I would like to use an ipod loaded with "lossless" files as a source for my mid-fi (NAD components, JMLab low-end speakers) system. I recognize that this may not be an optimum solution, but I expect it to be satisfactory. There seem to be a variety of docks out there, plus interconnects that connect to either the dock connector or the headphone out. I would prefer a dock, i.e. a device that would hold the ipod up and recharge it, but am potentially open to an interconnect as well. I don't care about remote functionality. I have the impression the docking connector is considered a higher quality out than the headphone out, and bypasses the issue of selecting the best output volume, although HeadRoom interestingly advocates connecting to the headphone out. I have not found a comparative review that discusses the sound quality of various docking options. I have read isolated comments that some version of the Apple dock have less-than-acceptable sound quality, but it's hard to assess how seriously to take these comments. Finally, I would like to keep the cost modest. Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.
Question: Do you want to come out of the iPod with a digital stream and run it through an outboard DAC into the rest of your system, or do you want to take analog out from the iPod?
Since the ipod does not have a digital out, and modding it to output digital is very expensive, I am definitely planning to use the analog out. As I wrote in my original post, I have the impression that the docking out may be of better quality than the headphone out, and regardless bypasses the issue of what the optimum output volume is. Basically, what I'm asking is among the various docks, e.g. http://www.xitel.com/product_hflipod.htm, the generic Apple dock, various models by Kensington, etc., what do people recommend?
Some online research suggests that the Xitel dock is one of the few that does not put a volume control onto the output line, potentially degrading the signal (Kensington docks apparently have small but noticeable degradation for this reason). On its docks, Apple apparently limits volume in such a way that maximum volume simply means no degradation, but I still prefer the no-volume option. Who controls volume at the source, anyway? Also, Apple outputs via a mini plug, not proper RCA, not appealing. So it looks like Xitel it is...
I have been using the Marantz IS201. It sounds fine to me. It comes with a remote as well.