Finding the right audio cable for your iPhone or iPod

This article is about the kind of cable you need to plug your iPhone or iPod or laptop into a stereo.

If you look on any iPod, or the back of a Mac mini, or the side of your Apple laptop you will see a round hole where you can plug in headphones. iPhones unto the iPhone 6 have a headphone socket as well. For later iPhones (the iPhone 7 and 8) you just need this adapter which turns your lightning connector into a headphone socket, and then the rest of this article applies to you as well. If you get a dock for any model iPhone including 7 and 8 it will also have a socket like this on the back.

The technical name for this socket is a 3.5mm or 1/8 inch stereo jack.

You can see one of these on the left of this iPod dock below:

This is the kind of cable that plugs into it, a 3.5mm stereo plug. Also called 1/8 inch TRS (tip ring and sleeve). It has 3 sections on the plug , to carry the left and the right signals and third one called ground.

To plug your iPhone or computer into a home stereo you need a cable with one of those connectors at one end.

On the other end of the cable there are various  options for what kind of plug you will need depending on what you want to plug into.

To a car stereo.

If you are plugging into a car stereo,  the most common connector is exactly the same one as on the iPhone. In other words  on the front of your car stereo you may see a little hole that looks like the headphone socket on your iPhone and it will say something like ‘aux in’.  If that is the case then you will need a cable with a 3.5mm (1/8 inch) stereo jack at each end.

This link will take you to a  search on ebay for a  3.5mm ANKER lead with such a jack on each end. It will connect your iPod or iPhone headphone jack to your car stereo.

To a home stereo.

If you are  wanting to plug your iPhone or iPod into your home stereo,  most likely you will need 2 RCA plugs  which look like this:

These are called RCA plugs –  male. You need two, one for left and one for right.

I talk more about the technical details of connecting to a home stereo in this article. 


Bluejeans cables have a page where you can pick the exact connector that you need,  and choose the exact length of cable that you need.  They make up the cable with very top-quality connectors.  And they are reasonably priced.

I am not connected to them in any way!

The link to their website is here:


On their page you will find a list of the available connectors like this:

For ‘end A’ choose ‘1/8 TRS Male.’ This  will connect to to your iPhone.

For ‘end B’ you will need to choose a plug according to what you are going to plug your iPhone into at the other end.

The  first choice, 1/8 TRS Male, is  what you would use to plug your iPhone into your car stereo. Some home stereo’s or portable stereo’s also have a 1/8 TRS input. For example my Marley Get Toegther takes one of these.

1/8 TRS male – to car stereo.


The 3rd choice, 2 x RCA Male is what you would use to plug your iPod or iPhone into your home stereo.

2x RCA Male – to Home Stereo.


The 5th choice 2 x 1/4 TS Male  is what you would use to plug your iPhone or iPod into a mixing desk like you might find at a professional theatre or church or school. They look like a guitar lead.

I won’t go through all the other options, the chances are if you need one of them you will already know what you need it for.


iPhone to home stereo needs 1/8 TRS Male to 2x RCA Male.

iPhone to car stereo aux input normally needs 1/8 TRS Male to 1/8 TRS Male.

If you’d like to read some more, this article talks about the difference between line out and headphone out, whether to use a dock, and which input to plug into on the back of your stereo.








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