PocketDock Line Out USB
Requirements: 4G or 5G iPod, 1G or 2G iPod nano, or iPod mini. 3G iPod should use PocketDock Line Out FireWire instead.
A frequent scenario in which I use my iPod sees it attached to an input of a studio sound mixer and providing background music between sections of a live Internet streaming broadcast. There’s already a stereo 3.5mm to dual RCA cable connected to the board so, when I come in, I simply plug the 3.5mm jack to the headphone port of my iPod.
There are two problems with doing this. The first one gets mixed opinion. Some people will tell you it’s perfectly fine to send audio out to a mixer in this manner. But I believe the audio quality may not be as good as it could be because the mixer is expecting a line-level signal and not the already-amplified signal intended for headphones.
The second problem is that I can’t even count how many times I’ve went to navigate the menus looking for a particular song and changed the volume on what was playing live by accidentally brushing the click wheel volume control.
A small device to tap the line-level output from the iPod’s dock connector seemed like a no-brainer. In all this time, however, short of bringing a standard-size dock with me, I’ve never come across such a device—until now.
The PocketDock is a miniaturized version of Apple’s standard dock.
There are no frills to this product. Just like the standard Apple dock, the PocketDock provides access to the line-level audio output via a 3.5mm jack. As you would expect, you can also use the PocketDock to sync your iPod or access it as a mountable drive. The surprise here is that the USB connection is the common type B jack used by nearly all USB peripherals such as inkjet printers. It means you don’t have to carry the special dock connector cable when you travel—only the ultra portable PocketDock.
If you’re having some cognitive dissonance over this USB port and the fact that you still have a 3G iPod that will only sync over FireWire, SendStation has you covered. Naturally, I had this USB version sent to me for review since it is needed for my 5G iPod. But SendStation also sells a version with a standard 6-pin FireWire connector in addition to the 3.5mm audio jack. There’s even a model that has both USB and FireWire jacks, though this version lacks the audio jack. Finally, if you need a FireWire connection, don’t need the audio jack, and you’re on a very tight budget, a FireWire-only model is also available.
For the models that include the audio jack, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover that SendStation didn’t leave you on your own to obtain the proper audio cable. While you can certainly carry only the PocketDock alone for maximum portability, two cables are included in the PocketDock Line Out package. One is a male-to-male 3.5mm stereo patch cable, and the other is a stereo 3.5mm to twin phono/RCA cable.
Kudos to SendStation for including the two commonly needed audio cables for an iPod’s audio output.
The included cables also lend themselves to ultra portability. Both sport integrated Velcro® strips to keep the cables wrapped.
One extra touch is the inclusion of a plastic cover that fits over the PocketDock’s dock connector (the small dark piece laid beside the PocketDock in the above photo). It has a loop that can be attached to a keychain. When I first learned of the loop’s purpose, I wasn’t sure I’d ever feel safe in putting it on a keychain for fear that the PocketDock would slip off. Surprisingly, however, it stays on very well, thanks to the small metal clips on either side of the dock connector and the protruding bumps of plastic inside the cover which catch the metal clips. Granted, I would still never use this feature if my keychain dangled out in the open, but if, like me, you keep your keys in your pocket or some other enclosed space, this keychain cover might prove very useful.
The only way this product could be improved is if it were available in black, and if it also included a video output jack.
Wait, what’s that? You want a video output jack too? Ask, and ye shall receive. Very recently, SendStation announced the PocketDock AV which, in addition to the USB and line out ports, also sports an S-video out port. At publication time, the PocketDock AV was not yet shipping, but it should be available soon.
And it comes in black, too!
Reader Comments (10)
"Top" of the iPod is appropriate for pre-1G Nano iPods. In this case, we're talking about the bottom, and like John, the one in question has a problem with its headphone jack. The unit is beyond warranty, the iPod ResQ cost to repair is prohibitive and halfway to an equivalent unit with twice the storage, and if it worked, the PocketDock would be a good stopgap in this economy.
Any other reviews for the PocketDock that claim this utility's line output jack can be used to attach headphones are, as far as I am concerned, wrong. Nearly all (though I can't definitively say absolutely all) headphones are not designed to handle line-level audio signals, and it's line level that comes out of the iPod dock connector which the PocketDock (and other devices) tap into. Line level is the same as the audio RCA (phono) jacks you would find that are output from a CD player, or even a DVD player if using the analog audio and not digital. It's amplified and is going to be too much input for most headphones. Audio systems generally do amplify the headphone output, but a much lower amount than line level. Furthermore, even if the headphones can process the line level signal, you wouldn't be able to control the volume. The iPod volume control *only* affects the headphone jack. The line level output sends the same signal even if the volume control is set all the way down to zero.
I'm not sure what that is (no doubt a typo), but I can tell you that the output of the PocketDock (as stated in the article) is a line level output that does not work with most headphones. If you're trying to use the PocketDock to give you a second headphone output, you'd need something that would convert the line level signal to the level needed by headphones, and I can tell you it would be far cheaper and less cumbersome to simply buy a headphone splitter for the jack on the top of the iPod.
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