Teardown finds DAC chips in Apple's Lightning EarPods & Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter for iPhone 7

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in iPhone
As anticipated, a teardown of Apple's Lightning EarPods and Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter -- both included with the iPhone 7 -- has discovered small digital-to-analog converter chips, though their exact supplier remains a mystery.




The DAC in the EarPods was labeled "338S00140 / A0QK1623 / TW," while the one in the adapter was marked "338S00140 / A0MU1621 / TW," according to Vietnamese site Tinhte. The "TW" could be a reference to Taiwan, where a number of Apple suppliers are based.




The chips were likely designed by Apple's usual partner on such components, Cirrus Logic, but manufactured by another firm -- possibly Taiwan-based TSMC, which also manufactures Apple's A-series processors. In 2015, Cirrus reportedly switched back to TSMC from Vanguard International Semiconductor.




The iPhone 7 is Apple's first major product to completely abandon a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack in favor of Lightning and Bluetooth audio. Because many people still rely on 3.5-millimeter accessories -- an industry standard -- Apple bundled the adapter by default, despite the new EarPods and the growing prevalence of Bluetooth headphones and speakers.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,989member
    Apple's smart approach to moving D-to-A from iphone into lightening Jack/connector. Now 3rd party can create their own cable with enhanced DA electronics replacement for better sounding earpods, headphones. You are not bound with what audio quality comes out of 3.5mm jack like in older iphones.
    edited September 2016 tmayjahbladewilliamlondonDeelronrepressthis1983netmagejony0
  • Reply 2 of 33
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,449member
    wood1208 said:
    Apple's smart approach to moving D-to-A from iphone into lightening Jack/connector. Now 3rd party can create their own cable with enhanced DA electronics replacement for better sounding earpods, headphones. You are not bound with what audio quality comes out of 3.5mm jack like in older iphones.
    Huh? The iPhone still has an internal DAC of the same quality that was in the 6s. And third parties could always create their own cable with enhanced DAC, since at least December 2014.

    That said, this move limits manufacturers to native Lightning-based solutions, and increases demand for them as well, over phones with a headphone jack. So that will encourage more competition and innovation than there was before, despite Apples decision to give away a free headphone adapter and subsidize its pricing, rather than price with its usual margins.
    edited September 2016 repressthis
  • Reply 3 of 33
    The question is
    Will the headphone jack be dropped from future iPads?
    repressthis
  • Reply 4 of 33
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,680member
    It just amazes me how electronics nowadays can be so miniaturized like this.  Truly a feat of engineering now.  
    williamlondonrepressthisrandominternetpersonslprescottwatto_cobra1983[Deleted User]
  • Reply 5 of 33
    Will the 3rd party, $8-$10 D-A cables work as well as the Apple ones
    williamlondonrepressthis
  • Reply 6 of 33
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,449member
    Vardu said:
    Will the 3rd party, $8-$10 D-A cables work as well as the Apple ones
    The ones I've seen so far only have DACs and no ADC to support a mic. I doubt they have a mfi license so the quality is not likely to be as high.

    Apple is seriously underpricing these adapters, by their usual standards. And one might say it's to prevent someone from buying a cheap counterfeit dongle and getting an inferior experience.
    Deelronrepressthis1983
  • Reply 7 of 33
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,842member
    Not related much to this, but does anyone have an idea on the bandwidth that Apple has available over BT for the AirPods? I'm curious if high(er) definition audio (whatever you want to call it), is possible on the AirPod.
    williamlondonrepressthis1983
  • Reply 8 of 33
    levilevi Posts: 344member
    jacks64 said:
    The question is
    Will the headphone jack be dropped from future iPads?
    Eventually yes. Soon? Hard to say. Space constraints on iPad are minimal relative to iPhone. Also, other than waterproofing, seems the loss of headphone jack allowed for Apple to better position its Taptic Engine 
    repressthis
  • Reply 9 of 33
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,138member
    DAC in the headphones?  Duh!  At least lightning headphones will work in any lightning equipped iPhone or iPad.   

    Obviously, the DAC has to be be two-way or the controls and button on existing EarPods would not work.  

    The DAC is THE most important element in high end audio.  Will better headphones sound better than Apple's $9 adapter?  Depends on who makes the DAC, but probably, yes.  Good chip design for low noise costs more.  We can suspect that Apple's chip is just a basic converter with limited noise filtering, etc.  
    repressthis1983
  • Reply 10 of 33
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,190member
    jacks64 said:
    The question is
    Will the headphone jack be dropped from future iPads?
    I think it's obvious that it will. However, the iPad is similar to the Mac in that there isn't a pressing issue for space, like in the iPhone, and the iPad's slow sales cycle and high use among the less technically savvy as their main computing device could mean that Apple may keep it around for a generation or two until Lighting headphones get more ubiquitous—which means that iPad users have finally updated their aging iPhone to an iPhone 7 or later. I think it has the potential for staying in the iPad longer than in some Macs.

    Of course, this assumes Apple will continue to not include headphones with the iPad. If they want to push their courage along faster, they could include free Lightning EarPods with the iPad.
    edited September 2016
  • Reply 11 of 33
    wood1208 said:
    Apple's smart approach to moving D-to-A from iphone into lightening Jack/connector. Now 3rd party can create their own cable with enhanced DA electronics replacement for better sounding earpods, headphones. You are not bound with what audio quality comes out of 3.5mm jack like in older iphones.
    Don't iPhones with 3.5mm ports also have Lightning?  Where were we "bound"?
    Solinetmage
  • Reply 12 of 33
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,687member
    sog35 said:
    Apple is probably not making a single cent of profit on these adapters.

    Crazy these only cost $9
    I agree that they're probably not making a profit on those, but I think that it's the wise move to make.

    Removing the analog headphone jack is obviously a huge change and step forward, and I was skeptical myself about it a few months ago, but I've now come around, and I see all of the numerous benefits to doing so now. It freed up space inside of the phone, it allowed the iPhone 7 to become officially water resistant, and since the adapter comes for free with every iPhone 7, there's really nothing that anybody can legitimately object to.

    And the fact that additional adapters only cost $9 ought to shut up anybody whining about the removal.

    Apple is obviously making the transition as smooth as possible.

    Imagine if the adapters were $50? I can just imagine what certain people would be saying. :#

    Apple made the wise move here.
    watto_cobra1983
  • Reply 13 of 33
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,449member
    eriamjh said:
    DAC in the headphones?  Duh!  At least lightning headphones will work in any lightning equipped iPhone or iPad.   

    Obviously, the DAC has to be be two-way or the controls and button on existing EarPods would not work.  

    The DAC is THE most important element in high end audio.  Will better headphones sound better than Apple's $9 adapter?  Depends on who makes the DAC, but probably, yes.  Good chip design for low noise costs more.  We can suspect that Apple's chip is just a basic converter with limited noise filtering, etc.  
    a "two-way" DAC means one DAC and one ADC. I'll let you do the translation. ;-)
    netmage
  • Reply 14 of 33
    misamisa Posts: 827member
    I still think it was a foolish idea to remove the 3.5mm jack from the phone. It either should have been a second lightning connector or a USB-C, but as I stated in another thread, USB-C "digital audio" has not been defined, only analog. If the phone still contains an analog audio process (Eg for the wireless earpods) there is no reason not to.

    However on the iPad, Macbook Air and MacBook Pro, removing the 3.5mm jack isn't quite as much of a loss as people typically don't use them in a portable manner (like an iPod) so people are generally sitting when they use these devices.  The iMac, MacMini and Mac Pro seem like the most obvious to replace the 3.5mm headphone/microphone jacks with USB-C.

    The largest disappointment with lightning so far is that it doesn't support HDMI/Thunderbolt. The device sends a h264 video to the lightning connected device for HDMI which is not what "pro" users want. That makes me wonder if that's a lossless or a lossy audio output for lightning.



  • Reply 15 of 33
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,190member
    larrya said:
    wood1208 said:
    Apple's smart approach to moving D-to-A from iphone into lightening Jack/connector. Now 3rd party can create their own cable with enhanced DA electronics replacement for better sounding earpods, headphones. You are not bound with what audio quality comes out of 3.5mm jack like in older iphones.
    Don't iPhones with 3.5mm ports also have Lightning?  Where were we "bound"?
    Excellent Lightning headphones have been around for years. Schiller even detailed that during the event.
  • Reply 16 of 33
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,449member

    apple ][ said:
    sog35 said:
    Apple is probably not making a single cent of profit on these adapters.

    Crazy these only cost $9
    I agree that they're probably not making a profit on those, but I think that it's the wise move to make.

    Removing the analog headphone jack is obviously a huge change and step forward, and I was skeptical myself about it a few months ago, but I've now come around, and I see all of the numerous benefits to doing so now. It freed up space inside of the phone, it allowed the iPhone 7 to become officially water resistant, and since the adapter comes for free with every iPhone 7, there's really nothing that anybody can legitimately object to.

    And the fact that additional adapters only cost $9 ought to shut up anybody whining about the removal.

    Apple is obviously making the transition as smooth as possible.

    Imagine if the adapters were $50? I can just imagine what certain people would be saying.

    Apple made the wise move here.
    I actually disagree with you in one point here. I don't think Apple should have included an adapter in the box. I think they should have included an adapter but one that allows the Lightning EarBuds to be used on a Mac, and older Apple products, as well as everything else in the world. That would have pushed the digital message and forced those who wanted to keep using their old headphones to cough up only another $9, after their $700 phone (the price subsidy was probably a good idea though). And it would have made them think about wireless options, rather than just slap the adapter on their old headphones and keep going.

    As it is Apple is actually encouraging people to continue to use whatever it was they've been using. And for anybody interested in using the Lightning earbuds, Apple has not even created an optional way to plug those Lightning buds into a non-iOS device. So for anyone planning to use their EarPods with anything other than their iPhone 7, and maybe their iPad, they won't be able to -- at all. So for many, they will need to get out their old 3.5mm EarPods and use them with the included adapter in order to have the widest compatibility and convenience. Now where's the logic in that?

    By not having the AirPods and Beats earbuds ready ready to go from day one (it will be over a month at least), they've all but guaranteed many customers are simply going to fall back into their old routine, and sell a few more Inexpensive adapters in the interim, which only perpetuates the problem. It's almost like they need another launch at the beginning of November to remind people now. And Lightning to anything else adapters would be nice as well.
    edited September 2016
  • Reply 17 of 33
    What I wonder is the electromagnetic shield benefit(s) that it has (or not).
    Indeed, a health topic not often talked about - and subject to controversy- is that classic 3.5 mm jack headsets conduct electromagnetic waves and act as antennas (even if it's not done on purpose), transmitting waves to the brain when many people use headsets to avoid those waves.

    Generally when digital signal is involved (like the lightning port) there's some radio shielding involved and thus maybe the lightning connector headsets are safer in that sense. 

    But really it's an open question, anyone has data about this? Does this headset shows some cable shield that cannot be seen on the 3.5mm shield? Anyone electronic engineers who can measure the waves or any tips on how to do that? 
    It's in no way an attack against Apple, I'm a Apple client and other brands don't address this topic better. I had bought some air tube headsets but find them not very practical nor reliable. Now that Apple is involved in the health business it'd be nice we address RF waves exposure, at least with simple and cheap ways such as shielding headsets.
    edited September 2016
  • Reply 18 of 33
    I'm going to market some cheap $12 adapter, call it something like "Earsmooth," market it as an audiophile product, and charge $250 for it. It'll have the same specs as darn near anything else and people will buy thousands of them and say they sound so much better than an ordinary DAC.
  • Reply 19 of 33
    Can you use Lightning headphones/adapter on a iPhone 6s?
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