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I realize that I can use a USB audio interface (via the camera connection kit on iPhone or directly on iPad) for audio applications.

I am curious what sort of latency the "built-in" audio hardware has on modern mobile Apple devices (e.g. iPhone 12 or later, iPad Pro 3rd gen or later).

Are there any specs on the latency / audio management if I just plug in a lightning adapter when compared to plugging in an audio interface on a mobile Apple device?

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There's no built-in audio hardware for that purpose on the iPhone 12 or iPad Pro 3rd Gen.

It's easy to mistake the Lightning to 3.5 mm Adapter as being merely a cable that gets the analog audio signal from one connector form factor to another - but that's not actually the case. The Lightning to 3.5 mm Adapter is in itself a USB audio interface, so the digital to analog (DAC) is actually inside the adapter cable.

In essence this means that there is no inherent latency advantage in using the 3.5 mm adapter over a USB audio interface in general.

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  • Great answer. There are also other advantages to using a dedicated audio interface - such as buffer size and drop outs. Where would one get any information about this from the Lighting to 3.5mm adapter. How can one assess its performance? Additionally, other brands such as Anker make Lightning to 3.5mm adapters, are there performance differences OR how would one measure the relative performance of these cables?
    – Startec
    Sep 15, 2022 at 1:03
  • This is a related question: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/252779/… I am not sure of the justification of your statement In essence this means that there is no inherent latency advantage in using the 3.5 mm adapter over a USB audio interface. How can a DAC built into a $9 cable compare in terms of performance with a much nicer / higher powered audio interface?
    – Startec
    Sep 15, 2022 at 1:08
  • There are ofcourse performance differences. You can measure the relative performance simply by comparing them. I.e. a simple test is to use an external measurement device (PC/Mac, oscilloscope, sensor logger, whatever you have) and let it play a simple, short sound that is easily detectable on the signal. The sound needs to be triggered externally via a channel with known/low latency. For example a tap on the display, where the external device gets that tap as an input too.
    – jksoegaard
    Sep 15, 2022 at 5:14
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    Regarding your second comment, so think you misread what I wrote. I did not write that the 9$ adapter is better than higher spec audio interfaces. It’s the other way around. There’s nothing that makes the 9$ adapter inherently better than those audio interfaces.
    – jksoegaard
    Sep 15, 2022 at 5:16

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