The new trend among smartphone manufacturers is to build them without a 3.5 mm audio jack but having a USB C-Type audio instead. Along with the wave that started by Apple, more companies are following this despite the fact that users are not comfortable with this. Some music enthusiasts are still worried about its drawbacks while others are ready to embrace the change to USB Type-C earphones and connectors to enjoy the benefits.

3.5 mm audio standard has been a long running standard for the past century. Since the companies are more concentrating on building phones with much slimmer form factor Type-C is going to be the future. Let us take a look at the pros and cons of the new USB Type-C audio in smartphones.

Basic difference between 3.5mm jack socket and USB Type-C

The basic difference is how both systems send out signals to external audio output devices such as earphones. The 3.5 mm outputs analog audio waves preprocessed by smartphone’s internal DAC and pre-amp. In this case, all a headphone/earphone needs to do is pass the wave directly to the diaphragm. The analog audio wave will drive the speaker.

When it comes to Type-C, they transmit digital audio data out from the port. Your normal earphones will not understand the audio data and cannot be used with this. In this scenario, the earphone which connects to the USB Type-C port should have A DAC (Digital to analog converter) and a pre-amplifier before passing the sound to the diaphragms.

In fact, the Type-C port is still able to output analog audio through its SBU pins. Here, the users can attach an adapter which will connect to the Type-C of smartphone and to the 3.5 mm headphone on the other end. The drawback is obvious, you need to carry an adapter with you whenever you need to listen to music which adds up to the inconvenience.

analog and digital data

Advantages of USB Type-C audio

  • Improvement in music quality
    If you are using a Type-C earphone with a good quality DAC, the sound quality will be improved. This is true when we talk about listening music in a budget smartphone. Usually many smartphones does not include a earphone pre-amplifier which results in low output. This can be avoided up to an extent if your earphone handles the data conversion and audio amplification.
  • Noise reduction
    Processing the digital data inside a smartphone can be cause noise to be picked up and affect the music quality. The digital-to-analog converter, filtering circuites and amplifiers are separated by a long cable in case of Type-C earphones from the smartphone. This is way better than those housed inside a smartphone which usually a noisy place to process audio signals due to its radio processing circuitry.
  • Top quality DAC’s can be used in earphones
    A smartphone in the budget range usually houses an average quality DAC where pricey smartphones uses the high quality one’s. If your earphone has a high quality DAC installed, you should get a better sound. So the sound quality now depends majorly on the earphone manufacturer rather than the phone maker. This is particularly useful if you dont want to spend a lot of money on smartphone but still wants to get a good sound output.
  • More than just audio
    Type-C audio can be enhanced to send more data than just audio. This can include adding more operations such as shuffle, Equalizer settings etc to headphone buttons in addition to play, pause etc.
  • Makes smartphone thinner
    This is not really an advantage of Type-C audio but transforming to it will eventually make the phones thinner and manufacturers will get more space to house a bigger battery.

Disadvantages of Type-C audio

There are some practical compromises and drawbacks of having the Type-C USB port on you smartphone.

  • Audio quality largely depends on earphone manufacture
    This is true since smartphone becomes just a device to deliver the audio data in digital format. Your earphone maker decides how you should haer the sound. If their design of internal circuitry is poor, you are more likely to get bad sound than the one you get from 3.5mm.
  • Prone to data transfer errors – clock jitter
    Jitter is usually the noise that occurs in digital data. Clock jitter is the deviation of a clock edge from its ideal location. It is basically the loss of data and audio quality is often compromised.
  • You wont be able to charge your phone while listening to music
  • Earphones will cost more
    As the manufacturers of headphone and earphone’s have more job to do now. DAC’s and the filters are not complex or costly, but the makers of these will surely increase the price due to increased complexity.
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