard midrange. The
Apple earpods were what you would expect: a good reason for buying decent
headphones for your Apple device. 


The culprit, of course, was the $9 DAC provided by Apple for those folk who
will insist on owning headphones with a 3.5mm plug. The frustrating thing
was that as I was away from home I couldn’t try any other lightning to audio
DAC. I did have my Arcam MusicBoost case but as it is made for the thinner
iPhone 6 I didn’t fancy having my new iPhone 7 permanently wedged in it. Out
of desperation I did gingerly try to insert it but gave up when it became
clear it would end in disaster. 


What I didn’t do (and still haven’t done) was try the above headphones with
the audio jack on my old iPhone 6 to see if it really did sound worse on the
iPhone 7 or if it was just a trick of the mind because I was expecting
better. Since arriving home I have tried my P7s with the Oppo HA 2 DAC and
the iPhone 7 and I am glad to say they were back to being absolutely
stunning. That’s a relief. I then tried them again with the little Apple
supplied DAC converter and although they weren’t as shockingly bad as my
first impression they still sounded seriously under par, and that also when
for my little plastic Porto Pros. Yet I still feel even the Porto Pros
sounded better with the old audio jack. It mostly came down to that sense of
hardness and lack of musicality I felt I detected. 


Well, what do you expect for what amounts to a $9 DAC, I hear you say. Most
people who have a cheap pair of headphones won’t notice or care and will
just want them to work. I am quite sure that some headphones will even sound
better for it. But as I don’t always want to carry a separate and cumbersome
DAC around with me for casual listening I do wish Apple had spent just a
little more on their convertor.


John Gurd



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