Sep 28

3.5mm to RCA

To connect your iPhone, iPad or iPod to your home stereo you just need an Apple iPod 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.


This is an Apple iPod dock. It has a ‘line out’ output. (The jack on the left in the above picture). The headphone output on the iPod is not a ‘line out’, it is a headphone level and this is different.  The dock gives you a proper  ‘line out’ which will be the exact voltage and impedance to match the ‘line in’ on your stereo. This is important for the best sound quality.

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.

Buying a Dock

You can buy a dock for a new lightning iphone/ipod (eg  here), but for older ipods that don’t have a lightning connector, Apple don’t sell this product any more.   Even their own support article here (dated Feb ’15) now tells you to plug the iPod straight into your home  stereo from the headphone jack.  This will work, but it is definitely inferior sound wise to the ipod dock.

So, you can go straight from the headphone out via the above red cable into your stereo, but for the best sound quality, I’d to track down a 2nd hand dock.

In ebay you will need to search for something like this:

“Apple Universal Dock genuine”

“Apple Dock MA045”

“Apple Dock MC746LL”

“Apple Dock A1371”

Or they are still available on Amazon here, here and here.

Buying a cable

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.




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

  1. George Curtis says:

    I have an ipod nano 7th gen. When I connect the usb plug to the usb socket of my car stereo the car display shows what is playing but there’s no sound. Same as when I connect to home stereo unit. I can’t seem to find any help from the downloaded instruction manual.

  2. Kevin Price-Ward says:

    Like others here I’ve just purchased the lightening dock – which has a headphone out socket. I’ve connected this to my Arcam amp via an audioquest RCA to phone connector. Even setting my 5s to full volume, I really need to crank up the amp (a lot higher than normal when playing CD’s) for it to be acceptable volume, and the sound quality isn’t all that good! Is the headphone out jack on the lightening dock different to line out on the old 30 pin docks line out socket then?? Strange that they would have renamed it headphones out if it’s basically the same thing? But why’s it so quiet? Would I be better off getting an old dock and just converting lightening to 30 pin do you think?

  3. Rinus says:

    Following this discussion for a while now, because i got the same problems connecting my iphone 5s with a “master and slave” PA system. First tried the easy 3.5 mm jack, but got the crackling (exploding) sound very quickly. Then tried the 3.5 mm jack to RCA, but the same problem. I’ve been reading a lot and understand that “line out” on docks is the key. Yet unavailable for lightning connectors. Now in january they come up with a lightning dock, but no line out, but the headphone output. This almost sounds like a joke. Still no solution… Even the 30-pin with line out is no longer available? Otherwise there would be a by-pass the lightning-to-30 pin connector. Could bluetooth help? Putting into the jack connection of the PA system? of still not a match with impedance/ohm/voltage.. ?

  4. Maciej says:

    Too bad, still no good cable solution? I am now using Apple TV, which is connected to Digital/Analog converter. The converter is connected to the amplifier. The sound is very good, much better than line out or headphone out from iphone. The idea is, that apple devices stream digital signal to the converter instead of creating analog signal themselfes (apple sucks at this… the signal is very bad). But the problem is – I don’t want to use Wifi!! AppleTV is not very reliable and the connection drops quite often. Anyone got a good device to get digital audio signal from iPhone via cable?

    • peter lloyd says:

      Thanks for all the comments and ideas. I’m running into the same issue with an older Yamaha NS integrated amp. I’ll look for the docks. I wonder if a preamp would be needed? The 3.5mm H/O into the aux (l/r) works ok…Then I don’t need to worry about new/old/lightning jacks….
      #Maciej: I run a time capsule and apple tv too; I have a second airport at the tv to boost the signal from main location. Also, both are running a faster ‘signal’ so I don’t have those issues you are experiencing.
      Regards all.

  5. Val Reynolds says:

    I have a 2nd generation iPod Shuffle and would like to link it to an amplifier. Is that possible?

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