Listening to Hi-Res Apple Lossless on the Cheap

[disclaimer: contains amazon affiliate links]

I’m no audiophile. I can’t always tell the difference between compressed and lossless files.  However, I love listening to lossless audio. I feel like I’m getting everything the artists intended for me to hear. It doesn’t matter if my ears can’t always hear the difference. You can test your ears here. I’ve enjoyed Apple Music Lossless even though it has its querks.

Let’s get one thing out of the way. You can’t listen to lossless over bluetooth. Lots of blogs and youtube videos talk about this, so I’m not going to go through the technical side of things.

For most cases, listening to lossless is simple. Almost every computer or device with a 3.5mm headphone jack is capable of playing back regular lossless (16-bit or 24-bit, 41,000khz-48,000khz). For devices without a headphone jack, you’ll need an adapter. You’ve seen what I’m talking about.

Apple Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter
Apple USB-C to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter

These have a DAC inside that converts the digital signal to an analog one like we hear coming through the headphones or speakers. The DACs in these adapters max out at sample rates of up to 48,000khz. If you want to listen to Hi-Res music, which is just about everything with a higher sample rate, you’ll need a different DAC.

There are some similar dongles that you might see on Amazon that advertise to be capable of sample rates up to 384,000khz, but I ordered a few—they don’t work as well as I’d hoped. Fortunate for me, I purchased the perfect pocket size DAC about a year ago.

The Fiio BTR5 is an excellent portable DAC. It has a USB connection to connect to a bunch of different devices. It comes with a USB-C to USB-A cable, but if you are all on board the USB-C train, you can use your own USB C to USB C Cable. It has both the 3.5mm headphone jack and a balanced 2.5mm jack (I still haven’t gotten into the whole balanced headphone game). In addition to being a DAC, it’s also a bluetooth receiver. If you want to make some previously non-bluetooth headphones bluetooth capable, this little thing can help. You can even use it to add bluetooth to your car. (Remember, lossless and bluetooth aren’t quite friends yet.) What’s more, it has a clip case and built-in microphones.

So, plug this thing into your device and plug in your headphones on the other end and you are set. If you are on MacOS (and maybe even Windows or Linux), you’ll need to set your audio output to the desired bit rate. But, this is were iPhones and iPads come in. These devices grant exclusive audio control to the DAC. This way, the DAC will adjust itself to the correct sample rate on the fly. Darko Audio recommends listening on an iPad.

For iPads with a USB-C port, you can connect the DAC via USB-C. If you have a lightning port, you aren’t out of luck but you will need to purchase a special cable. It is not MFI certified, but it works like a charm. The USB DAC OTG Cable by Meenova does the trick and is a must have for anyone wanting to listen to Hi-Res Audio on a device with a lightning port.

Finally, headphones and speakers matter. I don’t have lots of money to pour into headphones, but a friend recommended two pairs to me, both by Phillips. The Philips Fidelio X2HR Over-ear Open-air Headphones sound great and can’t be beat for the money. You could also spend some extra cash and get its successor, the  Philips Fidelio X3, but why spend more money?

If you want something a little less expensive, try the Philips Audio SHP9500 HiFi Precision Stereo Over-ear Headphones. It will be hard to find a more comfortable headphone, and while they don’t sound a rich and full as the X2HR, they do sound pretty great. You can also try its successor, the SHP9600.

Before purchasing any of these headphones, you should know that they are open-back headphones. That means they leak sound everywhere. It makes for a wide soundstage for the listener, but fellow commuters, roommates, and family members will hear some sound coming from these.

Lastly, we come to speakers. As I mentioned previously, I don’t have a lot of cash to throw down on equipment. If you are looking for a budget speaker system, I recommend the Dayton Audio B652s. They are usually about $50 or so on Amazon. If you want a slight upgrade get the Dayton Audio B652-Airs for an extra $10.

And of course you’ll need an amp to run these on. There are a lot of good and bad inexpensive ones out there. If you get something like the Lepai LP-2020T, you’ll be content with the value to cost ratio.

That’s about it really. I’ve got all of these items except for the X3 and SHP9600. I love them all. I hope this was helpful to someone. Regardless of your equipment, listen to music. Music changes hearts and minds!

Using Siri in the Classroom

This isn’t really a post about how to use Siri in the classroom. Well, it could be. This semester I have a deaf student in my class. He’s fluent in Russian, Uzbek, American Sign Language, and Russian Sign Language. He’s here to learn English. Communication with him involves an interpreter or a series of notes on paper. Enter Siri. After class, his interpreter had to leave but he still needed to talk. Honestly, I got tired of writing/typing everything. It was slow and annoying. I opened up notes on my ipad mini and started using Siri. I could say whatever I wanted and it would be written in real time. He would then type his response. It sped up our communication and was fun for both of us. Siri, thanks for making my job easier and enjoyable!

Why do interfaces always change?

It’s been a long time since I have written anything. I logged into the new blogger today with it’s new interface. I upgraded to Lion with it’s newer interface. Why do people always change the interface? Why are there so many themes, skins, or whatever you call them? I think I might have an answer. Really I’ve boiled it down to two possibilities. First, perhaps the new interface is “better.” I’m assuming that software giants like Google and Apple do market research and usability testing. Then again, they might not. Better said, they don’t do it the way I think they should. Perhaps they get feedback via email or other communications. Maybe the designers who use the software just realize that somethings need to change.

The reason I think that they do it though, is to prevent the appearance of stagnation. If gmail still looked the same as it did when they released it, people would think that it was old and out of date. However, I don’t remember two many things about the interface that I didn’t like or that aren’t still around today. Firefox now updates every 6 weeks. OS X has had a steady two year average release time between versions. While the new features and abilities are welcome, the change in the interface seems to be the eye candy that draws you back in. Ubuntu does a good job with this. With every new release every six months I want to see what it’s like. I might even install the new version.

This post really doesn’t have a point. Well, maybe it does. I think the constant changing in interface layout, functionality, and overall look and feel is to keep people using their products. People just seem to like new things.

Great Lifehacker Post

I have not been a great blogger lately. I can’t believe that my last post was on May 31st. This week I saw a great post on Lifehacker is an awesome blog with loads of posts about interesting tips about life. This week they had a post on some language tools. Click here to check them out.

I had seen or used most of the tools, but the one I didn’t know about was After the Deadline. So far, it seems to be quite good. It’s a nifty tool that could probably best be described as the Super Hero version of Spelling/Grammar Checkers. Language teachers, especially writing teachers, might find it incredibly helpful. I hope to teach a class at the ELC next semester. If I do, and if it’s writing, I might explore some of these things.

Word Processor Search

I recently continued my ongoing search for the ultimate word processor for mac. Before I get to much further into this post, I must say that I am very content with Office 2007 on PCs. I think it is great. Since I’ve been using macs rather exclusively for the last 3 or 4 years, I have not been impressed by the word processors for mac. Here’s what I have learned.

Lightweight word processors. Let me say that I love these little programs. I’m talking about TextEdit that comes with OS X and others like Bean. In my speed tests (which weren’t done really scientifically) these were obviously the winners. They can do everything they do lightning fast. I wish that the the other word processors were like this. Obviously, they aren’t near as powerful as their big brothers, but they ar great for jotting down some text. I use TextEdit all the time. I think bean is real great too. The only real problem I have with these is that I can’t implement all the features that I need in order to produce an APA paper. and NeoOffice. I love these two suites. They are nice, but unfortunatly they are are also slow. They are memory hogs. There are occasional bugs. I’m really impressed with the work that has been done. Now, the whole idea of using open-source software really gives you warm fuzzies. Those, however are canceled out by the bickering and bad talk going between the two companies. It’s a long story but you can search for stuff about it online. NeoOffice looks and works a lot better with OS X. now has a native app which allows it to compete with NeoOffice. The former now has to wait to include the updated code from which puts it a little behind OO.o.

Word 2008. Some people might complain about using a microsoft program on their mac. I’m not a fanboy. I’m fine using it. It was much quicker than and NeoOffice. I liked that. Office 2008 has about every feature you need. It’s bloated. It’s expensive. It works. As I was looking around all these programs, I found a hidden menu item: Style Gallery. This allows you to sort of apply style sets, but isn’t really the best solution. You just create templates with the styles you want and then you can apply them to any document. I don’t like how confusing the formatting palette can get though.

Pages ‘09. I like pages. It’s quicker than all but the lightweights. It isn’t as expensive as Office 2008. It has the ease of use of a typical mac program. It’s rather feature complete and let’s you do everything that you need.

Mellel and others. I didn’t look at these too much. I found that they simply didn’t look nice and I didn’t want to spend money on program that didn’t seem to look nice or offer frequent updates.

So, here’s a brief run down of some categories and the winners.

Macness: Pages
Features: Word
Warm Fuzzies:
Speed: TextEdit
Style sets: Mellel
Comments interoperable with others: Word

So, it looks like I’m stuf with word. What I want is a quick, free, open source word processor that has style sets and works well with Microsoft Words reviewing features (comments, track changes, etc.) If anyone out there knows of one, post a comment.

Personal Development: Computer Style

Whoa! Two posts in one day! Hold on! As part of my own personal development, I’d like to blog more. It helps me share ideas.
Dragos Roua has an interesting post on being your best self. It compares us to computers. I think that there are some good points here, especially the unexpected shutdown.

  • Balance your core features
  • Defrag your mind
  • Update your drivers
  • Stay virus free
  • Enjoy an unexpected shutdown every now and then

iLife, ESL, and the Past Tense

I recently did a Poster Session at an Apple Education Conference: AcademiX. It was a lot of fun. I thought that I would share what what I did. For more information you can look at the Poster Session PDF.


For starters, this is something that I did with my intermediate ESL students.  In order to help them with them learn the past tense, I gave them an assignment.

The student videos were comprised of two parts. First, the students drew their story as if it were a comic. Second, the students narrated the story.


1. The students were divided into groups of four or five.
2. Each group was assigned one of the four topics:
•    Frightening Experience – Fire
•    Frightening Experience – Car accident
•    Frightening Experience – Getting Lost
•    Most Embarrassing Moment
3. Each group brainstormed to find a good story to tell for their assigned topic.
4. The students then began to take turns drawing pictures to go with their stories.
5. While not drawing, the other students would review and practice their portion of the speaking part.

During this portion the students had great authentic language use.

Brainstorming – The students told personal stories about their past while thinking of good topics. The students negotiated ideas as they decided on a story whether fictional or real.
Practicing – The students were able to use more language as they practiced their presentation. They helped one another and corrected each other.

I should note that this was done over the course of a week. For each class period, they were given 30 minutes to work on the project.

Day 1 – Brainstorming
Day 2 – Creating a Story
Day 3 – Drawing the Pictures
Day 4 – Recording their stories

Putting it all together

1. The students pictures were scanned and imported into iPhoto where they were edited.
2. Students recorded their dialogs using GarageBand, Sound Studio or WireTap Studio Pro. The students used iMacs with their built in microphones.
3. The audio and pictures were imported into iMovie where it was all put together.


It was a fun activity for everyone. It did put a lot of the burden on me to put it all together, but it was worth it.

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