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So iPads or any other iPod or iPhones uses audio codec from third-parties, most likely Cirrus Logic in recently products. For example, the iPhone 5 uses Apple-branded Cirrus Logic 338S1077 audio codec according to this iFixit teardown.

I am not sure of the codec used in MacBook Pros, especially my 15" retina one, but I am thinking that since the audio is the Intel integrated one, the codec is probably Intel-branded.

But the question remains, which would yield a better quality. The one on MacBook Pro or the one on an iPad or iPhone.

(Assuming playing the same AIFF file, outputting through the headphone port to a same headphone.)

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It's a Cirrus Logic audio codec :

Source :

So I would say the iPad won't outperform the MacBook Pro.

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My side-by-side comparison on my hi-fi system has revealed to my ears that the macbook outputs a much higher quality sound than an iphone5 and ipad3.

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