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The Rise of Type-C Headphones and Its Key Features
Jessica Hopkins

USB Type-C has become a ubiquitous connector type in the world of USB and the cable industry. Its conceptualization introduced many enhanced capabilities and new features that provided users with unprecedented amounts of power, versatility, and speed. Because of its advanced capabilities, many device and cable producers have been eager to incorporate this technology into their designs, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping. In fact, Type-C has already joined forces with other technologies like DisplayPort and Thunderbolt, creating all new cable opportunities that will surely progress the way consumers interact with their devices.

USB Type-C has already made its mark in the cable industry, but this connector type is also being implemented within another type of technology – headphones.

As mentioned in our blog, “The Evolution to USB Type-C Headphones”, there are some advantages to Type-C headsets:

  1. Compared to the 3.5mm jack, the USB Type-C connector is more compact. Its smaller footprint requires less space.
  2. For devices that don’t need to charge while playing audio, a single connector can handle charging oraudio connectivity.
  3. Operational power is available for things like amplification or noise reduction.
  4. For the digital approaches, moving the Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) outside the handset potentially allows for greater isolation from electrical interference.
  5. Reduction of overall power consumption
  6. Support for new features such as hotword detection

Type-C headsets have been introduced in the market for some time, already being adopted by companies including IntelLeEcoHTC and JBL. Recently, Apple, who has pioneered some of the most widely-used portable media players around the world, made the announcement that they will allow third party manufacturers in Apple MFi program to produce Lightning to USB Type-C adapters for USB Type-C audio.

One Port to Rule Them All

Many device manufacturers are starting to ditch the 3.5mm jack and replacing it with just one port that can support a variety of functions. For USB supported phones in particular, the Type-C port is taking over including for digital audio.

Type-C headphones to replace standard headphone jack Photo by Kaboompics via Pexels

Problems with USB-C Charging and Audio Adapters

While having one port that performs it all can be an advantage, it has also brought up concerns from users who wish to play audio and charge their device at the same time. To combat this concern and rising demand for a solution, companies have released adapters to allow users to perform both functions concurrently, but users have reported that some adapters haven’t always performed as expected. In an article by the Verge, it notes: “Amazon is littered with many cheap, no-name adapters, but in my experience, many of them work poorly or simply don’t work at all.” In terms of audio, this can be due to the nonconformity of audio output standards between device, and for power charging capabilities, this can be due to faulty devices and connections.

Easily Debug your USB Applications

Type-C devices normally support powerful charging capabilities using USB Power Delivery to establish a secure connection and provide or consume the required and safe current and voltage amounts. When combining technologies together and creating a product that is new to the market, infrastructure issues can arise during development. To ensure the Power Delivery (PD) protocol is working properly, using the Total Phase USB Power Delivery Analyzer to passively capture the PD communication between two Type-C devices can help avoid any charging or enumeration issues. Specifically, with this tool, users can monitor PD traffic on the CC1/CC2 lines, as well as observe VCONN and VBUS measurements.

For a quick demonstration on how to use the Total Phase USB Power Delivery Analyzer, see our video below:

Total Phase provides numerous debugging and development tools for USB, including our line of USB Protocol Analyzers, USB Power Delivery Analyzer for Type-C devices, and our Advanced Cable Tester v2 to comprehensively test a variety of USB cables for pin continuity, DC resistance, E-marker validation, and signal integrity. Interested in seeing how Total Phase can support your USB projects? Email our sales team at sales@totalphase.com