Tech Talk: Yes, you can play your DSD files on an iPhone!

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In my home stereo, everything digital runs through my phone (or ipad), which I attach to either a Dragonfly Cobalt and from there to the preamplifier, or else to a Pro-ject pre Digital S2 DAC. So if I am going to play DSD files they have to go through one of these. The Pro-ject decodes DSD files and I was interested to see how they sound. After a bit of a struggle, I found a solution, at least for the Pro-ject. Onkyo’s HF Player app comes in two versions, one free and one that costs $10. The paid version plays back hi-res files, including DSD files. So I paid my money and took my chance, which paid off in this case. A brief description of how this works is below.

It plays DSF files by either converting them to PCM or by using the DoP protocol. The default setting is to convert to PCM, which gives a 176k sampling rate on the Pro-ject DAC. However, it also offers the choice (see below) to use the DoP (DSD over PCM) format, which puts DSD files into a PCM format solely for transmission to the DAC. The DAC “sees through” the PCM packaging and plays the files back as DSD files. Thus, when playing back after adjusting the settings the DAC readout showed DSD 64, DSD128, or DSD 256, whichever was applicable. Happy camper!

Selecting DoP playback
In the settings menu (tap on the settings wheel) there is a DSD section. It has four choices:
1) DSD Output Format – select DoP – the default method is PCM. If you don’t change this you won’t get DSD output. You get a warning that this is in beta. I chose it anyway.
2) Pause Mode for DoP – I selected Stop Output
3) DSD 3.6MHz DoP – select active
Real time DSD Conversion – I selected High-Precision DSD 5.6 MHz. Again, you get a warning that it’s in Beta. I chose it anyway. So far no problems.
After making these choices the Pro-ject DAC shows that it’s playing back DSD files.

Getting the files onto the iPhone
Directly downloading the files to the phone doesn’t work, at least I couldn’t find a way to do it. For Onkyo HF to find the files they have to be copied to its “library”. This requires the step of downloading the files to a computer running iTunes and then transferring them. On the Mac, this is done by connecting the phone to the computer via a USB cable and opening iTunes. iTunes will show a phone icon. Clicking that icon opens up a phone section, which includes a File Sharing setting. Click on File Sharing and you see a list of Apps on the phone which can accept files. Click on the HF Player icon and drag the files from the computer to that window to copy them. This link shows the process:

https://help.nativedsd.com/en/articles/92738-onkyo-hf-player-dsd-setup-g…

Enjoy,
Phil

This article first appeared on the dsd-guide.com website in January, 2021.

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San Francisco Audiophile Society

San Francisco Audiophile Society