How to use your iPad as a car stereo head unit (WITHOUT A DECK)

Connection and wiring -

How to use your iPad as a car stereo head unit (WITHOUT A DECK)

In my T-Bird, I am using the iPad as my only audio source. This is a great way to keep your system simple and save space if you don't have room for a deck or don't want to run one.

This can be setup by using an external preamp DAC such as the iFi Nano iDSD Portable DAC. The DAC will connect to your iPad and will then run to a volume control or an amplifier that can support a volume control, such as the JL Audio XD700/5. Below are two examples of how this can be done.

ipad car stereo diagram

The diagram above shows the iPad connecting to iFi Nano pre-amp, then an AudioControl Overdrive (two channel volume controller) which has two RCA pre-outs to connect to your car amplifiers. A 3.5mm to RCA cable will be needed to connect the iFi Nano to the volume controller.

If you are planning a small system, the JL Audio XD700/5 Amplifier has the ability to accept two channels of audio in, from the portable DAC, to supply signal for all five channels of amplification by setting the input switch to two channel. With the HD-RLC volume knob, you are able to control the volume of all five channels. 


An Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera AdapterApple USB-C to Lighting Cable and Belkin USB-C 36 watt Car Charger are recommended to enable fast charging while connected to the iFi Nano iDSD Portable DAC.

For systems with multiple amplifiers, you may choose to use a Digital Signal Processor as your volume controller. Most DSP units feature six to eight channels of output (RCA outs) and more features such as an Equalizer, Digital Crossovers, Time Delay, Balance, Fader and Subwoofer level control. Audison Bit Ten D and AudioControl DM-810 are shown below.

 If you want to connect an iPad to your OEM audio system or aftermarket car stereo deck click here.