My Linn/Naim system is heavily oriented towards vinyl, with an elderly Creek tuner for everyday background listening, and a CD player/recorder for occasional use (mostly by my kids). I’m now looking for an easy and inexpensive way to connect a smartphone, mostly for guests who can then stream from their Tidal/Spotify/whatever playlists. If it works well, then I might start using my own phone to expand my musical horizons, try before I buy, and so on.
I have no great interest in seriously exploring streaming at this point, I don’t wish to spend a lot of money, and I don’t have a full shelf available to accommodate e.g. a Naim ND*. A few years ago I used to see ads for smartphone docks, a sort of cradle into which you could sit your iPhone, which could then stream via a connection to the back of your amplifier. I don’t see these ads any more, so perhaps they’ve gone out of fashion, but, conceptually at least, something like that would be ideal.
I’ve seen lots of reviews of small DACs (small, as in, roughly the size of a Headline) some of which also work well as headphone amps. I imagine one of these might fit the bill. If that’s the case, then would need the usual Naim-compatible interconnect, as well as an interconnect for the phone. My ancient iPhone uses the old-school 3.5mm headphone jack. I know Apple have eliminated this in recent models. What other cables would I need to cover the most commonly used smartphones?
If there’s a solution out there that doubles as a headphone amp and is competitive with the Headline, then I might conceivably ditch my Headline which would (i) free up half a shelf and (ii) maybe bump the budget a bit.
All advice & guidance welcomed. I live in the U.S.A., btw.
Hi, the simplest and cheapest solution is a cable to connect your phone to a spare input socket, so usually a 3.5mm jack to 5 pin DIN.
If you want a wireless solution (or have a new iPhone with no headphone socket) there are a large number of options from low budget up to the level of a Naim streamer. A good cheap alternative would be a Yamaha WXC-50 which supports Spotify, Tidal, AirPlay etc. and will connect to your preamp. It also has a digital output that would allow you to connect it via a separate DAC for better sound quality. Another good option would be a Sonos Connect, which is slightly more expensive, but I prefer the Yamaha.
If you don’t want to spend too much following on from Chris’s suggestion the Yamaha WXAD-10 works really well, albeit not as good as the WXC-50 that Chris suggested. It’s a bit like a Sonos Connect but cheaper.
It doesn’t have the digital out though so you are reliant on the in built DAC which isn’t bad at all. I use one with my second system to good effect. High end it’s not but easy to use and reliable it is.
As David says Google cast is about the cheapest and easiest wireless solution. You can literally stream anything from your phone to your system if you want to add a cheap dac then audioquest dragonflies are good value.
The problem with just running an interconnect to my pre is that, because the back of my pre is somewhat difficult to get to, I’d need to leave the interconnect just hanging there when I’m not using it, and I’ve heard that it can act as an antenna and cause interference problems.
I appreciate the suggestion, but I’m not a fan of wireless generally, especially for audio, and my understanding is that most wireless solutions are inferior to their wired counterparts. So I’ll see what I can do to find a wired setup that works and is reasonably convenient.
Thanks to all who’ve responded thus far. I’ll check out the Yamaha WXAD-10 and WXC-50, and the Dragonfly Red. I’ve seen the Red reviewed in various places, but I wasn’t sure if it was suitable for my situation.
The other question I have is the interconnects. The 3.5mm headphone jack will be my default. What other cables might I need for other popular smartphones. For instance, if someone with the latest iPhone comes by, how will I connect that up? And are there any other commonly used connection types I should think about?
Hi Corry, if you use something like the Yamaha devices suggested, you would use a wired connection from that to your preamp or to a separate DAC. I find it to work very well when connected to a phone over WiFi, and I wouldn’t bother with a wired connection to the phone. Most streaming services, including Spotify, will route the signal directly from your network to the streamer, not via the phone, which just becomes a remote control via the Spotify app.
Bluetooth is quick and easy to set up, but whenever I’ve used it, I have found the connection to be less robust than a WiFi alternative. Sure, recent versions were developed to give improved range, but wouldn’t use it myself. As I mentioned above, many streaming apps don’t route the signal through the phone at all, but use a (wired) connection direct to the end device with the phone acting only as a control app, and there is a wider choice of support for Hi-Res formats too.
Based on the suggestions thus far, it doesn’t seem like the Dragonfly Red will fit the bill, as it has a USB input at one end and a headphone socket at the other. I can’t see how this will allow me to connect an iPhone to a pre without at least one other box in the chain.
The Yamaha WXAD-10 looks ideal – compact, simple, good price, and very easy to use. If I understand you correctly, @ChrisSU, once I set it up initially, any smartphone with a streaming app and a connection to my wi-fi can play their music through my system without any additional configuration or connection. If this is true, this would be my ideal solution. The bad news is that the WXAD-10 isn’t sold in the U.S. I’ve no idea why this is the case. The WXC-50 is available, but it’s a fair bit more expensive and is physically bigger and has more features than I need.
I tried buying the WXAD-10 via Amazon.co.uk but they won’t deliver to the U.S. I checked eBay and there’s only one vendor selling them. The price is good, but they’re in Australia and shipping will take the best part of a month. It looks as though that option is closed off to me. So: does anyone know of a device similar to the WXAD-10 that’s available in the U.S.?
This isn’t as convenient as a wireless connection using Airplay, but it does have the option of connecting to either your preamp (using the same cable I mentioned earlier) or to headphones via the same 3.5mm jack. Despite its small size, it’s a surprisingly good headphone amp for use with an iPhone, or direct into the USB port of a computer. The cheaper Dragonfly Black is another option.
To be honest, I haven’t used a WXAD-10, but I have used a WXC-50, which has the same range of functions, plus the option of a digital output if you want it. It’s bigger, but it does come with a couple of feet that allow you to stand it upright, so that it takes up very little space. Yes, it is more expensive, but still cheap compared to any Naim equivalent. Alternatively, look out for a Sonos Connect, which is more expensive again, but you may get one for good price on ebay.