Portable DAC and Iphone

I would like to be able to get decent music out of my iPhone for headphones and perhaps putting in my system.

However, from what I read on at least one review was that the iPhone sucks and adding in say a Audioquest’s DragonFly only makes it suck a teensy weensy bit less.

Perhaps a Chord Mojo would be better?  In that case though it is pretty expensive and large for listening while mobile and then I wonder if that is wasteful and I should just get an amp or separate DAC solution and say screw it to portable.

Portlandlay - 

Just to contribute to this thread.

I have a Sony PHA-2 that I have used with various iPhones (currently iPhone 7) and headphones and the difference is night and day - it sounds exceptional and has massive power and will drive pretty much anything.

Other things I really like about it is how it's designed.  The unit comes with 2 rubber straps that allow you to strap your phone directly to it - it has a built in rechargeable battery that runs for several hours making it a fairly portable setup.

The volume control is really really nice - perfectly sized and very smooth allowing you to dial in exactly the volume you need at any given moment - Also, the placement of the volume control is perfect so that as you're holding the unit in one hand, the knob rests exactly against your finger for perfect adjustment.

Other great benefits of the unit is that it has several inout and output options.  If you wanted to, you could use the line out jack and run it into a main system.

One thing that I don't like about it is that it only runs on batteries and cannot be charged while in use so using it i a main system as a dedicated DAC would be a bit of a pain.

That said, I compared many different options and while there are others that sound good, the truth is most of them can't match the portability and ergonomics that I was looking for.

I've been wanting to try that new Oppo unit for a while - looks sleek and has a nice finish and is dirt cheap, but given how happy I am with my current setup, I'm not making it a priority-

Also, every DAC chip has its own signature sound and I've never really gotten into the ESS product line -and have always preferred other chips more (Burr Brown for example)  - just a matter of personal taste.

The Chord has great reviews but the form factor is a deal-breaker for me.

The Dragonfly has its place - certainly portable but in order to connect it to the iPhone, you're going to need a cable adapter - also a deal breaker for me and they don't have the juice to drive power hungry cans like I use now - Might be perfect for in-ears though.  But IMHO, it probably isn't that much of an upgrade over the surprisingly good $9 lighting dongle that ships w/ the iPhone 7 (did you realize that there's actually a DAC/Amp in that thing?).

At the end of the day, it will come down to your specific needs and tastes but regardless, any dedicated amp/DAC will be an improvement over the phone's internal junk - big time.

Thanks Greg and I will check out the Sony.  One thing I did see on the web that differs from you experience was a test on the new iPhone 7 dongle.  

Measurements show it to be inferior to the headphone jack only iPhone 6+

“The results are clear: with an iPhone 6S, the dynamic range worsens by 4.5 dB(A) for 24-bit music files. For the iPad Air, it worsens by 3.8 dB(A). The signal also gets worse for 16-bit music files, even if they aren’t that drastic: the dynamic range worsens by 1.8 dB(A) and 3.1 dB(A) for the iPhone and iPad, respectively."

I appreciate the input everyone.  I have some homework to do.

I do think that a very good set of headphones will help regardless.  It’s just how much more the DAC will improve things.
Yesterday I ordered some new over ear headphones on a whim.  I had some pretty mediocre pair but yesterday I tweeked the plug and now they are dead.

These are what I got. https://www.amazon.com/Philips-SHP9500-Precision-Over-ear-Headphones/dp/B00ENMK1DW/ref=sr_1_1?s=elec..

I got them at Newegg for $55 and for that money they are worth trying.

So I getting a DAC may be priority one now.  Does anyone have experience with the FiiO E10K USB DAC?