Just Add Headphones! Internet Connectivity & Audio Heaven To Go!

With the advent of the iPad and tablets most of us don’t really need a laptop when travelling, particularly when doing so for pleasure.. Grab yourself a hardback laptop case like the Peli 1080 and you can now set yourself up for audio and wifi nirvana on the go!!

Peli Case 1080

For the ardent traveller, Peli Cases are the 8th wonder of the world. Completely waterproof, their cases can withstand being run over by a large Chieftain Tank so they’re ideal for all environments and climates. To pop an iPad inside a Peli Case is hardly a challenge, however, so why bother writing a blog post about it? Well, if you’re using one of the latest iPad 4 Retinas with lightning connectors and have any real interest in high-end portable audio then you’ll already know that getting a digital signal is a major pain in the rear end. Apple, in their infinite wisdom, have lowered the power allowed to pass from the connector to aftermarket external devices meaning that attaching virtually anything to your iPad via the lightning connector will now result in an error message telling you that your expensive new device requires too much power.. Growl.. There is a work-around, however. If you put a bus-powered hub between the CCK (Camera Connector Kit – Lightning to female USB adaptor) and the device the iPad is tricked into believing it’s just powering the hub and lo and behold your DAC/Headphone amp is now delivered a lovely, clean digital signal.. Not all hubs work but the Dr. Bott T3 and the one pictured below work just fine.

Peli Case 1080 with iPad 4 & RSA Predator

Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy as that if you want a neat, tidy and functional setup for travel. CCK > cable > hub > cable > DAC/Amp means you’ll have a long sequence of cables and adapters which makes fitting the kit into a case a challenge, indeed. I’ve thrown a bit of money and time at this and have finally come up with the above solution which not only sounds great, it’s also neat and compact. Just add a set of decent IEMs and you’re ready to rock the world!!

Cable Setup

So what do you need? Well, the “Apple” branded non-Apple hub is brilliant. It looks the part, annoyed the heck out of Apple (after all the times they’ve annoyed me I’m cool with any company that manages that..) and it’s square with USB ports on all sides and mini USB + standard USB along one side. Add to that a simple USB to mini USB adapter, a CCK cable and one small mini USB to USB cable and you’re good to go. The picture above should allow you to figure out how to arrange those. Once done you just need to sink everything into the Peli Case foam insert and you’re done. Tidy, aesthetically pleasing, bomb and water proof!! Happy travelling!

Footnote I The Peli 1080 is now discontinued. I had to import mine from the US. The current line-up goes from 1075 to 1085. I have the 1075 and it is not big enough to accommodate anything except an iPad with smart case. That’s why I bought the 1080. The 1085 adds another couple of inches in length and another inch in width over the 1080. The 1080 is also a better built case and far sturdier than the newer models, though opening the ruddy catch with dignity is reserved only for those who actually use their gym cards..

Footnote II Good IEMs (In Ear Monitors) are getting cheaper as long as you don’t go for the absolute latests models. I use Sennheiser IE8 which a few weeks ago cost me under £100 new. A couple of years ago you’d have been looking at £300-400 for the same ones..

Footnote III Finally, storing your music on the iPad HD is sometimes preferable to storing via iCloud. If you’ve no internet signal then you can’t access iCloud, for a start. How to store music on the iPad, however, is not patently obvious. The best way I’ve found is to use Golden Ear. This accurate music player app allows you to rip your CDs using XLD (or EAC if you’re PC based) and store the files directly on your iPad’s HD. You can, of course, also transfer music files purchased via iTunes to the app, too. It will then allow you to organise them into albums etc.. and will play most file formats you might want to use. Keep in mind that to get the best sound from your rig you need to be saving your music in a hi-res format. ALAC is high-quality but doesn’t take as much space on the HD as WAV or AIFF so that may well be the best way to go, especially for those who don’t have the 64 or 128 gig iPads.