How do I get the music from my iPhone to my car?
October 1, 2013 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Is there any good way to get audio from an iPhone's lightning connector to the 1/8" audio in plug in my car, short of upgrading my audio system to add USB in? Or will the quality of bluetooth be better than I fear, and I should just get a bluetooth receiver instead?

Back in the simple days of the big 'ol 30-pin dock connector, it was a simple matter to drop my iPhone into a dock in my car which would both charge it and send audio to the car's 1/8" "aux in", via a simple "car charger" accessory. Now with the iPhone 5's lightning connector and the beauty of digital audio, I have only silence. I've waited a year for somebody to come out with a simple lightning car charger with audio out, but no luck.

So I'm stuck. I don't want to plug two wires -- lightning and audio -- into the phone (I'd like to use a simple ProClip mount in the car, I've been happy with those so far). I could get a bluetooth receiver, but I'm assuming the quality will noticeably suffer vs. a wired connection. I haven't found any adapters which take USB in with digital audio and produce analog audio out on the other side, and which don't need to be wired into the car's infrastructure, though perhaps I'm just not looking in the right place.

Are there better solutions folks are using? Do USB -> audio out in-car adapters exist which work with the iPhone? Is the quality of Bluetooth higher than I'm expecting (with an iPhone 5 and stock audio in the car)?
posted by SeanCier to Technology (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Bluetooth is far better.
posted by squirbel at 12:16 PM on October 1, 2013

I listen to all of my music from my iPhone to my car via Bluetooth. The quality is great.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:17 PM on October 1, 2013

Would the Lightning to 30-pin adapter work with your old dock connector?

I use Bluetooth all the time with my phone/car - but mostly for podcasts.
posted by backwards guitar at 12:23 PM on October 1, 2013

I guess it depends on your car speakers (and how picky you are), but I have never been satisfied with the sound quality of audio over bluetooth.
posted by wongcorgi at 12:31 PM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Unless you are an audiophile, Bluetooth sound quality will be more than sufficient.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:37 PM on October 1, 2013

Apple just recently came out with a lightning dock with audio out. (I have an iPhone 5, and it fits in the 5s dock perfectly).
posted by 1970s Antihero at 12:55 PM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

So for those of you recommending bluetooth - can you recommend a bluetooth to aux receiver that doesn't require a rebind every time? That last time I tried, I ended up being annoyed by all the extra poking around on my iPhone every time I started to drive that I bought the lightning to 30 pin adapter and dug my old aux + power connector out of the bin.
posted by Kyol at 1:39 PM on October 1, 2013

I have both AUX and Bluetooth and AUX sounds noticeably better. I use Bluetooth anyway because I get in the car, start it and music plays. I'm picky about sound, but not so picky that I want to deal with plugging and unplugging cables every time.

This Kinivo Bluetooth unit gets really god reviews and doesn't require you to constantly pair devices. It also starts up automatically with the car.
posted by cnc at 2:26 PM on October 1, 2013

I use an older version of this Kensington cable, along with Apple's Lightning-to-30-pin adapter; it's not the cheapest setup, but it works well.

I'm not aware of any cable that does this and has a Lightning connector. The problem is that Lightning only has digital audio out, so any cable that includes an aux output would have to include a digital-to-analog converter (such as the one in the Apple adapter).
posted by Mr. Pokeylope at 3:56 PM on October 1, 2013

I recently put an Alpine UTE 42BT receiver in my car. I can just get in my car and go, and it will continue playing from wherever it left off on my iPhone last time. The controls are relatively non-annoying.

It does have some annoyances: it lets me pair more than one device (ie, my phone and my wife's), but unfortunately does not give a good way to switch between the two—that requires some poking and fiddling. Also, for inexplicable reasons, it doesn't play AAC files from a thumb drive, only MP3—it plays everything off my phone with no problem, both by USB and Bluetooth.
posted by adamrice at 4:27 PM on October 1, 2013

I recently was looking around for a solution to this. I figured I'd work my way up in price, and wound up buying this cable. Unfortunately I don't have it yet as it's probably literally on a slow boat from China. If it doesn't work I'll either go with a Bluetooth receiver or the Lightning to 30 pin adapter.
posted by zsazsa at 9:10 PM on October 1, 2013

I have an Alpine car stereo that connects to my iphone 5 via Bluetooth and USB (lightning cable). Audio playback, telephone and Siri are all functional in either case.
posted by univac at 11:00 PM on October 1, 2013

I recently bought one of these and it works brilliantly with my iphone 5. Perfect bluetooth audio streaming and pretty decent phone call quality for forty bucks. I'd recommend trying this before getting a new receiver.
posted by kdern at 9:26 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just had a Pioneer receiver installed in my car for around $250. Pairing with my phone is automatic, music streams in easily and it interfaces with Siri at the press of a button. And of course it enables handsfree phone calls.
posted by conrad53 at 8:11 PM on October 2, 2013

I have a low end Pioneer (crappy speakers, old car, not worth investing in something fancy) and the pairing is automatic. The sound is as good as any other source.
posted by judith at 10:19 AM on October 3, 2013

3rding the Kinivo, it works great. (The microphone is awful but that's irrelevant).
posted by traco at 9:31 PM on October 3, 2013

Update for my answer above: I finally got the cable. The connector is flimsy (it creaks ominously when I plug it in) and my iPhone warns me that the cable is not certified. I do not recommend. I ended up getting an official Apple Lightning to 30 pin adapter instead.
posted by zsazsa at 4:04 PM on October 19, 2013

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