Bye, Headphone Jack
Recorded on September 9th, 2016
Well, they did it. Everyone knows by now that the iPhone 7 will have no traditional 3.5mm headphone jack. I hope that its absence on that phone will not mean we see it in fewer places on future audio/video devices. I was pleasantly surprised that in addition to wired Lightning headphones, Apple chose to include the Lightning-to-3.5mm dongle with every iPhone 7, and that they’ll sell extras for $9. This will certainly help people like me, who don’t want the AirPods and who wouldn’t have seriously considered jumping to Android anyway. (No matter how much of an audio nerd I am, was I really supposed to abandon iTunes Match, iCloud Photos, the zillions of iOS apps I rely on, and the vastly better security of iOS just because of the absence of an analog jack?)
I don’t want the AirPods because I don’t believe their transducers will sound as clear as my cheap Sony wired earbuds. Even if they manage to make them sound good, I haven’t heard anything about their special flavor of Bluetooth being lossless. I wouldn’t count on them for any serious music listening, although they’d be more than fine for podcasts.
For the wired option, I still think Lightning is a terrible headphone plug replacement. Like I’ve written before, the plug isn’t cylindrical, so it can’t rotate inside the jack to neutralize forces on the cord. Also, they could have at least used a right-angle Lightning plug for the included Lightning headphones and dongle, to keep them from sticking so far out of the phone when plugged in. The wire on that straight Lightning plug is going to suffer a lot of strain in peoples’ pockets.
I also don’t know yet about the quality of the DAC and amplifier in the $9 dongle. That’s a lot to pack into such a small case, and I assume that Lightning doesn’t carry analog audio, so something outside the phone has to do the conversion to analog. For real listening to high quality sources, I recently learned about the very promising AudioQuest Dragonfly (Black or Red) USB DAC, which works when connected to a Lightning-to-USB adaptor. That could be the best cheap-ish way to listen to iPhone audio yet.