USB Type-C Connector the First Step Toward Ubiquitous Smart Headphones
I also wrote a CES post about Sennheiser's front and center display of prototype immersive audio products in an attempt to get the industry excited and working towards the infrastructure of software and hardware standards needed to pull off immersive audio experiences with consumer electronic devices.
An astute InnerFidelity reader tipped me off to evidence of a very real step forward for the development of smart headphones in the future: The USB Type-3 Connector. A recent Anandtech article details plans brought to light at the Intel Developer's Forum Shenzen for soon-to-be-introduced USB Type-C Digital Audio standards.
- Type-C connector proposed as an ideal replacement for the 3.5mm headphone jack.
- Optional analog audio connections for dumb headphones.
- Backwards compatibility with previous USB audio formats.
- And, of course, "Intel proposes to [manufacture] special multi-function processing units (MPUs), which will perform beam forming, noise suppression, acoustic echo suppression (AES), acoustic echo cancellation (AEC), non-linear processing and other operations."
Intel is, after all, a chip-maker, so a lot of their desire to see smart headphones come from wanting to make the brains inside them. And they're motivated, they're in the process of laying-off about 11% of their work force as they re-tool from being mainly "inside" PCs to hopefully being inside the phone in your pocket.
What ever their motive, it's a sure sign that the world is moving on, and likely without a 3.5mm headphone jack for too much longer. But more importantlyand not really mentioned in detail in other reports stimulated by the Intel presentationis the Intel USB Type-C Digital Audio standards are an open door for headphone makers of all types to start making smart immersive audio headphones without having to enter into Apples hardware ecosystem.
The race is on. Would you like that Sennheiser Momentum 3 with a USB Type-C or Apple Lightning connector? I bet you'll see that choice in less than 2 years.
Anandtech article on Intel's USB Type-C Digital Audio standard announcement.
Wikipedia on USB Type-C
"All you need to know about USB 3.1..." on phonearena.com
"USB Type-C: One cable to connect them all" c|net