At a Glance
Provides a line-level signal to stereo (L/R) RCA connectors for using your iPod with a home stereo.
To listen to your dockable iPod via your home stereo has traditionally required two things: (1) a way to get audio out of your iPod; and (2) the right cable to connect to your stereo. Although you could accomplish #1 by using the iPod’s headphone jack, you get better sound quality with a line-level audio signal — a signal available only through the iPod’s special dock connector. This means buying an accessory such as Apple’s $39 dock base or Send Station’s $30 Pocket Dock Line Out, both of which provide a 1/8″, line-level audio output jack. Then you have to get the right cable (#2): Since most home stereos have left/right RCA inputs, you need a cable that has a 1/8″ stereo minijack on one end and two (left/right) RCA plugs on the other. Depending on the quality of your system and how much you believe in cable differences, such a cable can cost less than $5 or as much as $50.
Nyko’s introduction of their Stereo Link cable avoids this mess by providing a single 6-foot cable with a dock connector on one end and left/right RCA plugs on the other. These RCA jacks are of better quality than we expected for this price, and in our testing the Stereo Link provided excellent sound quality when hooked up to our home stereo (a combination of NAD, NHT, and PSB components).
The Stereo Link does have two disadvantages. The first is that because dockable iPods charge via the dock connector, and the Stereo Link monopolizes that connector, your iPod must run off battery power when the Stereo Link is connected. The second is that you can’t use the Stereo Link with the dock connector port on Apple’s dock base. This isn’t Nyko’s fault — Apple has designed the dock base to split the audio signal to the dock’s own line-level audio output — but it means that if you’ve already got a dock base and want to use that base to connect to your home stereo, you should skip the Stereo Link and just buy an inexpensive 1/8″-to-RCA cable. This setup gives you the added advantage of letting you charge your iPod while it’s playing.
These drawbacks aside, if you want to connect your dockable iPod to your home stereo, and you don’t already have a dock base, the Stereo Link is the least expensive option on the market and doesn’t sacrifice sound quality to achieve that low price.–Dan Frakes