Apple iPhone 8 Plus Lightning to 3.5mm Adaptor Audio Review
Author:Soomal
Source:eng.soomal.com

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Apple has removed 3.5 mm headphone jack from iPhone 7 series on. Although Apple is not the first one in doing this, there are still a lot number of manufacturers following in its footsteps because of its market volume and influence. We care about both the influence of this change on audio and the trend of industry changes. Does it have a real effect on wireless headphone market? Does it give an impetus for headphone change? Does it do good to audio peripheral£¿We concern about all these aspects and this part will be very special in 2017 annual review.

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iPhone 7 has removed 3.5 mm jack, so they provide a Lightning to 3.5 mm headphone jack adapter, which is digital to analog signal and can be simply regarded as an external CODEC merely in line shape. Other manufacturers also copy the example, but the difference lies in that some are USB-C analog to 3.5mm analog, and others are external CODECs similar to iPhone's. The audio performance of iPhone 7 is not remarkable, compared with the old design, it is even somewhat backward. Of all the manufacturers following in steps, the outstanding design comes from HTC. HTC U11 adaptor has evidently improved the audio and can properly function in smartphones of other brand, resulting in out of stocking for a time. It shows that the remove of 3.5 mm adaptor is not difficult to be accepted, instead, excellent adaptor comforts dissatisfied emotion.

iPhone 8/8 Plus continues this design, and the phone body doesn't have headphone jack but attaches an adaptor to the box. It integrated CODEC chips, but the specific model is unknown. The last generation adopted Cirrus Logic 338S00140 CODEC, so it should be the same or with minor change in iPhone 8/8 Plus. From iFixit tearing down, there are two chips that maybe (include) CODEC or (include) amplifier chips, which are Apple 338S00248 and 338S00309, and the latter has power management function. This set of chips should still come from Cirrus Logic.

iPhone 8 Plus 338S00248
iPhone 7/7 Plus 338S00105
iPhone SE 338S1285
iPhone 6s/6s Plus 338S1285
iPod touch [6] 338S1116
iPhone 6/6plus 338S1201
iPhone 5s 338S1201
iPhone 5 338S1117
iPhone 4s 338S0987
iPhone 4 338S0626
iPad 3 338S0987
iPad 2 338S0940
iPad 338S0805
iPod Classic 2007 338S0445
iPod nano 6 338S0859
iPod shuffle 4 338S0860

Then, which CODEC works for wired headphone? The one in the adaptor, while the CODEC in phone body influences other audio items such as loud speaker, phone calls, and so on.

The software interface doesn't change much, so we wouldn't post familiar screenshots. What interesting is that Apple adds FLAC on official website audio format support list. But we don't play successfully because the latest iTunes version still cannot support FLAC uploading, which may be dealt with after iOS and iTunes upgrading. FLAC is the most widely used lossless audio decoding solution, adding native support to iOS means FLAC format will realize a genuine compatibility in all platforms. By the way, the latest mac OS has added native FLAC support.

Audio test is adaptor test, actually. There should be no significant differences in audio performance between the iPhone 7th and 8th series without redesign. By convention, we use professional sound card to record sounds, combining common analysis, thus providing visualized results. The output level of iPhone 8 Plus via adapter is -7dB, which is the standard Apple sticks.

Testing Item 44.1kHz 48kHz iPhone 7 iPhone 6s Plus
Noise Level, dB -95.4 -96.6 -96.2 -96.0
Dynamic Range, dB 95.4 96.7 96.3 96.1
Total Harmonic Distortion(THD), % 0.0010 0.0014 0.0009 0.0012
Intermodulation Distortion, % 0.0070 0.0076 0.0058 0.0048
Stereo Crosstalk, dB -84.1 -83.9 -84.4 -77.9

We use headphones such as Aurvana air, vsonic GR07 37th, EarPods Lightning and so on in real listening. It can be identified that the output audio of iPhone 6 Plus headphone jack is better than from iPhone 8 Plus adaptor. The better the headphone is, the clearer the distinction can be. iPhone 6 Plus is better in powering, resolution and sound density. Compared with iPhone 8 Plus with adaptor, iPhone 6 Plus has a better sound performance in all aspects except the similar tone. If iPhone 6 Plus could get 100 points, iPhone 8 Plus adaptor could get 80 points at most, but the headphone jack era comes to an end. This adaptor should have little difference with the one attached on iPhone 7 in audio. We regret that we cannot find iPhone 7 Plus adaptor all at once, and we will supplement review if there are obvious differences. Anyway, audio performance provided by iPhone goes backwards.

Nevertheless, no need to be pessimistic because third party IC manufacturers including Cirrus Logic comes to provide MFI CODECs. As long as carefully designing, they can exactly exceed iPhone 8 Plus adaptor muuuuuuuuuch. The weak of iPhone maybe right a commercial opportunity for third party manufacturers.

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