USB-IF publishes guidelines for audio over USB Type-C

USB-IF publishes guidelines for audio over USB Type-C
The USB Implementers' Forum (USB-IF) has this week introduced the USB Audio Device Class 3.0 specification. In layman's terms, the new spec. sets the technical parameters and guidelines for audio products that connect to devices via USB-Type C. 

USB Type-C is compatible with a large portion of newer mobile devices. While it's not quite the de facto interface as yet, it's gradually replacing traditional USB connectors, and over the next couple of years, USB Type-C's ubiquity will doubtlessly increase. 

What makes USB Type-C so special? Well, aside from the fact that it's reversible, it's also versatile; as well as providing a single, all-purpose connection to and from devices, Type-C can transmit lots of power in both directions. Capable of delivering power at up 100 watts at 20 volts, a USB Type-C connector on a laptop, for example, can replace a traditional power port, full-size USB for data transfer and many other everyday ports alongside, of course, the 3.5mm jack. As you can probably tell, it's a pretty convenient advancement all round.  

While you'll need an adaptor to connect your current 3.5mm headphones to a USB Type-C port, it's based on an open standard, so will be supported by most of your devices and accessories (read: not those made by Apple) moving forward. The market already offers a number of USB Type-C audio gear and following the new USB Audio Device Class 3.0 specification, manufacturers and developers now have a reference point for their solutions. 

Despite it not having been the first to do so, much has been made of Apple's removal of the 3.5 mm earphone jack in favor of a single, all-purpose Lightning socket. As those around it transition to USB Type-C, one cannot help but feel as though Apple has made a rod for its own back by going with its largely similar, but notably proprietary Lightning connector. New iPhone 7 devices ship with a 3.5mm-to-Lightning adaptor, but as Cupertino's broader port genocide continues, it may come unstuck if it ever tries to remove the 3.5mm jack from, say, the MacBook. For then, the company would theoretically have to offer Lightning and USB Type-C alongside one another, to cater to the wider audience along with Apple devotees with their Lightning-enabled gear. 

This is familiar territory for Apple; its FireWire standard tried, and eventually succumbed as a proprietary alternative to USB. Steve Jobs announced FireWire's demise since a large proportion of the world's products, such as camcorders, instead shipped with USB 2.0. Though the fruit company has more clout today than it did back in 2008, it will once again be outnumbered when it comes to Lightning vs. USB Type-C, with the latter backed by the USB-IF which counts the likes of Intel, IBM and Microsoft among its designers. 

It will be very interesting to see if these two like-minded but incompatible standards can coexist. If history is anything to go by, one will eventually be snuffed out but even if Lightning does manage to thrive, consumers who purchase USB Type-C and Lightning products had better get used to carrying adaptors around with them. 



1. No_Sammy_No_Gimmicks

Posts: 158; Member since: Jun 10, 2015

Dear Phonearena, Apple played a leading role in the development of the USB-C, did you know? This was after development of the lightning. It's not a coincidence that USB-C is similar to lightning.

2. parasshah100

Posts: 70; Member since: Jan 01, 2016

You may be right, but it doesnt make any sense, USB-C is better than any other standard out there today in most ways, so why would Apple stick to lightning connector? Apple said they needed 'COURAGE',where is that courage to change to USB C and move towards the future. oh wait, Why am I asking, I already know, its for milking cash as long as its possible by brainwashing people. ' COURAGE'

4. kiko007

Posts: 7521; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Jesus Christ...... the reasons Apple hasn't switched yet is because of port size and timing. When Apple switched to lightning connectors from the previous 30-pin standard, USB-C was still under development by all accounts. They wanted to go that route originally, but it simply wasn't plausible at the time. Now it's about port size. USB-C is by no account "better" than any other connector format, just more practical. The size is as robust as old format USB, making it clunky. As we've seen in tear downs, iPhones have very little space to afford a clunky new standard when their standard is better. Don't get me wrong, money is a motive moving forward with no 3.5mm jack, but it wasn't at the time of conception.

6. lyndon420

Posts: 6883; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Apple should stop their thinness trend and just give what people want. They should focus not only on battery life/safety/charging options, but making their products more usable with other connected products and accessories for audio and visual practicality/convenience. Imagine a product that just worked with everything.

9. kiko007

Posts: 7521; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

I agree. As a consumer, I'd love to see a set standard so I don't have to buy accessories over and over again. However, businesses do what's in the best interest of their margins. There are already more lightning headphones than USB-C ones, because that's where the money is. Standards become irrelevant in the face of $$$. Having said that, I really want them to move to the C standard so I can use my normal chargers and headphones.

24. vincelongman

Posts: 5755; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Size isn't even an issue There are thinner phones with USB Type-C The actual answer is money Apple makes millions on Lightning licensing from accessory makers Also Lightning accessory helps keep people with Apple as the Lightning accessory aren't compatible with other phones

7. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

Couldn't they have waited a device cycle or two and then switched to USB-C? Was there a burning reason they had to switch from the 30 pin connector to Lightning when they did?

10. kiko007

Posts: 7521; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

No clue. I can't find a specific motive, other than rushing it to market -_-. Perhaps they thought if the USB-C standard could make it to market shortly after they moved to Lightning, they could move to that after a cycle or two. However, that didn't happen.

19. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

Well, Apple has never been one to use standard cables, especially in mobile. They started out with the USB to 30 pin dock connector and used that for quite awhile. So I wasn't surprised when they went with Lightning instead of USB-C. Using a proprietary connector, they're able to get a cut of every cable and accessory that use it, which wouldn't be the case if they went with an industry standard connector. Even if they only took 5¢ for every cable or accessory that used it, think how much that adds up to.

22. kiko007

Posts: 7521; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

True that.

11. Unordinary unregistered

Love my USBC on my Apple device :)

16. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

Ultra-Sonic-Bullsh¡tty-Crap? Lol

3. Subie

Posts: 2429; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Proof please. Right now what you're saying ("Apple played a leading role") is more like here say. A lot of company's contributed to Usb type C development including Apple. I'll agree though it is like lightning in that it's reversible.

15. Napalm_3nema

Posts: 2236; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

Intel had the lead development role (The group leader was an Intel engineer), but there were a lot of companies involved in developing USB-C. Apple merely had the largest group of engineers on the design (23% of the team).

18. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

Right, and I agree that they were part of the process, perhaps even a big part. But it's the people claiming they invented it or led the development that we're calling into question. And even if they had the largest group of engineers, it doesn't necessarily mean they led the development.

20. Napalm_3nema

Posts: 2236; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

That's the point I was trying to make. I should have kept a copy of the USB-IF USB-C development team document that I read when Type-C was announced, but I did not, and now I can't find a copy. It had the total team breakdown by company. Most of the members were from expected companies in tech, with the exception of Samsung, who wasn't represented.

25. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

Here's a link to what you're referring to.

5. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

I've read on the subject, and as far as who did what, there seems to be 2 schools of thought. The first is that Apple invented it, pushed by a statement made by John Gruber who had a little birdie tell him that they basically invented it, gave it to the standards body, and wanted NO credit for it, so that it would gain widespread usage. His reasoning for why they didn't want credit for it was that if it was an Apple invention, that might drive some people away. I find that hard to swallow because if Apple does invent anything: 1. They're going to take credit for it. 2. They're not going to just give it away. 3. They'd be worried that people wouldn't adopt it because they invented it. The second school of thought is that there was a consortium of companies working on USB C, and that Apple was a contributor. And that's all they were listed as, they weren't an Editor or leading in anything according to the papers listing the members, which included Intel, Samsung, Google, HP, and various others as well as Apple. Just because they were a part of it doesnt Mena they lead the way, there are plenty of technological innovations that happen without Apple involved. What I did see in the articles printed on the matter is that Apple centric sites were claiming it was Apple's invention, while most general tech sites said they didn't invent it, but played a part in it. And let's be fair here, Apple has tried to do standards before that didn't take, like FireWire, which was supposed to supplant USB. So while I have no doubt they contributed, I don't believe they invented it or lead in the development of it without proof showing me otherwise. And my reasons for believing so is points 1 & 2 that I listed above. If Apple invents or even perfects something, they won't be secretive about it.

13. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Very well said! It's hilarious how some people automagically believe apple invented something when they use it...their brainwash marketing is so phenomenal.

8. ben.r

Posts: 53; Member since: May 29, 2015

Be that as it may, Apple is making a concerted push towards a Lightning future while the other ~85% of the market is going the other way. This makes no practical sense for the consumer. Would have been better if Apple had launched the iPhone 7 with Type-C. A bit of a pain in the ass to transition from Lightning but thereafter, everyone's happy.

12. Unordinary unregistered


14. Unordinary unregistered

How is apple pushing a lightning furure? We've had lightning for years now, and is already where you said they want to go. All their devices have it. The 2015 Macbook has USBC in it. All their new Macbook Pros will have USBC in it. Not sure how this is a "push towards a Lightning future".

17. No_Sammy_No_Gimmicks

Posts: 158; Member since: Jun 10, 2015

Lightning has been in use for years now, offering superior connectivity to microUSB that is being used by the so called 85%. Lightning is limited to iPhones only and Mac's are adopting the USB-C which itself mostly uses lightning tech. Only now is USB-C trying to gain traction, whilst Apple is marching ahead with wireless connectivity to iPhones. By the look of things lightning is in its twilight years and Apple will nix it in the not so distant future. Apple again leading the pack.

21. jeroome86

Posts: 2314; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

Does this mean other oem's going to lose the head phone jack?

23. KyleRiemen

Posts: 170; Member since: Oct 29, 2014

No. Why should they? Audio-Out is also possible via micro-USB, had it on the galaxy S2 and that was 2011, there is no reason to drop it, when wireless audio is ready,

26. gersont1000

Posts: 473; Member since: Mar 13, 2012

USB-C may be reversible (one way or the other), but 3.5mm headphone jack is reversible in EVERY direction along its axis! I hate this new direction of removing headphone jacks. What is the technological advantage of USB-C over 3.5mm? Because supposedly these companies are not doing it for money (LOL!) so there must be a technological reason.

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