If you use an iPhone but don’t where Bluetooth earbuds, chances are you have one of those lightning to 3.5mm adapters. Apple has always sold a simple one that you can get for a good price, but there are some out there that can really make a difference to your sound. Of course, you can upgrade your portable setup with a good number of DAC/Amps, but sometimes, a wired dongle is all you need. Here are a few lightning dongles that can help enhance your music.
One of the first big upgrades you can make to your mobile listening, Fiio is no stranger to lists like this. The KA1 is a simple lightning adapter that is capable of delivering 32bit/384kHz of high-fidelity audio with PCM and DSD256. It’ll sound great when streaming with Apple Music, and also supports MQA rendering for Tidal. The ES9281AC PRO chip does a good job of balancing higher sample rates with power consumption to get the most efficiency from the KA1. IEMs and low-impedance headphones with sound well-driven and it’ll come with plenty of headroom.
The Go Link is the most recent lightning dongle I used, and it’s quite enjoyable. It’s mainly a type C dongle, but it comes with a lightning adapter. If you’re looking for an entry-level upgrade for your phone, the Go Link will punch up your music quite nicely. With IEMs you’ll hear some enhanced imaging and dynamic range, and it comes pact with a significant amount of power.
For the same price as the Go Link, you can also get the Ikko Zerda ITM02. This is one of the few options on this list that comes with a detachable cable, so it has more versatility. It has a longer cable, but the device is one of the smallest dongles you’ll find. The build is top-notch for the price too, with its aluminum alloy chassis overlayed with glass. It’s not just all looks though, as the sound will still impress. Everything should come out clean and smooth, with some upgraded textures in the bass and treble.
DD HiFi has a ton of different cables and adapters to choose from, but the TC44C is one of the best for iPhone. The cable is detachable, and the actual dongle is not shaped like most headphone adapters you’ll find. It’s also the only iPhone dongle on this list that provides you with a 4.4mm balanced headphone jack. In terms of its sound, the TC44C is capable of reproducing a massive output. The sound is pushed forward and offers noticeably more room in the mix compared to your standard adapter.
Unlike the rest of these entries, the HC2 from A&K is mainly built for balanced IEMs. It only has a 4.4mm headphone jack, and its price is much higher than most other iPhone adapters you’ll find. A&K is known for its high-end DAPs, and they bring that premium feel to this simple lightning adapter. Expect clean and detailed sound from your headphones and IEMs, with output than will appear even and accurate across all bands of frequency.