Is there a better way to hook up an iPad/iPhone to an analog receiver?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by csgreene, Nov 9, 2018 at 12:51 PM.

  1. csgreene

    csgreene Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Idaho, USA
    I have no real issues with my Monoprice miniplug/RCA interconnects going from the headphone out on the device to auxiliary ins on my various receivers but I wonder if there's a better way? To me, with a good stream, the sound is quite pleasing but am I missing something on how I connect to my integrateds?
     
    Bingo Bongo likes this.
  2. heyMo

    heyMo Forum Resident

    Location:
    Charlotte
    Is there a DAC in there somewhere? Also, some folks use a bluetooth adapter. But that may be more for convenience.
     
  3. Wasabi

    Wasabi Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Lutz, FL
    How about an AudioQuest Dragonfly Red/Black in between? Depending on everything else in your system that may help.
     
  4. csgreene

    csgreene Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Idaho, USA
    There's the built-in DAC in the iPad and phone that gets pretty good reviews. Others, whose opinions I respect, said this is not a bad way to do things but I have yet to ask the question here. I've been doing it this way for about 4 years now and thought it was time to revisit the issue. My amps are all pure analog. I'm not convinced about how much better, if any, external DACs are. I had a conversation with AudioQuest when I was first exploring this sort of hook up and they didn't convince me I'd hear much, if any, difference.

    I tried a BT receiver but thought the audio quality sucked. Works OK with my old Zenith console we have in the dining room, however. But that's not a terribly accurate system.
     
    heyMo likes this.
  5. heathen

    heathen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Colorado
    You could get an external DAC with a good return policy and try it out...if it doesn't make a noticeable difference in the sound (and it very well might not), return it.
     
  6. csgreene

    csgreene Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Idaho, USA
    One issue with a USB powered DAC that I just remembered is that you need a lightning to USB cable and it will draw power from the device. I keep my two iPads plugged into power all the time because I bought them, primarily, to use as music streamers (internet radio, Pandora, Spotify).
     
  7. Galactus2

    Galactus2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia
    I've seen the photos you posted over in the listening space thread (good looking set-up, by the way), and I used to do it the *exact* same way you do.

    But let me ask you this: do you find that your iPad, or any other portable device you might use, produces enough output? I ask that b/c my ipod and Fiio don't produce enough oomph for me. So I stuck a Schiit Magni headphone amp between the devices and the receiver, and it makes all the difference in the world.
     
  8. csgreene

    csgreene Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Idaho, USA
    Yeah, no problem with output. I remember reading an article a few years ago that suggested leaving the device volume about midway. I find, based on my personal experience, that you need to max the volume on the device and control it through my integrated amps (or the Yamaha RX-V990 HT receiver downstairs). There is more than enough clean volume to exceed my listening levels.

    I'd ask about the higher end Mini/RCA cables but I remain unconvinced that cables, at least for my level of gear, make much difference other than making sure I have a quality, well-shielded cable or speaker wire. In other words, would any of these cables really provide a significant boost in what I hear? RCA - Mini-Audio Advisor
     
  9. mj_patrick

    mj_patrick Forum Resident

    Location:
    Elkhart, IN, USA
    I love to use Airport Express direct to a legacy stereo for this... no need to physically connect an iPhone or iPad with cables..
     
    SamS, ZenArcher, Trabik and 2 others like this.
  10. joelongwood

    joelongwood Forum Resident

    Location:
    Wading River, NY
    I do this as well. I have 4 Airport Express units hooked up to various vintage amps and receivers and love the convenience. And I haven't really heard any degradation of sound quality compared to direct connections.
     
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  11. mj_patrick

    mj_patrick Forum Resident

    Location:
    Elkhart, IN, USA
    Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s really interesting to pair an Express with a vintage receiver and hear the sound. Used models are fairly inexpensive on eBay for the time being, so I’ve bought several.
     
    joelongwood likes this.
  12. DaleClark

    DaleClark Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bexley, Ohio
  13. Apesbrain

    Apesbrain Forum Resident

    Location:
    East Coast, USA
  14. Gary7704

    Gary7704 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Basking Ridge, NJ
    How is the connection to the receiver made?
    Audio out of the express?
     
  15. mj_patrick

    mj_patrick Forum Resident

    Location:
    Elkhart, IN, USA
    Yes sir, 1/8” from Express to RCA stereo input cable into receiver. Monoprice makes some good quality cables for this.

    Note that only the Airport Express has the audio out, not other models such as the AirPort Extreme.

    You can hook up a Chromecast Audio in the same manner.
     
  16. ZenArcher

    ZenArcher Forum Resident

    Location:
    Durham, NC
    The Airport Express is an immensely useful device. Recently I have started plugging a pair of headphones into the analog audio out, which gives me Airplay access to my entire iTunes library, all controlled by the iOS Remote app. The amplifier in the Airport Express is really quite good.
     
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  17. Gary7704

    Gary7704 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Basking Ridge, NJ
    Great, thanks.
     
    mj_patrick likes this.
  18. guitarguy

    guitarguy Tone Meister

    Location:
    Greenville, SC
    Yes. And if you want to take it up a notch, the Airport Express has Optical Digital outputs that you can connect to a DAC. You'll need a 3.5mm mini TOSLINK to TOSLINK cable. The Express won't do higher sample rates but it would allow you to "untether" your iPad from the stereo.
     
  19. csgreene

    csgreene Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Idaho, USA
    Well, I don't really need to untether my iPad. What I was getting at was do I lose sound quality when using a 3.5 to RCA cable? From continuing to research the topic, I think the answer is no. Anecdotally, I was streaming Spotify (I have a premium account that I just started a few days ago) through my iPad into my downstairs system last night. I have good wi-fi here and have the streaming bitrate set to auto. What I heard through the system was certainly CD quality so I think I'll stick with my cable hook-up for now.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2018 at 3:56 PM
    Royce Clouse likes this.
  20. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland, U.S.A.
    I use an HRT iStreamer (DAC) between my iPod Classic and stereo receiver. Works nice, high bit rate mp3's sound like cd quality (imo).
    7,000 songs at my fingertips.
     
  21. DyersEve726

    DyersEve726 Schmo Diggy

    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    Trust me, they absolutely can be. Not saying a $100 external DAC is gonna blow your mind or anything, but the difference is not subtle if you're willing to invest in something good. It absolutely makes a difference, no question.
     
    mj_patrick likes this.
  22. Carl Swanson

    Carl Swanson Resident blabbermouth

    IMO, even a cheap one like Sound Blaster E5 is like the difference between .mp3 and .wav.
     
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  23. DyersEve726

    DyersEve726 Schmo Diggy

    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    Besides moving from a $400 set of speakers to a $2500 set, the single most significant improvement to my system was my DAC. It was absolutely night and day. The thought that it is an insignificant link in the chain is weirdly prevelant. It is what creates the audio signal...how can it not be near the top of the list?
     
    mj_patrick likes this.
  24. mj_patrick

    mj_patrick Forum Resident

    Location:
    Elkhart, IN, USA
    Your question was Is there a better way to hook up an iPad/iPhone to an analog receiver?

    In my opinion: yes. Moving away using from that headphone out to the lightning cable (which then uses the iPad/iPhone's internal DAC) results in a noticeable difference in sound, particularly in clarity and a little added low end. That was my experience at least.

    Transmitting to the Airport Express via WiFi then utilizes the AE's internal DAC, which to my ears sound pretty good. I am also in agreement with the comments here that improving the DAC makes a huge difference. There are affordable dedicated DACs that surely outperform that of the last-gen Express.
     
  25. guitarguy

    guitarguy Tone Meister

    Location:
    Greenville, SC
    To my ears, the DAC in the Airport Express was a definite improvement to using the headphone jack and analog cables. The convenience of being untethered / wireless is just a nice benefit of using that set-up. You don't mention what receiver you have but you might have TOSLINK or S/PDIF digital inputs already. Another advantage, in our household anyway, is that ANY of our various Mac's, iPads or iPhones can connect. It's nice for us but maybe not a big deal for you.

    Regardless of whether you try the AE, I also concur with others that using the native iPad Lighning connector into an outboard DAC would also be an improvement since you don't mind staying hardwired.
     

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