Sep 28

3.5mm to RCA

To connect your iPhone, iPad or iPod to your home stereo you just need a dock and a 3.5mm to RCA cable like this cable above. The RCA cable plugs into the rear of your stereo and the 3.5mm plugs into your iPhone dock jack.


This is an Apple iPod dock. It has a ‘line out’ output. (The jack on the left in the above picture).

The ‘line out’ will match the exact voltage and impedance of the ‘line in’ on your stereo. It doesn’t matter what volume the iPod is set to.

You can leave the audio lead and charger cable plugged into the dock permanently.  It will also allow you to control your iPod via any Apple remote control.



When plugging into the back of the Stereo Amplifier, the normal input to use would be the AUX-IN, but  you can use almost whatever input you want: CD-INPUT, TAPE-IN, TV-IN, DVD-IN or the AUX-IN,  but do not use the PHONO-IN as it is designed specifically for a record player and won’t sound as good.

On this Pioneer receiver the AUX IN is called ‘ANALOG AUX’. This is where you’d plug in your iPod dock.


As for what cable to buy, they start as cheaply as 1c (e.g. here) but I’d steer away from one like that which uses cheap cable. Pretty much anyone can tell the difference in the sound on one of these cheap cables even if you don’t know much about music at all.  But the difference between a mid-range cable and a high end cable is less noticeable unless you have a good ear and a good stereo. I use one like this which costs about $25, but you can buy one somewhere in the middle range for around $10 like this or this.

If you are buying a new stereo, Pioneer and others are now including AIRPLAY into some of their amplifiers. The amplifiers have a Wi-Fi receiver built in which means you can play from your iOS device over your Wi-Fi (Airport) network directly to your Stereo with no loss of quality. You don’t need to connect any cables.


If you don’t have a dock, you can plug the 3.5mm straight into your iPod headphone jack, but there will be a slight loss of quality. (You can read about why here.) If you do this, the best results set your iPhone volume to about half. If it’s too quiet you may get noise and hiss. If it’s too loud you may get some distortion.




35 Responses to “How to connect your iPhone or iPod to your home stereo.”

  1. Kris Weigel says:

    I’m having the same problem with connecting my Ipod to my stereo as I did when I tried connecting my satellite receiver (to get the music channels available) to my receiver – the audio/line level signal is so low that I really need to crank the volume on my Denon receiver to hear it. Do I need a pre-amp or other device ?? Thanks

    • Wayne says:

      Don’t need a pre-amp, just turn the iPod up to about half volume, or a bit more. It should have plenty of level.

      • andy H says:

        audio output of the iPhone 5 and 5s are lower than previous iPhones and i too find that you need to set the volume on the iPhone to about 90% (to avoid distortion) and set the AV amp connected higher than would normally be necessary.

  2. Marcia Kneebone says:

    I have an ipod shuffle. Can i connect it to my home stereo receiver thru the aux?

  3. Bane says:

    What to do after plugging in cable?

  4. what about the impedance, the headphone output of an I phone is meant for driving headphone of impedance just 16- 32 ohms and the input of your amplifier is in the 470K – 1M that is 470000 ohms – 1000000 ohms, the sound may come through the amplifier but the quality of the sound suffers, you need to match their impedance by an impedance matching circuit in between the headphone jack and you RCA connector

  5. diego says:

    hi. great post! i was wondering if this cable is going to suffer the problem of impedance you described. i tried to contacted to them but i didnt get an answer


  6. cathy says:

    I have my Ipad connected to the receiver with the above cable, however it is not playing through all the speakers. When I play a CD thru CD player, all speakers play, when I play on Ipad 2 out of 4 speakers play and the volume is not as loud.

  7. Joel says:

    Cathy I think you may need to swith the cables ( RCA cable) to the cd input and try plugging the 3.5mm end to your ipad. See if that makes a difference

  8. Tina says:

    Hi! This worked beautifully until last night…. I switched from my iPad to iPhone while the stereo was on- oops- it made a loud crackly connecting sound through speakers and now it does not play. I can’t even get a sound from speakers. Did I blow something?? :(. I am so sad in the silence.

  9. Amelia says:

    I can only get sound from one speaker. Not even using this device. I’ve always been able to use sound lead from iPhone to stereo but this is first time I can only get sound from one speaker,,,,,,!,,,,,,

  10. t says:

    I need some “basic” help. Not an audio person. I have a mac and I managed to break off the headphone cable in the audio jack years ago. I do a lot of video editing and the only solution I’ve managed to come up with is using a receiver and speakers to get audio. I plug the speakers into the receiver and the receiver into the back of the computer. I’m looking to downsize my set up b/c I move a lot and this is a pain. My question is, can I some how forgo the receiver and plug directly into the computer. I have about three sets of speakers all of which have regular wiring so they can’t go right into an audio jack. Is there a way to convert those with an adapter? Or is there a cheap and small receiver i can buy ? thanks a lot. My apologies for my audio naivety.

    • Wayne says:

      The level out of the computer is a line level and way to low to drive speakers directly. But your receiver is amplifying the signal and the speakers would not work without it. To simplify you could get a set of powered bookshelf style speakers that have a built-in amplifier. Or yes, you could buy a very small simple amplifier and use your current speakers.

  11. Tom says:

    Thank you for the article—it has helped me start to understand this. I have a quality home stereo set-up and find myself using iPods as music transports more often these days as it’s much more convenient than digging through the cd stash. Instead of purchasing a dock, could I achieve similar results by using a 30 pin to rca cable to access the iPods line-level output (instead of the headphone jack)?
    Thanks again.

  12. Joe says:

    Do I have to have a ipod dock station to play my ipod nano 3rd gen on my old home stereo.

    • Wayne says:

      No, but it will sound better if you do. By better I mean for if you are the kind of person who is after the absolute best possible sound. If it’s a cheap home stereo or you’r not too fussy then you won’t notice the difference. If you’re after the best possible sound, go for a dock, otherwise you can just plug the headphone output into any RCA (e.g. AUX, CD) input and it will work fine and not damage anything.

  13. Edward says:

    I would like to connect an new iPad in to mixer and picture go to tv how can I do that also which cable I have to use. Please help me out

  14. Karli says:

    I have my iPad hooked up to my home stereo with a three prong wire. There are two speakers and sound is only coming from one side. Do you know why this might be? Sound comes out of both speakers when I play a CD.

    Any help on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,


  15. Dan says:

    I hooked my iPhone into my stereo receiver using 3.5mm RCA cable. In order to get acceptable volume level, I have to turn volume on iPhone and stereo way up (too high). Any idea why? Suggestions? Thank you!

    • Wayne says:

      If you turn the iPhone volume up you shouldn’t have to turn the Stereo volume up too high. What kind of cable is it? What brand? What input is it going in to?

  16. Lorenzo says:

    Is there an iPad lightining dock wiyh line out port I can buy?

    I’ve an iPad Air 2 with lightning port I would like to connect to my old JVC stereo amplifier.

  17. Mike says:

    what do you recommend i buy to connect my iPhone6 to my a/v receiver? I went to the send station website, but i am a bit confused as to what i need. Thanks, Mike

  18. Jeff says:

    Which home stero is iPod friendly. Most home stereo’s have hook ups but won,t operate properly, called Denon, they said iPods won’t work I n more then 2 gig. Is their any hone stereo that will work properly.

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