New USB Type-C Could Soon Kill the 3.5mm Audio Jack

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We all know the biggest problem with removing the 3.5mm jack is that it will suddenly render countless earbuds and headphones useless unless you buy a separate adapter. Furthermore, the phone’s charging port gets occupied if you have headphones plugged into them.

But now, Intel architects Brad Saunders and Rahman Ismail have shown a coming USB audio standard at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, that could kill the 3.5mm audio jack (via CNET). The work “will really make USB Type-C the right connector for audio,” Saunders said. 

There are good arguments to be made for embracing USB audio, Saunders said, and the companies that make USB controller chips are very excited about the idea. For one thing, the 3.5mm audio jack takes up precious volume inside phones, which we all want to be as slim as possible. For another, the analog circuitry of 3.5mm audio can cause interference that disrupts other electronics in a phone, Saunders said.

And digital audio opens up possibilities for lots of sound-processing options without requiring expensive headphones or earbuds. “All of those come into play if audio is in a digital domain,” Saunders said, which would let phone makers offer premium features without having to sign deals with premium audio companies like Dolby or Bose.

The new USB audio standard requires power management abilities like turning off features that aren’t being used, Saunders explained. As a result, with USB headphones, “the difference in battery life is negligible” compared with 3.5mm audio jacks. 

It must be pointed that with a new technology called USB Power Delivery, USB Type-C devices can handle nearly 100 watts of power, plenty to power all kinds of computers and devices that plug into them.