So it looks like the new iPhone 7 which will doubtlessly be announced at Apple’s WWDC event in June and launched in September won’t have a 3mm headphone socket. Instead the audio will be sent through the digital Lightning connector. There has been quite a bit of negative stuff posted about this, and someone even started an online petition to give to Apple to stop it happening. The main thrust is that people are saying it will render their existing headphones useless.
But maybe there’s a good reason for this move?
Apple have never been shy of pushing technology forward. They were the first company to drop the floppy disk drive, they were the first to drop CD/DVD drives, and when the iPhone and iPad were released they didn’t include Flash as a video format, saying that HTML5 was the way to go and that it would benefit everyone if other manufacturers did the same. Most of them didn’t and I remember many an Android fan waving their battery-drained, overloaded device at me with pride saying how “at least they could watch Flash videos”. Well in the end most followed suit, and even the mighty Youtube made their vids HTML5 compatible.
The 3mm headphone jack was introduced with the first Sony Walkman back in the 1979. Technology-wise it’s an ancient bit of kit. It relies completely on the device’s digital to analogue converter (DAC) to get the audio signal from the digital device to the analogue jack. In truth, most digital devices don’t have good quality DACs. So it doesn’t matter how good your lossless digital file is, if it has to go from digital to the analogue jack you simply aren’t getting the best from it. So it looks like Apple are taking the step and losing it. What that means is Apple Music and iTunes can significantly increase the quality of their audio and know that iPhone 7 users will actually have the benefit of hearing it.
I’m sure there will be an adaptor. There is very little space in the iPhone or any slim MP3 device to place a high quality DAC but there would be more space in a lightning-3mm adaptor. Yes we would have to buy it, but if you have the ears of an audiophile it will probably make the tunes coming through your existing headphones sound clearer. The way I look at it is I just bought an iPhone 7 for a lot of money. Am I really NOT going to get a £25 adaptor? Of course I will – I have good headphones and want to carry on using them. But I’m also very interested to hear how my music sounds digital-digital. In September we will all find out if it was worth it!