$29 iPad USB Dock - Play or Stream up to 24/96
Want to play music from your iPad or wirelessly stream through your iPad at 24 bit/96 kHz? Well you have to tether your iPad to your DAC with this dock and it's gonna cost you all of $29.
Apple's iPad Camera Connection Kit comes with two adapters— 1 USB and 1 SD Card Reader. With the USB adapter (pictured above with a minor AudioStream visual edit/addition to emphasize our focus), you can direct-connect from your iPad to your USB DAC of choice using a USB cable or to your non-USB DAC by using a USB-S/PDIF converter. The even cooler part, more cool if you like, is you can stream to your iPad from any Mac over your home wi-fi network at 24 bit/96 kHz using Apple's Home Sharing feature.
What You Need
Here's your complete laundry list of requirements:
1. Home wireless network
3. Mac computer (iMac, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac Mini, Mac Pro)
4. iTunes (must use the same Apple Store ID for Mac and iPad)
5. Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit
What You Need To Do Once You Have The Stuff
To play music that's stored on your iPad, just plug in the USB adapter, connect your USB cable to the adapter and to your DAC or USB-S/PDIF converter and play away. To stream music from a MAC to your iPad, both your Mac and iPad need to be connected to your home wireless network (System Preferences > Network > select your wi-fi network). Then follow these steps:
1. Set your Mac to allow Home Sharing (iTunes > Preferences > Sharing > Share my library on my local network) or see full instructions hereI connected my iPad 2 to the Musical Fidelity DAC1 and streamed from my MacBook Pro which is connected via Ethernet to the music library on my NAS. When I opened the iPod app on my iPad, my NAS-resident music library was there to be played over my home wi-fi network, streaming from my MacBook Pro. One important aspect of this wireless solution is you can stream from a large music library, one that would not fit on the iPad 2's max 64GB of storage. I also played music stored on my iPad.
2. Set your iPad to allow Home Sharing (Settings > iPod > Home Sharing > enter your Apple ID and Password note—this must be the same account as the Mac Computer you want to share music with)
3. Connect the USB interface to your iPad's dock connector port, connect your USB cable to the USB interface and to your USB DAC or USB-S/PDIF convertor
3. Open the iPod app on your iPad and select your Shared Library which should automatically appear under "Library". If it doesn't make sure you've entered your Apple ID/Password correctly
4. Play Music
I selected Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album Kicking Against The Pricks, tapped play and it sounded marvelous. The DAC1 shows the incoming sample rate and confirmed I was streaming at native sample rates up to 96kHz. I also tried some 176 kHz and 192 kHz files and they were downsampled to 96kHz (and they sounded lovely too).
From my point of view, this is a slam dunk of a solution if you already own all the stuff minus the Camera Connection Kit and you'd like a cheap and easy solution to play music from your iPad or if you'd like to stream music stored on a Mac, external hard drive or NAS. Of course you're giving up the iPad's mobility by tying it to a DAC so you have to gauge whether this makes sense for your specific situation. Or not. Using a $500 iPad as a parked dock is not a realistic long-term solution but for those people looking for a cheap part-time player and streamer, $29 can get you doing both in no time flat at 24/96 to boot.
If you'd like to read more about how well this simple solution works, check out Benchmark Media's excellent post "iPad Streams High-Resolution Audio to DAC1". Includes performance tests and associated graphs that confirm what my ears and smile told me. Here's a relevant quote from Benchmark:
Sonically speaking, this setup will stand up to even the most discerning audiophile scrutiny. We’ve done significant testing to verify the audio quality when using this adaptor. Our tests show that:The perfect stocking stuffer.• there is no evidence of signal processing
• there is no evidence of word-length reduction
• there is no evidence of sample-rate conversion
• there is no evidence of data compression
• it is capable of streaming up to 96 kHz, 24 bits
• streaming via Wi-Fi is also transparent up to 96 kHz, 24 bits