Which Cables Connect an iPod to a Set of Speakers?

By Melinda Adams

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The iPod revolutionized the way we take our music with us. Lightweight, portable and capable of holding an entire music library, this personal music device defined the way we listen to music. An iPod is not limited to headset playback, though. With a little bit of knowledge about the cable connections, you can share your music with speakers, on your car stereo or on a portable playback device.

iPod Output Jack

An iPod uses a standard 1/8-inch mini jack to connect to the headset. This is the size of the plug on any standard pair of mini-earphones or ear buds. Earphones are simply mini speakers, so any set of speakers plugged into the mini jack will allow you to listen to your iPod without a headset.

Compatible Speakers

Not all speakers are created equally. In order to have the best listening experience, you should look for a pair of powered speakers with a mini jack connection. Powered means the speakers have a built-in amplifier. Without the built-in amplifier, you will be able to hear your music, but it will be quiet and tinny. If the speakers have an on/off switch and require batteries or plug into a power outlet, then they are powered speakers.

Connecting the iPod

To use your iPod with a set of powered speakers, simply plug the speakers into the mini jack headset output on the iPod. You will get better sound quality if you adjust the volume control of the iPod to 50 to 70 percent. Use the volume control on the speakers to adjust the sound level.

Playback with the Apple 30-pin Dock Connector

The flat input jack on the bottom of your iPod is called an Apple 30-pin dock connector and is proprietary to Apple. This connector uses USB or Firewire to connect your iPod to other devices, including playback devices. Several manufacturers make mini stereos that use this jack to connect your iPod to an amplified speaker system.

Other Devices

The 1/8-inch mini jack can be used with a variety of devices. Wireless transmitters that enable music playback from your iPod to an FM radio use the mini jack. Old fashioned cassette stereo adapters also plug into the mini jack for music playback on any cassette stereo.