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Manufacturers get specs for MFI-certified Lightning headphones

updated 10:01 am EDT, Wed June 4, 2014

Lightning audio expected to be activated in iOS 7 update

Apple has produced a new Made-for-i specification allowing manufacturers to make headphones that connect via a Lightning cable instead of a 3.5mm headphone jack, a report says. The technology is currently unsupported in iOS, but Apple will allegedly be updating iOS 7 with support sometime later.

One advantage of using Lightning is that headphones will be able to output lossless, 48kHz stereo sound, and send 48kHz mono back to a device via mic input. On top of this the technology should enable more advanced remotes -- for instance, with buttons assigned to opening specific apps -- or even permit tailoring headphones to those apps, which could be launched automatically when a Lightning cable is plugged in. Headphones may further receive firmware updates.

Since Lightning is capable of transmitting power, headphones could draw on an iOS device for power or even vice versa, so long as the headphones have a sufficient internal battery or a passthrough.

Apple is said to be dividing Lightning headphones into two categories: Standard ones using minimal components, and Advanced ones incorporating digital audio processing features such as active noise cancellation. Standard sets must use a Wolfson digital-to-analog converter.

Rumors have claimed that Apple is developing Lightning-based EarPods and/or planning to enable higher-quality audio in iOS 8. The technology could theoretically make it into future Beats headphones, but one risk is that people will be unwilling to buy units that only work with Apple products.

by MacNN Staff



  1. revco

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 05-10-05

    Bye bye 3.5mm headphone jack. Say hi to your friends floppy drive and CRT. Knowing Apple's love for adapters, I bet we'll get one for Lightning>3.5mm.

  1. Jeronimo2000

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-20-01

    That would be the stupidest thing in the world. And not just because of the fact that you'd have yet another standard for something that doesn't need another standard.

    My audio knowledge is severely lacking, but... this sentence sounds just wrong: "headphones will be able to output lossless, 48kHz stereo sound". Correct me if I'm wrong, but headphones ARE already able to do just that. Because sampling rate and compression have nothing to do with headphones, which receive analogue audio signals AFTER a DAC had converted the signal from digital. And the DAC is usually in the device itself, ie. the iPhone or iPad, and it needs to stay there to provide output via the speaker (tiny and crappy as it may be).

    Now there'll be a second DAC, in the headphones? Why? I don't get it. Hopefully somebody who knows about these things can explain.

  1. shawnde

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 04-01-08

    I would guess that it has more do with flexibility than quality of audio .... things like specialized headphones for gym, workout, which have "health-related" features on them, hence, tying them into HealthKit. I don't think it's a quality issue. It's probably got to do with custom remotes being attached, and possibly specialized microphones.

  1. yticolev

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 05-22-02

    I can't imagine why headphones would not want to use the high quality iOS digital to analog converter and use their own. Zero gain. The current Lightning to USB adaptor works fine for situations for line level input like car stereos. I also don't think electrostat headphones can be energized by an iOS device battery. Scratching head.

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