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The USB-C to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter lets you connect devices that use a standard 3.5 mm audio plug — like headphones or speakers — to your USB-C devices.

Apple USB-C to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter

Rating:
4.5/5,

Recent Reviews

  1. kite7
    Great quality for low cost, a strange proposition!
    Written by kite7
    Published Nov 25, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Cheap solution to get good sound
    Better than some other brands
    Cons - Not the loudest output
    This is odd coming from apple to have one of the cheapest and best sounding usb c to 3.5mm adapters on the market. It is significantly better than some phones with crappy 3.5mm output quality. This is an easy way to give your phone or your computer a good improvement in sound. It works flawlessly on my phone and computer. Durability remains to be seen but so far I am happy with the sound. Hearing no obvious flaws, I am only using this to drive my low impedance headphones like my grados, ksc75 and westone iems. Some 3.5mm ports on phones that I have plugged my IEMs into make a pop sound but not for this adapter which is good.

    A must try for anyone curious about usb c to 3.5mm audio.
  2. yuriv
    $9 dongle improves audio on most notebook PCs
    Written by yuriv
    Published Nov 13, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Dirt cheap
    Good enough sound for most people.
    Works with Windows 10 and Android
    Small and compact compared to other USB-C audio dongles
    Readily available in stores
    Cons - Maybe as fragile as the Lightning adapter.
    Doesn’t get as loud as the original Google headphone adapter.
    The maximum volume seems to be limited in Android.
    Apple USB-C headphone adapter, Surface Go, Philips SHE3905.jpeg

    The 2018 iPad Pro lost the headphone jack but gained a USB-C port. Apple thinks that these new iPads ought to be used with Bluetooth headphones, so they sent Airpods to the bigger tech sites and YouTube channels along with the review units. Like it or not, wireless headphones are the future. But are still times when you want to use wired headphones. For example, if you want to use the iPad as an electronic musical instrument, you’ll want to use a wired connection for its low latency. Bluetooth headphones are tens, if not hundreds of milliseconds slower, and it makes the instrument feel a lot less responsive, even unplayable. I’m no gamer, but I imagine that some games could need the same kind of snappy response. For these kinds of applications, Apple now sells a USB-C to headphone jack adapter.

    I’ll leave it to others to describe how well this dongle works with the new iPads. Macs don’t need it yet because they still have the headphone jack. A quick online search shows that some folks got this adapter to work with Android phones like the Google Pixel 2. I wanted to see how well it would work with Windows 10 PCs because so many of them have terrible built-in audio.

    So far, I have tested the Apple USB-C adapter on a 2016 Lenovo Thinkpad Carbon X1 (running Windows 10 April 2018 update) and a Microsoft Surface Go (October 2018 update). I’m happy to report that the adapter just works. Windows won’t show it in its list of devices until you plug something in the 3.5mm jack. Here are the sample rates and bit depths that are supported:

    Windows sample rates and bit depths.png

    I made some basic audio measurements just to make sure my units weren’t malfunctioning. TL;DR version: they’re probably working just fine. I’d like to see others make more careful measurements that go beyond just verifying that it works, like I did.

    RMAA results
    These RMAA tests were done with a Lenovo Thinkpad Carbon X1 with Windows volume at 100, with the output going into the line ins of a Focusrite Forte audio interface:

    RMAA results, no load.PNG
    From left to right: 16/44, 24-bit capture of 16/44 playback, 24/44, 16/48, 24-bit capture of 16/48 playback, 24/48​

    Selected results:

    fr.png
    Frequency Response​


    thd.png
    Spectrum of 1 kHz sine at -3 dBFS and harmonic distortion​


    imd.png
    SMPTE intermodulation distortion​


    cross.png
    Stereo crosstalk​


    Performance when laptop is charging, comparison with Google USB-C Headphone Adapter

    RMAA results, no load, charging vs not charging vs Google USB-C adapter.PNG
    Left to right: not charging, plugged in and charging, Google Headphone Adapter v1.​

    The measured audio performance of iPhones’ and iPads’ built-in headphone jack usually gets much worse when they’re plugged in and charging. The good news here is that the Apple USB-C adapter didn’t perform that badly when the Thinkpad Cabon X1 was plugged in. Spectrum analyzer plots show a small bump at 60 Hz when the laptop was charging, and that’s it. The result is similar on my Surface Go.

    The table above also shows the performance of the original Google Headphone adapter, which can produce 1.88 Vrms, vs. the Apple adapter’s 1 V maximum. This 5.5 dB-higher output is part of the reason the Google adapter gets a higher S/N ratio. When a low-impedance load is plugged in, the numbers for the noise floor change for both adapters, and they are roughly the same. With a Logitech UE600vi, which has above-average sensitivity among IEMs, I hear a very soft background hiss from both adapters. The level is similar when playing the digital zero wav file.


    Impulse response, square waves

    Scope screenshot - Impulse response 4.png
    Impulse response​


    Scope screenshot - Edge of 60 Hz square wave, 0 dBFS.png Scope screenshot - Edge of 60 Hz square wave, -3dBFS.png
    Rising edge of 60 Hz square wave: maximum volume and at -3 dB​

    It’s the same minimum phase filter that Apple has been using for several years now. The square wave result is interesting. It looks like there isn’t quite enough headroom for the overshoot, which is not being clipped when the square wave’s amplitude is lowered. The result is similar for the falling edge of the waveform. Signals like maximal square waves almost never occur in normal music, so this shouldn’t have much, if any, audible impact.


    J-test

    16-bit J-test[1].png
    16-bit J-test spectrum​


    24-bit J-test[1].png
    24-bit J-test spectrum​


    It’s a little worse than what I’m getting on the Lightning adapter. I wonder if it would be different if it were plugged in an iPad. The results are similar when measured on the Forte with REW:


    16-bit J-test.png
    16-bit J-test captured by Focusrite Forte and REW​


    24-bit J-test.png
    24-bit J-test captured by Focusrite Forte and REW​

    It’s not perfect, but the noises and the skirting from random jitter should be low in enough in level to be inaudible. The Google adapter does a little worse.


    Playback into 16-ohm load, output impedance
    The RMAA result, compared to unloaded:

    RMAA results, 16-ohm load.PNG
    RMAA result. Left: playback into Focusrite Forte line in. Right: playback into 16-ohm load on both channels.​

    Scope screenshot - 0 dBFS, both channel into 16 ohms.png
    1 kHz sine, maximum volume, 16-ohm load on both channels​


    The right channel clips more: 1.79% THD. Here’s what the distortion spectrum looks like:


    Apple USB-C audio adapter, 0 dBFS sine, both channels into 16 ohms, right channel shown.png
    1 kHz sine and harmonic distortion, maximum volume, 16-ohm load on both channels, right channel shown​


    1% distortion happens at around 0.9 Vrms:


    0 dBFS sine, both channel into 16 ohms, 908 mV right channel just under 1 percent THD.png
    Apple USB-C audio, 930 mV right channel, both channels into 16 ohms, right channel shown.png
    1 kHz sine and harmonic distortion, level at 1% THD, 16-ohm load on both channels, right channel shown​


    The distortion won’t be as high with a higher-impedance load. The HD600, for example, is an easy load for this adapter because it draws so little current, even at maximum volume. Measured distortion is low with 300 ohms. It’s practically the same as if it were going into the Forte’s line ins. If you can get music loud enough on an HD600, you’re good.

    The distortion will also be much lower when the output is reduced to 200 mV, which is closer to what the typical 16-ohm dynamic-driver IEM needs, if that. Here’s what happens to 200 mV when a 16-ohm load is attached:

    Scope screenshot - 200 mV, no load.png Scope screenshot - 191 mV into 16 ohms.png
    1 kHz sine, without and with 16-ohm load on each channel, respectively.​

    Here’s the math: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=191.0+=+201.0+*+16/(R+16)

    I’ll have to double check that result later. I put the Google adapter on the same rig, and I’m getting a higher figure for R than what I got the last time I measured it. In any case, the result for the Apple adapter is low enough; for almost all headphones and IEMs, the frequency response isn’t going to change.


    It sounds like?
    As expected, the audio performance of this adapter in Windows is similar to that of iOS devices. I tried it with all sorts of headphones and IEMs, and I compared the USB-C dongle with the Lightning headphone jack adapter and also the last iPhones and iPads that still had the headphone jack. I’m pretty much getting the iPhone and iPad sound out of a Windows PC.

    There isn’t any obvious distortion or noise. The only exception is on a Logitech UE600vi, where I can hear a very faint background hiss during quiet tracks. When I’m playing the digital zero wav file, the noise doesn’t change its character when I make the SSD busy or move open windows around. When it was released, the iPhone 6S had a problem with strange electronic noises that you could hear on sensitive IEMs when going to the task switcher screen and switching apps. That doesn’t happen with this USB-C adapter. (BTW, it’s not so bad anymore on the 6S since iOS 11. The noise still changes, but it’s quieter and less offensive.)

    Apple USB-C adapter with HD600 and YouTube video.jpeg
    Apple USB-C audio adapter in action with a Surface Go and an HD600.​

    The Apple USB-C headphone jack adapter gets the same 1 Vrms maximum output as other iOS devices. (Assuming that your country isn’t limiting the volume.) It should be well established by now how loud it can get. On pop tunes like the one in the video pictured above, a satisfying volume level for me with the HD600 is 58 (out of a maximum of 100 in Windows). The HD600 is a walk in the park for this adapter because it draws so little current even at maximum volume. When level matched, it sounds about the same as a competent dedicated headphone amp. That is, if you can get it level matched. Some kinds of music are so quiet that you might not be able to get the HD600 loud enough on the dongle.

    The UE600vi, on the other extreme, has a 9-ohm DC resistance. If you crank up the volume, the distortion will be a lot higher than on the HD600. Fortunately, you won’t be doing this on low-impedance IEMs because they’re usually very sensitive. The UE600vi, for example, has higher than average sensitivity, even among balanced armature IEMs. When I was watching movie trailers on YouTube, I had the volume level anywhere between 8 to 12 in Windows.


    Comparison with the Google Headphone Adapter


    Apple and Google USB-C audio adapters.jpeg
    Apple and Google USB-C audio adapters​

    Last year, Google removed the headphone jack from their Pixel 2 phones. Their accessory USB-C audio adapter was $20 at launch, but they lowered the price to $9 to match Apple’s Lightning adapter after strong criticism from Pixel fans. I can see why Google’s adapter was more expensive at the start. It has extra abilities, like 1.88 Vrms output—5.5 dB higher than either Apple adapter. And it manages this without any special cables. The Google adapter can also change its operating mode to 400 mV maximum when it detects a lower-impedance load like an IEM.

    I ordered three Google adapters last year and tested one of them. I wrote about it in this thread: link. They’re quite competent, so it’s a shame that Google discontinued them. The new model is more expensive at $12, and reports online show that its performance is much worse than the original’s.

    Apple’s and Google’s USB-C audio adapters sound similar. I don’t detect any obvious distortion or noise from either one, except for the noise on the UE600vi that I mentioned before. The character and the level of their noise is very similar, even down to the measurements. Both adapters’ output impedances are similarly low as well, so they deliver a flat response to almost all headphones. On my headphones and IEMs, they sound about the same.

    The adapter also sounds like the headphone jacks on my Macs. Windows PCs, on the other hand, usually have worse onboard audio. My Thinkpad, for example, has noisy output. The Surface Go is quiet, but part of that is because of its high output impedance; I measured 46 ohms. An easy load like an HD6xx sounds ok, but it’s a disaster for some balanced-armature IEMs with multiple drivers.

    Last year, I got the Google adapter to work on the Nexus 7 tablet and the 2017 Amazon Fire HD 10 using an OTG cable. Those two also have weak headphone amps with high output impedance. I have yet to test them with the Apple adapter. I’ll update this report when I do.

    UPDATE: November 16
    The Apple USB-C headphone adapter works on the 2013 Google Nexus 7, the 2017 Amazon Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 tablets, the 2014 Amazon Fire 6, and the 2018 Barnes & Noble Nook 10.1.

    The Apple adapter, however, has a problem with all of them: The maximum volume seems to be limited. I'm getting only a little over 0.1 Vrms on the Fire 8, for example. This is 20 dB quieter than the maximum output in Windows and iOS. This should be fine for IEMs, but it'll be harder to get headphones like the HD600 to a satisfying volume level. Searching online shows that others are having similar results with their Android phones.​


    The mic input is good for hobbyists who want to make measurements
    Windows 10 recognizes the Apple USB-C audio adapter’s microphone input, so any microphone that works with an iPhone should also work with Windows. The Dayton Audio iMM-6 measurement mic, for example, works just fine. A few hobbyists have used the iMM-6 or Chinese IEC711-compliant clones to measure the frequency response of their IEMs. Apple’s USB-C adapter works well with these. It doesn’t have the bass roll-off of the Google adapter. It’s also much cheaper and more portable than the Startech ICUSBAUDIO2D audio interface, while having a lower output impedance.

    ER4PT measurements with Apple and Google USB-C adapters.jpg
    Room EQ Wizard frequency response measurements of ER4PT with ER38-15SM tips using the same microphone. Red: response from Apple USB-C headphone jack adapter. Green: response from Google USB-C Headphone Adapter.​

    Even if the Google adapter rolls off the bass, it's something electrical that can be handled by a calibration curve, unlike the coupler's acoustic transfer impedance, where one calibration curve cannot fit all. The Apple adapter makes it one less thing to worry about.


    What we have so far
    $9 gets your Windows PC sound that’s good enough for all but the most difficult headphones and the most persnickety audiophiles. It’s also very light and portable. So what’s not to like? Maybe its build quality. Apple’s Lightning audio adapter has a bad reputation for being too fragile and easily damaged. It remains to be seen if this USB-C adapter will be the same. It has a similar construction.

    It's a good thing, then, that it's cheap and easy to find in stores. Apple stores obviously have it in stock, but I suspect that Best Buy, Walmart, and Target will have it on their shelves soon. It’ll be strangely ironic if Apple’s USB-C dongle becomes the most common headphone adapter for Android phones. Maybe then, Android users will join their iPhone-using brethren in leaving one-star reviews online if this thing really is fragile. Courage!

    Apple USB-C Headphone Adapter with Philips SHE3905.jpeg
    Apple USB-C to Headphone Jack Adapter with Philips SHE3905​

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