Wizician iPhone DAC/AMP

For an iPhone user, unless you never plan going past a 6S, needing a lightning headphone adaptor is an inevitability. And while Apple does supply the newer iPhones with adapters, it does have its limitations. For one you can’t charge your phone when listening to music.

So when the folks behind the Python Cable 1 Which I am a happy owner of pitched the Wizician – a MFi certified lightning adapter with a built in DAC and Amplifier. I thought why not.

Nevermind the DAC/Amp part of it, what sold me in was the simple fact that you’re able to charge your device while using your headphones – something which Apple’s offering can’t do. And while Belkin offers something similar – I find it quite retarded that they still required you to use the Apple adaptor (or an audio adaptor in general) with it. 2 Besides this was launched before anyone else had made this kind of product, so there wasn’t really a choice then

Nonetheless for $40 it also costs roughly four times the regular audio adaptor. And while the value of having a pass through charge capabilities is great added value, one would have to seriously consider the audio quality as well to justify whatever remaining premium they feel they’re shelling out for such a product.

Impressions

What I like about the group behind this is that they’ve proven to be reliable Kickstarter creators, just like the Python cable, they delivered the product relatively early (considering how much delays almost all KS projects usually have) In fact, I didn’t even get a notification that they had shipped – I went to my post office for another thing only to find out it had already arrived – so it was a much welcome surprise.

Box was pretty standard – nothing in it except the unit itself, no instruction manual, no website you could visit for instructions… nothing. Not that you’d need it – it’s a pretty straightforward product and you’d have to be pretty dim to not figure it out.

I’m not a fan of the all shiny white plastic housing, it looks like something you purchase from CDR-King (a local electronics store that sells china made electronics at dirt-cheap prices) I guess “cheap looking” would be the first thing would pop into your head. They could’ve at least housed it in aluminum or something (or had they offered a matte black option that would’ve made a world of difference). But hey, as long as it works, right?

Also, the final product unfortunately didn’t retain it’s original intended form which seemed much more streamlined and ergonomic. Although I wouldn’t knock on it too much because the reason for the revision was due to component requirements related to Apple’s MFi certification. So I guess I’d have to give them points for making sure you’re getting an accessory that’s sure to be compatible with their devices.

Also the added space gives more allowance for bigger sized audio/lightning plugs. As you can see here my headphone’s audio plug is fatter than normal, now while the lightning connector I’m using is fairly slim, imagine if you had a fat audio plug and fat lightning plug – so that too makes up for everything.

Another thing I didn’t like was the fact that considering the people behind this were the people behind the Python cable – it baffles me why they didn’t use a similarly durable cable for this unit. The actual cord here is just like a regular Apple cord, not necessarily flimsy, but any Apple user based on experience knows these things are just bound to fail from regular use. To me that’s kind of unacceptable considering I also messaged the creator during the campaign mentioning this fact. Looks like they didn’t heed my advice.

So I just took out some of my cheap “cable coils” 3 For lack of a better term – I honestly don’t know what the hell they’re called and used them to [hopefully] protect/stiffen the cable to minimize wear and tear.

DAC / AMP

While I do like to think I have pretty badass earphones 4 Or at least with more than enough quality to dispel anyone who would claim that I’m not using proper equipment to evaluate shit with I do not consider myself an audiophile in the sense that while I can hear the difference, I’m not obsessive enough to be impractical about it. So no, I’ve never really considered using a dedicated DAC or headphone amp. Or have a separate high end music player or have my music library all in lossless format.

My sense is that I’m more on the move and distracted with other stuff than sitting still and meditating on an auditory experience. So I’d rather not lug more devices than I have to. The closest I am to being “obsessive” I guess is that I have yet to experience a Bluetooth system that I’d prefer over a direct line/aux – and as such, I don’t like using BT audio if I know there’s direct auxiliary i/o – perhaps the really pricey BT audio modules are different, but by and large, BT sounds terrible compared to direct i/o. And while I do have “minimum” settings I prefer my songs encoded on, I’m obvioulsy not averse to compressed/lossy audio (or Spotify) for my general listening needs.

That said, I wouldn’t say the Wizician sounded worse – but it definitely had an earlier rolloff on the highs. And this was considering my everyday IEMs were already “warmer” than my flatter IEMs to begin with. So your mileage may vary depending on your sonic preferences.

Whenever I use my IEMs, volume is never really an issue. In fact I tend to set the volume to 50% on any device when using IEMs. With the Wizician that went down even further (like 30%) so I was kinda hoping that at the very least, the Wizician’s DAC/AMP would convert the raw data better than Apple’s DAC, but as far as I’m hearing, apart from the increase in volume because of the amplifier, there’s really no improvement in the sound. Again, to me it didn’t sound worse – just different. At least it didn’t sound less clear – so to me, the whole audio aspect of this thing is just a volume booster. Which ironically, in my case, I don’t really need given my IEMs output capability.

To sum everything up, audio-wise, unless you need boosted volume (like if you’re using regular earphones and you’re in a noisy environment and just can’t quite get the music loud enough), then sure this is a great tool to have. But honestly, I’d sooner suggest you invest in sound isolating earphones (or IEMs that do it naturally) because using volume to compensate for what you are unable to hear is not good for your ears in the long run.

Caveat

It’s worth mentioning that I tested this with a 6S that actually has a headphone jack. That said, these issues aren’t that big of a deal when we’re talking iPhone 7 and above – because you’re forced to use an adaptor anyway; there’s no jack to speak of – there ain’t jack shit, as it were 😛

In the jackless devices, you’ll essentially just be comparing the Wizician to the Apple supplied adapter. And it’s worth noting that according to this article, apparently the 6S’ bult-in DAC is in fact better sounding than the DAC on any Apple device via adapter.

So it makes sense to assume that those on a 7 who claim the Wizician had improved the sound over Apple’s adaptor would also makes sense – because if Wizician, as I obvserved, could least approximate the 6S’ onboard DAC quality (minus the early rolloff), then it would make sense that it would sound better than Apple’s offer by default 🙂

Pros

  • Charge while using headphones
  • MFi certified
  • Decent DAC quality

Cons

  • Earlier rolloff on the highs (and you cannot EQ via firmware or something)
  • Cable not durable (considering the creators also made kevlar reinforced cables)
  • Feels cheap

Final thoughts

At the end of the day it will boil down to what you value. Like I said earlier, I didn’t really need any enhancement of the audio given my “typical use scenario” but I did want to be able to charge while listening, and to me that’s what this is thing is only good for (that and it’s MFi certified). At $40, I’m not losing sleep over it.

Hoever, if you think dropping $40 on an adapter should get you great audio – this is not your product. And I only say this because most people when they hear “DAC/AMP” they automatically switch to “audiophile” thinking – that they should be hearing such a drastic difference in audio quality – your mileage will vary (and the more serious you are about audio – the less this will actually impress you).

As far as quality goes, then I’d say it’s just as good Apple’s built-in DAC at best. So the extra value would be in the volume boost – should you need it. Other than that, it’s really just about being able to charge your phone while using your headphones 😛 And to me that’s okay too 🙂 I’m just trying to manage your expectations.

Oh, in my case – it also made my car setup much cleaner so there is that.

Sufficed to say, I’m leaving the Wizician in the car (where I can EQ back those highs) I’ll probably use my Accessport as my “on the go” adapter when it arrives next month.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Which I am a happy owner of
2. Besides this was launched before anyone else had made this kind of product, so there wasn’t really a choice then
3. For lack of a better term – I honestly don’t know what the hell they’re called
4. Or at least with more than enough quality to dispel anyone who would claim that I’m not using proper equipment to evaluate shit with

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