As suggested by its $3 billion acquisition of Beats Electronics, and all of its wares, Apple is doubling down on proprietary audio. A new report by 9to5Mac shows more evidence that the tech giant is serious about moving audio further into its walled garden, revealing headphone specs that forgo the ubiquitous 3.5mm jack for a direct digital connection to iPhones and iPads: hello Lightning cans.
According to the report, the new system would allow for 48kHz lossless stereo output (just above CD quality), and, through an update to iOS 7, a 48kHz mono input to keep the popular 3-button inline microphone in communication. It is also believed that hardware could be added, or reconfigured, to allow for launching of apps like iTunes Radio, or spur specific apps when the ‘phones are connected.
Apple’s MFi (made for iOS) program is reportedly developing two different specifications for manufacturers that will bypass the standard 3.5mm analog output port for a direct connection to the digital side of things. The two flavors include Standard and Advanced.
The Standard Lightning Headphones are described by 9to5Mac as using “minimum components when paired with a DAC (digital to analog converter) supported by the Lightning Headphone Module.” The Advanced Lightning Headphones will be able to incorporate more sophisticated features, including digital signal processing to shape the sound, noise cancelation, as well as an onboard DAC.
Interestingly (to audio geeks anyway), the report claims that the Standard setup will require manufacturers to use a Wolfson WM8533 DAC. Wolfson’s popular WM8740 DAC is used in gobs of high-end audio gear, including the original AK100 HD music player from iRiver. That suggests much better audio performance than what is currently achieved over, say, the iPhone 5S’s onboard DAC system.