Did the removal of the headphone jack get you down? Despite this self-inflicted friction, Apple is still seeing demand outweigh supply – with a projected 70 to 75 million iPhone 7 units sold in 2016, according to popular technology blog, BGR.
Apple does not make massive changes to the iPhone without first seriously considering every angle of the impact to consumers and businesses alike. According to Forbes, Apple bases most of their revisions and decisions off of feedback from consumers and one of the most common issues with the previous iPhones was accidental water damage. In order to make the iPhone limitedly waterproof, the headphone jack needed to go.
Don’t get us wrong, it is definitely an inconvenience for many users. The slew of new adaptors and devices needed to replace the headphone jack in order to do things like listen to music and charge your phone at the same time may not seem to jive with Apple’s simplistic and functional design style. That being said, Apple had the future in mind with this move.
There are many people scrambling and raising their hands on this, but as musicians – we’ll learn to LOVE it. It’s going to force us to use the converters built into our external gear which, depending on the gear, will significantly improve the audio quality we hear out of our mobile devices. Not to mention all of our hard work in the studio will finally be able to be heard.
Still not sold? Let’s break everything down so we can look at this glass half-full.
What’s A Digital Analog Converter?
In order to take a digital audio file and turn it into sound, you need what is called a digital to analog converter (DAC). A DAC takes the 1’s and 0’s of a digital file and translates them into electricity, which in turn moves the drivers in your headphones or speakers to create sound. A quality DAC can make an average set of headphones sound great and a great set of headphones sound magnificent. When you use the 3.5mm headphone jack in your device, you are using the device’s built-in DAC.
How About High-Resolution Audio?
When we talk about high-resolution audio, we are generally talking about two components of a file, sample rate and bit depth. Sample rate is how many samples of audio per second are recorded/contained in a file, and bit depth is how much information each one of those samples contains. The more samples taken of a wave, and the more information contained in each sample, the more accurate of a picture of the audio can be captured and reproduced. When reproducing a digital audio file, the term bitrate is generally used to describe the resolution of the file. Bitrate is derived from your sample rate, bit depth and number of audio channels (generally 2 in a stereo audio file). The higher the sample rate and bit depth, the higher the bitrate of the file will be. Bitrate is truly a measure of how much information per second is contained in a digital audio file. The higher the bitrate, the more information is contained in the file and the better picture of the original audio your converter can redraw.
Apple’s integrated music app can support Apple’s own lossless format (ALAC), which supports sample rates up to 384kHz and 32-bit bit depth. However, when listening to an audio file through the 3.5mm headphone jack on your old iPhone, that lossless file can only be played through your headphones at a sample rate of 44.1kHz and a 16-bit bit depth because that is the maximum resolution the built-in apple DAC supports.
What Does It All Mean?
Getting the audio feed from the lightning port gives you access to the raw digital files, meaning you can utilize external DACs to fully reproduce hi-resolution audio files at their true resolution. This leads to a better listening experience overall and allows listeners to hear the countless hours spent in the studio recording, producing, mixing and mastering a record. Good DACs make audio sound crisper, clearer, wider and more defined.
We are willing to sacrifice the short-term inconvenience of getting used to an iDevice without a headphone jack, to ensure that the everyday consumer has exposure to truer, higher quality sound. Especially if it means the professionals getting their due for all the hard work they’ve put in.
If you’re looking for help to better understand how mobile is changing the mobile recording and audio game, we are here to help and point you in the right direction. Give us a call (301.946.8808) or shoot us an email so we can get your equipment set up at lightning speed today.