$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
2. iPad
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
6. Music

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 here
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 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.

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:
• 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
The perfect stocking stuffer.

COMMENTS
mberk's picture

Pardon the intrusion. I've been playing around with this quite a lot recently (as you can read here), and I just wanted to point out that it's not totally out of the question to think about the iPad as a portable source, especially if you fly or travel on train or bus with it anyway. Adding an inline USB battery back opens up the door to a world of USB powered DACs (I've been using the CEntrance DACport, which along with the battery pack is certainly pocketable, in the sense of fitting into a jacket pocket or bag); add a good pair of closed-back headphones or IEMs and you have a pretty nice portable high-resolution system.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

The portable player angle is a good one and certainly makes sense for those who travel with an iPad already.

Thanks for sharing Michael and helpful ideas are always welcome and not intrusive in the least.

Cheers.

Psyco Acoustics's picture

Ok, I'm not sure if I'm doing this right but here goes anyway. I bought an HRT I-Streamer, hooked it up to my I-Pad and stereo, pushed play and my first thought was,,, it needs a little break in. Than I started hearing clicks and pops like what would come out of a vinyl record. So I e-mailed HRT and Kevin said that I had to "Restore" my I-pad because my files were "Fragmented". I'm not very computer literate, and my PC and I-Pad haven't been playing nice together lately so I didn't really want to do that.

Than I read about the Camera Connection KIt and thought I'd give that a try. Even after reading all the horror stories on Apple's web site about this kit, I bought it anyway.

I stroled over to my local high end dealer in Hinsdale Il, plugged my I-Pad into an Arcam DAC via the Camera Connection Kit, and it worked perfectly! No clicks, or pops, or any nasty stuff at all. Needless to say, I sent the I-streamer back.

Believe it or not, I had been listening to the I-Pad connected to my stereo via the headphone output and was quite impressed. To the point where I'm still not sure I need a DAC. But maybe, just maybe, a good DAC will enable me to sell my Ayre CX7 and buy more music!!! Thanks for listening, Mark

mcondo's picture

Thanks for this. Why do all the audio sites make it sound so hard to do computer based audio when this solution seems to be very simple, cheap and almost foolproof. 24/96 seemed too complicated until I read this piece - I have a MacBook and an Ipad already. 

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Simple, cheap and almost foolproof sums it up nicely.

js's picture

Thanks for sharing. Just a question: does this allow to listen to some music directly from the Mac in one room and to different music streamed to the iPad in another room? Or can only the same music be played at the same time in both rooms? Thanks!

Michael Lavorgna's picture

...does this allow to listen to some music directly from the Mac in one room and to different music streamed to the iPad in another room?

And the answer is Yes - you can play music from your Mac in one room and stream/listen to different music via the iPad in another.

I just tried it (Room A: MacBook Pro > USB DAC > Hi-Fi, Room B: iPad > Camera Connection Kit > USB DAC > Hi-Fi) and it worked like a charm (Asobi Seksu in Room A, Tom Waits in Room B simultaneously ;-)
 

jeffh's picture

Thanks

musicman's picture

Michael, thanks for the info I think this is great and will give it a try.  I am new to computer audio and it seemed extremely complicated until this, my questions are these:  1. Since starting from 0 do I need anything like Amarra or Pure Music? or can I just use i-tunes? 2. Do I select AIFF or Apple Lossless to create my library, I understand the issue with file size, I rather have the better sound, and allow for future upgrades of hardware.  3.  Can I purchase hi-rez from i-tunes or did you get the Nick Cave music from a hi-rez site? 4. Can I use the Seagate Satellite to stream to the ipad or anything else similar out there or only another mac to obtain your results?  The Seagate is only 500G, and battery powered, which might be a good thing.  5. When I connect my V-link to the ipad a window appears that the device requires too much power, I got it before reading your article, my DAC is a DacMagic, when connected directly to usb port it reads 44.1 not 96.  I get better sound from CD as it is now. Thanks......

Michael Lavorgna's picture

1. For this application, iTunes is all you need.

2. I recommend ripping and playing back to AIFF for Mac-based systems.

3. iTunes does not offer hi-rez music (the Nick Cave was ripped from CD).  Here’s a list of HD download sites.

4. Sure, you can use any source/storage that will send data to the iPad.

Even with the DacMagic’s USB input limit of 16-bit/48kHz, I’m surprised to learn you prefer CD playback.  Of course the reasons for this are dependent on too many unknown variables for me to figure out why that’s the case and I’m not so sure playing 24/96 files will do the trick.

btw -I got the same message you did when connecting the Musical Fidelity V-Link but I was able to the use the Wavelength Proton which is also bus-powered.

musicman's picture

Good thing that I can just use iTunes, although I am puzzled as to how you can get 24/96 from a ripped CD.  I downloaded the XLD program recently getting ready to start my library, is this recomended for this application, does it make any difference?  Do you think that the home sharing feature might be the reason for straming 24/96 to the iPad or the Seagate will do this as well?  At the Apple store they told me it could not be done even with their own time capsule, that another Mac would be needed.  Nobody at the store understood what I was doing, I showed them a printed copy of your article, they were clueless!!  All they said was that it was not "native".  Looks like I am out of luck with the V-Link/DacMagic combo, I am getting much improved sound from CD with the new Pangea power supply from Audio Advisor, for the DacMagic.  I am using an Oppo as a transport.  I was going to use the V-Link with a MacMini which was about to purchase, will keep trying the iPad first.  The rest of the system is a Music Reference tube pre and a Stratos amp to my modified Vandersteen's 2CE's.  Thanks so much!

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Sorry for the confusion.

I use and like XLD for file conversion. I plan to write an article on ripping since there's more to be said than can be said here.

In terms of streaming 24/96 files I think it’s important to keep in mind we’re talking about sending data over a wireless network. Period. Since the iPad is not performing any D/A conversion, it’s only acting as a wireless receiver and passing data via the Camera Connection Kit to your DAC.  So the ability to stream higher resolution files is dependent on the integrity of the wireless network.

With your Seagate hard drive, we're talking about transmitting files via an 802.11 b/g/n wi-fi connection. That said I am not sure how the Seagate GoFlex Satellite hard drive compares to a good router in terms of its wireless capabilities. My guess is not as well so you may encounter stricter limitations in terms of distance and signal quality, which ultimately can affect your sound quality.

The easy part is since you already own everything you need, just try it out. I would play some music direct from your iPad and compare this to playing via the Seagate’s wireless connection.

musicman's picture

Looking forward to your article on ripping.  Happy Holidays!

burnspbesq's picture

Some portable DAC/headphone amp combos (including, sadly, my Ray Samuels Predator) don't work with the iPad and camera connector, because the iPad erroneously senses that the remote device is asking for more power than it is willing to provide.  Apple has, as a marketing-driven design choice to support long battery life, imposed strict limits on the amount of power that an external device can draw via the iPad's dock connector.

If you are shopping for a portable USB DAC or DAC/amp combo, try it with the iPad before you buy, or buy from a merchant that will take the unit back if it doesn't work with the iPad.

musicman's picture

Good advise!

deckeda's picture

from Photojojo: http://photojojo.com/store/awesomeness/ipad-cf-sd-reader/

As the link shows, you can get it with either CF or SD card slots inculded --- and note that the SD version is only $15, I bought one as a gift for someone else, so can't report yet how well it works.

**********************

The Benchmark piece assumed sources no higher than 96kHz. You said higher sampling rates sounded fine when downsampled to 96kHz, which is good news since iTunes/Core Audio by itself isn't known for "audiophile quality" downsampling nor upsampling, which is one (major) reason why so many of us employ one of the aftermarket software players.

Presumably you had AudioMidi Setup already set for 96kHz, otherwise what got streamed to the iPad would have been a default 16/44 signal, yes?

OR

Could it be that iTunes/Core Audio's limitation to provide "audiophile quality" downsampling or upsampling by itself only come into play when using a Mac's built-in DAC or physically connected aftermarket DAC, but fails to be a problem when streaming over WiFi?

There's one in every crowd, and it seems it's my turn today (again) to peel at the onion layers.

**********************

I'd suppose all of this could be done using a Windows' iTunes library, if one knew how to sufficiently dig into the OS to perform the equivalent guarantee of hires output. (I do not.)

**********************

I'd still like to know what any of the AirPlay-enabled surround sound receivers (which can otherwise handle 24/96) do when presented with a hires iTunes song. Keep it hires, like the iPad here, or downsquish it like an AirPort Express? Same goes for the thing Art D. reviewed a few months ago with AirPlay capability. Their response regarding hires streaming was that they seemed to be waiting for the iTunes Store to sell hires songs, as if there were no other way to get hires into the iTunes app.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

First off, there are no software settings to make on the iPad – just plug and play. I have to assume the Connection Kit USB Adapter is bypassing any iPad audio processing which is why it is passing 24/96.

While my MacBook Pro is doing the sending its Audio MIDI settings have no effect on the output of the iPad. For example, I set it to output 16/48 then played a 24/96 file and the Musical Fidelity DAC1 showed an incoming sample rate of 96kHz.

The Musical Fidelity DAC1 shows an incoming sample rate of 96kHz when playing 24/192 files and correctly matches lower resolutions. So no, nothing in this chain is downsampling higher res to 16/44.

In terms Windows/iTunes, there are apps out there that will stream from a PC to an iPad although I have not tried them.

deckeda's picture

Thanks for the clarification!

deckeda's picture

Some USB DACs need only a standard Dock connector's USB cable to extract digital audio from an iDevice. There are car stereos that advertise this, as a way of bypassing an iPhone's DAC for example.

And then there's the little thing (sorry forgot the name, Tyll Hertsens would know) that piggybacks onto an iPhone that does the same thing. And of course the Wadia iTransport that started this ability to bypass the Apple portables' DAC via the Dock connector.

What's stuck in my craw here isn't an attempt to avoid buying OR using the Camera Connection Kit or the [still cheaper!] alternative from photojojo --- but to learn what it is that makes the Camera Connection Kit necessary for some USB DACs and not others.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

...but to learn what it is that makes the Camera Connection Kit necessary for some USB DACs and not others.

I do not follow - How would you access the iPad’s digital output without the Camera Connection Kit or equivalent?

deckeda's picture

iTransport (both i170 and i171) advertised was, set your iPod down in its Dock and bypass the iPod's DAC. So it performs a similar digital-only transfer via the Dock, like the Camera Connection Kit. Wes Philips's i170 review

The Wadia docks get an S/PDIF output. Check out the AlgoRhythm Solo portable headphone amp, with DAC. It discusses instead getting "USB audio." http://aloaudio.com/cypher-labs-algorhythm-solo-black-pre-order.html

From that page,

  • ... streams bit-perfect digital audio from Apple iPad™, iPhone® or iPod® device ... using full-speed Apple connected USB Audio ...
  •  
  • ... communicates ... using Apple’s proprietary iPod Accessory Protocol (iAP) over USB.
  •  
  • Authentication of the accessory to the iPod is performed using an Apple supplied authentication coprocessor which communicates over IIC.

"IIC" likely refers to the use of a licensed "Made for iPod" chip that prevents an iDevice from complaining and displaying the "This accessory is not compatible with iPhone" message. (Absent that licensed chip, the only way to prevent seeing that message is to Jailbreak. I hear an AC/DC song in my head now. "He made it out ... with a bullet in his back!" Nevermind.)

From that site there's also a picture of what the AlgoRhythm Solo uses, a fancy Dock-to-USB cable.

So anyway, what about iAP? Here's one source: http://www.allgosystems.com/html/iap_sdk.htm

From that page,

  • Support for ... USB (full-speed and high-speed) isochronous digital audio ...

(The AlgoRhythm Solo nevertheless provides async transfer.)

Another example, HRT's iStreamer has an "iDevice" USB port (but is limited to 48kHz res.)

The allgosystems.com link correctly also mentions you can get analog audio out of the Dock connector, but as far as I'm aware you aren't going to get analog (line-out) audio from USB.

There are several AV receivers and car stereos with USB ports designed to snag audio from iPods/iPhones/iPad. Some permit the iDevice to "control itself" but it's unknown if any of the AV receivers or car stereos with hires DACs will permit streaming of hires unfettered.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I think I see what you’re talking about but I think it’s important to keep in mind that in order to get digital data from an iOS device, you need to connect to its 30-pin “docking” port. This can be physically accomplished in a few ways - dock, adapter, or a cable.

I’ve yet to see an Apple 30-pin to USB Type-B cable (hmm) so you either need a dock/adapter or a DAC with an appropriate USB Type-A receptacle.

The AlgoRhythm and iStreamer use a USB Type-A receptacle. Note – the AlgoRhythm and iStreamer are limited to 16/48.

carvern's picture

Seems like a lot of the DACs out there are low res. e.g. uDac-2, the FiiO devices. I currently have a HeadRoom AirHead (w/o the USB input) that I use with a dock connector to line out cable. Would the Camera Connection kit to something like the FiiO E7 provide better sound, even if it isn't sending 24/96 khz audio?

Michael Lavorgna's picture

 

...the uDAC-2 supports 24/96 according to the specs.

But to answer your question, I’d say in general yes, an outboard DAC should provide better sound quality as compared to the internal DAC of any iOS device regardless of the bit/sample rate.

And since you already own the HeadRoom amp, I’d suggest looking into adding a USB DAC with the Camera Connection Kit instead of investing in something like the FiiO E7.  The least expensive outboard DAC that I’m aware of is the Hifiman Express HM-101 for $39. While I have not listened to it, Steve Guttenberg at CNET preferred it to the Mac Mini's headphone jack in his review.

carvern's picture

I don't know where I got the idea that it doesn't support 24/96. Right on the Amazon page it says 24/96 in the description.

That being said, even though I do have the HeadRoom amp, it would be one less piece if I went iPad (or iPhone 4s) => Camera Connection Kit => uDac => Headphones. Smaller in size as well. Or, do you think the amplifer part of the uDac isn't that good?

Michael Lavorgna's picture

The Camera Connection Kit does not work with my iPhone 4 ("This Accessory Not Supported by iPhone").

And I have not heard the uDAC-2 so I cannot offer an opinion but it sounds like a good plan.

deckeda's picture

The Dock connector is of course the key. What it looks like after that, whether USB Type A or Type B or Micro USB or, or, or ... should be irrlevant. It's how the host treats the incoming stream I'm curious about.

Those portable DACs were just examples related to your question of how can digital be extracted w/o Apple's Camera Connection Kit. It's presumed they are limited to 16/48 because nothing better will come out of the iDevices they're intended to be used with. And so they likely use a cheap USB chip that's limited in that way.

But again, I wonder how many companies besides Benchmark know about the hires streaming capabilities of iDevices, and if anyone's ever tried it without the Camera Connection Kit by using a USB gender changer/type changer adapter etc. Haven't looked, but they gotta be out there?

In other words, hires vs. 16/48 extraction is a red herring here --- nothing in the iAP SDK says the Dock connector is limited to 16/48 unless you use the Camera Connection Kit.

Thanks for humoring me!

Tarraga's picture

Thank you for this wonderful article!  I have been trying to decide which DAC I want to get, but have been held up on how to get my AIFF iTunes library to my stereo across the room, since Airport Express only does 16/44.  At this point I have everything I need (since I already do photo editing on my iPad2 with Snapseed) except the DAC and the MF DAC1 is the one I have been considering.  The questions and answers are most helpful. I think the first tune I'll play will be Synchronicity by The Police.

deckeda's picture

... to my question why a normal USB DAC should need the Camera Connection Kit.

It's called "USB Host" mode, and a USB DAC is gonna either act in that way or not. If it does, like the iStreamer and AlgoRythym do, it apparently can't be used as a normal DAC. It would only respond to an iDevice's signal coming straight from a Dock cable.

It was mentioned right up front here, in another example of the genre: NuForce Icon iDo USB DAC Headphone Amplifier | InnerFidelity

The little desktop component extracts digital audio data from those devices in "USB Host" mode, which means it cannot be used as a USB/DAC with computers.

Again, that's another lo res DAC, but still beside the point. USB Host mode doesn't prevent them from dealing with hires audio.

Given that any DAC designed for this (AV receivers, car stereos, portable headphone DACs) is only going to expect to see an iDevice playing stored music (and not Benchmark's discovery of hires streaming capability) it's safe bet they'd all be using inexpensive USB chips limited to 48kHz.

deckeda's picture

For those of you who don't frequent Tyll Hertsen's great personal-audio (i.e. headphones and such) site: 

http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/audiophile-play-ipad

jneber's picture

Has anyone tried a powered USB hub with the iPad and the Musical Fidelty V-Link? Seems this should solve the problem of the V-Link drawing too much power from the iPad.

carvern's picture

I picked up the Hifiman HM-101 along with the CCK. The HM has a line out and a headphone out. The headphone out is unusable with the iPad; it works fine when plugged into my iMac but is so noisy that it almost totally obscures the music when used with the iPad.  The line out is much better (when driving a Total Airhead amp) but still has a little hiss.  Interestingly I tried plugging my Shure SE 310s into the line out and they worked fine, albeit with a little hiss. I think if people are looking for a portable solution with the CCK they should look at the Headroom Total Bithead; it isn't 24/96 but it does replace the built-in DAC of the iPad and gives you an amp as well. The uDac might be a better solution than the HM-101 as well.

funhouse's picture

Just wanted to report that the iPad/Camera Connnector Combo will not work with the Wadia 151 PowerDAC because of it "requires too much power".  So close....!. 

Jriden's picture

Hey, Funhouse,

Whenever you get that message chances are very good that you can overcome the problem by using a powered USB hub in the mix.  Feed the audio stream signal into the hub's input and plug the device you are feeding the stream to (in this case the Wadia) into one of the the hub's ports.

This increases the power available to the target device.

It pays to know how much power is being demanded and supplied.  You should check the specs to discover if there is a good match.  The "too much power" message is not the end of the game.  It's just a message to be heeded.

Regards,

Joseph

WORLDOFSTEVE's picture

This going to work with an iPod too or am I missing something really obvious? I've a few hundred CDs ripped to ALAC and AIFF, would be cool to output straight digital to a DAC.

deckeda's picture

If your iPod touch is the current model running the current iOS, then yes I would expect it to send 16/44.1 straight to a powered USB DAC.

But I'm going out on a limb here because I don't actually know, and because the potential benefit to will hopefully be worth the $29 to find out and let us know. Please?

Here's the rub. For hi res AIFF or ALAC files you've moved into iTunes, only the iPad 2 or 3 will properly send them to a USB DAC. And I'm guessing about the iPad 3, because the original sources for this hack don't seem to own an iPad 3 yet ...

An original iPad and the iPhone 4 will truncate anything above 24/48. Or is truncated to 16/48? I don't remember. What about the iPhone 4S? Beats me. Your iPod touch? Probably will do whatever the iPhone 4 will, since it's of that iDevice generation.

You don't have a recent iPod touch? Doubtful it'll work, as the digital out from the Dock's USB pins is a fairly recent capability.

Yes, somebody should post a simple matrix about all of this. Incidently, this kind of info often appears first at places like head-fi.org. They're all about higher-end portable playback.

johndarko's picture

Yes, this is a GREAT solution but it's often pot luck as to whether your DAC will play ball with the CCK.  Forums are littered with posts about which DACs work and which don't.  If your DAC doesn't work with the CCK you will see the "too much power draw" error message on the iPad; most likely this is because the DAC's USB port isn't independently powered (by USB hub or the device itself).  If your DAC requires drivers (hello M2Tech), furgeddaboutit.  As someone mentioned above, the Wadia 151PowerDAC don't play ball unless...

......I'm thinking this is where the iFi USB power will step up to the plate.  It will power the USB 'port' on the DAC so that the iPad doesn't chuck a hissy fit once the DAC is connected.  In short:   iPad --> iFi USB power --> DAC.  

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I'm thinking this is where the iFi USB power will step up to the plate.

Yup. My review of the iFi iDAC & iUSBPower will discuss this option.

Jriden's picture

Michael,

When I first heard about using iPad as a music server I got very excited.  If I could use it full time (I listen all day) that would be fabulous.  The DAC issues with bus power seem to fall with a powered USB hub.  

However, the iPad will only play for a couple hours and then it takes 4 hours to recharge it best case.  I started looking for a way to keep the iPad charged while streaming so it would work continuously.  

This quickly ran into the Apply proprietary design brick wall.  Apple has designed the iPad to look for a voltage they develop on the USB data pins (using a resistor network) before it will charge.  So if the iPad is charging it can't get USB data.  If it's plugged in to a USB bus it can't charge.

Have you seen a way to get around this and keep the iPad serving music continuously?  Or at least beyond one charge?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
taylor made's picture

Has anyone tried this with an iPad 4th generation using the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter? Does it work the same as with the earlier CCK? Thanks.

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