If iPhone 7 ditches the audio jack, these three DACs will keep the music spinning

DAC to the future?

Beyerdynamic Headphones

Word on the street is that the iPhone 7 will ditch the industry standard 3.5mm headphone jack in favour of a smaller 2mm connector or – gasp! – even drop the headphone jack entirely.

It's an interesting theory to say the least, however this has led some music lovers to ask how they can expect to use their existing headphones with Apple's new flagship phone.

It's a valid question, especially considering that it's possible to spend almost as much on a decent pair of headphones as the phone itself.

Thankfully help is at hand: there's a growing collection of digital-to-analogue converters – or DACs – which are increasingly compatible with iPhones.

These devices work by plugging into the phone's lightning port either via a supplied cable or by using one of Apple's lightning-to-camera USB adaptors. Then all you need to do is plug the 3.5mm jack on your trusty pair of headphones into the other end of the DAC as normal.

The advantages of using an external DAC

But short of Apple taking away the standard 3.5mm jack is there any reason why you'd want to use a DAC?

The answer has a little to do with your personal audio preferences, and a lot to do with the type of headphones you use.

Let's begin with the basics and start by describing exactly what a DAC does.

As its name suggests, a digital-to-analogue converter converts a signal from its digital source to the analogue audio waves your ears end up hearing. Unless you're still rocking a classic collection of vinyl (or, even less likely, cassette tapes) the music you're listening to on a daily basis is stored digitally in either an audio file or CD.

At some point between its source and your ears, this digital signal is going to have to become analogue. This means that literally any device that outputs audio will contain a DAC.

The first advantage of using an external DAC rather than the DAC that already exists in your device is simply that – most of the time – the performance you get out of an external system will be better than your phone's internal one. Why? Your phone's internal DAC may be lacking either for reasons of cost, or else a desire to keep the phone as compact as possible.

The second reason to shell out for an upgrade is the fact that some of the more premium headphones on the market are 'high-impedance' headphones, which require more power through the headphone jack on your music source in order to work properly. (Impedance, for the record, is measured in a unit called ohms, and less than 50 ohms is considered to be low-impedance.)

The general consensus is that the harder a pair of headphones is to drive, the better they will eventually sound when paired with the right equipment.

An external DAC helps with these headphones as it can work as a headphone amp to provide the extra power needed to drive a high-impedance pair of 'phones.

Now that you know how the technology works, let's talk about which devices you can get your hands on to amp up your audio.

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