iPhone/iPad: using their DAC, we can now hook them up through RCA connections into my 2-channel rig. But it isn't particularly convenient,....
Jult52, it looks like you are connection-challenged! The average user on this forum is far more connection savvy, if I may say so, esp. with modern toys like iXXXXX, Roku, etc.
If you family members are this interested in using your 2-ch main rig with their iPhone, mini iPod then it looks like you need an iphone, ipod dock with an analog output. there are several to be had (& many of them good quality) for as low as $100 & all the way up to many $100s. You would connect this dock once to your 2-ch rig using RCA cables & whoever wanted to play music would simply switch on the dock, dock their iXXXXX unit into it, switch on your main rig & play music. any reason for overlooking an iphone/ipod dock?
Our Apple laptop: USB audio out, although the sound quality probably sucks. (I'm not a fan of PC audio.) No way to connect it to the 2-channel rig.....
speculation on your part re. the sonic quality. I'm sure that it is very good (but perhaps not superlative) to the point that listening to music is enjoyable.
Again, the connection to the main rig is quite easy - you need a USB-to-SPDIF converter. There are several to be had for very reasonable prices such as $150 for the M2Tech unit & I'm sure that there are many others "Made in USA". Once again, connect the USB-to-SPDIF converter to your main 2-ch rig using RCAs. Each time you want to listen thru the Apple laptop just connect the USB output of the laptop to the USB-to-SPDIF converter (which is permanently connected to your 2-ch rig), switch on your main rig & you are off to the races. What's the real problem?
Connectivity, as in connections between components, is very difficult to navigate,.....
this is NOT one of the reasons preventing more people to indulge in hi-end audio.
Practically every interface has multiple solutions in terms of hardware & in terms of price points. It just depends on how much time you have to read & learn about it & how much money you want to spend.
I think that you have plenty of catching up to do.
And, you post would have been in better taste if you had simply asked the question: how do I conveniently connect gadge XYZ to my main 2-ch rig?
End counter-rant. ;-)