Intel pushes USB-C as 3.5mm jack replacement, touts better sound, thinness & power management

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited August 2016
The seemingly inevitable demise of the legacy 3.5-millimeter headphone jack has placed the technology world in need of a successor, and Intel this week laid out its case as to why it thinks the reversible USB-C port is the best option for accessory makers.




In a presentation at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, architects from the chipmaker made their case for USB-C to succeed traditional headphone jacks. As detailed by CNet, they noted the typical advantages related to saving space within a device, but also detailed some other, less obvious advantages to USB-C.

In particular, they said that all-digital audio could allow for better sounding headphones without the need for licensing agreements with companies like Dolby or Bose. In Intel's view, premium headphone features like noise canceling could become much cheaper with USB-based audio.

In addition, Intel's Rahman Ismail and Brad Saunders also noted that the upcoming USB Audio 3.0 specification will include power management capabilities. This built-in functionality will allow for what they said is a "negligible" effect on battery life when USB-powered headphones are in use.


Via CNet.


Intel's pitch isn't new -- the company began pushing USB-C as a digital alternative to 3.5-millimeter headphone jacks back in April. At the time, Intel portrayed the transition as simple, calling it "basically a connector replacement."

Apple, of course, is widely expected to ditch the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack with this year's anticipated "iPhone 7" model. However, for wired headphones, Apple's approach is expected to utilize its own proprietary Lightning connector, which would require some form of adapter for users who want to use newer Lightning headphones with another competing format, like USB-C.


via AnandTech


Apple doesn't stand in opposition to USB-C -- the reversible port is the sole input for both syncing and charging on the company's 12-inch MacBook. Still, the ultraportable MacBook continues to feature a 3.5-millimeter headphone port.

USB-C is also expected to make its way to a revamped MacBook Pro later this year, but it's unclear whether Apple plans to also include a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack on its professional-grade notebook. If the next MacBook Pro does ditch the legacy headphone jack, Apple would either need to encourage wired audio via USB-C, or for the first time ever include a female Lightning port on a Mac for audio output.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 70
    mazda 3smazda 3s Posts: 1,571member
    If USB-C is the future, and Apple definitely thinks so given the adoption of the standard on the MacBook, why doesn't Apple just go all in and put USB-C on the iPhones going forward? You'd have a universal standard and you could use just about any USB-C cable between ALL of your Apple devices.

    Better yet, what's the advantage of Lighting over USB-C anyway? Aren't they pretty much at feature/speed parity?


    gatorguylostkiwicroprbluetom
  • Reply 2 of 70
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,663member
    Let's not forget that the 12.9" iPad Pro uses the USB 3.1 standard through its Lightning port. So Apple could use the Intel USB 3.1 standard for audio through its port. That would be a good thing, and I hope Apple will be doing that, assuming Intel has the software layer ready now. I can't imagine that Apple won't go to 3.1 through all of its devices using the lightning port. If not this year, then hopefully next year.

    this is one area in which there's no good reason for Apple to go its own way. I find that charging times for my iPad Pro 12.9" are much shorter using the lightning to USB C cable and the MacBook 29 watt charger than the measly 12 watt charger Apple insists on supplying.

    it would be good if the audio standards are the same across all devices and manufacturers. We really do not need different standards between manufacturers. A cheap physical adapter is fine. One containing electronics simply for the purpose of translating between differing carry protocols is not fine.
    gatorguyrepressthislolliver
  • Reply 3 of 70
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,663member
    mazda 3s said:
    If USB-C is the future, and Apple definitely thinks so given the adoption of the standard on the MacBook, why doesn't Apple just go all in and put USB-C on the iPhones going forward? You'd have a universal standard and you could use just about any USB-C cable between ALL of your Apple devices.

    Better yet, what's the advantage of Lighting over USB-C anyway? Aren't they pretty much at feature/speed parity?


    Because Lightning has extra contacts that connect directly to the hardware which USB C doesn't have, it's not just an Apple take on USB.
    repressthislolliverkevin kee
  • Reply 4 of 70
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    Lightning is still smaller than USB-C and I believe lightning is still too large for a headphone standard that will span decades.

    it would be awesome if Apple announced lightning 2 before dropping 3.5mm.
    patchythepiratesockrolidDeelronbaconstangmac_dog
  • Reply 5 of 70
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,072member
    Point being that tech companies are always looking down the road rather than at the status quo. Intel sees this happening and is proposing their solution. Apple will probably be the first to ditch the 3.5mm analog jack and take the heat for it. Once Apple does it others will watch closely to see what the market does or does not do. Sure there will be ads taking a swipe at Apple, followed by me-too announcements. In my personal opinion this is not about selling dongles but about going digital all the way up to the vibrating diaphragm transducer that converts to mechanical energy we humans can process. Who knows, someday perhaps a direct connection to the Cochlear nerve, i.e. digital all the way to the brain.
    repressthisjahajaDeelronnolamacguypscooter63williamlondonlolliver
  • Reply 6 of 70
    ceek74ceek74 Posts: 324member
    ...or get rid of wires altogether.
    jahajawilliamlondonlolliver
  • Reply 7 of 70
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,429member
    mazda 3s said:
    If USB-C is the future, and Apple definitely thinks so given the adoption of the standard on the MacBook, why doesn't Apple just go all in and put USB-C on the iPhones going forward? You'd have a universal standard and you could use just about any USB-C cable between ALL of your Apple devices.

    Better yet, what's the advantage of Lighting over USB-C anyway? Aren't they pretty much at feature/speed parity?


    Because I have a 4 year investment in Lightning cables and accessories for my iPhones and iPads. Apple will add a Lightning port to all of its Macs to facilitate those who have a need to use wired audio, but Apple's not looking to establish a new wired standard. They are pushing forward to wireless everything. In 5 years when USB-C is finally reaching market saturation as older devices start to be replaced, Apple will be moving to wireless charging, wireless audio, and wireless data almost exclusively. Apple is saving me money by not switching over to a new "standard" that for the next couple of years is going to be even harder to find than a Lightning cable out in the real world, and isn't forcing me to buy all new USB-C accessories and cables, only to toss them out in another 5 years or less anyway.
    Deelronxmhillxrepressthislolliver
  • Reply 8 of 70
    But, but, but... I this... My that...

    It's happening, deal with it.
    xmhillxnolamacguywilliamlondon
  • Reply 9 of 70
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,354member
    I call bullshit on "better sound." It's digital. 1s and 0s going down that wire.
    cnocbuipscooter63SpamSandwichbaconstangwozwozspheric
  • Reply 10 of 70
    holyoneholyone Posts: 389member
    I wonder how involved/influencing apple was with the development of C those rounded sides are so Jonny
  • Reply 11 of 70
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,663member
    lkrupp said:
    Point being that tech companies are always looking down the road rather than at the status quo. Intel sees this happening and is proposing their solution. Apple will probably be the first to ditch the 3.5mm analog jack and take the heat for it. Once Apple does it others will watch closely to see what the market does or does not do. Sure there will be ads taking a swipe at Apple, followed by me-too announcements. In my personal opinion this is not about selling dongles but about going digital all the way up to the vibrating diaphragm transducer that converts to mechanical energy we humans can process. Who knows, someday perhaps a direct connection to the Cochlear nerve, i.e. digital all the way to the brain.
    There are digital amplifiers out there, but no digital drivers. We filter those amps first, giving them an analog output. Yeah, it's not quite that simple.

    with Intel announcing this, it's not just an Apple thing, and people won't be able to just point at Apple, as Samsung recently did.
    repressthislostkiwi
  • Reply 12 of 70
    emoelleremoeller Posts: 439member
    So one concern that is just now popping up ( http://bgr.com/2016/06/29/the-iphone-7-nightmare/ ) about removing the analog 3.5 mm jack is that once everything goes digital it becomes subject to Digital Rights Management (DRM).  Apple once touted that with a Mac and iPod one could rip (music) and store it in your pocket, thus securing iPod dominance.   Now that Apple is in the content provider business, they are tightly controlling DRM for their content (think Airplay).  Once analog options are removed, and there is ONLY digital data streaming (which could be secured by DRM) then content producers and providers will be obligated to enforce DRM.   The "nightmare" scenario is that DRM is end to end over everything (wifi, bluetooth, USB, etc.).  
    gatorguybaconstang
  • Reply 13 of 70
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,663member

    eightzero said:
    I call bullshit on "better sound." It's digital. 1s and 0s going down that wire.
    Well, you can make the case either way, depending on your proclivities. Both have advantages. The big advantage to digital is that the signal doesn't deteriorate while moving between steps, or going down the wire. Really, the best case is that the signal remains in digital form until the last amplification step. The closer that last step is to the transducer, the better.

    so, digital to an on headphone amp is the best we can hope for in the present.
    repressthislolliverSpamSandwich
  • Reply 14 of 70
    eightzero said:
    I call bullshit on "better sound." It's digital. 1s and 0s going down that wire.

    They mean better than analog over 3.5mm, not better than Lightning.
    repressthisnolamacguylolliver
  • Reply 15 of 70
    melgross said:

    eightzero said:
    I call bullshit on "better sound." It's digital. 1s and 0s going down that wire.
    Well, you can make the case either way, depending on your proclivities. Both have advantages. The big advantage to digital is that the signal doesn't deteriorate while moving between steps, or going down the wire. Really, the best case is that the signal remains in digital form until the last amplification step. The closer that last step is to the transducer, the better.

    so, digital to an on headphone amp is the best we can hope for in the present.
    And to expand on this, an analog signal going down 3 feet of headphone wire will only have a negligible effect on the sound. You probably won't notice. The noticeable change is the DAC. Right now it's converted to analog inside the iPhone and you have to do the best you can with that signal. If you plug in really high-end headphones to the analog headphone jack on the iPhone, it won't sound optimal. If the output is digital, then the headphones or device you plug in will be in charge of taking those 1's and 0's and converting them to what you end up hearing. So you could potentially have phenomenally better sound than currently possible.
    edited August 2016 repressthislostkiwibaconstangchia
  • Reply 16 of 70
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,429member
    emoeller said:
    So one concern that is just now popping up ( http://bgr.com/2016/06/29/the-iphone-7-nightmare/ ) about removing the analog 3.5 mm jack is that once everything goes digital it becomes subject to Digital Rights Management (DRM).  Apple once touted that with a Mac and iPod one could rip (music) and store it in your pocket, thus securing iPod dominance.   Now that Apple is in the content provider business, they are tightly controlling DRM for their content (think Airplay).  Once analog options are removed, and there is ONLY digital data streaming (which could be secured by DRM) then content producers and providers will be obligated to enforce DRM.   The "nightmare" scenario is that DRM is end to end over everything (wifi, bluetooth, USB, etc.).  
    This is old news, and likely not possible to enforce, unless Apple only allows music streaming and downloading solely through iTunes. If that happens, people will switch to Android by the droves, and start illegally trading music again.
    monstrosity
  • Reply 17 of 70
    mazda 3s said:
    If USB-C is the future, and Apple definitely thinks so given the adoption of the standard on the MacBook, why doesn't Apple just go all in and put USB-C on the iPhones going forward? You'd have a universal standard and you could use just about any USB-C cable between ALL of your Apple devices.

    Better yet, what's the advantage of Lighting over USB-C anyway? Aren't they pretty much at feature/speed parity?


    USB-C was three years late. Apple needed a better connector in 2012. And now, as other posters have commented, people don't want to upend their investment in Lightning accessories. 
    Deelronxmhillxrepressthislolliverbaconstangchia
  • Reply 18 of 70
    melgross said:
    Let's not forget that the 12.9" iPad Pro uses the USB 3.1 standard through its Lightning port. So Apple could use the Intel USB 3.1 standard for audio through its port. That would be a good thing, and I hope Apple will be doing that, assuming Intel has the software layer ready now. I can't imagine that Apple won't go to 3.1 through all of its devices using the lightning port. If not this year, then hopefully next year.

    this is one area in which there's no good reason for Apple to go its own way. I find that charging times for my iPad Pro 12.9" are much shorter using the lightning to USB C cable and the MacBook 29 watt charger than the measly 12 watt charger Apple insists on supplying.

    it would be good if the audio standards are the same across all devices and manufacturers. We really do not need different standards between manufacturers. A cheap physical adapter is fine. One containing electronics simply for the purpose of translating between differing carry protocols is not fine.

    Mmm ...

    I didn't know that you could charge a 12.9 iPad Pro using USB 3.1 through the Lightning port (I don't have any USB 3.1 devices or chargers).

    I compared the Lightening and USB 3 pinouts and appears to me that the Lightening port cannot take advantage of all USB 3 capabilities.

    My AppleTV does have a USB 3 port -- and it appears to be slightly thicker than a lightening port ...

    To me, It would make more sense, at least on the iPad Pros, to replace the Lightening Port with a full featured USB 3 port & 3.1 support if there aren't other issues like power requirements, etc.  That way, for example, you could use the iPad Pro on a Mac instead of a Wacom tablet.

    I suspect that IBM will pressure Apple to include a USB 3.1 port on the new iPads.

    One problem with a single port on the device, be it USB or Lightening, is that you can't do 2 things at once -- say, charge your device and use wired headphones or transfer data.


    baconstang
  • Reply 19 of 70
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,816member
    melgross said:
    mazda 3s said:
    If USB-C is the future, and Apple definitely thinks so given the adoption of the standard on the MacBook, why doesn't Apple just go all in and put USB-C on the iPhones going forward? You'd have a universal standard and you could use just about any USB-C cable between ALL of your Apple devices.

    Better yet, what's the advantage of Lighting over USB-C anyway? Aren't they pretty much at feature/speed parity?


    Because Lightning has extra contacts that connect directly to the hardware which USB C doesn't have, it's not just an Apple take on USB.
    You don't think the accessories market and their MFi program have anything to do with their decision? If their focus was on a single, open port, Apple could have offered a free license of their Lightning port to vendors, like they did with mini-DisplayPort.
    gatorguy
  • Reply 20 of 70
    auxioauxio Posts: 1,987member
    emoeller said:
    So one concern that is just now popping up ( http://bgr.com/2016/06/29/the-iphone-7-nightmare/ ) about removing the analog 3.5 mm jack is that once everything goes digital it becomes subject to Digital Rights Management (DRM).  Apple once touted that with a Mac and iPod one could rip (music) and store it in your pocket, thus securing iPod dominance.   Now that Apple is in the content provider business, they are tightly controlling DRM for their content (think Airplay).  Once analog options are removed, and there is ONLY digital data streaming (which could be secured by DRM) then content producers and providers will be obligated to enforce DRM.   The "nightmare" scenario is that DRM is end to end over everything (wifi, bluetooth, USB, etc.).  
    This isn't a new issue -- digital audio is no different than digital video (which already incorporates DRM).  One just needs to look at how the DRM for digital video content is handled to see how it'll work for audio.  It's also relevant to look back to the history of DAT and the Sony MiniDisc recorder.
    Solirepressthis
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