I just got my dock adaptor in the mail. So naturally I want to destroy this one. The dock adaptor has a plastic shell on it that is glued. You can't cleanly get it off without the dremel, as the glue is not hot glue, that I can tell.
Peter from Double Helix Cables was nice enough to give us a look into his deep dive into the recesses of Apple's new $35 Lightning dock adaptor, and whether it's actually worth the cash.
Once you get it open, there are two stick-on metal heat shields, that remove to reveal copper foil covering the lightning plug area.
Next you must peel the bastard centre steel piece off, which reveals the heart of the adaptor. The Lightning plug is steel reinforced now with a large steel moulding integrated with it, then it attaches with a ribbon cable. There is a rubber dampening piece around it. All in all, this thing is beautifully manufactured like a cruel puzzle.
Finally the steel cage that surrounds it. Steel tabs insert through the circuit boards, there is silicone black crud and a thin coating of epoxy all over the chips inside. The U-shaped board surrounds the Lightning plug and its ribbon cord. Removing it intact — with the forces involved to bend the steel — means that it isn't going to be modded by anyone anytime soon.
To access the contacts for the audio output to somehow hack a cable to this and make a dock audio output cable — would require a PhD in electrical engineering and specialised tools. Probably a CNC to make the cuts to remove the steel cage. I got the steel cage off using tungsten carbide cutting hand tools, a dremel, and I still had to cut into the circuit board (probably nonfunctional protrusions of the circuit board, the long narrow parts of the U-shape) to get the board out. Further time was required to get off all the crud on the chips.
The chips look unfamiliar, but they have the same metal finish and some have lasered text. They all appear to be custom and trying to figure out what does what is fruitless. I really took this apart for the DIY community to ascertain if the DAC in this thing is actually good, but it's quite unclear. It's probably some integrated audio circuitry in a larger processing chip, that's how these things tend to be done now. One of the chips reads Apple on it with a very long serial number. Another reads 8533 23AP CAB.
The dock connector is hyperdelicate when removed from its moorings. It is literally floating there with just its pins attaching it, and the pins are ultra fine as usual. Again, good luck modding this thing. Even if you did mod it, making something that would be appealing to look at and profitable to sell, is essentially not going to happen. I really had high hopes that I could get into this thing and attach an audio output cable, but I should have known better. This thing is even more fearsomely reinforced than the Lightning USB cord, by a factor of 10, surely to thwart those that want to hack it, and also so that it cannot break easily. Nobody should baulk at paying $35 for this after they see what is inside though. The $45 cabled version of this should be similar, with the Lightning end simply distanced from the dock circuitry by a cable.
I have two more of these coming in the mail that I intend to use and not mod. This one took me most of the afternoon to take apart.
Double Helix Cables has been around since 2009, and makes custom cables and adaptors for virtually anything on the planet.