Using Apple FM Radio remote on older iPod models

Q: I have an iPod mini which stopped playing stereo sound from the headphone jack. I know for sure this is a hardware problem on the iPod itself. Would the Apple FM Radio Remote allow me to listen in stereo again since the problem seems to be the physical headphone jack?  I know this remote is not supposed to be compatible with the Mini, but I don’t care about the radio feature.

Could just the headphone through the dock connector feature work for my needs?

– Muhammad

A: While the Apple FM Radio Remote will technically work simply as a remote control and pass-through headphone adapter with older model iPods, in our own testing with an iPod mini we experienced extremely distorted audio to the point of being unlistenable even through stock Apple earbuds.  Although the volume control and other remote control functions work as expected (with the obvious exception of the FM radio function), the audio quality was so significantly degraded that this isn’t a practical solution.  While it’s possible that this issue is isolated to our test unit, the fact that this both components work properly otherwise implies that there are level incompatibilities between the remote and the iPod, most likely caused by the fact that older iPods cannot properly communicate volume levels with the remote.

The problem is basically that the iPod Dock Connector port provides a fixed-level audio output (sometimes referred to as “line-out”). The volume controls on the iPod itself only control the headphone output, not the output through the Dock Connector port.  With the fifth-generation and later model iPods, compatible accessories could read the volume adjustments from the iPod and adjust their own volume accordingly, but the iPod itself still produced a fixed-level output—it was up to the accessory to adjust its own volume based on what it determined the iPod’s volume setting to be.

For this same reason, volume adjustments made on the iPod mini will not affect the volume level through the remote—you would have to adjust the volume directly on the remote itself. However, at any volume level setting, our own testing revealed the audio to be extremely distorted.

Note that there are other accessories available, such as the SendStation PocketDock, that do provide a line-out connection, however this is a fixed-level audio output, and would not be acceptable to use for connecting headphones/earphones, as the line levels would be too high and would damage most earphones.