Review: Belkin Stereo Link Cable
iPod cables generally aren't sexy, nor are they generally iPod-specific. But thanks to the release of iPhone, we're seeing for the first time cables that have been designed specifically to fit a specially designed Apple headphone port. You have the choice: pick a headphone port adapter such as Griffin's Headphone Adapter for iPhone, or Belkin's same-named alternative, or buy one of these new cables. Each one fits the iPhone properly, enabling you to hear audio from its headphone port through an attached audio system.
Belkin’s Stereo Link Cable ($15) and Mini-Stereo Link Cable ($20) are the stylish options of the group. Both use nickel-plated contacts and chrome-finished bodies to house connectors that run from your iPhone—or iPod, or any other audio device with a 3.5mm headphone port—to a stereo system. Rubber-jacketed cables run between the connectors, providing six feet of length in the case of the Mini-Stereo Link Cable, which has two 3.5mm connectors for use with smaller stereos and car “aux-in” or “line-in” ports, and seven feet with the Stereo Link Cable, which has RCA-style left and right stereo plugs at its far end.
Monster Cable has three iPhone-ready options. The company’s iCable for iPod and iPhone ($30), like Belkin’s Stereo Link Cable, is roughly seven feet long with a 3.5mm plug on one end, and RCA plugs on the other. It’s black fabric-jacketed, and has gold-connectors on both ends. Cosmetically, it looks more like older, professional grade audio equipment than Belkin’s cable, which looks more modern and better suits iPhone’s coloration. The Belkin cable is actually about an inch longer than Monster’s, but that difference isn’t significant. Audio piped through the two cables sounds identical.
Like Belkin, Monster also sells minijack to minijack cables. Monster’s are called iCable for Car, and come in two lengths: one’s seven feet long ($20), and the other is three feet long ($TBA). Each cable is mostly white with metallic-colored accents and gold connectors, the metallic accents and smaller tips distinguish the iPhone-compatible versions of these cables from the older iPod-only version. They look and feel entirely like plastic, rather than the fabric, plastic, and metal design of iCable for iPod and iPhone. As with the other cables, these sound identical to Belkin’s.
As these are essentially cosmetically enhanced commodity audio cables, there’s not much else to evaluate other than value for the dollar. In the case of the Stereo Link Cable and iCable for iPod and iPhone, we think Belkin clearly has the upper hand for the price: you save $15 and get a cable that’s slightly longer, a nicer match for the iPhone’s body, and—somewhat interestingly—has RCA connectors that can be unscrewed should you be trying to custom-wire a pair of speakers. That said, Monster’s black fabric cable jacket might be a better visual match in some situations; you’ll have to decide whether that’s worth a $15 premium.
The tables are somewhat turned on the minijack-to-minijack cables. While we preferred the look and feel of Belkin’s cable to both of Monster’s—the reason they rate identically—the price-to-cable length measure comes down in Monster’s favor here. You’ll get an extra foot of Monster minijack-to-minijack cabling with the seven foot, $20 iCable for Car, and though Monster hasn’t announced pricing yet for the shorter version, you’ll surely find it at an entry point below the $20 price of Belkin’s Mini-Stereo Link Cable. Just like the RCA-ended cables, you may have a preference for one or the other based on the way they match the looks of your intended destination.