Back on Sept. 16, 2008, I wrote an article regarding connecting your PC or iPod to a home stereo. A reader, LD, asked about the pros and cons of using a stereo y-connector with the iPod’s headphone jack, which I offered as a relatively low cost solution in my earlier post, versus connecting with a y-connector or kit with Apple’s Universal Dock. You can read his full comments and questions with the original post here.
Here’s my take on the headphone jack versus the universal dock approach:
I’ll assume the docking port in question is the
Apple Universal Dock from the Apple Store (U.S.) ($49). One advantage is it looks cleaner/neater sitting next to your stereo instead of a loose headphone cable, and it comes with a remote control. If you add a USB power adapter ($29) you could also charge the iPod, but the same holds true without the docking port. If you choose to use the universal dock, your standard 1/8″ stereo y-connector ($7.49) can be used.
Cable and Monster Cable
I find the headphone cable and jack suitable, and I consider myself to be something of an audiophile when it comes to stereo equipment, but care must be exercised with the volume control. The rule of thumb with stereo equipment is to always have the volume turned down before turning on any equipment. Taking care to do so has always worked fine for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Belkin and Monster Cable, but I’ll pass on them if I’m trying to hold onto my cash that day or week. Currently, I use an ordinary stereo y-connector from Radio Shack, and I have had no problems with it. I play my iPod on the stereo a few times a month, and just leave the cable in plain view. No one else in the household has complained yet, and most of them are much neater and more organized than I.
To clarify, the standard stereo y-connector will connect to the universal dock, but get the Monster Cable if its in your budget. Their cable is of a higher gauge, and does make a audible difference if you have an ear for it.
Feedback and Amplification
It’s true that the iPod output level with just the headphone jack is affected by the iPod’s own volume control. You should always start with the volume on the stereo and iPod turned down. Then turn up the stereo volume to a level you usually find suitable — you won’t hear anything until you turn up the iPod’s volume — and then set the iPod to play and turn up it’s volume control. Resist the urge to make it “extra loud” by turning it up too high.
Though I don’t have a docking port now, it has been my experience that any device that utilizes the iPod’s connector, instead of the jack, disables the volume control of the iPod wheel. Using the iPod wheel will have no affect on volume.
Another note: Care should be taken when the stereo is on, but an iPod isn’t connected to the jack (without the dock). If your stereo gets set to that input, and if something charged or metallic comes in contact with the end of the jack — think kid’s fingertips or some stray metal object like a set of keys set to rest on the shelf — then harmful feedback could occur. My headphone jack is set well out of reach, so I’m likely to be the only offender.
Thanks for your questions and comments, LD. I’m glad I could be of help.