Apple abandoning the headphone jack makes perfect sense

“Multiple sources at Japan’s Portable Audio Festival are reporting Apple is in discussions to add high resolution streaming audio to Apple Music in 2016,” Gordon Kelly writes for Forbes. “The reports claim Apple wants to implement 96kHz / 24-bit music streaming and is in deep discussions with headphone makers – and here’s the interesting part: the high res audio is specifically designed for use with headphones featuring Lightning connectors.”

“Needless to say, this also comes at a time when Apple has stepped up its marketing of Lightning headphones. JBL, Philips and yes, Beats are all now selling Lightning headphones which are being heavily promoted in Apple stores,” Kelly writes. “A great deal of marketing was also thrown behind the debut of Audeze’s $799.95 EL-8 Titanium Lightning headphones earlier this month. Clearly Lightning is being positioned as the high quality option.”

“Of course those serious about their audio will spot a flaw in this logic: the headphone jack is a standard which already supports high resolution audio,” Kelly writes. “That’s true, but it also misses a crucial point: Apple’s business logic.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The ability to have a shallower, smaller, potentially waterproof connector outweighs whatever licensing fees Apple may accrue. Apple has enough money. The don’t need Lightning licensing fees.

If and when Apple dumps the headphone jack for Lightning, it’ll be mainly about what the move offers in terms of design freedom for Jony Ive & Co., not about licensing fees.

45 Comments

  1. I am all for advancement. The problem I have is multi-use ports. If the same port is used for power and for headphones, that means I can’t charge and use headphones at the same time.

    What about the new MacBook with only one USB-C port. That means you can’t charge and use an external driver without a special adapter.

    1. And that adapter is expensive. I have a MacBook, and I thought I could get away without using it, but I ofter record podcasts with Skype, and it’s hard to get more than about 2 hours battery life when using Skype with video. I finally broke down and bought the adapter that allows me to charge and connect my USB microphone. As much as I like the MacBook, I think a second port is necessary.

        1. The wealthy company does seem to be cheap on features. I’m not certain about Apple’s reasons for minimizing everything. It’s either to maintain financial profits or Jonny Ive’s idea of aesthetics. I’m sure no one at Apple will tell the real reason why they do the things they do that make the company different from the rest of the industry. I do know plenty of people are buying Apple devices so it can’t be that bad. Maybe more would buy if they doubled the number of ports but Apple probably reasoned the sales number wouldn’t double if they provided the extra ports.

          1. Wealthy Apple skimps on features.
            What a shocker.

            Remember: Cook is a numbers guy. Anything and everything he does is to pad the bottom line, not, I repeat, NOT to add value for the customer.
            This is how Apple has such a massive cash hoard, $200b and counting.

            Aperture users, iWork users, and anyone in IT unfortunate to campaign for the Xserve know exactly what this means.

            I’ll be blunt here guys, the day we got the news *SECOND HAND* that Aperture was dead I vowed to buy only used Apple gear.

            1. With respect, no it’s not. Cook was in charge of operations and had decision making authority (while Jobs was sick) when Xserve was cancelled.
              It screwed innumerable Mac fans in IT positions who had convinced their bosses to go with Apple’s server.
              Plus, they gave businesses only THREE MONTHS notice which added insult to injury since purchasing plans are made far in advance.

      1. Dude – Seriously – STOP BUYING APPLE products. Clearly you want computers with tons of expandability and dozens of ports of all types. Apple is just not for you. I hate to tell you this but Apple isn’t going to change any time soon. They focus on CONSUMER – NOT “Pros” stop complaining that they only make sports cars and not Semi-Trucks. Make yourself happy – Dude YOU’RE getting a DELL. Go do that NOW and rrreeeelllaaxxx. Its not religion they are just computers.

        1. That’s not true. They used to focus on professionals. That’s what the Mac Pro was all about. And the Mac Mini used to have a CTO GPU option. And 13 inch MacBooks used to have dedicated GPUs. Apple’s focus simply changed from pleasing the customer to making money a year after Tim Cook took over. Steve Jobs cared immensely about the user experience while Tim Cook only cares about sales. Sales are important, but that’s just a short-term view. Eventually, if Apple doesn’t turn around, a lot of folks, particularly professionals, will leave Apple for Microsoft.

      2. Well you are a bundle of fun aren’t you, clearly Apple products aren’t for you, I suggest you buy alternatives which clearly suit your needs and the various faults of which do not concern you. I’m not clear what your simplistic one dimensional hate campaign is supposed to achieve here where objective criticism is preferable.

  2. From Apple’s business perspective, this makes some sense in trying to force unneeded sales of new headphones to loyal consumers. From an audio perspective, this makes zero sense. Presumably the idea is to use the Lightening port to output the music in 24/96 format (i.e. in digital) requiring the headphones to now contain the DAC. No audiophile grade headphones will ever contain a decent DAC or amp, so whatever (largely inaudible) advantage is gained over moving to 24/96 format is instantly lost by forcing the listener to listen to it through a crappy miniaturised audio circuit.

    1. I’d think any real “audophile” would prefer the connection with 100% fidelity, over the primitive analog connection that degrades quality over the length of the connection.

      As an audiophile, you must know that the headphone connector is completely analog. Therefore, ordinary electric impedance degrades the sound quality over the entire length of the cable. Even if the recording is lossless digital audio, it will will be lossy after going over a headphone cable, due to electric impedance in the cable itself.

      The lightning cable, on the other hand is digital. There is absolutely no sound fidelity lost over a digital connection: either all the 1’s and 0’s reach the other side of the cable with 100% accuracy, or doesn’t send at at all. There’s no gradual degradation of quality with this type of connection.

      Funny, you, being a real audiophile, either don’t care or were not aware of the advantages using a digital connection for sound.

      1. Your comment ignores what paul wrote.

        …”No audiophile-grade headphones will ever contain a decent DAC or amp, so whatever (largely inaudible) advantage is gained over moving to 24/96 format is instantly lost by forcing the listener to listen to it through a crappy miniaturised audio circuit.”

        In other words, you may gain sonic fidelity advantage by switching from analogue 3.5mm to digital lightning, but all that advantage would be lost when the digital signal is converted into analogue by crappy DAC confined into earbuds (or headphones).

        The loss of sonic fidelity over analogue wire that’s 1.5m long can only be measured by the highest-precision laboratory instruments. Human ear cannot detect the difference.

        Analogue audio interface significantly exceeds the limits of human hearing.

      2. “Funny, you, being a real audiophile, either don’t care or were not aware of the advantages using a digital connection for sound.”

        He’s obviously aware and there’s no need to insult him. Why not address the argument he made directly?

        Can you point to a decent DAC/Amp that would be suitable in a headphone/earpods that would deliver performance good enough to offset the analog loss otherwise experienced over a short cable run? If so, there’s your argument. If not, well then you just tried to give an Intro to Digital Audio 101 lesson to someone who knows more than you.

  3. A truly stupid move; getting rid of the headphone jack.

    I already have a great pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones that use the standard jack, and I don’t want to pay anywhere from $30 to $50 for an adapter. At my desk I use a cheap bluetooth set and they’ll be just fine I guess, but for quality listening at home I use the Bose set.

    Lots of problems with adapters in general, and the upcoming Lightning-to-headphone one especially. An adapter means one more thing to carry around, and do you really want something like that hanging out of your Lightning connector all the time? How many bumps and bends until the connector breaks? And this adapter will have to have a D to A converter built in, raising the cost. Don’t forget to buy two or three of them, too. One for home, one for the girlfriend’s house, etc.

    One more thing – your Lightning-connected headphones can’t be used with any other portable equipment.

    1. I don’t mind if I have to adapt to something that is clearly better. But having to adapt to less because Apple is paying attention to its bottom line or to its goal of reducing everything to an absolute minimum? Why? If something is so new that no one else has adapted it yet, Why do away with the old before the new is established? It is forcing people to buy an adapter or new items. I like Apple products more than any other, but because of the reducing changes, I almost feel inclined to keep my older MacBook for a while. But I’m afraid that if I wait too long, all that will be left will be the iPad.

      Yes, I know I have just overstated the trend. But there are so many out there who are trying to convince us that their iPad can do everything they want out of a computer device.

  4. Wow – hyperbole much?
    – “Destroys” what industry exactly?
    – Do you really miss the 30 pin connector? Apple really ought to be criticized for making such a ridiculously big connector that never used more than 8 pins. I am glad its gone.
    – I too think leaving the tip and ring headphone jack we all know and love would be crazy but it wouldn’t be the end of days – relax…breathe…you will be OK!
    – To be clear Mr. Cook can do whatever he wants.

  5. I recall all the complaints when Apple abandoned the old connector for the lightning port. I found an old cable in a drawer and I just cannot believe we used to rely on that flimsy thing.

    The same thing would be for audio jack. It is time to move forward and I am sure we will have options for a port splitter that comes with additional ports and even a headphone jack for the die hard people.

    1. True, but it’s worth noting that many of us weren’t complaining about losing the 30-pin connector, but rather that Apple didn’t either go with USB-C or submit Lightning as the USB-C spec.

    1. ???? Every year??

      The old 30-pin dock connector has been in service for some ten years before Apple finally decided to put it out of its misery and move to Lightning.

      Can you please elaborate exactly what is it that changes every year? Not even the form and size of Apple devices changes every year; iPhones change every other year, and Macs even longer than that. Compared to literally ALL other electronic manufacturers, who change design and size of their devices practically every three months, Apple is inexcusably show.

  6. It is very satisfying to see the number of those who don’t fear being called “troll” join the MDN discussion, speak truth, and focus on the ONE THING that matters most for the future of Apple Inc. – and that is the need for a CEO who will resurrect the once great company. Tim Cook is pathetic and until he is gone, those of us who hold AAPL will just have to see our investment languish at about a third of its real value. Those of us who used to be thrilled with how everything “just worked” will have to just endure the crappy performance, inferior, unchanged, and barely tweaked “new” stuff, and try to resist the array of competing alternatives that now beckon us – something unthinkable in days past.

      1. STUPID and Jay…

        You know the expression “pissing in the wind”? Now, get that image cleeeearly in your mind. Got it?

        Next — please believe me when I say, we don’t want to keep watching you pee yourselves.

  7. If a user requires an audiophile audio output, then obviously the Lightning port is going to allow the use of an outboard D-A converter which could be better than the in-built one.

    However that only makes sense if the audio files themselves are less compressed and of a higher quality. For the files normally used in iPhones, a 3.5mm jack is a much better solution because it’s rugged and universally used.

    I can see the advantages of having both options available, but getting rid of the 3.5mm jack makes no sense at all to me.

    1. Back in the mid 1970s, I realized that there wasn’t any point in discussing audio with so called audiophiles. They have always ignored the human physiology in their beliefs and will spend huge sums of money for technical specs without any human perceivable benefit. They fail to realize the natural degradation of the human ear’s capability to discern sound and almost never use double blind audio tests to prove any perceptible differences. It is often a question of preference for what imbalance of sound the audiophile likes. They never like natural sound and prefer their own brand of distorted sound.

      1. For audio professionals, one of the most respected ‘Bibles’ is The Art of Digital Audio by John Watkinson. Watkinson is very adept at disproving nonsensical myths about audio and especially about digital audio, where he is one of the best known experts.

        He has done a great many demonstrations to experienced audio professionals using double blind tests between a top-end 16bit, 44.1 playback system and other systems with higher sample rates and more bits. He has demonstrated many times over that people cannot reliably tell them apart if the 16/44.1 system is very well engineered.

        There are excellent reasons for using 24bit 96kHz systems as an ~acquisition~ standard and recording studios do exactly that, but then after the post production, the last stage is to optimally down sampled to 16/44.1, which is the distribution standard.

        There is no shortage of people loudly proclaiming that they can hear the difference, but when properly put to the test, the results average out to show no statistical difference.

  8. Over the last 40 years or so I’ve been dealing with computers I’ve seen many different connectors and ports change and disappear. After a short period of adjustment I didn’t miss the older connectors and happily moved on. I don’t see what the big deal is as change is inevitable. I don’t think it’s possible for the current headphone jack to stay as it is forever. As far as I’m concerned now is as good a time as ever. As long as there is an adapter or Bluetooth to use during the transition period that’s fine with me. I’ve got a few 4.0 Bluetooth headphones, so I won’t even blink.

    Some people are fine with change while others resist it. I believe if Apple makes the move to a different headphone jack, other manufacturers will likely copy Apple and the change will happen even more quickly. Bitching and moaning about some connector change isn’t going to stop Apple from making the change and the rest of the industry will move forward. A new headphone connector for the iPhone will not stop consumers from buying new iPhones because a lot of non-tech people aren’t tied to the past like some tech-heads are. There are likely definite advantages to changing the headphone port and if there are it will surely take place.

  9. I have NO problem with this IF:

    a) they put TWO Lightning connectors on every phone (that is, substitute a second Lightning connector for the 3.5mm jack)

    or

    b) include a splitter which would let you both charge the phone AND listen to music at the same time (the way you can now).

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