back to article MacBook headphone hell

Apple's "courageous" headphone decision didn't carry over to the new MacBook Pro. This according to teardown house iFixit, which noted in its dissection report that the new MacBook Pro (the one model that doesn't have the Touch Bar) still uses a 3.5mm headphone jack, and does not contain a Lightning input. This means that the …

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  1. DougS Silver badge

    There is zero need for a 3.5mm to Lightning converter

    If you have Lightning headphones you wanted to use, you'd use a USB-C to Lightning converter, which do exist.

    Though if you buy any decent pair of high end headphones, the cord is detachable, so you could use whatever you need. I'd never buy a headphones with the cord built in, not because I could only use it with a 3.5mm port but because the cord is the weakest link and you don't want to throw out something that cost a lot because a 50 cent cord got pulled out.

    1. MrDamage

      Re: There is zero need for a 3.5mm to Lightning converter

      That's when you break out the soldering iron and screwdriver.

      If you are incapable of fixing a broken cable, and would prefer to buy more over-priced tat, then you are what Apple would call "an ideal customer".

      1. DougS Silver badge
        FAIL

        Break out the soldering iron?

        I guess 99% of people are Apple's "ideal customers" by your reckoning, because hardly anyone knows how to wield one.

        Making up for broken design by having to self repair versus making the damn thing right in the first place by socketing the cord is a perfect example of why engineers should have NOTHING to do with product design.

    2. Ralph B

      Re: There is zero need for a 3.5mm to Lightning converter

      > you don't want to throw out something that cost a lot because a 50 cent cord got pulled out.

      Yeah and, in my experience, the manufacturer of that "decent pair of high end headphones" will be happy to sell you a replacement for that 50 cent cord for about $15 plus shipping.

      At least for the next 2 years or so until they've run out of stock and their new models use a different and incompatible connector for the 50 cent cords.

      They're all as bad as each other.

      1. lotus49

        Re: There is zero need for a 3.5mm to Lightning converter

        I recently bought a replacement original cable for a very good pair of Sennheiser headphones that were more than 15 years old.

        The cable was grossly overpriced but nothing like as bad as spending another £300.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: There is zero need for a 3.5mm to Lightning converter

          Annoyingly, Sennhieser only offer the spare cable in one length - 3 M - for about £15. My old Sennheiser cans - which are suitable for travelling about - would benefit from a 1.5 M cable. Oh well! I must see if the small mono plugs that go into the left and right cans can be sourced elsewhere.

          My newer Sennheisers - ostensibly better - have a 1.5 M fixed cable but shipped with a cable extension.

      2. Wilseus

        Re: There is zero need for a 3.5mm to Lightning converter

        "Yeah and, in my experience, the manufacturer of that "decent pair of high end headphones" will be happy to sell you a replacement for that 50 cent cord for about $15 plus shipping.

        At least for the next 2 years or so until they've run out of stock and their new models use a different and incompatible connector for the 50 cent cords.

        They're all as bad as each other."

        No, not really. My old £50 Sennheisers had a detachable lead which had a perfectly standard jack plug on both ends. A quick look on Amazon shows that I can buy a replacement for £2.69 with free UK delivery.

        So, as is usual for a hifi-basher on here, you're talking rubbish.

    3. jeremyjh

      Re: There is zero need for a 3.5mm to Lightning converter

      Nope. There's a cable to Lightning male (charge and sync), but no adaptor for Lightning female (to accept Lightning-connector-endowed accessories).

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Why are you giving them ideas?

    Apple would remove the keyboard if they thought they could get away with it.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Why are you giving them ideas?

      >Apple would remove the keyboard if they thought they could get away with it.

      Like the Macbook Wheel?

      It uses predictive sentence technology:

      http://www.theonion.com/video/apple-introduces-revolutionary-new-laptop-with-no--14299

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: Macbook wheel

        Does it have rounded corners?

    2. LaunchpadBS

      Re: Why are you giving them ideas?

      Um...I believe that would be called a "groundbreaking new feature".

      Apples innovation clearly died with Jobs

    3. DougS Silver badge

      Apple did remove the keyboard

      99.999% of phones before the iPhone had a physical keyboard/keypad. A lot of people (especially Blackberry fans) said it would never succeed with an on screen keyboard, and 99.999% of them are using a touchscreen iPhone, Android, Windows or BB10 phone today.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did they need to tear down a macbook to discover a 3.5mm jack?

    Just asking.

  4. Lotaresco

    Why?

    Why would anyone want to use the headphones that Apple ships with the iPhone? I have an iPhone and I'd rather use my 3.5mm jack Etymotic HF-5s because they sound better. There are no decent headphones available with a Lightning plug. Eventually there will be Beats headphones with a Lightning plug, I'm sure because of Apple's ownership of the brand. Refer to previous comment about "decent headphones". Beats are simply dreadful.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      >There are no decent headphones available with a Lightning plug.

      The Philips Fidelio M2L headphones use Lightening. The Fidelio range has previously been well received, and first reports suggest that letting the headphones use their own DAC (thus shortening the analogue path) only makes them sound even better.

      Down the line, more headphones with their own DAC and amp will be available (on USB as well as Lightening), rendering the quality of the source device moot (as long as it can stream the data without hiccup) as regards sound quality.

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: more headphones with their own DAC and amp will be available

        Which given space, cost, battery will generally be inferior than built in DAC & Amp in a phone, tablet, laptop, which will have a DAC and Amp ANYWAY for the built-in speakers. Even 10m of suitable analogue audio cable makes no difference to quality. No headphone cable makes any difference to analogue.

        The idea of removing analogue 3.5mm jack has nothing to do with thinness or quality. It's about product differentiation. It's stupid. The extra cost of earphone DAC and Amp is more than cost saving of jack socket. The Bluetooth stereo earphones are even more stupid than wired unless you really need wireless, battery life and additional degradation due to re-encoding.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: more headphones with their own DAC and amp will be available

          >Which given space, cost, battery will generally be inferior than built in DAC & Amp in a phone, tablet, laptop, which will have a DAC and Amp ANYWAY for the built-in speakers

          Battery? Headphones take power from the USB / Lightning connection. Clearly you've looked into this Mage.

          Cost? I'm looking at my first DAC right now - a Gravis Ultrasound card. Its 16 bit playback and wavetable synthesis cost around £200 in the nineties. Last DAC I bought was a USB jobbie for £3 - though it is a bit shit. Still, a half decent DAC and amp won't add too much to the cost of a pair of headphones, and allow you other niceties such as battery-free noise-cancelling.

          I don't know why you think a pair of headphones will incorporate a poorer DAC than any given phone. Who would you trust more - Sennheiser or Alcatel? It is only recently that phone vendors have started using sound quality as a differentiator - I think there was a variant of the Samsung S3 that used a Wolfson DAC, and LG have been pushing it since their G2.

          Some people hold on to a favourite pair of headphones for years, even if they change their phone every 2-3 years (its usually only the cable that fails, and good headphones let you swap that). In any case, the inside of a phone isn't the ideal place for the analogue stage - back in the days when we still bought HiFi, we called the units 'separates' for a reason. The analogue output in my Dell laptop is poor - I can hear the cursor move. My phones have varied - my Sony Z3 was pretty good.

          I wasn't - and I'm not - defending Bluetooth audio (though it doesn't necessarily require re-encoding if source and target play nice together... one would hope that Samsung > Samsung will for some codecs, just as we would Apple > Apple). I was merely stating, contrary to the OP's claim, that fact that some decent Lightning headphones do exist. Amusingly, this statement of fact seems to have upset some folk.

        2. tfb Silver badge

          Re: more headphones with their own DAC and amp will be available

          I agree about the DACs, but there can be significant problems with levels. My iPhone will not really drive my headphones (AKG 702 I think?), to be loud enough (in-ear things are fine at half volume or significantly less), so actually you need either a preamp or a DAC (which obviously includes a preamp). iPad is much better: I guess a fatter output stage in it.

      2. Wibble
        Mushroom

        Re: Why?

        first reports suggest that letting the headphones use their own DAC (thus shortening the analogue path) only makes them sound even better.

        Really?

        So having a generic little D-to-A converter plus power amplifier built into the headphones will sound better than a half-descent D-to-A and PA?

        Isn't this the same argument that would have someone spend £10+/metre on speaker cable and bi-wiring / bi-amping? Only the chosen ones can tell the difference -- and it's a fair wager that a proper blind listening session would reveal no differences.

        The audiophile "market" is utterly full of crap. I remember an article in one of the HiFi mags "auditioning" mains power cables FFS. What next... auditioning MK mains sockets and consumer units? Or bragging that "I've wired my house with Monster mains cable".

        Pretty much every set of ear bud style headphones sound crap - especially the Apple hard ones which are uncomfortable and don't make a proper seal in your ear. Those expensive plastic-fantastic fashion items colour the sound so greatly it ruins most music. And don't start on all the compression applied to popular music....

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

          Re: Why?

          Read an article many years ago where they tested high end copper speaker wire vs a wire coat hanger. No discernible difference.

          1. tfb Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Why?

            Mains cable is the answer.

          2. Lotaresco

            Re: Why?

            "Read an article many years ago where they tested high end copper speaker wire vs a wire coat hanger. No discernible difference."

            Isn't the absence of insulation a bit of a discernible difference? I do recall a blind test where the wires and speakers were hidden by an acoustic curtain. The reviewers were unanimous that one wire sounded better than the others. That wire being 2.5mm mains cable. When they were told which wire they preferred the reviewers changed their minds, declared that the curtain must have muffled the sound (etc). The truth being that most HiFi "journalists" are paid in freebies and cash for their "opinion".

        2. Lotaresco

          Re: Why?

          "FFS. What next... auditioning MK mains sockets and consumer units?"

          Oh believe me you haven't even scratched the surface of the insanity of the "golden ears" brigade. I had a Denon salesman try to sell me their Denon Link AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable which was "essential" for the best quality audio because "Digital is very demanding and poor quality cable degrades the sound quality". I pointed out that digital is much less reliant on cable quality than analogue and he snorted at me. What would I know about digital? I'm only some computer nerd, right? It's worth looking at the comments linked above. The cable was being sold for £1000 and it's just a short length of CAT5 with RJ45s at each end.

          Even that pales into insignificance compared to the products offered by Peter Belt who will sell you a paper clip that has been exposed to magic smoke and blessed with woo to make it improve your listening experience (£20 each).

        3. DougS Silver badge

          @Wibble

          Leaving aside the argument over whether a "generic little D to A converter plus power amplifier" provides noticeably worse audio to a "half descent[sic] D to A and PA" to someone who isn't an audiophile, why in the world do you think that high end headphones would include a DAC that's worse than the one in phones?

          Phone OEMs aren't not spending a lot of money on a quality DAC, and those OEMs that keep their 3.5mm connector will spend even less on them in the future because people who believe the DAC has a real influence on audio quality will use Lightning or USB-C for audio when they have headphones with a built in DAC even when they have a 3.5mm connector at their disposal.

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: @Wibble

            I jad no odea about that peter belt stuff. Man thats some fucked up money sink for the gullible.

            1. Lotaresco

              Re: @Wibble

              "I jad no odea about that peter belt stuff. Man thats some fucked up money sink for the gullible."

              The pseudo-scientific garbage he talks about "morphic resonance fields" is hilarious. I do wonder if anyone buys this stuff which he describes in such glowing terms. All of it is obviously a combination of water, shoe polish, marker pen, crocodile clips, embossed stickers all knocked out in cheap generic containers with nasty looking labels. The man really is completely bat shit crazy.

              There are many selling "HiFi" who will happily separate idiots from their money. How about paying £1,518 for a mains cable? Russ Andrews will happily take your cash and sell you a cable that has a lump of wood in the middle.

          2. Mage Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: @Wibble

            "because people who believe the DAC has a real influence on audio quality will use Lightning or USB-C for audio when they have headphones with a built in DAC even when they have a 3.5mm connector at their disposal."

            I have a nice bridge I can sell you cheap.

        4. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Why?

          >So having a generic little D-to-A converter plus power amplifier built into the headphones will sound better than a half-descent D-to-A and PA?

          Why would you assume the DAC in the headphones would be 'generic' whilst the DAC in the phone would be 'half decent'?

          Headphones are sold on sound quality. Phone are sold on a myriad factors.

        5. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Why?

          >Isn't this the same argument that would have someone spend £10+/metre on speaker cable and bi-wiring / bi-amping? ]

          I have had laptops and phones in which I can clearly hear interference from the rest of the system though - 'goblin chatter' when I move the cursor, for example. Separating the analogue stage from sources of interference is a common-sense approach. It's the inverse-square law.

          >The audiophile "market" is utterly full of crap.

          I agree -my amp and speakers are from the 1980s. However, can all agree that a modestly priced amplifier and speakers usually sound better than speaker docks, which in turn sound better than laptop speakers? That I wouldn't use my phone's speaker for music doesn't make me an 'audiophile' - it makes me someone who likes music.

        6. Lotaresco

          Re: Why?

          "Pretty much every set of ear bud style headphones sound crap "

          Etymotic earphones don't, which is why they are a favourite with musicians. They are also good at providing noise isolation so that you can listen to your music at a comfortable volume without hearing the jet engines on the aircraft or the incessant nagging about needing to go outside and mow the lawn. They have had a good relationship with Apple over the years so it's possible that they may produce a Lightning version at some point.

      3. Lotaresco

        Re: Why?

        "The Philips Fidelio M2L headphones use Lightening."

        "Lightning" because lightening means "to make paler and more insipid". Oh, hang on, as you were...

        It may be prejudice on my part but years of hearing claims about how, this time, Philips has improved its quality, followed by crushing disappointment makes me sceptical. The reviews I can see of the Fidelios say "bass heavy" and the fact that they are over-the-ear puts me off.

        "first reports suggest that letting the headphones use their own DAC (thus shortening the analogue path) only makes them sound even better."

        First reports from whom? A reference would be useful, otherwise it's a bit hand-wavy to make the claim. All of the reviews of Lightning headphones that I have seen so far complain about the obvious hiss and the poor sound quality which bears out the assumption that any bump-in-the-wire DAC is likely to be of poor quality.

        There is a way around the problem - buy an Oppo HA-2 - but the price of that + headphones will be close to the price of an iPhone 7.

    2. W4YBO

      Re: Why?

      "Beats are simply dreadful."

      Oh, but they're great if you wish to spend every moment of your life, past age 45, listening to a high pitched whistle. Go ahead, kids! Crank up that SPL!

  5. Adam Jarvis
    Megaphone

    Apple deaf to feedback?

    It seemed Apple are deaf to feedback.

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Apple deaf to feedback?

      What?

    2. Darryl

      Re: Apple deaf to feedback?

      Maybe it's because they lost one of their bluetooth earbuds?

    3. Andy Tunnah

      Re: Apple deaf to feedback?

      HE SAID TURN LEFT AT REDBACK

  6. Velv Silver badge
    Gimp

    Excuse my ignorance, but why would you go to the effort of developing a port (Lightning) along with associated devices and accessories then not deploy said port on all your devices?

    Or is the Lightning port only for "mobile" devices like phones and tablets and not really appropriate for portable devices like the Macbook?

    (and I'm not trolling, I am an iPhone and iPad user, but not "Mac", hence why I don't know)

  7. RPF

    My 2011 MBPro died (for the second and last time in a fortnight) on the day the new MBPro was launched. Perfect timing?

    No, the new one has a crap keyboard, crap graphics card, insufficient RAM, small SSD,probably runs permanently hot due to being so thin, is massively over-priced and will never be upgradeable.

    This story is just the icing on the cake, plus all the I/O gear I have is now redundant.

    For the first time in 15 years, I'm going to buy a non-Apple laptop (and install Mint on it). The new one is all about form, forgetting the function.

    1. Wibble

      Graphics card?

      Was it the graphics card that failed (thick grey vertical bands on the screen)?

      If so, that happened to me in August with my 2011 MBP. I replaced it with a retina screened one as I needed to get it replaced immediately.

      But, lets say something good about Apple.... They've done a recall on the motherboards UNTIL THE END OF 2016 and replaced the motherboard free of charge. So now I've two lappies.

      There's online checkers to validate this.

      1. RPF

        Re: Graphics card?

        Yes it was the graphics card, but there was no display at all.

        Is there a recall out on the motherboards for this machine?

      2. RPF

        Re: Graphics card?

        Wibble,

        THANK YOU for the information. I will take the laptop to Apple tomorrow. Cannot actually access the serial number of the machine right now, but I'm fairly confident that this is one of those affected.

        Again, thanks; you've saved me a chunk of cash and just before the Dec 31st deadline, too. As you say, it's more of a guarantee than most would expect.

        Cheers!

        1. Wibble

          Re: Graphics card?

          Glad to help!

          There is a serial number etched on the case but you'll need good eyes to read it. I had to take mine into my local Apple shop - getting the appointment is the hard bit though.

          Must say that I was really impressed with Apple's service even though it actually cost me £2,700 for a replacement MBP as it's a work machine. Pondering flogging the old one, but now that Apple have effectively withdrawn from the 'pro' market I'll probably keep it as an asset!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Everyone knows you don't upgrade Apple products. If you're upgrading your current equipment, then you're taking away from Apple's bottom line. True Apple aficionados replace all of their Apple products annually.

    3. A. Coatsworth
      Gimp

      >>>The new one is all about form, forgetting the function

      I thought that was Apple's *whole* shtick, ever since St. Jobs' Second Coming (TM)

    4. lotus49

      I loved my last MBP. It was probably the best all round computer I have ever had. It's now dying but the cost of replacing it, particularly after the most recent price hike, is utterly ridiculous. I'd be embarrassed to spend that much and be taken for a sucker.

  8. Philippe

    I am not sure what the issue is, here.

    Macbooks are used by musicians who will need to plug in a lot more than headphones. Hence, the Jack plug.

    iPhones come with their own headphones which aren't exactly top notch.

    Why would I even consider plugin them into a macbook pro?

    If I wanted to use wired headphones with a macbook, I'd use quality ones and they come with a jack cable..

    Vaguely releated, I browsed through the Tesco electronics aisle at the weekend and two- third of the headphones on sale were wireless.

    The Jack vs usb vs usb-c vs lightning debate won't last very long.

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