back to article Apple iDevice dock port to drive wireless streaming

Will Apple's new dock connector, expected to debut on the iPhone 5, signal the end of low-cost audio docks? The makers of such kit seem to think so. They say the new nine-pin port lacks the dedicated analog audio lines found on its 30-pin predecessor, according to an interesting piece on Hardware.info. Rather a lot of docks …

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Facepalm

Or use the other port, the round 3.5mm one that's always been there.

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Anonymous Coward

The dock is the whole reason there are so many speaker docks for the iPod/iPhone.

Nobody wants to plug in cables for audio/remote and power.

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Silver badge

But isn't the rumour that the headphone socker will be moving to the bottom of the iDevice ? In which case, it'll be trivial to add a 3.5mm jack to your speaker dock.

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Count the pins - 9 is fine.

Go have a look at the pinout for the 30 pin connector.

There are 8 pins devoted to the now deleted Firewire connection.

There are four more ground pins - so up to three are redundant.

There are three pins for video (composite and s-video) output

There are two pins of either reserved or unknown function

There are two pins for audio input

There are two pins for serial IO

There are two pins used for primitive control of iPod functions (one to click sound output, one to control charging)

Pretty much none of the above are needed. USB control subsumes the serial IO, Firewire is dead (sadly). Noone is recording with their iDevice. That is 23 pins that could be deleted without affecting the provision of audio output.

We only need to find 21.

Pins that will be needed are USB, signal and power (4 pins), 3.3 volt power output pin, to power things like the camera adaptor, maybe a separate ground from the USB one - which is six pins, so add two for audio out, and you still have a pin left. Whihc I suspect will be a new in-dock mode control pin that signals the iDevice what sort of dock it is connect to. It may be actually be a upgrade of the accessory indicator (pin 21) function.

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Anonymous Coward

Bluetooth versus AirPlay

Unfortunately, Bluetooth as it stands is unable to stream lossless audio, which makes it a rather poor substitute. AirPlay does, so if you want a proper audio dock (like the Audio Monitor i200, or the Audio Galaxy Lower East Side), either choose one with a built-in DAC or one with AirPlay.

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Apple might have it right for car audio

Besides the speakers, another place where I think the IPod with dock blazed a trail with the dock connector was for in-car entertainment connectivity. You could get a box to connect your iPod to the head unit and be controlled remotely, pretneding to be an OEM CD changer. With Android not having a common dock, there is no chance of any box to wire in your phone to the stereo. Of course bluetooth is all well and good for calls, but you need a seperate charger or run down your battery even more when driving and listening to music using it.

Where the new dock might succeed is that it has digital audio output (presumably on the S/PDIF standard), which is great - car head units have this (mine requires conversion from analogue of iPod to S/PDIF). However the control and data over serial is useful for this purpose, so if that's been dropped in favour of USB then any car audio converter isn't going to get easier to build.

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Anonymous Coward

And how much does a cheap DAC cost these days?

A couple of quid? Probably a matter of weeks before you can buy an integrated dock-on-a-chip. Cheap kit won't be much more expensive.

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FAIL

hmmm

So if I replace my iPhone 4 with an iPhone 5 then I cannot use it with my Bose Sound dock or my Pure digital radio - guess I don't need an iPhone 5 as much as I thought then !

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Go

Re: hmmm

Don't worry they have already shown off adapters that plug into the new connector and the 3.5" jack.

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JDX
Gold badge

Re: hmmm

Still won't that look rather ugly, when you have a slick looking iP5 plugged into a sleek dock via a big clunky adapter?

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FAIL

A point that this article seems to have completely missed - GUESS WHY THEY ARE MOVING THE 3.5" JACK TO THE BOTTOM ?????

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Anonymous Coward

I give up ...

I don't do hardware. But inquiring minds want to nkow ...

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3.5mm != line level audio out

In the past iPods used really quite good (Wolfson) DACs, and the sound quality from the line level output was significantly better than that from the 3.5mm jack (which passed through a necessarily mediocre quality headphone driver amplifier). So loss of the line level outputs is potentially quite annoying.

On the other hand, Apple introduced access to the digital audio stream via USB - so long as you licensed it - and thus got access to the restricted interface chip needed. Which is how the high-end docks provide S/PDIF output. So Apple may have decided that mediocre audio via the 3.5mm headphone jack is OK for those that use cheap docks, and if you want any sort of quality, you have to buy a USB audio enabled dock. Which seem to start at about $150. They have not been using the same quality of internal DACs as before, so perhaps it doesn't make the difference it once did.

I will be interesting to see what they do use the available pins for. They may decide to output video, although analog video would make less sense now than ever. HDMI needs many more pins than they have, and by the time you get here Airplay in indeed the right answer. An Apple TV is cheaper than a USB enabled dock. It has S/PDIF output too.

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3.5" optical?

We never know what apple are up to but their Airport plug has an optical output as well as normal headphone output, whats stopping them giving us the same thing in their new iphone 5 and keep the audiophiles happy?

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