Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1 & H1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi Formula, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20, Questyle QP1R; Lindemann musicbook:15 dsd [on review]
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVC module), COS Engineering D1
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics One SE Up NC500MB; AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Loudspeakers: Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; soundkaos Wave 40; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence; Rethm Bhaava [on loan]
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Arkana Research XLR/RCA and speaker cables [on loan]; Sablon Audio Petit Corona power cords [on loan], Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, 5m cords to amp/s + sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: Rectangular 5.5 x 15m open floor plan with two-storey gabled ceiling, wood-sleeved steel trusses and stone-over-concrete flooring
Review component retail: €35

When dinosaurs still roamed the subways,
there were iPods and earbuds aplenty. Hifi critics called them devil's spawn. That did not prevent Apple's WalkMan from becoming a runaway success. Wanting to hitch a ride, Wadia, Pure, Onkyo, Cambridge, Pro-Ject and Peachtree paid licensing fees to Cupertino to be issued made-for-Apple certification for their iPod docks or interfaces which could extract a raw digital signal from the 30-pin connector. This moved D/A conversion offboard for a proper high-end spa treatment. All was well. Then the meteor struck. Dinosaurs disappeared. With them did the iPod and 30-pin connector. Now the homo sapiens bipeds rose to prominence. The Lightning connector struck iPhones and iPads. Wanting an evolutionary boost, I'd by then acquired an iPad Mini to use as fancy remote control for our dedicated music iMac. That's when we discovered that hosting a powerful WiFi transmitter in our digs caused instant migraines for my wife and very disagreeable sensations on my brain. Clearly our dinosaur DNA from before the WiFi revolution hadn't downloaded the V-sapiens upgrade. Hence for years my iPad Mini got benched. I had no obvious use for it.

Fast forward an eon; or what in digital time is a few short years. There I am about to wrap the Lindemann musicbook:15 dsd review. Suddenly the lazy antediluvian part of my brain fires a single synapse. Hadn't I read on some forum somewhere that this already multi-tasking German could even tap an iDevice's binary code via the camera adaptor? Off went an inquiry promptly answered by their Christopher Delhaes: "Yes. Using a camera adaptor, you can connect any iDevice directly to our USB interface. Plug'n'play! It’s fully USB audio class 2 compatible and thus produces wonderful sound." I'd already tried a Lightning-to-30-pin cable between iPad Mini and one of our now ancient digital iPod docks. Besides feeling a bit kludgy, it worked flawlessly. It even charged the pad for 24/7 action. Now I ordered up a camera adaptor which is nothing but a short Lightning-to-female-USB-A cable. Inserting a standard USB cable into it to end up with the required square USB-B end for the DAC, the musicbook:15 dsd shook hands. Howdy pardner. i(had)Tunes. Wowsers. The hack worked!

This got my limbic system into overdrive. If Apple's own €35 cable shock hands with the Lindemann, would it work on all of our other DACs as well? If so, why would Peachtree even bother with the certification to outfit their latest-gen integrateds with an iOS input? And indeed, I had instant gratification with my bedside COS Engineering H1 even if as with the Lindemann, this connection couldn't charge the device. Vinnie Rossi's LIO however wrote out a laconic no-go ticket. The iPad complained that the XMOS USB 2.0 required too much power. Clearly happiness wasn't universal. It was contingent upon how a given USB transceiver was implemented; probably whether it was USB powered. The April Music Stello HP100 MkII—from Simon Lee who since left the company to launch Simon Audio Labs—issued the same ticket. Ditto Aqua Hifi's Formula and AURALiC's Vega. Alas, bliss recurred with the Fore Audio DAISy 1 Amanero transceiver. Whilst Wyred4Sound's mINT was a no-go, the Gordon Rankin USB input on the active Eversound Essence desktop speakers was good to go again. Team Hack lost by 3:5.

The upshot of today's little stroll down T-Rex Ave—for those not anti-indoctrinated against Apple products for serious listening—is that a little €35 gizmo might turn your iPhone or iPad into a legitimate battery-powered digital hifi transport. As Peachtree would remind us, Apple's ultra-sharp brightly lit displays are jitter and noise generators with their high refresh rates. Best turn them off with a quick press on the power button. This will also prolong battery life seeing how in this type connection, the iDevice won't charge. How to know whether your unlicensed DAC is copasetic? Inquire with its maker. What, in the first place, is the appeal of an iPad transporter over a DAP like our resident Questyle QP1R with its Toslink output or the Soundaware Esther M1 Pro with its mini coax? It's far easier to create, edit and delete playlists. If you use an iPad for curated listening sessions, its limited memory capacity compared to a 3TB fusion-drive iMac, NAS or other won't matter. You're not storing your entire library on it. Rather, you import enough for a few hours' worth of listening, then swap content. At such limited quantities, a selective iTunes sync is very quick business. If you want to go walkabout, you'll of course need headphones that play nice with an iPad's limited power. I highly recommend the Meze 99 Classic or Final Sonorous III. Both are <€400 and highly efficient to play louder than you should. That offboarding sounds even better won't surprise. That Apple's so-called camera adapter can do the deed if it meets the right USB socket was a surprise - at least to me. Just don't tell Apple store employees what you want it for. They'll tell you flat out that it won't work. Ask me how I know. And, they're right. Some of the time. Occasionally however, men really do swim across asphalt roads and come home with a free backstage pass for their DAC...
Reader Brian Werner: "I enjoyed your article on the Apple CCK hack. I've been using a CCK as part of my office digital front end for a couple of years. The iPad has a gorgeous UI and there are tons of audio player apps that cater to audiophile and HiRez playback but the CCK (especially the newer 3.0 version) opens up a lot of possibilities. I wanted to offer up a couple that you and your readers may appreciate. If you have a powered USB hub that has its own AC supply, you can actually connect your iPhone/iPad to that as the master port and connect to a number of DACs that are not available direct to the CCK because of the iOS power draw limitation. Another neat option, since I've read that you and your wife are sensitive to wifi, is you can use a powered hub with an ethernet port off your router which will allow you to connect an iPad or iPhone to the Internet without wifi. This opens up streaming options like Tidal & Bandcamp without inundating your home with a 2.5GHz wifi signal. Plus the arguable benefit of streaming via  ethernet protocol vs. wireless. There are also ways to connect external hard drives via a powered hub to provide for larger local music libraries but those often require jailbreaking to get apps like iFile to work their best with dedicated music player apps. Or they force you into using utilitarian 'media player' apps that are built onto more robust file browser apps. Still the flexibility seems to be getting better not worse with each iOS update so I am hoping a fully optimized version of this option is just around the corner."