Death To The 3.5mm Audio Jack, Long Live Wireless

There’s been a lot of fuss over Apple’s move to ditch the traditional audio jack. As for me, I hope I never have to plug in another headphone cable. This may come off as gleeful dancing on the gravesite of my enemy before the hole has even been dug; it kind of is. The jack has always been a pain point in my devices. Maybe I’ve just been unlucky. Money was tight growing up. I would save up for a nice set of headphones or an mp3 player only to have the jack go out. It was a clear betrayal and ever since I’ve regarded them with suspicion. Is this the best we could do?

I can’t think of a single good reason not to immediately start dumping the headphone jack. Sure it’s one of the few global standards. Sure it’s simple, but I’m willing to take bets that very few people will miss the era of the 3.5mm audio jack once it’s over. It’s a global episode of the sunk cost fallacy.

In the usual way hindsight is 20/20, the 3.5mm audio jack can be looked at as a workaround, a stop over until we didn’t need it.  It appears to be an historic kludge of hack upon hack until something better comes along. When was the last time it was common to hook an Ethernet cable into a laptop? Who would do this when we can get all the bandwidth we want reliably over a wireless connection. Plus, it’s not like most Ethernet cables even meet a spec well enough to meet the speeds they promise. How could anyone reasonably expect the infinitely more subjective and variable headphone and amplifier set to do better?

But rather than just idly trash it, I’d like to make a case against it and paint a possible painless and aurally better future.

Ingress

Let’s say you had to design a consumer facing device that goes in someone’s pocket. A pocket is dusty. It’s moist and sweaty. You know your stuff so you’re already thinking about gaskets and IP ratings. Then someone hands you the spec sheet. They let you know that they want you to drill a hole right in it and put an unserviceable deep hole in the case. Now rinse repeat for every portable device on the planet and it seems like an odd mass hallucination.

I guess if someone were having a really bad day they could spill coffee at the swtichboard... [CC Joe]
I guess if someone were having a really bad day they could spill coffee at the switchboard… [CC Joseph C.]
There is no good way to seal or maintain a 3.5mm headphone jack. Some phone makers have tried by adding a little gasket or a flap, but this doesn’t last. There’s also a chance that it could be sealed off, but since it has to have little springs inside and holders it’s still susceptible to damage from liquids and dust by nature. I’ve even seen some get irreparably corroded by the salt from sweat alone.

It’s like we all agreed to ignore the fact that these connectors were designed to be used in a switch board. A nice clean dry switchboard in a professional location where it would be used by trained personnel and serviced regularly. It was designed to be an easy to use connector that could be plugged in and removed quickly for low-quality audio phone switching. It was never designed to be the end-all connector for quality audio signals. Moving it out into the world could arguably have just been a quick hack. Using a connector that was already adopted and manufactured on a large enough scale when home audio began to be a common thing.

Since we’ve already gotten rid of the keyboards on mobile devices (which is a shame, but that’s another article). Since every manufacturer seems to be horribly committed to irreplaceable batteries. There’s just no reason not to move towards fully waterproof and dustproof devices. There could at least be a bright side. The audio port is holding us back.

Cable Strain

A story as old as time, which incidently is about as old as the headphone jack.
It’s not the cord’s fault. It was sent to the frontlines without the right equipment.  [CC Paul Hussey]
Next comes cable strain. People like to complain about how the iPhone earbuds would constantly break at the joint. This is true, and other brands had better strain relief. However, it’s also true that all audio cables that go into a pocket will break before any of the other components will reach their end of service life. By nature, a pocket exceeds every reasonable expectation of in-tolerance cable strain. It is a hostile environment. My last set of headphones went through two cables during regular use. Which segues right into the next design flaw, force.

Force

As mentioned before, the audio connector was designed to be easily inserted inside a switch board room. It would see no dramatic force on it. So it’s a tall connector that is easy to hold and easy to use. It also is supposed to be a low insertion force connector. So it’s unreasonable to expect it to be able to hold a cable in place reliably.

However, when put into a pocket it suddenly sees forces perpendicular to its axis. This can cause some extremely large moments on a very tiny plastic and spring-metal socket. We all know that the longer we own our phones the less able our headphone socket will be to hold the jack in place. There’s simply no way to design something that small to take that much force and keep it cost effective. Rather it looks like we’ve just adjusted our expectations and then forgot that we even made that adjustment.

This seems even more insane from a design perspective when you consider that this connector which sees dramatic forces is actually attached to the mainboard of your device (to be fair, most smartphones do use spring connectors for jack to mainboard but think about laptops and other gear). Solder connections are not flexible. The metals we use for solder are very susceptible to work hardening and breaking under cyclical forces. So not only do you flex the connection of the port to the board itself, you also flex all the surrounding components. So It’s no mystery that one of the most common repairs on mobile devices are the audio and USB ports.

Sound Quality

Bluetooth's latest codec actually does better than 320kbps mp3.
Bluetooth’s codecs perform comparably 320kbps mp3. Which is beyond the ability of most listeners (including the author) to distinguish. From Serene Audio.

Right now there is still a difference in sound quality between Bluetooth and wired. There’s no reason to expect it to last long. Bluetooth is now capable of some seriously impressive bandwidth and with an actual market erupting for the headsets, it won’t be long before this is a moot point. I’m picking on Bluetooth specifically because it’s the only standard that’s both universal and intended, at least, for hooking peripherals up.

There’s a big argument for the sound quality aspect of the 3.5mm headphone jack. I think that, frankly, most of them make no sense against the transition. If you’re sitting still in your home-listening-chamber with a perfectly tuned preamplifier connected to quality headphones while listening to FLAC audio from your dedicated music computer you might be able to hear a perceptible difference from hooking directly to your phone with a Bluetooth headset. But you’re not. You have a noisy connection from a worn out port to a low quality cable with an unamplified signal to some cost engineered headphones. It’s a wash I think.

Plus, it’s not like switching to a wireless standard is going to absolutely kill the wired headphone market. You’ll still be able to get wired headphones for when the wire matters. People who are paying a hundred dollars plus for quality sound out of a wired headset will still have their toys. That market is very far from death. People who were paying ten bucks for whatever are not going to notice at all.

Most phones and portable devices waste zero energy trying to amplify the signal in a meaningful way. So if you want the full range of your headphones you have to add an amplifier. Then there’s the fact that they’re already class D audio amps trying to maximize the device’s battery life. By the time it gets to your ear it’s been triple digitized to death. Fortunately, we now have more processing power inside greeting cards than we reasonably know what to do with, so it’s unlikely that most would notice the difference.

However, the modern Bluetooth audio chips are actually really great, they’re only getting better. They’re ultra-low power class D amplifiers which were built and optimized for sound quality. With a lithium battery right there inside the headphone there’s no reason not to expect engineers to take advantage of that and stop designing every driver in the world to run off the two or three magic pixies a cell phone is willing to give it. It should actually be possible to have significantly better sounding wireless headphones than wired.

Convenience and User Experience

It's a cultural joke at this point.
It’s a cross-cultural joke at this point.

I bought a very cheap set of Bluetooth headphones off Amazon. I have rarely been so pleased with a purchase. Did they sound good? Not really, but I don’t expect any ten dollar headset to sound good. What I did get was an average of ten days of on and off use before the battery needed charging. I could go to the climbing gym and leave my cellphone on the ground while I climbed. When I worked on projects in the hackerspace I could walk up to thirty feet from my phone and not miss a word of my audio book. It connected automatically. It played nice. It was a better experience in every way.

With my headphones I’m always fighting with the cable. I’m always arranging my phone in my pocket so the cord isn’t flexed too much. It’s a cultural meme that headphones know more knots than we do.

Sure there are some flaws of the Bluetooth. Will we cover battery replacement hacks in a few years? Probably. Will there be growing pains? Of course. Will they be ironed out in the next few years? Most likely.

Transition:

So how do we transition? Well, the first step is done. Have a big player finally give up on the port. It’s time. But what about all the things that are nice about corded headphones? The global standard? The fact that you can contribute to the complete devastation of our planet by buying them cheaply by the pound instead of being a grown adult who can hold on and take care of a quality item? How about their universal integration with every device that wants to put a sound out?

It's not like we don't have other really nice global standards that could power a headphone set. [CC
It’s not like we don’t have other really nice global standards that could power a headphone set. [CC Maurizio Pesce]
But we do have other global standards that can transmit sound signals. We have USB. While I hedge to give Apple too much credit after they threw their lot in with Beats, in this regard they are also showing the way. A dongle is an inelegant example, however, only as a transition out of the 3.5mm port. What if your headphones just had a USB C port on one end and you could plug the cable of choice right into your mobile. The phone has the ability to power some accessories and as long as it’s designed to switch off the charging circuit while it’s at it, there’s no reason it won’t work. We can all transition painlessly. We really won’t miss it.

Laptops could definitely simultaneously charge and play. If your battery is running low, just hook it up to USB. You get the cord experience and the universal standard experience we’ve all come to love. Just without a weird analog connector from the birth of electronics. All the LEGO pieces are there, we just need to build the spaceship.

All that is pedantic though. Portable audio has never been a power-hungry game and in the end I just don’t think people will notice the cable woes. I thought I would and I don’t. I’m already so used to plugging things in when the situation requires that I just do it and that’s that.

It’s time for the 3.5mm legacy to go. I hope others follow Apple’s lead. I hope all the major headphone makers turn their eyes to wireless audio and the possibilities it offers. There are already quality sets out there and it will only get better. I won’t miss it. I don’t miss magnetic hard drives. I don’t miss CDs and Mini Disks. I haven’t tuned the bunny ears on a television in at least a decade. I don’t even own an Ethernet cable nor have I used a DB9 serial cable for hardware development in years. The future moves on and this time I think it will show itself to move in exactly the right direction.

355 thoughts on “Death To The 3.5mm Audio Jack, Long Live Wireless

  1. I don’t know what the wireless headphones and such of ‘now’ are like but I do know the small cheap earbud 3.5mm headphones I’m currently using are about 5 years old (I got them with my original S3 phone) and are working perfectly well. In that time I’ve killed 2 phones.

    I’ve also put them through the washing machine and tumble drier at least 3 times (the last time the cord got caught, the plastic on it teared and melted, and they STILL continue to work. Neither phone (S3 and S4) have ever shown any sign of the port getting loose. In the past I have had this issue with cassette players (I had a walkman on me pretty much through the entireity of school) and every single time I’d hear that sound of crackling or the sound dropping out, it’d be down to the joint between the cable and the jack, never the socket on a device. Replacing the headphones (which were always a cheap pair from a pound shop or whatever) would last me another 3-6 months.

    It just feels like maybe the writer either brought crap for lots of money, brought crap and expected it to last better, needed something to work in a overly harsh environment or just had bad memories of something which wasn’t in fact as bad as they think it was.

    My biggest issue with wireless headphones is power – we can’t even charge a phone long enough to last a day, I ‘d expect headphones to go for a week without charging at least… can I expect this without them weighing so much my ears fall off?

    1. yea feels like the writer is auditioning for an infomercial product, where they can’t seem to figure out how to unravel a hose without getting all tangled up in it, or get something out of a cabinet without throwing it all over the place first. Big ass headphones, sure they can be bluetooth or wireless or whatever, but a nice big ass battery in them so they last forever, and the basic form factor stays the same. But earbuds, earbuds are practically disposable, while at the same time being nearly indestructible, they just work, and when they do fail, there isn’t a protracted debug. Hold down this until it blinks thrice followed by letting go for 10 seconds then holding down for 10 seconds… Also this is a hacker community, who on earth would advocate closing off one of the few remaining io ports in our devices.

      1. +1 to everyone here.This article is such a disgrace that I won’t read more from this author. It sounds worse than paid “reviews”, especially that this is a hack/open-oriented community!

        Far worse quality, batteries dying on you all the time, having to recharge your earphones all the time, noticeable lag, BT pairing issues (a real annoyance), BT connection stability issues, BT using your battery quicker on your phone, sharing a single port for headphones and charging and all of that. Countless hassles we didn’t need nor want, yet it fixes no real life problems.

        BT is a GIGANTIC downgrade from the 3.5mm jack which just works and didn’t need fixing. This is exactly why I’m not gonna buy a new iphone. As far as I’m concerned, Apple just handed their share of the market to Android.

          1. Not really, but I also knew I would dance in the flames for it. So I guess I wrote an article on my unpopular opinion knowing that the majority of people wouldn’t agree with me and say a variety of rude things at me. Which is similar to a troll article except I’m actually putting myself out there to be lambasted? However, if authors on this site were forced to write only subjects that pleased the popular majority it would be a less honest sort of website.

        1. Jesus, the stability issues. I’ve had bluetooth connectivity issues while sitting still in my dorm room 3 feet from my laptop (and this is with a MacBook Pro and $300 headphones, not a pairing I’d expect uncharacteristic issues from). I can’t imagine walking around with a phone and more reasonably priced headphones in a city environment without experiencing tons of interference. Especially when everyone is now expected to be using Bluetooth!

          I’ve been having negative experiences with Bluetooth audio for years, so the only way to describe my reaction to phone manufacturers removing the 3.5mm port is “incredulous.”

    2. I somewhat agree with you about headphone quality being better than it used to be. But it’s somewhat hard to tell — I may be more careful that I once was with them and I certainly don’t use them as much as when I used to commute daily.

      My biggest issue with wired headphones is the hazard they provide. Snag the cord with your elbow and send your phone flying. Stand up without thinking and you have the same issue. Wireless means the phone stays in a safe place.

      That said, I don’t yet own a set of wireless earbuds (but do Chromecast audio daily while I work). I would like to try out Apple’s AirPods — 5 hours of battery in the earbuds, another 25 hours in the case. So effectively you charge the case and the case charges the earbuds whenever you are not using. However, my earbud budget over the last 3 years has been approximately $62, while Apple’s offering starts at $159. That’s a hard sell for me.

      1. Honestly, I would just get a set of $20 bluetooth headphones on Amazon, have had a pair of soundpeats QY7 for around 5-6 months now, the lack of snagging is really nice, however the 5ish hour battery life can be annoying to get used to. I used to use nice (Harmon Kardon in-ear) earbuds, but the typical lifespan was 2-3 months when the cord would break, then got bluetooth for working out and haven’t had many problems since. Note that I don’t say none, as my laptop has issues with pairing and streaming over wifi (Ubuntu issue I think), therefore, I’ll probably get a decent pair of wired for it.

        1. I have tried bluetooth. Two pairs.

          1. a Samsung offering in which the earpiece, a single-ear item had a micro-usb connector to connect a pair of buds. Daily life was around 3.5-4 hours: pretty shite, if you ask me. My main bugbears were: the main ear-piece (of the type that you see old farts walking around with it in their ear even if they are not on a call) had the in-ear part which was fixed and the only recourse was either to use the crappy clip which makes one look like a freakin nerd, or put in in one’s shirt tit-pocket (if one had a shirt with a tit-pocket) or let it hang. The other nag is that I currently live in a city with electric buses and trams and at certain junctions, where a few routes intersect, the interference from the overhead wires causes insane cut-out.

          2. a Plantronics set which was two buds connected by a 6-7mm flat cable. I tend to walk around the city and the buds were so heavy that they would not stay put for long. I would be constantly pushing them back in place.

          Suffice it so say that I have returned to wired. Even with the slight niggles that a wire brings, they are far more useful than 70Euro bluetooth with limited battery life and logistical problems. I shudder to think that the market will follow suit of the fruity tossers.

    3. If they put a nifty little Lithium battery to your ear your brain can be touched with fire, Can’t stand wireless headphones some are good enough but those that are decent have and have a good Radio unit are not exactly portable around for daily life.
      I’ve still got my S3 headphones works great on S5 still.

      People complaining about Headphones are the ones who treat them poorly you see them wrapped tightly around a device repeating this every time snapping all those copper strands leaving only the Kevlar fibre, Really don’t see this as relevant as this is an Issue regarding APPLE users the same people who can’t keep their screens from cracking.

      1. Considering the probably billions of Lithium batteries out there, we don’t hear much about them exploding. When it does happen, it makes news partly because it’s so rare. Many of the cases that have occurred have been those wheely-board things, and electronic cigarettes. Both of those draw a lot of power in small bursts, which combined with Chinese under-speccing, leads to poor abused batteries, possibly sourced from the skip at the back of the factory, blowing up.

        I’ve never heard, on the news or anywhere, of a Bluetooth earpiece or headphones blowing up. I’m sure it’d make the news if it happened.

    4. whether earbuds or full blown headphones doesn’t really matter the problems are the same. as a wearer of earlier mentioned big ass headphones (buds just don’t work for me too uncomfortable) i take cable over wireless any day of the week and here is why:
      obviously the bigger the headphones the more power they need so lots of batteries make them bulky heavy and expensive. also longevity is an issue i know of no battery that last forever. under heavy use that would mean at least one charge/discharge cycle a day so you battery will last 3 years if your lucky not to mention the capacity loss over time. i am not even sure you can replace the batteries on all wireless headphones. when i was a teenager i spent my first earned money on a top of the line headphones from sony for a whooping 300$ with it i listened to my walkman then to my diskman then my minidisk (what a fad that one turned out to be still stylish though) then my diskman with antishock and finally to a mp3player i took them with me all over the world on my travels and used them on a daily basis. they last me more than 17 years (!!) until something broke which was easily fixed and i continue to use them at home and they STILL work perfectly sure they look ugly as hell but they work and the sound is awesome. i dare anyone to find me a wireless headphone that at least has the potential to last that long for the same cost…. pretty sure its impossible. if jackless phones are the way of the future ill be the first to build a BT to Jack converter for my big ass headphones…..

      1. You can just buy a Bluetooth to jack plug adaptor. Mine was 7 quid. I bought it in case my Bluetooth headphones didn’t work. Had no trouble with that though. As I’ve mentioned, I get a week no problem out of them.

        The size of headphones doesn’t affect power usage. Basically the impedance does, and they’re nearly all 32 ohms. Physical construction will affect loudness, but 32 ohms seems to be enough for almost every pair of headphones in existence.

        Feeding headphones doesn’t use much power, a small battery is plenty.

        You can also buy the other direction, jack plug to Bluetooth, a transmitter. About the same price. Both types have a rechargeable battery inside, lasts even longer than the headphones.

    5. Besides, haven’t you read your cyberpunk, have to jack in in the future, how freaking stupid is it going to sound to go, “Well just a sec, have to pair my brain over bluetooth, turning on discovery, entering the pairing code, the thing is spinning, be right with you in a sec, ah there we go, guys? guys?.”

        1. This is a case where old fashioned is better. With bluetooth, they are harder to hack, more expensive, and have a limited life as the battery wears out like the iPhone or the newest Samsung phones including the incindary Galaxy Note 7. Too bad that didn’t happen to Apple instead. And a wire sounds better than an RF transmitter and receiver pair – even if it’s digital. Got over the air TV? If so, you’ll know about nonstop dropping signal.

      1. Wait, I think you have hit upon a brilliant movie idea.
        A silly cyberpunk movie, where the technology actually suffers from real world difficulties, and subverts the tropes of typical cyberpunk.
        Try looking like a cyber wizard when your wifi drops off for seemingly no reason at a crucial point.

    6. Yep – Power is my biggest issue. Thankfully my bluetooth headphones have a 3.5mm cable – every time I go to use them the battery is either flat, or only lasts 10 minutes…..

      If only somebody would invent a mechanism where the device deivering the audio is able to provide power to the headphones… Yea – That would be revolutionary – perhaps they could use some copper cable of some sort….

      1. My BT stereo lapel clip dongle (BH-214) has a 3.5mm jack and I get to choose my own pair of short cable Sony earbuds, if the battery dies I plug the earbuds direct into the N900’s 3.5mm jack and stick the phone in my shirt pocket.

    7. I already have a socket strip screwed to the bedside cabinet to charge the phone, the tablet, the spare battery, the toothbrush, the razor every night and have somewhere to plug the light into ..

    8. Yep. I use my Bluetooth headphones every day. I charge them when it occurs to me they might possibly benefit from it, maybe once a week. I’ve never actually had the battery run out, and I’ve owned them for a few years now. They’re great! Also have the advantage of prev / next, volume control, play / pause / answer / redial / hangup buttons on my ear. They were about 12 quid back then, probably get them for $10 nowadays.

      They’re also handy for hands-free conversation. Even if I’m at home, I’ll put them on if I’m gonna make a long call, much easier than holding the phone in my hand.

      It doesn’t take a lot of power to drive earphones and a Bluetooth connection. Power is no problem.

      I’ve never actually used a corded hands-free set, even though most phones come with one. They’re too cheaply made, too inconvenient. Bluetooth was designed for this, after all (well, one use). They got it right. They can always add higher-quality audio in the future, but my present pair sound good enough, I don’t notice any difference.

  2. I was an early adopter of bluetooth headphones, meaning plugging a giant dongle the size of my ipod into my ipod, just so I can listen to tunes on the nyc subway on my 2 hour battery life 1st gen wireless headphones without worrying about a cable snagging on someone’s bag. It was glorious.

    Until others started getting the same idea. Now I can’t use my bluetooth headphones on the subway without my phone being in the pocket closest to the receiver in the left ear of my headphones. If I move my phone to my other pocket, suddenly the signal drops out. This happened with almost every phone/headphone combo i’ve tried. Out in the open, it’s a little better, but the only place I can get a reliable 10ft+ connection going is in the office or the great outdoors.

    I’m not sure if the tech has gone forward since then, but I’ve certainly gone back to wired headphones. A wired connection is the only guarantee that a signal will go from A to B with no “gotchas”.

    RIP TRS

    1. Wow, I’ve never heard of this problem. Does anyone have experience looking at how saturated Bluetooth bandwidth is in crowded places like subways? I’m also surprised you only get about 10ft of connectivity elsewhere, I can reliably connect to Bluetooth throughout my home.

      1. I’ve had similar problems on light rail trains. I don’t know if it’s bandwidth limitations; interference from high power, high frequency motor drivers, or what.

        And corded Bose noise canceling ear buds are so much nicer.

      2. I Work in an open space with 40 people who use Bluetooth mice, phones and many have wireless headphones. Had no end of problems with Bluetooth until i went back to wired mouse, keyboard and headphones. The Guy who sits next to me can only get his Bluetooth headphones to pair with his Mac by taking them to the bathroom! Too many Bluetooth devices is fairly easy to do now.

      3. I can barely keep a connection from bluetooth headphone from my desk to my ear. (Line of sight, 18 inches.) And once there’s a dropout, the connection gains a permanent extra latency, even when you stop the audio source; until you forcibly disconnect and reconnect; which usually requires turning something off and on again.

        Desk in a room in an apartment complex. I also have issues with a bluetooth keyboard and a bluetooth Wacom tablet, with this laptop, a phone and another laptop. The only common link is Bluetooth itself. So either the protocol sucks or the 2.4ghz spectrum is terminally congested. And we do have the same problem with bgn wifi links…

      4. I have a wireless keyboard that operates in the same 2.4 GHz band – it’s probably some non-standard bluetooth-like transmitter – and due to interference from wifi and nearby bluetooth devices, it only works reliably within about 2 feet of the transmitter. I had to put a USB extension cable and place the dongle under the monitor right in front of the keyboard before it would stop jamming and dropping characters.

        Kinda defeats the purpose, but the keyboard itself is nice.

        1. yah the 2.4Ghz were supposed to be better than 900mhz or whatever the older tech was, but that was before 2.4ghz saturation… bet they’re not so much worse these days.

          Additionally, it kinda enrages me a bit when I find out a device is 2.4Ghz but doesn’t use any known protocol.

      5. Analog out or digital? If it’s a matter of plugging in an analog adapter cable that’s one thing, and a DA converter is somewhat reasonable. It’s one more thing to walk away or get lost, though, and I’d wager far more likely to be a failure point (be it hardware or just compatibility glitches) than a $10 input cable.

    2. You’re not alone. I’ve experienced similar problems due to high RF environments (where I work), and also in places where there’s a large number of 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi networks banging around.

      On a related note, due to low SNR, RF interference, or just plain badly built Bluetooth transceivers, it’s pretty common for my Bluetooth headset to work on a 1 second delay or more due to needing a large audio buffer to deal with burst packet loss. This makes video completely unwatchable for me. So until there’s a wireless audio standard that can somehow guarantee low-latency, high-reliability audio, I’ll be keeping my wired headphones close at hand.

      1. “a wireless audio standard that can somehow guarantee low-latency, high-reliability audio”

        Analog FM headsets are a thing. The modern ones have very low noise and are mostly immune to interefence, though you do get the occasional crackle and cross-over from wireless mics etc.

        1. The only wireless headphone I’ve had were FM. They were bullshit.

          Reception was completely random, and any movement (mine or anyone else’s) was asking for a bad time. Seriously, even in the same room you get drop outs. And heaven help me if I tried them at work, apparently the transformers 3 rooms over meant no reception at all, even right next to the transmitter station.

        2. I’m yet to see any on the Australian market that are true headsets (incorporate a microphone too).

          I think once I heard of one that was being illegally imported, turns out they used 147MHz as the back-channel, making them really popular anywhere near an amateur repeater operating on that frequency.

    3. If been using wireless headphones for a couple of years and this problem is not limited to noisy areas. My set sits around your neck and has wired buds. Just putting my phone in the “tech pocket” of my jeans can cause problems. I also have trouble sometimes in open spaces. It seems these things really make use of reflections to stay connected, since your body is so good at blocking RF. I really wish the manufacturer would look into diversity receivers. I’d be willing to pay for the extra radio if it means my phone doesn’t have to stay in my breast pocket while I carry it. Reception from the bench across the room is great, but it also means I’m constantly walking 30 feet back to the bench when I forget to grab it on the way to the water cooler.

    4. Yeah, this is basically the problem/trade off I have with everything wired vs. less.

      Wireless Pro: Super convenient, portable, snagless, getting pretty reliable and fast and high quality
      Wireless Con: Interference, bandwidth crowding, increased points of failure, battery powered/protocol based things have an obsolescence cycle, always more expensive

      Wired pro: Always faster, more reliable, MORE SECURE, (comparatively) no interference issues, can often be repaired by a simple splice or connector replacement, good quality stuff lasts for decades and can often be easily fixed.
      Wired con: Tripping/snagging, physical stress, inconvenience, aesthetics.

      It’s still a question of use case and cost/benefit trade-off, and while I think Gerrit’s *reasons* are valid, his arguments sound a little like a Borg Complex. (A concept which has turned out to be one of the most interesting and useful tools I’ve found for analyzing technology writing in recent memory. https://thefrailestthing.com/2013/03/01/borg-complex-a-primer/)

      The other thing, you know, about consuming and disposing crap headphones “by the pound” – do we really think that will change by forcing adoption of wireless? If anything, we will now consume crap bluetooth headphones by the pound, which now contain hazardous waste in the form of batteries.

  3. I’m sure it’s use-case specific, but here’s where it becomes a problem: the live entertainment industry. I work in a tourist theatre in the Southeastern US as a lighting technician, but I get along with and pay attention to our audio techs. If we’re doing an audition, people bring in their own tracks. It’s become the fashion to have the tracks available on a phone, tablet, or other device rather than CD. If there’s no audio out, it isn’t getting played through the system. Bluetooth tech is great, but if it takes longer than it takes to plug into a phone jack, it won’t fly.

    A lot of smaller music venues don’t have the money, ingenuity, or techs to make a wireless device work on their mixer. While the really cool and talented people that show up here could come up with a solution to the issues that arise in live entertainment situations, most places can’t do it.

      1. Umm, I doubt it. Leaving aside the fact that live audio mixing consoles are not cheap and replacement cycles tend to be very long, especially for smaller venues, a mixing console is there to manipulate a live audio stream, not generate that stream. I’ve seen some with USB ports on them, but that is for saving board settings and updating firmware on digital consoles (there are still plenty of purely analog consoles out there). While you could have a box that acts as a bluetooth audio to 1/8″ or 1/4″ or XLR adapter, you are not going to see any of these boards have Bluetooth/USB-C/Lightning audio input as that is not what these boards are meant to do.

        1. You could just have the oldest fugliest android with BT you can find gaffer taped to the console and enjoy the disgust when you make the wannabes fileshare their track to it from their beautiful iPhones.

          ( or ditto fugliest apple device that supports airplay)

      2. While these options exist, the lighting audio connector is yet another thing to get lost or stolen (happens a lot in some venues), or the device provider fails to have for the sound guy. As quantumman42 pointed out, while newer boards have USB ports, they’re only good for updates and external memory for show files (cue lists that are digital patch and parameter settings, basically) and charging a phone. Maybe. On the right port.

        Now, if the venue uses a computer for music tracks or sound effects, a USB stick with a file that can be double-clicked or cued in a music playlist is okay, but not every venue has that.

        1. If you’re going to use a USB lightning cable to play the audio to the board or a computer, why not just copy the mp3 to the computer. Oh, right, Apple locks down everything. Just load up I tunes log in, sync, no, hmm, nope Apple has music locked down. Only way is through the analog aux port… Damn it! F U Apple

      3. during an audition the client is not going to waste 45 minutes attempting to connect to the “auditionee’s” phone via lighting/bt/wifi/usb-c/fileshare. sorry guys but the ol’ 1/8″ or 3.5mm trs wins by a mile on this front. and red wolf is right, i work in pro audio and very few, almost none of the newer mixer support anything other that preset save off and usb uac audio off the usb port

      4. There are more advanced mixer boards on the market that has support for all types of inputs, but the fact is that most venues are still not going to have such equipment.

        And yes, one could always send over the file before hand, or require people to have a device with the necessary outputs, and yes this is already done in the trade.

        But I still see no reason for the 3.5mm jack to be taken away, as there are many other problems with other technologies for sending sound.

        If it’s wireless, then we have bandwidth problems. (eventually, the usable RF spectrum isn’t infinite!)

  4. I like cables. I like audio cables, I like network cables. I plug in headphones and I plug in my laptop when I’m at home because its just better.
    The only issue with headphones isn’t the connector its the cable, always just too short. I don’t understand the tangled headphone meme either, never happened to me, just bunch them up and then shake them out when you need them.
    charging up earbuds come on guys.
    what is after 5ghz anyway? better hurry up and invent something because the spectrum is going to be pretty clogged up in the future when doors and carpets all have to be wireless.

    1. “I like cables. I like audio cables, I like network cables. I plug in headphones and I plug in my laptop when I’m at home because its just better.”

      Absolutely. I bought a house recently, one of my first projects was running network to all the bedrooms, living room and office. I have never, and likely never will, own any wireless peripherals for my computer either. I lament the disappearance of connectors from our devices and greatly miss the days of DB9 and a half-dozen USB connectors STANDARD on my laptops. Nothing beats a solid physical connection.

          1. Saw something a week or two ago that they can get 100GB or something over cate 5e now. … or was it 10GB, anyway, impressive upgrade on “any old cable” you’ve got run already.

    2. 3.5mm plug for me. It doesn’t need to be recharged, either.
      Wireless is great, but for reliability and a dependable connection for as long as I need it, I’ll stick with wired, thanks.

  5. Analogue audio works. The 3.5 mm audio jack works. The Bigger cousin the 6.3 mm jack is used on professional audio in harsh situations, like live concerts, there are also more rugged analogue connectors.
    Simply because Apple ditched an useful function doesn’t mean everybody should like it.
    Luckily my 1990 Sony CD player and Thorens turntable connected with my Marantz amplifier are still working great. I could connect my phone or my tablet with the 3,5 mm jack. For the ’90 standard my stereo setup is low end but still works flawlessly and run circles to bluetooth “speakers”.

    The future moves on, but it’s crappy.

    1. I’m pretty sure all of the devices that have removed the headphone jack come with an adapter to add it back. Basically they’re moving the DAC and amp outside the device. That’s actually a good thing if you want to connect a better DAC or purely digital amplifier instead.

        1. No need to worry about that! For the next version of the Iphone Apples gonna remove that clunky, not to mention potentially dangerous, battery and replace it with a far “sleeker” and smaller power board that works off of an external power source…….though they will have to change the connector……..and you’ll need one of their I-outlets installed to power it…..not to mention the extra special house wiring and breaker panel to power it and all of your other Apple products…….which will require that you replace all of your home electronics with Apple products otherwise they wont work right…………..yep, nothing to worry about.

        2. Doesn’t USB-C have a standard for charging while in host mode?

          As far back as Android 2.3.4, they had a standard for digital audio output and charging at the same time. The charger/audio output device acted as the host and sent a special command to the device to put it in that mode.

          1. The old version you reference was only activated on certain phones… it was never a universally available thing. Not sure about USB-C, but it would be silly if it wasn’t a feature.

      1. That’s also possible on phones that still have head phone jacks as they have bluetooth and USB host mode.
        You don’t gain anything you just loose the option of being able to directly connect analog speakers and headphones.

    2. To be honest, it’s probably about ‘controlling’ content. As soon as they move to digital delivery to the ear, then it makes it trickier to record something to circumvent DRM…

      Oh – and we all get to re-purchase our own crap again and again and again….. Every time the standard changes…

  6. To me this is the same as doing away with the serial and parallel ports on computers and replacing it with USB. I WANT MY SERIAL AND PARALLEL PORTS BACK! This puts a whole level of complexity and cost for just listening to audio.

        1. The relative bulk of the D sub connectors is why they disappeared from laptops way earlier than they did from desktops. USB to serial adapters are the suggested solution, just avoid those dirt cheap Ebay specials as they tend to be buggy.

          Rest assured, there’s a lot of use for serial ports in embedded system development so you don’t have to worry about the standard disappearing anytime soon. Not so for parallel ports that are really only used for keeping some obscure old hardware running.

        2. There are plenty of new laptops you can buy today that have serial ports, and even some offer real hardware parallel ports through the docking station. Companies like Panasonic, motorola, getac, and dell (avoid at all costs) all have offerings with serial and other legacy ports.

    1. Me too, have been wondering how hard it would be to connect to the internal LPC bus (essentially a fast ISA bus but requiring fewer connectors) with a low-power FPGA and handle serial/parallel emulation and perhaps even emulation of odd hardware (Gravis Ultrasound?). Should work in theory however finding the LPC bus can be hard…

      1. Actually, if it’s got PS/2 KB and/or mouse connector, check out the multi I/O chip than handles that and you might be able to break ports out from it.

        Got an acer for free last week, it’s legacy chip which handles BIOS KB access and stuff has gone full retard, and I might look at cobbling a “classic” chip in it’s place, by which time I’ll probably know way too much about LPC.

      2. You can’t really emulate parallel ports unless you know the specific application. They have been used and abused by so many different products that bit-bang their own protocols, unless you are hooking up a printer or something similar you’re probably out of luck.

  7. I agree with all of these guys. I have a Bluetooth headset, and have killed a couple just from a light amount of sweat. I don’t use the Bluetooth when I’m mowing the lawn, I use a cheap $2 pair of earbuds because over the roar of the mower, sound quality doesn’t matter. I’ve never had the issues described in the article with any phone I have ever owned. Maybe Apple just doesn’t know how to do it right?

    1. IMO they don’t. I always hated apple earbuds. They always fell out, they never got me any of the bass which was part of the music. To me, they sound similar to greeting cards. Just plain awful. And now they’ve build wireless earbuds that aren’t even one unit. And they’re basically build in the same form as all the previous apple earbuds. The same form that falls out of your ear as soon as you make the slightest move.

      I’m not saying wireless is a bad idea. But the way it is now it is bad. 2,4GHz wireless connection, bunch of electronics and a battery stuffed in a tiny package? Really?

    2. Apple and everyone else was shopping for the cheapest device possible to cut costs. No one was smart enough to demand Mil Spec hardware in certain places. A Mil Spec 3.5 mm jack would last a lifetime.

      Cheapest and fastest is not always bestest. Many companies have proved this over and over. I’m not in love with the 3.5 mm jack, but if I had a choice when buying something, I would take the product with that jack. (For input or output.)

      1. I use a $10 pair of Skullcandy earbuds and a $1 set of noise blocking earmuffs from Dollar Free when I’m doing yard work. I can run my audio at a lower volume, get much better audio quality and bass response, and they’re tremendously more comfortable than anything Apple has ever bundled with their products. I still have my Apple earbuds from my iPod Nano 1st Gen, and they were virtually unwearable (and sounded tinny as hell) until I got a set of Griffin iBooms for them. They clipped over the casing and converted them to in-ear (and improved the low-end response). Unfortunately, they didn’t fit later versions of the Apple earbuds. When the Earpods came out, they were a huge disappointment. Just as uncomfortable, leak even more sound, and are just as tinny.

        The best set I’ve ever had were a set of Creative Labs passive noise-cancelling in-ear that came as a pack-in with my XPS M1530 notebook back in 2008. They sounded great, and lasted a good 7 years until the left driver quit working. They don’t make them, anymore, or I’d probably buy two or three more sets.

        My wife has some Bose ME2i’s, which cost about $130. They sound almost as bad as the Apple earbuds, though at least they’re comfortable. They leak sound like nobody’s business (I can hear her audiobook over the car radio), and the failure rate rivals a Volkswagen emissions test. The first pair failed just after the warranty ran out, and she bought ANOTHER set. Fortunately, those failed during the warranty, and we got them exchanged. The replacement set failed, (again under warranty), and exchanged again. The insulation breaks down on the wiring and cracks, then the copper wire corroded and shorts. Total crap, and $130, to boot.

        I’ll stick with my $10 Skull Candy earbuds for now. They’ve outlasted two pairs of her Bose.

        As for Wired/Wireless? All of my Bluetooth headphones and receivers are laggy, suffer from frequent dropouts, random disconnects, occasional impairing, and mediocre audio quality. I have an iPhone 6 (work phone) and an LG G4 (personal) and tried to stream audio to my Pioneer AVH-P8400BH receiver in my car. I always end up using a 3.5mm cable. Bluetooth just doesn’t cut it for quality, reliable audio. I leave Bluetooth for my phone calls and my OBDII port interface.pr

    3. Be careful with the lawnmower earbuds, you’re probably turning the volume up to hearing-damage levels. I recommend either headphones over foam earplugs (a little muffled but comfortable) or earmuffs over earbuds (higher quality but the muffs push the earbuds).

    4. If you like this try hearing protection headphones and a pair of military CEP through-marshmallow earplug transducers. I pay the aviation price but did a (DIY) install on my David Clarks because I need them to hear the tower(non-English too) and ATC in a GA aircraft, but damn skippy they are nice and really block engine noise. I sometimes pipe in music on low to the intercom circuit via a 3.5mm jack to my phone(back on topic!!) and I just yank the cord if I need to hear the radio. I went with the navy jack-for-both-ears style so there is redundancy, but the army single plug is probably an easier install in a flight helmet or headset(or just a pair of hearing protectors). I see no reason that a DIY CEP for use on the ground could not be constructed, I have even seen a guide or two on instructables or another site while I was shopping for the mil-grade headset side parts(vs paying the mil spec/aviation install kit price for them).

    5. I also use a cheap earbud set attached to a cheap mp3 player for moving (I made a cool Altoids case for it to protect it from moisture). My theory is there is a lot less swearing when you kill cheap buds or mp3 player, as opposed to a smart phone.

      I also have enough issues keeping my phone charged, dating back to the days of flip phones. Bluetooth is great, but I had the same issue of them being dead or on their last legs when needing them the most.

        1. @Stepback You are an idiot, spellcheck doesnt work in this instance, since you ever heard of an object called a ‘segway’ You that much of an imbecile? To not know this? Do your research or actually know something about life, since SEGWAYS have been around for over almost 2 decades and still around now since since the ‘hoverboard’ they made, you should know about the batteries blowing up like the Note 7’s. If you dont know that one you need to do more research since it has been on almost every news station since the hoverboard problem and comparisons etc.

          Do you research before opening your mouth and correcting someone.
          http://www.segway.com/
          Perfect example… I didnt even google it, just typed it into my browser.

          Gerrit at least tried, and he even SPELLED IT CORRECTLY! Although wrong word, spelling was spot on! I chuckled at it, I thought it was going to be a segue into a ‘segway’ actually(to bad that didnt happen ;P )

          So again keep your mouth shut, you need to learn how to use a ‘spellcheck’ and know what it does and doesnt do.

          1. segue: (seɡ-wā)
            verb: Move without interruption
            noun: An uninterrupted transition
            Spellcheck dictionary status: present

            Segway: (seɡ-wā)
            Proper noun
            Spellcheck dictionary status: not present

  8. As others said above, but I will try to be more blunt: Death To The Wireless, Long Live 3.5mm Audio Jack! And 6.35 mm. May they live long after the last Apple product is forgotten.

    1. I have to agree with you. My bluetooth is only good if the two devices are within line of sight of each other only penetrating clothing. If my earbud and phone are on opposite sides of my body, forget it, the signal gets choppy and is just plain awful. If I want reliability, I go with my wired headset. If I want convenience, and close proximity, I go bluetooth. Until the bluetooth technology gets better, I can’t trust it.

  9. With increasing bandwidth of Bluetooth headphones, how many people in a bus can actually use them at the same time? When was it the last time the battery in your wired headphones died?

    1. Cellphones don’t give you cancer. Microwave ovens don’t give you cancer. Radios don’t give you cancer. The worst any of these frequencies can do is give you a nasty burn. The maximum power allowed under any BT classification is only 100 mW. So the likelyhood of that happening are exceptionally low. You’re more likely to get injured by the lithium battery powering your headset than by any EMF it’s putting out, intentional or otherwise.

      E = Hv
      1.623 E-27 J (1.015 E-8 eV)= 6.626 E-34 * 2.45 E6

      It takes 4.13 E5 J to break a carbon hydrogen bond. Microwaves simply don’t have the energy to break bonds. By about 32 orders of magnitude.
      You can’t even make oxygen radicals with microwaves alone, that takes greater than 10eV but your microwave or cellphone is only putting out waves with 1E-8 eV. About a billion times too weak.

      1. Here’s some information[1] that says otherwise, that there is some effect. Women who carried cellphones in their bras developed tumors underneath the phone area.

        You can only disprove certain mechanisms of how harm can be caused, but since human being is an electro-chemical entity that’s working on the smallest scales (latest information suggests even quantum effects are used in biological systems) we can’t even begin to comprehend all the consequences of the certain environmental factors, especially on a long term scale.

        http://www.naturalnews.com/043070_cell_phone_radiation_breast_cancer_electromagnetic_fields.html

        1. 4 women got one of the most common cancers in existence (12% of US women are expected to battle it at some point in their lives) but sure, blame it on technology. They slip in the stat about linked genes to imply that the phones cause cancer hoping you won’t notice that the other 50% of cases of breast cancer also don’t have these genes.
          Cancer is caused by mutation, the only way to reliably mutate genes is through ionizing radiation, which cell phones don’t have.
          There is no case here, only pseudoscience.

          1. @StndCpp
            Reliably is the key word here. Transcription errors aren’t reliable. Ionizing radiation will 100% damage DNA to the point of inducing cancer given the right energy level or dose.

          2. Yes, I now see your point. For sure cellphones, microwave ovens and radios don’t cause reliable mutations-cancer, otherwise that would have already been demonstrated trough statistical studies. I personally don’t think that any of the electronics cited pose any harm.
            But, in my opinion at this point science cannot say with 100.00% certainty that it is impossible for these devices to have some kind of unstudied relations with cancer, slightly increasing the probability-risk of getting cancer. Living beings are very complex systems, very poorly understood at low level at the time being. For example, many medical drugs on the market have totally or partially unknown mechanisms of action, including some that can be bought without prescription. Science simply can’t yet understand all interactions that exist with the external factors.
            Bottom line is that in my opinion these devices are statically very safe and we should trust and use them, but we cannot be totally sure they can’t pose health risks that will only be discovered in the future, once each and every mechanism involved is fully understood.

          3. ” Ionizing radiation will 100% damage DNA to the point of inducing cancer given the right energy level or dose.”

            It’s still down to luck, because cells have repair mechanisms against ionizing radiation, and cancer needs a lot of very particular things to go wrong in the cell to develop into cancer.

            Most of the time the ionizing radiation simply kills the cell. The next likely outcome is that the genome gets repaired and the cell limps on to the end of its life. The next likely outcome is that the genome isn’t repaired and the cell starts to misbehave, which triggers a suicide switch and the cell dies. The next possible outcome is that the genome is left damaged and the suicide switch doesn’t work, so the abnormally behaving cell gets eaten by the immune system.

            If the cell doesn’t immediately die, doesn’t repair the damage done, doesn’t suicide, somehow dodges the immune system, it still has to successfully replicate with its damaged chromosomes. Most of the time it fails, or just doesn’t replicate very aggressively and remains a benign growth.

            A cell becoming aggressively cancerous from ionizing radiation is like winning the lottery several times over, which is why the body can take tremendous amounts of ionizing radiation. 20 mSv per year for 50 years only increases your cancer risk by 5.5% which is what you’d get living inside the Fukushima exclusion zone.

        2. How many people who carried phones in their bra didn’t get cancer? And how many who didn’t carry them in their bra still coincidentally got cancer in the same spot.

          A 4 person non-random study is not just cherrypicking, it’s purely anecdotal. That’s not how we report real science.

  10. For me having to go to a Bluetooth headset for music would mean one more thing to have to charge up daily. While I do admit to having one, I only use it for answering phone calls when I’m commuting to work. Otherwise, I use the good old headphones I think I’ve had for over 10 years. It’s bad enough I have to charge my phone, watch, tablet, and portable battery (to charge all the other stuff on the train) every night, I don’t need yet another item to charge. Not to mention that my headphones work perfectly fine, and they cost me less than $5 (anyone seen the price on a ‘cheap’ Bluetooth headset?) Never mind that Apple seems to yet again trying to force their standard on the world, sometimes if something just works then don’t mess with it….

    1. This. Just another damn battery to worry about, and charge, and replace. At ruinous cost, I might add, as far as Fapple is concerned. Just another consumable to part you from your cash. Never mind the ‘environmental impact’ of manufacturing and disposing of all those ‘Airpods’ that die and have to get replaced.

      Then there is the wireless problem. A see it a lot in here “I moved and the first thing I did was run Ethernet cables!” kind of comments. Sadly, some of those same people are the ones telling us that Fapple did a good thing.

  11. I think that the author here is speaking for himself and only those who think exactly as he does. He has excluded those who use headphones with devices other than cell phones, those who cannot afford to buy professional quality headphones or even a Bluetooth set, those who still use magnetic hard drives, those who still use Ethernet, those who watch over-the-air television, those who still listen to CDs and other audio formats, and those who still use RS-232.
    Since there are still large numbers of people around the world still using these technologies to good effect, even the RS-232 port (I use one to control my ham radio), I wonder just who it is he is aiming this article at.
    I suspect it is aimed at the people who use their cell phones as music devices, which is obviously a large number of people, but it is not everyone. Not even close.

    The 1/8″ audio jack still has many good uses. It’s not dead yet, and should not be killed off just because one subset of the population has found a great way to break theirs and doesn’t want to be bothered to break out the soldering iron to fix them.

      1. Security systems, phone systems, nursecall, access control, lift control, cctv, intercoms…. probably half a dozen other things I’ve had to use rs232 to interface with.

        While some things are moving on with USB and Network programming, not everything is there yet.

    1. But, my phone is my musical device, and prior to that I had other devices, none of which had the faults he describes. His fault seems to actually like with bad wiring on the cable rather than the device (at least if he gets the failure the same way 90% of the world does) and not the actual port.

      However, arguing for better headphones wouldn’t make much of an article. :/

        1. Wow that’s some next level hypocriticism, writing an entire extensive article about how everyone should ditch the audio wires and go wireless, on a website devoted to diy hacks/builds/fixes then saying you went and replaced the wire on your own wired headphones when it broke!

    2. It was pretty clear to me that the author was mainly addressing the mobile user. Let’s face it, that’s where 90% of consumer headphones/earbuds are used. The wire is a nuisance there, though I personally think having another device to charge is a bigger nuisance.

      Bluetooth or its successor will have to get better before I would ever completely ditch wired headphones.

  12. >>The fact that you can contribute to the complete devastation of our planet by buying them cheaply by the pound instead of being a grown adult who can hold on and take care of a quality item?

    I’ve never bought a $1-200 set of earbuds (and probably won’t). I have however bought more than a couple pairs in the $30-50 range and have yet to find a pair that will last much more than a year of daily use. Whether it’s in a backpack side pocket, front pants pocket in a protective bag, or just loose in your pocket Every pair has suffered the same fate of having the ear bud fail. Sometimes the speaker pops out of the housing, sometimes the wire gets fatigued.
    Either way these are hardly bottom of the barrel construction & should hold up better. As you mentioned sound quality is wasted when you’re sitting in the airport or at the gym, and if they’re gonna break in a year of daily use: Why would anyone buy $100 earbuds?

    Obviously BT doesn’t have the same problem with wire fatigue, but now you’re fighting battery chemistry. 2 years down the line the battery won’t hold a charge for your cardio session and your ‘phones again find themselves on the way to the e-waste pile in Guiyu.
    Sure as you can find $0.50 Headphones you’ll be able to find their BT equivalent that have even worse battery performance. That’s great for Toyota and Tesla stocks since they own some of the Lithium salt flats in South America, probably not so great for the environment and small villages between the salt flats & ‘civilization’.

    1. wire fatigue? i had my headphones for more than 17 years now (heavy use) and never had any problems with the cable except for the fact that the plastic coating looks like shit now…..

        1. Sony MDR-V700 they were quite pricey at the time but man i love them and they still work nicely but they start to fall apart and look terrible wish i knew that before they got discontinued i would have bought a spare the newer version just aren’t as good or as big for that matter over ear vs all of the new once are on ear :(

          1. Dang. Yea, the coil wire seems to be where it’s at in the professional world and for long life. I’ve been pretty happy with my AKG Y50s. They’ve been extremely durable so far and the cable is completely replaceable at the cup. The branding is obnoxious though.

        2. I have a pair of AKG K240s that are at least 15 years old, because i bought them used around 2006. The molded strain relief at the jack has split off but the connector and wire are still fine, not grotty or disintegrating. The earpads look worn, but I wash’em once a year and they’re still soft and pliable.

      1. General wear & tear at the earbud connection. Sometimes the coating cracks, others the connection falls off the speaker. Had a couple that broke at the Y split for each earbud.

        How do you carry your headphones? And what style are they? Earbuds, big audiophile monsters, over the head earbuds, behind the head?

        I accept that ear buds may not be the most durable form factor, but they should last more than a few years with average handling. It’s not like I use them to jury rig my mizzen mast using the knots depicted above.
        Lightly wound into a coil, or in a dedicated pouch which goes into a pocket of some form or another.

        1. i have the big over ear style i don’t know if the term audiophile qualifies but the are big and sound amazing to me they were marketed for studio and DJ use. i think you really get what you paid for or at least in my case that was true. usually the more expensive headphone just have more robust materials and builds. the cord on my headphones is pretty thick compared to you standard buds maybe that’s why i didn’t have problems or maybe i was just lucky.

          1. I suspect style has as much to do with it as construction. Ear buds have a tendency to grab the wires which adds strain to the connections. Head phones with a head band make that scenario harder to reproduce.

  13. The main problem with wireless headphones is that they have to be powered separately, both for the radio and for the amplifiers. They also use unnecessarily complicated and nontransparent technology (Bluetooth or whatever) that is much harder for the common end-user to handle or understand. You also cannot split the signal easily. But all the above is probably the reasons that Apple decided to get rid of it. Next phase: yet another proprietary bullshit protocol or maybe “audio out as a service”.

  14. “I can’t think of a single good reason not to immediately start dumping the headphone jack.”

    Batteries are a reason. Seriously, wired headphones do not require batteries, a charging dock or any of that garbage. The only thing they need is to be plugged into the device you want to listen to.

    If you couldn’t think of that Gerrit, then there isn’t a lot of hope for you. -_-

      1. That and a dollar will buy you a cup of coffee. You apparently haven’t been paying attention to the rate of improvement in commercially available battery technology (hint: it sucks.)

        Rate of change aside, there’s another factor you’re not taking into account: increases in battery consumption are largely matching or outpacing increases in battery life. The 1908 Fritchle Model A Victoria featured about the same range as the 2010 Nissan Leaf. My old Nokia 3310 had a 1000 mAh battery and lasted a week or more on a charge, while my Nexus 5 has a 2300 mAh battery and lasts 14 hours on a charge if I’m lucky. Heck, my Motorola Backflip had a 1400 mAh battery, did everything my Nexus 5 does, and still lasted about 14 hours on a charge.

        1. The Fritchle Model A didn’t weigh anything and had a top speed of 25mph. It was a two seat golf cart. The leaf has A/C and can go 80mph with four passengers and luggage. That’s a terrible comparison.

          The Nokia 3310 was a phone. That’s it. Your Nexus 5 is a laptop that can call. Again, two entirely different devices.

          You compare a significantly less powerful old model to a newer more powerful model. They have the same charge. Isn’t that clear proof that the battery technology and technology has advanced meaningfully?

          1. You missed the point, it’s right there the first sentence of the paragraph:
            “increases in battery consumption are largely matching or outpacing increases in battery life”

  15. the technology for perfect wireless audio just isn’t here yet, headphones are too small to accommodate a meaningful sized battery. Bluetooth maybe getting better but I still don’t think it’s quite there yet. I prefer small profile inner earphones when I am on the move, They have no chance of having room for a battery that will last.
    The headphone jack is old tech but it “just works” it’s simple, it uses little power, You only have to charge one device (your phone, mp3 payer). Apple are running out of idea’s fast, They intentionally underspec their devices so they can sell upgraded phones in a few years time. I have a funny feeling we will see a return of the headphone jack on apple products in the near future.

  16. “When was the last time it was common to hook an Ethernet cable into a laptop? Who would do this when we can get all the bandwidth we want reliably over a wireless connection. ”

    Today. Me. Wires are good. Wires are simple. And I was taught to keep things simple. Even the cheap stuff practically never breaks unless you do stupid stuff to it. And it survives a lot of stupidity (dipping in the pool, washing machines, etc). And tangled wires? Take care, and they won’t tangle. Just take some care of your stuff.

    Pocket fluff? Seriously? I’ve never had that problem starting with my walkman 35 years ago, and never has any of the walkmen, portable cd players or mp3 sticks had that problem. Not even once.

    Give me wires. Give me lines. Give me open ports, ready to do my bidding. I want simple serial and parallel ports and analog audio lines. I want accessibility. And I want my headphones to work without a battery.

    All this deprecation is mostly a plot to obsolete hardware in order to sell more new, shiny and already-obsolete-next-year stuff.

    I have a pocket radio from the late 60ies. It has a 3.5mm Audio Jack. And it still works with my brand new headphones. Surprise, surprise.

    Try to find something to connect your Apple stuff to in 50 years, and we’ll talk.

    1. “Give me wires. Give me lines. Give me open ports, ready to do my bidding. I want simple serial and parallel ports and analog audio lines. I want accessibility. And I want my headphones to work without a battery.”

      Is that a manifesto brewing? Sign me up :)

  17. I do love my short wire earbuds and lapel clip A2DP bluethooth thing. But for most purposes except public transportation or walking/cycling(loosely fitted) I don’t need to use bluetooth or worry about another battery.
    At home and car I bluetooth to the big stereo or plug in a cable, otherwise if listening to an ebook, private music, or on the phone a regular 3.5mm earbud stet is far superior to worrying about the charge state of my bluetooth or scrubbing off a $70 gadget onto the street while paused and loosing it. I can rip a pair of earphones and just replace them for a few bucks. I want a damn choice, give me bluetooth AND 3.5mm TRRS.

  18. I am so glad I was not the only one that read this article and could not relate to any of these wired woes. The description of wired audio here reminds me of a funny infomercial. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future as the public spectrum fills up. It is already getting bad enough when I see 30+ wifi networks in my apartment, I wonder what will happen when those go from 3 devices each (laptop and 2 phones in an average apartment I would guess) to a half dozen or more IoT devices each.

  19. Two ways in which cable is superior:
    * There is no perceptible delay. Try watching TV with a bluetooth device, the delay varies between really bad and bad depending on the device spec.
    * There’s no interference. Ask any hearing-aid user and they’ll tell you just how awful (and expensive) any bluetooth (or other wireless interface) is for the current crop of devices. May be they’ll catch up one day, but for now they are second class citizens.

    1. +1
      I once tried editing video while wearing a BT headset. No matter what I did to correct the audio delay, it was persistently stuck at about 1/4 second behind the video. When I went to earbuds, I had no problem what so ever.

      1. Bluetooth was never designed for low-latency audio transmission in mind.
        Those wireless home speaker systems are often audio centric and not at all designed for providing the audio from a movie or film, OR they use their own proprietary standard and good chunk of RF band to keep fidelity up while negating the need for compression & decompression (which is the no1 source of latency)

        All around it’s a huge & messy situation where the solution is a messy hack of delaying video frames, but that’s gonna be shitty without some sort of latency feedback, which just further complicates it all (think microphone located around where the listeners heads typically are)

        It’s sorta the same problem with those ‘virtual surround’ sound-bars, in order to get a even decent result from then, you’d have to tweak it incessantly, where most people just give up and either return it or deal with mediocrity.

        Which this article advocates, mediocrity or overly complex and expensive.

  20. I’ve never understood the mindset of “This feature is not useful for me. It therefore must be eradicated from the Earth.” It’s an absurd mindset, really, indicative of a person unwilling or unable to imagine a use case outside their own bubble.

    I’ve never had the cord fraying issue of the author, and I’ve been using Walkmen from the 80’s, iPods since they were introduced in 2001 and iPhones since 2007. The waterproof issues also have never affected me (and besides my friend’s Samsung S7 has had two accidental dunks without issue, and that has a headphone jack.

    Sure, the author might like Bluetooth headphones more than wired for his use case, but statements like “it’s time for the 3.5mm legacy to go” are ridiculous.

  21. “keep it cost effective” and there’s your real culprit. It is entirely possible to use reliable mini-jack ports and connectors if you are willing to spend a few cents more. It’s the incessant cost cutting that ultimately results in crappy products.

  22. Dropping the 3.5mm audio jack for phones is probably a good idea. Dropping it for everything else is a bad idea. When you want to listen to music/netflix at work you’ll want a dedicated cable and not something that has to be recharged. Cables just make much more sense for people with dedicated work areas. Putting a hundred laptops on corporate wifi can get really messy. Wired ethernet is still the way to go. Or even better is a good mix of the two. Wired at your desk but wireless at meetings. I still use a wired keyboard/mouse for gaming at home.

    You say you don’t own an ethernet cable but if you have internet at your house you’ll definitely have some cable. You also still plug need to plug your phone (and now headphones) into a cable for charging. It’s not wireless turtles all the way down. Somewhere there is a wired turtle holding it all together.

  23. I can’t help but feeling like Apple was considering “what can we do to appear edgy and relevant while forcing user to buy more crap and make it cheaper for us to build”

  24. When this catches on, and it will, I’m willing to bet you’ll be back here ranting about DRM, planned obsolescence, weird compatibility problems and why you can’t have cheap “disposable” headphones as before and concluding that you wished there was something that just worked™

  25. Full agreement with those above….riding the wave just because its chic does not make it right or better…..plus when hackers start screwing with your bluetooth devices us old codgers who are plugged in wont have to suffer the indignity of listening to other peoples music or phone calls while on the train because we are hardwired with old circuit board connections.

  26. Wired headphones don’t need you to keep on top of the batteries being charged.
    They also don’t become scrap once the non-replacable battery dies in them.
    You grab a set, plug them into anything with audio on the market today and they just work.

    I have some bluetooth headphones for my mobile. I rarely use them because wired is just more convenient.
    Haven’t found a decent 3.5mm output to bluetooth transmitter so I still use an extension cord as have done for a couple of decades to get the TV sound around to my side of the bed.
    Plus wouldn’t want the batteries dying 80% through a film…

    Brought to you by someone who has a laptop under his sofa connected to a power cord and Ethernet cable, without a battery for using when I’m sitting in the the lounge. Pretty much used 50/50 with a server in my office.
    And a different laptop more portable laptop with a battery that I use out of the home.

    One size doesn’t suit all. Even if it suits you.
    Which is why I don’t buy apple.

  27. methinks you are trying to trash the 3.5mm jack with arguments that apply at least as well to the Lightening connector, and sometimes better.

    Here’s an argument against Lightening – digital signals do not tolerate noisy connections. Connectors get dirty, and they get corroded. Imagine a digital signal (with at least 2 or 3 digital lines (I2S?)) having to always cross that connector, and still correctly generate sensible (not clean) audio. That connection needs to be perfect, all the time, just to be functional.

  28. Here’s a scenario that I’ve experienced a few times – imagine using a portable speaker at a party/gathering.

    I bring my speaker and play some songs, but a friend of mine wants to play something next. No problem. Let me just unpair my phone first, then I’ll hold down the pair button on the speaker, then my friend can search for the speaker. Oh it didn’t show up, let’s try that again. After some fuss it finally connects.

    If I use 3.5mm jacks instead, I simply unplug my phone and pass the cable to my friend. Much better

  29. While Bluetooth wireless has improved over the years, it is still a bad solution. The 3.5mm headphone jack in my nexus 5 works fine after almost 3 years. The jack in my Galaxy nexus (even older) likewise works fine. I have broken numerous headsets from clumsily snagging wires, but the Bluetooth headsets are honestly more fragile, prone to dropout, more expensive, and ‘yet another device competing for charging’.

  30. I like wireless headphones kinda but the real problem is that how do you know if the amp there is good? You can’t really test it anywhere until you buy it and get home. Also headphones really need fast charging.

    I can’t wait until they apply some stupid DRM so that you need expensive headphones to listen something or they device lock the headphones.

  31. I, for one, would prefer to keep the 3.5mm jack. I don’t mind if they want to *also* offer an additional standard to work wirelessly. But I like having the ability to “mix-n-match” my components and devices depending upon my need. Audio jacks have been around for a very long time and I have a lot of equipment that uses it, and many patch cords, etc. to plug it all together. As soon as it goes wireless-only, I lose all my ability to use things the way *I* want to, for whatever *MY* purposes are.

    Screw Tim Cook, I’m keeping my 3.5 inch jack!

  32. Quit pissing on us and calling it rain!! This is very simple: The ability to simultaneously charge and listen to the device at the same time is not mutable. Any design which does not allow this is incorrect. Period.

    Waterproofing is not something I require. I accidentally dropped my iPhone 4s from waist height onto the street during a rainstorm and it landed in a puddle deep enough to completely submerge it. It was fine. If you really like wireless headphones and want better waterproofing – fine, buy them and stick a rubber plug in the jack. Personally I am not interested AT ALL in ANY solution that involves another battery to recharge. The cable on my Shure headphones is removable and third party replacements are cheap. I do it about once a year. However I OFTEN forget to charge my phone and need to plug it in while listening. There is NO WAY that I will trade the latter just to eliminate the former. I could MAYBE deal with the lightning to 3.5mm dongle if there was either wireless charging or a second lightning port but I WILL NOT deal with a splitter.

  33. “historic kludge of hack upon hack” Are we talking about the audio jack or USB here? USB1, USB 1.1, USB2, USB3, Full Speed, High Speed, A, B, mini, micro, whatever the USB3 connector is called, …

    So instead of carrying a cable around with me, I now have to have a USB hub, cable for it, wall wart for it, .a USB to Ethernet dongle, … all so some marketing weenie can claim their laptop is 0.1mm thinner than some other marketing weenie’s offering.

    Give me back my RJ45 and DB-9!

        1. no, no, and no!
          ‘RJ45’ calls up a connector that is not the same as the 8P8C used for Ethernet
          2nd letter is shell size, you can have DA-15, DB-25, DE-9, DE-15 (amongst others)

  34. Everyone already said this but I’ll reiterate:

    I rather like wires. Signal, power, everything. They generally Just Work™ and when they don’t, I have solder and shrink tubing and glue. The problems highlighted here are exaggerated because someone is selling something. The same people could be taken to task for selling the same tech for the last XX years that they’re now trying to deprecate, as if it was definitely the best thing but suddenly it’s definitely the worst.

    I rather dislike wireless things. It took me many extra years to get used to WiFi but I still use Ethernet on everything I can except the laptop. I still use the laptop’s ethernet– to a ‘pegasus’ USB adapter on the Zaurus. Why? because the operating systems already have drivers for the chips so they Just Work™ and there is no user-space connection management software to fight with– it’s simple, on more levels. Does anyone remember WEP? It stands for “wired equivalent privacy”. As in, having a wire with both ends in your control is essentially as secure from eavesdropping as you could ever hope, and they were trying and claiming (but failed) to achieve the same with early wireless networks. Has anyone learned anything since then?

    1. Seconded. Also, show me a computer gamer who’s thinks gaming on wifi works well, and I’ll show you a damn dirty liar. Wireless sucks when it comes to latency, doubly so when the area is clogged with everyone else’s wireless signals.

  35. Poor guy, what will happen when the battery of his phone will die as the phone was silently flashing the firmware of his radiative ear buds ? will he end up tapping the analog audio cable (horror) to bypass the faulty controller ? Hmm, duct tape Bluetooth …

    1. Because taking a feature considered to be mandatory and making it optional with a adapter even when said feature is (and “I will eat my hat if it turns out to be false” always will be) is a greeaaaat idea…

  36. Great, one more thing that gets tossed in a few years because the battery is nigh-impossible to replace. One more thing I have to carry a cord around to charge. One more layer of compression on my audio. One more thing cluttering up license-free RF bands. One more thing that goes obsolete every time standards change.

    I had a phone that used a dongle for headphones, it was endlessly annoying and have no desire to ever go back.

    Sure, there is a use case for wireless headsets. I bought one to do voice calls and I ended up getting put in a drawer and never used again because the audio quality drops to hell when you do duplex audio.

  37. I’m a bit unclear on why the author believes that a 3.5mm jack can not be entirely waterproof? there is is no need for any unsealed connection between the hole the plug fits into, and the rest of the system. corrosion in the connector itself? wrong metal.

    sure saying , hey buddy just drill a hole in it is good for editorial, but that is not how actual designers would work it is just a way to say this is obviously a dumb idea, you can mold it in place with the rest of the body (just the way the 3.5mm socket is made for instance.

    it’ll be interesting to see if they start making them DRM’d with a non standard audio protocol, because it is “better”

      1. My iPhone Catalyst case is waterproof, as is the accessory mini-jack cable that I then can plug my standard mini-jack into when its fitted. I use this set-up on my boat (in seawater) all the time. The accessory cable is 6″ long, and its male end fits the silicon case perfectly and I can attest it’s waterproof. $15.

    1. Waterproofing is not that hard. It’s just most jacks have a hole all the way way through. Here is a cross section of water proof jack. The whole water proofing is just marketing bunk, by apple. It’s not an issue.

      Here is just a normal jack notice the back is not solid plastic. Instead it’s just a folded over piece of metal. There’s also hardly a size difference.

      1. One last thing to note. A 3.5mm jack being round does not have to deal with torsional forces like USB C or Apples lighting connector which again makes waterproofing easier.

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