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Apple Lightning Dock Adapter - Abandon all hope, all ye who enter

  1. scootermafia
    I'm sure everyone's curious about these, so here goes.  
    The dock adapter has a plastic shell on it that is glued.  You can't cleanly get it off without the dremel, as the glue is not hot glue, that I can tell.  
    Once you get it open, there are 2 stick-on metal heat shields, that remove to reveal copper foil covering the lightning plug area.  
    Next you must peel the wretched center steel piece off, which reveals the lightning heart of the adapter.  The lightning plug is steel reinforced now with a large steel molding integrated with it, then it attaches with a ribbon cable.  There is a rubber dampening piece around it.  All in all this thing is beautifully manufactured like a cruel puzzle.
    Finally the steel cage that surrounds it.  Steel tabs insert through the circuit boards, there is silicone black crud and a thin coating of epoxy all over the chips inside.  The board is u-shaped around surrounds the lightning plug and its ribbon cord.  Removing it intact - with the forces involved to bend the steel - means that it isn't going to be modded by anyone anytime soon.  To access the contacts for the audio output to somehow hack a cable to this and make a dock audio output cable  - would require a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and specialized tools.  Probably a CNC to make the cuts to remove the steel cage.  I got the steel cage off using tungsten carbide cutting hand tools, a dremel, and I still had to cut into the circuit board (probably nonfunctional protrusions of the circuit board, the long narrow parts of the u-shape) to get the board out.  Further time was required to get off all the crud on the chips.  
    The chips look unfamiliar, but with the same metal finish and some have lasered text.  They all appear to be custom and trying to figure out what does what is fruitless.  I really took this apart for the headfi community to ascertain if the DAC in this thing is actually good, but it's quite unclear.  It's probably some integrated audio circuitry in a larger processing chip, that's how these things tend to be done now.  One of the chips reads Apple on it with a very long serial number.  Another reads 8533 23AP CAB.  
    The dock connector is hyperdelicate when removed from its moorings.  It is literally floating there with just its pins attaching it, and the pins are ultra fine as usual.  Again, good luck modding this thing.  Even if you did mod it, making something that would be appealing to look at is essentially not going to happen.  The gauntlet is thrown down though, and I'll truly respect anyone that can do a project with this dock.  And I don't mean soldering wires into the dock hole, that would be a bit cheaty.  This thing is even more fearsomely reinforced than the Lightning USB cord, by a factor of 10, surely to thwart those that want to hack it, and also so that it cannot break easily.  Nobody should balk at paying $29 for this after they see what is inside, though.  
    Got 2 more of these coming in the mail that I intend to use, and not mod.  This took me a long time to take apart, most of the afternoon.  
    The $39 cabled version of this should be similar, with the lightning end simply distanced from the dock circuitry by a cable.  

  2. ExpatinJapan
    WOW, well done. Looking forward to more discoveries in the future.
  3. ExpatinJapan
    They claim it to be a Wolfson WM8533 DAC .
    Could it be a budget CLAS type system??
  4. scootermafia
    Yeah I saw that.  Should've recognized that chip, I fail!  Not sure if that Wolfson DAC is anything too exotic, but it should give solid SQ.  So yeah, it is like a mini-CLAS eh.  Although you still have to plug a damn LOD into it, it'd be nice if they made a dedicated audio one.
    Edit: This chip is a never seen before one, made by Wolfson as they proved, but it's not on the Wolfson site and nobody knows anything about it...
  5. ClieOS Contributor

    The problem is there is no official listing of any WM8533 on Wolfson. So we still know nothing about the thing we know... :rolleyes:
  6. IPodPJ
    Well I received the 0.2m lightning to 30-pin adapter cable today and I can confirm that it works when connected to the Hyundai OEM cable ($35 from dealer, $22 on eBay) that my 2013 Hyundai Elantra car uses (which puts to rest the articles that say it's not compatible; it is compatible).  It reads the iPhone 5 just as it would an iPhone 4S.  It also sounds quite good and makes it so you can't use the iPhone to control the music, since the dashboard controls do that, so it's a true line level output from whatever DAC is in the adapter.  Or, if you choose you could use the controls from your iPhone and then just connect a standard LOD to the lightning adapter cable.  The lightning adapter cable is quite well built and the insulation size around the wire (or perhaps it's a large wire bundle) is easily three to four times the diameter of the lightning USB cable that comes with the iPhone 5.  The cable looks meant to last and I wouldn't mind owning another one.  It also arrived a day ahead of schedule via FedEx from China.
    Sound quality:  Much cleaner than just using a 3.5mm cable from the headphone output, though not sure yet if it has a wider soundstage, also does not have the distortion that the headphone output possesses.  And, this is through an OEM Hyundai 30-pin to USB/3.5mm adapter cable, not exactly a high-quality custom-made cable.  What's nice about the Hyundai setup is that it doesn't use the lower quality DAC inside the Hyundai head unit/console that the CD player and XM radio make use of.  The Hyundai Elantra (and several other models) have a 3.5mm Aux input with a USB port right next to it.  The USB port controls the iPhone/iPod but still uses the DAC from the line out on the adapter cable.  (The USB port also lets you plug in a thumb drive loaded with MP3s if you choose.)  If you want to use your iPhone/iPod as the control unit you can use an LOD of your choosing, plugged into the lightning adapter cable.  I may even create my own Hyundai-type cable adapter but I'd have to take it apart first and see what goes where, but for the time being I have no complaints with the sound quality of the stock one.  After all, this is just a factory car stereo (included in the Preferred package so it is better than the basic one, but not their top of the line that comes with the Navigation package).  If this were a home system I'd be much more concerned with cables, or if it were even the very high-end car system I had back in my 2000 Solara.  But I'm not a car audio guy anymore and haven't been in a long time.  Eventually I will try the lightning adapter cable with a custom-made LOD on my reference headphone system to see how well it really sounds (compared to the Audio-gd Reference 7.1 DAC).  I'm not expecting it to come close, but I do expect it will sound quite good for a $39 cable/DAC combo.
  7. ClieOS Contributor
    Cool, that's exactly the kind of info I was looking for.
  8. IPodPJ
    Here guys, are some pics I took of the cable comparing the size to the USB cable that comes with the phone. Okay maybe it's not 3-4 times the diameter, but it looks substantially bigger in person than it does in these pics.

    You can see even the lightning connector assembly is thicker, more chips inside and less by the 30 pin area than the $29 small adapter. It looks like they spread the chips out.

    Some more thoughts on SQ that I've taken down: Sounds great though, with the headphone output jack I had to adjust the bass, mids and treble controls in the car, but with the line out dock flat across the board sounds best. Occasionally a tiny bump in the mids on my dashboard enhances it, but that's just because of my factory stereo. In most cases even adding just a dash of mids is too much. So basically, the DAC in the adapter is quite good in fact, and very neutral across the board. It seems to be clean and detailed and honestly for $39 is a great buy, especially for car use. Unless you have an Alpine head unit with Burr Brown or similar DACs that takes a native digital signal from the iPhone and generates better sound quality you will find yourself rather satisfied using this cable in your car, and I imagine in portable systems, too. I'm sure someone will eventually build a portable balanced DAC with a lightning (or USB) input and genuine authentication chips for the lightning protocol but until such time feel no shame in using this adapter for a portable or car system. I believe others will find it better than the line level outputs of previous iPhones. I also am not noticing any ground loop noise which is common in vehicles that have iPhones plugged into cigarette lighter chargers and are using a 3.5mm output or line level LOD output. And you aren't getting the distortion inherent in the iPhone 5's headphone output. Apple put some serious thought into these lightning adapters, which is evident from Peter's tear down and from my SQ evaluation on a mid-fi factory car system. It actually makes the system sound better than it has any right to, quite honestly.




  9. IPodPJ
    Fiio L3 (great LOD for the price, only $8.85 on Amazon with Prime free two day shipping) used with the Lightning Adapter Cable sounds significantly better (more detail especially in the treble, better instrument separation and localization) than the Hyundai OEM cable, but unfortunately then you lose charging capability and dashboard controls.  So it's a trade-off of convenience vs. SQ.  Sometimes convenience reigns supreme if you aren't as concerned with SQ at the time, and vice versa.
  10. ExpatinJapan
    source head-fier  jseaber/JDS labs from the `iphone 5 line out` thread 
    The WM8533 datasheet is available from Wolfson, actually: http://www.wolfsonmicro.com/documents/uploads/data_sheets/en/WM8533.pdf
    Document is currently dated July 2012, Rev. 4.0:
    Short blurb:
    24-bit 192kHz Stereo DAC with 2Vrms Ground Referenced Line Output
     High performance stereo DAC with ground referenced line
     Audio performance
     106dB SNR (‘A-weighted’)
     -89dB THD @ -1dBFS
     Digital volume control ranging from -100dB to +12dB
     120dB mute attenuation
     All common sample rates from 8kHz to 192kHz supported
     I2C/SPI compatible and hardware control modes
  11. Toxic Cables
    Couple of close up shots i took of some of the chips, i didn't want to go in to the cable too much, as i was only trying to get to the solder contacts of the wires, to do some testing, the cable is still fully functional
    The lightning connector is larger on the adapter so that it can provide strain relief to the larger cable, not because it has more chips inside, it has less then the standard USB cable.
    If i get some time, i will remove the rest of that white glue, but for now, i did not want to damage the cable.
    DSC_0663.jpg DSC_0664.jpg DSC_0665.jpg DSC_0666.jpg DSC_0685.jpg
    DSC_0686.jpg DSC_0690.jpg DSC_0691.jpg DSC_0693.jpg DSC_0773.jpg
  12. IPodPJ
    That's interesting. I thought surely it would have more chips on the lightning side. I still think it's a better solution than the cheaper adapter. At least this gives you some flexibility for positioning. You should take apart the cable and see how many wires are inside, vs. the skinny USB one.

    I hate the kinks that come with the USB cable. When you try to curl it up it forms a hexagonal bundle whereas the previous USB cable for older iPhones didn't do that nearly as bad. It almost makes me wonder if they used solid core instead of stranded, which would indeed be pretty stupid.
  13. ClieOS Contributor

    Excellent find from John. I wonder what 'hardware control modes' really implies...
  14. ExpatinJapan
    My wonder is whether with this new adapter (or hp-p1, CLAS etc) ....could/do the new ipod touch/iphone5 support 24/96 now?
    That would be amazing If it was a hidden feature that they left unmentioned until someone found it themselves(like the playstation firmware updates with hidden features). Wishful thinking based on past experience, I know :wink:
    Anyway to check?
  15. Toxic Cables
    From cutting the cable open, while still keeping it intact, i can see a total of 14 strands.
    The cable itself is built like a tank, and would probably be able to tow a tank, very well made and worth every penny.
    It has some yellow fibres, might be Kevlar, braided in with the outer tinned copper shield, followed by a foil shield and then more white fibres.
    Inside you find 2 bundles of 4 wires, each bundle is covered in a very strong foil shield and each bundle has 2 wires out of the 4 without insulation. Then there are 6 loose wires, blue, red, brown, black and then one with no insulation which is tinned copper, then another with no insulation that is twisted with both tinned and non tinned copper.
    Cable still works. [​IMG]
    DSC_0696.jpg DSC_0697.jpg

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