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Pro-audio industry reacts to Apple dumping the headphone jack

The 3.5mm jack technology has been around for an awful long time...

With Apple dropping the industry standard 3.5mm jack from the iPhone 7 in favour of the Lightning connector, does this mean the death of the headphone port?

‘Audio jack technology’ has been around for 138 years, as it originated in the switchboards of the 19th century. But Apple has replaced the port with headsets that plug into the device’s Lightning connector, which is also used for charging. It means headphones will no longer work on the iPhone 7 without the supplied Lightning to 3.5mm adapter.

Removing the port allows Apple to make the iPhone 7 slimmer and waterproof.

But how did pro-audio companies who design, manufacture and sell headphones feel about the news?

Sennhesier CEO’s Daniel and Andreas Sennheiser say the company has seen many different connection standards come and go in the audio world over the years.

“Audio connections have always been continuously evolving. Digital outputs, such as Apple’s Lightning connector, will offer new opportunities to take a step forward and to further enhance the sound experience for the customer. For example, 3D audio technology using digital signals is just one possibility,” the joint-CEOs say.

Meanwhile, Matt Engstrom, senior category director of wired products at Shure, says the fact the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will be sold with a Lightning-to-3.5mm adaptor ensures that all Shure SE earphone models will be compatible with the new device.

“As a private company, Shure does not discuss products that are in development, but Shure is committed to offering earphones and headphones that are compatible with the most popular mobile devices, including Apple products,” he says.

Phil Wannell of Audio Sanctuary, the new name for Custom Cable, wrote in a blog that the launch of Apple’s wireless headphones, called AirPods ­– which are powered by a wireless chip – means the company are hedging their bets on the new technology.

“More earphones will surely follow that will have a lightning connector, however with the Android fraternity going down the USB C route I imagine it will be tough for brands to be investing money in covering both bases, instead I see brands looking at one or the other,” he says.

“Both options will require an inordinate amount of investment to integrate a chipset into their earphones or headphone to convert the digital data that is being sent from your iPhone 7. I think it will be a watch this space, but it will almost certainly be causing a number of headphone brands a bit of uncertainty and a headache.”