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The Main Reason Apple Is Ditching the iPhone's Audio Jack

It's not all about saving space: instead, Lightning headphones sound better, period
June 8, 2016

Apple is expected to ditch the audio jack with its “iPhone 7,” offering customers a Lightning-only option for their wired earphones and headphones. And of course, the company's reasons for doing so are likely aplenty. But the main one, according to a recent analysis, concerns not the saving of internal space, but rather the bolstering of audio quality.

If all future Lightning headphones are designed as thoughtfully and in the same integrated manner as Audeze's, then we'll have nothing to fear from the future.

- The Verge

The Verge (via MacRumors) puts forward the case for Lightning-connected headphones in a recent review of the Audeze El-8 headphones, a pair which indeed feature a Lightning connector rather than a traditional line-in audio jack. These, admittedly, aren't the most cost-effective headphones on the market: in fact, at $800 they retail for around the price of a new MacBook. And as such, the sound quality, as you might expect, is exceptional. According to The Verge, this is due, in no small way, to the headphones' use of a Lightning connector.

The design of the El-8 headphones exploits this Lightning connection, using it to its fullest potential. Audeze's so-called Cipher Lightning cable features its own digital signal processor, digital-to-analog converter (DAC), and headphone amplifier. In this way, a significant chunk of audio processing happens on the hardware side, with the headphones, rather than on the iPhone. This results in huge gains for audiophiles.

The reviewer added, “these Lightning headphones are the real deal: enough to make me forget all about the 3.5mm jack.” Yet for regular listeners, like myself, the future nevertheless still remains unclear.

This is because I'm not planning on dropping $800 on a pair of Lightning headphones once the iPhone 7 launches. Despite the fact that I do most of my listening at home, using Sonos, this is simply an unrealistic price for most people, and only dedicated audiophiles (or hardware reviewers) are going to pick up Audeze's El-8. On a personal note, I'm hoping that these gains in switching to Lightning are identifiable even in the EarPods Apple ships with its iPhone. On the other hand, there's a good chance these might work wirelessly, using a similar implementation of Bluetooth used on the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I can see this happening.

For anyone interested in the El-8 headphones, check out The Verge's review. Of course, we'll need to wait until September until we know the fate of the iPhone's audio jack for sure; we'll keep you posted.