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      07-02-2012, 01:17 AM   #1
funkahdafi
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Question iPod connection: USB vs. combined USB/AUX cable

Hi,

does anyone know the difference between those two options? The manual says the iPod should be connected via the special Y-cable that has a dock connector and an AUX connector. I just tried hooking it up via a standard USB/dock-connector cable and it seems to work fine. Does the Y-cable have any advantages over the plain USB connection?

Thanks
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      07-02-2012, 02:54 AM   #2
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You should have enhanced blutooth&usb in your car without this you cant use your ipod and iphone with apple's white cable
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      07-02-2012, 06:22 AM   #3
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The y cable is the standard connection that comes with the car. If you have BMW Assist then you can use the iPod/iPhone white cable which is the better option. Y cable is not a digital connection for your music. I hear the sound is still great with the y cable though.
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      07-02-2012, 06:43 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmnoonan View Post
The y cable is the standard connection that comes with the car. If you have BMW Assist then you can use the iPod/iPhone white cable which is the better option. Y cable is not a digital connection for your music. I hear the sound is still great with the y cable though.
Thanks.

I was wondering why the white cable would be the better option. As I understand it, with the Y-cable, you have the iPod do the playback. With the white cable, files are being transfered to the car and then the car does the decoding and playback (hence DRM files can't be played). Wouldn't the iPod own DAC be superior?
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      07-02-2012, 08:40 AM   #5
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Possibly, yes but it has to "dumb down" to analog in order to transmit to the head unit. Digital connection gives the full digital file to the head unit.
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      07-02-2012, 09:10 AM   #6
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Ok. Any other disadvantages? I think I read i the sticky thread that the Y-cable does not support cover art display?
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      07-02-2012, 10:24 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by funkahdafi View Post
Hi,

does anyone know the difference between those two options? The manual says the iPod should be connected via the special Y-cable that has a dock connector and an AUX connector. I just tried hooking it up via a standard USB/dock-connector cable and it seems to work fine. Does the Y-cable have any advantages over the plain USB connection?

Thanks
If you are able to listen to music, browse your playlists with a standard apple usb / dock cable, that is the preferable option so stick with that. The usb/analog cable option is the default feature for folks who didn't get nav or the enhanced usb/bluetooth option.
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      07-03-2012, 01:16 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrazVT View Post
If you are able to listen to music, browse your playlists with a standard apple usb / dock cable, that is the preferable option so stick with that. The usb/analog cable option is the default feature for folks who didn't get nav or the enhanced usb/bluetooth option.
...which doesn't automatically make it the better option. Just saying. I know for a fact that the line-out of iPhone/iPod dock connectors is very good (straight signal, no EQ, good DAC). This signal would be fed into the BMW via the Y-cable without further analog/digital conversion. So I would believe that way it has the least "signal loss" and tampering.

The other way, feeding the BMW through USB alone, would mean that compressed sound decoding would happen on the car's side, not the iPod. It would also include A/D conversion in the car. I am not sure if they use good components for that.

Not trying to argue here. Just wondering.
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      07-03-2012, 09:42 AM   #9
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Not sure anyone here would really know.

Try both and see what you like best.
Is the user interface on iDrive any different with Y-cable vs. USB only?

The analog connection does make is susceptible to being affected by additional noise along the signal path, including EMI and analog switches in the head unit. (Anyone ever put their mobile phone near a set of speakers and heard the bad crackle & buzz when it downloads some data.)
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      07-03-2012, 01:07 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by funkahdafi View Post
...which doesn't automatically make it the better option. Just saying. I know for a fact that the line-out of iPhone/iPod dock connectors is very good (straight signal, no EQ, good DAC). This signal would be fed into the BMW via the Y-cable without further analog/digital conversion. So I would believe that way it has the least "signal loss" and tampering.

The other way, feeding the BMW through USB alone, would mean that compressed sound decoding would happen on the car's side, not the iPod. It would also include A/D conversion in the car. I am not sure if they use good components for that.

Not trying to argue here. Just wondering.
Why would there be any Analog -> Digital conversion via USB? The point is to send a digital signal to the car's DAC and let it decode the files (Digital -> Analog). Whether the iPod/iPhone's DAC is any good is probably debatable and perhaps subjective. I'm used to using external standalone DACs in my audio systems so I've gotten a bit sensitive to differences. I know that the 5G iPod Classic had a decent DAC, but not so much the newer ones.

Forgetting the DAC part, there's an analog path from the aux in port to the HU. On my Dad's car, if the plug moved at all in the aux port, the audio signal would be affected. That makes me think that the plug quality - or at least the reliability of it long term is suspect. I hope I'm wrong, but to me going the aux in route introduces more issues than simply sending a digital signal (including those mentioned above).

I'm not saying using the y-adapter is bad ...it's just if I was given a choice, I'd go digital. But that's just me.
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      07-03-2012, 02:20 PM   #11
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Doesn't the head unit still have to decode an analog signal? A digital signal helps give the head unit precise info of what sounds to route where. Analog signals force the head unit to try to figure it out. I am no expert. It reminds me of Dolby surround vs. Dolby Pro Logic. Dolby digital was the better option but if all you had was an Analog signal coming in, the receivers would do its best to simulate surround sound using pro logic.
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      07-03-2012, 04:23 PM   #12
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You are confusing digital signal processing with digital -> analog conversion. The HU doesn't have to decode anything to play an analog signal - it simply amplifies it and sends it to the speakers. I'm not sure about the Logic7 control though - who knows, it may convert the signal back to digital again, do some processing, and then spit out an analog signal again. But I'm not sure...
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      07-07-2012, 12:50 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by funkahdafi View Post
Hi,

does anyone know the difference between those two options? The manual says the iPod should be connected via the special Y-cable that has a dock connector and an AUX connector. I just tried hooking it up via a standard USB/dock-connector cable and it seems to work fine. Does the Y-cable have any advantages over the plain USB connection?

Thanks
The Y-Cable is meant for vehicles that have no combox. The cable contains a DRM chip in the thick middle part. The combox has this chip built in. That is why with the enhanced USB (combox) playback with the white cable only is possible.
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      07-07-2012, 04:01 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Foreigner View Post
The Y-Cable is meant for vehicles that have no combox. The cable contains a DRM chip in the thick middle part. The combox has this chip built in. That is why with the enhanced USB (combox) playback with the white cable only is possible.
Yeah - I looked in the trunk of the car when I was in Germany and didn't see one. I may attempt to get the combox media module retrofitted when I my car gets here. Let's see..
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      07-08-2012, 11:19 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Foreigner View Post
The Y-Cable is meant for vehicles that have no combox. The cable contains a DRM chip in the thick middle part. The combox has this chip built in. That is why with the enhanced USB (combox) playback with the white cable only is possible.
why would there be a DRM chip? playback is done completely on the iOD device and you can only get protected stuff on there if you paid for it in the first place. doesn't make sense.
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      07-08-2012, 01:55 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by funkahdafi View Post
why would there be a DRM chip? playback is done completely on the iOD device and you can only get protected stuff on there if you paid for it in the first place. doesn't make sense.
A valid question to which I donīt have an answer.
Maybe to make it harder to record the decoded stuff in an unprotected format?
Itīs not impossible, though.
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      07-08-2012, 06:43 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrazVT View Post
You are confusing digital signal processing with digital -> analog conversion. The HU doesn't have to decode anything to play an analog signal - it simply amplifies it and sends it to the speakers. I'm not sure about the Logic7 control though - who knows, it may convert the signal back to digital again, do some processing, and then spit out an analog signal again. But I'm not sure...
Logic 7, like other digital signal processors, require a digital source to properly process the source material. If you want to hear real/true surround sound, the source material must be coded properly for surround playback. The DSP processor takes individual digital channels and process's each separately.
Example: DVD. The surround sound audio tracks may be coded in 5.1, 6.1, 7.1, etc..., left/right, center, LF/RR, Rear center, sub, etc...
The source player sends digital audio code to the processor, it then process's each channel, adds any optional coding, such as creating 7.1 out of 5.1, then sends to DAC, which sends the signal to the amp section. Proper surround sound amplifiers have individual amps for each channel. Since most home systems use a powered sub, the .1 is an output to feed the sub.
In car audio, the sub would also have it's own amp.

You can feed a 2 channel analog signal to a surround processor, but what will happen is that the DSP will have to convert the analog stereo into digital, then artificially create individual channels to mimic a surround field. It's artificial and no where near as good as source material coded for true surround.

This is where surround in a car becomes artificial, when using stereo source music.
The Logic 7 can only create an artificial surround sound field as the stereo source material is not coded for multi-channel playback.
Some people like that artificial sound field. The algorithms attempt to create sound fields that may be pleasing to some people.
When I get my 335i with HK, I'll try the Logic 7 sound fields, but usually I find them more 'interesting' than good.
HK does describe attempting to create a proper sound field for every seating position, which would indicate some phasing control, not really "surround sound". Maybe there are some L7 settings that do just that.
It'll be interesting to find out.

If you use source material that has been coded for multi channel surround, then playback on Logic 7 will sound true to what the engineer or artist intended. There are audio CD's that have been coded for surround sound, such as "super audio cd/SACD" and "DVD-A/audio".
These are higher resolution formats that can be coded for stereo 2-channel playback, or surround sound multi-channel playback.
The format never caught on in the larger market, but audiophiles like them, and I think new material is still being produced. Many older classic albums have been re-engineered and processed to create a surround sound field.

So, you're right, the HU would not need to process an analog source, such as an ipods analog stereo output. It can just route the analog source to the eq, then amp section.
But, if you want surround sound/Logic 7 added to the source analog material, then the system has to convert the 2 channel analog to digital, then into the surround DSP, process the artificial sound field, then send the signal to the amp and speakers.

My 135i only has an analog 1/8" stereo in. Like others I run a stereo 1/8" male cable from ipod to HU audio in. It does sound fine, or as good as the source material is. Mp3's can have various quality level depending on the compression settings.

I didn't get the enhanced functions in my 335i. I still listen to CD's.
I will use my ipod more though, as the radio stations in the Chicago area really suck these days. We have a lot of "classic rock" stations along with lots of modern pop stations, and nearly nothing in between.
I'm hoping satellite radio will give me more, but I've heard that sat radio audio quality can really suck.

Last edited by RPM90; 07-08-2012 at 07:23 PM.
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      07-08-2012, 08:27 PM   #18
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I think the Y-adapter is archaic. I could maybe see it as something needed when iPod integration was new. But I haven't seen any other cars that use anything but a normal USB cable. Even a cheap aftermarket HU will simply use a normal USB connection.

And burying 'enhanced usb' functionality in the 'BMW Assist' option is bizarre. Now I'll more than likely need to attempt a combox media retrofit (since I can't seem to let it go lol). Still waiting to hear back from Alekshop on my query there.

Yeah Satellite radio is like low bitrate mp3, but at least the stations are decent. I never listen to FM radio - just CDs and the lossless music on my iPod.
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      07-10-2012, 06:27 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmnoonan View Post
The y cable is the standard connection that comes with the car. If you have BMW Assist then you can use the iPod/iPhone white cable which is the better option. Y cable is not a digital connection for your music. I hear the sound is still great with the y cable though.
i usually plug the y cable for my iPhone and have the hifi (standard audio in us). i found the audio quality better with usb key and actually quite good (don't et playlists from iTunes but folders) with less noise, less saturation, and sound more clear.. am surprised to hear such a difference between jack and usb...although audio quality is pretty good already with y cable.

am considering transferring iTunes library to usb key, do you know if there is an easy way to transfer playlists to an usb ?? iTunes saves the mp3 in folder by artists apparently.
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      07-11-2012, 02:29 AM   #20
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If you have your songs properly ID3 tagged, it shouldn't matter how you organize your folders right? Searching by Artist / Album / etc should work for USB I would think. I can't remember if used those functions when I had a USB drive plugged in during my ED trip. But I think I organized my files in a similar way. Artist \ Album \ Song.m4a.

As for the whole audio quality thing, be careful, it's a rabbit hole. But typically, sound quality is going to be only as good as your source. There will be differences in the end result between iPod -> Analog vs USB -> head unit because different DACs will be decoding the files.

Let your ears decide which way you prefer.
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      07-12-2012, 02:58 AM   #21
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Has anyone looked into upgrading their car to the extended bluetooth? I don't really want the BMW assist but I think the iPod via usb and BT streaming are nice.
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      07-12-2012, 12:23 PM   #22
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If you haven't already ordered your car, I'd just add the Assist. I believe enhanced usb / bluetooth streaming + possibly other features can be added via retrofitting the appropriate combox. But it'll cost more than simply ordering the Assist option.
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