Like it or not, the days of the 3.5mm headphone jack are numbered. The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), the governing body who sets the standards for USB, has released their latest spec update this time for USB Audio Device Class 3.0 – or more simply: USB Audio over USB Type-C.
The concept for the USB Audio Device Class 3.0 specification is simple, it basically sets the path for manufacturers to use USB-C as the primary method to deliver digital audio through the USB-C jack to deliver audio to ‘headsets, mobile devices, docking stations, gaming set-ups and VR solutions’.
So why do we want to get rid of the 3.5mm headphone jack? You know the jack that’s been around since the 19th century providing a standard that’s been used across almost every device since then. Well, the USB-IF says it will let OEMs shave ‘up to a millimeter off product designs’ and reduce the number of connectors on devices. It will also make it easier for OEMs to provide waterproof or water-resistant devices – and they say will lead to innovation…yeah, we’re not sure about that either.
So far only Apple, with the iPhone 7, and Motorola with the Moto Z have actually gone forward with removing the 3.5mm headphone jack. The removal has met with mixed reactions, but I do recall using the HTC Dream when it first came out with a mini-USB to 3.5mm adapter and it sucked. But, progress and all that, perhaps the upcoming Bluetooth 5 spec may bring better quality wireless audio and the removal of 3.5mm may not matter so much.
The USB-IF will be running developer days in Hong Kong on October 19-20 for any OEMs or interested parties wanting to take part in discussions on USB standards. But we should be seeing some USB-C audio products hitting the market soon.