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I understand that Apple's iPhone Lightning Dock has a headphone socket that I can use:

Connect the dock to powered speakers or a stereo using a 3.5mm cable (sold separately) to play music and podcasts from your iPhone

I actually have a similar (3rd-party) dock that I used with an iPhone 4s. However, (a) that obviously has an old-style 20-pin connector, and (b) the sound quality was poor.

Clearly Apple's new dock would have the right connector, and hopefully the sound quality would be better, but I worry about the negative reviews of that dock, which imply that the stress on the connector can cause the phone's lightning socket to deteriorate and eventually fail.

I don't care about having a "stand" for the phone, and I don't really care that much about charging... is there a cable-based solution I could use? (In other words, something where I just plug in a cable rather than putting the phone in a wobbly stand).

Or, is a wireless more appropriate? I see that there are Bluetooth receivers out there that seem to be designed to do this, but again there are a lot of negative reviews, mostly about the reliability of the Bluetooth connection. The only device I found that got a lot of positive reviews was the Arcam rMini Blink, and that's quite expensive.

Don't Apple offer something in this space? (Not that it'd be less expensive!).

  • There are many ways and many reviews. e.g. also see Airplay. Also depends on what quality you want - you could send £10 or £10000 – Mark Mar 1 '16 at 14:00
  • @Mark: I'm looking for something with good quality (better than the 4s dock that I have which requires me to crank the phone volume up to be able to hear the music - and then I can also hear the hiss), but it's just going to be in my kitchen, so doesn't need to be high-end audiophile kit. I'm looking to spend as little as possible (tens, not hundreds). – Gary McGill Mar 1 '16 at 14:31
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I've done it 4 different ways (from lowest to highest cost). Sound quality is mostly dependent on the quality of the audio file on the iPhone and the quality of the stereo. The quality degradation due to any of these 4 connection mechanisms seems relatively low - unless you're an audiophile or Neill Young. ;-)

  • Connect iPhone headphone output to stereo auxiliary input with an appropriate adapter cable (mini-stereo jack ==> what ever your stereo accepts e.g. RCA). Important: Run iPhone output volume only around 50% to avoid input distortion at stereo.

  • Get bluetooth receiving device (I've had good luck with one from Philips bad luck with some generic chinese stuff), which connects to the stereo input. Then connect with bluetooth to that device. In my experience bluetooth worked rather well when the iPhone was stationary reasonably close to the bluetooth device. Moving around with iPhone in pocket while on Bluetooth connection could cause audio dropout grief in some cases.

  • Use an Airport Express as wifi or wired network participant (e.g. as a wifi extender) on your regular home wifi, and connect the audio output from that to the stereo input. Then use Airplay to send the iPhone audio to the Airport Express. Moving around with iPhone in pocket seems to be more tolerant than bluetooth based connection.

  • Use an Apple TV as wired or wifi participant on your home network. However to the best of my knowledge the Apple TV only outputs digital audio (HDMI or optical SPDIF on 2nd or 3rd gen Apple TV), so either the stereo has to have inputs for HDMI or optical SPDIF or one needs an additional converter box. And then use Airplay to send the iPhone audio to the Apple TV. Moving around with iPhone in pocket is equally tolerant as with Airport Express, since both use iPhone wifi.

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You can use a suitable cable to wire the headphone jack into your stereo. Note that the input in the stereo must accept headphone levels or it will not sound well.

Airplay may, however, be a better approach depending on how you prefer to do it.

You need Wifi and the Airplay device connected to the stereo.

The AppleTV is certainly capable of doing it with the sound of what is shown on the HDMI-cable, and may be able to do it just with sound (I have not tried). This is an standard optical cable.

Airport Express devices can also be used for this if set up to connect to the Wifi (or cabled). I have successfully used a 1st generation Airport Express device for this, where the headphone jack supports both a normal or an optical cable.

  • I'm confused. What is "the airplay device"? My iPhone? In which case how to I connect that to the stereo? Or maybe you mean the Apple TV / Airport Express. In which case... why would I need WiFi, if both those things and the iPhone are WiFi enabled? I do HAVE a WiFi network, but if I have that then what's the AirPort Express bringing to the party - I though you'd use that to CREATE a WiFi network. I've read the puff on Apple's website about AirPort Express, and I still don't understand what it's for... :-( – Gary McGill Mar 1 '16 at 23:56
  • Airplay is a technology Apple has created to allow one device to play music and video through another device (which typically is then connected to a tv or stereo). If you have e.g. an AppleTV connected to a tv, you can let your iPhone send music to the tv through the AppleTV. These devices typically communicate over wifi. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Mar 2 '16 at 8:27
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Apple's dock is their only entry in the iPhone to Stereo hardware game.

You could start with whatever metal cable you like and plug that into the headphone jack and plug the lightning cable into a charger (if that is one of your requirements).

From the comments and text - the low quality is due to a bad cable or the inability of the amplifier to take the signal from line level / 50% volume and not a limitation of the iPhone in almost all cases.

You'd need to get a custom DAC for the iPhone for critical audiophile needs if you have the source material in a high quality and high-bitrate encoding. For casual use - modest cables and non-maxed out volume should let the iPhone send near digital quality sound to consumer stereos over a short metal cable.

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