Hey guys, I've been kinda buried, so there won't be a chapter up tomorrow. However, I'll see if I can get the "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda" bonus chapter up by the end of the week, looking at some business decisions from a simple trinary perspective. Then back to the regularly scheduled program.
However, on the subject of amps and DACs in headphones, I think it is a profoundly stupid idea. Let's see if they do it, and let's see how it plays out, but I think it will be an abject failure, for several reasons:
1. It ties the headphone to a specific connector, in this case, the Lightning connector. Don't have new Apple stuff? SOL. Oh yeah, you could do micro USB too, but then you're at 2 SKUs. Have fun with the mistakes on that one, especially when a Lightning connector can be stuffed into a Micro USB port--and ruin it.
2. It subjects the electronics to a profoundly more hostile environment--humidity (sweat), temperature changes, more shocks and vibrations to change things, etc.) Again, have fun with the warranty on that.
3. It gives exactly zero benefit that cannot be accomplished with different means while retaining universality of the headphone (noise cancellation, for example, using its own amplification and local power, or DSP correction done in the phone/computer, if you want to do so.)
4. It draws down the battery of the device it's connected to, so welcome to shorter battery life.
However, the big, hairy problems go beyond that, though, and the real crux of it lies in the performance/price equation, and how it will be monumentally broken if we go to headphones with amps and DACs in them. Because, if you're looking at it from an obsolescence point of view, you're now not just dealing with a simple mechanical system (ha) but a complex, mixed-signal, power/DAC/amplification/mechanical system.
If any part of it breaks, you throw it away. If any part of it becomes obsolete, you throw it away.
There won't be amp or DAC modules to swap out, there won't be upgradability. You'll be buying into a system that will die or become obsolete long before a conventional amp/dac/headphone system. And, you'll be stuck with the amp/DAC in the headphone, period, no way to mix it up and see what you like.
Annnddd...the stinger is that when manufacturers are designing complex systems like these hypothetical amp/DAC/headphones, they will know this fact (the obsolescence/breakage problem.) So, do you think they're gonna use great power supplies, amp topologies, and DAC technology? Ahahahaahahhahhaaahaahaa! No. It's immediately gonna be, "Hey, that DAC is $0.17 cheaper than the other, let's use that." And so on, so these devices will be compromised from the start.
Let's see where it goes...but I'm expecting it will go nowhere.
(If we end up selling out to Apple or Google and I'm working with them on powered headphones in 2019, then you'll know we were wrong...)