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emorgoch
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Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 2:28 pm

Relatively simple question that'll probably lead to a lot of technical jargon / debate:

With the new iPhone launch just around the corner, and the rumours of it leading to the impending doom of the headphone jack, I got myself thinking: If the point of removing the port from phones is because it's too bulky, why hasn't a new analogue stereo jack emerged that's smaller? Considering the need for analogue audio to only have 3 (or 4 if including mic) pins, seems like lightning style connector/port could have been developed to resolve the issue phone manufacturers are having.
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 2:39 pm

For electrical reasons: It's an analog jack and shrinking your physical contact area can do bad things for both maintaining a good connection and signal to noise ratio.

For mechanical reasons: Making it too small also means it's not as robust mechanically, especially for a socket that's designed to be plugged and unplugged frequently.
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 2:40 pm

There is a 2.5mm one that a few phones used (waaaay back in the day, I think the old LG env2 flip phone and some others used it) but it was never common, and I don't know of any modern devices with 2.5mm jacks, let alone 2.5mm TRRS or TRRRS...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phone_connector_(audio)
 
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 2:41 pm

A 2.5mm variant of the traditional TRS jack/plug has existed for years, though it is not currently in widespread use. The rumor is that Apple will indeed use the Lightning connector for wired analog audio on future devices.

At the end of the day, it's probably just a ploy to sell more Beats headphones, and/or charge other vendors licensing fees for a proprietary connector if they wish to make iPhone-compatible analog audio devices.
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 2:56 pm

Yeah....2.5mm analog has been around for decades, and can easily converted to work with 3.5mm via a small inexpensive adapter, available anywhere.

This has nothing to do with the size of the port though.  It has everything to do with money.  By eliminating the 3.5mm jack, Apple can:
  • Save money by deleting the DAC in every phone they sell
  • Make boatloads of money selling adapters (external DACs) at a 1000% markup
  • Sell millions of new headphones from their acquired Beats audio unit
Other phone makers have less to gain, but will still save money by not needing to include DACs.
Last edited by The Egg on Mon Aug 29, 2016 2:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 2:57 pm

chuckula wrote:
For electrical reasons: It's an analog jack and shrinking your physical contact area can do bad things for both maintaining a good connection and signal to noise ratio.

The contacts in a micro-USB connector are small compared to the contacts in a 3.5mm audio jack. High speed serial protocols like USB are very sensitive to any contact resistance, since the resulting impedance mismatch causes signal reflections. Given that we clearly know how to make inexpensive micro-USB connectors that don't suck, making an analog audio connector with similarly-sized contacts should not be rocket science.
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:00 pm

just brew it! wrote:
chuckula wrote:
For electrical reasons: It's an analog jack and shrinking your physical contact area can do bad things for both maintaining a good connection and signal to noise ratio.

The contacts in a micro-USB connector are small compared to the contacts in a 3.5mm audio jack. High speed serial protocols like USB are very sensitive to any contact resistance, since the resulting impedance mismatch causes signal reflections. Given that we clearly know how to make inexpensive micro-USB connectors that don't suck, making an analog audio connector with similarly-sized contacts should not be rocket science.

I'm not taking away from reflection issues that can rear their heads when impedance mismatches occur in any electrical connection, but a digital protocol like USB is always going to have a better noise tolerance compared to an analog signal that's going to headphones and not to a digital signal processor. 
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:13 pm

The Egg wrote:
  • Save money by deleting the DAC in every phone they sell

FFS...no they can't delete a DAC by removing an analog jack. iPhones (already) have two different speakers on them. One as an earpiece (for the "normal" phone function), and one for the "speaker phone" function/playing sound in general. Speakers only operate in the analog domain, so the iPhone will still need at least one DAC to maintain this functionality.

  • Sell millions of new headphones from their acquired Beats audio unit

I'd be willing to bet good money that Apple acquired Beats for the impact to music streaming. The headphone side of the business would mostly run itself.
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:20 pm

chuckula wrote:
just brew it! wrote:
chuckula wrote:
For electrical reasons: It's an analog jack and shrinking your physical contact area can do bad things for both maintaining a good connection and signal to noise ratio.

The contacts in a micro-USB connector are small compared to the contacts in a 3.5mm audio jack. High speed serial protocols like USB are very sensitive to any contact resistance, since the resulting impedance mismatch causes signal reflections. Given that we clearly know how to make inexpensive micro-USB connectors that don't suck, making an analog audio connector with similarly-sized contacts should not be rocket science.

I'm not taking away from reflection issues that can rear their heads when impedance mismatches occur in any electrical connection, but a digital protocol like USB is always going to have a better noise tolerance compared to an analog signal that's going to headphones and not to a digital signal processor. 

I don't know why you think smaller contacts automatically mean more noise. As long as the contact resistance is kept low and the cable is shielded noise issues should be no worse than what we have now. Simply requiring that both contact surfaces be gold plated would probably result in lower contact resistance than a typical chrome-plated TRS plug, and if anything the shielding of the connector in a USB-style cable is better since there's a metal shell completely surrounding the contacts.
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:24 pm

superjawes wrote:
The Egg wrote:
  • Save money by deleting the DAC in every phone they sell

FFS...no they can't delete a DAC by removing an analog jack.  iPhones (already) have two different speakers on them.  One as an earpiece (for the "normal" phone function), and one for the "speaker phone" function/playing sound in general.  Speakers only operate in the analog domain, so the iPhone will still need at least one DAC to maintain this functionality.

Alright, so I hadn't considered the built-in speakers....relax.  Do we know that they necessarily share the same DAC?  At the very least, they can remove the additional amplification and circuitry necessary to power the 3.5mm jack.
 
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:35 pm

The Egg wrote:
superjawes wrote:
The Egg wrote:
  • Save money by deleting the DAC in every phone they sell

FFS...no they can't delete a DAC by removing an analog jack.  iPhones (already) have two different speakers on them.  One as an earpiece (for the "normal" phone function), and one for the "speaker phone" function/playing sound in general.  Speakers only operate in the analog domain, so the iPhone will still need at least one DAC to maintain this functionality.

Alright, so I hadn't considered the built-in speakers....relax.  Do we know that they necessarily share the same DAC?  At the very least, they can remove the additional amplification and circuitry necessary to power the 3.5mm jack.

The speakerphone (and ringer) functionality requires more amplification than headphones. There will be an amplifier in there that is more than powerful enough to drive the 3.5mm jack regardless.
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:40 pm

Why does the 3.5" audio jack need to be smaller anyway? 
 
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:41 pm

The Egg wrote:
Yeah....2.5mm analog has been around for decades, and can easily converted to work with 3.5mm via a small inexpensive adapter, available anywhere.

This has nothing to do with the size of the port though.  It has everything to do with money.  By eliminating the 3.5mm jack, Apple can:
  • Save money by deleting the DAC in every phone they sell
  • Make boatloads of money selling adapters (external DACs) at a 1000% markup
  • Sell millions of new headphones from their acquired Beats audio unit
Other phone makers have less to gain, but will still save money by not needing to include DACs.

The DAC isn't really going away...   but they're definitely going to try to cash in on the need to buy new hardware.  Also, by making music fully digital they can (try to) enforce DRM.
 
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:42 pm

whm1974 wrote:
Why does the 3.5" audio jack need to be smaller anyway? 

Because Apple wants to convince people that they need thinner phones and over-priced Beats headphones.
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:44 pm

just brew it! wrote:
whm1974 wrote:
Why does the 3.5" audio jack need to be smaller anyway? 

Because Apple wants to convince people that they need thinner phones and over-priced Beats headphones.

So the audio jack doesn't need to get smaller or even replaced. Apple just wants to make money using it's RDF.
 
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:45 pm

whm1974 wrote:
Why does the 3.5" audio jack need to be smaller anyway? 

Because they're obsessed with making phones thinner and they've reached the point where the 3.5" jack actually makes that difficult.  
It's kind of stupid because, frankly, phones are as thin as they need to be; many of the ultra-thin models are actually uncomfortable to use.  But they've convinced too many people that super-thin equates to ultra-cool to stop going down that path.
 
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:47 pm

Just Brew It wrote:
I don't know why you think smaller contacts automatically mean more noise.


Uh... you did. You start by saying that smaller contactors don't mean more noise, but then you say "as long as the contact resistance is kept low" --> well, greatly reducing the surface area isn't conducive to that and the rest of your post is going into detail about how to overcome the problem, which is certainly possible to do but also introduces new issues that can't just be fixed with a cheap 2.5 mm to 3.5 mm adapter. Then you say that the cable should be shielded, which once again means that you need to do something to compensate for the smaller connector.

I'm not saying that it's physically impossible to redo phone jacks to get a 2.5mm jack with acceptable quality. What I am saying is that there's a reason that people didn't jump on 2.5mm long ago and it's not because the hardware manufacturers didn't want to cut expenses with smaller & cheaper jacks.

I noticed that the 2.5mm jacks were basically only used commercially in phone handsets.  Phones, especially old school ones, didn't need to have anything close to the audio clarity that a stereo grade connection requires based simply on the fact that the phone network itself had a very narrow bandwidth in the C channel so making a fancy headphone connector wouldn't help.
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:51 pm

Maybe the 3.5mm jack should be preserved as a natural limit to how thin phones should be.   :o
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:54 pm

DPete27 wrote:
Maybe the 3.5mm jack should be preserved as a natural limit to how thin phones should be.   :o

I agree. In any event, the "omg thinner" bit is a canard anyway. The headphone jack is not the limiting factor on the current trend of anorexic phones and we can raise the point again (and discuss tetanus shots with new phone purchases) in a few years.
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:59 pm

chuckula wrote:
Uh... you did. You start by saying that smaller contactors don't mean more noise, but then you say "as long as the contact resistance is kept low" --> well, greatly reducing the surface area isn't conducive to that and the rest of your post is going into detail about how to overcome the problem, which is certainly possible to do but also introduces new issues that can't just be fixed with a cheap 2.5 mm to 3.5 mm adapter.

What new issues? So it needs to be a something-else-to-3.5mm adapter, big deal. Gold plating for small connectors isn't expensive; it's a few milligrams of gold. You can get cables with gold plated plugs on them from Monoprice for under $2. It's a problem which has already been solved, at very reasonable cost.

chuckula wrote:
Then you say that the cable should be shielded, which once again means that you need to do something to compensate for the smaller connector.

Decent audio cables are already shielded. All I'm suggesting is that the shielding be extended over the contacts. Like we do already for USB. This would be a benefit, regardless of the connector size.

You're really grasping at straws here. Small, high-quality electrical connectors are a solved problem. Making a smaller audio connector capable of high fidelity isn't the issue. The issue is that there's really no NEED for one, other than Apple's desire to come up with another proprietary connector to foist on their users.
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 4:25 pm

I think the biggest issue with the 2.5mm phone jack is that it is too fragile.  The plugs fall apart if you bend them at all and their tiny size makes that a frequent reality.

I personally think 3.5mm is on the too small to be strong side and 1/4" plugs are rarely built to a standard that I would call extremely durable (although there is enough meat there to do it).

Mechanically these connectors are mediocre.  Electrically they are just barely "good enough".

It is time for a change, just like Speakon should replace every XLR, we should find a replacement for the 3.5mm that is robust, with better contacts, better number of insertions before failure and hopefully smaller so the smartphones will use it.

What we get might be a poor replacement that we phase out soon after but we should try to develop a new standard with good legs.
 
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 1:20 am

As a side note, here are a couple relevant pictures from iFixit's teardown of the (now relatively old) Samsung S4:

https://d3nevzfk7ii3be.cloudfront.net/i ... mcwjP.huge
https://d3nevzfk7ii3be.cloudfront.net/i ... NABZa.huge

Note how the headphone jack has been seriously miniaturized compared to e.g. your old Sony Discman, and sits in a gap in the PCB.  It is no more limiting for this sort of design than the battery or the camera module (and the latter protrudes noticeably).
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 5:06 am

ludi wrote:
Note how the headphone jack has been seriously miniaturized compared to e.g. your old Sony Discman, and sits in a gap in the PCB.  It is no more limiting for this sort of design than the battery or the camera module (and the latter protrudes noticeably).

Yet another indication that Apple's efforts to kill the 3.5" aren't really driven by size concerns...
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 8:13 am

It hasn't been shrunk because the equipment that has to be plugged into it usually has hard-moulded 3.5mm TRS connectors.

The audio standard is a standard that exists outside of the daft madness of trying to make smartphones thinner. The audio kit like earphones, headphones, speakers, line-out cables and all these things are made to be used with everything else in the world of audio, not just smartphone users. That they just happen to be compatible with phones is not a bonus, it is by design.

People have tried and failed to shrink the connector before. I have blackberry earbuds with the 2.5mm plug on it. Guess how useful those headphones were in other devices. Guess how useful other earbud/headphones were with that blackberry.

In all these instances where laptops and smartphones are being made thinner, all it means is that you now need to carry around and lose a whole bunch of silly adapters. This is why the standard is so popular - it just frickin works and it's ubiquitous. Imma gonna sit back with popcorn and watch the debacle of the iPhone7 socketgate. At best, Apple are going to get rich at the expense of their zealous loyalist. At worst, the music lovers are just going to join the other 88% of the market and experience the superior audio quality of several other 3.5mm jack-toting competitors on the Android side.
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 9:19 am

JBI wrote:
Yet another indication that Apple's efforts to kill the 3.5" aren't really driven by size concerns...


Yeah, the most charitable case is that they want the aesthetic. Like what they did with the new macbook.

The worst case is to make money on (effectively) bundled peripherals, and to close the analog hole completely.

The size argument is a red herring, IMO.
 
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 1:46 pm

Everybody focuses on size but the fact remains that the 3.5mm stereo plug is a poor connector design.

Remember IDE hard drives with 40 pin connectors and the transition to SATA with it's nice easy to use connector?

That is modernization.

The force working against modernization is inertia.

I hope  alternatives are explored and once a thoroughly modern alternative gains traction I look forward to the day when the 3.5mm plug is seen as an awkward design that lasted too long.

What people should be focused on is trying to make sure that industry chooses a good alternative.  There should be a standards group to make sure things don't splinter and we get a connector that has quality without being too expensive for it to be adopted widely.

Although the 3.5mm plug was historically a part of the audio eco system, it is now used in audio, smart phones and computers so the alternative should be developed by experts from all of those segments along with experts in the electrical connector field.  If they do a good job they might make the next audio connector paradigm that lasts for several decades.
 
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 1:49 pm

Frugal wrote:
If they do a good job they might make the next audio connector paradigm that lasts for several decades.

Like RCA, XLR, and 1/4" TRS??
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 1:59 pm

Frugal wrote:
Everybody focuses on size but the fact remains that the 3.5mm stereo plug is a poor connector design.

And how is the 3.5mm stereo plug a poor connector design? I'm not saying it's perfect, but please enlighten us about what is wrong with it.
 
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 2:39 pm

Frugal wrote:
Everybody focuses on size but the fact remains that the 3.5mm stereo plug is a poor connector design.
How?
Remember IDE hard drives with 40 pin connectors and the transition to SATA with it's nice easy to use connector?
Digital =/= analog. Changing from IDE to SATA offers measurable performance differences. The same can be said when talking about RCA and XLR connections (although most people only need RCA or TRS).
That is modernization.

The force working against modernization is inertia.
Newer isn't necessarily better. Prove a measurable benefit (that outweighs the cons) and you'll alleviate that inertia.
I hope  alternatives are explored and once a thoroughly modern alternative gains traction I look forward to the day when the 3.5mm plug is seen as an awkward design that lasted too long.
I think we're more likely to look at more awkward alternatives and wonder why we ever tried to fix something that wasn't broken.
What people should be focused on is trying to make sure that industry chooses a good alternative.  There should be a standards group to make sure things don't splinter and we get a connector that has quality without being too expensive for it to be adopted widely.
The current 3.5mm is already of good quality, inexpensive, widely adopted, and is accepted as a standard for audio connections...WHY should we change at all?
Although the 3.5mm plug was historically a part of the audio eco system, it is now used in audio, smart phones and computers so the alternative should be developed by experts from all of those segments along with experts in the electrical connector field.  If they do a good job they might make the next audio connector paradigm that lasts for several decades.
I'll just quote Ned...
Captain Ned wrote:
Like RCA, XLR, and 1/4" TRS??
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Re: Why hasn't the 3.5mm jack/port been shrunk?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 2:50 pm

The main thing that's "wrong" with it is that it is moves (ie, the male connector rotates within the jack). This allows for unnecessary disruption of contact. The trade off is built-in strain relief, which can be handy for jacks meant for portable devices. You will see, though, on higher end TRS jacks, there is a clamp that prevents movement.

The other flaw is that the way the spring mechanism is designed on the contact within the jack, they can, over time, and with repetitive hard use, become bent out of shape, so a proper contact becomes more and more difficult, and eventually impossible. Again, the clamping mechanism on the higher end TRS jacks help alleviate this ware somewhat.

In reality, they hold up pretty well for a long time in most use cases. But a connector that locks into place and does not allow movement, with better separation for each channel contact, would probably be more ideal.

But this is all beside the point because no one is suggesting coming up with a better analog audio jack for portable devices. Such a thing would probably look like a mini/micro XLR.
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