When Apple announced that the adapters for their new Lightning connector would cost $30, and wouldn’t be included with new iPhone 5s, it was only a matter of time until a cheaper third-party option emerged. Given that any iPhone 5 buyers who own any existing iPhone/iPod peripherals will need one of these adapters, demand for them is sure to be high.
As it turns out, it didn’t take long at all for the first third-party Lightning adapters to show up on Amazon and eBay. Adapters from dubious sounding companies like “Nanotch” and “iTronz” are available now, for as cheap as $10. If you’re thinking of buying one of these cut-rate Lightning adapters, be aware that it might not be the best idea. Unlike most adapters of this sort, there’s more to these things than simply connecting the wires in the right order. Since the Lightning jack has no analog audio out (the old 30-pin one did), the adapter has to contain a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) in order to be able to supply analog audio to existing audio docks. If you value your sound quality, cheaping out on your DAC is a bad idea.
Fortunately, you probably won’t be stuck paying $30 for the Apple one, either. Over the next few weeks, we’ll see third-party options from the more well-established peripheral manufacturers, and they’ll still sell for less than the first-party options. Audiophile versions with high-end DACs will likely emerge, too, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you absolutely must have one right now, however, we’d suggest steering clear of these off-brand units and opting for the first-party adapter.