How to Get Audio from an iPad

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ipadaudioiPads are turning up in the audio booth as a new sound source.  Much like my article on using different types of smart-phones as audio sources, iPads are something you need to consider.  Let’s look a how to get the audio out.

The iPad uses a common 3.5mm stereo headphone plug . It also can use the 30-pin connector but let’s hold off on that for now, especially in light of the new Lightning connector which has its own issues.  Connecting via the 3.5mm plug is the easiest route to go.

The back of your sound board is filled with 1/4 -inch TRS plugs and RCA plugs. No 3.5mm inputs so we are going to have to do a little conversion work.

A 3.5mm stereo plug and a TRS plus look the same in that they have a tip, a ring, and a sleeve.  You must understand, however, that these cables can be used in two different ways.  One is to carry a stereo signal and the other is to carry a balanced signal.

In the case of the iPad, it’s got a headphone (stereo-out) plug and the audio mixer channel inputs are for balanced signals.  Therefore, while it might be easy to think the cables work the same way because the plugs look the same, it’s like having two plastic pipes where one is used to carry drinking water and the other is to carry waste.  Both might be PVC pipe but with different contents.

Time to Convert

There are a few ways you can convert that 3.5mm stereo plug into something usable.  You can go the route of an RCA cable  or you can use two dual TS unbalanced plugs. Plug the 3.5mm end into the iPad and the other into a stereo channel on the mixer.

3.5mm to TS cable

3.5mm to RCA cable

The Better (but more expensive) Route

Using adapters, such as I’ve listed, is an effective way to get the signal into the mixer.  However, there is a direct box that will help you with your signal levels as well.  That’s where the Radial ProAV2 DI box comes into play. Use a 3.5mm male-to-male end cable and plug one end into the iPad and the other end into the Radial DI and it will convert the signal to the right type as well as convert the signal to the proper line level as pro and consumer-grade electronics usually output at different levels.  The DI plugs into your board using a right and a left XLR cable.

Summary

Converting audio from an input device, like an iPad, to your board can be easy when you have the right tools at hand…and you know the type of signal that’s coming out of your equipment and the type of signal that’s expected to come in.

 

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Comments

  1. iam he says

    the XLR input on your mixer is a balanced 3 wire connector… +signal, -signal, common … one signal

    the mixer also has a 1/4 inch input connector, a balanced TRS 3 wire connector +signal, -signal, common… one signal

    the 1/4 TRS -Tip Ring Sleeve – is often called a stereo connector….. Left, Right, common… but this cable/input is not used as a stereo connector…… this cable is used as a balanced mono connector…. one signal

    the mixer’s 1/4 inch TRS input connector will take a TS 1/4 plug…….. this will cause the input to become a single unbalanced input…. the signal voltage will appear to the input op-amp as a perfectly usable signal of half the signal strength of a balanced signal. this will require boosting the trimmer or fader to a desired sound level…..

    if you split a 1/8 mini TRS cable into two 1/4 TS cables one of the TS plugs will be the left signal the other will be the right signal…. and this then requires using two input channels on your mixer, one for the left signal and one for the right signal…… here you get all the tone controls and balance control working for you….. which is much much better than using RCA plugs into a tape or aux input….. where you have no tone controls or low filter or effects, or L/R balance control.

    your mixers 1/4 TRS balanced input, will also accept a 1/4 TS unbalanced signal….

    impedance…. the balanced 1/4 TRS or XLR input has twice the input impedance of the 1/4 unbalanced input……. both measure in the thousands of ohms……. your signaling source is usually a low impedance microphone or ear phone signal from a MP3 or CD player -less than 300 ohms-…….. the difference in input impedance will not amount to anything significant……. in both cases there is an impedance mis match….. neither are significant….. the input op-amps will do a fine job in both scenarios…..

    adjust the gain, the trim, the fader to dial it in. it will not cause any noticeable distortion either..

    caution if you use phantom power never wire an balanced XLR cable signal for an unbalanced signal….. will cause huge noises in system, it is okay to do this on the 1/4 TRS input even when phantom power is on….. because phantom power is not connected to the TRS input, only to the XLR inputs….

    turn off phantom power if you are not using it…….

    using phantom power at any time will not cause a problem, except when pulling mics in and out the board or using a mute switch on a DJ microphone in which case you will hear pops….. things get worse however if your DL microphone is wired as an unbalanced signal to an XLR connector and pluged into your board….. these do not get along with phantom power at all. don’t do it, loud noises will result, check your DJ mike make sure it is wired to the XLR connector as a balanced signal…..

  2. says

    Hi Chris,
    You may have answered my problem already in this thread but I’m a little unclear.
    Running my ipod into a Mackie mixer, it works fine with 1/4 in speaker cable with a minijack adaptor on the ipod end.
    Wanted to change to a mini cable with a 1/4 inch adaptor to ease the pressure off my ipod jack. But trying several cables and several 1/4 in adaptors, I only seem to be getting one channel output from the iPod. Do I need the 1/4 in splitter?
    I use a 1/4 in adaptor for headphones coming out of the mixer and that works fine.
    Thanks for any insight.

    • says

      Anne, the iPod is sending out a stereo signal. The mixer, on a mono channel, takes in a mono signal via a balanced cable. The plugs used for both are the same. The mixer isn’t expecting a stereo signal. A balanced cable carries a ground wire and a mono signal, carried on two wires. One is a mirror image of the other. This is so the mixer can eliminate any interference. (This is a simplified description of a balanced cable.) When a mixer’s mono channel received a stereo signal, it may or may not process it. Really, it should not, but many still do.

      You need to either sum the stereo signal into a mono signal or split the stereo signal into left and right cables and either plug them into two mono channels or one stereo channel. This is why I mention direct boxes, for summing, in this article.

      • says

        Chris, thanks for your reply. I had a 1/4 splitter in my bag of adaptors and that worked. Had to plug it into the mini-1/4 ” adaptor but at least I found the solution. I’m losing some signal with that setup, but I just amped up the volume. It’s good enough till I get something better.

        Thanks again. Great site!

  3. Paul says

    Chris, I will be coming out of my stagebug with the xlr out to a mic xlr on stage to one channel on the mixer at the back of the church, is this ok?

    • says

      Yes. The mono out in the stagebug sums the stereo signal into a balanced signal. So, while you lose the stereo image, you are converting it to the right signal the mixer needs.

    • Paul says

      Chris, I have a cable with 1/8 trs stereo to dual 1/4 “- one is tip, which is gray, the other is ring, which is orange and I just have one input on a Samson DI box, which should plug into that input, tip or ring?

  4. Anonymous says

    Is there a way I can use the microphones that are connected to the audio mixer to record stuff in my ipad/iphone?

  5. Paul says

    I plug my mp3 player thru a stage mic xlr jack that then plays my soundtracks thru the sound system. Am I doing something wrong? It has good sound. I run a 1/8 trs out of my mp3 with 1/4 trs on the other end into a xlr adapter.

    • says

      You are sending out a stereo signal from the mp3 player via the TRS into the XLR. The problem is if you are plugging the other end of that XLR into a regular mixer channel. The non-stereo mixer channels are expecting a balanced signal. You are sending a stereo signal. Depending on the design of the mixer, it might work but that doesn’t mean it’s right. For example, I know a tech who was doing the same thing and then started experiencing volume fluctuations in that channel. As soon as he ran it through a stereo to mono (balanced) DI, the problem went away. You should run the mp3 player into a DI box for converting the stereo to mono and then sending that to the mixer.

  6. Jeff says

    I have a question about hooking up an iPad to the mixer from the stage. Is it possible to use two the 3.5mm to 1/4″ cable to connect the iPad to two separate plain old passive direct boxes or would it cause problems? I’m not against getting the Radial ProAV2 but I’d rather try it out with the gear I have to see if using the iPad would even work and be useful before spending $170 of the church’s money.

    • says

      It’s possible but then you are eating up two channels on the console. If $170 is a bit much, look at the Radial stagebug or a different brand. Just remember you get what you pay for.

  7. Myron miller says

    iPad connection to my passport fender 300 I used a 3.5 Jack and the two other ends into the amplifier now everything alright Until you red protection light Comes on then The volume goes up and down then it will play again then the red light come back on and we are also using microphones to for Church ministry can someone please help me out

  8. Mike says

    Thanks Chris. Mistakes and reworks aside, this was very helpful to me. Learning is always good!

    Take care and happy mixing

  9. says

    A rather noobious question: I have an iPad 2 with the Camera Connection Kit and a Griffin iMic which allows me to connect from the 30-pin dock port via 3.5mm connection to computer/audio interface, etc.

    My M-audio 410 firewire audio interface has S/PDIF in & out. Could I connect the iPad to the interface via a TOSLINK –>3.5mm cable and then route this to my computer or sound system? Would this achieve better quality audio, assuming it would work?

    Todd

  10. says

    Ever accidentally put phantom power on your iPad with the 3.5 mm minijack to dual XLR mentioned above?? Oh. Just me then…?
    It survived – but really didn’t enjoy the experience.

    On a practical note though- I’m not sure where I read it, may have been a Dave Rat tweet. Apparently you get a better sound through a dock than through the 3.5mm headphone output?

    • says

      I looked around for that and found the following explanation…

      “When we plug a set of headphones into the headphone socket you can here the music and adjust the volume because the iPad has a DAC ( Digital to Analogue Convertor) and an amplifier. Because of limits in space and price the in built DAC and amp are not the best, they are very good and for most of us they are more than adequate to listen to music through.

      The other way to get music out of an iPad is through the 30 pin dock connector. The advantage with this that the music stream is digital, no DAC or amp involved. We the listeners can then decide how we want to process the music so we can hear it. We still need to use a DAC and amp but we can decide the quality and price we are willing to pay.

      So what is the best way to connect an iPad to an audio system.

      We can use the headphone socket on the iPad and with the appropriate cable connect it to our audio system. The sound will be very good and acceptable for most people. The quality of the music is limited by the iPad DAC and amp as well as the audio system. This is also the cheapest method

      We can use a dock connector which has an audio output (the apple dock connector does this) we can then connect this to our audio system. The quality of the music is now limited by the dock connector and the audio system. This is more expensive and is only limited by how deep your pockets are.” – Pagliacci

  11. Chad Green says

    Chris,

    I thought that the output of the 3.5mm connection was a headphone amp and not a line level that would provide a better quality source? Wouldn’t the best practice be to have a dock connector with right and left out which unfortunately comes in RCA and adapt from there?

  12. says

    Chris,
    I would caution you and your readers against using a stereo 3.5mm to 1/4″ TRS (stereo) cable to connect an iPad, iPod or anything else to a balanced input. While it does make the physical connection, audio is not entirely like plumbing.

    The reason is this: The 1/4″ input on any mixer is going to be balanced. That is, it’s expecting a TRS jack to be plugged into it. While the TRS jack is also used in stereo applications, it is only for headphones (which is an output). On an input, the mixer is expecting to see High (pin 2 on an XLR) on the tip, Low (pin 3 on an XLR) on the ring and ground (pin 1 on an XLR) on the sleeve.

    When you connect a stereo TRS to a mixer, you’re giving it Right on the tip (or maybe it’s left, I always have to look it up) and Left (or right) on the ring. While you will get signal, L&R is not the same as High and Low.

    The better way to go is to purchase a 3.5 mm (1/8″) mini plug to dual 1/4″ or dual XLR cable. Savvy sound guys will of course buy those at Monoprice. Internally, the mixer will know what to do with a TS (unbalanced) plug, which is what you end up with using said cable.

    The even better way to go is to use a Radial ProAV2 DI. This little wonder gives you a 3.5 mm input jack with dual, balanced XLRs out. You also get a bunch of other I/O jacks in case you need them. It’s a bit more money, but well worth it.

    mike

    • says

      Mike, thanks for setting me straight on that. Thanks also for the explanation on the High/Low. Honestly, I can’t believe I got myself hyper-focused on the stereo portion and completely spaced the balance aspect. I’ll re-work the article.

      The Radial ProAV2 DI is also a great suggestion. Money…yes but worth every penny.

      • says

        Article updated.

        Driving into work this morning, I was thinking about the original article and how it came to be. I know line-in’s are balanced and I know iPad’s and such use stereo out’s. So what had I done wrong?

        It’s just like when something goes wrong during a service. If I hyper-focus on one possibility such as “it must be a problem with the microphone” then I will completely overlook the fact that I’ve got the channel muted. Fortunately, that’s not the type of mistake I’m likely to make anymore. But it is what happened with the article. I was hyper-focused on the stereo out that I completely ignored everything else. My apologies.

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