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It’s official. Apple has removed the standard 3.5mm headphone jack on the iPhone 7. Instead, your headphones will connect via the Lightning port now. But don’t worry, this is a good thing.

Yes, it will initially be annoying. Suddenly, your favorite pair of old headphones now no longer work with the iPhone 7 without the use of an included adapter, and you can’t charge and listen any more. But over time, this change will be beneficial.

Why Did Apple Remove the 3.5mm Jack?

On the face of it, it seems like Apple has made a move that no consumer wanted. And that’s largely true. No one was complaining about the 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s a ubiquitous standard, used in phones, music players, car stereos, TVs, and other devices. So why has Apple taken it out?

The simple answer: to make its phone better. You see, the 3.5mm headphone jack might be ubiquitous, but it isn’t efficient.

Apple Lightning Headphone Analog Digital

The 3.5mm port is an analog output on the phone. The lightning port is a digital output. Needless to say, all the circuitry in the phone is digital. So accommodating analog technology isn’t ideal.

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The iPhone has to convert “music” from a string of digital binary 1s and 0s into analog signals. For this, it uses something called a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC). The quality of the DAC goes a long way in determining sound quality.

Once the DAC converts the signal, an amplifier takes over. This amplifier’s job is to take the signal and boost it, so that it can sound clear and loud over any connected cable. Again, the quality of the amplifier affects overall sound quality.

By taking out the 3.5mm jack, Apple is removing the need for these two components. The lightning port and lightning input are both digital, so the phone does not need a DAC any more. The iPhone 7 can thus be more battery efficient, and have room for other components (like a bigger battery) in its slim case.

The DAC and amp will now sit in the headphones. Yes, the headphones still require analog output, since they use physical moving parts. There are already headphone amps for audiophiles What Is a Headphone Amp and Do I Need One? What Is a Headphone Amp and Do I Need One? If you're serious about music, you may be disappointed by the audio quality your mobile device manages -- particularly when paired with high-end headphones. The solution? A headphone amplifier. Read More , but most don’t come with a DAC.

What Happens Now?

The shift here is significant because digital output is standard. An iPhone 7 can’t send better digital files than an iPad. So if you use the same Lightning headphones on both, you’ll get the same quality.

Apple Lightning Headphone Earbuds

Apple will be shipping one pair of Lightning headphones in the box. So if you use Apple’s EarPods Sound Advice: Are Apple's Free EarPods Really That Bad? Sound Advice: Are Apple's Free EarPods Really That Bad? Apple's free earphones have a reputation being utter garbage — but are we being too harsh on the pearly white fashion accessories? Read More , you’re already good to go. Third-party manufacturers like JBL and Sennheiser should launch Lightning headphones soon too.

We already said that sound quality depends upon the DAC and amp. Different Lightning headphones can use different DACs. For argument’s sake, a $20 DAC won’t be as good as a $100 DAC, and that’s why the $100 headphones will sound better.

Potentially Better Audio

Shifting the DAC to the headphones puts the onus on headphone manufacturers. Companies like Bose or JBL will now need to differentiate their products based on built-in DACs. They will have to improve on their technology to stand out from the crowd too.

Apple Lightning Headphone Noise Cancellation

Putting the DAC in the headphones also makes it easier to incorporate features like active noise cancellation 3 Affordable Noise-Cancelling Headphones Every Student Should Consider 3 Affordable Noise-Cancelling Headphones Every Student Should Consider Noise-cancelling headphones can be just what you need in a plane to block out that low hum, or provide relief when the exams draw closer. Which should you buy? Here are some great choices. Read More . Active noise cancellation requires a power source. The 3.5mm analog input can’t draw power, so noise cancelling headphones have a large battery. But Lightning headphones will be able to draw power from the iPhone, and thus get active noise cancellation in a smaller package. Heck, you’ll even get noise cancellation in regular earphones.

Can I Only Use Apple’s Lightning EarPods Now?

Not at all. You can still use your favorite pair of headphones with their 3.5mm headphone adapter. But you will need to use the adapter that comes in the box, or buy a better one.

Apple Lightning Headphone Audeze DAC

Before you moan, remember, the adapter is just going to be a small extension, probably about an inch or less. It’ll be strange initially, but you’ll get used to it in no time.

This adapter will house the DAC and amp. So again, a better quality adapter will mean better sound quality. Look out for reviews of these. But remember, Apple’s EarPods do a lot more than play audio Did You Know Your iPhone Headphones Did All of This? [iOS] Did You Know Your iPhone Headphones Did All of This? [iOS] The white earphones that come with your iPhone or other Apple mobile device may not be the best sound quality devices on the market, but if you have a pair with remote control buttons on... Read More . You’ll probably miss out on those features.

The Best Way Is to Go Wireless

At this point, you may be tempted to ditch that cable entirely. Even Apple launched the new wireless AirPods for this reason. Stop worrying about 3.5mm or Lightning, just buy the best Bluetooth headphones for any budget Best Bluetooth Headphones in 2016 Best Bluetooth Headphones in 2016 Android and Apple phones may dispense with their audio jacks. Bluetooth, on the other hand, may replace wires entirely. So you may want to invest in Bluetooth headphones. But which one? Read More .

Bluetooth audio technology has come a long way. Yes, it still doesn’t match the quality of wired headphones. However, the difference isn’t as big as it used to be. For any regular user, Bluetooth sounds good enough — especially if you’re streaming compressed audio in the first place.

The AirPods aren’t Bluetooth. Apple has made a new wireless chip it calls the W1, which apparently holds a connection for longer without affecting battery life. Also, this technology claims to be better than Bluetooth at transferring audio files. However, given it has just launched, there are no reviews of it. And the $159 price tag is pretty steep!

Bluetooth or not matters only for audiophiles. If your ears can distinguish such audio quality, you know that the iPhone doesn’t have great sound output anyway. You’re better off putting your music on a dedicated music player like the Fiio X3, to go with your high-end headphones.

The One Problem: Charging While Listening

Shifting the audio to the Lightning port means that you can’t charge your phone and connect headphones at the same time. You don’t have two separate ports any more. That’s going to be a big problem for some users.

Apple Lightning Headphone Bottom iPhone

There is no easy solution for this. Hopefully, there will soon be special adapters with an input and an output. That way, you can charge with a great Lightning cable 7 Great Lightning Cables To Charge Your iPhone Or iPad 7 Great Lightning Cables To Charge Your iPhone Or iPad One of the most common problems faced by iPhone and iPad owners is a frayed and unusable Lightning connector. Surely there must be tougher, more ruggedized aftermarket options available? Read More in the input, while playing your music through the output.

At the moment, you’ll have to choose one of the two though. That’s another reason to go with Bluetooth headphones.

The Ideal Solution: Bluetooth With Wired Audio

For now, I’d say the best thing you can buy for a good audio experience is a pair of Bluetooth headphones with a detachable cable Buying Wireless Headphones? Here Are 6 Things You Need to Know Buying Wireless Headphones? Here Are 6 Things You Need to Know In this guide, we'll take a look at some of the most important things you need to know about wireless headphones. Read More . You can happily listen to music wirelessly this way, while charging your phone. If your headphones battery is running out, connect it with the provided cable.

That detachable cable will be 3.5mm-to-3.5mm right now, so you will need to use a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter. Maybe in the near future, we’ll see Lightning-to-3.5mm cables with a built-in adapter.

Jabra Move Wireless Stereo Headset - Black Jabra Move Wireless Stereo Headset - Black Listen to your tunes and never miss a call Buy Now At Amazon $59.99

I’d recommend picking up the Jabra Move, which is what I use and is Wirecutter’s choice for the best Bluetooth headphones. It’s reasonably priced and offers great value for the cost.

Do You Agree or Disagree With Apple?

Apple’s move to discard the 3.5mm headphone jack is controversial. Already, you have people ecstatic about it, and some who hate it. Which side of the fence are you on?

  1. Abel Pabon
    November 21, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    At this point I completely disagree with Apple to the point regretting making the upgrade to iPhone 7.

  2. John Smith
    November 11, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    What an utter load of nonsense. The DAC and headphone jack are tiny. I don't believe it isn't possible to retain these in the space available. The argument about having analog inside the iPhone because the rest is digital is just utter horse excrement. It is possible than an external DAC could sound better, but that all depends on the DAC employed. Most people probably couldn't tell the difference anyway. The headphone amplifier make much more difference than the DAC ever would. If you want to use an external DAC you already can with the iPhone 6s, but at least you have a choice. Sometimes it's about convenience and the onboard iPhone headphone jack in the 6s is just fine.

    The argument to use Bluetooth is the most ridiculous. A2DP (used by Bluetooth) is a compressed format that massively degrades the sound quality compared to a wired connection. Not sure if this is what the new Airbuds use, but if you want to use decent over ear headphones they wouldn't help you anyway. This is unbelievable. Still bought a iPhone7 though. I had to purchase 3 headphone adaptors though so I always have one when I need it. What an utter pain in the anus though...

  3. amstel78
    October 26, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Nonsense. This article fails to mention the true reason why Apple ditched the ubiquitous 3.5mm socket; profit. Apple doesn't make any money from peripherals designed to use the 3.5mm jack as they don't hold the patent rights to it. On the other hand, they do hold the IP for the lightning socket and for any 3rd party manufacturers to use it, they have to pay Apple to certify their product, plus a nominal (~4 to 10% depending on contract) royalty fee. That means that for every device a manufacturer designs with a lightning plug, they have to pay Apple on average approximately $550 USD to certify. For instance, if you have 3 charging cables measuring 1m, 3m, and 5m in length - you would have to pay Apple $1,650.00 just for the certification process. Now if every cable you sell costs $12.50, you'd need to fork over $1.25 to Apple in royalty fees. That's a lot of money if you sell millions of cables a year.

    As for Apple's claims about maximizing space or ensuring a phone is water resistant - that's a load of crock as well. Water proof 3.5mm jacks do exist, but again, why would Apple pay more for a ruggedized socket that they know they won't make any additional profit over? If a typical 3.5mm socket component costs $0.15 to purchase in bulk, but a waterproof one costs as much as $0.70, think about how much more money it will cost Apple to manufacture versus potential profit lost. Don't forget, these phones are made in the millions. As for space? Look inside an iPhone 7. There's plenty. The physical battery size isn't much larger than the outgoing 6S Plus.

    In conclusion, the only reason Apple moved away from the 3.5mm socket is profit. Apple is in the business of making money, not losing it. This article's misnomers about audio quality and external DACs is a load of rubbish. Several articles from well-respected reviewers have already proven that the iPhone 7's audio quality suffers, especially when headphones are partnered with the included dongle. Don't fall for Apple's marketing hype.

  4. Alex
    October 21, 2016 at 5:48 am

    I hate apple for their stupid idea of removing the headphone jack... Not a 100% sure about it yet but it seems that the sound is worst on the iphone 7 with the adaptor(need it since I only use high quality headphones, no bluetheets or apple crapp works for me).. Anyway... I'm disappointed, I should have rebought an older iphone instead of downgarding to the stupid iphone7...

  5. Jerry
    September 25, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Just because the DAC is outside the iPhone does not mean that it is more efficient. It still requires power, which will be pulled from the phone battery just as before.

  6. joe
    September 23, 2016 at 5:36 am

    Wonder how much Apple paid for this ridiculous error-riddled article.

    • minori_aoi
      September 27, 2016 at 1:48 pm

      Lots of mistake and blatantly false advertising.

  7. Wally Atkins
    September 20, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    What aload of rubbish these people dribble. All phones have to convert digital signals to analog so that we can hear the signal and sent replies.
    The removal of the earphone jack is just a cynical excuse to encourage gullible people to spend money on more useless technology.

    What a crock of s**t!

  8. John Smith
    September 18, 2016 at 12:11 am

    You need to rewrite this article. It is littered with errors. As others have pointed out it HAS to have a internal DAC or else the internal speakers would not work.

    Name one reason why removal of the 3.5mm jack makes the iPhone 7 perform better? There is none. Every single headphone manufacturer of significance makes headphones with a jack. Apple just created friction.

  9. SC
    September 17, 2016 at 6:08 am

    There are several wrong things in this article. The DAC & amp is not being pushed to the headphones.

    1) Normal headphones still work with an adapter which contains neither a DAC or an amp.

    2) The iPhone's own speakers use a DAC and an amp which is clearly inside the iPhone.

    • Tim
      September 29, 2016 at 9:57 am

      The adapter does contain a DAC actually - look at the teardown.

  10. TdDs
    September 16, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Your article claims that because the lightning output is digital, iPhones will no longer require a DAC. Please explain, how is the iPhone supposed to output audio to its own speakers without a DAC??!!

  11. Dylan
    September 15, 2016 at 3:32 am

    If you honestly think that moving the DAC and amp from a shielded iPhone casing into a $9 adapter is going to improve audio quality, you must be dilusional, misinformed, or both. The DAC in the iPhone, while not the greatest, is pretty good for a mobile phone. The DAC in the iPad is actually noticeably better. The DAC in a $9 Adapter? I'll let you punch the numbers on that one. Lightning only hurts audio. Right now my choices are:

    Use Bluetooth. No way to stream lossless and there most likely won't ever be a way. I have to deal with pairing, keeping my headphones charged, and poor audio quality.

    Use the $9 adapter: Likely a horrid DAC, easy to lose, and a general nuisance.

    Buy Lightning Headphones: I can get a cheap pair with a crap DAC and end up with the same issue as before, poor sound quality. Or, I can purchase a good set of headphones that now will only work on an iPhone (so if I want to use them on my mac or any other device, they're useless). Either way, I've now wasted money because the headphone manufacturer has include a different DAC in every headphone, something that should be included in the playback device itself. But Apple is in the business of making money, and selling a DAC in every pair of headphones makes more moola than selling only one DAC. I've used Macs for as long as I can remember, and had an iPhone as my last 3 phones, an iPad, etc. but this is the final nail in the coffin. If anyone wants a pristine iPhone 6+ 64GB and an Apple Watch, lemme know.

    • Ken Martin
      September 16, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      Concur. I use wired B&W P7s or high end wired Sonys with my 6S Plus. I want to continue to do for a few more years. Then, I will consider a jackless iPhone and, say, the wireless version of the P7. But presently, the wireless version uses aptX, which is not supported by Apple. Apple use Bluetooth for pairing, and their proprietary W1 for audio. They support A2DP for non-Apple devices, e.g headphones. But they do not use A2DP themselves, considering it unsatisfactory for quality audio. They are eager to push consumers to their wireless Beat headphones, which, of course, use W1.

    • Tim
      September 29, 2016 at 10:01 am

      Or if you are actually keen on audio quality you do what audiophiles were already doing with their iPhones and use a DAC such as the Dragonfly Red connected to the phone with the camera connection kit. And then connect your high quality 3.5mm to the DAC output. Doh.

    • paul
      November 6, 2016 at 10:45 am

      or don't buy the iphone 7. That'll send a clear message when thousands of consumers make the android switch.

  12. SilFab
    September 12, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    I've kept up with Apple phones since they came out and rather than be really exited about this new one, I'm deeply disappointed. I'm considering switching to something else now. The fact I can't charge my phone and use my headphones or plug into my external speaker is maddening. And the airpods? Apple's white headphones as it is don't fit everyone's ears including mine so how are the airpods going to stay? Easy to lose one, will they replace it? At least if one falls out, it's on a cable so you can plop it back in. All the other great features on this new one isn't enough for me to make the switch. Time to switch to an Android.

    • Ken Martin
      September 16, 2016 at 11:13 pm

      Yes, rather than sticking with an iPhone, I might have to consider an Android smartphone at some stage. I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with Apple's apparent consumer manipulation and its zeal for monetising-to-the-max. In any event, I think Apple may be slowly declining. They are certainly not the visionary force they were under Steve Jobs. Having several Macs, an iPad Air 2, and my iPhone makes me want to reduce my exposure to Apple - over time! The computer future for me may be a high end laptop, say Dell, Asus, HP, with its Windows OS being ditched for an open source such as Ubuntu or Fedora. I hsve dabbled thus before, but I know a bit more now.

      • Tim
        September 29, 2016 at 10:03 am

        Android always follows. You better get your purchase in quick or they will all have dropped their headphone jacks by the end of the year. That is unless they haven't exploded while you are charging them. Lol.

  13. Dwayne
    September 12, 2016 at 11:45 am

    The iPhone still needs to have a DAC inside, unless they removed the phone's internal speaker as well. The move was more about aesthetics than anything else

    • tim
      September 16, 2016 at 12:28 am

      :)

  14. Concerned
    September 12, 2016 at 11:02 am

    I'm getting tired of the marketing obscuring the facts. When it comes to audio everyone is reacting as they have been trained. Digital Good, Analog bad.
    Speakers are analog devices, and where you want to start the analog section of the devices is inconsequential. Except, by removing the jack from the phone you cannot access the IPhone internal dac and amp... yes apple still needs those components for the on board speakers. Also the on board dac is not far off from the fiio x3 stats.
    High end phones have awesome dacs now (their headphone amps are a let down) so much so that I ditched my external usb dac amps for external headphone amps without a dac.
    So now iphone users will need an adapter. The announced standard adapter with ear pods is priced at $9. To include the price of these added components inside the adapter, it must contain a low end dac and amp, so the increased audio quality from lightning cables is sheer marketing with the current announced adapters. The quality must be lowered if an adapter contains the cheapest dac and amps. All the consumers out there will be in for a surprise if they think using the lightning cable will mean higher audio quality.
    CD quality was set at a level to more than exceed the entire range of human hearing at 16 bit, 44.1khz
    There are no dacs that can output 24 bits. The most current technology isn't there yet.
    But hey, it's a really old, almost universally adopted piece of technology. Apple call it a bottle neck for sound quality. I call it all marketing crap. Bluetoo
    The biggest problem the aux jack has is that it is Analog, and we all know Digital is good, Analog bad.

    • Me Myself and I
      December 4, 2016 at 11:28 am

      Which is why many audiophiles still use vynyl - it's not digitized, and therefore does not lose "signal." The sound of my new iPhpne 7 is noticeably worse than the HTC One (M8) I come from, even when using the same bluetooth headphones. The problem is not in the lightning connection. Its how Apple implements sound

      • concerned
        December 4, 2016 at 1:07 pm

        Hey, been a while without a reply. I'm not sure if it's apples poor implementation, however they have a top end DAC sitting in their iPhone 7, you just can't use it for headphones anymore but it has opened up a world of new products for the marketers.

  15. Johng
    September 10, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    Well written but disagree its a good thing. I don't need circuitry in my headphones. Its another failure point that was integrated into the phone. You could always use an external DAC with existing phones. Headphone manufacturers will need to make a lightning and whatever android decides to use. On the Bluetooth side, aptx is the solution. Not she why some didn't embrace it other then their typical shitty money grab. Side note, your new logo looks like MUD.

    • Rae
      September 12, 2016 at 5:45 pm

      I agree the logo looks like MUD! I had to hover over it to see what site my newsletter took me to!!

  16. Doug
    September 10, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    As an iphone 6 owner, this change is BS. Currently I can use my earbuds or bose QCs in any device I own, no matter what the age. I can loan them to others or borrows someone else's in a pinch. And I don't need to concern myself with wondering if they're charged or not!

    Your idea of going to wired mode for listening doesn't hold up. As you note, the headphones require power for the DAC regardless of whether you're going wireless or not. So when your headphones are dead, they're dead. Enjoy the rest of the flight listening to babies cry!

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