Introduction: DIY High Quality IPod Line Out Dock (LOD) Cable
First off, let me start by saying I'm definitely no expert when it comes to audio/hi-fi equipment. That being said, I still want to have a high end setup at home.
I think that people can sometimes underestimate the importance of the cables they use to connect their stereo components. After all, your sound system is only as good as it's weakest link!
I have what I would call an entry level audiophile setup at home: A Rega Brio-R amplifier, Spendor S3/5R bookshelf speakers and a Pro-Ject Debut III Carbon turntable. I'm not too big on heavy bass and prefer a good midrange sound, so the Spendor speakers are fantastic. All told this system cost me around $1500 (I got the speakers and amplifier used but in "like new" condition, which saved me almost $1000!), which is a good deal for a basic setup that won't give you listening fatigue over time. Since the Brio-R has 5 inputs, there is plenty of room for all of your components, although between my record collection and my iPod, I've got pretty much everything I need.
The problem is that high quality LOD cables for iPods are not easy to come by and unless you want to shell out well over $100, your selection is fairly limited. In this Instructable, I will show you how to build your own for less than $40. All that is required is a bit of patience and basic soldering skills.
A cable like this is also a good solution if you are looking for a quality connection between your iPod and a headphone amplifier, in which case you would generally use a 3.5mm connector instead of two RCA jacks.
I obtained all of my materials for my cable from Qables.com, but there are a few other sites out there that can supply you with what you need as well.
I should mention that it's probably not worth buying very high end materials if your stereo is not high end, as even the best cable in the world can't make a low end stereo sound like a high end one!
What you need (varies depending on which connectors you need/want):
- 30 pin iPod dock connector
- Wire (I used 24 AWG silver stranded cable)
- Stereo connection jack (depends on input jack of your stereo. Mine uses RCA style jacks, but yours may use a 3.5mm jack.)
- Wire covering/sleeve (Not at all necessary, but will provide a little extra protection)
- 'Y' adapter for splitting the wires to go to the two separate RCA jacks (Not necessary, but makes it look a bit cleaner.)
- 68k ohm resistor (Only necessary for use with iPhones etc.)
- Wire cutters
- Wire strippers
- Needle nose pliers
- Soldering iron
- Heat shrink tubing
- Epoxy glue
Let's get started!
Step 1: Prepare Dock Connector
The first thing you want to do is pull out every pin from the rear of the dock connector except pins 2, 3, 4, 11, 15 and 21 (see first picture).
Next, slightly bend pins 2, 3 and 4 away from each other. This just gives you a little bit more room to solder later. Short pins 11 and 15 together by bending them inwards toward each other. We'll solder them later.
Which pins are which? (Also, see picture)
Pin #2: Ground
Pin #3: Right Channel
Pin #4: Left Channel
Pin #11: Solder to pin 15
Pin #15: Solder to pin 11
Pin #21: Solder a 68k ohm resistor between this pin and pins 11 and 15. (Only necessary for iPhones etc.)
Step 2: Cut Your Cable
Decide on a good length of your LOD cable and cut your wire to equal lengths. If you're making a 3.5mm jack to iPod dock, then you'll just need 3 wires (one for left channel, one for right channel and one for ground). If you're making a 3.5mm or iPod dock to RCA cables, then you'll need 4 wires (1 for left channel, one for right channel and 2 for ground).
When cutting your wires to length, keep in mind that you'll lose some length when you braid the wires (roughly 3" per foot), so cut them accordingly. It's a good idea to have a bit of extra wire...it's much easier to trim a bit off the end than add more after!
Step 3: Soldering (Part One)
Strip a small amount of the sheathing off one end of your wires (you don't need to strip much at all). 1/8" to 1/4" should be plenty.
You may find that there isn't enough room to get heat shrink over the wires because they are being soldered so close together. This isn't a problem as you can simply coat your connections in a bit of epoxy glue before you assemble your dock connector (final step).
If you are using 2 ground wires, twist and solder them together first.
- Solder your ground wire(s) to pin #2
- Solder one wire to to pin #3
- Solder one wire to pin #4
- Solder pins 11 and 15 together
- If using your cable with an iPhone, solder a 68k ohm resistor between pins 11/15 and 21.
Do not solder the other ends of your wires yet.
Step 4: Braiding
Ok, so this step is kind of a preference thing. There are many different ways you can braid your wires. The type of braid also depends on how many wires you have. I'm not very good at explaining how to do this, but I'll do my best.
I chose to do a 'Litz' braid. It is a widely used type of braid for DIY audio cables and ideal for a four wire setup. There are also various braiding videos on Youtube if you need to watch a demo.
Here's how I did it:
With all four wires next to each other, take the wire furthest to the left and cross is over the two wires to the right of it. Then, take the wire furthest to the right and cross it over the one wire to it's left. Next, take the wire furthest to the left and cross it under the two wires closest to it's right. Then, take the wire furthest to the right and cross it under the closest wire to it's left. Try to keep track of which wires are which while braiding.
Repeat this process until you reach the point where you want your two RCA cables to separate.
It's a good idea to slide a small piece of heat shrink tube all the way back to the beginning of your braid to hold it together.
If you are using cable sleeving, cut a piece long enough to cover your braid up to the point where your RCA wires branch out and slide it over your braid.
Now, affix your 'Y' splitter/adapter at the end of the wire sleeve and align the left channel and one ground wire out one side and the right channel and other ground wire out the other side.
It's easier to strip the ends of the wires now before you continue your braid.
Now, make two twisted pairs. One to the right RCA jack and one to the left RCA jack.
Again, it's a good idea to put a small piece of heat shrink tube over the ends of the pairs, closest to where you will solder them to the RCA jacks, just to hold your braids together.
Now, cut two more lengths of sleeving and slide one over each twisted pair to go from the 'Y' splitter to each RCA jack.
I ended up choosing not to use cable sleeving in the end.
Step 5: Soldering (Part Two)
Before soldering, unthread your two RCA jacks and slide the barrels over the wire sleeves. Also, cut some heat shrink tube and slide it over all four wires.
Now, simply tin and solder one ground wire to the ground prong of your RCA jack, and it's corresponding channel to the signal prong of the same RCA jack. The ground prong will usually be the longer one and will have two tabs that you can crimp down after you solder the wire. Repeat this step for the other RCA jack.
If you forgot which channel is which sometime over the braiding process, no problem. Just grab your ohm meter and check for resistances between each wire and the solder points on the dock connector.
After soldering, slide your heat shrink over your solder connections and heat it with a heat gun or lighter.
Then, slide your barrels back up and thread them onto the jacks.
Be sure to make a note of which jack is left and which is right if your RCA jacks aren't colour coded. If they are colour coded, red is right and black or white is left.
Step 6: Assemble Dock Connector
Before you assemble your dock connector, it's a good idea to test your cable. First, check the solder joints with an ohm meter to make sure there is no resistance between any of the connections. Then, carefully plug your iPod or iPhone into the jack and plug the RCA connectors to the input of your stereo. Give it a quick test play and make sure you're getting sound out of both channels/speakers.
Depending on which type of dock connector you bought, you will either need to glue it or simply snap it together. Either way, it's a good idea to put a small amount of epoxy glue over your solder connections. This will prevent wires from shorting together and will also help with strain relief.
If your connector is a snap type, simply snap the two halves together over the dock connector.
If your connector is a glue type, put a generous amount of epoxy glue in the bottom half and then squeeze the two halves together until the glue sets (usually about 5 minutes). Note that epoxy glue generally takes 8 hours to fully cure, so if possible, don't move the connector around too much over this time period. Just glue it before you go to bed and then by morning, it will be cured.
Step 7: Finished!
Now you've made your own custom LOD cable that you would have paid close to $200 for online for about $40. Saving $160 is never a bad thing!
Hope you liked this Instructable and as always, any questions, comments, or criticisms are welcome :)