Car line-out solutions | iLounge Article


Car line-out solutions

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Q: My car has an auxiliary input jack, which accepts a “plug” the same size as the headphone jack. I have a cable that has a headphone jack-sized plug on each end, and can connect my iPod from its headphone jack to the AUX plug in the car. However, I’m wondering if there is a cable or device that would connect my iPod through the bottom iPod connector to the AUX input in my car? I assume the quality of sound from the iPod to the AUX input would be better through the Dock Connector, but is that right?

- Patrick

A: The main advantage of using the Dock Connector is that it is an un-amplified “line-out” signal, rather than passing through the iPod’s internal headphone amplifier.  This means that you do get a theoretically cleaner sound, and the iPod volume control itself has no effect on the audio output—rather the audio is sent via the Dock Connector at a standard level.

There are a few solutions that can be used to provide line-out capability via the Dock Connector.  The most basic solution is one of the SendStation PocketDock products, such as the PocketDock Line Out USB (iLounge rating: A- or the SendStation PocketDock AV (iLounge rating: NR), which provides both audio and video output.

The SendStation PocketDock solutions also have the advantage of being ultra-portable, and can therefore be used in many places other than your car.

For car-specific accessories, there are numerous very sophisticated car-kit solutions for the iPod, and you can find many options in our Car Power Chargers, Kits and Adapters reviews.  However, one of our preferred solutions for basic portable car use is the Belkin Auto Kit (iLounge rating: B+). Although this has been on the market for some time, it works with all generations of iPod and still remains one of the best solutions for both charging your iPod from your car power and providing a line-out connection via the same cable, without having to get into any sophisticated car integration work.


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Two things:

For the first question, I’ve been wishing recently that Apple adds a Play 1 feature.  My Sony CD player had that 7 or 8 years ago, it’s not a new thing.

Secondly, regarding the last question, I don’t buy the answer.  If the volume out of the dock connector is standard, how come if my iPod is plugged into my Universal Dock and its line out is plugged into a speaker, I can use my remote to turn the volume up and down?  Is the dock itself acting as the amp?  I can also use the clickwheel to adjust the volume in that situation though, so I don’t think that’s the case.

Posted by papayaninja in Toronto on August 30, 2007 at 9:47 PM (CDT)


Actually, the pass-through volume control is only true for the Apple Universal Dock and Apple iPod Hi-Fi (ie, products made specifically by Apple for this purpose).  I believe there are a few other products that are starting to do this as well, but they’re still relatively uncommon.

The dock itself is acting as an attenuator (not an amp, per se, since it actually only decreases the volume from the default line-out volume).  The iPod Hi-Fi, of course, does have a built-in amplifier.

The fact that the volume control is reflected on the iPod itself and can be controlled from the iPod is simply because the iPod and the Universal Dock and/or iPod Hi-Fi are communicating the volume changes with the iPod.

If you try doing this with almost any other Dock Connector based speakers or output devices (such as the PocketDock and SendStation noted above), you will find that the iPod volume control has no effect whatsoever.

Incidentally, the above also holds true for volume control with regards to the iPhone as well.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on August 30, 2007 at 10:13 PM (CDT)


I have an iPod 60 GB which for the most part lives inside my car.  It sits on a DLO Transpod connected to my cassette player.  Whenever, I park my car and exit I have to remind myself to turn off the iPod.

Is there any kind of device that would sense that the car hasbeen turned off and automatically turn off the iPod?  And likewise, when I return to my car and turn it on the iPod will turn on automatically and continue to play where I left off?

I guess what I am asking is there anything that works similar to my built in CD player?

Thanks in advance!

Posted by Quixote in Toronto on August 31, 2007 at 6:54 AM (CDT)


Re: last question

One thing that should be mentioned about the Belkin car charger/adapter that was recommended is that since it has its own volume/line level control, this product gets more points for convenience than it does for improved sound quality.

Since Patrick gave the impression that he is looking to improve sound quality, the extra volume circuitry on the adapter itself will probably negate what little sound quality improvement you might get from connecting via the dock connector (as opposed to the headphone jack).

That said, this adapter is very convenient in that it allows you to switch between earphone and car listening without having to mess with the iPod’s volume.

If plugged into a switched outlet (some cigarette lighter outlets remain powered even when the ignition is switched off), it will pause the iPod when you shut off the engine.

The volume/line level control on the Belkin adapter also allows you to smooth out any volume differences when switching between iPod, radio or CD.

As nice as it is, this adapter is a little on the pricey side. One cheap and quick alternative is to make sure when connecting through the headphone jack, that you set the iPod’s volume no higher than about 80%. This helps prevent over-driving the signal going into the stereo.

Posted by fondy44 in Toronto on September 3, 2007 at 2:14 PM (CDT)

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