So while the benefits the i1 brings over the stock output/dongle may seem questionable from perusal of its specifications, in real world testing, the i1 serves to be the ever more listenable and engaging source. Musicality is a difficult term to define, I suppose many would characterise is as an almost analogue quality as opposed to the sterility of “digital” sounding sources; a sound that finds greater synergy with the majority of higher end earphones. This is the same reason why you see people paying so much for old 80GB iPods and 1st Generation Nano’s with their famed Wolfson DACs; these devices, while technically inferior in all measurements to their modern counterparts, possess such musicality. And that’s where the i1 comes in, it possesses the cleanliness and digital prowess of a modern Apple device combined with the organic timbre of those before.
Verdict – 8/10, The i1 isn’t a huge upgrade over the modern IOS device, but it’s more natural tonality, enhanced build and added functionality well deserve the increased asking price. Their more effortless sense of detail combined with a more musical tone all go far to enhance the user’s listening experience.