Apple’s Lightning Cable - Audio Out?
Paul Boldt posted on October 16, 2012 |
Apple Lightning Connector
Image source: Apple

There is ongoing coverage and discussion of Apple’s Lightning Cable.  I only want to wade into one “small” aspect of the move to this cable that I have not seen yet discussed.  How are you supposed to hook it up to your stereo?

It jumped out at me straight away when I watched the September Keynote.  The Lightning cable only carries digital signals and the majority of stereo integration solutions access the output analog signal, relying on Digital to Analog (D-A) conversion within the idevice.  I am not talking about the earphone plug, but the analog signal that could be extracted from the 30-pin connector.  From here there are a plethora of cables and docks that bring this signal to RCA outputs for easy integration into an existing stereo.  One such example is Pro-ject’s Dock-Box that “massages” the analog signal to mitigate some of the limitations of the internal D-A conversion.

Now though there is no more analog signal and I do not see how an adapter that takes you back to the old 30-pin format would help.  I heard that historically extraction of the digital signal required a license from Apple.  As a result there were few options.  The Wadia 171i is probably the most well know product that did provide a tap into the digital signal.  Again though you need a stand-alone DAC to convert the digital music to analog.  Yes there are certainly those that already have this kit in their system, but I bet a fair number of people do not.  In the end this may affect a relatively small fraction of total idevice users, but it is a big change that will require more that just a cable.  The fraction of users grows quite a bit though if you now include all of the dock systems having integrated speakers.  

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