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.


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.


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.


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.

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

  1. I don’t know why this of all articles I’ve read on Hackaday prompted me to stop lurking and comment, but I think it’s because many of the responses to this article are as emotional and reductive in their defense of the audio jack as they claim the author is in his argument against it. To be clear, I don’t like Bluetooth headphones because I hate having to recharge them, the ones I bought have terrible battery life so they’ve crapped out in the middle of conference calls, and it’s still kind of a pain to swap them between devices. The lack of a headphone jack is the primary thing that disinclines me from upgrading to an iPhone 7. That being said, the author does raise a couple of interesting points that are worth discussion beyond my (and our collective) prejudice. For instance, if you’ve ever worked in mobile device support or repair you know that while the most common hardware issue you’ll encounter is unquestionably broken glass, you also see a lot of audio jack issues for the reasons the author mentions: continual physical stress breaks solder connections and that gaping hole in the outer case of your device is an open invitation to dust, lint, and moisture. Just because you’ve never had to dig a ball of lint out of a customer’s audio jack to get their headphones working again doesn’t mean it’s not a real issue that has dollar costs attached to it. I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that dropping the audio jack has far less to do with “courage” than a corporate decision that they just don’t want to eat the cost of those parts and repairs anymore. Further, while we personally like that audio jacks are never going to change there is a lot of room for innovation in Bluetooth audio technology, which I would hope would warrant more discussion among this crowd – I certainly don’t know much about it and I come to this site for comments that expand on the articles. Additionally, we’ve got the chicken and egg situation here – for a lot of us Bluetooth headphones suck, but part of the issue here is that it’s never really been a compelling or large enough market up to this point so audio manufacturers haven’t had a compelling reason to invest the R&D time and effort in improving them. Like it or not, and remember please that I don’t, Apple’s move is going to shift that perception and – hopefully – audio manufacturers will focus on improving battery life, sound quality, effective distance, and the ability to operate properly in an enclosed environment (like a subway car) where everyone is trying to use Bluetooth at the same time. Finally, ditching the audio jack doesn’t just mean Bluetooth rules the day – audio can be delivered over wires via USB and lightning, and there are other wireless solutions out there as well that might not suffer the same drawbacks – and the absence of the physical audio jack will hopefully spur innovation in those areas as well. I think that’s ultimately worth it.

    1. “but part of the issue here is that it’s never really been a compelling or large enough market up to this point so audio manufacturers haven’t had a compelling reason to invest the R&D time and effort in improving them. ”

      So a billion or so Bluetooth capable smartphones isn’t compelling enough for the headphone manufacturers to produce a quality Bluetooth offering that people would choose to buy? If that market size isn’t enough incentive, then I don’t believe they’ll suddenly start investing when we’re all FORCED to buy their current offerings.

      No, I give them more credit than that. I believe inherent difficulties in wireless that’s keeping them from developing a compelling product that we’d WANT to switch to.

    2. Same here I usually leave BT off when it’s not needed for security and battery life reasons.
      Another issue with BT headsets is they also have batteries which need recharged and the batteries can fail.
      A wire headphone doesn’t create any security problems, doesn’t need recharged, and doesn’t increase the battery drain on my phone’s battery when it’s not in use.
      This story is pure click bait.
      It is bad and the author should feel bad.

  2. Ah, and I thought Hackaday did not go in for click-bait.

    The reality is that BT headsets have been around for years and the public hasn’t bought them in any significant numbers because they’re more trouble that they’re worth. Apple made this move to force the unwilling to buy their $160 BT headsets or similar overpriced models from Beats, which they own.

    There are also invariably security issues that exist with wireless that do not exist with wired.

  3. Oh just fantastic… One more thing to clutter up the license free RF bands… Dimmable LED lights do arguably more damage because of the QRM, but still, this seems like making a spherical wheel – Sure, it does have some great advantages and would be a massive help in certain situations, but for the everyday user, the tried and true circle will work more reliably.

  4. Don’t know why so much big fuss over the jack. Yes there is always place for improvement, like making it somehow connect using magnets like apple’s charging port. But when it comes to wireless there’s a lot to consider. Like the price, good wireless headphones, earplugs go way over 100$, its easy to loose them, depending where its being used there could be interference, incompatibility with many other gadgets/older gadgets, availability to buy them….
    Not to mention that for someone who travels a lot / day, there wouldn’t be anything more frustrating than running out of power not in your phone but your buds.

    Also with the availability of these devices increasing, cheap clones from china will flood the market. Now i understand many can’t understand the potential hazard of having a lipo in your ear, until you see what happens when you make a hole in one. Even if chances are small, there’s always a risk for some malfunction to set it on fire, look at note7….

    There are many places i would rather have wireless earbuds, but the versatility of 3.5jack doesn’t match even close with wireless.

  5. Getting rid of the audio plug was a good thing for apple. Now on to getting rid of the rest of the iphone. I used to collect macs and newton and was greatly disappointed by the iphone/pad scheme and user restrictions.

  6. Two things:
    1) apple deciding something silly is not reason for anyone to change.
    2) if you’re going to get rid of a shitty connector, micro-usb has been the worst offender since before it even came out. Mini was worlds better and that hasn’t changed with time.

    1. First, realize that if ‘they’ (industry?) get rid of a shitty connector it will likely be to replace it with something worse or just to remove some functionality all-together.

      Second, while I agree that mini was much more robust and micro really does suck durability-wise micro does have something big going for it. It has an ‘extra’ fifth pin. That pin is what allows it to do double duty as either host or slave.

      Then again, it also allows it to do tripple duty as an HDMI connection as well. And that really does suck because that means your phone which will only ever have one connector on it can be connected to either USB devices or to a monitor but never both! Ok.. there’s always USB + miracast but the delay and lack of reliability suck or there’s Chromecast + USB but Chromecast only works if you are on an external wifi network.

      1. well, I’ve seen usb-c, and it looks a bit better

        mini had the fifth pin and pioneered the usb-otg functionality

        the htc dream tried giving the mini port extra pins and allowing it to be backwards compatible with standard connectors, at the time this was to eliminate the headphone jack (yeah, this has been tried and abandoned before) but there’s no reason it wouldn’t work for MHL

  7. I like wireless headphones but there are a lot of other considerations here.

    1) Consider how many headphones there are in the world. Now consider each and every one having a lithium battery. Now consider the environmental impact of that. Something just need batteries and that’s fine (ie phones) but why be in such a rush to add it to things that really don’t need one everywhere? We don’t really know how to recycle the batteries we have already.

    2) Connecting a set of BT headphones is not a one button affair. It takes time, knowledge, multiple menus, and in the case of PCs it often takes drivers. In a busy schedule I don’t need more time taken up (eats in to my hackaday reading time!) Also, I can just plug my wired headphones in to my business computer for a conference call. Hard to do that when bluetooth drivers are locked down for security.

    3) BT headphones will never be as cheap as wired dumb ones because they require active circuitry, software, and antennas. This can be tough on lower income people. Its also a road for the likes of Apple to make bigger profit margins and take a cut of other companies innovation via their “mfi” certification costs. I’m not cool with them cutting in on others.

    4) Wireless congestion is bad and going to get worse if we keep cramming more wireless devices in our small pittance of spectrum we get from the FCC. Imagine how much worse this is going to get if everyone has bluetooth headphones every three feet.

  8. Dear Gerrit Coetzee (author of this item), your article really made me laugh and made me feel sorry for you in the same time. For some reason you really hate the 3.5mm jack, a beautiful piece of engineering that served many of us fine without any big problems. But for some reason this technology seems to complicated for you, if you treat your stuff nicely it will last for many many years. But if you don’t or even worse If you abuse it, it breaks down.

    For some reason you tend to believe that because it is impossible to make a simple connector (consisting of only a few simple parts) and therefore you conclude that the best solution would be a wireless one. You seem to forget that with hundreds of components (most of it hidden in an Integrated Circuit) and lot’s of software and a battery (which will in many cases be dead when you really needed it). Also the wireless transfer of data make you very vulnerable to your surroundings preventing you to connect or to create a stable or high quality signal.

    Do you honestly believe that all your problems will be solved when things are made more complicated?!?!
    Please get real. I honestly do not understand this negativity towards a technology that everyone uses and has proven itself to be reliable, functional and cheap.

    1. Yes. I honestly believe that in this case the wire and connector is a wonderful and simple engineering solution but a terrible solution for the user when considering the technology we have now. Most of the comments so far are expressive of pure mental laziness. “HOW DO I CHARGE AND LISTEN AT THE SAME TIME” “BUT THERE’S A DELAY” “WUT ABOUT BATTERIES?” So? Who cares? These are problems that can be solved by a simple concentrated application of intellect, will, and man hours. If we want to stop having trash in our world we need to cultivate discipline and more importantly a general sense of positivity towards everything. Progress in particular. We hold on to bad old ideas for no reason and discard good old ideas with equal abandon. We tell ourselves elaborate rational lies about why. Think carefully about everything from all aspects. Always look for another perspective different from your own. Define and evaluate an object outside of the narrow focus of your field. Yes, of course every engineer on the planet is going to weep for the connector. Myself included. Everyone else is going to find that they love it, or at least that they don’t want to go back to cords. That’s my prediction/opinion anyway.

      1. Dismissing users’ complaints as “laziness” and then turning around and saying that wires provide bad user experience seems a bit…misguided? “If it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid”, or KISS. The fact is, you’re advocating an increase in cost of at LEAST an order of magnitude. Anyone who’s tried to change or improve an existing product will tell you that the experience you deliver needs to be proportionate. Do you actually believe that today’s BT headphones provide an experience that is 10 times better than corded?

        Read that. Customers are already used to being able to use their headphones at any time, in any place. That’s a “Must-be” quality, and you do not screw with must-be qualities, they are the core function, and must be protected. Taking a time-out because you need to charge, or having to wait for days or go to a special store to replace them, instead of grabbing a $5 pair at a gas station isn’t acceptable. Invisible RF demons that make your phones not work under certain conditions are also not acceptable.

        Audio quality is a one-dimensional quality, and companies compete over it. BT phones fall short, as you point out.

        Not having tangles in the cord? That’s attractive. Nobody really expects cords to not be tangled if you put them in your pocket in a wad, and nobody expects the jack to tolerate the impact of a bowling ball. (by the way, 90 degree connectors exist, not everyone feels compelled to use the dumb apple ones)

  9. Question to the author of this article: what do you do for a living (or in you spare time)?
    You wrote:
    “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”

    Do you really consider yourself a hacker? Do you know what you are talking about when you are ranting about the poor 3.5mm jack? Who is Gerrit Coetzee that he is important enough to be given a podium to do his ranting against the “innocent” 3.5mm jack? I really do not like the negativity this article reflects and I do not consider this article Hackaday worthy for many reasons. Objectivity should be rule number one in writing articles of any kind for a website like this. So if it is possible to make a complaint about any article, then I officially like to complain about this article.

    1. I am a design engineer who designs industrial test equipment, consumer products, systems, and whatever else fits in my skillset for a living. I’m also a pretty good project manager. Regardless, this is literally my field. As for why I get to write? I suppose I sent in my application for the position on time and can manage my time well enough to write around 20-40k words a month on top of my regular endeavours? Perhaps luck?
      Also, please complain about any article, in detail. It is always allowed. Debate is a cornerstone of an educated society and the free flow of human thought.

  10. Wow. I’m calling it. This article is a TROLL!!!!!!

    Now I’ll feed it cause I can’t help myself.

    Most of these arguments against a headphone jack go back to not treating ones devices nicely. I still keep my cellphone in a clip-on holster thing rather than in a pocket. Yah, I know that went out of style 10 years ago. So what. I don’t like sitting on my keys or wallet. They fill my front pockets. Keeping a multi-hundred dollar piece of electronics in any pocket let alone sitting on it in your back pocket.. i don’t care that almost everyone does it. It’s stupid!

    Worst thing about wireless devices… they require power. Yeah, you aren’t going to argue your way around that one. I buy phones with removeable batteries and I always buy an extra plus the external charger. So.. if I’m walking around and my phone battery goes I probably have a swap. If I’m sitting down somewhere… I can plug it in. When your bluetooth headphones or earbud are dead… they are dead! There is no way around it.

    Actually.. I do have both a bluetooth earpiece and a pair of bluetooth headphones. But… I probably fall back to wired a couple of times a week at least due to low battery.

    And then there is the fact that this is Hack a Day. Want to build a circuit that connects to the audio of your cellphone? Want to use it as an audio frequency oscillator or oscilloscope? Want to use it for some form of soundmodem? You can do that with the headphone jack. Can you do that with Bluetooth? Maybe… I don’t know. I would hesitate to trust bluetooth not to create some sort of compression artifact that would mess that up. Not to mention that it’s just another parts cost and battery drain to add onto any given project.

    And besides… it’s only Apple that has eliminated the headphone jack. What is any maker doing with an iOS device anyway? To code for it you have to subscribe to their $100/year program minimum just to use the one and only development environment. And that environment btw is proprietary! And if you are more interested in the hardware side of things…. they don’t even support bluetooth serial profile! An iPhone is just a consumerist piece of garbage that can’t even run a piece of software not approved by daddy Apple! It’s expensive landfill, not maker kit.

    There… that troll should be well fed now.

  11. This article gave me aids ridden cancer.

    But yet again, the beautiful people who comment on this site have restored my faith in humanity.

    3.5mm jack and replacable batteries or GTFO

  12. i like the idea of wireless headphones. but not bluetooth. one thing i hate about bluetooth is how hard it is to switch over pairing to a new device. i can pull my headphones out of my still functional 5g ipod and plug them into my computer in a couple seconds. i dont have to do anything in software. ive yet to see a bluetooth stack handle this well. some devices (like a certain mouse i use on the raspi and my pc) i actually have to delete the pairing on the original device just to connect it to a new device. it takes significantly longer than just swapping jacks. i was really hoping wireless usb would become a thing.

    the only wireless bluetooth audio device i have is a headset for gaming use. the audio quality is good enough for a communications device. it has issues with volume though. you cant turn it up loud enough to hear what is being said without increasing the volume in 3 different places. they need better amps, and better dacs. the rest is speaker design. im not a big fan of every device having its own charger though. usb is kind of a stop gap, i cant help but its use as a charge cable being hackish in its own right. what i would like to see is wireless charging standards for very low power devices.

  13. When I see people with wired headphones, it looks like old fashioned and cumbersome.

    I bought bluetooth headphones and not going back to wired headphones anytime. 8h on playtime, good audio quality, ease of use. Can skip songs, change volume from the headphones directly..

    Apple really is on right tracks on this one, and I’m not trolling. Few years and you all see wired headphones old fashioned and cumbersome ..

  14. Boy what next we all should go back to Bell Labs black Rotary phones?

    I do not have a smart phone but a tablet. Bluetooth has a lot a flexibility for me. I can leave the tablet in lab and walk back to my office with them on. As for battery load, you all forgot with a 3.5mm headphones you need a power hunger power amp to drive them. By Bluetooth headphones battery is a separate power source from the tablet battery.

    1. if you need a power hungry amp to power your headphones… well then you must be deaf. The human ears do not need watts they need milliwatts do you really think that the energy wasted by bluetooth is negligible? That receiver must be on all the time (the transmitter only when required when really used) waiting for you to connect your wireless headset (or other devices)… it does that 24/7 not only when you listen to your music.
      So in short, how much energy do you really think that your headphones require and how much energy do you think the entire bluetooth link does?

  15. Personally I have so much EM noise at home because of all that wireless cr* that even wireless keyboard does not work properly over 1m from receiver. Buetooth hf is just hopeless. Someone can now start say that yes but I am at marginal position. Probably now I am. But there is catch. Wireless works only as far it is not common. When wireless headphones come more common then problems start be also more common. That over utilized 2.4Ghz band is just way too narrow to handle that all hf users move to use it. There is many ways to ruin your day and moving to wireless devices is one of them. Yes probably 3,5mm plug is end of its life but there is good standards as usb-c to replace it. But that was just again example why apple is cancer what hopefully some day get defeated before it ruins more users life.

  16. Christ this is a horribly opinionated article that goes straight against the open & hack-able nature articles on this side usually strives for.

    It’s like a circlejerk on, except in article form, it’s even worse than the one time one of the other writers claimed that quadcopters were drones even when they were of the “dumb” toy variety.

    You don’t clamor for the death of a open, flexible and easily implementable standard, you flip those off who do and show them how they’re contributing to a “fenced garden” electronics ecosystem that’s based on buy & throw away unless you put down stupid amounts of money, and even then you’ll have a hard time fixing it yourself when it breaks.

  17. I wear hearing aids that have Bluetooth functionality, so I can stream audio directly from my phone to my hearing aids. I can’t necessarily speak to the quality of the audio, but it seems just as good as having an audio source in the room (everything that I hear goes through digital filtering anyway). As someone who pretty much always has battery powered wireless headphones on, it is something that you just get used to, and the worry about battery life is no different then the range anxiety connected to electric vehicles. I have my hearing aids on 16+ hours per day and replace batteries every 3-4 days.

  18. I have used the 3.5 mini-jack and its big brother professionally for 30 years and never had one fail. I use Telos “Fujisans” on a phone and on my MacBook Pro daily since getting them; they have been around the world five or six times, etc. etc. I do not like Bluetooth in operation and I do not like its security.

    You wrote: “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.”

    I have never had this happen, and I have been using this tech with no special care since it was invented.

    1. And when the battery runs flat on their headphones they’ll be yanked rudely back into reality, because they forgot to charge them. Then they’ll get home and pick up their tablet and also find the battery nearly done, find some position to run it off the charger while propped up on the very same end with the charge cable buckled under and listen to the tiny built-in speaker. Mumble, mumble, mumble…

  19. Blurtooth cannot be improved beyond a point because of the bandwidth. There is a new standard that gets around this by making a wifi conection. OK, now there is enough bandwidth to play high def sound from my 2 gens old S5. However all of the rest of the problems and more still apply. The S5 doesn’t have that newest feature. Meanwhile, Blurtooth-don’t talk to me on the phone with it- I can’t hear you half the time. Wired does use a little power. Yeah, figure what is lost over >one ohm of wire. I’ve several headphones in a bin with bad cord. It’s hard to find good 4 cond wire with all the desired features to replace them.

    Jacks fail because of those llooonng plugs that stick straight out, which act as levers to break the jack. Even worse are those elephant trunk “strain” things making them longer. All mini plugs should be right angle or side exit cord type. For repair I cut the molded plastic off the plug core held in a vice. Solder new or shortened wire onto the spots on the plug core. Loop the wire into a knot and tie around the top of the core and seal with silicone into a small button with the wire leading out the side not to the top. The knot will take the strain. You will now have one more rubbered protect point on your phone. When I play music over my PA it’s high def or at least CD flac, after all I want to test the PA and put on a pro show. Then the belly dance troupe comes along with their phone full of an evening’s music. Same plug and different jack. I want to make a lithium powered box for my phone. It will have two plugs so two of us can hot mix, maybe more. These conections are at high impedance which meens you get a buzz when plug in, there should be about 100 ohms across each input so no pop and buzz pluging in. Two one hundred ohms in a Y with 2 cables and make your own party DJ plugin.

  20. I used analog wireless headphones in the 1990s. They were pretty good except for the interference.

    I used bluetooth digital wireless earphones and I can’t stand them. They always seem to be uncomfortable and I seem to be super sensitive to the artefacts of the digital audio compression because I think they make music sound distorted at any loudness level, and I can’t understand what others are saying in a phone call; it sounds as if all the consonants are replaced by a K. Ank ko makker how kunny kis kentence may kook, in real life ik jukt make khings koo diffikulk.

    I may have had to return my Note 7 but if Samsung ever stops putting headphone jacks in their barbecue lighters^w^w phones, I’ll have to switch to a different brand.

  21. There sort of hasn’t really been an improvement in BT sound quality…It’s the same codec A2DP specifies that’s been used for years. And having been a user of BT headsets for quite some time now, I’m actually concerned that sound quality will go downhill. There are two modes most of them operate in – headset profile, and A2DP. I’ve noticed, unsurprisingly, that headset profile is FAR more reliable, and rarely skips or disconnects. Why? It uses a hell of a lot less of the total bandwidth available to BT, and when there’s interference from, say, the 50 bluetooth headsets nearby you on a train, along with all the WiFi signals, you might have a raw bandwidth of 3Mbps, but realistically you can only use 10-100x less than that, due to overhead from packet collisions with other devices, frequency hopping, and all sorts of other overhead.

    So actually, I think as more and more people adopt bluetooth headsets, the overall sound quality and reliability will in fact go down…

    The other thing – honestly, all the improvement in bluetooth over the years has been better software support. It’s a horribly complex protocol, and most implementations have been exceptionally buggy and bad at handling poor connections. That’s also the biggest difficulty of A2DP which makes it actually have a far higher standard of sound quality than a normal codec – it needs to be able to gracefully handle intermittently lost packets, preferably without skipping, somehow, even with variable latency (because you never know if some dude nearby with bluetooth headsets is going to randomly hop to the same channel you’re on, and interfere for a fraction of a second). In many applications – particularly movie viewing – this is a pain in the arse, because you continually lose sync, and then regain sync with your screen. In the some of the worst implementations I’ve used, audio stretches when the packet rate goes down due to interference…and never compresses to catch back up, so you’re stuck with audio delayed a few seconds over the course of half an hour of watching, and the only solution is to reconnect the headset.

  22. Would be interested to try out more Bluetooth audio hardware; I installed a new car stereo in 2015 with 3.5mm auxiliary input and also Bluetooth, and the Bluetooth sound quality is poor. Unfortunately I haven’t done any proper testing and I hate talking like an audiophile but it sounds “lifeless”. I reckon it’s a poor codec killing the frequency response.

  23. Cable does not need a battery. I am using my player in work all day long. Most of wireless headphones have to short battery life for me. Not to mention that decen playing wireless headphones wil be pricey. My player have battery life 75h of music.So i charge it only once or twice per month. Yes it also have bluetooth but wireless headphones would be pain in the ass for me. Just because charging every day. BTW my Phillips walkman is now 18 years old and jack still works fine.

  24. What about using headphones on the airplane? As far as I remember in most airlines you cannot use devices that emit electromagnetic waves so next time I’ll see someone with iDevice and headphones on board of a plane I should probably concider them as potential treat and alarm the crew.

  25. But how will I listen in on political dissidents even when they turn their phones off? What of my tape drives? I’ve been downloading Crysis for 3 years over audio in and by god if they try to stop me–

  26. As a ham operator myself, and an old school programmer, I like fact my radios have a headphone jack a 1/4 jack on the Kenwood TS-430. Go to any GoodWill and you’ll find plenty of stuff from the 70’s etc. I take along a 1/4 to 3.5mm adapter to see if they work. If they do, I’m good to go. You just can’t beat the audio out of some of the stuff from the 70’s.
    Even the little 8 transistor radio from the 1960’s I had when I was a kid had an earphone jack. mono little white earphone
    that went in one ear. Were they clunky? Oh yeah, but the sound…..fantastic.

    1. I will also note one the best advantages to the 3.5mm to jack is the round shape which allows the connector to spin freely. This help deal with torsional strain one the quickest ways to damage a cable. Non-circular ports either put torsional strain on the port on the cable.

  27. Is there any way to block articles by a specific author? That Coetzee guy really starts to annoy me.
    Funny he should use earbuds at all tho: wasn´t he the one wearing ear protection when using the friggin coffee machine? I am sure there was an article by him a few months back where he said exactly that.

    1. Not that I know of. It’s pretty easy to see who writes an article though. I did write that, and I still do when I use the machine! Haha. I don’t use earbuds my ears are too big so they fall out :< Do with that information what you will, haha. I have a Bluetooth set of wraparounds I use for running, but my main pair is these, I really like them:

  28. Does the writer actually work with electronics? Or have a forebrain?

    You complain about holes in the case and it being a ‘non-serviceable port’ without noting that the usb port is a thousand times worse. You complain about the cables fraying without noting that usb… is a thousand times worse. Wireless is laggy and power hungry, requiring you to charge your headphones along with your device. I _have_ wireless headphones, I like them… but I always keep my wired ones around because A) They’re laggy and B) half the time they’re dead. And these are really, really nice wireless headphones.

    If we want digital audio, add a digital audio spec to the earphone jack and make them auto-detect digital audio capable headphones.

  29. One reason why wireless headsets are bull-hockey.
    And so is the whole ordeal of battery life of the mobile device running YET another radio on it,and the security and crap audio quality. {an aspiring hacker could hijack headsets and transmit subliminal messages thus hacking their minds[social engineering on a macro scale] to be coerced and cajoled} who knows?
    Why don’t we just admit it right now, Wireless headsets are unearthly expensive for cheap, badly made and unreliable tech.
    I’ve lived over 30 years with maybe 5 sets of headphones. All of which served me well until they either got destroyed outright like any wireless one would or got lost.[I got 3 now that are reliable and comfy]
    It’ll be interesting to see the next 2 generations of idiots pondering wtf the 3.5mm jack was used for… and how to hack a radio into the unit to make it “useful”.

  30. Not upgrading my iPhone 6S any time soon. As an audio engineer, the 3.5mm jack is important to me. Also as someone who appreciates good quality music that is recorded well, I can’t stand listening to music over the Bluetooth codec except in on-the-run usage to listen to a speech or something. Shame Apple! Your corporate greed in trying to lock people into your proprietary connector knows no bounds.

  31. What would be better than either the 1/8″ jack or wireless? A magnetic one. Three magnet contacts, flush mounted near one end on a side of the phone. Put three magnets on one side of a slim housing at the end of the headphone cable.

    Make it an un-patented, free, open design. So there’s your analog quality, free of strain, no extra batteries, no range limiting overcrowded radio bandwidth, waterproof, *inexpensive* solution.

    AKA How Samsung can get some mojo back after the Note 7 mess. Put a mag jack on the successor to the Note 7 and include a pair of earbuds with it – while also getting many makers of headphones and earbuds to adopt the new standard.

    Still want to use your ancient phones that have served you well for years or decades? An adapter would be dead simple, just a jack with plastic molding and three magnets connected to the jack.

  32. I do like bluetooth headphones, I love the lack of snag while I’m walking and boarding, but the battery is a PITA. It’s fine at the desk where there’s always a cable but when I’m on the go I don’t want dead earbuds. For portable earbuds I see two solutions:
    -flexible solar cells on a flat cable between the two buds
    -buds that plug into slots on the phone/case to charge (sturdy, not some OTG dongle that will disconnect or break the port)

    Lemme know when either of these happen. Or when they’re DIYable for a good price.

  33. “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.”

    Seriously? Do you live out in the country or something?

  34. What is the estimated environmental impact of this change? Do wireless headphones contain more environmentally unfriendly components than your typical wired headphones? Are they going to need additional charging adapters?

    I’m having a difficult time seeing how this improves a consumers experience. Is the sound quality better? BT headphones have been around for a while, but I just havent seen people running to adopt them. I hate to think that now I have another accessory that I have to worry about being charged before I use them.

    It reminds me of when the Bluetooth hands free ear pieces were popular. I haven’t seen anyone using one of those in forever.

    I’m assuming this will turn into a huge success for someone, but it sounds like there was a solution to something that really wasn’t a problem, until companies decided to make it a problem.

    1. “it sounds like there was a solution to something that really wasn’t a problem, until companies decided to make it a problem.”

      That’s precisely what it is. And the argument that the 3.5 jack needed to go so that phones could be made thinner is a nonsense, for me: they are too thin already.

  35. | Maybe I’ve just been unlucky. Money was tight growing up.
    Have you considered the possibility that you experienced substandard performance from substandard products? Not to mention planned obsolescence, things are meant to break, the companies want you to buy more.

    | We all know that the longer we own our phones the less able our headphone socket will be to hold the jack in place.

    I’ve never experienced this, not to say you didn’t, but it could be again because of above.

    | My last set of headphones went through two cables during regular use.

    Denoting they had removable cables. The headphones were fine, the cables went out. Not the port, not the headphones. You made a great point about strain in a pocket, it’s going to happen, and you knew it well enough to have a way to minimize your costs. A restaurant will buy a mop handle, and mop heads, because they understand that the head won’t last forever, it undergoes use. Which leads to

    | 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?
    Because adding more precious metals, and I don’t know, volatile and combustible material to what will be another, even greater, amount of waste from our disposable lifestyles will totally help with the complete devastation of our planet. Not that it has absolutely anything to do with your argument for dropping the 3.5mm port, since the people that do responsibly hold onto their quality items happen to use headphones with, you guessed it, 3.5mm connectors, many for over a decade. Those wireless headphones? Built in non-user-replaceable batteries that have finite charge life. Sure, this is HaD, where the users can hack around this little problem, not that it takes time and resources, and the companies making them will glue it all together in a tiny space to try to make it both light and small enough to not be bothersome, and don’t want people replacing them in the first place. But no, they’re not grown adults who can hold onto and take care of quality items, while simultaneously having the knowledge of how to repair them, and lack the foresight to purchase an item that has a replaceable battery, or you know, a product that doesn’t require the constant throwing away of planetary resources and can last a long time. The people that buy and throw away lots of cheap headphones are going to keep doing it, whether they’re wireless or not. You yourself stated you purchased cheap wireless headphones, will you step up and repair them when they start to fail? Or will you buy another set?

    You mention the new wired headphones too. With an even smaller connector, subject to the same pocket strains as a TRRS, except now with even more pins to fail, and an even more fragile socket. You may have had loose headphone ports, I’ve seen way more loose and non functioning data ports. Instead of being round, with relatively large surface area, the pins are rectangular, and are scraped on each insertion and removal, with relatively the same resting point for each connection. So the point that needs the best connection will become the first point of failure. The same point on a 3.5mm can be rotated, giving a much larger surface area for connecting, and it’s less likely to be plugged in with the same orientation to the pins each time. The perpendicular forces are an issue, but still so for say USB-C, and earlier USB connections, which have an exceptionally thin PCB holding the traces, which when there is one of those contact point connection issues, an adjustment to apply more pressure to the contact point can lead to breaking of the circuit board, vs pressing on springs. This all on the connector they also need to charge their phone with, which adding another device attaching and disconnecting from only shortens the life of.
    Ah but it’s still analog, and the generic DAC in one device will never be as able as ones tuned for each driver. Just this week there was a post about serial data on a 3.5mm connector on a phone on HaD. Also the use of the headphone jack for credit card readers and IR blasters. Also the precedent already set for digital communication on a TRRS with inline media and volume controls on headphones. You can set up a 5.1 surround sound system using an RCA cable, with two whole wires, let alone the standard four found in a phone’s 3.5mm port. And let’s not get to the argument that, in the future, a laptop and a phone could share a digital pair of headphones, when the company that has publicized this push doesn’t even have that ability in their current product line, yet they already removed the alternative. Sure, they could add a lightening port on their computers, and then we have headphones that will only work in one ecosystem, so their friends with USB-C headphones can’t listen to something on their friends iPhone, and vice versa.

    Why even try to force the market on this? When people feel there is a viable alternative they will vote for it with their money. It seems to be a place where the Pareto principal holds true, but the long tail isn’t adopting BT headphones yet.

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