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  1. Thread AuthorThread Author   #1  
    garfieldthecat's Avatar
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    Default How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Apples decision to remove the audio jack is proving unsurprisingly controversial. I personally agree with The Verge editor who said the decision is user-hostile ( Taking the headphone jack off phones is user-hostile and stupid | The Verge ), but thats not what I want to talk about: I dont want to talk about subjective opinions, but about objective technical details. Many people are claiming that the lightning connector offers the potential for better audio, and Id like to understand this point better. Can anyone clarify the technical details? I see this as, in fact, two questions:
    1) What defines better (larger data bandwidth?) and how much better is lightnings potential?
    2) (and this is trickier / potentially less objective) How much of this supposedly better performance can the human ear perceive?

    I am sceptical that lightning headphones can be substantially better than non-lightning alternatives, because most people (me included) fail to notice any considerable difference among a 192Kbs, a 320 Kbps and uncompressed audio. Even if lightning allows for more bandwidth, is this additional bandwidth really needed?

    I have read comments about how lightning may make it easier for headphones to have active noise-cancelling, but I have not understood why that would be (can anyone clarify please?), plus Im honestly unimpressed because active noise cancelling tends to distort audio, so if top-notch audio quality is what youre after, passive noise cancelling should be the way to go; its no coincidence that professionals use headphone with passive noise cancelling that seal the ears blocking out external noise.
  2. #2  
    Jeroen7's Avatar
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Instead of being dependent on how good the dac in the device is, you can now choose yourself how good a dac you want to use with your device by choosing the right headphones to suit your needs.

    So it's not really if lightning is better quality than the traditional connection, you just move the translation from digital to analogue outside of the device.
  3. Thread AuthorThread Author   #3  
    garfieldthecat's Avatar
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeroen7 View Post
    Instead of being dependent on how good the dac in the device is, you can now choose yourself how good a dac you want to use with your device by choosing the right headphones to suit your needs.

    So it's not really if lightning is better quality than the traditional connection, you just move the translation from digital to analogue outside of the device.
    I see. Well, sort of: I understand the theory but not the practice.

    What makes a better or worse DAC? How different is the DAC in the lightning headphones currently on the market vs that of the previous iphone?
    Can lightning headphones provide better sound quality than, say, top of the range Shure or Sennehiser (eg the $ 1,000 Shure SE846 Sound Isolating? Earphones | Shure Americas ) with an audio jack? By the way, even if I won the lottery I would never spend that much on a pair of headphones because my imperfect ears cannot tell the difference between those and some headphones which cost half.
  4. #4  
    Jeroen7's Avatar
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Even top dollar high end headphones with a 3,5inch plug are limited by the dac.
    It's not that lightning headphones will have a better sound quality by default, but companies now can optimize the dac to their headset for best quality. I think the differences in sound quality could even be better audible between lightning headphones.
  5. Thread AuthorThread Author   #5  
    garfieldthecat's Avatar
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeroen7 View Post
    Even top dollar high end headphones with a 3,5inch plug are limited by the dac.
    It's not that lightning headphones will have a better sound quality by default, but companies now can optimize the dac to their headset for best quality. I think the differences in sound quality could even be better audible between lightning headphones.
    My question is still unanswered. What defines 'better' and how much better will the final output realistically be? It's not like anyone has been screaming from the rooftops that lightning headphones are better than top-of-the-range headphones with an audio jack - in fact, quite the opposite, at least until now.
  6. #6  
    fury's Avatar
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Two things jump out to me:

    • The potential for higher sample rate, 24-bit audio. I can't find a definitive source that confirms this, but some lightning headphones claim to support 24-bit audio. That will depend on whether the phone supports decoding that audio, of course, which may involve a special music playback app. The difference it will make will depend on the listener, so a more finely tuned ear might better be able to tell the difference. Me, I'm fine with 128 kbit streamed music, or even watching music playlists on YouTube. Haven't heard high resolution audio, personally, and I'm happy to remain blissfully ignorant, because I'm likely to be spoiled by it if I do try it.
    • Powered headphones. I'm not sure how much power the headphones can draw from an iPhone, but aside from making active noise cancellation possible without a battery, you may also be able to make higher powered headphones for louder or more accurate sound.
  7. Thread AuthorThread Author   #7  
    garfieldthecat's Avatar
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Quote Originally Posted by fury View Post
    [*]The potential for higher sample rate, 24-bit audio. I can't find a definitive source that confirms this, but some lightning headphones claim to support 24-bit audio.
    Isn't this what Sony does already with headphones like Most Comfortable Headphones with Microphone | MDR-1A | Sony US , which is meant for 24-bit hi-res audio and, by the way, uses a standard audio jack?
  8. #8  
    scruffypig's Avatar
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeroen7 View Post
    Instead of being dependent on how good the dac in the device is, you can now choose yourself how good a dac you want to use with your device by choosing the right headphones to suit your needs.

    So it's not really if lightning is better quality than the traditional connection, you just move the translation from digital to analogue outside of the device.
    The great thing is, that we have had this option for every iPhone. The Lightning port has supported digital audio as well as the 30 pin connector. The 30 pin connector also supported analogue line out, where the Lightning port does not and never has. The Lightning ear pods have the DAC built in, but who knows if that is any better than the one used previously onboard the iPhone. I haven't heard much about the tech specs yet.
  9. #9  
    fury's Avatar
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Quote Originally Posted by garfieldthecat View Post
    Isn't this what Sony does already with headphones like Most Comfortable Headphones with Microphone | MDR-1A | Sony US , which is meant for 24-bit hi-res audio and, by the way, uses a standard audio jack?
    That depends on the DAC that goes to the jack you plug it into supporting that high resolution audio. In the case of the iPhone, it's been 44.1 or 48 kHz 16-bit - trying to play higher sample rates or bit depths over the headphone jack, even with specialized apps, leads to no improvement (at least according to one source)

    With the right DAC hanging off the USB port that's hidden in that lightning port, you can get higher bit depth at least. (I'm not sure yet about the sample rate.) This was definitely possible on all the previous lightning iPhones as well, but what Apple does by removing the jack in the 7 is they put it front and center. More focus will be paid to making good DACs that tap into that digital audio out, which is good for consumers in the end (aside from the initial pain of having to buy the dongle or new pair of headphones).
  10. #10  
    metllicamilitia's Avatar
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    I'm not really sure what Apple plans to accomplish by moving over to lightning for audio. Your high end earphones and headphones will still sound miles better than anything lightning, especially when plugged into a dedicated Digital Audio Player (DAP) that has a minimum of a 10 band equalizer that adjusts sound properly, and worst case scenario your earphones/headphones need a headphone amp to sound proper at lower volumes. Apple offers none of that with the iPhone, iPad, or even iPod, and until they do, audio will still be limited to its current state of poor quality. So how much better can the lightning be? How much better are shoes than sandals?
  11. #11  
    scruffypig's Avatar
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    Default How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Quote Originally Posted by metllicamilitia View Post
    I'm not really sure what Apple plans to accomplish by moving over to lightning for audio. Your high end earphones and headphones will still sound miles better than anything lightning, especially when plugged into a dedicated Digital Audio Player (DAP) that has a minimum of a 10 band equalizer that adjusts sound properly, and worst case scenario your earphones/headphones need a headphone amp to sound proper at lower volumes. Apple offers none of that with the iPhone, iPad, or even iPod, and until they do, audio will still be limited to its current state of poor quality. So how much better can the lightning be? How much better are shoes than sandals?
    There are plenty of 3rd party DACs you can use with the Lightning port. The lightning port is just USB 2.0. You can still use your high end headphones with a DAC that is plugged into the Lightning port. The Apple Lightning port ear pods have the DAC in the plug most likely. Apple has usually used pretty decent DACs in the iPhone, so hopefully the DAC used in the Lightning ear pods is also good. With the Lightning to 3.5 mm adaptor the DAC is in the plug also.
  12. #12  
    metllicamilitia's Avatar
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Quote Originally Posted by scruffypig View Post
    There are plenty of 3rd party DACs you can use with the Lightning port. The lightning port is just USB 2.0. You can still use your high end headphones with a DAC that is plugged into the Lightning port. The Apple Lightning port ear pods have the DAC in the plug most likely. Apple has usually used pretty decent DACs in the iPhone, so hopefully the DAC used in the Lightning ear pods is also good. With the Lightning to 3.5 mm adaptor the DAC is in the plug also.
    I'm not talking about DAC's. I'm talking about the ability to make the audio sound good. Fine tuning actually frequencies of audio. Radsone allows this, however it doesn't work that well because the iPhone itself can't push audio properly. This was done in a side by side comparison of using Radsone and its 10 band equalizer side by side with my Fiio X5 and its 10 band equalizer, both while using my Shure SE310's. The iPhone just cannot push audio to the degree it needs to be. The average user will never notice and never care. I do.
  13. #13  
    Jiggar101's Avatar
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    I'm not a technical person. But I think since you can transfer a large amount of data very quickly over a lightning connection then the quality of sound that it can handle as well as the speed would result in a better quality in overall sound. At least to audiophiles.
  14. #14  
    Jonathan Romcy's Avatar
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    I don't understand about those technological issues but everyone says the sound can come out better than the EarPods. So I trust then.
  15. #15  
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    Default How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jiggar101 View Post
    I'm not a technical person. But I think since you can transfer a large amount of data very quickly over a lightning connection then the quality of sound that it can handle as well as the speed would result in a better quality in overall sound. At least to audiophiles.
    The Lightning port is the speed of USB 2.0, which is fast enough, sufficient for really good audio streaming.
  16. #16  
    scruffypig's Avatar
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    Default How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Quote Originally Posted by metllicamilitia View Post
    I'm not talking about DAC's. I'm talking about the ability to make the audio sound good. Fine tuning actually frequencies of audio. Radsone allows this, however it doesn't work that well because the iPhone itself can't push audio properly. This was done in a side by side comparison of using Radsone and its 10 band equalizer side by side with my Fiio X5 and its 10 band equalizer, both while using my Shure SE310's. The iPhone just cannot push audio to the degree it needs to be. The average user will never notice and never care. I do.
    To make audio sound really good on my iPhone, I load up VLC app with FLAC music files and play them back through my Fiio K1 DAC/AMP. I can use my Fiio with any iOS device by using the Lightning port. The problem is, that it is power hungry.
    Last edited by scruffypig; 09-12-2016 at 08:55 AM.
  17. #17  
    NinjaMom's Avatar
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    Default How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Some companies, like mine, have techs who use the headphone jack to take credit card payments from customers. No headphone jack kinda kills this for our fleet. Yes, we can manually enter the card information but that is more time consuming AND believe it or not there is more fees when not using the card reader. So we lose time and money.

    It isn't always just about music.
  18. #18  

    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Companies will adapt and over come. Give it a few months for new product updates to come out, that will work just the same.
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  19. #19  
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Yester View Post
    Companies will adapt and over come. Give it a few months for new product updates to come out, that will work just the same.
    Yes. We may decide to adapt to the change that Apple is, for lack of a better word, forcing on consumers. Or I may decide to not buy newer apple phones or go with an android solution for our company so we do not have to wait months for the third party companies to adapt to Apple.

    My point was. The headphone jack is not just about the music and it is apparent that that was all Apple was thinking about when they made the switch.
  20. #20  
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    credit card payment methosd that use the headphone jack have noted they will still work with the adapter so theres no loss here.
  21. #21  
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Quote Originally Posted by dictoresno View Post
    credit card payment methosd that use the headphone jack have noted they will still work with the adapter so theres no loss here.
    You obviously did not read the part of the thread where I explained why in this particular service field the dangling dongle does not help.
  22. #22  
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Quote Originally Posted by NinjaMom View Post
    You obviously did not read the part of the thread where I explained why in this particular service field the dangling dongle does not help.
    I do not see anything in the now 22 messages in this topic... where you reference the "dangling dongle" issue. Only that manually entering takes longer.

    IF you don't like it this way.. you can...

    #1 Use the dongle and live with it.
    #2 Use an iPhone 6 or 6S and live with it
    #3 Wait until Square or PayPal or whomever releases a lightning connector version
    #4 ... other options.

    Just don't get the iPhone 7 for your fleet.. until you feel it works.
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  23. #23  
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig View Post
    I do not see anything in the now 22 messages in this topic... where you reference the "dangling dongle" issue. Only that manually entering takes longer.

    IF you don't like it this way.. you can...

    #1 Use the dongle and live with it.
    #2 Use an iPhone 6 or 6S and live with it
    #3 Wait until Square or PayPal or whomever releases a lightning connector version
    #4 ... other options.

    Just don't get the iPhone 7 for your fleet.. until you feel it works.
    My ONLY point in bringing this up was to remind people that music IS NOT the only use for the headphone jack and I gave an example. No where did I ask for someone to tell me how to run my business or what equipment to buy.
    Last edited by firedept10; 09-14-2016 at 05:01 PM.
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  24. #24  

    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Could we please keep this thread on topic. Thanks!
    NinjaMom and Rob Phillips like this.
  25. #25  
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    Default Re: How much better can lightning headphones be (technical details appreciated)?

    Quote Originally Posted by NinjaMom View Post
    You obviously did not read the part of the thread where I explained why in this particular service field the dangling dongle does not help.
    If the service that you use for payment acceptance wants to keep iPhone users as customers, they will make it work.
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