1/8 inch mini plug to RCA cable.
Available from Radio Shack.
No need for high $$$ cable.
Available from Radio Shack.
No need for high $$$ cable.
Bignerd100 is right, just get a cable that has a 1/8 stereo mini plug on one end and dual RCA plugs on the other. Put the mini plug into the headphone jack on the iPod and the RCA's into any line-level input on your integrated.
I'm not advocating expensive cabling for that application but if that's what you want, almost every cable manufacturer is making an 'iPod' cable, some costing close to the same price as the iPod. I bought an Audioquest version from audioadvisor.com, like this but there are lots of other options. The cable isn't really iPod specific, it can be used to connect anything with a mini-jack output, like a portable CD player or another brand of mp3 player.
Mapleleafs3 - You clearly have no idea what you're talking about.
I would be surprised if you could tell the difference between an ipod's line out playing apple lossless files and any <= $500 cd player
Have you ever even listened to an ipod hooked up via line out playing lossless files? Or are you "guessing" ?
There are two audio outputs on most iPods. The headphone jack is lower level (Vms) and can be controlled on the iPod. As Goatwuss has written, its less then ideal, even though its very convenient in a stand alone application.
What is audibly better is the jack on the bottom. It is higher level (Vms). But there is no gain control - which is what you have an integrated amp for...
A lot of people are making plugs for that, here are a few:
Nyko Stereo link which includes 6' ICs
The Sendstation Pocket Dock which provides both a mini and a Firewire plug so you can run the iPod from AC
The SIK din which provides similar functionality in a little different form factor
There is a tweak audiophile version without the power provision called the Turbodock
Finally, take a look at Drew at Moon Audio's solution which offers a hardwired plug that can be terminated in RCAs. www.moonaudio.com then select "Headphone and Portable cables" and scroll down to see what he's been up to. I have not heard it but I think its very appealing for what is effectively a permanent installation.
You do need to make sure you are using lossless files. Take a look at this article to find out just how good this can sound...
Once you get the bug, take a look at the mod Vinnie Rossi is doing to the iPod - if you are considering this you will probably want to stay with a 1/8" plug cabling solution.
BTW I totally disagree with Bignerd and Sfar - attention to detail matters, cable is such a detail. It is as important when you are using an iPod as a source as it is with any other source. Why would it not matter?
If all you've ever done is listened to the headphone output of an iPod you're bound to conclude it sounds lousy (especially if you're listening with the stock earbuds, they're absolutely horrible). The way to go if you want quality is to use apple lossless files with the line out through the cradle. Better yet, mod the iPod to take all the crap out of the signal path after the dac and upgrade the capacitors to Black Gates (which Vinnie at Red Wine Audio does, and he did for me). This gets you everything that's causing such a buzz with PC based playback in something you can hold in your hand and take with you when you travel (although you will need a headphone amp because the regular jack is converted to a line out level).
Agree; definitely use the line-out, or the line-out on a Dock if you don't have one on your iPod. Do not use the headphone jack which runs off the tiny op-amp in the iPod. Better yet, if there were some solution to get a digital output from the iPod that could run into an outboard DAC, then you'd be cooking with gas! I started a thread a while back, which I'll ammend now having just seen this implemented in a mini-system by Monitor Audio. If you read the description of the features of this mini-system, it claims to use the iPod simply as a digital feed and use its own DAC to do the conversion. I have no experience with this unit, so can't comment specifically, but that'd be the way I'd want to go. Short of that, line-out and you will still need that 1/8" mini to dual RCA iPod interconnect. I use one of Signal-Cable's silver versions of this plug and am very happy with it (about $70). Do not make the mistake of buying one of those docks with the RCA outputs directly on them (can't recall the manufacturer...costs $99). I tried one and they are truly horrible. They do put some kind of filter, circuitry or op-amp between the iPod and the outputs. Whatever that circuitry is absolutely ruins the sound. I took mine back after two days and went with the basic Apple iDock for my 60GB iPod (which otherwise has no line-out). The iDock has a mini jack for line-output. The signal from the line-out this way is markedly better than going through the headphone jack.
As far as the naysayers go; don't knock it till you've tried it. The one huge advantage it offers is having a big chunk of your music that you can bring anywhere with you. I have a hook-up to my Alpine deck in my car, and travel with a head-amp, and sometimes powered speakers to enjoy music in my hotel room. 300+ CD's at my fingertips in lossless format. At home it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable source via line-out for everything but critical listening, where I still think most would be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Of course you'd know it was there in your system and you'd have to live with that nagging thought. Eventually the Audiophile Police would come a knockin' and confiscate your membership card and decoder ring. You'd be black listed in the community, shunned by those who deplore such mediocrity, and if you listen long enough your johnson will shrivel up and fall off, and you'll go blind.
Whoops, I said 300+ CD's on a 60GB iPod in ALAC format. Not true. It's a mere 120 CD's. My mind must have been wandering to my shriveling johnson and failing eyesight.
Cool mods at RedWine - thanks for the links. I still want to know why no one seems to be able to get a digital output since Monitor Audio claims to do that? I think I'll write to Vinnie and see what he has to say on the subject.
CK - I've read that 6moons article before. It really is more about the Avantgarde speakers more than the iPod IMO, but does have some helpful iPod info. Overall it occurs to me as an audio fluff piece. When it came to the question anyone who is likely to be reading that article would want to ask, they did not go at all into detail of any kind of comparisons between an iPod and anything else running through the same speakers. It does not surprise me that you can get an iPod to sound pretty good through a $7000 pair of amplified horn speakers...but how does it compare to other options? Did I miss something?
The only mention of anything like this comes at the end, and is evasive at best:
The 10 guilder -- or rather $15,000 -- question: How did the HiPod system compare to our usual reference rig? The question is easy but the answer is more complicated. Consider that our Duos are at the tail end of a system comprised of the CEC TL5100 as transport, an AudioNote DAC, a TacT RCS 2.0 as preamp/room-correction engine and an Audio Note Meishu with KR300Bs as power amp. Interconnect cables (all on loan for review) are presently Stealth Indra, Siltech SQ88 MKII, Van den Hul Gold Hybrid, Xindak FA Gold, Crystal Cable Piccolo, Harmonix Golden Performance. Our standard cabling is Crystal Cable Reference.
It goes on but never really addresses any real evaluation of the iPod as a source compared to other sources.
You know, this article is kind of like a party trick - neat but why bother. Where we may differ is that I find it pretty amazing that a reviewer would go out on a limb and say that a iPod sounds decent through a high resolution system. Seems to me if it was a crappy source it would sound pretty bad in that kind of rig.
Truth is there are a lot of advantages to going digital - IMHO you can get to really good sound for a very reasonable price. If you want to go that route I recommend a SLIM Squeezebox. A modded one from Vinnie or Wayne at Bolder sounds pretty damn good - I know, I have one of each.
To be sure, in my house, I'm not going to use an iPod as a source (though I keep a cable if a friend drops by with something to share.) But that is what the original poster asked for help with, so that's what I focused on.
But here's a for instance that makes lots of sense to me. You want something mobile. Something where the whole kit and caboodle - source, media, power supply, cabling fits in your pocket...
Maybe because you like to travel with headphones on planes. Maybe you have a cabin or n my case, a boat. In this set up, the iPod can play a pretty cool role and deliver very good sound. Properly set up it will at the very least equal a thousand dollar plus CD player. (Something I would have no room for aboard, much less a couple of hundred albums.)
That to me is a good use of technology, and at least for me a good reason to have Vinnie do an iMod.
But I'm with you. At home with a big honking set of speakers and all the stuff it takes to make them go, I'm just not going to use an iPod because I can do it better using a different approach. For not much more money...
As you might suspect, the real reason I threw the 6Moons article in was because I think its startling - and there are a lot of people who seem to need to be startled before they consider new possibilities and solutions.
I find it pretty amazing that a reviewer would go out on a limb and say that a iPod sounds decent through a high resolution system.
I read it over again, and I really can't find any critical review of the iPod's sound in that system whatsoever! There is no going out on a limb, other than perhaps the concept of the article . But that concept is not followed through to being any kind of review at all (which is why I say it's just a fluff piece). Again, perhaps I'm missing something, but I don't think so. As far as I got from reading it, the reviewer says nothing at all about the sound of the iPod in that system. The information I did get from it corresponds to my own experiences: the line-out is an improvement over the headphone jack. In both cases the iPod lacks in the low-end, both in depth and resolution (though I don't think the reviewer even goes that far). They chose the Avantgardes for their bass prowess to make up for this weakness in the iPod. Having read the article now twice, I have no idea, not even a remote sense, of what that system sounds like. It is, at best, a very basic primer on some of the ways to get the most out of your iPod when used as the front end of a home system. It is not a review, and there is certainly no risk taking that I can see in what's been said there.
I agree with you CK; as convenient as the iPod is, and as amazing the concept that so much music can fit in such a tiny space, and actually be reproduced in an enjoyable presentation through a system, I see no reason to do that when there are other choices at hand. I've compared my iPod to my own front end and you won't find it connected to my home system either. I absolutely would, however, run my computer via Waveterminal through my DAC, which makes for a brilliant front end. This is the reason I was looking for some way to get a digital-output from my iPod, as Monitor Audio claims to be doing. Do that, and I think you'd really be on the way to a significant improvement in iPod performance, and a real contender as a part of a digital front end.
Ckorody, I was not saying that cables don't matter. On the contrary, I pointed out that there may be better options that the Radio Shack cable originally suggested, including the Audioquest that I own. The original question seemed to be simply how to connect an iPod to an integrated. As this thread so abundantly points out, there is an incredible range of options if you go beyond the simplest possible solution, most of which will certainly benefit by attention to all the details, including the cable.
CK - If you want to read an actual "review" of how the iPod performs within the context of a good system, this 6moons piece is much more to the point and will give folks a better idea of what to expect, and what not to. It's pretty much on the money from my listening experiences, but goes into much more detail as I didn't bother listening to it very long or extensively in that capacity (it only takes a few cuts to conclude, "why bother?"). It's not really the point of the iPod after all.
I am a regular 6 Moons reader. I simply chose the other article but I am glad you are exposing people to this one as well.
I don't think we disagree about much - but we seem to be coming at this from somewhat different points of view.
What I find exciting is that there is a sea change going on. All the details are not apparent but there is no doubt that things are changing. How do I know - well for the past year I have personally posted perhaps 150 responses to people who are curious about how to use the new digital stuff in their systems. Since all of these posts are on AGon and AudioAsylum (under email@example.com) I assume that they are people who are at least somewhat concerned with creating good sound.
Here is the article in which Srajan addresses it - recommended reading for people getting into this area.
Once again I find it startling that the reviewer in the article you selected is comparing a $400 unit to a $4,000 CD player. Generally one hopes that 10x buys you something more... I think that what is happening again and again is that these new 'consumer level' pieces are forcing people to re-examine their expectations about what their money will buy.
People who were never going to spend $4,000 on a CD player like the one mentioned in the article are delighted when they discover how much they can get for a few hundred dollars. I think that is the impetus for the original post - how do I hook my iPod into my system.
I think that part of it is audio quality - how much better is good enough, and the other part of it is a whole new metaphor for using their music. Read the posts - people who are doing this are listening to more music and more of their libraries. This may not be the ultimate audiophile concern, but IMHO it is the reason most people buy gear.
What we are seeing is Moore's Law at work - and the blurring of the traditional CE industry imposed lines between good, better, best. It seems increasingly likely that someone who buys a $500 or $1,000 or $1,5000 CD player and puts it up next to an iPod will most likely be disappointed by the performance of the CD player - both in terms of the sound and the value for the money it provides...
The implication for the audio industry is that there are 15,000,000 plus new iPod owners who will not be buying CD players for much longer because this iPod or the next one surpasses anything they ever heard. (same effect as we have seen with digital cameras)
I worked on the original introduction of the CD to the retail music industry back in the 80's. No one will argue that CDs - especially then - were better then vinyl. But the ease, the form factor and the pleasing albeit artificial sound spelled the immediate end of tape and an enormous decline in vinyl sales. In truth, most people though that they were hearing the music for the first time because it cost less then ever to get "good sound". That is what is happening now as well.
From my personal perspective, with my modded Squeezeboxes and USB to DAC systems I am getting better sound then I could otherwise afford - along with a whole list of features that are simply unavailable in traditional gear. I have similar hopes for the modded iPod I am expecting in the mail next week. In short, I am a happy guy, and since I enjoy writing I am trying to make it easy for others to try it themselves.
I totally respect the fact that there are people here like you who have spent years perfecting their systems and educating their ears. And that such people will not find the iPod a satisfying solution. (In fact we agree that its not the home unit of choice.)
But my thesis is that for every person like you, there are many more who are being blown away. There is no putting this genie back in the bottle.
Marco is exactly right. The iPod is brilliantly engineered to provide extreme portability. Ultimate fidelity isn't the point at all. If you go very far down the path of optimizing the sound by eliminating the DAC and amplifier inside the iPod you wind up with, in effect, a 1" hard drive tethered to a very large chain of boxes and wires.
There's no more expensive or less reliable hard drive storage than the tiny drive inside the iPod and anyone with an iPod is going to have the music duplicated on a larger fixed drive somewhere anyway. Why not just use that drive as your digital source and set your iPod free?
Excellent post CK! Thanks for re-introducing me to that 6moons article as it bears re-reading. I'll look forward to hearing your opinions on the your modded iPod vs. modded Squeezebox. I had a few email exchanges with Vinnie on the subject of getting adigital stream from the iPod as Monitor Audio is doing. Though he thought it was a good idea, he said he currently had too much on his plate to consider it at this time. He speculated that they must be using the USB out to an internal converter, but wasn't sure what they were using to interface with that signal, which would otherwise require some software. Somehow they seem to bypass the need for software and default to the iPods own controls. There's yet another review of the iDeck, along with a $3700 tube-driven iPod mini system from Goldster Audio that uses single-driver whizzer cone speakers. Nothing unexpected in that reviews by Michael Fremer in the current (March 06) Stereophile, and no mention of the Monitor Audio product using its own DAC either. He was impressed with both systems, each in a different way (the $3700 Goldster he seemed to find more myopic in it's realm of excellence, and in that way thought the money better spent on something else). Nothing revolutionary I'd say, but amazing, nonetheless, to get such good sound from a tiny iPod. As has been opined already, silly to compare it to much more expensive solutions.