January 7, 2016
Well, it looks like rumors that Apple will be ditching the 8mm headphone jack on the next iPhone may be true after all. Audeze, maker of one of my favorite set of headphones ever, was at CES this year where they showed off two new headphone models that both leave the 8mm headphone jack behind in favor of using the Lightning port. The headphones are priced, in typical Audeze fashion, at $499 for the Sine model and $799 for the EL-8 Titanium’s. That price, even if it’s more than the iPhone itself at this point, is probably well worth it given Audeze’s commitment to quality and Planar Magnetics.
Before getting into the headphones themselves, the bigger story here is that the release of these headphones signal that the next iPhone may not have an 8mm jack at all – which should worry audiophiles who probably just picked up an expensive pair of headphones for the holiday season. We’ve heard rumors about this for a few months, but the idea seemed a little too out there – even for Apple. The 8mm headphone jack is ubiquitous.
Then again, Apple is the company that launched a laptop with only one USB Type C port. (But hey… At least the Macbook had an 8mm headphone jack.) The reason why Apple would want to remove the headphone jack at all comes down to a matter of simplicity. If you can listen to headphones through the charging dock, do you really need a dedicated hole in your phone that’s unused most of the time? It’s very “Apple” to think, “No.”
If Apple really does abandon the 8mm headphone jack, it will surely annoy people who see their ear buds become useless. History, however, has shown that people can get over Apple’s evolving standards pretty quickly. Notable examples include the Lightning charger itself and the Magsafe power adapter. Apple’s a fan of selling third party products made specifically for their devices (also known as: locking you into their ecosystem), so an iPhone without a headphone jack isn’t all that farfetched. Audeze’s new line of headphones only adds fuel to the fire.
So what about these headphones, anyways? Audeze announced the Sine headphones (priced at $499 and launching later this year) and the EL-8 Titanium headphones (priced at $799 and available now). Audeze isn’t cheap, but they’re uncompromising when it comes to quality. Both pairs of headphones use Audeze’s Planar Magnetics which create absurdly crisp audio by sending electronic pulses through magnetized sheets of metal. By using the Lightning port on the iPhone, the headphones can draw a bit more power from your iPhone. That power is used for a built in amplifier in the cord for even more powerful sound.
Also of note is that the Sine headphones are a bit smaller than you’d expect from Audeze which makes them an appealing option for the audiophile on the go.
The future of audio may mean leaving the 8mm jack behind, but that may not be a bad thing. Sure, it will be annoying at first (sidebar: brace yourself for USB Type C), but fewer ports means more beautiful devices. If Apple can find creative ways to use the Lightning port for superior sound quality, maybe we’re better off leaving the 8mm headphone jack behind. RIP.