The iPhone 7 Adapter Actually Worsens Sound, Study Finds

iPhone 7 Adapter
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iPhone 7 Adapter
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Jeremy F Clay, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)

Is Apple’s iPhone 7 adapter for 3.5mm jack actually worsening the audio experience? That’s the question many users and other top tech sites are asking.

German magazine c’t Magazine decided to put the iPhone 7 adapter through exhaustive audio tests. Roughly translated from German, the article started out with the following header:

The rationalized jack of iPhone 7 currently heated tempers. Pay for it is a short Lightning adapter. But instead of the sound to improve the signal quality deteriorates, as our measurements show.

The article starts off stating that one can argue whether the decision to purposefully remove the headphone adapter was a step forward or backward.  Whoever loves the headphones, c’t Magazine writes, can come to terms with using the adapter included in both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.  If you lose the adapter, you can buy a replacement for only 9 euros.

c’t Magazine decided to put the adapter to the test by trying it out on the following Apple products:

  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6S
  • iPad Air

They decided to try it out by playing a 24-bit music file through the adapter.  Here’s what they found.  On an iPhone 6s, “the dynamics deteriorated by 4.5 dB (A)” and on the iPad Air, “the signal deteriorated by 3.8 dB (A).

They decided to lower the music quality to see if the signal would improve.  They found that the losses “are clearly noticeable, although not quite as drastic.” The dynamics only deteriorated by 1.8 dB (A) on the iPhone and just 3.1 dB (A) on the iPad.

When testing the adapter out on the iPhone 7, they came to the conclusion that “the results agree to the decimal.” Yet the adapter faced surprisingly better on the iPad. They go on to explain the technical reasons as to why this may occur. Translated roughly from the German, they state,

This may indicate that in the adapter no separate D / A converter is seated, but the audio signal is already transmitted in analog form via the Lightning jack. Since the Lightning chips with their remote site in iPhone / iPad can each negotiate in the cable, which is transmitted, that would be quite possible.

They even posted a picture with the results.

For those interested in the technical breakdown (and have much better German than Google and DMN), you can read the original site here. The rough translation is available here.

The findings appear to be clear. The German magazine isn’t the only one facing issues with the iPhone 7 adapter. The Wirecutter posted their first impressions of the iPhone 7 adapter, and after praising the headphone adapters for their audio quality, they found:

We followed up on some Twitter discussions of early reports that some adapter features stop working after a period of inactivity. (User Scott O’Reilly was the first person we saw mention it.) We have confirmed this issue in our own tests: If you have no music playing (or you aren’t on a phone call), and you lock the iPhone 7 and leave the adapter connected to the phone’s Lightning-connector port, after about five minutes the remote and mic on connected headphones will cease to function until you unplug and replug the headphones or the adapter—doing either will fix the problem.

You can still play music through the headphones, but the remote and mic won’t “wake up” until you physically disconnect and then reconnect them. So far we’ve seen this behavior only with gaps in use of five minutes or more.”

For those worried about the audio quality of the iPhone 7, BGR explains why you shouldn’t have to worry.

The bottom line is that the difference is going to be completely imperceptible to most people. Even audiophiles with an incredible ear for sound won’t notice the difference unless they’re listening to high-quality 24-bit audio files.