New MacBook Pro drops optical audio out through headphone jack

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware
Diving deep into Apple's specifications, AppleInsider has learned that optical audio output capability found on previous MacBook Pro models does not exist on the 13-inch MacBook Pro with function keys, and is likely not on the higher-end models either.




The technical specifications for the new MacBook Pro on all 13- and 15-inch models list the audio port as simply a "3.5-mm headphone jack" with no other amplifying information. In the 2015, and earlier, MacBook Pro, and every other Mac model with optical audio out on the 3.5mm jack, the listing is amplified with a statement like "support for audio line out (digital/analog)."

  • 2015 Retina MacBook Pro specifications
  • 2016 Retina MacBook Pro specifications


Additionally, the system profiler's report on the 13-inch MacBook Pro has no listing for S/PDIF Optical Digital Audio Output, while the 2012 and 2015 Retina MacBook Pro models do.

  • 2012 Retina MacBook Pro system profiler report
  • 2015 Retina MacBook Pro system profiler report
  • 2016 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro with Function Keys system profiler report


AppleInsider contacted Apple about the matter, and was told that the feature was removed due to a lack of customers using the functionality. Additionally, we were told that "plenty of USB-C zero-latency professional peripherals are available now, or coming very soon" featuring optical audio out connectivity.

The 2016 MacBook Pro isn't the only Apple device to lose optical audio out connectors. The TOSlink connector on the Apple TV media playback device was removed between the third and fourth generations of the device, and in its place was put a USB-C port allowing for unit service and screen capture features when connected to a computer.

The 2016 MacBook Pro family, announced Thursday, is a major redesign to Apple's flagship notebook, and comes in screen sizes of 13 and 15 inches, with core models starting at $1,799 and shipping in two to three weeks. AppleInsider was at the event, and was able to spend some time with all the latest hardware.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 84
    xzuxzu Posts: 139member
    Makes sense. It is the ports purest form. Why add additional features. Form follows function. 
    Deelron
  • Reply 2 of 84
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,024member
    Absolutely would miss the digital out on an ATV. One of the reasons I haven't moved to an ATV4. I use the ATV3 for Airplay from my computer and feed the digital audio out to my AV receiver. Can't do that with an ATV4.
    decondosdysamoriaphilboogie
  • Reply 3 of 84

    I've never used that option on my MacBooks, but it seems like a shame that they changed it--if they did.

    This support article (which may just need to be updated) certainly implies that nothing has changed:

    https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202730

    Play high sample rate digital audio on Mac computers

    The audio hardware in some MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, and iMac computers supports 176.4 kHz and 192 kHz digital audio when connected using optical output.

    These computers support up to 192 kHz sample rate for audio playback:

    • MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Late 2013) and later
    • MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013) and later
    edited November 2016 theunfetteredmindEsquireCatsr00fus1
  • Reply 4 of 84
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    mike1 said:
    Absolutely would miss the digital out on an ATV. One of the reasons I haven't moved to an ATV4. I use the ATV3 for Airplay from my computer and feed the digital audio out to my AV receiver. Can't do that with an ATV4.
    er, that's what i do with my ATV4 and receiver. uses the HDMI interface from device to receiver. 
    magman1979schlackredraider11jay-tfastasleepafrodridoozydozenwilliamlondonEsquireCatspscooter63
  • Reply 5 of 84
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 1,396member
    mike1 said:
    Absolutely would miss the digital out on an ATV. One of the reasons I haven't moved to an ATV4. I use the ATV3 for Airplay from my computer and feed the digital audio out to my AV receiver. Can't do that with an ATV4.
    I solved that one with an HDMI-to-HDMI/TOSlink splitter. It's cheap and effective. 
    magman1979Deelronschlackfastasleepafrodridoozydozenwilliamlondonjony0h2p
  • Reply 6 of 84
    They better not drop it from the Mini!
    londordysamoriajasenj1
  • Reply 7 of 84
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 5,389member
    tokyojimu said:
    They better not drop it from the Mini!
    Or else what? This is old technology and Apple sees its not widely used. There are better ways of getting digital audio in and out of your Mac. 
    jay-tdoozydozenmejsricwilliamlondonpscooter63pulseimagesjony0
  • Reply 8 of 84
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,294member
    mike1 said:
    Absolutely would miss the digital out on an ATV. One of the reasons I haven't moved to an ATV4. I use the ATV3 for Airplay from my computer and feed the digital audio out to my AV receiver. Can't do that with an ATV4.
    Why would you want to do that on an ATV4? HDMI out from ATV4 to your receiver is the way to go. 
    redraider11Solidoozydozenajmasjony0
  • Reply 9 of 84
    irelandireland Posts: 17,785member
    Food for MacRumors zombies.
    doozydozenrogifan_newmejsricwilliamlondonmacxpresspscooter63jony0tallest skil
  • Reply 10 of 84
    mike1 said:
    Absolutely would miss the digital out on an ATV. One of the reasons I haven't moved to an ATV4. I use the ATV3 for Airplay from my computer and feed the digital audio out to my AV receiver. Can't do that with an ATV4.
    Your post is off-topic but HDMI 1.4 on the latest Apple TV obviates the need for a separate optical Cable. 
    doozydozen
  • Reply 11 of 84
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,033member
    mike1 said:
    Absolutely would miss the digital out on an ATV. One of the reasons I haven't moved to an ATV4. I use the ATV3 for Airplay from my computer and feed the digital audio out to my AV receiver. Can't do that with an ATV4.
    Yes you can. HDMI supplies digital audio-out, and much better audio at that. Optical audio was great, but it's an archaic tech. If your A/V receiver doesn't support HDMI then I think it's time to buy a new reciever. Although, I'm not buying a new receiver or Apple TV until the latter supports 2160p content and H.265 encoded videos.


    edit: Pipped by boltsfan17.
    edited November 2016 doozydozenrob55h2p
  • Reply 12 of 84
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,717member
    Meh. Just send the optical audio wirelessly. 

    ready go

  • Reply 13 of 84
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,038member
    As someone has already pointed out, Apple’s explanation of why they left the headphone jack in the new MacBooks is total bullshit. Professional audio power users use USB interfaces, NOT the analog 3.5mm jack. They used to use Firewire until Apple gave up on it. Hell, even I use a USB Phono Plus interface to get vinyl LPs into my iMac. It has a built-in RIAA phono pre-amp input, standard line in/out, optical in/out, and digital coax s/pdif in. And I’m just an amateur hobbyist. 

    There is NO logical reason for the headphone jack to be on the new MacBooks if the iPhone 7 doesn’t. 
    sekatorpulseimages
  • Reply 14 of 84
    Well, that kinda sucks. Hopefully someone will make a quality adapter.

    The issue isn't about latency, but (for me anyway) RFI. I use an external DAC (Chord Mojo) and the best sounding connection method is currently optical.

    That said, I use this on my late 2009 iMac which is still going strong so it doesn't affect me right now. I do wonder if they'll do the same with the desktops when they refresh them.
    edited November 2016 dysamoriabaconstang
  • Reply 15 of 84
    anomeanome Posts: 1,482member

    Interesting. I'm sure there's a reason, even if it is just that putting the TOSlink hardware in there took up space or added 3 cents to the build cost.

    The real question is whether people are going to actually miss it, or just complain loudly that Apple are getting rid of functionality in favour of design, while ignoring the possibility that there are USB-C or Thunderbolt solutions for the same thing. (But that requires...a dongle! Or at the very least a $30 cable.)

    randominternetperson
  • Reply 16 of 84
    This is also a big pain for me, as I use SPDIF out of a MBP to a very fine DAC with no USB. I also have ATV4s, one of which has a HDMI to SPDIF splitter for the same reason. But USB to SPDIF or AES is not so easy unless I want to compromise on quality.
    baconstang
  • Reply 17 of 84
    What about the downgraded wi-fi speed? Killing noiseless clicking for the force touchpad? To me these are much more important omissions. I don't even mention the 15w processor vs 28w previously, and a much higher price tag. 
    baconstang
  • Reply 18 of 84
    polymniapolymnia Posts: 1,070member
    lkrupp said:
    As someone has already pointed out, Apple’s explanation of why they left the headphone jack in the new MacBooks is total bullshit. Professional audio power users use USB interfaces, NOT the analog 3.5mm jack. They used to use Firewire until Apple gave up on it. Hell, even I use a USB Phono Plus interface to get vinyl LPs into my iMac. It has a built-in RIAA phono pre-amp input, standard line in/out, optical in/out, and digital coax s/pdif in. And I’m just an amateur hobbyist. 

    There is NO logical reason for the headphone jack to be on the new MacBooks if the iPhone 7 doesn’t. 
    I disagree. A Pro Audio user might very well Monitor a performance using inexpensive headphones. Lower fidelity is tolerable in this situation, where latency isn't. the traditional headphone port is an acceptable plug for this situation.

    I'm not talking about the signal path of actual recording, which any Pro would insist on being a high-end external unit.

    An example might be a musician performing on an external keyboard which triggers a Mac-based software synthesizer. While a fancy set of headphones run through an outboard DAC would be great, a compact & inexpensive set of headphones would be sufficient for the musician to perform. Later in the production process someone would want to listen through something high-end. But going to that trouble during performance isn't that critical.

    neo-techdysamoriabaconstangnolamacguylorin schultz
  • Reply 19 of 84
    misamisa Posts: 827member

    I've never used that option on my MacBooks, but it seems like a shame that they changed it--if they did.

    This support article (which may just need to be updated) certainly implies that nothing has changed:

    https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202730

    Play high sample rate digital audio on Mac computers

    The audio hardware in some MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, and iMac computers supports 176.4 kHz and 192 kHz digital audio when connected using optical output.

    These computers support up to 192 kHz sample rate for audio playback:

    • MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Late 2013) and later
    • MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013) and later
    In a way, I doubt enough people used the optical feature on the MacBook/MacBook Pro because it's a pain in the ass and fragile to handle, which is why you only would want to use the Optical TosLink on a device that remains in a static position, like a Desktop. I have my TV box connected to my Desktop PC connected via S/PDIF, but it's the conventional Optical, not the TosLink. I have an entire home theatre setup that I don't use because my apartment walls are thin and I'd rather not be able to hear my neighbors at all, so I use headphones with the desktop.
    edited November 2016
  • Reply 20 of 84
    jlanddjlandd Posts: 873member
    tokyojimu said:
    They better not drop it from the Mini!
    I applaud your optimism that an updated Mini will arrive in my lifetime!   :)
    dysamoriawigginirelandbaconstangsully54tokyojimu
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