About the wireless future

About the near future of the USB-C connector and the possibility of a widespread transition to it for listening to audio on mobile devices …

About the wireless future

Original material

One of the most pressing issues in the headphone jack ditching process in modern smartphones is the lack of a good wired alternative. Yes, every company, abandoning this connector, says that you need to switch to wireless solutions, but what if you do not need another gadget that needs to be constantly charged or if you often change devices and do not like to face pairing problems Bluetooth – devices? Headphones with a USB-C connector are the ideal and most logical way out of the situation. Our headache with headphone connection disappears, the void in the absence of a 3.5 mm jack is filled, and now users Android – smartphones and most new laptops can use the digital port to receive sound. However, such headphones are rare and expensive, and this situation is unlikely to ever change.

In this article, we'll look at the main reasons why USB-C headphones will forever remain a niche category.

No interest from Apple and Samsung

The most obvious factor against USB-C headphones is that big gamers aren't interested in them. Smartphones iPhone may not have a headphone jack, but there is no USB-C either, while Samsung retained the usual headphone jack, so neither users need USB-C headphones iPhone X, nor Galaxy S9 owners. This could change if Samsung rolled out an alternative technology to the market, but now, by and large, the USB-C headphone market is severely limited by the lack of demand from the two most popular smartphone manufacturers. In any case, for tech companies looking to make headphones for both Apple and Samsung, the obvious universal standard is Bluetooth.

USB-C costs money

At CES in January, I spoke to Jabra about the recently announced Elite 65 t headphones. I asked why the new headphones are charged via the old and obsolete Micro USB port. The answer was cost. Jabra could use USB-C and thus enable people like me to carry one power supply and one cable to charge their smartphone, laptop and headphones, but by doing so they would have propelled the Elite 65t into the more expensive segment. Я не раз слышал подобные заявления, даже от Bang&Olufsen, которые не так заботятся о стоимости и которые выступили в защиту решения об использовании Micro USB-зарядки для беспроводных 'затычек' Beoplay 8 по причине экономии.

At the recent Computex show, Synaptics showed off the PQI My Lockey USB-A adapter, which provides the highest level of security for authenticating computers based on Windows 10, especially 'winking' to the business audience. When I asked why not make another version based on USB-C, Synaptics VP Godfrey Cheng said that using USB-C would be 25% more expensive and the price would go from $ 100 to $ 125. would pay if the whole world was using USB-C, but these are prohibitive costs today. Cheng noted that there is a non-trivial price difference between the USB-C charging-only cable and the data-only version.

About the wireless future

USB-C is not universal

If we know anything about the technology, it is that if a cable goes into the appropriate port, then it does it like any other supported cable. But this is completely irrelevant for USB-C: some ports have support for a high-speed Thunderbolt 3 controller, but most do not. Some USB-C ports can charge devices, but not all. Also, when using USB-C, you need to carefully examine whether a particular cable supports data transfer, because different cables have different characteristics and standards, some do not transmit data at all, but only charge devices. So even if they are called 'generic', you shouldn't trust them for peripherals and cable support itself.

In my review of Libratone's USB-C headphones, I found that they work fine with smartphones without 3.5 mm jacks, but are completely ignored by devices that have both USB-C and 3.5 mm jacks. On top of that, I connected them to the MacBook Pro and was left without the ability to control the volume level, I could adjust it directly through software such as iTunes or Spotify. Three cases with different results, even though I plugged USB-C headphones into the supposed universal USB-C ports.

Probably the most unexpected complaints about USB-C I heard from the company Audi o-Techinica, whom I spoke with last week. The Japanese said that aside from trying to provide accessibility to a large 'fleet' of devices, even the simplest USB-C cables are simply not good enough. This correlates with the dissatisfaction of my colleague, Dieter Bohn, about the variability among USB-C-based charging cables. While Audi o-Techinca may release its own USB-C cables, the company fears that people may be using other, less quality cables.

Wireless headphones – one universal standard

The biggest challenge for USB-C and its emergence as a good replacement for the classic 3.5 mm analog jack is the existence of Bluetooth – audio. This protocol has its problems, including quality degradation and latency, but they are actively being worked on. Due to the big difference in target markets between Bluetooth and USB-C, nobody is wasting time fixing the flaws in USB-C, instead everyone is focusing on improving 'wireless' audio quality.

Audi o-Technica is expanding its wireless line, Beyerdynamic is releasing wireless versions of almost all of its consumer headphones, Senheiser is converting most of its products to wireless, and even gaming headphones have become very popular this year. The future of ubiquitous audio consumption is definitely wireless. It's good if USB-C headphones become a transition technology from the wired past to the wireless future, but it won't. Another issue for the USB-C audio enthusiast is that hard-core audiophiles have a choice of 3.5mm, 6.5mm and XLR cables. They prefer analog protocols, which use special amplifiers and converters, so they are not interested in another protocol (digital).

On a positive note, I expect most wireless headphones to use USB-C for charging. There is a certain inevitability in this that is lacking in USB-C audio. All of this will take time, but we end up with a utopian scenario using a single USB-C charger. When that moment comes, USB-C-enabled peripherals and cables will drop in cost and complexity to the point where every wireless earbud will have USB-C as a backup charging port. Dreaming is not harmful.

Author – Vlad Savov

Regular readers of AMR remember my not very successful experience with USB-C, they came across defective headphones. And the carousel with varieties is a little unsettling. If there was one cable to rule everyone, it would be cool. But instead, you have to shake up the Internet in search of cable specifications, little pleasant.

I would look at the aspect of audio quality over USB-C. This is inspired by the familiar 'non-believers' of the adequacy of sound quality over wireless audio. Interestingly, among the acquaintances there are also notorious supporters of 'wires', to whom you cannot prove the superiority or even sanity of aptX HD and wireless Hi-Res solutions.

So USB-C: a temporary charging adapter and no music listening or a decent alternative Bluetooth?


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