The audiophile case for iPhone lightning headphones

“According to some rumors, Apple’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will not include a headphone jack, requiring headphones to connect to the devices using a Lightning connector,” Tim Hardwick writes for MacRumors.

“Last month, MacRumors considered the case for and against Lightning headphones by comparing the audio performance of existing brands at three different price points: the [$50] Brightech earphones, the [$259] Philips Fidelio M2L headphones, and the $800 Audeze El-8 headphones,” Hardwick writes. “In our tests, all of the Lightning-connected headphones, from the $45 pair to the $800 pair, sounded better than comparable headphones connected to an iPhone using the 3.5mm jack.”

“Yesterday,” Hardwick writes, “The Verge took a closer look at the brand in our highest price bracket, the Audeze El-8, alongside the company’s Sine headphones, and argued its own reasons for why adopting Lightning for audio should be considered a welcome and essential advance for serious listeners.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Also, as we’ve explained before, don’t discount the ability for Lightning headphones to do more than just reproduce sound:

For one example, see Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,655,004: “Sports monitoring system for headphones, earbuds and/or headsets.”

Apple’s patent abstract: A monitoring system that can be placed proximate to the head or ear of a user is disclosed. According to one embodiment, the monitoring system can be used with headphones, earbuds or headsets. The monitoring system can, for example, be used to monitor user activity, such as during exercise or sporting activities. The positioning of the monitoring system can also facilitate sensing of other user characteristics (e.g., biometric data), such as temperature, perspiration and heart rate. The monitoring system can also be used to control a an electronic device. In one embodiment, the monitoring system facilitates user control of the electronic device using head gestures. More info here.

From your ear to your wrist in the blink of an eye™.

Also, if you’d prefer no wires at all, you can do as we’ve been doing for awhile now and just go Bluetooth. We’ve been using wireless Jaybirds for some time now (currently the Jaybird X2 Sport Wireless Bluetooth Headphones). They’re easy to charge, easy to pair, light and comfortable, and work perfectly with our Apple Watches and iPhones.

The lightning headphone adapter for Apple’s next-gen iPhone – May 31, 2016
Analysts: ‘iPhone 7’ likely to dump 3.5mm headphone jack for second speaker – February 16, 2016
iOS 9 code reveals Apple’s plans to dump 3.5mm headphone jack in future iPhones – January 20, 2016
Apple’s intention to kill the 3.5mm headphone jack is brilliant – January 13, 2016
iPhone 7 said to be waterproof, replace 3.5mm headphone jack with Apple’s Lightning – January 8, 2016
The fastest Lightning cable is also one of the least expensive – January 8, 2016
Apple will drop headphone jack to make the iPhone 7 super slim, source confirms; wireless charging and waterproof, too – January 7, 2016
Petition demands Apple keep 3.5mm headphone jack in the ‘iPhone 7’ – January 7, 2016
More reports claim Apple has dumped the 3.5mm headphone jack on iPhone 7 – January 5, 2016
Why Apple may axe the 3.5mm headphone jack – June 20, 2014
Apple may be poised to kill off the 3.5mm headphone jack – June 7, 2014
Apple may ditch analog 3.5mm headphone jack for Lightning to make thinner devices – June 6, 2014
Apple introduces MFi specs for Lightning cable headphones, iOS software update to deliver support – June 5, 2014
Apple preps HD audio for iOS 8 plus new Apple In-Ear Headphones and lightning cable – May 13, 2014
Apple patents biometric sensor-packed health monitoring earphones with ‘head gesture’ control – February 18, 2014
Apple paves way for more affordable iOS accessories with lower MFi and Lightning licensing fees – February 7, 2014


  1. Bring it on. This is all about progress and advancement. There were similar complaints when Apple ditched the 21 pin connector and introduced Lightning. Real Apple enthusiasts should welcome this development.

        1. No, that’s an Apple fanboy/fangirl.

          True Apple enthusiasts and fans like me, MDN and others can and will criticize Apple’s actions when warranted.

          Like Apple insisting on starting their iDevice storage at 16GB. What I had in my first iPhone, a 3GS, *seven years ago*. So much for the progress and advancement afarstar1 was going on about.

          1. √ I don’t like or support Apple fanaticism that blindly accepts what’s dished up. Apple is about superior quality technology, superior value and superior respect for customers. Those are the subjects of my fanaticism, not merely Apple-the-corporation. That would be ridiculous.

  2. I have no issue with a lightning connected headphones. I’m sure an adaptor will be available for legacy headset. It would be a nice gesture of Apple to include one with the phone but they probably will not.
    Bluetooth headsets are best for exercising since there are no cords to get in the way. I finally found some that work reliably (Jaybirds) although they are quite costly. It would be good if Apple came out with some that are sports friendly (i.e. stay in ears, do not cut out if the phone is in a pocket, have good battery life and will not die due to sweat).

  3. Hmm. Some thoughts (which will no doubt attract the audio ignorami):

    1) The actual headphones themselves, the analog speakers, aren’t going to be any different than now. No benefit.

    2) This will jack up the price of headphones. They’ll have to incorporate their own hardware to go from digital to audio.

    3) If there is any improvement in sound quality, the hardware incorporated into the headphones is going to have to be superior to that which was formerly incorporated into the iOS devices. This means specifically the digital to analog converter.

    4) Moving the source signal digitally is potentially going to preserve the source quality, versus using an analog signal. Attenuation is still going to happen along the cable, but theoretically, the fact that it’s 0s and 1s being sent means purer reproduction at the other end of the wire. But, as with any digital streaming, dropouts will be a problem depending upon the quality of the system.

    5) Seriously: We’re talking about digital streaming of already compromised sound quality via some form of compression. Lossy compressed audio does have lower quality than source quality, even from a CD, if the listener has excellent hearing. If not, they don’t care. I typically can tell the difference, for example.

    Meanwhile, if you want top quality audio playback: Apple refuses to support FLAC (for reasons that make no sense to me), so that’s out. Apple has made Apple Lossless open source, but no one cares. You can make your own Apple Lossless versions of tunes (if you actually OWN the tunes, versus the crap licensing fee systems). You could store and play uncompressed source AIFF files on your iOS devices.

    For those who actually understand audio, I hope my thoughts are useful.

    My opinion:

    A) I’m entirely happy with the 3.5mm jack, or would be happy if Apple moved to the smaller 2.5mm jack standard to save space.

    B) Why not move to a USB Micro-AB port? There are piles of USB headphones on the market! I already own a pair! What technological loss would result from USB versus lightening? I’m unaware of any. And the ports need not be USB 3. USB 2 is quite adequate.

  4. Bullshit, pure and simple. The quality of audio is NOT dependent on what kind of physical connector is used, it has to do with the D/A converter, and the device that actually moves to make sound. One can only imagine that with the lightening setup, the D/A converter has been moved to the headphones, getting power from the Lightening cable… Past that, utter BS.

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