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USB-C and Lightning headphones


The 3.5mm port is dying -- at least when it comes to smartphones. If the persistent Lightning headphone rumor wasn't enough to persuade you, the fact that Motorola beat Apple to the punch should be. Motorola's new Moto Z and Moto Z Force don't have that familiar circular hole for your cans to plug into, and it now seems inevitable that almost every phone within a few years will forgo the port in favor of a single socket for both charging and using headphones.

 

This is a change that few people actually want. It's driven entirely by the makers of our phones and their desire to ditch what they view as an unnecessary port.

There are literally billions of headphones out in the world with a 3.5mm jack, all of which will need an adapter to work with Motorola's new phone. And the quality of that adapter is going to be all-important. Phones are digital devices, and headphones require analog input. To solve that, every phone has a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and an amplifier inside, which do exactly what the names suggest. The DAC converts the signal from ones and zeros to waves, and the amplifier makes those waves audible through a speaker or headphones.

 

The combination of these two parts (DSPs are also involved, but let's not overcomplicate things) is what makes phones -- or anything with a headphone port -- sound different from one another. If you listen to the same track, with the same headphones, on an iPhone 6S and a Galaxy S7, they won't sound identical, mainly because the two phones use different DACs and amps, which output slightly different analog signals through the devices' 3.5mm ports.

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