Removal of the headphone jack : the future or a marketing scheme?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by aertus, Oct 22, 2017.
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  1. aertus
    I didn't really know what sub-forum this was mostly appropriate so mods can move this whereever they want. In smartphones this is becoming a debated topic in forums, and tahts about the increasing popularity of smartphone manufactureres removing the headphone jack in phones.

    with the release of google pixel another mainstream brand goes away with the headphone jack. The only other company left to completely kill the headphone jack in popularity for smartphones is samsung. and they are rumored to be doing it on the next galaxy.

    now the true question is: is a phone with headphone jack giving you better audio quality than USBC? or is a USBC type future really the way to go forward.

    i have a friend who argues that USBC is much better in adio quality and says thats the way we should be going forward so that a phoen can save more space and that headphone companies will make the headphones with included DAC inside of them so that smartphones can save space.

    RockStar2005 and JaeYoon like this.
  2. JaeYoon
    I honestly believe you can design a DAC that can still be transparent to the human ear inside a dongle and amp as well.
    I think it's because people usually don't react to change very well, many of us still hold on to that 3.5mm/2.5mm jack because we've used it for so long. Carrying a dongle can be not convenient to some.

    For my opinion, it might just be a marketing scheme where big companies just follow each other. But it does allow phones to get slimmer, ugh I guess.

    But this is a good thread to discuss this, I like it!
    RockStar2005 likes this.
  3. rkw

    You're missing the point. Removal of the headphone jack is driven by wireless. Wireless headphones are what the public wants, and it is the future. Look at what happened over a year ago:
    Marketing sees the popularity of wireless as an opportunity to sell new products, and they are happy to promote the trend.

    As for quality of USB-C/Lightning vs headphone jack, the fundamental difference between the two is the DAC and amp being inside or outside the phone. But there is a limit to how good of a DAC and amp that phone manufacturers are willing to put inside a phone due to space and power constraints. An external DAC and amp doesn't have those constraints and has higher potential for providing better sound quality. This is not different from headphone listening from a laptop/PC. You can use the computer's headphone jack through audio on the motherboard, or potentially better audio from an external DAC and amp.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2017
  4. bigshot
    People seem to like plugging a bunch of stuff together. They think that makes their player sound better. I just want to be able to plug headphones into my phone and get great sound... no external DAC, no headphone amp, no fancy cables. Thankfully, my earlier version iPhone does that. I can plug my Oppo PM-1s into it and get the best sound. No fuss. No muss. But it doesn't look as impressive as all the little black boxes arrayed out on the table at Starbucks.
  5. Strangelove424
    Removal of the headphone jack is an excuse to offload features to another device while also opening the risk for a proprietary system, like Apple's iPhone port. If people desire wireless dongles or headphones with built in DAC, they can use USB in parallel with traditional analogue-supplied headphone jacks. The only reason to make a special point of a digital headphone connection is to make it propriety. And removing the analogue jack completely is a way of shoving people down that path. I don't think it will be successful. I don't think many headphone companies will want to become electronics manufacturers/licensees, and I don't think consumers will put big money into headphones that aren't designed with traditional analogue connections.
  6. fianbarr
  7. aertus
    exactly. Im okay with plugging a bunch of stuff together when im at the comfort of my won house. on the go i really just want to plug and go no BS with other stuff.
    Yes, which means if the switch from headphone jack to USBC becomes mainstream it would mean that headphone manufactureres are going to start puting in the DAC and AMP inside the headphones. Kind of like what Sony is doing with their top end wireless headphones. the DAC and AMp are built inside.

    are we going to get this kind of thing from all manufacturers now? Basically if we take the DAC and amp out of the equation. it does save space inside the phone for say a bigger batttery. but would this benefit the industy and the consumer?

    the thing is if the USBC becomes mainstream manufacturers are going to transition from doing headphones to do doing headphones with build in amps and dac. Which means the vast majority of the sound quality will be decided outside of the phone. One of the benefits of this would be that there is space saved inside the phone for say something like bigger battery. So smartphones save space, but this would mean that the DAC and AMp quality would have to be relied upon by the headphone companies to put inside the headphones.

    USBC means the quality of the audio is external. So does this benefit the consumer?

    Sony does have LDAC which provides the best bluetooth. but yeah, wireless is not as good as wired. The question here is this. is the removal of the headphone jack beneficial to us. Now with the DAC and AMp located outside the phone it would be up the headphone companies to put one in and insure the quality is better than would be inside the phone.

    One thing we can all agree on. Is that this will be a pain in the ass to transition to. Kind of like the new aspect ratio of the displays.
  8. ev13wt
    A smartphone needs a dac / adc anyhow, physical plug to the outside - totally irrelevant if plug or lightning.

    Depending on the implementation, if you have analog line out coming out, its the same darn thing. If you have digital coming out, well, it could be good thing!

    Much more important I feel that the ****ty 3.5mm plug could be made into a new standard where GND connects first. The 3.5 jack is basically the worst design in history EVER.

    Not sad if it dies.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2017
  9. Strangelove424
    Not a bit. If there is a forced change, and no phone maker builds an onboard DAC, people will understand what a colossal scam jettisoning headphone jacks is once the things that are easy now become a pain later. When the price of every headphone increases, audiophile headphones perhaps double to cater to the market that demands premium DACs, some headphones won't work with certain phones/operating systems or file types, you will need to update your headphones or even deal with bugs, and if you ever find yourself in front of a Sennheiser Orpheus holding nothing but a smartphone without a DAC you will be the guy from "got milk?" commercial except you will be thinking "got DAC?" and it will make you sad. You will look back to the good ole days and wonder why they got rid of DACs and jacks onboard in the first place.

    I don't think the high end will go for it either, where mix and match is valued, and people like independent universally-engineered components that use standard connectors. Sparing the DAC chip doesn't make much room for battery, or anything else, I think that's all marketing BS to sell this stuff. DAC chips have become tiny, and sit amongst many other parts on the same z plane as other components of the main board. Maybe it makes the phone more waterproof, but I need a headphone jack, not a pool toy. And what could be improved in most of of these phones with transparent specs with THD in the thousandths? This move benefits nobody but the people selling smartphones. Nobody will want to pay for a DAC, or have a conflict with external processors, in every single headphone they purchase.

    They have that now! You can use the USB on Android or whatever connection Apple uses on iPhones to plug in an external DAC. That's why I don't see any benefit to deleting the onboard DAC/headphone jack. Why not have your cake and eat it too? Because companies are telling you too much cake will make you fat? Meh.

    Apple has sold 1 billion iPhones in the last 10 years. If they save even $5 by not implementing a DAC chip and headphone connector into every iPhone they build they will make 5 billion dollars in 10 years. Who really benefits?
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2017
  10. Slaphead
    At first I was quite horrified at the idea of the HP jack removal, but I've gradually come around to it, not least due to the current quality of BT headphones, but also due to the fact that both Apple and Google include an 3.5mm adapter (DAC and Amp) in the box which is at least as good as what would have been built in to the phone in the first place. They are also pretty cheap to replace should you screw one up, and in Apple's case they're so cheap you could buy a handful and have them permanently attached to whatever headphones you have in your current rotation. They're also small enough to not get in the way.

    Going back to BT headphones for the moment, I've found that between my B&W P7W and Sony MD1000X the results are so good that any desire I had to go back to wired has simply evaporated. After using wireless going back to wired headphones would be a massive pain in rear end. Also wireless gives the headphone designers the opportunity to build in a quality DAC and an amp which is likely to be a be a better match for the drivers rather than having a cheap limited one size fits all DAC/Amp in the phone.

    As far as lossless over Bluetooth is concerned it will happen in the nearish future, but considering that the vast majority of BT headphones are going to be used on the move then lossless becomes overkill IMO. There are two reasons for that. The first being that any advantages of lossless will effectively be lost as a result of the ambient noise in portable situations, and that secondly the lossy encoders (especially AAC) are now so good that for the vast majority of people transparency is achieved at 192Kbps. I'm firmly of the opinion that most people who claim lossy is bad probably heard an MP3 from the late 90's or early 00's when the encoding was really awful, and have never bothered with lossy again.

    You also need to bear in mind that smartphones are not audiophile devices, and are not marketed as such. Head-Fi members who value sound quality above all else are not the target market for these devices. For those who require top notch sound in a portable scenario then there are a large number of specialist DAPs that would better cater for their needs.

    I totally disagree with that article. First off BT audio is a standard that works cross platform. Sure Apple and Google have added their own enhancements to their latest BT headphones/earphones, but the fact remains that you can still use them on any platform. The only thing you'll be missing are the extra features that come with using them on the correct platform.

    I'd also take anything that the Verge writes with a pinch of salt. It's a content light media heavy tech lifestyle magazine for those with an attention span deficit. Most articles are opinion pieces which lack insight and depth, and any factual reporting that they do is covered far better on other sites (Ars Technica for example).
  11. rkw
    If the track record of Lightning headphones for iPhone is any indication, USB-C headphones will not go mainstream. iPhone owners use the Lighting EarPod that came bundled with their phone, but other options for Lightning headphones are very limited. Lightning headphones haven't caught on and manufacturers are not rushing to make them. When iPhone users want something besides the EarPod, they are choosing to go wireless. I'm expecting the same thing to happen with USB-C headphones. The mainstream consumer will bypass USB-C and go to wireless.
  12. bigshot
    I have to admit, the old Apple headphone jack is pretty funky. It carries mic in as well as audio out (trrs), and it's prone to shorting out. Also if you plug in line level in instead of mic level, it will turn the mic off entirely and switch to the phone's internal mic. It'll even sometimes do that with mic level if it gets loud enough. Very annoying.
  13. RockStar2005
    Yeah and that's the thing, the dongle is fine but it's an extra thing you have to carry (and can lose lol). So I still think the 3.5mm port is relevant. Plus, I mean much thinner do we need these phones to get? lol

    My issue with these companies that are removing the jack is that even though I'd LIKE to believe it will make ppl run out and get a quality amp/DAC to use, the reality is, most people won't even think of doing that, or won't wanna spend the money. They assume the audio quality on their phone is fine, when it could be so much better. And these companies are just doing this I believe b/c they want to push their wireless products on people, like Apple with its Air Pods for example. And with that, these companies want people to believe the quality is AS GOOD as a wired connection would sound, when isn't. Maybe in 5-10 years, but IMO, we're NOT there yet.

    Another issue with forcing wireless or USB-C on people is, many people with headphones want to listen on devices OTHER THAN their a guitar amp. Or TV, etc etc. These don't come with USB-C, so if all headphone makers start making USB-C headphones only, then these people will have to run out and get an adapter when I don't think they should have to.

    In the past I used portable amp/DACs like the awesome Oppo HA-2, and I've tried others like the DragonFly Black, but since buying the HTC 10 and now just last week upgrading to the LG V30, I have to say, even though it didn't bother me having an extra device to carry around in the past, it IS pretty nice not to have to anymore. I just plug my headphones into my V30, and that's it. Fun time! lol :L3000:
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2017
    JaeYoon likes this.
  14. bigshot
    The audio out of the iPhone actually is as good as with a separate audiophile DAC. I've compared the output of my iMac and iPhone to the Oppo HA-1 and I can't hear any difference at all.
    RockStar2005 likes this.
  15. RockStar2005
    Wow! The HA-1 is an $800 amp/DAC............that's crazy! Which iPhone is this?

    I read a review where one guy used his iPhone like a year ago to try out the DragonFly Black AND the Red, and he said even with the $100 Black (Red is $200), he noticed a big difference. So I dunno. lol
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