Apple’s missed audio opportunity

“Apple has a long, rich history in the fields of music and audio and its complex and highly influential relationship with those fields was on display once again at the company’s recent iPhone 7 launch event,” Bob O’Donnell writes for Tech.pinions.

“The biggest audio-related news of the event was, of course, the removal of the traditional 3.5 mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7. The impact of that one decision will be rippling through the audio industry for years to come,” O’Donnell writes. “Why? Because of the level of influence Apple and the iPhone have, both with other smartphone makers and with audio accessory and component makers.”

“Given how much time Apple spent justifying the removal of the headphone jack at their event, they’re clearly cognizant of what a momentous impact their decision represented and how poorly some might perceive the move. Yet, instead of turning that negative into a positive—as they clearly could have done—they added insult to injury by calling the development courageous. Frankly, it was a missed opportunity of potentially enormous proportions,” O’Donnell writes. “The bottom line is, for a company that talks a lot about how much they love music, Apple sure doesn’t seem to care that much about audio quality, and that’s frustrating.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We, too, would like to see Apple offer uncompressed or higher quality music via iTunes Store and Apple Music. We’re hoping that happens within the next 6-12 months. We’re willing to wait a bit and see how the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack plays out across Apple’s other product lines and across the CE industry as a whole. This is just the very start of a paradigm shift in music audio.

By killing the 3.5mm headphone jack, Apple is doing something extraordinary for music sound quality – September 8, 2016
No headphone jack? No problem: How to listen to music while you sync and charge your new iPhone 7/Plus – September 8, 2016
Apple VP calls 3.5mm headphone jack ‘a dinosaur,’ says ‘it’s time to move on’ – September 8, 2016
Apple kills the headphone jack – September 7, 2016
Apple reinvents the wireless headphone with AirPods – September 7, 2016
Apple’s iPhone reveal: Death of antiquated 3.5mm headphone jack heightens anticipation – September 7, 2016


  1. “….. instead of turning that negative into a positive….”

    Doesn’t matter what Apple would have done, because the clueless “Tech Press” (who seem to know less about Tech than my 6 year old kid) have a knack of turning anything positive into a negative.

    1. Speak for yourself. The tech press is far from united on their opinion of the iPhone 7 headphone situation. But don’t pretend the transition is seamless. Everyone with other analog consumer audio devices is now dealing with incompatibilities in one way or another. Wireless is not the answer to all things. In the upcoming year, Apple will learn whether people prefer the 6S or the 7. You may be surprised.

  2. The ignorance of the tech press is glittering in this article., ther is no consideration for the bandwidth required to deliver uncompressed music, there is no thought that many people listen to the music with headphones that wouldn’t do it justice.. And personally, I enjoy the music, if it has a little more bandwidth, a touch more depth, nice, but its not the only reason I listen to it. Its probably the last reason on my list..

    1. So you claim Apple is 5 light years ahead of the competition?

      How so when Apple is entirely reliant on 3rd party accessory makers like Belkin to restore functionality that used to be built in?

      All Apple has done is consolidate further to a proprietary connector instead of adopting the more capable USB-C open standard, which Apple seems to have chosen for its future Macs.

      Remember when you could use the same headphones without adapters on your Mac and your iPhone? Yeah, those were convenient times.

  3. They’re bashing Apple as not caring about audio quality, but if you’re listening through the 3.5mm jack into earbuds, how concerned were you about the quality in the first place? If there’s ambient noise (street, coffee shop, etc.) top audio quality isn’t my concern. I’m sure no top producers are using earbuds into a 3.5mm jack in Starbucks to mix their latest project.

  4. 256 Kb/s AAC is higher quality than FM radio. I don’t remember ever reading an article complaining that the creators of FM radio missed an opportunity to provide high quality audio.

    1. I remember very well that iTunes was a huge success because its files, though compressed, were superior to FM, AM, or cassettes.

      Apple impressed audiophiles by introducing a CODEC to achieve lossless compression of redbook CD files (AIFF files) as well. But that’s where it stopped. Whereas audiophiles have high-bitrate downloads today through several different sources, not to mention SACD and DVD-A formats for impressive multichannel studio-quality digital — Apple’s improvements in music quality have been lost in action for the last decade.

      iTunes does not support high definition audio superior to the CD without aftermarket plugins. Why?

  5. If Apple would offer another iTunes Plus type upgrade program to Apple Lossless, I would gladly join in.

    6,157 iTunes purchased songs from one user. Think about how many more would pay for an upgrade.

    The same is true for TV and Movies. Some of us bought SD versions of content that is now available in HD and would love to be able to upgrade our files.

    Apple is leaving money on the table.

  6. The cited article is just flat WRONG. “When Apple removes the headphone jack, they will also, by default, remove the audio DAC (digital-to-analog convertor) from the iPhone because it’s no longer necessary.” Because people never use their iPhone to make telephone calls without a separate headset? Because nobody ever watches a video while listening to the new stereo speakers?

    Quite obviously, Apple has not removed the DAC from the iPhone. If it had, the phone speakers would not work, since they are transducers that have to generate analog sound waves from an analog electrical signal. Conversely, the microphone systems have to convert analog sound waves into digital electrical signals.

    The article further assumes that the “dongle” contains a DAC. For eight dollars???? Obviously, the Lightning port is feeding the dongle an analog signal from the phone’s internal DAC that the dongle then delivers to the 3.5mm port.

    The whole point of Lightning is that the cable is an active device that can request the phone to deliver various signals to the available pins. It is not just a dumb bundle of wires connected to an invariable set of signals. For example, if the jack is inserted “upside down,” the pins on the port are reassigned to deliver the same signals as if “right side up.”

    For analog audio devices, the cable requests and delivers analog audio signals. For digital devices, the cable requests and delivers digital audio at the highest quality that both the phone and the peripheral can handle. For the Belkin “splitter,” the port on the iPhone delivers analog stereo audio and control signals on some pins while accepting charging current on others.

    All of this has squat to do with the audio quality stored internally on the iPhone. That is constrained by the quality of the signals that go in, not those that come out (“garbage in, garbage out”). The port—of whatever flavor—obviously cannot deliver any higher digital quality than goes into the phone in the first place, or any higher analog quality than the best that the internal DAC can produce from the stored files. Similarly, the output to premium wireless headphones is as likely to be constrained by the quality of the source material as by distortion in reproduction.

    There is no “missed opportunity” to use the headphone jack replacement to improve the quality of the output sound. The old 3.5mm port could only output analog signals, while the Lightning port can output digital sound at the highest quality available on the device. What that quality might be has nothing to do with the port itself. Unlike devices attached with the analog jack from 1888, digital devices (headphones, mixers, amps, or whatever) attached via Lightning can do their own digital signal processing, noise reduction, and customized analog conversions. That is a huge plus, not a missed opportunity.

  7. I’m cognizant of douches who use the word cognizant instead of aware. Or some other less douchey word. Cogni-upyourfriggin-zants in your friggin zany-zant-pants.

    Friggin’ morons.

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